Sunday, February 5, 2012

Info Seerah: The Story of Four Hunafa (1/4)

Before the Prophet started his mission, there were four Hunafa in Makkah.  Muhammad would have been the fifth, except that he was not called a Hanif.
Hunafa were people who followed the way of Abraham (Nabi Ibrahim).  Hanif is the singular of Hunafa.  The way of Abraham is known as Hanafiya.
Before you wonder about the meanings of those terms, let me explain.  The way of Hanafiya is the way of Oneness of God.  Simply put, it is tawheed, i.e., monotheism.  Islamic way is, broadly speaking, the way of Hanafiya.  It is the way of all prophets, including Moses (Nabi Musa) and Jesus (Nabi Isa).
The ways of current Jews and Christians are of different matters altogether.  When Muhammad appeared, all those ways were null and void.  But we can discuss this issue later.
Prophet Abraham may be said as the first ancient prophet who appeared in the historic time.  All prophets who appeared before him, like Noah (Nabi Nuh), flourished in a prehistoric period. We know a lot more about Abraham as compared to his predecessors, but since he appeared in an ancient time, little is known about his way or his syariah. 
We don’t know the kind of rituals he practiced.  He must have circumambulated the Kaabah which he built with his son, Ishmael.  Circumambulation is English for tawaf.  But this would only be performed when he visited Mecca.  This tawaf performance could only be done occasionally, for he lived in Hebron, Canaan (currently Palestine).
Now, his descendants through Ishmael are said to continue living as Hunafa until the authority in Makkah was replaced by Banu Khuza’a, who were not of Ishmaelite extraction.  Under their leader, Amr bin Luhayy, idol worshipping was introduced.  It is said that he brought the idol called Hubal and placed it near Kaabah.  Thereafter, many new idol worshipping rituals were introduced, until finally people had forgotten the Way of Hanafiya. 
Amr bin Luhayy is said to have flourished sometimes in the early Christian Era, probably a few generations after Adnan, and most likely in the second century AD.  They flourished for about three hundred years before their power was wrested by Qusayy bin Kilab in the fifth century AD.  We have already mentioned about Qusayy in Muhammad’s Lineage.  He was the not so distant ancestor of our Prophet.
On the other side of Abraham’s lineage, that is through his grandson Jacob (Nabi Yaakob), this Hanafiya Way was established through Moses, who was given the Torah (Tawrat).  This probably took place some five or six hundred years, thereabout, after Abraham died. 
From Moses onwards, this Way was institutionalized and systematized.   Nowadays, we call it Judaism, but from Islamic perspective, this Way of Life pioneered by Moses is in reality Islam at that time.  After all, the Quran says that Abraham is neither a Jew, nor a Christian, but a Muslim.  As for Moses’ Way, it was nothing but a systematic institutionalization of Abraham’s Hanafiya Way, the Way of Tawheed.
We shall discuss this subject later, but for now, let’s focus on the Ishmaelite line.  From Ishmael down to Adnan, the first 40 generations, and a few generations after Adnan, it is said that they lived the Hanafiya Way.  When their supremacy in Makkah was replaced by the Banu Khuza’ah, a tribe said to hail from Yemen, the Hanafiya Way gave way to idol worshipping, all the way down to the time of the Prophet. 
It is said, however, that the direct lineage of the Prophet, as we have briefly narrated in our previous entry, did not indulge in idol worshipping.  For instance, his father Abdullah and his grandfather Abdul Muttalib were said to worship no idols.  They may not have practiced strict monotheism or tawheed either, for that way was already lost during that time.
With that background, let’s introduced the four Hunafa who lived during the Prophet’s time.  They are Uthman bin Huwarith, Zayd bin Amr, Waraqah bin Nawfal and Ubaydillah bin Jahsh.  They were all alive when Muhammad was born, but only two of them managed to meet him as the Prophet.  The other two died before Muhammad assumed his prophethood.
The two who knew Muhammad personally but did not meet him as a prophet were Uthman and Zayd.  The other two, of course, were Waraqah and Ubaydillah.
Although they were all Hunafa, each took a different route in their lives.  One started as a Hanif but died a Christian.  The other started as a Hanif and died a Hanif. Yet the other started as a Hanif, lived mostly as a Christian but died a Muslim. Still yet the other started as a Hanif, then became a Muslim, but in the end died as a Christian.
We shall briefly cover their interesting stories in the subsequent parts.  Stay tune.
End of Part 1


  1. Ramai golongan yg sesat yg diceritakan dalam Quran menyembah berhala but why they did what they did is incomprehensible. Any right thinking person would certainly know berhala bukan tuhan. So what was the psychological state of minds of those people, menyembah secara ikutan atau malas berfikir? Quran tells us that these people were stronger and more impressive in terms of civilization. They built the sphinx, colosseum, great wall etc but can’t they reason out that idols cannot do anything? Any person who truly exercises his rational faculty would not want to follow blindly what their forefathers have done. Their advanced thinking in construction/engineering/worldly matters looks irreconcilable with their take for granted attitude when comes to religious affairs.

  2. So 4 you said? Prophet's grandfather was not in the list?May be this is attributable to the level of literacy in mecca at the time? Was the situation in taif and madinah any better? The scriptures with waraqah was hardly accessible to the lay people? Were the ahl kitab like waraqah not so eager in spreading the truth?

    1. Those four are the most well known in the Seerah literatures. They shunned idol worshipping completely. They went looking for the Truth in their own ways. As for Abdul Muttalib, he was a noble man, the leader of the society and was one of them. It was not known that he deliberately shunned idol worshipping although he may not have indulged in it like others.