Asseverating one's statement by invoking the Prophet
What is the ruling on invoking the Prophet, members of his household, the Ka'ba and the mus-haf [copy of the Qur`an] such as by saying, "Do such and such for the sake of the Prophet" or, "For your love for Al-Hussein" intending to asseverate one's statement and not to make an oath? Is this considered shirk? One may be surprised when another says, "This is unlawful and an act of shirk. Say, 'La ilaha illa Allah'."
Swearing in Jahiliya
When Islam came, the people of Jahiliya [pre-Islamic era] were swearing by their deities by way of worship and veneration, putting them on par with Allah the Almighty. In describing them, Allah the Almighty says,
Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah) they love them as they should love Allah. But those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah. If only the unrighteous could see, behold, they would see the punishment: that to Allah belongs all power, and Allah will strongly enforce the punishment. [Al-Baqarah, 165]
The Prophetprohibited making an oath by other Allah
The Prophetprohibited making an oath by other than Allah to preserve the sanctity of Tawheed (monotheism). Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophetsaid, "Whoever makes an oath and says, ‘By al-Lat and al-Uzza’ is to say, ‘La ilaha illa Allah’ [there is no god save Allah]" [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim].
Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophetsaid, "Whoever swears by other than Allah, has committed kufr [disbelief] or shirk [polytheism]" [Recorded by Al-Tirmdhi who declared it fair. Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim declared it authentic]. What is meant here is that such a person has made a statement which resembles the polytheists, not that it puts him beyond the pale of Islam, Allah forbid!
For, scholars are unanimous that whoever swears by anything other than Allah is not a kafir [disbeliever] unless he venerates the object he invokes as he does Allah the Almighty. In such a case, his kufr is due to his veneration for the object he invoked and not to the oath itself.
The Prophetprohibited Muslims from imitating the people of Jahiliya who used to swear by their forefathers by way of boasting and venerating them as well as giving precedence to their lineage over fellow Muslims—making this their criterion for allegiance or enmity. Therefore the Prophetsaid, "Verily, Allah forbids you from making oaths by your fathers. Whoever wants to make an oath is to swear by Allah or remain silent" [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim through Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)].
The Prophetillustrated the reason for prohibiting swearing by one's ancestors in a hadith reported by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) who narrated that the Prophetsaid, "Indeed, there are people who boast of their dead ancestors who are the fuel of Hell-fire. In the eyes of Allah, they are more contemptible than the dung beetle that rolls a dung ball with its nose. Verily, Allah has lifted the veil of the arrogance of the Jahilya. People are divided into either pious believers or wretched degenerates. All people are from Adam and Adam was created from dust" [Recorded by Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmdhi who declared it fair].
Allah Almighty says,
So when you have accomplished your rites, celebrate the praises of Allah as you used to celebrate the praises of your fathers, yet with far more heart and soul. There are men who say: "Our Lord! Give us (your bounties) in this world!" but they will have no portion in the Hereafter. [Al-Baqarah, 200]
Exegetes said that during the hajj season, people would extol their forefathers and say, 'My father used to feed people and settle their debts and indemnity fines.' They spoke of nothing except the deeds of their fathers."
Stance of the Shari'ah
Swearing by what the Shari'ah reveres such as the Prophet , Islam and the Ka'ba is not, in any way, an imitation of the oaths made by polytheists. The scholars who prohibited swearing by other than Allah did so following the general implication of the prohibiting injunction. Others maintained its permissibility, such as Imam Ahmed who permitted swearing by the Prophet and based his opinion on the fact that the Prophet is the second part of the Shahada [testimony of faith] without which one's faith is incomplete. This is because swearing by the Prophet does not entail likening him to Allah—our veneration for the Prophet stems from Allah's veneration of him. The prohibition of swearing by other than Allah is not general since scholars have unanimously agreed on the permissibility of making oaths by invoking the attributes of Allah the Almighty. Hence, it is a general command that refers to a specific matter.
Ibn Al-Mundhir said, "Scholars have differed over the interpretation of the prohibition of swearing by other than Allah. A group of them maintained that it specifically refers to the oaths made by the people of Jahiliya who used to venerate other than Allah such as al-Lat, al-'Uzza and swear by them and by their forefathers. A person who makes an oath by these objects is blameworthy and there is no prescribed expiation his sin. On the other hand, it is not prohibited to make an oath by what is construed as venerating Allah the Almighty and drawing close to Him such as by saying, 'For the sake of the Prophet, Islam, hajj, 'umra, hady [animal slaughtered in the Sacred Precinct to gain the pleasure of Allah], charity, emancipation [of slaves] and other similar expressions. Scholars who have maintained this opinion include Abu 'Ubaid and others. They based their opinion on the fact that the Companions obligated those who swore by emancipation, hady or charity to uphold their oaths even though they [the Companions] were aware of the previous prohibition. This proves that the prohibition was not general or else they would not have commanded the fulfillment of the oaths.
Permissibility to asseverate one's statement by invoking the Prophet and others without intending to make an oath It is permissible to asseverate one's statements by invoking the Prophet or others without the intention of making an oath since it occurred in the speech of the Prophet and his noble Companions.
Evidence from the sunnah
- Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a man came to the Prophet and asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Which charity is greatest in reward?" The Prophet replied, "Yes, by your father! You will be told! The best charity is that which you give when you are healthy, close-fisted, afraid of poverty and hope for a long life" [Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih].
- Talha Ibn 'Ubaidullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a man from the tribe of Najd approached the Prophet and asked him about Islam. At the end of the hadith, the Prophet said, "By his father! He will succeed if he is sincere" or "By his father! He will enter Paradise if he is sincere" [Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih].
- Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a man came to the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Tell me, which of the people has most right to my companionship?" The Prophet replied, "Yes, by your father! You will certainly be told!' He then said, "Your mother" [Recorded by Ibn Majah in his Sunan].
- Abu al-'Ushara`i narrated from his father who said, "O Messenger of Allah! Is the slaughtering of an animal confined to cutting across its throat or the hollow at the base of its neck?" The Prophet replied, "By your father, stabbing it in its thigh will also suffice" [Recorded by Imam Ahmed in his Musnad].
- The Messenger of Allah was offered food prepared from bread and meat. He said, "Serve me the shoulder." He was served the shoulder and he ate it. Then he said, "Serve me another shoulder." He was served another shoulder and he ate it. Then he said, "Serve me another." He was told, "O Messenger of Allah! There are only two shoulders." The Prophet said, "By your father! If you had remained silent, I would have continued to be served a shoulder for as long as I asked" [Recorded by Imam Ahmed in his Musnad].
- Imam Malik reported inthe Muwatta' the story of the amputee who stole the necklace of 'Asma` bint 'Umays, Abu Bakr's wife (may Allah be pleased with her). This man used to observe the night vigil prayer; therefore, Abu Bakr told him, "By your father! This is not how a thief spends his night."
- It was narrated that the Prophet asked Abu Bakr to feed some poor people. So he asked his wife to prepare food for them and then stayed with the Prophet until he prayed the night prayer. When he returned to his house, he found that his guests did not wish to eat until he returned. After they had eaten, Abu Bakr noticed that the food had not decreased so he asked his wife about this. She said, "By the apple of my eye! The food [served to the guests] is now three times in excess than before."
Imam al-Nawawi said in his commentary on the Sahih of Muslim: "This is not an oath, but merely words which the Arabs used to interject in their speech [as was the prevailing custom at the time] without intending swearing. The prohibition only occurs if a person intends to make an oath by invoking other than Allah since this includes venerating the object mentioned in the oath and equating it to Allah the Almighty. This is the sound interpretation."
Imam Al-Baidawi quoted Ibn Hajar's words in Fath Al-Bari: "This kind of speech is only used to asseverate one's statement and not to make an oath. It is among expressions used in speech to confirm and assert [one's statement] and not for the purpose of swearing. It is tantamount to using the vocative case to single out a person without intending to make a direct address."
Based on this, there is no objection to asseverating one's statement by invoking the Prophet , the members of his household or others without intending to make an oath. This is permissible and a person who practices it is not blameworthy since it occurred in the speech of the Prophet , his Companions and is a prevalent custom as long as it does not contradict the Shari'ah. It is neither prohibited nor shirk and a Muslim should not ascribe false things to Allah without knowledge since He says, But say not-for any false thing that your tongue may put forth "this is lawful, and this is forbidden," so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah will never prosper [Qur'an 16:116].
It is impermissible for a sane person to accuse his fellow brothers of kufr or shirk lest he come under the warning included in the words of the Prophet who said, "If anyone accuses his fellow brother of kufr, then one of them surely deserves the name" [Recorded by Muslim through Abdullah Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)].
Allah the Almighty knows best.