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Hadith Qurb al-Nawafil

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The Hadīth of Qurb al-Nawāfil (Arabic: حديث قرب النوافل), or Hadith concerning nearness to God via supererogatory worship, is a Qudsi hadith addressed by God to the Prophet (s) in the night of his Ascension. The hadith is concerned with the place of believers before God and their nearness to God via obligatory (fara'id) and supererogatory (nawafil) worships.

According to one part of the hadith, the faithful servant obtains nearness to God by doing supererogatory worships, and God becomes his ears and eyes. Muslim mystics take the phrase literally, and cite it as evidence for their theory of the Unity of Existence and an expression of the stage of annihilation in God's attributes or annihilation in God's essence. In the view of Muslim jurists and hadith scholars, nevertheless, the phrase is taken metaphorically or figuratively and as a reference to divine aids to the believer, and the like.

The hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil is cited in Shiite and Sunni sources with slight differences as transmitted from the Prophet (s).


The Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil is a Qudsi hadith addressed by God to the Prophet (s) in the night of Mi'raj. The hadith is indeed an answer to a question asked by the Prophet (s) about the place of the believer before God. The hadith came to be known as "Qurb al-Nawafil" (nearness to God via supererogatory worships) because its last part suggests that if a believer does supererogatory worships, then he will obtain a particular sort of nearness to God. Inspired by this part and in reference thereto, Muslim mystics have used the term, "qurb al-nawafil". "Nafawil" is a plural form of "nafila," which refers to extra, endowed, or additional things or actions.


According to the Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil, any insult to a friend of God's is tantamount to fighting with God. God talks about hasting to help His friend more than anything. "I never doubt anything as much as I doubt about the death of a believer. For he hates to die, and I hate to make him sad." Moreover, according to this hadith, some believers are corrected only by poverty, and others are corrected only by wealth, and both groups would be destroyed otherwise.

According to the Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil, the most favored act by God is to do obligatory worships, which is a means of obtaining nearness to God. Nawafil or supererogatory worships are also means of obtaining nearness to God. The hadith says, "if one seeks nearness to Me via a supererogatory worship, I will love him and I will become his ears, his eyes, his tongue, and his hand by means of which he can hear and see, and if he calls to me, I will answer him and fulfill his wishes."


Mystical View

Muslim mystics have cited the hadith as evidence in their mystical discussions. Ibn al-'Arabi takes words in the Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil literally, citing it as evidence for the theory of the Unity of Existence. In his view, the fact that God becomes a believer's eyes and ears amounts to the human annihilation in God's attributes.

Sayyid Haydar Amuli takes the hadith as evidence for "annihilation in Allah" and the unity of the lover and the beloved. In the view of mystics, the mystical journey is done in two phases: nearness to God via obligatory worships (qurb al-fara'id) and nearness to God via supererogatory worships (qurb al-nawafil). Imam Khomeini interprets qurb al-nawafi as annihilation in acts, attributes, and the essence of God, taking "qurb al-fara'id" to refer to survival after annihilation (al-baqa' ba'd al-fana').

Some mystics take the phase of qurb al-fara'id to be higher than that of qurb al-nawafil. In their view, qurb al-fara'id culminates in annihilation in God's essence, whereas qurb al-nawafil results in annihilation in His attributes. Moreover, at the stage of qurb al-fara'id, the human being ascends to God, whereas at the stage of qurb al-nawafil, God descends to the human being.

View of Jurists and Muhaddiths

Some Muslim jurists and scholars of hadiths (or muhaddiths) take words in this hadith metaphorically or figuratively, maintaining that they should be interpreted in ways that do not come down to the Unity of Existence, immanence, and annihilation. They have offered a variety of interpretations for the hadith. For example, al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili mentions the following as plausible interpretations of the hadith:

  • God's help to the believer so that he does things only for the satisfaction of God
  • God's help to the believer, just as his body parts help him
  • God being cherished to the believer, just like his own body parts
  • The believer's trust only in God
  • God's closeness to the believer

Chains of Transmitters

The Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil is cited in Shiite and Sunni sources with slight differences. In Shiite sources, the hadith is transmitted by Aban b. Taghlib from Imam al-Baqir (a) and by Hammad b. Bashir from Imam al-Sadiq (a), and both of these Imams have transmitted it from the Prophet (s).

In Sunni sources, the hadith is transmitted by people such as 'A'isha, Maymuna, and Abu Hurayra from the Prophet (s). The hadith is transmitted through different chains of transmitters, some of which are deemed authentic and some are deemed unreliable.