Islamic Studies

Gleanings from al-Muwatta: "Thoughts on Words and Deeds."

Imam Malik [May Allah be pleased with him] said, “It was related to me that Qasim the son of Muhammad used to say: “I met a group of people who were not impressed with words.”

Commenting on this Imam Malik said, “What he means is that their actions [were what impressed them]. For, indeed, they would only look towards ones action and not his/her words.”

Fiqh of the Hadith

Imam al-Baji wrote in al-Muntaqa: “A group of people means the Companions [may Allah be pleased with them]……what Malik meant by their actions was: statements that are not coupled with actions were not impressive to the virtuous people. On the contrary, what impressed them were the actions of the scholars. Allah says, “Oh you who profess faith. Why do you say what you do not do? Most despicable to Allah is that you say what you do not do.” (al-Muntaqa 4/462)

It is interesting to note that this important point of advice was placed, by Imam Malik, under the chapter heading “al-Taqwa.” This would indicate that balance between words and deeds is a sign of this important quality.

The callers to Islam are faced with the dubious task of being sincere, humble and self scrutinizing. The latter, in the face of a tidal wave of adulation and self intoxication, can flee like sand from one’s hands. Self introspection is the key to maintaining one’s sanity in a time when being a caller to Islam has many fringe benefits. For that reason, in the same chapter, we find the narration of Anas the son of Malik who states that he was walking and there was a wall between him and a person. Suddenly he heard that person say, “Oh Leader of the Faithful! Good job! Good Job! You must fear Allah ‘Umar or, for sure, He will punish you.” Ibn al-Qudamah mentioned that one should make a list at night of all of his/her deeds. Those done for Allah should bring about one’s praise of Allah and those done for something else, or sins, warrant seeking forgiveness and mercy.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • AS

    When we look into the ancient scrolls of Islamic scholarly literature (tradition) beacons of light and wisdom we find that the statement:

    “statements that are not coupled with actions were not impressive to the virtuous people”

    -by definition is synomonous with ignorance (jahil). The holy and wise elders of the Ummah of Muhammad (as) defined knowledge (ilm) as the practice of learning and learning bereft of practice as ignorance.

    This door that you opened by this post is major, Shaikh Suhaib particularly in an age wherein learning has become entertainment, a hobby, pastime and a way to attain status and a path to money. What many experience today of empty shallowness is the result of the fissure between action and learning, virtue and intellect.

    In effect, there is a crisis of taqwa more precisely a lack of it.

    Herein, an important point can be raised and that is that secularism in effect demands a schizophrenic existence by demanding of the reliigious that religion be kept at bay from life overall that it be personal, a habit of the heart rather than a way of being, a way of heart and body and life. So, talk of morality has been kept from the social space what governs is a set of ethics that are rationally arrived at or the corrective result to some harm that befell someone. There is a disjunction between practice and belief, a gulf between being authentically, faithful living and (life) “work and leisure.”

    In fact, because of materialism introspection or as is termed in Islamic tazkiyyah literature “Muhasiba and Muraqabba” has become difficult. We have become informed to be a people that hates to be still, quiet, contemplative, thoughful, deep. We have termed the way of the spiritual life boring and boring is bad it is not fun. So we rush to distractions to depart from being alone with the self and in turn are alienated from the depth of the soul and long for a return to the real self. So we turn to religion with fever and fervor but find that we are not moving beyond a surface life style so we desire the mythic, the wondrous, the miraculous. All the while we forgot that if we fine tuned life a bit and combined learning and practice, deed and word then we would escape the cyclic circle of perpetual daily alienation and return to the self at peace, serenity.

    Honestly, Shaikh Suhaib when I think of Iman for me it is enough to mimic Imam Bukhari (r) who narrated it to be by definition: confession and action.

    The simplicity of this creedal formula narrated by Imam Bukhari (r) may for a world bent on complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated be too simple and that because it demands more a commitment of souful action than it does faith of the heart alone. This also is the danger today of introducing Imam Tahawi’s (r) defintion of Iman in a context where action of religious value is split from a religious heart and mind we have been secularized and taught that Iman is a thing of the heart so keep it there.

    Imam Tahawi (r) meant well but today we need to be clear that we must act for Allah (swt) must break from the internal distress, the deep feeling of something being wrong, the constant worry and anxiety, the state of not feeling Islam. This will come when we flee the field of inaction and act on what we have given creedence to (Islam).

    So indeed taqwa is a way of action rather than inaction.

    Allahu Al’am

  • JAK, Ya Mashayikhi

    I just wanted to comment on a problem I faced in an Arab country where they say “Khalee” (it’s on me/free) after doing a service for you or offering to sell you something. For example I was in a taxi and had a delightful conversation with the driver about Islam and America then at the end he said “Khalee”. I then said ‘No are you serious’ he said wallaahi (I swear to God). I said OK and bounced. Before I could take a few steps I heard an angry man screaming for his payment. I said but you said… and He said no I don’t mean it.

    This happened many times in different situations and many times they sweared by Allah’s name. I also have become accustomed to “Majaamalah” or which is a type of courtesy which can including repeated several phrases filled with Allah’s name with seemingly little meaning/sincerity or it can mean outright lying to make someone happy.

    Now I know someone might say ‘Oh this is just culture’, but I lean to this being part of a much bigger issue touched on by Abul-hussein. For example the millions who respect the Mushaf, the name of Allah, the person of Muhammad yet don’t pray or apply much of the hidayah found therein or live most of their lives in contradiction to it.

    We have become a symbolic nation which is all talk and little action. I pray we all work together to purify ourselves from this most dangerous disease!

  • Salam alaikum

    Knowledge comes with responsibility, if someone upheld the responsibility that came with the knowledge then the knowledge is a blessing for them,

    Otherwise it is simply a burden which they would better off without

    And how many have we seen that have failed in their responsibility though they were blessed with knowledge

    and that burden subsequently destroyed them

    Abul-Hassan is correct – a major door has been opened with this post

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