Explaining the “Mujaddid” – the Reviver of Islam sent each Century
The Mujaddid, or Reviver, is a concept known to us through the ahadith. He is an individual or even group of people, known by his/their efforts, who/m Allah sends every century to revive what is abandoned from the Quran and Sunnah. Unlike the Prophets عليهم السلام the Mujaddid is not infallible, and he can not come with anything new. Here we present a piece adapted from a detailed response of the Amir of Hizb ut Tahrir, Shaykh Ata ibn Khalil abu al Rashta, to one who asked him regarding the hadith of the mujaddid.
Al-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allahi wa barakatuh.
May Allah bless you our Shaykh and hasten the victory by your hands…and may Allah benefit us with your knowledge. One of the well-known hadiths narrated by the great sahabi Abu Hurayrah (RA) from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is: ‘Indeed Allah raises for this Ummah, every century, someone who will revive for her, her religion.’ It was narrated by Abu Dawud (no.4291) which was authenticated by al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-Hasanah (p.149) and al-Albani in Silsilat al-Sahihah (no.599). The question is: what is the meaning of the hadith? Does the preposition “من” in the hadith denote a single person or a group? Is it restricted to only the previous generations? May Allah reward you with good.
The Hadith and its Authenticity
Before presenting the Shaykh’s answer to the question, it would be beneficial to look at the hadith and its authenticity.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْعَثُ لِهَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ عَلَى رَأْسِ كُلِّ مِائَةِ سَنَةٍ مَنْ يُجَدِّدُ لَهَا دِينَهَا
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Allah will raise for this Ummah at the end of every hundred years the one who will revive its religion for it.”
See Abu Dawud, Sunan (#4291), al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, vol.4, p.522; al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib al-Shafi’i, vol.1, p.137 and al-Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, vol.6, p.323-324 (#6527). See also ‘Azim Abad in ‘Awn al-Ma’bud, vol.13, pp.309-310 where presents a discussion on all senior hadith scholars considering it authentic.
Imam Suyuti, in his Mirqat al Sa’ood fi sharh sunnah Abu Dawood, says:
It is a consensus of the Muhadditheen that this Hadith is Sahih.
The famous Imam Isma’il Haqqi says in his Siraj al Muneer Sharh Jamia’ Sagheer that: “My sheikh said that there is an Ijma of the hadith masters that this hadith is Sahih.
What are the Issues Surrounding the Hadith?
Yes the hadith is authentic and there are five issues pertaining to it:
1) When is a century considered to have commenced? Is it from the birthday of the Prophet ﷺ, from his being dispatched as a Prophet, from the Hijrah or from his ﷺ death date?
2) Does the phrase “ra’s kull mi’at/رأس كل مئة” mean the beginning of the century, during the century or at the end of the century?
3) Does the preposition “من” refer to a single person or a group that will renew and revive their religion?
4) Are there authentic narrations that refer to the number of those that have revived the religion (al-mujaddidin) from previous centuries?
5) Can we ascertain who was the mujaddid of 14th century which came to an end on the 30th Dhu’l-Hijjah 1399?
I will try my utmost to present what I hold to be the strongest understanding on this matter without plunging into any points of dispute; so I say, and Allah is the only Guide to the Right Path (Glorified is He!).
When does “the Century” start historically?
Al-Munawi said in the introduction to Fath al-Qadir:
And the scholars differed over the start of the year, whether it considered from the Prophet’s birth date, the advent of his Prophethood (bi’thah), the Hijrah or his death date…
The strongest view in my opinion is that it is to be considered from the time of the Hijrah because it is the event by which Islam and the Muslims were given honour, dignity and might through the establishment of its state. For this reason, when ‘Umar (RA) gathered the Sahabah to agree upon when to commence the calendar, they relied upon the Hijrah.
Al-Tabari relates in his Tarikh:
‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abd al-Hakam told me that: Nu’aym b. Hammad told us that: al-Darawardi told us from ‘Uthman b. ‘Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi’ who said: I heard Sa’id b. al-Musayyib say: ‘Umar b. al-Khattab gathered the people and asked them: ‘From what day should we begin recording?’ ‘Ali replied: ‘from the day that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ migrated and left the land of polytheism (ard al-shirk).’ This is what ‘Umar (RA) did. And Abu Ja’far said: ‘The first year of Hijrah was considered from the month of Muharram of that year i.e. before the arrival of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to Medina by two months and a few days as the arrival of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was on the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal’…”
What is the “head of every century?”
As for the phrase “ra’s mi’at/رأس كل مئة”, the strongest view is that it refers to the close of the century, i.e. that the mujaddid – a scholar, known, pious and God-fearing – will be at the end of the century. His death will be at the close of the century and not in the middle of it or during it. As for why I have preferred this, then there are a number of reasons:
1) It has been authentically established that ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was considered the mujaddid of the first century. And He (RA) passed away in 101 AH at the age forty. al-Shafi’i was considered mujaddid of the second century and he died in 204 AH at the age of fifty-four. If we take the meaning of “ra’s kull mi’at sanah/رأس كل مئة” to be other than this, i.e. to take it to mean at the beginning of every century, then ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz could not be considered the mujaddid of the first century because he was born in 61 AH and al-Shafi’i could not have considered mujaddid of the second century because he was born in 150 AH. This must mean that the phrase “ra’s kull mi’at sanah/رأس كل مئة” found in the hadith means ‘the end’ of every century and not the beginning. The mujaddid would be born during the century and by the close of the century would have become a well-known scholar and passed away.
What is meant by the one mentioned in is the one who is alive, known, famous and pointed out when the hundred finishes. And the clear proof for that is what is meant by the head of the hundred is their end and not their beginning. Zuhri, Imam Ahmad and others as well as later imams agree that from the mujadideen at the head of the first 100 was Umar bin Abdul Aziz and he died in the year 101 AH at the age of 40. The next was Shafi’i and he died in the year 204 AH at the age of 44. [Ibn Atheer, in Mirqat as-Sa’ud]
As for the evidence that ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was the mujaddid of the first century and al-Shafi’i mujaddid of the second century, then it is because it became known among the scholars and learned of the Ummah. Scholars like al-Zuhri, Ahmad b. Hanbal and other earlier and later scholars all agreed on ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz being the mujaddid of the first century and al-Shafi’i mujaddid of the second century (Allah’s mercy be on them). ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz died in the year 101 AH at the age of forty and his khilafah was for two and half years and al-Shafi’i died in 204 AH at the age of fifty-four.
Abu Bakr al-Bazzar said: I heard ‘Abd al-Malik b. ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Maymuni say:
I was with Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and he began mentioning al-Shafi’i. I saw Ahmad get up and say: It was related from the Prophet ﷺ that he said: ‘At the turn of every century Allah sends a person who teaches the people their religion.’ ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was at the close of the first century and I hope al-Shafi’i was the one at the close of the second century [Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, in Tawali al-Ta’sis].
And through Abu Sa’id al-Firyabi who said:
Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: Verily Allah selects for the people at the end of every century someone who will teach the people the Sunan and will negate the lies attributed to the Prophet ﷺ; so we examined the matter and found that ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was at the end of the first century whilst al-Shafi’i was at the end of the second century.’
Ibn ‘Adi said:
I heard Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. al-Husayn say: I heard our companions saying: In the first century it was ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and in the second it was Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi’i.
And al-Hakim narrated in al-Mustadrak from Abu ’l-Walid who said:
I was in a gathering of Abu ’l-‘Abbas ibn Shurayh when a shaykh came to him and praised him. Then I heard him say: Abu ’l-Tahir al-Khawlani told us that: ‘Abd Allah b. Wahb told us that: Sa’id b. Abi Ayyub informed me from Shurahil b. Yazid from Abu ‘Alqamah from Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Indeed, Allah raises for this Ummah at the head of every century someone who will renew her religion for her.” So rejoice O Judge! Indeed, Allah sent at the end of the first century ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-Aziz and at the end of the second century Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi’…al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: this indicates that the hadith was well-known in that time period. [‘Awn al-Ma’bud, vol.13, pp.302-304]
2) It may be said that linguistically the ‘ra’s’ of something means the beginning of something in which case how then can we view as strongest that the start of every year means its end and not its beginning? The answer is that just as the word ra’s can linguistically mean the start of something, it can equally mean its end. In the Taj al-‘Arusit mentions that the ra’s of something is its edge as well as its end part. And in Lisan al-‘Arab it mentions that ‘The lizard came out of the hole with its head’ (mura’asan)’ which means that the head came out first or that perhaps the tail first, i.e. the first part or the end part. Thus, the ra’s of a matter according to the language can mean the beginning just as it can mean one end of it whether this means the beginning or the end. Hence, we need a linguistic clue (qarinah) that will give preference to the intended meaning in the hadith for ra’s being its beginning or its end. Such a qarinah exists that was mentioned in the previous narrations which considered ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz the mujaddid of the first century who died in the year 101 AH and considered al-Shafi’i the mujaddid of the second century who died in the year 204 AH. All of this tilts the meaning [of ra’s] in the hadith to refer to the close of the century and not the turn of the century. Therefore, based on the aforementioned points, I consider the strongest understanding of “ra’s kull mi’at sanah/رأس كل مئة” to be the close of the century.
Is the Mujaddid an individual or a group?
As for if the preposition “من” refers to an individual or a group, then the text of the hadith is as follows: «يبعث لهذه الأمة… من يجدد لها دينها» / “Allah raises from the Ummah […] someone who will renew her religion for her”. If “من” indicates a group then the verb would have been in the plural form, i.e. “those who renew” (من يجددون).
However, the verb was mentioned in the singular form and this is despite the “من” also carrying the plural meaning; even if the verb after it is in the singular form. However, I view as stronger that here it is indicating the individual because of the qarinah ‘yujaddidu’/يجدد. And I say ‘stronger’, because the expression used here does not definitely denote an individual even when the verb after it is in the singular form. Because of this, some have interpreted “من” as indicating groups of people and they listed in narrations groups from the scholars who came in every century [s: as mujaddids). However, this opinion is not the strongest for the reasons mentioned earlier. Therefore, I see as the strongest view that “من” refers to an individual and not a group, i.e. that the mujaddid mentioned in the hadith is a single, knowledgeable and pious person.
Who are the Mujaddideen of the Previous Centuries?
As for listing the names of the mujaddid of the past centuries, there are various reports found regarding that but the most well-known list is in the form of stylized prose compiled by al-Suyuti up until the ninth century and he asked Allah (SWT) for himself to be the mujaddid of that century. I will now reproduce a section from that work:
And in the first century was ‘Umar the just Khalifah agreed by all,
And al-Shafi’i in the second due to his vast knowledge;
And in the fifth was al-Ghazali for his powers of argument;
And in the seventh was Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id who rose to sublime heights agreed by all;
And now is the ninth that has come and the one who guides does not break a promise
And I hope that I am its claimant because the favours of Allah do not end.
And there are some other statements that continue on from this.
“A Mujadid appears at the end of every century, the Mujadid of the 1st century was Umar bin Abdul Aziz for establishing justice. The Mujadid of the 2nd century was Imam Shafi for explaining the Aqa’id and Fiqh. The Mujadid of the 3rd century was Abu Hasan al Ashari for formulating the sciences of ahl us Sunnah and refuting the innovators. The Mujadid of the 4th century was Imam al Hakim and Al Baihaqi for laying the foundations in Hadith sciences and Abu Hamid Isfara’ini for spreading Ilm of Fiqh. In the 5th century was Imam Ghazzali for opening new paths in Fiqh, kalaam and Tasawwuf. In the 6th century was Fakhr ud-Din Razi for spreading knowledge of kalaam while Nawawi spread knowledge of Fiqh.” [Shah Walliuallah in his Izalat al-Khafa]
Who is the Mujaddid of the 14th Century?
Is it possible for us to know who the mujaddid of the people’s religion was for the 14th century ending on the 30th of Dhu ’l-Hijjah 1399? I noticed and observed what became well-known amongst the relied-upon scholars regarding the ra’s of a year was its latter part. ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was born 61AH and died at the close of the first century in the year 101AH and al-Shafi’i was born 150AH and died at the close of the century in the year 204AH. This means that each one of them was born around the middle of the century and became well-known in its latter part. And as I have already stated, I take as the strongest interpretation namely that which become well-known amongst the relied-upon scholars regarding Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz being the mujaddid of the first century and al-Shafi’i being the mujaddid of the second century. So based upon this, I view as strongest that the great scholar Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani (Allah’s mercy be on him) was the mujaddid of the fourteenth century. He was born in the year 1332AH and became well-known in the latter part of the fourteenth century – especially when he founded Hizb al-Tahrir in Jumada al-Thani in the year of 1372AH and passed away in the year 139AH. His call (da’wah) to the Muslims was related to the vital issue, the resumption of the Islamic way of life through the restoration of the rightly guided Khilafah State and it had a major effect upon their lives, endeavours and independent efforts (ijtihadatihim) such that the Khilafah has become a general demand of the Muslims today. So may Allah’s mercy be upon Abu Ibrahim and may Allah’s mercy be upon his brother Abu Yusuf who came after him and May Allah gather them with the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and Righteous; and what great company they are!
This is what I view as the most probable my brother Abu Mu’min and Allah is more aware of what is correct and to Him belongs the best of destinations.
Ata ibn Khalil Abu ’l-Rashtah.
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