Jami' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali Commentary on the Second Hadith of Imam Nawawi's "Forty"

The Narration:

Also from 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, there is that he said, "While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, until he sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said, 'Muhammad, tell me about Islam.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, said, 'Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.' He said, 'You have told the truth,' and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth. He said, 'Tell me about iman.' He said, 'That you affirm Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.' He said, 'You have told the truth.' He said, 'Tell me about ihsan.' He said, 'That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don't see Him then truly He sees you.' He said, 'Tell me about the Hour.' He said, 'The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.' He said, 'Then tell me about its tokens.' He said, 'That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings.' He went away, and I remained some time. Then he asked, 'Umar, do you know who the questioner was?' I said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen'." Muslim (8) narrated it.

Muslim alone narrated this hadith apart from al-Bukhari. He narrated it by way of Kahmas from 'Abdullah ibn Buraydah from Yahya ibn Ya'mar who said, "The first to speak about the Decree in Basrah was Ma'bad al-Juhani. I and Humayd ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Humayri went on hajj or 'umrah saying [to ourselves], 'If we meet anyone of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, we will ask him about what these people say about the Decree.' We were fortunate to meet 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with both of them, as he entered the mosque. We went in shoulder to shoulder with him, I and my companion, one on his right and the other on his left. I thought my companion would delegate the talking to me and so I said, 'Abu 'Abd ar-Rahman, people have appeared among us who recite the Qur'an and seek out and follow knowledge...'" and he told some of their story and that they claimed that there is no Decree and that the matter is happening for the first time without any prior decree. "He [Ibn 'Umar] said, 'When you meet those people tell them that I have nothing to do with them and that they are free of me. By the One whom 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar swears by, if one of them has the like of Uhud in gold and spends it, Allah will not accept it until he has iman in the Decree!' Then he said, 'My father, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, told me, "While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace..."'" and he mentioned the rest of the hadith completely. Then he [Muslim] narrated it by other paths some of which return to 'Abdullah ibn Buraydah and some to Yahya ibn Ya'mar, and mentioned that in some of their narrations there were things added in and things left out.

Ibn Hibban narrated it in his Sahih from Sulayman at-Taymi from Yahya ibn Ya'mar, and Muslim had already narrated [that he had] it from this same path but he didn't mention their wording of it. In it there is some extra about Islam. He said, "That you perform the hajj and the 'umrah, and that you do ghusl for purification from sexual intercourse, and that you perfect wudu [and fast Ramadan]." He asked, "Then if I do that, am I a Muslim?" He said, "Yes." He said about iman, "and that you have iman in the Garden and the Fire and the Scales." He asked about it, "Then if I do that, am I a mumin?" He said, "Yes." He said at the end of it, "This was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen. Take it from him. By the One in Whose hand is my self, he was disguised to me since he [first] came to me before this occasion, and [so] I did not recognise him until he turned away."

The two of them narrated in the two sahih books the hadith of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, that he said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came out to people and a man came to him and asked, 'What is iman?' He said, 'Iman is that you believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, the meeting with Him, His Messengers and that you believe in the last rising [from the grave].' He asked, 'Messenger of Allah, what is Islam?' He said, 'Islam is that you worship Allah without associating anything with Him as a partner, establish the obligatory prayer, pay the obligatory zakat and fast Ramadan.' He asked, 'Messenger of Allah, what is ihsan?' He said, 'That you worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him then He sees you.' He asked, 'Messenger of Allah, when is the Hour?' He said, 'The one asked about it knows no more than the questioner, but I will tell you about its signs: when the female slave gives birth to her lord that is one of its signs. When you see naked barefoot ones becoming the leaders of men, that is one of its signs. When the shepherds of lambs compete in constructing tall buildings that is one of its signs [and it, the Hour, is] among five [things] which none know but Allah,' and then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, recited, 'Truly Allah has knowledge of the Hour and sends down abundant rain and knows what is in the womb. And no self knows what it will earn tomorrow and no self knows in what land it will die. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.' (Surah Luqman: 33). Then the man went away and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, 'Bring the man back to me,' and so they went to try and bring him back but saw nothing. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'This was Jibril who came to teach people their deen.'"

Muslim narrated it in a more complete form in which there is in the description of iman, "That you believe in all of the Decree," and he said about ihsan, "That you fear Allah as if you see Him."

Imam Ahmad narrated in his Musnad the hadith of Shahr ibn Hushab from Ibn 'Abbas, may Allah be pleased with both of them [Ibn 'Abbas and al-'Abbas], and also the hadith of Shahr ibn Hushab from Ibn 'Amir or Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and in this version of the hadith there is that he said, "And we heard the replies of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, but we could not see the one who was talking to him nor hear his words," but this is refuted by the hadith of 'Umar which Muslim narrated which is more sound. The [sense of the] hadith of 'Umar from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has also been narrated by Anas ibn Malik, Jarir ibn 'Abdullah al-Bajli and others.

It is a hadith of tremendous importance which comprises an explanation of the whole deen. For this reason, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said at the end of it, "This was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen," after explaining the degree of Islam, the degree of iman and the degree of ihsan, all of which he called 'deen'.

The narrations differ on whether Islam comes first before iman or vice-versa. In the hadith of 'Umar which Muslim narrated, he began by asking about Islam. In the hadith of at-Tirmidhi and others, he began by asking about iman, as for example in the hadith of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him. In some of the narrations of the hadith of 'Umar which Muslim narrated there is that he asked about ihsan between Islam and iman.