Taking the Oath: An Islamic Tradition

November 7, 2007 § 5 Comments

Taking bayat means taking an oath. It is a sunnat, however a forgotten sunnat of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Peace and Blessings be upon him). When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Believers, his Companions went to Hajj, for the first time after the hijri/migration to Medina, they stopped before entering Mecca. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) sent Uthman ibn Affan (r.a.) as an emissary to the mushriks, those disbelievers of the Quraysh to draw up a treaty, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, for them to know that they are entering Mecca for pilgrimage only and are not coming to make war. And also to prevent the Quraysh from attacking them while they are defenseless and in worship on Hajj.

But when Uthman ibn Affan (r.a.) came to Mecca then words started spreading everywhere that the disbelievers have killed Uthman (r.a.). That is when Allah sent down the ayat/verse ordering those believers to give an oath, take bayat, swearing to Allah that they will not separate from the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and his sunnat, his tradition, no matter what happens,

“Lo! those who swear allegiance unto thee (Muhammad), swear allegiance only unto Allah. The Hand of Allah is above their hands. So whosoever breaketh his oath, breaketh it only to his soul’s hurt; while whosoever keepeth his covenant with Allah, on him will He bestow immense reward.” (048.010)

The Companions swore that they would not leave him and if it’s necessary they would all die for Allah and his sake. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) held out his hand and everyone placed their hands on his. Allah is saying that His hand is upon theirs, which means, “Allah’s protection is on all of you as long as you are with that Prophet”. This was their oath, their bayat to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). They swore that they are never going to betray the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and they swore that no matter what happened, they would continue this oath, this bayat until they die. This was al-bayatul-shajarah, The Pledge of the Tree, in which Allah was well pleased with those Believers saying,

“Allah was well pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance unto thee beneath the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down peace of reassurance on them, and hath rewarded them with a near victory;” (048:018)

Do you think any of those Companions turned back on that oath? Do you think they changed their bayat at some point in their lifetime? Would they have Allah’s promised protection if they did? “No, they wouldn’t because when [Uthman] (ra) came back.” And he said,

“Ya Rasulullah, they are not letting us enter Mecca this year. But we have made a treaty that next year we will come and we will be allowed to enter.”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) accepted this treaty and told the others, “We are accepting that treaty.” Then he said,

“So now slaughter your animals as if you went to Hajj. It’s accepted. Shave your heads and come out from Ihram because our Hajj is accepted.”

After entering his tent the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was aware that there were some who didn’t like the idea and wanted to go to Mecca. So the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as their leader was the first to act. He came out shaving his head, then came out from Ihram and slaughtered his animal. When they saw their leader, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), the best of Mankind doing this, they all did the same. That was when they woke up! They saw that there was no other way to turn but follow their Prophet’s guidance (s.a.w.s.). Later the Prophet addressed them saying, “Don’t make any mistake to think that you are swearing by Allah and you are going to change your bayat later and you are going to find safety.” And anyone who did so from that time until today has not found safety.

There is no safety to those who turn on their heels after giving their allegiance in the way of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). There is no safety to them in this life or the next; in dunya or in akhiret. Bayat is swearing on Allah, the Creator of the Heavens and Earth, Lord and Master of all the Worlds, that you are in and will continue in the way of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s). “If we are in the way of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s) then we have to take Allah’s orders very seriously.” Then we will become beloved to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and His Prophet (s.a.w.s). So if you have taken bayat with someone, you should think on it, what does it mean to you? Are you taking bayat in the way of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), in a manner after the Companions? If so your bayat is swearing that you will not leave the way of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).

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§ 5 Responses to Taking the Oath: An Islamic Tradition

  • Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum all, I thought I would start this post off in the tradition of “StreetProphets” with a comment to indicate I am willing and able to discuss this item.

    One thing I will note before you comment is that people don’t exactly understand how significant this story is. When the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) found some of the Companions wanting to continue into Mecca he came out of his tent shaving his head, canceling his ihram and slaughtering an animal.

    This was hard for many to accept because it, for lack of a better phrase, seemed crazy to the Companions. No one had ever seen or heard of such an act before and it was by pure faith that the Believers followed in the way of the Holy Prophet by shaving their heads breaking ihram and slaughtering their animals without completing the ritual pilgrimage.

  • Aaminah says:

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    Please forgive me for this off-topic question, but are you no longer posting at Street Prophets?

    Thank you for this reminder of the meaning of the oath. I think some people do not recognize its significance and also that some think the concept of bay’at is an innovated and peculiar custom. This is a good explanation of how it does tie back to the Sunnah of the Prophet (salalahi alahi wa salaam). I also like your reminder for those that have taken bayat to continue to be conscious of what it means and ask ourselves if we are keeping that oath. Sometimes we think the bayat is the goal and don’t get much beyond that point or propely exercise what the bayat means. Or once we have made it, although we know there is other work to follow, we think we have time to get to it. In fact the bayat means that we have to act on it continually.

  • Abdur Rahman says:

    Salaams Saifuddin,

    Thank you for an interesting and important post. You’ve given us much to think about, as ever.

    Allah bless you always.

    Abdur Rahman

  • david says:

    “and hath rewarded them with a near victory;” (048:018)”
    If allah was well pleased as the text reads then why would he reward the new believers with a “near victory” which is a loss? How can you have a peace of reasurrance in a god who rewards you with a “near victory”? which seems to be a loss
    I understand the concept of faith but why would Allah reward a new believer with a loss?

    • Seyfettin says:

      BismillaharRahmanirRahim

      The passage has a specific context. The “near victory” was indeed a great reward for the Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) and his Companions at that time. Their opposition was great and their circumstances extremely difficult. However, there was still more to be done.

      I hope this answers your questions.

      -Seyfettin

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