Answered by Sidi Faraz A Khan
Question: Assalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah,
Sheikh,do you know where one can locate the story of Tha’laba who died without imaan? A summarized story is given below but I could not locate the story in the MSA hadith database.
Sa’laba, among the Sahaba , was very zahid . He used to worship very much, so much so that he would not go out of the mosque. Because of one breach of promise he lost his chance to attain the grade of being Sahabi, and died without iman (belief).
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith. I apologize for the undue delay in my response.
The short answer to your question is that the story’s chain of narration is extremely weak, as stated by many eminent hadith masters. The Companion in question, Tha’laba ibn Hatib, is therefore completely innocent and absolved of what the story entails. May Allah be well-pleased with him.
A Summarized Version of the Story
This is a story that is found in many works of tafsir as the reason of revelation (sabab al-nuzul) for the following verses of Sura Tawba:
“And amongst them are those who made a covenant with Allah, [saying]: ‘If He bestows upon us of His bounty, we would certainly give alms, and we would truly be of the righteous.’ Yet when He gave them of His bounty, they hoarded it and turned away, averse. So He put as a consequence hypocrisy into their hearts (to last) until the day when they shall meet Him, because they broke their covenant with Allah, and because they lied.” (9:75-77)
According to the story, a Companion by the name of Tha’laba ibn Hatib repeatedly asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to pray that Allah bestow him wealth, and made an oath saying that were Allah to bestow him wealth, he would give everyone his rightful due. So the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed for him, and Allah gave him much wealth. Thalaba thereafter withdrew from Medina due to the numerous livestock and flock he now owned. He came less frequently to the prayer, and when it was time for zakat, he refused to pay it. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said “Woe to Tha’laba,” and the above verses were revealed.
Tha’laba then brought the zakat to the Prophet, who said that Allah forbade him from accepting it. Tha’laba threw dirt over his head in regret. Later in the caliphate of Abu Bakr, he again brought his zakat payment, yet Abu Bakr too refused to accept it. The same happened with Umar in his caliphate, after which Tha’laba died in the caliphate of Uthman.
This incident is narrated by Tabarani in his al-Mu’jam al-Kabir.
The great hadith master Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in one work grades this story’s chain of narration (isnad) as “weak, to the extent that it cannot be used as evidence,” and in another work as “extremely weak.”
[Fath al-Bari; al-Kaff al-Shaff fi Takhrij Ahadith al-Kashshaf]
Hafiz ‘Iraqi also grades its chain as “weak” in his Takhrij Ahadith al-Ihya’, as does al-Fattani in Tadhkirat al-Mawdu’at.
Imam Haythami states in Majma’ al-Zawa’id, “Tabarani narrated it. In its chain is Ali ibn Yazid al-Alhani, who is a very unreliable narrator (matruk).”
Imam Qurtubi also clarifies that the story is not reliable, and that the verses were revealed instead regarding a group of the Medinan hypocrites. He adds that therefore the verse, “So He put as a consequence hypocrisy into their hearts” means “So He put as a consequenceincreased hypocrisy into their hearts.”
The great 20th-century hadith scholar, Shaykh Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghudda, concludes that the story is “useless and sick,” i.e., that it has no basis whatsoever.
[Annotation of Laknawi, al-Ajwiba al-Fadila lil As’ila al-Ashr al-Kamila]
This Eminent Companion
It is clear therefore that Tha’laba ibn Hatib is innocent of such a crime and that he remains a noble and venerable Companion, may Allah be pleased with him.
This is only reinforced by the fact that Ibn Hajar and others affirm that Tha’laba fought at Badr, making him among the best of the Prophetic Companions.
[al-Isaba fi Ma’rifat al-Sahaba]
And as our Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said about those who fought at Badr, “Perhaps Allah looked upon the people of Badr and said, ‘Do as you wish, for indeed I have forgiven you.’” [Sahih Muslim]
And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani