Question: What is the meaning of this hadith?
It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin Buraida that his father said:
“The Messenger of Allah ((Allah bless him and give him peace)) said: ‘Whoever says: I have nothing to do with Islam, if he is lying then he is as he said, and if he is telling the truth, his Islam will not be sound.’”
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The source of the hadith
The hadith that you quote from Abdullah bin Burayda was transmitted by Imams Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, and Ibn Maja. Hakim declared the hadith authentic, fulfilling the requirements of the Shaykhayn, Bukhari, and Muslim.
The meaning of the hadith
The hadith begins by stating that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever says “I am free of Islam.”
This refers to a person who takes an oath that he will be free of Islam if he does a particular action. The person taking this oath has two possible intentions.
1. He wishes to be free from Islam and thus intends to act, and
2. He takes the oath as an admonition to refrain from an action that he does not want to perform.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that “if he is lying, he is as he said, and if he is telling the truth, his Islam will not be sound.”
Intention one – “if he is lying, he is as he said”
Accordingly, what this means is that if a person takes an oath that when he does a particular action, he will be free of Islam, while he intends to perform that action, this indicates that he wishes to be free of Islam.
For instance, if someone takes an oath that he will not ride a bicycle and if he does ride one, he will be free of Islam, while he intends to ride a bicycle, this indicates that he wants to be free of Islam. That is why the Prophet said, “if he is lying, he is as he said.” [ibn Raslan, Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud]
Intention two – “if he is telling the truth, his Islam will not be sound.”
However, the Prophet’s statement, “if he is telling the truth,” means that he is only taking an oath that if he does a particular action, he will be free of Islam, as an admonition to himself to refrain from an action that he does not want to perform.
For instance, a person is plagued by a particular sin that he really wants to avoid, so he takes an oath that if he commits that sin, he is free of Islam as a way of inducing himself to abstain from the sin.
The Prophet’s statement that “if he is telling the truth, his Islam will not be sound” means that, while he will still be a Muslim (i.e., not free of Islam), he has taken an oath that the Prophet disapproves of and therefore his Islam is deficient (i.e., not sound). [ibn Raslan, Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud]
And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.