Book Review: Al-Arba’in 4 – Collection of Forty Hadiths on the Principals of Legal Judgements, Virtuous Actions and Asceticism

Al-Arbain Imam Suyuti

Title: Al-Arba’in 4 – Collection of Forty Hadiths on the Principals of Legal Judgements, Virtuous Actions and Asceticism
Publisher: Turath Publishing (2009)
Author: Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti
Translation: Aisha Bewley

Turath Publishing has a series of Arba’ins (a collection of forty Prophetic sayings) covering a range of topics. This book is the fourth one in this collection. The virtue of collecting, preserving and memorizing forty hadiths has been highlighted by a number of hadiths. The publisher, Brother Yahya Batha states in his preface:

The practice of gathering forty hadith derives from a hadith narrated through several Companions that puts the spiritual rank of religious scholarship within the easy reach of the ordinary believer with the words: “Whoever memorises forty narrations for my nation in matters of its religion, Allah will raise him up as a scholar and I shall be an intercessor and witness for him on the Day of Rising”

Brother Yahya also states:

In this book Turath Publishing presents forty hadith gathered by Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, each providing an example of the Prophet’s capacity (peace be upon him) to condense volumes of meaning into a few words. The hadiths in this collection are often excerpted from longer hadith. This translation is also accompanied by a light commentary taken from the well known sources of hadith commentaries and references in the endnotes direct the reader to the major collections where each hadith can be found.

The back cover reads:

‘Practical application’ is the common theme in Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti’s collection of hadiths. Each of the forty hadith in this book is striking by its immediate relevance; whether on questions of legal judgement, virtuous action, or asceticism, the reader will find lessons that can be applied in almost any situation.

There is biographical sketch in the book, however, there is a brief one on the back cover which reads:

Imam Jalal ad-Din as Suyuti was a towering ninth century Egyptian scholar and is considered the reviver of his era. He was a prolific writer and has over 600 titles to his name, many of which are encyclopaedic in nature and cover almost every science of his day. He travelled extensively to gather hadith, including Morocco, Chad, Syria, the Hijaz, Yemen and even India.

The following excerpt is of Hadith 18 of the collection (Arabic text has been omitted in this excerpt):

‘Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim’

This refers to knowledge which is obligatory to know for anyone who is morally responsible. Knowledge is of six types: (i) Fard Kifaya (Communal Obligation) – If one or a few carry out this obligation, all are relieved of its duty, otherwise all are equally sinful, (ii) Fard ‘Ayn (Individual Obligation) – This is what is necessary for the individual under legal obligation to carry out his obligatory duties, such as ablution, prayers, fasts, etc. However, it is only obligatory to learn the basics and not the subtle details and rarities. Whoever possess wealth obligating zakah, it is necessary for him to learn the basic laws pertaining to zakah. Whoever is involved in trade needs to learn the laws governing his trade. Whoever is married is required to learn the obligations of family life. Similarly, all need to learn rulings related to food, drink, clothing etc. The knowledge of kalam (dialectics) is also fard kifaya to remove doubts. However, if one falls into doubt in any of its established principals, seeking this knowledge becomes fard ‘ayn upon the individual in order to remove that doubt. As for knowledge of the heart and its maladies, such as jealousy, conceit, pretentiousness etc., Imam Ghazali deems it fard ‘ayn while others hold that it is not necessary for the one whose heart is free from such evils, nevertheless, seeking it is better. (iii) Mandub (Recommended) – Mastering the Islamic Sciences, (iv) Haram (Forbidden) – Learning sorcery, [deviant] philosophy, astrology, exorcism etc., (v) Makruh (Undesirable) – Learning obscene and futile poetry, for example, (vi) Mabah (Neutrally Permissible) – Learning poetry that is not indecent nor a barrier from good, for example. (at-Taysir bi Sharh al-Jami as-Saghir 1:316)

The following is Hadith 20:

Make do with little in this world, and Allah will love you. Make do with little of what is in the hands of mankind, and people will love you.

Izhad – Zuhd linguistically means to turn away from a thing in disdain. Legally it means to confine oneself to the amount that is necessary and which one is certain is lawful. If a Muslim makes do with little in this world, he will gain the love of Allah. When he makes do with little of what people have, they will love him because the hearts of people are predisposed to love worldly things. Love of this world is the key to every evil. Seeking enough worldly things to suffice one is mandatory (see Fayd al-Qadir 1:481).

There was a printing error in the edition reviewed. Page 38 was blank, and it would have included the 40th hadith of the collection. We have contacted the published in regards to this printing error. [Post review note: Br. Yahya has informed me that the manuscript that was used, only consisted of 39 hadiths]

May Allah bless all those involved in publishing this book and include us all in the hadith, ‘Whoever memorises forty narrations…’. Ameen.

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