In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful
How To Reconcile Between Texts That State Multiple Actions Are The Best
There are different ahadith that say the best Islam is this particular action or that action.
For example, the Hadith of Ibn Mas’ud that mentions prayer during its time then righteousness towards the parents.
Or the Hadith of Abdullah bin Amr that mentions giving food then giving salaam to those you know and those who you don’t know.
Or the Hadith of Abu Musa that mentions the best Muslim is the one who the Muslims are safe from his tongue and hand.
Or the Hadith of Uthmaan that says the best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.
And there are many other examples. However, how can all of these actions be the best at the same time?
Our Shaykh Muhammad Bin Aadam al-Ithiopi brings clarity to this (as many did before him as well) in his explanation to Sunan an-Nasaa’ee: Kitaab Manaasik al-Hajj.
He said scholars differed as to how they brought reconciliation between these ahadith. He said that the al-Allaamah al-MuTqin Abu Bakr al-Qaffaal ash-Shaa’shee al-Kabeer said there are two aspects these ahadith can be looked at:
The first aspect is that these different expressions were used for particular instances. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked “Which Islam is the best” he looked at the situation of the questioner and people around and gave an answer that was suitable for them and their faith at the time.
The second aspect is that the statements “The most virtuous or best of actions is…”, or “the best of you is…” relates to generality. That is because the word من (from) is omitted and it should read,
“From the best actions is…”, “From the best of you are…”
For example, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) statement, “The best of you are those who are best to their families.” This doesn’t mean that anyone who is good to their families that automatically makes them the best of people. There are other things that have to be taken into consideration (is a Mushrik the best of people if he’s best to his family?). Therefore, it should read, “From the best of people are those who are best to their families”.
This second aspect (now this is Shaykh Muhammad al-Ithiopi weighing in) shows that these ahadith are general and that there are some actions better than others depending on the deed and circumstance of when it is performed. One would be able to know which is deed is more virtuous over another by studying the evidence and their indications.
Compiled and translated by Abu Awzaa’ee Abdus-Salaam