The virtue of the Arabs
Is there any saheeh text about the virtue of the Arabs?
Praise be to Allah.
One of the established principles of sharee‘ah that are affirmed in the Holy Qur’an is that the standard of superiority among people is taqwa (piety, consciousness of Allah) and righteous deeds. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (i.e. one of the Muttaqoon (pious)). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”
Another principle that is established in the Prophet’s Sunnah is that the Arabs are superior to other races, because Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, chose the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) from among the Arabs and He made the Qur’an – which is His eternal message – Arabic. Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah are unanimously agreed on the superiority of the Arabs over other races and peoples.
But there is no contradiction between the two principles mentioned above.
The superiority of the Arabs is the superiority of a race, not superiority of individuals. A pious and righteous non-Arab is better than an Arab who falls short with regard to the rights of Allah, may He be exalted. The superiority of the Arabs is but a choice from Allah, may He be exalted, the wisdom of which may or may not be clear to us. However among the Arabs there are some attributes and characteristics that point to this superiority.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The superiority of one group over another does not necessarily mean that every individual (of the former group) is superior to every individual (of the latter group). Among the non-Arabs there are many people who are better than most of the Arabs; among tribes other than Quraysh among the Muhaajireen and Ansaar there were people who were better than most of Quraysh; among clans other than Banu Haashim and among tribes other than Quraysh there were people who were better than most of Banu Haashim. End quote.
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 19/29-30
Many of the scholars have written books dealing specifically with this topic, such as: Imam Ibn Qutaybah in Fadl al-‘Arab wa’t-Tanbeeh ‘ala ‘Uloomiha; Imam al-‘Iraaqi in Mahajjah al-Qurab fi Fadl al-‘Arab; and Imam al-Haythami in a similar book. Among later scholars: al-‘Allaamah Mar‘i al-Karami in his essay entitled Masbook adh-Dhahab fi Fadl al-‘Arab wa Sharaf al-‘Ilm ‘ala Sharaf an-Nasab; Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd in Khasaa’is Jazeerat al-‘Arab. All of them affirmed the principle mentioned above.
Perhaps the best explanation of this issue was given by Shaykh al-Islam inal-Bayaan ash-Shaafi; we will quote his words here, in sha Allah.
He (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The way of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah is to believe that the Arab race is superior to other non-Arab races, Hebrew, Syriac, Byzantine, Persian and others; and that Quraysh are the best of the Arabs, Banu Haashim are the best of Quraysh, and the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) is the best of Banu Haashim. Thus he is the best of Allah’s creation in and of himself and is the best of them in lineage.
The superiority of the Arabs, then of Quraysh, then of Banu Haashim, is not only because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was one of them – although that is part of the reason for this superiority; rather they are superior in and of themselves. Thus it is proven that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was the best of them in and of himself and in lineage.
Hence Abu Muhammad Harb ibn Ismaa‘eel ibn Khalaf al-Karmaani, the companion of Imam Ahmad, said, when describing the views based on Sunnah (as opposed to those based on bid‘ah): This is the view of the leading scholars, the scholars of hadeeth and the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah who are known to be committed to the way of the Sunnah and who are regarded as the leading figures. I met many of the scholars of Iraq, the Hejaz, greater Syria and others who are adhering to these views. Whoever differs from any of these views or casts aspersions upon them or criticises those who hold these views is an innovator who is diverging from the main body of Muslims and drifting away from the path of the Sunnah and the way of truth. This is the view of Ahmad, Ishaaq ibn Ibraaheem ibn Mukhallad, ‘Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr al-Humaydi, Sa‘eed ibn Mansoor and others with whom we sat and from whom we acquired knowledge.
One of the things they said was:
Faith consists of words, deeds and intentions. – He [Ibn Taymiyah] quoted their words at length, then he said:
We acknowledge the due status of the Arabs and their virtue and seniority in Islam. We love them because of the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him): “Love of the Arabs is faith, and hatred of them is hypocrisy.” Narrated by al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak, 4/97. Ad-Dhahabi said: al-Haytham ibn Hammaad [one of the narrators] is matrook (rejected). See: as-Silsilah ad-Da‘eefah, 1190. But we disagree with the view of the Shu‘oobiyyah (an anti-Arab movement) and the riffraff among the mawaali (non-Arab Muslims) who do not like the Arabs, because their view is a bid‘ah and contrary to the Sunnah.
They narrate this view from Ahmad himself in an essay by Ahmad ibn Sa‘eed al-Istakhri, if it is soundlt proven. This is his view and that of the majority of scholars.
Some people are of the view that the Arab race is not superior to other races. These people are called shu‘oobiyyah because they supported the shu‘oob (lit. peoples, i.e., non-Arabs) as opposed to the qabaa’il (Arab tribes). The Arabs were called qabaa’il (tribes) and non-Arabs were called shu‘oob (peoples).
And some people preferred some kinds of non-Arabs over the Arabs.
But usually such words only stem from a kind of hypocrisy, either in terms of belief or in terms of actions based on whims and desires, with doubts that led to that.
Hence it says in the hadeeth: “Love of the Arabs is faith, and hatred of them is hypocrisy.”
Moreover, opinions concerning these issues are almost never free of whims and desires, and the Shaytaan will wield his own influence on both parties. This is haraam in all cases.
Allah has commanded the believers to hold fast, all together, to the rope of Allah, and He has forbidden them to be divided and differ; He has also commanded them to reconcile. The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The likeness of the believers in their mutual love, mercy and compassion is that of the body; when one part of it is in pain, the rest of the body joins it in restlessness and fever.”
And he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Do not cut off ties with one another, do not turn away from one another, do not hate one another, do not envy one another. Be, O slaves of Allah, brothers, as Allah has commanded you.”
These are two saheeh hadeeths; there are many other texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah that speak of this matter.
The evidence for the superiority of the Arabs, then of Quraysh, then of Banu Haashim, is as follows:
At-Tirmidhi narrated from Ismaa‘eel ibn Abi Khaalid, from Yazeed ibn Abi Ziyaad, from ‘Abdullah ibn al-Haarith, that al-‘Abbaas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
I said: O Messenger of Allah, Quraysh sat and talked together about their lineage, and they gave as your likeness that of a palm tree growing in bad land.
The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Verily Allah created His mankind, then He made me from among the best of their groups. Then He chose the tribes, and He put me in the best tribe; then He chose families, and He put me in the best family. Hence I am the best human being from the best family.”
At-Tirmidhi said: This is a hasan hadeeth. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Haarith is Ibn Nawfal.
[The hadeeth was narrated by at-Tirmidhi (3607) and Ahmad (17063); it was classed as da ‘eef by al-Albaani in Da‘eef al-Jaami‘].
What is meant is that the palm tree is good in and of itself, even if its origin (the bad land) is not. But the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) pointed out that he was the best of people in and of himself and came from the best origins and lineage.
At-Tirmidhi also narrated from ath-Thawri, from Yazeed ibn Abi Ziyaad, from ‘Abdullah ibn al-Haarith, from al-Muttalib ibn Abi Wadaa‘ah: al-‘Abbaas came to the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and it was as if he had heard something. So the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) stood on the minbar and said: “Who am I?” They said: You are the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon you). He said: “I am Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib.” Then he said: “Verily Allah created creation, then He made me among the best of them. Then He divided them into two groups, and He put me in the better group. Then He divided them into tribes, and He put me in the best tribe. Then He divided them into families, and He put me in the best family and made me the best of them.”
At-Tirmidhi said: This is a hasan hadeeth.
[Narrated by at-Tirmidhi (3532); a similar report was narrated by Ahmad (1791). It was classed as hasan by the commentators on al-Musnad]
The words in the hadeeth, “[Allah] created creation, then He made me among the best of them. Then He divided them into two groups, and He put me in the better group” may mean two things, one of which is that “creation” refers to the two races (mankind and the jinn); or it may mean all the creatures on earth, of whom the sons of Adam are the best. If it is said that the general meaning of creation includes the angels, this indicates that mankind is superior to the angels, and this is a sound interpretation.
Then He divided the sons of Adam into two groups, namely the Arabs and non-Arabs. Then He divided the Arabs into tribes, and Quraysh are the best tribe of the Arabs. Then He divided Quraysh into families, and Banu Haashim are the best of the families.
Or it may be that what is meant by creation is the sons of Adam, and he is among the best of them, i.e., among the descendants of Ibraaheem or among the Arabs. Then He divided the descendants of Ibraaheem into two groups: the sons of Ismaa‘eel and the sons of Ishaaq; or He divided the Arabs into ‘Adnaan and Qahtaan, and He made me among the sons of Ismaa‘eel, or the sons of ‘Adnaan. Then He made the sons of Ismaa‘eel, or the sons of ‘Adnaan, into tribes, and He made me among the best of the tribes, namely Quraysh.
Whatever the case, the hadeeth clearly speaks of the superiority of the Arabs over others.
A similar report concerning this issue was narrated by Ahmad, Muslim and at-Tirmidhi from the hadeeth of al-Awzaa‘i from Shaddaad ibn ‘Ammaar from Waathilah ibn al-Asqa‘ who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) say:
“Allah chose Kinaanah from among the sons of Ismaa‘eel, and He chose Quraysh from among Kinaanah, and He chose Banu Haashim from among Quraysh, and He chose me from among Banu Haashim.”
This implies that Ismaa‘eel and his descendants are the best of the children of Ibraaheem, which implies that they are superior to the descendants of Ishaaq. It is well-known that the descendants of Ishaaq, namely the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’eel) are the best of the non-Arabs, because there was among them Prophethood and the Scripture. Because superiority over them is proven, it is more apt to say that they are superior to others, and this is good.
It should be noted that the hadeeths which speak of the superiority of Quraysh, then the superiority of Banu Haashim among Quraysh, are numerous, but this is not the place to quote them all. They all confirm the same point, which is that the position of Quraysh in relation to the people is like the position of the Arabs in relation to the rest of mankind. This is what Islam teaches.
Allah, may He be exalted, ordained that the Arabs and their language should be uniquely distinguished and blessed; then He gave something exclusively to Quraysh among all the other Arabs, which is that the caliphate and other characteristics belong exclusively to them. Then He singled out Banu Haashim by forbidding zakaah to them, and making them entitled to a share of the fay’ (booty), and other characteristics. Thus Allah, may He be glorified, gave to each one what he deserves of virtue. And Allah is All-Knowing, Most Wise.
“Allah chooses Messengers from angels and from men. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer”
“Allah knows best with whom to place His Message”
And the scholars said many things concerning the verses “And verily, this (the Quran) is indeed a Reminder for you (O Muhammad SAW) and your people” [az-Zukhruf 43:44] and “Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from amongst yourselves” [at-Tawbah 9:128], but this is not the place to discuss that.
There are other proofs concerning this matter that I have not quoted here; some of them are not quite sound and some of them are fabricated.
Moreover, when ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) registered the names of people for the purposes of allocating stipends, he wrote them down according to their lineage; he started with those who were the closest in lineage to the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), then when he had listed all the Arabs, he listed all the non-Arabs. This is how the names were registered at the time of the Rightly-Guided caliphs and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, until things changed after that.
The reason for this superiority – and Allah knows best – is the unique characteristics that they had in terms of their wisdom, language, attitude and deeds. That is because superiority may be achieved either by acquiring beneficial knowledge or doing righteous deeds, and knowledge is the basis of superiority. This refers to reasoning which is connected to memorisation and understanding, coupled with the ability to express oneself clearly. The Arabs have better understanding than others, and stronger memories, and they are more able to express themselves clearly and speak eloquently. Their language is the most perfect of languages and more able to express various meanings in a few words or in an elaborate manner. It is able to combine and express many meanings in a few words.
With regard to deeds, deeds are usually based on morals and ethics, and this is connected to natural inclinations that are created in people’s souls. The natural instinct of the Arabs is more inclined towards good than other peoples’, and they are closer to characteristics of generosity, forbearance, courage, sincerity and other praiseworthy characteristics. End quote.
Iqtida’ as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem, 148-162
See Minhaaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah, 4/364
And Allah knows best.