The Obligation of Differing From The Disbelievers PDF Print E-mail
Author: Shaykh Saleh ibn Fawzan al-FawzanJumah Khutbah: Riyadh

Date: October 12, 2001 (Rajab 25, 1422)



All praise is due to Allah Who has commanded us to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, the master of the righteous, and forbidden us from imitating the polytheists and disbelievers. All praise is due to Allah for the blessings that He has conferred upon us and the calamities that He has prevented from hitting us. I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah alone, Who has no partners and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his family and his companions. Dear people! Fear Allah and be proud of your religion.O Allah’s servants! Allah, the Most High, has granted the Muslims a complete Shari’ah, or comprehensive set of rules, that cover all religious and worldly matters. He made happiness both in this world and in the Hereafter contingent on working according it and adhering to its guidance. Allah, Most High says that which translates as:

“Whoever follows My guidance will neither go astray [in the world] nor suffer [in the Hereafter].” (Ta Ha: 123).

“Whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Al-Baqarah: 38).

This Shari’ah is the straight and correct way, which is the way of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace such as His Prophets, the sincere, the martyrs, and the righteous. Anything other than this is the way of those who have earned the wrath of Allah such as the Jews, the Christians and the polytheists. Dear Muslims! In every rak`ah, or cycle, of your prayer, you invoke Allah to show you the straight path and keep you away from the path of those who have earned His wrath and those who have gone astray.

You do this because you recite Surat Al-Fatihah. This recitation in every rak`ah is one of the pillars of Salah, or prayer. Therefore, you should reflect on this Du`a’, or supplication, its objectives and its positive results. First and foremost, it implies following Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and adhering to Allah’s Shari’ah concerning acts of worship, business transactions, morals and inward and outward manners. It also entails differing from the disbelievers with regard to their specific acts of worship, business transactions, morals, and manners. This is because imitating them outwardly leads to loving them inwardly.

Therefore, the Qur’an and the Sunnah are replete with evidences that command the Muslims to differ from the disbelievers and forbid imitating them in order to keep the Muslims away from all harmful matters. This is because the actions of the unbelievers are false and only for show, their endeavours are misleading and their end is certain destruction. Consequently, all the actions and affairs of a disbeliever are blighted and fruitless. Allah, Most High says that which translates as:

“But the disbelievers – their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing.” (Al-Nur: 39). “The example of those who disbelieve in their Lord is [that] their deeds are like ashes which the wind blows forcefully on a stormy day.” (Ibrahim: 18).

O Muslims! Although Allah has warned us severely against following the way of the disbelievers, He knew that this would happen as His Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam reported that Allah has decreed this according to His Knowledge. Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, that Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said:

“You will follow the errors of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of a lizard, you would follow them.” The people asked: “O Allah’s Messenger! Do you mean (by ‘your predecessors’) the Jews and the Christians?” He sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied, “Who else?” Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, that Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said:

“The Hour will not come until my nation will follow completely and literally the errors of the previous nations.” The people asked: “O Allah’s Messenger! Are you referring to (the people of) Persia and the Romans?” He sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied, “Is there other than these?” Therefore, Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam reported that his nation will follow the Jews and the Christians, who are the People of the Book, as well as the people ofPersia and the Romans. Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam forbade imitating all of them.

Despite the fact that he sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam told us that his nation would imitate the errors of the disbelievers, he sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also stated that a group of his nation will firmly adhere to the truth until the Hour comes. He sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also said that Allah would make it such that the Muslim nation would not unanimously agree on falsehood. Also, he sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam assured us that Allah frequently raises certain persons for the sake of His religion whom He uses and appoints for obeying Him. As a result, it becomes clear from the authentic Ahadith of the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam that there will be a group of people who follow and adhere to his guidance, the religion of Islam. On the other hand, some Muslims will deviate to the doctrines of the religion of the Jews or that of the Christians. Such deviation is made alluring by Satan. That is why a servant of Allah is commanded to ask Allah to guide him to the straight path, which is far away from Christianity and Judaism. 

Oh servants of Allah! The wisdom behind the prohibition of imitating the disbelievers and commanding us differ from them is so clear. This is because imitating them outwardly leads to imitating them inwardly which in turn results in resembling them in their morals and actions. However, being different from them outwardly leads to differing from them inwardly, which in turn leads to being so completely distinct from them that one is rescued from the causes of Allah’s wrath. Being distinguished also saves one from going astray and leads to being directed to the way of guidance and Allah’s pleasure.

Oh Muslims! Today many Muslims, both men and women, imitate the disbelievers in their manners of speaking, dressing, appearance and in so many other areas that time does not allow me to enumerate them. Among these aspects is the shaving of beards and growing moustaches. Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, commanded trimming the moustache and allowing the beard to grow in a generous manner, thus being distinct from the disbelievers who shave their beards and grow their moustaches. We must know that clipping the moustache and growing the beard are among the characteristics of Fitrah, or human-nature and from the guidance of the Prophets, peace be upon them all. It is a symbol of being distinct from the enemies of Allah and His Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

This is because clipping the moustache brings about cleanliness, keeping it away from the phlegm of the nose and because when it becomes long and hangs over the lip; it becomes immersed in food and drinks in a disgusting manner. I stress again that growing the moustache long distorts one’s appearance, despite the fact that some people may approve of it. Wearing the beard is a symbol of a man’s handsomeness and dignity.

Therefore, when he becomes old his attraction remains due to the existence of the hair of his beard. In contrast, the one who disobeys Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam by shaving it will have a distorted face devoid of any beauty when he becomes old. The habituation and blind imitation of these people lead them to misjudging a bad thing as good and vice versa. What we say to those people, may Allah guide us and them, is: You must repent and return to the truth, for returning to the truth is far better than continuing with falsehood. The Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam has become clear to you and you have been commanded to obey and follow in his footsteps. Allah says:

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example.” (Al-Ahzab: 21).

Therefore you have to adhere to his Sunnah and not to change it, despite the great number of Muslims who neglect it. Another example of imitating the disbelievers is speaking in their languages unnecessarily; this happens even among the native Arabs in their own countries. The reason why this is so disliked is that when a person speaks a foreign language, he becomes accustomed to this practice and deserts the Arabic tongue which is the symbol of Islam. In fact, the language spoken is among the greatest of the symbols that define the culture and practices of any given group of people.

Therefore, the majority of Islamic jurists are of the view that offering Du`a’, or supplication, within Salah, or prayers; and saying Dhikr, or the mentioning of Allah’s names, in a language other than Arabic is Makruh, or not recommended.

Allah has glorified the Arabic language, revealed His Book in it and made it the native language of Muhammad sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, the last of His Prophets. So, being accustomed to speak in any language other than Arabic is Makruh – if a person knows Arabic – for it leads to resembling non-Muslims, deserting the Arabic language, and replacing it by another language. Arabic is a part of the religion and learning it is obligatory, because comprehending the Qur’an and the Sunnah is obligatory; and they cannot be comprehended except by knowing Arabic. Therefore what is necessary for fulfilling an obligation also becomes obligatory. As for learning foreign languages, Muslims are allowed to learn and speak in them, but only when necessary.

If it is unnecessary, then speaking in them is Makruh. However, it is very saddening to see that when you enter public buildings, such as hospitals and airports, in the Arab countries, you will find people communicating in foreign languages as if they were in Europe. The disbelievers are also imitated in certain acts of worship, such as building up the areas around graves and making them places of visitation and worship. Allah’s Messenger sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said

: “May Allah’s curse be on the Jews and the Christians, for they build places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” He sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also said:

“If any righteous man dies amongst them, they would build a place of worship at his grave and make pictures of him to place therein; they are the worst creatures in the sight of Allah.” These sayings of the Prophet sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam reveal that exaggeration with regard to graves leads to the gravest shirk, or polytheism, which is obvious to everybody. All this is owing to imitating the Jews and the Christians. Other forms of imitation are celebrating polytheistic and innovated days such as the Prophet’s birthday and those of presidents and kings.

Celebrating these occasions may be for one day or a week such as National Day, Mother’s Day, Cleanliness Week and so on. All these celebrations came to the Muslims from the disbelievers. In Islam, there are only two days of feasts: the Day of Fitr, or ending the fast of Ramadan, and the Day of Adhaa, or sacrifice. Celebrating any day other than these two is bid`ah, or an innovation in the religion, and imitation of the disbelievers. Muslims should be mindful of this and not be lured by the great number Muslims participating in these sinful events. Such people either do not know the ruling of Islam concerning it and celebrate these days due to ignorance, or know the ruling of Islam and celebrate them despite that. The sin of the latter class is of course, much greater. I seek refuge with Allah from the outcast Satan. Allah says that which translates as:

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Al Ahzab: 21).


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Boricua Muslimah

Graduate from Rutgers Newark. Journalist, photographer and videographer.

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