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Al-Awlaki and the former and latter rains

[ by Charles Cameron — former and latter rain in OT, NT and hadith, also YouTube eulogy for Anwar al-Awlaki ]

I’ve posted more than once about Sheikh Imran Nazar Hosein [eg: The United States of Islam and Iran or Afghanistan? The Black Flags of Khorasan]: today I saw a clip (screen-cap above) in which he eulogizes Anwar al-Awlaki.

What interests me in Sheikh Imran Hosein’s eulogy is that he references a hadith of the Prophet about the first and last showers of rain


So first, some background.

The imagery of “the first rain and the latter rain” dates back at least to the Torah.

In Deuteronomy 11.13-14, we read:

And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

That seems to be a fairly straight forward agricultural usage, although as I mentioned recently, scriptural exegesis under the PaRDeS system involves four levels of interpretation.

Joel 2.23 picks up the theme:

Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.

But this comes in a celebrated chapter which begins with the sounding of an apocalyptic trumpet and the declaration that “the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand” – and which also contains the prophecy (verses 28-30):

I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke…

By the time we reach the New Testament, the theme is clearly used (James 5.7) with a Christian eschatological implication:

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain

And indeed, the imagery of the Latter Rain as an outpouring of the Spirit to occur in the end times has given rise to a movement or series of Pentecostal movements going under the name of the Latter Rain, which have at times drawn the disapproval of apologetics scholars and even fellow Pentecostals.


Bearing that in mind, it is interesting to note the following hadith of the Prophet:

The Prophet, sallaallaahu `alaihi wa sallam, further said:

“The example of my Ummah is like that of rain. It is not known whether the initial part (of the rain) is good or the latter part.”

Ibn Taymiyyah, the medieval theologian whose previously somewhat obscure work strongly influenced ‘Abd al-Wahhab, and thus the modern Wahhabi current, commented on this hadith:

..what it means is that among those who come later there will be those who are similar to those who came before, and they will be so close that the one who tries to compare them will not know which is better, even though one of them is in fact better.

This is glad tidings for those who come later, that among them will be those who are close to those who came before them, as it says in another hadeeth: “The best of my ummah are the first and the last, and between them there will be some crookedness. Would that I could see my brethren.” They said, “Are we not your brethren?” He said, “You are my companions.” This shows that precedence was given to the Sahaabah, because they alone are his companions, which is a higher status than merely being brothers.”


In his tribute to “our brother Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki” Sheikh Imran Hosein says “I don’t think there’s need to say more than one statement about Anwar al-Awlaki.” He then quotes the same hadith, repeating the first phrase for emphasis:

My Ummah is like the rain. My Ummah is like the rain: I do not know which shower is better, the first or the last.

And concludes:

Anwar Awlaki belongs to the last shower. That is his status, may Allah grant him Jannah.

— Jannah being the garden of Paradise.


But see for yourself — the video clip is only a minute long, and the hadith and commentary are provided below it on the YouTube site:

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