The Evolution of the Sheeple
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The word, “ Sheeple “, refers to people who are compared to sheep in being docile, foolish, and easily led, or people unable to think for themselves and are followers who have no cognitive abilities of their own.
The Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم], and his companions[radi Allahu anhum], and others from the Salaf , have used words and phrases which warn against having this trait as a Muslim. It’s considered a blameworthy characteristic in Islam, therefore it must be avoided. The Arabic word that fits the English term sheeple is the word, “ الإمَّعة”, which is sometimes translated as a yes-man.
Al-Jowhari said: الإمَّعة is a person who has no opinion with others and says the same things everyone else does. Moreover, it’s incorrect to use this word for a woman.
Ibn Al-Athir said: [ الإمَّعة ] is the person who follows others in their opinions, and he hasn’t one of his own. This word applies to the person who goes around telling everyone, I am with you.
So based on this word, “الإمَّعة “ and the definitions presented by the linguists of Arabic we will use the current English term sheeple for it throughout this article in the various hadith and narrations.
Hudhaifah narrated that the Messenger of Allah [صلى الله عليه وسلم ] said:
عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ لاَ تَكُونُوا إِمَّعَةً تَقُولُونَ إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَحْسَنَّا وَإِنْ ظَلَمُوا ظَلَمْنَا وَلَكِنْ وَطِّنُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَنْ تُحْسِنُوا وَإِنْ أَسَاءُوا فَلاَ تَظْلِمُوا ”
“Do not let yourselves be sheeple’, saying: ‘If the people are good then we will be good, and if they are wrong then we will be wrong. Rather, make up your own minds, if the people are good then you are good, and if they are evil, then do not behave unjustly.”
This Hadith highlights the importance of having independent thinking and the dangers of being a yes-man among the sheeple. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud[Radi Allahu anhu] mentioned who they considered sheeple before Islam and after it.
عن ابن مسعود (رضي الله عنه) كُنَّا في الجَاهِليَّةِ نَعُدُّ الإمَّعَةَ الَّذِي يَتْبَعُ النَّاسَ إلى الطَّعَامِ مِنْ غَيرِ أنْ يُدعَى و إنَّ الإمَّعة فِيكُمُ اليَومَ المُحقِبُ النَّاسِ دينَه
Ibn Mas’ud(Radi Allahu anhu): “During the pre-Islamic period we called call the sheeple a person who follow others to a meal without being invited, however today we consider the sheeple one who blindly follows people in matters of his religion.
Being among the sheeple doesn’t only pose a hazard to one’s beliefs, but it also shakes up a person’s faith.
عن ابن مسعود (رضي الله عنه) ألاَ لاَ يُقَلِّدَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ دِينَهُ رَجُلاً إن آمَنَ آمَنَ وإن كَفَرَ كَفَرَ
Ibn Mas’ud [ Radi Allahu anhu]said: Don’t blindly follow any man in matters of your religion. If he believes, then you believe, and if he disbelieves, then you disbelieve.
Since being a blind following sheep is so dangerous Abdullah ibn Mas’ud further went on to say in another narration that a person must avoid it by being one of two people. i.e a scholar or a student.
عن ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه أنه كان يقول: اغدُ عالماً أو مُتَعَلِّماً ، وَلا تَغدُ إمَّعَةً فِيمَا بَينَ ذَلِك
Ibn Mas’udd [Radi Allahu anhu] said: “Strive to be a scholar or a student and don’t be among sheeple. The sheeple is one between the learned person and the student.
Additionally,Ali ibn Abi Talib[رضي الله عنه] described the yes-man among the sheeple as one who is a confused riffraff that follows everyone and his brother.
قال علي بن أبي طالب (رضي الله عنه)النَّاسُ ثَلاثَةٌ : فَعَالِمٌ رَبَّانِيٌّ ، وَمُتَعَلِّمٌ عَلَى سَبِيلِ نَجَاةٍ ، وَهَمَجٌ رَعَاعٌ أَتْبَاعُ كُلِّ نَاعِقٍ ، يَمِيلُونَ مَعَ كُلِّ رِيحٍ ، لَمْ يَسْتَضِيئُوا بِنُورِ الْعِلْمِ ، وَلَمْ يَلْجَئُوا إِلَى رُكْنٍ وَثِيقٍ
“The people are of three (types): the Scholar who is Rabbani: The Scholar who acts in accordance with his knowledge and has insight into the condition of the people – so that he raises them upon the primary matters of knowledge before the more detailed and difficult matters, the one learning is upon the path of salvation, and the confused riffraff who follow everyone who calls out – bending along with every wind – they are not enlightened by the light of knowledge, nor do they lean on a strong support.
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah spoke in detail explaining this narration
Confused riffraff: are those who are ignorant fools.
Who follow everyone who calls out: This refers to them answering everyone that calls them to something. They respond to everything without distinguishing whether it’s the truth or falsehood. The confused riff-raff has no knowledge to determine if what he’s being invited to follow is right, or wrong, thus he answers every call and invitation. These kinds of people are the most dangerous in the religion. Unfortunately, they are the majority, with little significance with Allah. Furthermore, they are often involved in every fitnah.
Ali [radi Allahu anhu] said they answer everyone who calls to something means they resemble the livestock, which is driven by their herder, so they go wherever he takes them.
And the example of those who disbelieve is like that of him who shouts to the (flock of sheep) that hears nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand.[Al-Baqarah:171]
This is the description that the Amir of the Believers, Ali[radi Allahu anhu] gave them. Such a person hasn’t any knowledge, any insight, or any understanding to tell the difference between the truth and falsehood. Therefore, according to him, the truth and falsehood are alike.
Bending along with every wind…Their intellects lean towards every desire and caller. If their minds were like big trees then the wind wouldn’t affect them.
Nor do they lean on a strong support… In these words Imam Ali explained why there are easily led astray. They are ignorant and lack the insight to determine between the truth and falsehood. Allah said: O you who believe , Fear Allah, and believe too in His Messenger (Muhammad ), He will give you a double portion of His Mercy, and He will give you a light by which you shall walk (straight),[Al-Hadid:28]
Whenever the heart doesn’t have the light of guidance inside it, the person becomes at loss, uncertain and helpless, consequently he doesn’t know which way to go. With this confusion the person doesn’t know the correct path and follows every caller he hears. His heart isn’t equipped to rejects the callers’ of falsehood. If the truth is firmly rooted in the heart then falsehood is prevented from entering. This is the reason why Allah called the truth, the leader.
After reviewing the narrations and speech of Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim we can draw the conclusion that the harms of being among the sheeple are many and among them are they show the person has a weak personality and lacks manhood, and thus lives a humiliating life. The one who lives his life as a yes-man is ostracized and banished by Allah, and the son of Adam. Reason being, his presence in society isn’t of any true value.
Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle
Doha, Qatar© 1439H
 Natharatun Na-eem, vol 9/pg3995
 [ At-Tirmithi:2007]
 Lisan Al-Arab
 Al-Iti’sam, Imam Ash-Shatabi, vol1/158
 Miftah Darus Sa’ada 1/412-415.