Kitab Al-Kasb Series (Part 46): Types of Activities of the People of Legal Responsibility and Their Discussion at Length.

Every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.

Part 46: Types of Activities of the People of Legal Responsibility and Their Discussion at Length.
Then he moved the discourse on to another topic the upshot of which became a section of its own, which is that the activities of the people of legal responsibility are of three types, namely: (i) a type which is for a person, like the ritual devotions; (ii) a type which is against him, like the iniquities; and (iii) a type which is in between the two, which is neutral – neither for nor against him – and these are permissible of the words and works of a person, like your saying, “I ate”, or “I drank”, or “I stood”, or “I sat”, and the like. This is the legal position of the jurisprudents, may Allah Most High have mercy on them.

The Karramites said that the activities of the people of responsibility are of two types, namely: for them, or against them; and none of their activities are in the domain of neutrality, because of the statement of Allah, “But what is there after Truth but error?” [Al-Quran, surah Yunus, verse 32]. He has divided all things into two divisions without any separating (division) between them; (so there is) either the truth, which is what is for a person or deviation, which is against a person.

Allah says, “One gets what one has earned and is responsible for what one deserves.” [Al-Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 286]. The “ma” (“what” in the verse) is for generalizing, and so it is clear by this verse that all that one earns is either for him or against him. Allah says, “If anyone acts with integrity, that is for the benefit of his own soul; and if anyone does evil, that is to its detriment. And your Lord never treats servants unjustly” [Al-Quran, surah al-Fussilat, verse 26]. It is thus clear that a person’s work cannot be disengaged from being either good or evil.

And in the book Allah, there is a statement to the effect that all that a person utters is recorded, for Allah says, “No one utters a word without a ready observer there.” [Al-Quran, surah Qaf, verse 18]. This verse shows that all that a person does is recorded, as Allah says, “Everything they have done is in the scriptures” [Al-Quran, surah al-Qamar, verse 52]. This proves that everything that a person has done is put on the divine balance for the reckoning, for Allah says, “And they will find everything they did before them” [Al-Quran, surah al-Kahf, verse 49]. The “ma” (“everything in the verse_ is for generalization, which shows that not a single action is morally neutral.

The significance of this can be seen from two perspectives. One, that the covenants of Allah with his servants are binding on them in every situation, that is, as indicated in the statement of Allah, “Worship Allah, and do not associate anything with Allah” [Al-Quran, surah, al-Nisa’, verse 36]. And He, says, “And I only created sprites (jinn) and humans for them to serve Me” [Al-Quran, surah al-Dhariyat, verse 56]. Therefore a person is either incertitude of this bond and covenant, thus it (the covenant) shall be for him, or he is in disregard thereof, thus it shall be against him; for any other than these two situations is inconceivable.

The proof of this is that (on the one hand) the permissible thing that he imagines is either something which is for him, such that it is something licit to which he is devoted, and for which he is commanded; or it is something illicit which he is to abhor, and so it is for him (also). But on the other hand, it (i.e, the permissible thing that he imagines) may actually be something illicit to which he is devoted; or something licit and enjoined from which he is keeping away, and this will be against him. Hence we know that all a person’s activities are not exempt from being either for him or against him.

Our argument (Imam al-Shaybani) in this regard is that the Companions and those who came after them from among the Followers and the learned are agreed that some of the actions of servants are commanded, and some recommended, and these are the religiously sanctioned devotions for them, and that of these actions some are proscribed, and these are against them. Of these actions (too) some are permissible, and what is permissible cannot be characterized as being enjoined or recommended or proscribed.

Therefore, we know by community consensus that there is a third division (of activities), which is neither for the person nor against the person. This division is not differentiated from the other two divisions except by a juristic evaluation, which is that it is morally neutral, neither deserving of reward for doing it nor of punishment for forgoing it. This is so because, what is for a person is something for which he is rewarded, as Allah says, “And whoever acted with integrity will make their own bed, so Allah may reward from the bounty divine those who had faith and did well. For Allah does not love the ungrateful” [Al-Quran, surah al-Rum, verse 44-45].

Allah says, “If you did good, you did good for yourselves” [Al-Quran, surah al-Isra’, verse 7], whereas what is against a person is something for which he is penalized, as Allah says, “And if you did wrong, it was to yourselves” [Al-Quran, surah al-Isra’, verse 7], that is, it was against yourselves.

And when there is in his actions and utterances something for which he is neither rewarded nor penalized, then we know that it is morally neutral. and the proof of this is that Allah Most High says, “Allah does not hold you responsible for thoughtlessness in your oaths” [Al-Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 225]. The scriptural proof here for the negation of censure for oaths of frivolity is itself also scriptural proof for the fact that a person is not penalized for them. Hence, when it is established by scripture that he is neither rewarded nor penalized for them, then we know that they are neutral.

Allah says, “Yet there is no blame on you if you make a mistake in this” [Al-Quran, surah al-Ahzab, verse 5]. And there is no ambiguity concerning the fact that he is not rewarded for something he was mistaken about, and censure was here negated by scripture, hence we know that it is not taken into account. The Prophet says, “My community is excused for mistakes, forgetfulness and what they are coerced to do.” [Narrated by Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, Ibn Hibban, and al-Daruqutni]. The meaning is that the sins of these are removed from them, and there is no doubt that they are also not rewarded for those.

When it is established by these scriptural proofs that for which a person does not attain a reward, he does not get penalized for it either; hence it is something not taken into account and is not described as something for or against a person. This is because that which is for him specifically refers to something that is of benefit to him in the hereafter, and that which is against him specifically refers to something that is harmful to him in the hereafter; and in his actions and utterances there also are things that neither benefit nor harm him in the hereafter, and these are not taken into account.

Thereafter, the jurisprudents are in disagreement over whether the things not taken into account of the actions and utterances are recorded regarding the servant or not. Some of them say, “These are not recorded about him, for the recording cannot be for no avail; and the avail is either the servant’s taking benefit by it in the hereafter, or the servant’s taking blame by it in the hereafter; and whatever that is beside these two considerations, it is recording on the servants is of no avail”.

However most of the jurisprudents are of the legal position that everything is recorded about the servant for Allah says, “And We record what they have sent before and what they have left after them; and We have accounted for everything in an illustrative book of examples,” [Al-Quran, surah Ya Sin, verse 12], except that they say, “After everything is recorded about him, what remains on the record is what is neutral.”

The clarification for this is the statement of Allah, “For We have been transcribing what you have been doing” [Al-Quran, surah al-Jathiyah, verse 29]. In a hadith of A’ishah, it is narrated that the Prophet said, “When the two angels ascend with the record book of the servant, if it’s beginning and ending are good (deeds), then what is in between them of evil deeds shall be erased; and if such is not the case in its beginning and its ending, then all shall remain recorded about him” [Abu Ghuddah says that he has not come across this hadith].

As for those who say, ‘What is of no account is erased from the record,” they differ on the issue. Some of them say, “That is only erased on Mondays and Thursday” [As alluded to in a hadith of Abu Hurayrah narrated by Malik, Ahmad, al-Bukhari and Muslim]. This understanding is widespread among people, namely that deeds are exhibited to Allah on these two days of the week; that us, on these two days, what is neutral with respect to requital thereof is erased from the record. However, most of them are of the view that these are only erased on the day of resurrection.

The basis for this view is a hadith of A’ishah – and Imam Muhammad has mentioned it in his book (Kitab al-Kasb) – that the Prophet said, “The registers with Allah are three: a register which is of no account, and this is in which there is no requital of good or evil; a register of the misdeeds of the servants, and there is no avoiding the giving and demanding of justice in respect thereof; and the third register which contains requital for good or evil” [A hadith of similar wording is narrated by al-Hakim and Ahmad]. This is a sound (sahih) hadith which is accepted by the People of the Sunnah and the Community.

However, they differ with regard to the register which is of no account. It is said (by some), “It is that which is not taken is in it neither reward nor penalty.” It is said by some, “It is that which is between the servant and his Lord, in which there is nothing pertaining to the rights of the servants, for Allah is most forgiving, most generous.” Allah says, “Why would Allah punish you if you are grateful and faithful” [Al-Quran, surah al-Nisa’, verse 147]. And it is said (by some), “This is the (register of the) minor sins, for these are forgiven for those who avoid the major sins, for Allah says, “If you avoid the worst of what you are forbidden, We will efface your evils from you and introduce you to noble behavior” [Al-Quran, surah al-Nisa’, verse 31]. And this is the register which is of no account.

And yet it is said, “What is intended are the works of the unbelievers in which there is the form of obedience, for these indeed are of no account whatsoever due to their not believing; that is their good works are of no benefit for them in the hereafter, for idolatry is not forgiven for them as Allah says, “Allah does not forgive idolatry” [Al-Quran, surah al-Nisa’, verse 48]. There is no value in their works when accompanied by idolatry, for Allah says, “And We will turn to the works they have done, and make them scattered dust” [Al-Quran, surah al-Furqan, verse 23].

The soundest view is the first view, namely: that which is of no account is the third division which we have explained as referring to the permissible, which is neither for nor against a person; and this is that which is of no account. Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani had indeed elaborated on that by saying, “And this is that in which there is neither requital of good nor evil.”

Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybanimentions in the book (Kitab al-Kasb) a narration from Ibn Abbas with regard to the statement of Allah, “Allah abolishes and establishes whatever He will” [Al-Quran, surah al-Ra’d, verse 39], that what is meant is the erasure of some names from the register of the condemned, and the establishment of these names in the register of the blessed; along with the erasure of some names from the register of the blessed, and the establishment of these names in the register of the condemned.

The commentators of the Quran only narrated this from Ibn Mas’ud, who used to say in his supplication, “O my Lord! If you have recorded our names in the register of the condemned, then erase them from the register of the condemned and establish them in the register of the blessed, for You have indeed said in Your book – and your statement is truth – ‘Allah abolishes and establishes whatever He will’; and the source of scripture is with Him.'”[Al-Quran, surah al-Ra’d, verse 39; This report is documented by al-Suyuti]. As for Ibn Abbas, the evident narration from him is that the abolishment and the establishment are in everything, except in regard to blessedness and wretchedness, and life and death.

Among the jurisprudents are those who hold on to the first narration and say, “We see the unbeliever becoming a Muslim, and the Muslim apostate; the sound of health falling ill, and the ill becoming well; hence we say that it is possible for the blessed to become wretched, and the wretched blessed, without there being any change in Allah’s knowledge of anyone. For, ‘the matter is up to Allah, in the past and in the future’ [Al-Quran, surah al-Rum, verse 4], ‘He does what He wills’ [Al-Quran, surah Ali ‘Imran, verse 40]; and ‘He decides what He wants’ [Al-Quran, surah al-Ma’idah, verse 1]. And on this understanding is the interpretation of the statement of Allah, “Some of them will be miserable, and some of them will be happy” [Al-Quran, surah Hud, verse 105].

However most of them are of the view that the sound narration is the second narration, from Ibn Abbas for it is closer in coming into accord with the well-known hadith, “The blessed is one who is blessed in the womb of his mother, and the wretched is one who is wretched in the womb of his mother” [Narrated by al-Tabarani and al-Bazzar].

And the interpretation of the statement of Allah, “Allah abolishes whatever is of no account from the register of the servant, of that in which there is no requital of good or evil, and establishes whatever in which there is requital; as we have explained in regard to the hadith of A’ishah, “The registers are three.” Because of this, Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybanibrought forth this hadith right after that hadith.

And it is said (by some) that what is meant is the effacement of knowledge from the hearts of some people and its establishment in the hearts of some other people. This view is in correspondence with the statement of Allah, “And Allah leaves people astray at will, and guides anyone at will” [Al-Quran, surah Ibrahim, verse 4]. Or that what is meant is the effacement and establishment of the things that are apportioned for every servant, such as sustenance, security, tribulations, illness, and the like.

Now, Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani narrated a hadith of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq in which he asked a question of Allah’s messenger saying, “A meal of meat, barley bread, and olive oil, which we ate with you in the house of Abu al-Haytham ibn al-Tayyihan…” We have already narrated this hadith in full (see previous Part). He added at the end of the hadith (the words), “And as for the believer, his thankfulness when food is served before him is that he says ‘in the name of Allah’; and when he is done, that he says, ‘all praise is due to Allah.'” This addition is not mentioned by the scholars of hadith in their books, whereas Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani is trustworthy with regard to what he narrates, and so it can be surmised that this addition is of the discourse of Imam Muhammad which he expressed after narrating the hadith.

A hadith of similar import was narrated from Allah’ messenger that he said, “When food is served before the believer, and he says, ‘in the name of Allah’, and when done he says, ‘all praise is due to Allah’, his sins are all scoured of him though they may be like the foam of the sea, just as dry leaves drop off from the tree” [Document by al-Haythami]. And he says, “All praise is due to Allah for every blessing.”

And he says, “If the whole world was rendered into a morsel of food, and a believer gulped it down and said, ‘All praise is due to Allah,’ surely what he had brought forth would be better than what was brought forth to him.” And such is the reality of the situation, for Allah has described the world as little and lowly, as Allah says, “Say: the enjoyment of this world is little” [Al-Quran, surah al-Nisa’, verse 77], whereas the mention of Allah is loftier and better. And in his, the believer’s saying, “All praise is due to Allah,” there is the mention of Allah by way of glorification and appreciation, and this is better than the whole world.


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Author: Abu Tariq Abu Tariq Muhsin is a zakat officer for Zakat Centre of Federal Territory of Malaysia. A writer, researcher and publisher of various writing focusing on Zakat & Islamic studies.

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