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THE CISTERN AND RIVE OF AL-KAWTHAR

Shaikh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid

The word Kawthar in Arabic refers to great abundance.

In Islamic terminology it has two meanings:

1 – It is a river in Jannah (Paradise) which Allah has given to His Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). This meaning is what is meant in the verse where Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, We have granted you (O Muhammad!) Al?Kawthar (a river in Jannah)” (al-Kawthar 108:1)

This is how the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) interpreted it. Hadhrat Anas said:

“Whilst we were with the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), he dozed off, then he raised his head and he was smiling. We said”:

“Why are you smiling, O Rasoolullah (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)?”

He said: “A soorah has been revealed to me.”

And he recited (interpretation of the meaning) “Verily, We have granted you (O Muhammad!) Al-Kawthar (a river in Jannah)…” (al-Kawthar 108:1) to the end of the Soorah. Then he said:

“Do you know what is al-Kawthar?”

We said: Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and His Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) know best.”

He said: “It is a river that my Lord has promised to me in which there is much goodness. And it is a cistern to which my Ummah will come on the Day of Resurrection.” (Muslim)

Hadhrat Ibne ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“Al-Kawthar is a river in Jannah. Its banks are made of gold and its bed is of pearls and rubies…” (at-Tirmizi)

2 – It is a great cistern – a tank for holding water – which will be set up in the place of gathering on the Day of Resurrection, to which the Ummah of Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) will come. The water of this cistern will come from the river of al-Kawthar which is in Jannah, hence it is called the Cistern of al-Kawthar. The evidence for that is the Hadeeth narrated Hadhrat Abu Zarr:

“into the Cistern will flow two pipes from Paradise.” (Muslim)

The apparent meaning of this Hadeeth is that the Cistern will be next to Jannah so that the water from the river that is inside Jannah will be able to flow into it, as Ibn Hajar said in al-Fath 11/466. And Allah knows best.

But is it only for the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) to the exclusion of other Prophets, or not?

With regard to the river of al-Kawthar from which water will flow into the Cistern, there is no report of any other Prophet having anything like it, apart from our Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) states that He has blessed him with it in Soorat al-Kawthar, so it is likely that this is only for our Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and not for any other Prophet.

With regard to the Cistern of al-Kawthar, it is well known among the scholars that it is only for our Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). Among those who stated this was al-Qurtubi in al-Mufahhim. But Hadhrat Samurah narrated that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“Every Prophet will have a cistern and they will be looking to see who has the largest number of followers coming to him, and I hope that I will have the largest number.” (at-Tirmizi)

The characteristics of the river of al-Kawthar that will be in Paradise include the following:

Hadhrat Anas narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“Whilst I was walking in Jannah, I saw a river whose banks were domes of hollow pearls.”

I said: “What is this, O Jibreel?”

He said: “This is al-Kawthar which your Lord has given to you.”

The angel struck it with his hand and its mud or its perfume was of the most fragrant (or pure) musk. (Al-Bukhari)

Hadhrat Anas narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “I have been given al-Kawthar, and it is a river that flows on the face of the earth. Its banks are domes of pearls and it is not covered. I struck its dust with my hand and its dust was the most fragrant (or pure) musk, and its pebbles were pearls.” (Musnad)

According to another report narrated by Hadhrat Anas, the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) was asked about al-Kawthar and he said:

“That is a river which Allah has given to me, in Paradise. It is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey, and in it are birds whose necks are like the necks of camels.” (Musnad)

Hadhrat ‘Umar said: “Those are soft birds.”

Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Eating them is even softer, O ‘Umar.”

With regard to the features of the Cistern that will be in the place of gathering, they include the following:

Hadhrat ‘Abdullah ibne ‘Amr narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“My Cistern is (as big as) the distance of a month’s (journey). Its length and width are equal and its water is whiter than milk and its scent is better than musk. Its drinking vessels are like the stars of the sky and whoever drinks from it will never thirst again.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Hadhrat Anas narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“In it can be seen vessels of gold and silver whose number is as the stars of the sky.” (Muslim)

According to another report: “More than the number of stars in the sky.”

Hadhrat Thawbaan narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) was asked about its drink and he said:

“It is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. Two pipes feed into it from Jannah, one of gold and the other of silver.” (Muslim)

There is no doubt among the scholars that the Ahaadeeth about the Cistern reach the level of being Mutawaatir (i.e., narrated by so many people from so many people that it is inconceivable that they could all agree upon a lie). It was narrated from the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) by more than fifty of his Sahaabah (Companions). Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar listed the names of the Sahaabah who narrated these Aahaadeeth in al-Fath (11/468). And al-Qurtubi said in al-Mufahhim Sharh Saheeh Muslim:

“Every Muslim has to understand and believe that Allah has singled out His Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) to be given the Cistern, the name and features of which and its drink are mentioned in the well known Saheeh Ahaadeeth which, when taken together, constitute definitive knowledge.

With regard to where the Cistern will be located in the land of gathering the scholars differed. Some said that it will be after the Siraat (bridge across Hell). Others said that it will be before the Siraat. This is the view of the majority and is more likely to be correct – and Allah knows best – because some of those who come to it will be taken to Hell, and if it were after the Siraat they would not be able to reach it because they would already have fallen into Hell – we seek refuge with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).

We must also draw attention to a very important and serious matter which is that not everyone who belongs to the Ummah of Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) will attain the honour of drinking from the Cistern of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). The Ahaadeeth clearly state that there are some people among this Ummah who will be driven back harshly from the Cistern – we ask Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to keep us safe from that. Who are the ones who will drink and who are the ones who will be pushed away?

The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) has answered this question clearly in such a way that no one has any excuse. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) came to the graveyard and said:

“Peace be upon you, O habitation of believing people! We will join you soon, if Allah wills. Would that we had seen our brothers.”

They said: “Are we not your brothers, O Messenger of Allah?”

He said: “You are my companions. Our brothers are those who have not yet come.”

They said: “How will you recognize those among your Ummah who have not yet come, O Messenger of Allah?”

He said: “If a man has a horse with a white blaze and white feet among horses that are all black, don’t you think that he will recognize his horse?”

They said: “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!”

He said: “They will come with white foreheads and white hands and feet because of Wudhoo’. I will have reached the Cistern ahead of them and men will be driven away from my Cistern as stray camels are driven away. (I will say), ‘Let them come,’ and it will said to me, ‘They changed after you were gone,’ so I will say, ‘Away with them!’” (Muslim)

Hadhrat Abu Haazim narrated that I heard Sahl say that I heard the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) say:

“I will reach the Cistern ahead of you. Whoever comes to it will drink and whoever drinks from it will never thirst again. Some people will come to me whom I will recognize and they will recognize me, but then a barrier will be placed between me and them.”

Hadhrat Abu Haazim said: “al-Nu’maan ibn Abi ‘Ayyaash heard me narrating this Hadeeth and said:

“Is that how you heard Sahl say it?”

I said: “Yes.”

He said: “I bear witness that I heard Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri add:

“and he i.e. the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), said:

‘They are from me.” And it will be said; “You do not know what they did after you were gone.” And I will say, “Away with those who changed after I was gone!”’” (al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:

“By the One in Whose hand is my soul, I will drive men away from my Cistern as strange camels are driven away from a cistern.” (al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Al-Qurtubi said that our scholars said: Everyone who apostatizes from the religion of Allah or who introduces innovations with which Allah is not pleased and did not give permission for is one of those who will be driven away from the Cistern. Those who will be most forcibly driven away will be those who differed from the majority of Muslims and split from them, such as the Khaarijis and Raafidhis of all stripes, and the Mu’tazilis and anyone who followed their ways. The same applies to the evildoers and oppressors who tried to extinguish the truth and kill its followers and humiliate them, and those who openly committed major sins and took the matter of sin lightly, and all those who followed deviant whims and desires and innovation. (Al-Tazkirah by al-Qurtubi, 306)

So we must strive to follow the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and not go against him in any way, in the hope that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) will honour us by allowing us to drink from this blessed Cistern. Otherwise what regret can be greater than the regret of the one who is pushed away from before the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and suffers unbearable thirst but is not allowed to drink that cool water, then his loss is further compounded by the prayer of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) that he be driven far away? We seek refuge with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Imagine this torment – what if you were actually to experience it?

We beg Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to bless us and our Muslim brothers will guidance to follow the Sunnah and to avoid Bid’ah (innovation) and sin. Aameen!  

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