Prepared by the Research Committee of IslamToday.net under the supervision of Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayri
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Every human being from Adam's descendants was created upon 360 mafsil. So whoever magnifies Allah, praises Him, declares Allah's oneness, glorifies Him, seeks His forgiveness, (and likewise whoever) removes a stone, thorns, or a bone from a footpath, or calls to what is right, or forbids what is wrong, will have it counted for him to the number of those 360 digitals. Indeed, he walks that day and removes himself away from Hell." [Sahîh Muslim (1675)]
This hadîth has been causing a lot of unnecessary confusion and debate in recent years. This has been the case ever since the Arabic word mafsil was defined in Arabic medical books as corresponding precisely with the English word "joint" as it is defined in the field of anatomy.
As a consequence, people began to seek anatomical lessons from the hadîth. Some people argued that we need to believe the human being has 360 joints – as defined by modern medical terminology – regardless of what empirical observations might tell us. Other people sought to find a "scientific miracle" in the hadîth by "proving" that the human body does indeed contain 360 joints as defined by the field of anatomy or some tailor-made definition.
Even the enemies of Islam have gotten into the act. They set about trying to cast doubt on Islam through demonstrating that the body does not have 360 joints – again according to some particular, contemporary definition of the word "joint".
What we all must realize is that when an anatomist determines that a human being has a certain number of "joints" in her body, she is using a term that has a particular definition in her field of expertise. This definition may not necessarily coincide with the meaning intended by the Arabic word mafsil in a hadîth text of 1400 years ago.
This is further complicated by the fact that the same concept is referred to later in the hadîth as "those 360 digitals". The Arabic word here is sulâmâ, which usually refers to the digital bones of the hand and foot. This implies the number of bones more that it does the number of joints. What it tells us for certain is that the intended meaning of mafsil in the hadîth is clearly different from how the English word "joint" is defined in contemporary anatomy.
There is absolutely no reason to assume that the intended meaning of the word mafsil in the hadîth would just happen to coincide with the definition of "joint" in a modern medical textbook. It is wrong to impose this or any other particular, terminological meaning upon the Arabic word in the hadîth. There are many ways that the word mafsil can be understood in the hadîth while still taking the hadîth on its literal, apparent meaning.
This kind of textual uncertainty is one of the major reasons why the popular tendency today of interpreting the Qur'ân and Sunnah in so-called "scientific" terms is ill-advised.
The English word "joint", as an anatomical term, is the location at which two or more bones come together.
Joints, furthermore, are classified anatomically into simple and compound, depending on the number of bones involved, and into complex and combination joints:
1. Simple joint: 2 articulation surfaces (shoulder joint, hip joint…)
2. Compound joint: 3 or more articulation surfaces (radiocarpal joint…)
3. Complex joint: 2 or more articulation surfaces and an articular disc or meniscus (knee joint…)
From this brief exposition, it should be clear that the number of joints in a skeleton does not correlate with the number of articulation surfaces. The number of articulation surfaces would usually be much higher, and this would differ depending on the animal in question.
This shows us one possible ambiguity into the meaning of the hadîth. The Arabic word mafsil can be used linguistically to mean "articulation" in a very loose sense, even though today its usage has been normalized in the field of anatomy to specifically mean "the location at which two or more bones come together ". It was not restricted to that narrow meaning 1400 years ago.
There are other possibilities for the meaning of mafsil in the hadîth. For instance, it might refer to the number of ranges of motion the human body is capable of. This dynamic understanding of the word is a perfectly sensible one in the context of the hadîth, since the topic of the hadîth is our actions and how Allah rewards us for our good deeds. The hadîth is not discussing a topic of anatomy, but rather one of worship.
This leads to a totally different calculation, since some joints are immovable, others are slightly movable, whole still others are freely movable. Understandably, calculating the number of possible motions would be highly subjective, depending on the criteria used to define a motion.
What matters, with respect to our understanding of the hadîth, is that Allah rewards us for our deeds many times over, and this correlates in some way to an aspect of how He created our functioning bodies. The hadîth is telling us about a matter of the Unseen – Allah's great generosity, mercy, and reward – and not a matter of anatomy.
And Allah knows best.
“Religion is Sincerity”
Abû Ruqayyah Tamîm b. `Aws al-Dârî relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Religion is Sincerity.”
We asked: “To whom, O Messenger of Allah?”
He said: “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and the leaders of the Muslims and to the common Muslim.” [Sahîh Muslim]
The meaning of ‘Religion is sincerity’:
The terms in both the subject and the predicate of this sentence are categorical. This conveys in Arabic an all-inclusive meaning. It is as if the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said: “Religion is naught but sincerity.”
This is a very weighty statement showing the importance of sincerity in Islam. It brings us immediately to ask the question that the Companions asked: Sincerity to whom? The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded by mentioning five things to which Muslims must be sincere. We shall briefly touch upon each of these.
Sincerity to Allah:
Being sincere to Allah is of paramount importance in Islam. There are two aspects to this sincerity. The first of these is sincerity in worship. We must worship Allah alone, offering all of our devotions to him and to no other. The second is sincerity in our belief. We must have absolute faith that Allah alone is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Lord.
Allah says: “They were not commanded but that they should worship Allah sincerely and worship none but Him, and that they should perform prayer and pay Zakâh. That is the right religion.” [Sûrah Al-Bayyinah: 5]
Sincerity to His Book:
Sincerity to Allah’s Book comprises a number of ideas. We must believe in what the Qur’ân tells us and doubt nothing that it says. We must know that the Qur’ân is Allah’s word that was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Likewise, we must submit to Allah’s commands found within it and guide our lives by its teachings. We must believe that the laws enumerated in the Qur’ân are the best of laws that can never be rivaled by man-made laws.
Another aspect of this sincerity is to come to the defense of the Qur’ân from those who would aspire to corrupt, abuse, and misinterpret it with their tongues. Allah has taken the preservation of the Qur’ân upon Himself. However, this does not mean that people will not try to misrepresent it and corrupt how people approach it and understand it.
Sincerity to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him):
We must have unwavering faith that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is indeed the Messenger of Allah and that everything that he tells us is true. We must obey him in all of his commands and prohibitions. We must know that everything that comes to us by way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) comes from Allah, for Allah informs us: “He does not speak of his own accord. It is but revelation that is revealed to him.” [Sûrah al-Najm: 3-4]
Allah equates obeying the Messenger (peace be upon him) to belief when He says: “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey His Messenger” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 59]
Obedience to the Messenger (peace be upon him) is obedience to Allah. Allah says: “Whoever obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 80]
He also says: “Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it.” [Sûrah al-Hashr: 7]
Sincerity to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) also includes coming to his defense. During his lifetime, this meant literally defending him and physically standing by his side. Today, it means to defend his honor from those who malign it and his Sunnah from those who would disparage it or corrupt it.
Sincerity to the leaders of the Muslims:
There are two classes of people being referred to here. The first are the scholars whose duty is to know the religion, put it into practice, and teach it to the people. The second are the Muslim rulers whose duty is to carry out the Law of Islam.
Sincerity to the scholars entails loving them, respecting them, and helping them to propagate the faith. It also includes learning from them and benefiting from their knowledge. Sincerity to the scholars, however, does not mean to follow them blindly. If we find that we disagree with a scholar on a matter, we should seek out the evidence for what he says. Then, if we find that he is correct, we should follow him and if we find that he is mistaken, we should inform him respectfully of his error without disparaging him or belittling his knowledge.
Sincerity to the scholars also includes being careful of the statements and opinions that we attribute to them so that we do not falsely attribute to them anything that they did not say.
Sincerity to the Muslim rulers entails loving the righteous and just people among them. It also means to recognize the leadership of those in authority and to love that there is solidarity to among Muslims in their support and to hate disunity and dissention. It means to obey them in everything that entails no disobedience to Allah and to hate those who rise up against them.
Allah says: “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey His Messenger and those in authority among you.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 59]
We must obey the Muslim rulers in everything that does not entail disobedience to Allah, and we must refrain from rising up against them even if they fall short of what is expected from them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There will be rulers over you. You will agree with some of what they come with and reject some of it. Whoever rejects what must be rejected will maintain his innocence and whoever hates it will maintain his innocence. However, those who accept (what should be denied) and follow the ruler will be sinners.”
The Companions said: “O Messenger of Allah, shall we fight these rulers?”
He said: “No, as long as they pray.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best among your Imams (rulers) are those whom you love and they love you, pray (make supplication) for you and