Commentary (Hadeeth # 7):
Knowledge without Action is Fruitless
Heraclius’s questions reflect his intelligence. However, despite his intelligence he did not accept Islam. Even today we have these examples where intelligent people are studying Islam. They ask smart questions about religion but do not accept it. It tells us that knowledge alone does not benefit a person. Heraclius was investigating Islam, he had the knowledge yet in the end he does not accept it. We see in the stories of reverts that many of them have little knowledge about Islam but because they are seeking the truth and their intention is “guidance” and not any other worldly purpose, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala opens up their hearts to Islam. It is after becoming Muslims that they start going in depth.
The Fear of People Prevents One from Goodness
Although Heraclius saw the truth in Islam, he feared for his life. He believed that if he embraced Islam he would be overthrown and killed. Isn’t it the fear of the people that prevents us from pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? We cannot leave our high-paying haram job fearing what people are going to say. Women cannot cover their heads and aura because of being called backward and close-minded. People cannot give up on music and other related activities because their friends are going to make fun of them.
Abu Talib acknowledged that his nephew salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam indeed was the messenger of Allah, but the fear of his tribe prevented him from embracing Islam.
This hadeeth also tells us that even the non-Muslims saw the truth in Islam. Heraclius saw the truth in Islam since the beginning, but the fear of people prevented him from accepting it. How many things are we delaying or rejecting only because of the fear of people?
Intention without Action is Ineffective
Imam Bukhari places this hadeeth in a chapter that starts with intention. This incident teaches us that only having good intention does not benefit a person. One must also act on that intention. For example, many people acknowledge that they should learn the Deen. However, they just have this intention in their hearts. They do not go to the mosques, Islamic institutes or study circles to actually act on that intention.
If a good intention enters your heart, act on it immediately even if it’s about helping others. Our hearts condition changes over time. When we are listening to the Qur’an, our hearts are soft; good thoughts are entering our hearts at this time. But when we engage in some other activity, our minds are on something else and the good thoughts have left our hearts. Don’t miss the opportunity to do good. Act it out as soon as it enters your heart.
Giving Salaam to the non-Muslims
The issue of greeting non-Muslims is a debated matter among Muslims. Some say that we should not greet the non-Muslims at all. Some say we should say, “Asalaam o alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,” to them.
We learn in the Qur’an that when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala instructed Prophet Musa and Haroon alayhi salaam to visit Pharaoh, He commands them to start with Salaam.
Through the letter of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam we learn that the Sunnah is to greet the non-Muslim especially when you are not at war with them or they are not hostile toward you. Look at how the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam greets his addressee. He says: Peace be upon him, who follows the right path [salaamun ‘ala manit-t’abah al-huda]. We should memorize this greeting. It is both a greeting and a prayer for their guidance.
The other opinion is that you wait for the non-Muslim person to initiate the greeting. If he says, “Hello,” or “Hi”, you reply with the same.
Sister Taimiyyah shared that if a non-Muslim greets her with hello or hi, she greets them in the same manner. But if they say, Salaam un ‘alaykum [peace be on you]. Then she replies with: Walikum salaam [and on you be peace]. Do not stand their lost not knowing what to do.
We are encouraged to practice proper etiquette with non-Muslims as well. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us to that which is best, aameen.