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Rejoicing when Innovators die and Praising the Ruler for his Action – Imam Ubadah bin Nusayyin (d.118H)

Abu Khuzaymah Ansari

This statement shows the Manhaj of the Salaf regarding the innovators and their interaction with the rulers. Although we cannot derive legal rulings or establish a specific Manhaj from this single statement, it does however show the view of one venerated Salaf (although there are others – see further points). Likewise, the early scholars of hadith used this statement for theological and methodological conclusions as evidenced by them in transmitting it in their respective early books of Aqidah and Manhaj.

It is of equal importance and something by the way of thought provoking to individuals who adhere to the ‘card’ of “the salaf differed over certain matter” when it comes to the rulers. As Salafis, we do not endorse unrestricted blind praise for rulers, but this report further adds to the scope of discussion.

Two affairs are encompassed in this statement which are a reminder to those who exert time and effort in reinventing religious trends when the Salaf established them for us.

Imam Abu Amr Ubadah bin Nusayyin al-Kindi (d.118H)

He was from the Tabi’in who died in 118H. Imam Ibn Hibban said in his ath-Thiqat he died when he was young. (Tahdhib ut-Tahdhib (2/287) (ar-Rislaah). Imam Ibn Sa’d said about him, “He was thiqah and died in 118H during the reign of the Khaliph Hisham bin Abdul Malik.” (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d (9/459 no.4686) (Khanji). Imams Ahmad, al-Nasa’i, Ibn Ma’in, Ijli and Ibn Numayr all declared him thiqah (Tahdhib ut-Tahdhib (2/286-287).

Ghaylan bin Muslim was from the founding members of deviant Qadari sect. Hisham bin Abdul Malik was the Umayyad ruler.

The Statement

“A man came to Ubadah bin Nusayyin and said, “The leader of the believers, Hisham cut Ghaylan’s hands and feet and executed him.” He said, “Is what you say true”? He replied, “Yes.” Ubadah said, “By Allah he acted in accordance with the Sunnah and applied the correct judgement, I will write to the leader of the believers and praise him for his actions.”

Transmitted by

(1) al-Firyabi, Kitab al-Qadr (p.216 no.285) (Dar Ibn Hazm)

(2) Abu Zur’ah ad-Dimashqi, at-Tarikh (p.161-162 no.800) (DKI)

(3) Ibn Battah, al-Ibanatul Kubra, Kitab ath-Thani (2/239 no.1851) (Darul Rayah)

(4) Al-Ajurri, Kitabush-Shari’ah (2/922 no.517) (Madar al-Watan)

(5) Al-Lalaka’i, Sharh Usul I’tiqad Ahlus Sunnah Wa’l Jama’ah (4/526 no.1165) (Dar un-Nasihah)

(6) At-Tabarani, Musnad ash-Shamiyin (3/266 no.2228) (ar-Risalah)

(7) Ibn Asakir, Tarikh ad-Dimashq (26/218, 48/212) (Dar ul-Fikr)

(8) Ibn Hajr, Lisan ul-Mizan (2/6/314 no.6009) (Dar ul-Basha’ir)


(1) Expressing happiness and rejoicing when innovators die, and this refers to the callers to innovation and active ardent supporters.

(2) Verifying news and making sure reports and incidents are true and accurate.

(3) Communicating the truth by endorsing and openly agreeing with judgements and rulings according to the Quran and Sunnah.

(4) Judging and weighing all actions according to the Sunnah, whether it’s the general Muslims or the rulers.

(5) Praising the rulers for their actions that coincide and conform to the affairs of the Sunnah and those which aid Islam by refuting and curb the incursion of the deviant innovators.

(6) The Salaf did praise the rulers as those who equally reprimanded their evil in accordance with the constraints of the Sunnah. We do not intend by this that you start a fan club but intelligently acknowledge that if you quote statements of openly rebuking the rulers you also have statements which praise the rulers.

(7) The writing of Ubadah to Hisham shows the scholars of the Salaf communicated with the rulers through writing. If in this example it is was for praise, then it is also a given they would have written to advise them on other matters.

Further Benefits

(1) Scholars like Numayr bin Aws, a Qadhi from Dimashq also wrote to Hisham congratulating him on executing Ghaylan (al-Uqayli, Kitab adh-Dhu’afa al-Kabir (3/437) (Dar ul-Baz).

(2) Raja’ bin Haywah also wrote to Hisham praising him for his actions. (Kitab adh-Dhu’afa al-Kabir (3/436), Lisan ul-Mizan (2/6/314)

(3) Hisham bin Abdul Malik had ordered Imam al-Awza’i to debate with Ghaylan to establish evidence against him and to refute his views. Ghaylan remained adamant on his heretical views and with the evidence established against him, he was executed due to Imam al-Awza’i’s fatwa of execution. (Lisan ul-Mizan (2/6/314), Muhammad Ibn Abd Rabbah, al-Iqd al-Farid (2/193) (DKI), al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf (8/419)(Dar ul-Fikr).

(4) Maymun bin Mihran, Iyas bin Mu’awiyyah a judge in Basrah, and Rabi’ah al-Ra’y also a judge all debated Ghaylan before the reign of Hisham but under the rule of the Umayyads and at their behest. (at-Tabari, Tarikh ar-Rasul (7/203) (Dar ul-Ma’arif), Ansab al-Ashraf (8/390), Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah Wan-Nihayah (9/349) (DKI), al-Iqd al-Farid (2/191-192), Abu Nu’aym, Hilyatul Awliya (3/260) (al-Maktabah as-Salafiyyah).

So, I hope based on fairness and the bravery of the new mujaddids they can ascribes labels such as ‘sell-outs’ to the Imams and scholars cited above.

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