The Linguistic Meaning
The word Sayyid is derived from the word Saada, Yasoodu which means to rule.
As-Su’dud means supremacy, sovereignty.
Ibn Shumail said: “As-Sayyid is the one who excels others with intellect, wealth, repulsion of harm, and the one who benefits others and who gives the money its due rights; the helper is the Sayyid.”
Ikrimah said: “As-Sayyid is the one who is not overcome by his anger.”
It is said: “As-Sayyid is the noble.”
Al-Farraa’ said: “As-Sayyid is the king, the leader, the generous; and the Sayyid of the slave is his master (guardian) and the Sayyid of the woman is her husband, as it is mentioned in the Qur’an in Surat Yusuf (12:25):
“They both found her Sayyid (i.e. her husband) at the door.”
The master of everything is the noblest and most exalted. [As-Sihaah and al-Lisaan]
The Name As-Sayyid is mentioned in the Noble Hadeeth:
It is reported on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn ash-Shikhkheer (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) that he said: “I went with a delegation of the Bani ’Aamir to Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). And we said: ‘You are our master.’ He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘The Master is Allaah (Glory be His), Most Glorified, Most High.’ We said: ‘You are the most excellent and superior among us.’ He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘Say what you have to say, or part of what you have to say and do not let Satan make you get carried away.’” [Reported by Abu Dawoud with a good chain of transmission]
The meaning of the Name as regards Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala)
Al-Khattabi said: “His (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement ‘The Master is Allaah’ means the real supremacy and sovereignty belong to Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) and the whole creation are slaves to him.” [Ma’alim as-Sunan]
Al-Haleemi said: “As-Sayyid is a Name which is not quoted in the Noble Book (i.e. the Qur’an), but it was quoted by the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told the delegation of Bani ‘Aamir, ‘The Master is Allaah.’ It means He (Allaah), Who is needed by all (slaves) absolutely. For the Master of the people is their head (leader) whom they return to (in their affairs). They act by his commands, issue according to his opinions and are guided by his statements.
Angels, men and Jinn are (creation) created by Allaah, al-Baari’, and they were in need of Him in the beginning of their matters when He brought them into existence; had He not created them, they would not be existing. They are also in need of Him in their remaining alive after having come into existence, and when they face obstacles during their lives. Therefore, He deserves to be the Master and to be called the Master.” [Al-Minhaaj]
Al-Azhari said: “Attributing Allaah with Supremacy and calling Him the Master means that He is Owner of the whole creation and all the creation are His slaves.” [Al-Lisaan]
Ibn al-Qayyim (Rahimahullaah) said: “If Allaah is called the Sayyid, then this indicates that He is the Maalik (the Owner), the Maula (the Patron, the Protector, the Guardian) and Ar-Rabb (the Lord).” [Al-Fawaa’id]
The Impact of the Belief in this Name
- Allaah, the Blessed, the Most High is the Master Who is perfect in His Sovereignty, the Most Noble Who is perfect in His Nobility, the most Magnificent Who is perfect in His Magnificence, the Most Forbearing Who is perfect in His Forbearance, the All-Knowing Who is perfect in His Knowledge, and the most Wise who is perfect in His Wisdom. He is the One Who is perfect in all aspects of nobility and authority. He is Allaah, Glory be unto Him. These attributes are not befitting anyone other than Him. He has no coequal and nothing is like Him. Glory be to Allaah, the One, the Irresistible.” [At-Tabari on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbaas (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu)]
- It is permissible to call humans ‘Master.’
Allaah (Ta’ala) says about His Prophet Yahya (John) (‘Alayhis-salaam) in Surat al-‘Imran (3:39):
“A (Master) Noble, keeping away from sexual relations with women, a Prophet, from among the righteous.”
Ibn Al-Anbaari said: “If someone asks how come Allaah called Yahya (‘Alayhis-salaam) Sayyid (a master) and Hasoor (keeping away from sexual relations with women) and the Master is Allaah Who is the Owner of all the creation and they have no owner other than Him?” It will be said: “Sayyid here does not mean owner; rather, it means the leader and the Imaam in good, as the Arabs say, ‘so-and-so is our Sayyid (Master), i.e. our chief (leader) whom we honor” [Al-Lisaan]
In the aforementioned Hadeeth of Mutarrif ibn ‘Abdullah ash-Shikhkheer (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu), the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allaah is the Master,” and when they said, “You are the most excellent and superior among us,” he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Say what you have to say, or part of what you have to say and do not let Satan make you get carried away.”
Abu Mansoor al-Azhari said: “The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) disliked that the people address him with undue praises, that which may lead them to excessiveness. He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) disliked to be praised to his face and he liked humbleness for the Sake of Allaah (Ta’ala) and he made it known that sovereignty belongs to the One Who rules the whole creation.
However, this does not contradict his (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement to the Ansaar, “Stand up for your Master,” when Sa’d ibn Mu’adh (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) came. The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) meant that he was the best man amongst them and most noble.
Also regarding his (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement: “I am the master (Sayyid) of the children of Adam, and it is not a boast,” [Reported by Muslim]; he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) meant that he is the first intercessor and the first one for whom the gate of Paradise will be opened. He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that, mentioning about what Allaah has honored him with of grace and sovereignty (superiority), and talking about Allaah’s favors in order to make their belief (of the believers) as it is duly required upon them. Therefore, he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) followed his statement with, “it is not boast,” to indicate that this virtue (excellence) which he attained is an honor from Allaah; he did not attain it by himself, nor did he reach it by his strength and it does not befit him to boast of it.
It is also said regarding his statement, “Say what you have to say” when they said, “you are our Master,” that “call me a Prophet and a Messenger as Allaah called me and do not call me a Master as you call your chieftains, I am not like one of them who dominates (reigns) you in worldly means; rather I rule you by Prophethood and Messengership).” [Al-Lisaan]
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (Rahimahullaah) said: “The people disputed over calling a human being ‘Master’ and Imaan Maalik was narrated as having prevented this, basing his proof on the Hadeeth of Mutarrif ibn ‘Abdullah ash-Shikhkheer when Allaah’s Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was addressed by some people saying, ‘you are our master’. He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘The Master is Allaah, Most Glorified, Most High.’ But others permitted calling humans ‘Master’ and they found their proof in the Prophet’s saying to the Ansaar, “Stand up for your Master.” Verily, this Hadeeth is more authentic than the former one.” [Al-Fawaa’id]
What proves the permissibility of calling a human ‘Master’ is his (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement: “If a slave is sincere to his master and worships his Rabb well, he will get a double reward.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said: “You should not say, ‘Feed your lord (Rubbaku), help your lord in performing ablution, or give water to your lord,’ but you should say, ‘My Master (e.g. feed your master instead of lord, etc.) (Sayyid),’ or ‘My guardian, (Maulai),’ and one should not say, ‘My slave (‘Abdi)’ or ‘My slave girl (Amati),’ but you should say, ‘My lad (Fataaya),’ ‘My lass (Fataati)’ and ‘My boy (Ghulaami).’” [Al-Bukhaari]
Also (regarding) the statement of ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu): “Abu Bakr is our Sayyid (master), and he freed our Sayyid (master) meaning, Bilaal (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu).” [Al-Bukhaari] [This was because Bilaal occupied a distinguished position among the Prophet’s Companions].
Al-Haafith Ibn Hajar (Rahimahullaah) commented after mentioning the Hadeeth “Allaah is the Master,” that it is prohibited to call other than the owner a master and it is permissible to call a Maalik (the owner) a master.
Some prominent Scholars took this into consideration and disliked to address someone or write to him with the word “Master”. This is even more emphasized if the person who is addressed is not a righteous person. Abu Dawoud reported on the authority of Buraidah, that he narrated a Hadeeth marfoo’ to the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying, “Do not call a hypocrite ‘master’.” [Fat-h al-Baari]
Sa’d ibn Mu’adh arrived on a donkey, supported by the people (as he had contracted an illness as a result of a wound he received in the Battle of the Ditch). The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had called for Sa’d to judge the Banu Quraidha after they had been under siege by the Muslims for 25 days; whereupon, they (the Jews) accepted the judgment of Sa’d ibn Mu’adh (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu).
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said this, as Sa’d was sick and could not get off the donkey; hence, the Prophet ordered the attendants to help him in a manner that suited the case.
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