KNOWING THE STRAIGHT PATH
'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ood radiallaahu 'anhu said:
The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam drew a line for us and said. "This is Allaah's Straight Path." Then he drew lines to its right and left and then said. "These ore other paths. Upon every one of them there is a devil calling towards it." Then he recited: "Indeed this is My Straight Path, so follow it, and do not follow other paths that will separate you from His Path." [Soorah al-An'aam 6:153]."1
Therefore, that which is necessary for the Muslims - both individuals and groups in order to prepare for the mighty task and to achieve the lofty goal, is to truly know the Straight Path, its People, their 'aqeedah (belief) and their manhaj (methodology), knowing also the innovations and evils which cause one to separate from this way.
The wisdom in learning about the evil is taken from the hadeeth of Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan radiallaahu 'anhu where he said. "The people used to ask the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam about the good, but I used to ask him about the evil for fear that it would overtake me ..."2 And may Allaah have mercy upon the one who said in poetic wisdom:
"I learnt what was evil, not for itself, but to avoid it. He who does not know evil from good, falls into it."
CLINGING TO THE ORIGINAL STATE OF AFFAIRS
Abul-'Aaliyah (d.90H) - rahimahullaah - who said:
"Learn Islaam. Then when you have learnt Islaam, do not turn away from it to the right nor the left. But be upon the Straight Path and upon the Sunnah of your Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and that which his Companions were upon ... and beware of these innovations because they cause enmity and hatred amongst you. But stick to the original state of affairs which was there before they divided." So 'Aasim said: I related this to al-Hasan al-Basree so he said. "He has given you sincere advice and has told you the truth."3
And it is known that this original state of affairs, had as its pure and sweet spring, the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, built upon the understanding of the Salafus-Saalih (the Pious Predecessors) - the Companions, the Taabi'een and those that followed them - about whom the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said. "The best of mankind is my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them."4
'Aaishah radiallaahu 'anhaa said:
A man come to the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and said. Who is the most excellent of mankind? So the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "The generation of those that I am in, then the second, then the third."5
So this principle - the obligation of adhering to the Qur'aan and the authentic Sunnah upon the understanding of the Salafus-Saalih - is the cornerstone principle of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah.
Imaam Abu Haneefah (d.150H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"Stick to the narrations and the way of the Salaf and beware of newly invented matters, for all of it is innovation."6
Imaam al-Awzaa'ee (d.157H) - rahimahullaah - said.
"Patiently restrict yourself to the Sunnah and pause where the people paused, say what they said and avoid what they avoided. Take to the path of your Salafus-Saalih, for indeed, what was sufficient for them, is sufficient for you."7
Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d.241H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"The fundamentals of the Sunnah with us are: Clinging to that which the Companions of Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam were upon, taking them as our examples to be followed; avoiding innovations, for every innovation is misguidance."8
Ibn 'Abdul-Haadee (d.748H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"It is not permissible to invent on interpretation about a verse or a Sunnah which was not there in the time of the Salaf (the Pious Predecessors), nor did they have any knowledge concerning it, nor explain it to the Ummah. Since this would imply that the Salaf were ignorant of the truth in this matter and failed to reach it. Whereas the late-coming opponent is somehow guided to the truth!"9
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"Inventing on explanation with regards to the Book of Allaah - which the Salaf and the Scholars are in opposition to - necessitates one of two things: Either the explanation itself is a mistake. Or that the sayings of the Salaf - which differs with such a saying - are in error! And no one who possess even an ounce of intellect would doubt that the one whose saying is in opposition to that of the Salaf, then he is the one who is in error."10
SOFTENING THE HEARTS
Along with seeking to understand the correct Islaamic 'aqeedah (beliefs) and fiqh (jurisprudence), tafseer (Qur'aanic explanation), and hadeeth, on essential part of the way of the Salaf includes understanding matters relating to aadaab and akhlaaq (manners and etiquettes) and tazkiyatun-nufoos (purification of the souls) and reflecting upon the lives of the Salafus-Saaliheen. Since this - it is hoped - will enable hearts to cultivate mildness and humility in the worship of Allaah - the Most High - and also strengthen the determination to strive to making His Religion uppermost in the hearts of the people and upon the face of this earth.
Imaam Ibn al-Jawzee (d.597H) - rahimahullaah - said:
And I do not inform you of this except after personal trial and experience. Since I have found that the majority of the narrators and the students of Hadeeth are concerned chiefly with attaining the briefest isnaad (chain of narration) and increase in the number of narrations. And the majority of the Jurisprudents are concerned with dialectics and how to win arguments. So how can the hearts be softened with these things? Previously a group of the Salaf would visit a pious servant to see his conduct and manners, not to take from his knowledge. This was because the fruit of his knowledge was his manners and conduct, so understand this. Thus, along with the study of fiqh and Hadeeth, study the lives of the Salaf and those who were zaahid (abstainers) with regards to the world, so that this may be a cause of softness in your hearts."11
"I feel that occupying oneself with jurisprudence and acquiring the narrations is hardly enough to correct the heart, unless he adds to that the study of raqaa'iq (heart-melting narrations) and the study of the lives of the Salaf us-Saaliheen (the Pious Predecessors). Since they attained what is desirous from the narrations and took from the outer actions what is ordered and what is wanted from them.
Yoonus ibn 'Ubayd (d.139H) - rahimahullaah -said:
"With good manners you understand the knowledge. With the knowledge your actions are corrected. With actions wisdom is obtained. With wisdom you understand zuhd (abstinence) and are granted its benefits. With zuhd comes abandoning the world. With abandoning the world comes desire for the Hereafter. With desire for the Hereafter the pleasure of Allaah - the Mighty and Majestic - is obtained."12
THE FOUNDATIONS FOR UNITY
The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"This knowledge will be carried by the trustworthy ones of every generation. They will expel from it the alteration made by those going beyond bounds; the false claims of the liars and the false interpretations of the ignorant ones."13
So it is our hope in Allaah - the Most Perfect- that He adorns us with the correct knowledge bequeathed to us by our Salafus-Saalih, and that He aids us in learning their 'aqeedah, so that hearts may embrace it; learning their manhaj, so that people may follow it and learning also their manners and behaviour, so that souls may be cultivated upon it, seeking to convey this to others with the wisdom, patience and forebearance that this pure and sublime message demands. So herein lies the excellence and of the one who reaches it.
Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab (d.795H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"So the beneficial knowledge from amongst all the types of knowledge is to take possession of the texts of the Book and the Sunnah and to understand their meanings, and to limit oneself in that to what is reported from the Companions, the Taabi'een and their Successors - with regards to the meaning of the Qur'aan and the Hadeeth, and what is reported from them as regard to the halaal (lawful) and haraam (prohibited), and zuhd, raqaa'iq, the accounts (of previous nations and Prophets), and other than that. Striving firstly, to distinguish what is authentic and what is weak; and then secondly, striving to understand and comprehend it. And there is enough in that for the intelligent one, and enough to occupy one who busies himself with beneficial knowledge. And he who stops at that and makes his intention purely for the Face of Allaah and seeks His help - then Allaah will help him, guide him and grant him success, satisfaction, understanding and inspiration. Then such a person will take the benefits of this knowledge - which ore found through it alone - and that is fear of Allaah, as Allaah - the Exalted and Majestic - says: "Indeed, it is only those who have knowledge, amongst His slaves, that truly tear Allaah." [Soorah al-Faatir 35:10]."14
Imaam al-Awaa'ee (d.157H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"Hold fast to the narrations of the Salaf, even if people were to abandon you. And beware of the opinions of the people, no matter how much they beautify it with their speech."15
Al-Hasan al-Basree (d.110H) - rahimahullaah - said:
"If there was a man who reached the first Salaf, then he (this man) was raised up today, he would not recognise anything of Islaam." The narrator said: Al-Hasan put his hand on his cheek and said. "Except for this Prayer." Then he said. "So - by Allaah - how is it for the one who lives in this bad time, not having reached the Salafus-Saalih. So he sees on innovator calling to his innovation, and a worldly person calling to the world, but Allaah protects him from that and makes his heart lean towards those Salafus-Saalih, asking about their way, seeking their narrations and following their path. Allaah will recompense him with a greet reward. So be like that - if Allaah wills."16
1. Hasan: Related by Ahmad (1/435), an-Nasaa'ee (7/49) and others. This Hadeeth was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in Dhilaalul-Jannah (no.16).
2. Part of a lengthy Hadeeth related by al-Bukhaaree (6/615) and Muslim (12/235).
3. Related by Ibn Battoh in al-lbaanah (no.136).
4. Related by al-Laalikaa'ee in Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no.31).
5. Related by Muslim (no.2536).
6. Related by as-Suyootee in Sawnul-Muntaq wal-Kalaam (p.32)
7. Related by al-Aajurree in ash-Sharee'ah (p.58) and also al-Bayhaqee in Madhkhal ilas-Sunan (no.233).
8. Usoolus-Sunnah (p.5) by Imaam Ahmad.
9. As-Saarimul-Munkee (p.427).
10. Mukhtasar as-Sawaa'iqul-Marsalah (2/128).
11. Sayid ul-Khaatir (p.216).
12. Iqtidaa'ul-'llmil-'Aml (no.31).
13. Saheeh: Related by al-Bayhaqee in Sunanul-Kubraa (10/209), Ibn Abee Haatim in al-Jarh wat-Ta'deel (2/17) and Ibn 'Abdil-Barr in at-Tamheed (1/57-58), from the Hadeeth of Ibraaheem ibn 'Abdir-Rahmaan al-'Udharee radiallaahu 'anhu. It was authenticated by Imaam Ahmad - as occurs in Sharafu Ashaabul-Hadeeth (p.29) of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee.
14. Fadl 'Ilmus-Salaf (p.48) of al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab.
15. Related by al-Khateeb in Sharafu Ashaabul-Hadeeth (p.25), with a Saheeh isnaad.
16. Related by Ibn Waddaah in Al-Bida' wan-Nahee 'Anhaa (p.74)