How authentic is the Hadeeth in which a woman came to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to convert to Islam and he stipulated that she must cease the practice of wailing [over the dead]. When she told him that there was a woman who once ululated for her [dead] and she wanted to return the favor, he remained silent. Is there a Sharee’ah (Islamic jurisprudence) ruling [of permission] to be extracted from this Hadeeth? May Allaah reward you.
All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Him, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.
This is a Saheeh (authentic) Hadeeth, narrated by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and An-Nasaa’i.
As for your question about the Islamic ruling that can be derived from this Hadeeth, it indicates that you have misconstrued the consent of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. What is understood from this narration is that the woman – Umm ‘Atiyyah – first went to return the favor of that woman she mentioned, and then came back and gave the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, her pledge of allegiance.
Scholars have several interpretations of this Hadeeth:
1. An-Nawawi said that the apparent indication here is that the ruling of the permissibility of wailing was specific for Umm ‘Atiyyah and her family, but not for anyone else. A Sharee’ah-giver [i.e., Allaah The Almighty, Who conveys it via the Prophet ] has the right to specify whether a certain rule applies to someone. However, this special case does not oppose the general prohibition on wailing.
2. Commenting on the aforementioned opinion of An-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar stated that it was not sound, unless it can be assumed that the people for whom Umm ‘Atiyyah wailed were non-Muslims, which is far from correct; and unless we also assume that they [being Muslims] shared the exception with her.
3. The lamenting allowed for Umm ‘Atiyyah was not accompanied by the corrupt practices of the pre-Islamic era, such as tearing one's clothes and slashing one’s face. But, An-Nawawi rejected this meaning and pointed out its invalidity.
There are other opinions about this issue that were quoted by Ibn Hajar at the end of his explanation of this Hadeeth. His conclusion was that the nearest opinion to the truth is that wailing was permissible, then it became disliked, then it became forbidden. He clarified that with such an understanding, any ambiguity [caused by this Hadeeth] will be eliminated.
Allaah Knows best.
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