The Hadith: 'Allah sends for this Ummah at the head of every hundred years'

Q: I heard a Hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stated: “Verily, Allah sends for this Ummah (nation) at the head of every hundred years the one who reforms for it the matters of its religion.” Now, I have some questions:(a) What is the Sanad (chain of narrators), the authentic Matn (text), and the companion narrator of this Hadith?(b) Specify the pious reformers if possible.(c) What is the meaning of the religious reform this Hadith refers to if the Prophet (peace be upon him) left us on the right way?(e) How can we know such pious reformers?(f) Is it true that these reformers emerge in the twelfth year at the head of every Hijri (lunar) century?

A: First: This Hadith is narrated by Abu Dawud in his Sunan on the authority of Sulayman ibn Dawud Al-Mahry who said: `Abdullah ibn Wahb informed me on the authority of Sa‘id ibn Ayyub from Sharahil ibn Yazid Al-Mu‘afiry from Abu ‘Alqamah who reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Verily, Allah sends for this Ummah (nation) at the head of every hundred years the one who renews for it its religion.” . Second: This is a Sahih (authentic) Hadith whose narrators are all Thiqah (reliable and trustworthy). Third and fourth: The Prophet’s saying: ...Who renews for it its religion i.e. Islam. Means that whenever people deviate from the true way of religion set and perfected by Allah, Allah sends for them one or several religious scholars (Part No. 4; Page No. 423) who are deeply aware of the truth of Islam to guide people wisely to follow the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Similarly, they save people from and warn them against Bid‘ah (innovation in religion). They thus lead people away from deviation to the Straight Path of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace be upon him). Such religious renewal or reform pertains to people’s religious behavior not to the perfect Divine religion. Therefore, deterioration, deviation and weakness may afflict the Muslims time after time, but not the religion, Islam, which is Divinely predestined to safety and preservation by the Divine Promise to safeguard the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah (Exalted be He) says (what means): Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’ân) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption). Fifth: Nothing has been reported to the effect that the religious reformers will appear in the twelfth year of every century. In fact, the Hadith only state that they appear according to Allah’s Will and Wisdom at the head of every hundred years of the Hijri calendar, as the lunar calendar was the one known to Muslims at that time. Such appearance of those inspiring religious leaders is out of Allah’s Grace and Mercy to His servants to convey the truth and set the inexcusable evidence that cuts off all false pretexts. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.