What is the connection between al Kawthar, al Hawd and Bid’ah?

What is the connection between al Kawthar, al Hawd and Bid'ah?

What is the difference between the hawd (lake) of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and al Kawthar? What does bid’ah (innovations in the religion) have to do with them?

We have a variety of narrations on the hawd – in Sahih Muslim, Nasa’i and others.

Clarification of Al Hawd and Al Kawthar

Some people might confuse al Kawthar which Allah Almighty promised the Prophet (peace be upon him) with the Hawd which he has also been given. Al Hawd is where he will wait for his followers and give them water to drink after which they will never be thirsty. This very Hawd is not in Jannah. Believers will reach it on the Day of Judgement before arriving in Jannah.  

However there are two streamlets coming from Jannah to the Hawd of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and one of these is the river of Al Kawthar which is in Jannah.

Ibn Hajar Askalani (may Allah have mercy on him) said it’s clear that the Hawd is near Jannah.

Al Kawthar – a river in Jannah

Abdullah bin `Umar (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ الْكَوْثَرُ نَهْرٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ حَافَّتَاهُ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ وَمَجْرَاهُ عَلَى الدُّرِّ وَالْيَاقُوتِ تُرْبَتُهُ أَطْيَبُ مِنَ الْمِسْكِ وَمَاؤُهُ أَحْلَى مِنَ الْعَسَلِ وَأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الثَّلْجِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ رواه الترمذي و قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏‏.

“Al-Kawthar is a river in Paradise, whose banks are of gold, and it flows over pearls and jewels. Its dirt is purer than musk, and its water is sweeter than honey and whiter than milk.” [Tirmidhi]

In Arabic al kawthar means something in abundance, in goodness.

The dimensions of Al Hawd are the distance between Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Ayla a place near Shaam. It used to be a very vibrant city but is now deserted. It’s water is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey because it’s coming from Jannah, from al Kawthar.

Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) also mentioned:

أَنَسُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ بَيْنَمَا أَنَا أَسِيرُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ إِذَا أَنَا بِنَهَرٍ حَافَتَاهُ قِبَابُ الدُّرِّ الْمُجَوَّفِ قُلْتُ مَا هَذَا يَا جِبْرِيلُ قَالَ هَذَا الْكَوْثَرُ الَّذِي أَعْطَاكَ رَبُّكَ‏.‏ فَإِذَا طِينُهُ ـ أَوْ طِيبُهُ ـ مِسْكٌ أَذْفَرُ ‏” البخاري

“While I was walking in paradise (on the night of Isra wa Mi’raj*), I saw a river, on the two banks of which there were tents made of hollow pearls. I asked, “What is this, O Jibril?’ He said, ‘This is the Kawthar which Your Lord has given to you.’ Behold! It’s scent or its mud was sharp smelling musk!” [Bukhari]

Anas bin Malik narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“‏ ‏قَالَ أَنَسٌ قَالَ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ تُرَى فِيهِ أَبَارِيقُ الذَّهَبِ وَالْفِضَّةِ كَعَدَدِ نُجُومِ السَّمَاءِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ صحيح مسلم

You would be shown in it jugs of gold and silver (as numerous) as the number of stars in the sky. [Muslim]

Al Hawd – the lake before Jannah

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، قَالَ بَيْنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ بَيْنَ أَظْهُرِنَا إِذْ أَغْفَى إِغْفَاءَةً ثُمَّ رَفَعَ رَأْسَهُ مُتَبَسِّمًا فَقُلْنَا مَا أَضْحَكَكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏”‏ أُنْزِلَتْ عَلَىَّ آنِفًا سُورَةٌ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَرَأَ ‏”‏ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ ‏{‏ إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ * فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ * إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الأَبْتَرُ‏}‏ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْكَوْثَرُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقُلْنَا اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَإِنَّهُ نَهْرٌ وَعَدَنِيهِ رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَيْهِ خَيْرٌ كَثِيرٌ هُوَ حَوْضٌ تَرِدُ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ آنِيَتُهُ عَدَدُ النُّجُومِ فَيُخْتَلَجُ الْعَبْدُ مِنْهُمْ فَأَقُولُ رَبِّ إِنَّهُ مِنْ أُمَّتِي ‏.‏ فَيَقُولُ مَا تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثَتْ بَعْدَكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ زَادَ ابْنُ حُجْرٍ فِي حَدِيثِهِ بَيْنَ أَظْهُرِنَا فِي الْمَسْجِدِ ‏.‏ وَقَالَ ‏”‏ مَا أَحْدَثَ بَعْدَكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ رواه مسلم. 

One day the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sitting amongst us; (in another narration it says in the mosque); and then he dozed off. He then raised his head and he was smiling. We said: What makes you smile ya Rasool Allah?

He said: A surah [108] a while ago has just been revealed to me, and then recited, the Prophet (peace be upon him):

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Verily We have given you al Kawthar (fount of abundance). Therefore, turn to your Lord for prayer and offer sacrifice, and surely your enemy is cut off (from the good).

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do you know what al Kawthar is? We said: Allah and His Messenger know best. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Al Kawthar is a river, which my Lord, the Exalted and Glorious has promised me, and there is an abundance of good in it. It is a hawd (lake) and my people will come to this lake on the Day of Resurrection. And the glasses of this hawd, cups of this hawd will be equal to the number of stars. A servant would be turned away from (among the people gathered there). Upon this I would say: My Lord, he is one of my people, and He (the Lord) would say: You do not know what he innovated (in Islam) after you”. [Muslim]

The narration in Nasa’i is a bit similar and in other books of the sunnah, some with slight differences. You might find the translation of al hawd as a fountain or cistern, but it isn’t a fountain, as the hawd is a huge body of water. And the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the dimensions of the hawd in another narration

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: 

روى مسلم في صحيحه ( 367 ) عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَتَى الْمَقْبُرَةَ فَقَالَ : ” السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُمْ دَارَ قَوْمٍ مُؤْمِنِينَ وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ لاحِقُونَ وَدِدْتُ أَنَّا قَدْ رَأَيْنَا إِخْوَانَنَا” قَالُوا : أَوَلَسْنَا إِخْوَانَكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ؟ قَال :َ” أَنْتُمْ أَصْحَابِي وَإِخْوَانُنَا الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بَعْدُ ” فَقَالُوا كَيْفَ تَعْرِفُ مَنْ لَمْ يَأْتِ بَعْدُ مِنْ أُمَّتِكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ؟ فَقَالَ : ” أَرَأَيْتَ لَوْ أَنَّ رَجُلا لَهُ خَيْلٌ غُرٌّ مُحَجَّلَةٌ بَيْنَ ظَهْرَيْ خَيْلٍ دُهْمٍ بُهْمٍ أَلا يَعْرِفُ خَيْلَهُ ؟ ” قَالُوا : بَلَى يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ . قَالَ : ” فَإِنَّهُمْ يَأْتُونَ غُرًّا مُحَجَّلِينَ مِنْ الْوُضُوءِ وَأَنَا فَرَطُهُمْ عَلَى الْحَوْضِ أَلا لَيُذَادَنَّ رِجَالٌ عَنْ حَوْضِي كَمَا يُذَادُ الْبَعِيرُ الضَّالُّ أُنَادِيهِمْ أَلا هَلُمَّ فَيُقَالُ إِنَّهُمْ قَدْ بَدَّلُوا بَعْدَكَ فَأَقُولُ سُحْقًا سُحْقًا “

The Prophet (peace be upon him) came to the graveyard and he passed his salutation and salaam to the people in the grave: “Peace be upon you! The abode of the believing people and we with Allah’s will, will join you”. And he said the Prophet (peace be upon him), “I am longing to see my brothers.” They (the hearers) said: Aren’t we your brothers, O Messenger of Allah? He said: You are my Companions, but our brothers are those who have, so far, not come into the world yet. They said: O Messenger of Allah, how would you recognise those people of your ummah if you haven’t met them? He said: Supposing a man had horses with white blazes on their foreheads and legs and these are among horses which were all black, tell me, would he not recognise his own horses, with these streaks of white on their heads, on their legs? They said: Certainly, O Messenger of Allah. He said: They would come with white faces and arms and legs from the traces of wudhu, and they will arrive at my hawd. So some people would be driven away from my hawd as the stray camel is driven away. I would call out: Come, come. Then it would be said (to me): These people changed their religion after you, and I would say: Be off, be off (in some translation what a shame). [Muslim]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) will recognise his followers from the streaks of light from the traces of wudu. He will be upset with those who diverged from his teachings.

 Abdullah bin Mas’ud (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated that:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ وَهُوَ عَلَى نَاقَتِهِ الْمُخَضْرَمَةِ بِعَرَفَاتٍ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَتَدْرُونَ أَىُّ يَوْمٍ هَذَا وَأَىُّ شَهْرٍ هَذَا وَأَىُّ بَلَدٍ هَذَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا هَذَا بَلَدٌ حَرَامٌ وَشَهْرٌ حَرَامٌ وَيَوْمٌ حَرَامٌ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ وَإِنَّ أَمْوَالَكُمْ وَدِمَاءَكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ حَرَامٌ كَحُرْمَةِ شَهْرِكُمْ هَذَا فِي بَلَدِكُمْ هَذَا فِي يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَا أَلاَ وَإِنِّي فَرَطُكُمْ عَلَى الْحَوْضِ وَأُكَاثِرُ بِكُمُ الأُمَمَ فَلاَ تُسَوِّدُوا وَجْهِي أَلاَ وَإِنِّي مُسْتَنْقِذٌ أُنَاسًا وَمُسْتَنْقَذٌ مِنِّي أُنَاسٌ فَأَقُولُ يَا رَبِّ أُصَيْحَابِي ‏.‏ فَيَقُولُ إِنَّكَ لاَ تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ ‏”‏ ‏.رواه ابن ماجه.

“The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was atop his camel with the clipped ears (he has many camels this is one of these camels) in ‘Arafat and he said, ‘Do you know what day this is, what month this is and what land this is?’ They said: ‘This is a sacred land, a sacred month and a sacred day.’ He said, the Prophet (peace be upon him): ‘Your wealth and your blood are sacred to you as this month of yours, in this land of yours, on this day of yours. I will reach the lake (Hawd) before you, and I will be waiting for you there and I will be proud of your great number before the nations, so do not blacken my face (i.e., cause me to be ashamed on that day). I will rescue some people, and some people will be taken away from me. I will say: “O my Lord, my Companions!” and He will say to me: “You do not know what innovations they introduced after you were gone.’” [Ibn Majah]

All of these narrations focus on ‘you do not know what they have done after you’.

Location of the hawd

We have some discussion as well here, as to the location of the hawd; is it before as sirat (bridge) or after? Some scholars said it’s before and others after. According to the majority opinion it is before as sirat.

When was Surat al Kawthar revealed?

There are different opinions on when the Surat al Kawthar was revealed. Was it a Makki surah or a Madini surah? There is a split in opinion, as some scholars say it’s a Makki surah because the leaders of Quraysh, who were disbelievers at that time taunted the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he lost his male children. They would say, ‘He’s cut off. Muhammad is cut off; He has no children to carry his name.’ So Allah Almighty revealed [108:1] ‘Inna a’taynakal Kawthar’, to compensate him or to console him or to give him the good news, the Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore Ibn Abbas said it was revealed in Makkah, not in Madinah.

In the narration in Sahih Muslim, Anas is narrating the hadith. Anas was a young boy (may Allah have mercy on him), and says the Prophet (peace be upon him) was inside his mosque (in Madinah), dozed off a bit and then he woke up smiling and then they asked him why he was smiling he replied he had received this surah and he recited the surah.

Therefore the scholars who said Surat al Kawthar was revealed in Madinah have strong evidence. How do you reconcile these two opinions? Imam Rafiee (may Allah have mercy on him) commented on these two narrations and two opinions, and Imam Suyuti also commented on them. Imam Rafiee commented by saying that although the hadith which Anas is narrating says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) dozed off a bit, he slept and then he woke up; it doesn’t mean that he received that surah on that occasion he did not say, ‘Now it has been revealed to me’ it says he received this surah ‘a while ago (anifan). Therefore he recollected the surah, rather than received it at that moment.

Imam Suyuti in his book, Al Itqan fi Ulum al Quran, put this surah under the section of what was revealed in dreams. Dreams were one of the methods prophets received wahi (revelation) and the dreams of the prophets were true. In his dream the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reminded of the surah he had received in Makkah.

Bid’ah – why some people taken away from the hawd

The scene depicted in the hadith is very visual. We see some people will be saved and drink from the hawd of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and others will be taken away. The reason for their being taken away is very clear – it is because of what they innovated in the religion.

Imam Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him) commented beautifully that they might be the munafiqoon (hypocrites) so they have streaks of wudu as they prayed in the mosques, but they will be taken away because they did not actually believe, or they are the people of kabari (major) sins, and they will be taken away to be punished for their major sins or it may be that they left the fold of Islam, went against Islam and committed ridah, apostasy, if you want.

It could be that they were Muslims while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was alive and then after his death left Islam. So he recognised them because he knew them before they turned to disbelief. Ibn Abdul Barr (may Allah have mercy on him), one of the scholars from the Maliki School and a great muhaddith, said they may be oppressors and tyrants who are taken away, as they were committing crimes and inflicting harm on others, so they will be taken away.

Innovations to the deen are prohibited

The main focus of the hadith is that some people will be taken away from the Hawd of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because of their actions. They changed the religion which means they introduced something which is not from the religion, and which is not in line with the principles of the religion. These are punishable acts and in the very famous hadith, A’isha reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) saying:

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رد» متفق عليه.

“Whomsoever introduces into our affair something which is not from it, it will be rejected.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Anyone who introduced anything to ‘our affair’ does not mean the personal affairs of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but the religion.

Plenty of books, PhD theses and pieces of research have been written on the concept of bid’ah. How do we define bid’ah? What constitutes bid’ah?

Scholars divided bid’ah into two types – matters related to deen and matters unrelated to deen. The prohibition is on matter related to religion. Other things that are innovations such as bicycles, or technology are new and are not prohibited, and may be new inventions that fulfil a need or necessity. Such innovations are rewarding.

Universities and schools are innovations since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) but while these are innovations relating to religion, they are not changing religion mechanisms to organise the way we study, the way we think, the way we put things together etc.

The main prohibition is changing the religion itself, as happened with previous religions.  If someone decides to move the days of fasting in Ramadan from summer to winter, or the number of hours or how we pray, this is completely prohibited.

The way we pray is strictly prescriptive. It is the way we have been taught to pray by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and we have to have complete obedience in this and not introduce anything. He (peace be upon him) said:

Pray the way you have seen me praying. [Bukhari]

He also said:

Take your Hajj rituals (manasik) from me. [Muslim]  

There is no place for innovation when it comes to ritual acts of worship. If we allowed this, our religion would become corrupted, as previous religions did.

Allah Almighty wants us to stay on the straight path and the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been sent to show us the straight path. Because he is the final Messenger, Allah Almighty introduced this mechanism of protection to keep the religion free of any inserts, deletions or changes. It is a safety plug that no one can introduce anything. We have to preserve it as was revealed and passed on down the generations in its purity.

Though the word bid’ah gets bad press and propaganda due to being overused and people are often fed up from the misuse and abuse of the word, the concept is so important. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has shown us that it’s important for us to protect the revelation, and the Sunnah. Anything that is not from the Sunnah will be rejected.

There are some grey areas which require ijtihad (reasoning) from the scholars to find new solutions for modern issues that were not mentioned in the Sunnah, such as organ donation, but these are for specialist to look after – not for the general public. The fence around the Sharia is placed with the threat of severe punishment for people who alter the religion. If anyone does this, they have to bear the consequences of their choices.

This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us, ‘Don’t embarrass me on the Day of Judgement.’

Then we see that this hadith is so important, it gives us a flavour about his hawd, his lake, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and it gives us as well the distinction between his lake, al hawd and al kawthar in Jannah but nevertheless the core of it is don’t innovate in the deen, don’t change, stay on the straight path, follow his footsteps, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and insha’Allah you will be saved, insah’Allah all of us will drink from the hawd of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Other gems and jewels

Imam Nawawi as well deduced from the hadith some gems and jewels and beautiful things. He said this hadith, of course don’t forget Imam Nawawi is a Shafi’ee scholar, is a clear evidence that the Basmallah is part of every surah because the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he recited this surah he said, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim. This is again one of the evidences with the Shafi’ee school use and it’s a very authentic narration.

The other thing which he (may Allah have mercy on him) pointed out in this hadith is that you can sleep in the mosque, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) took a short nap in the mosque and therefore it is allowed to sleep among your friends, as he was with his friends, so if you feel a bit tired and you take a short nap, that’s fine.

We also see the Prophet (peace be upon him) smiling which Imam Nawawi commented was so characteristic of him.

Indeed when he smiled, it prompted the Companions to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) what was making him smile. His smile signified good news, so they were eager to learn what it was.

The hadith confirms that al hawd is a reality, not just an illusion. So we have to believe in al hawd because these are authentic narrations, beyond any doubt.

In addition we see the love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to save people, and to give everyone a cup from his hawd to drink. Sadly some people will fail and he will be ashamed of them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) will be embarrassed and saddened by them. It means he has a good opinion about us. He’s saying ‘you are better than this, so you can do better than that.’

Be among those who are excelling in their deen, excelling in their relationship with Allah Almighty and contributing to the wellbeing and the goodness of humanity, of communities and their families and religion. Be people of goodness, based on the tawheed of Allah Almighty, in obedience to Allah Almighty and with submission to Him, following the guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him). If we do that, insha’Allah bi’idhnillah we will be among those who will drink from the hawd from the hand of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and we will be insha’Allah ya Rabb his Companions in Jannah.


Hadith Qudsi Class of 2nd March 2021

 Taught by Shaykh Haytham Tamim. Transcribed by Rose Roslan

*In the Mi’raj, in the ascension to the heavens Jibril took the Prophet (peace be upon him) to seven heavens and he went in probably like a short journey through Jannah, he has an overview, short journey to see the details of Jannah.


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.