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18 June 2019 CE | 15 Shawwal 1440 AH
Explanation below

Hadith Explanation

Pride in Ancestors who were Unbelievers

Ubayy bin Ka’b stated that in the times of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) two men sat down to probe their line of descent. So, one of them boasted, “I am so-and-so, son of so-and-so…So, who are you, may you not have a mother?” (The last is a harmless Arabic phrase uttered in oral speech.)

The Messenger of Allah (when he heard it) said: “In the times of Musa (alaihis salam) two men began to search each other’s forefathers. One of them said, ‘I am so-and-so, son of so-and-so,’ until he had counted the names of nine of his forefathers. He then asked, ‘Who are you, may you not have a mother?’ The second person said, ‘I am so-and-so, son of so-and-so, son of Islam.’ (That is, he gave his name, his father’s name, and said that they were sons of Islam, meaning, they were Muslims.)

Allah revealed to Musa (alaihis salam) of the two genealogists, the one who counted up to nine ancestors (should know that), all the nine of them were dwellers of Hell; and he is the tenth. And, you who have counted your ancestors to two, both of them are dwellers of Paradise and you are their third in Paradise.” [Ahmad]

All men have one beginning. They are all the children of Aadam (alaihis salam). The difference of geographical regions, nations, tribes and languages are only to distinguish between them, not marks of merit or excellence. Boasting of these promotes prejudice and leads to warfare and bloodshed.

Pride in ancestry is tantamount to considering oneself superior to others. This is not consonant with Islamic teachings and the principle of equality. A king’s son has no merit because he is the son of a king. Bereft of piety, the son of a king and the son of a sweeper are the same in the sight of Allah. But if a sweeper’s son is endowed with piety then he is far better than a king’s son in the sight of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).

Since Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) causes children to be born into the houses that they are born in, a person’s family connections are no cause for distinction in His sight. The second man was loved by Allah because he took pride in his Islam and not his ancestors. Taking pride in ancestors is even more sinful if the ancestors were unbelievers. Taking pride in them is synonymous with degrading Islam. [“Stories from the Hadith” by Mohammad Zakariya Iqbal]

Nor is a person worthy of respect because he is the son of a pious person. Each person’s deeds are for himself alone and he will be judged by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) according to them. The son of a Prophet can be accursed as was the case with Nuh’s son, while the sons of Ibraheem (alaihis salam) were honourable and noble because of their own piety.

We see that to end this wicked boasting the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) related a lesson bearing event concerning it. Current research shows that people learn much better from stories than from theorizing and statements. [“Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath] We see the excellence of Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) as a teacher in his use of this technique.

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