Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim was-salaat was-salaam `ala Rasulillah


Part IX. Proofs From the Noble Sunna for the Probativeness of the Sunna

Someone may ask: How can the probativeness of the Sunna be inferred from the Sunna itself, and is this not a kind of logical circle that should be precluded? We reply that, first, the Qur'an itself is not established as probative except through the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- own assertion that it is Allah's -- Exalted is He -- word, that is, on the basis of the mass-transmitted Sunna. Second, whoever considers carefully the proofs given above under the heading of the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- exemption from error,1 realizes that this objection is invalid. In that section we had said that the miracle of the Qur'anic i`jaz dictates that every divinely- sanctioned discourse on his part is by consensus truthful and in conformity with what comes from Allah, therefore it is obligatory to accept and conform with it. This proof had lead us to establish as true a major corollary, namely, that revelation is divided into two kinds:

a) The Book, which is the evidentiary miracle used to worship by means of recitation.

b) Everything else, namely: the hadith qudsi and the Prophetic hadith, whose meaning was revealed but whose wording was chosen by the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

We can now add a further specification that we can safely exclude from the second category those hadiths in which the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- himself states that they are not part of the divine disclosure but are his own opinion, meaning, not in his capacity as a prophet, but as an ordinary human being. Two of the best-known examples of this case are the hadith of the pollination of the datepalm-trees and the hadith of al-Hubab ibn al-Mundar's tactical advice in the battle of Badr. We are not concerned here with that type of hadith, nor with the hadiths that describe the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- noble frame (khalq) and manners (khuluq), but with the hadiths that carry the force of timeless law - and therefore qualify as divine ordinances conveyed by the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- - outside the Book. Once one accepts that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- never lies in the conveyance of commands and prohibitions from his Lord, then one can no longer reject the law-probativeness of the latter kind of hadiths provided they are established as authentic through the means elaborated to that effect. Third and last, we may adduce the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- commands - whose probativeness is established by their inclusion in the definition of conveyance (al-khabar al-balaghi) - to establish the probativeness of his acts and tacit approvals and disapprovals. It can be seen from the above stipulations, that we only adduce as proof the kind of law-probative hadith established independently from, and prior to, any other hadith whose probativeness the law-probative hadith may serve to establish. Therefore there is no circular logic, and praise belongs to Allah.

There are many types of proofs in the Sunna for the probativeness of the Sunna. These types can be reduced to three.

(i) The conveyance from the one who never lies -- Allah bless and greet him -- that:

1. Allah -- Exalted is He -- has revealed to him the Qur'an and other than it;

2. that whatever legal rulings he has expounded and stipulated are Allah's -- Exalted is He -- own expositions and stipulations, not his;

3. that it is impossible to understand the laws and ordinances of Islam from the Qur'an alone, rather, it is necessary to have recourse to the Sunna;

4. that Sunna-based practice is Qur'an-based;

5. that the Umma in its entirety and without exception has been ordered to accept his words, obey his commands and prohibitions, and follow his Sunna;

6. that whoever obeys him and holds fast to his Sunna obeys Allah -- Exalted is He -- and follows guidance, such being deserving of Paradise and huge reward;

7. that whoever disobeys him and rejects his sayings, preferring to follow his own opinion and whims, has disobeyed Allah, followed misguidance, and perished, such being deserving of hellfire and Allah's curse - may Allah -- Exalted is He -- protect us;

8. that faith and belief remains incomplete until one follows all that he brought;

9. that nothing but truth comes out of his blessed mouth;

10. that the best guidance of all is his guidance;

11. and that anything that he did not himself bring but which people innovate after him according to their whims and caprice, or to serve their lusts, is an innovation in the Religion (bid`a) which is completely rejected.

All the above items presuppose that the Sunna be probative. Following are the narrations that pertain to each item, numbered accordingly.

1. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "Lo! Verily I have been given the Qur'an and something like it. Soon a man will say, leaning on his couch with his stomach full: 'Follow this Qur'an, whatever you find in it to be [declared] permissible then declare it permissible, and whatever you find in it to be [declared] prohibited then declare it prohibited.' Verily whatever Allah's Messenger has declared prohibited is just as what Allah -- Exalted is He -- has declared prohibited. Lo! The meat of the domestic ass is prohibited to you. So is the meat of fanged beasts of prey. So is a find belonging to the beneficiary of a treaty unless its owner does not want it. If one or more people arrive among some people the latter must receive them hospitably; if they do not, they must give them the amount equivalent to their hospitality."2

Another narration of the above gives us a glimpse at the "circumstances of utterance" (asbab al-wurud) for this foundational hadith:

Al-`Irbad ibn Sariya said: "We alighted in Khaybar with the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- with whoever was with him among his Companions. The leader of Khaybar was a rebellious, contemptible man. He came to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and said to him: 'O Muhammad! Do you all have total freedom to slaughter our donkeys, eat our crops, and beat our womenfolk?' Whereupon the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- became angry and said: 'O Ibn `Awf, get on your horse and call out: Lo! Verily Paradise is forbidden except to a believer, then tell them to gather for the prayer.' They gathered and the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- prayed with them. Afterwards he said: 'Does any of you think, leaning back on his couch, perhaps, that Allah prohibited nothing except what is in this Qur'an? Lo! Verily, I swear by Allah that I have exhorted and commanded and forbidden you things to the amount of the Qur'an or more! And I have said that fanged beasts of prey are not permissible for you to eat, nor domestic asses, and that Allah -- Exalted is He -- did not make it permissible for you to enter the houses of the People of the Book except with their permission, nor beat their womenfolk, nor eat their crops if they give you what they are due to give.'"3

Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi (d. 294) said: "Allah revealed two types of revelation, naming one Qur'an and the other hikma, differentiating between them, both being from Him, and the hikma is whatever the Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- instituted (sanna) that is not mentioned in the Book. Otherwise it would be as if He said "Allah reveals unto you the Scripture and the Scripture" which is far-fetched. ... No-one denies this except one who is dim-witted."4

2. When prices soared in Madina it was said to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --: "O Messenger of Allah, set the market prices for us." He replied: "Allah -- Exalted is He -- will not ask me of any Sunna which I originated (ahdathtu) among you without His commanding me to do so. But ask Allah for His favor."5

There are several other versions of the above narration, all indicating that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- does not proceed to ordain anything in daily practice except with divine permission. Among them:

They said: "O Messenger of Allah! set the market prices for us." He replied: "Allah is He Who sets the market prices (al-Musa``ir), the Straitener (al-Qabid), the Expander (al-Basit), and the Bestower of sustenance (al-Raziq). Verily I hope to find my Lord without any of you complaining that I have wronged him either with regard to someone's death or with regard to property."6

The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- also said, on the day of the campaign of Tabuk: "O people! Verily I do not command you anything except what Allah -- Exalted is He -- has commanded you, and I do not prohibit upon you anything except what Allah -- Exalted is He -- has prohibited upon you. Therefore be graceful in your requests from Him. By the One in Whose hand is Abu al-Qasim's life, the sustenance of each one of you shall surely come to him just as his term of life shall surely come to pass. Therefore, if you find yourself in difficulty because of some need, ask for your sustenance through obedience to Allah -- Exalted is He."7



1See sec. II.1 in post [3].

2Narrated from al-Miqdam ibn Ma`dikarb with sound chains by Abu Dawud and Ahmad; also, in part, by al-Tirmidhi (hasan gharib), Ibn Majah, and al-Darimi. All but the latter also narrated it in part from Abu Nafi` and al-Tirmidhi declared it hasan sahih.

3Narrated from al-`Irbad ibn Sariya by Abu Dawud in his Sunan, al-Bayhaqi in al- Sunan al-Kubra (9:204 #18493) and Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi at the very end of his book al-Sunna (p. 111-112 #405), all with a fair chain according to Ma`ruf and al-Arna'ut's assessment of the narrators in al-Tahrir, while Salim ibn Ahmad al-Salafi in al-Sunna declared the chain good (jayyid) and al-Albani declared the hadith weak! The phrase between brackets is in al-Marwazi only.

4In al-Sunna (p. 110 #401).

5Narrated from Talha ibn Nudayla by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal. Ibn Hajar cited its different chains in al-Isaba (3:535).

6Narrated from Anas by al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Darimi, and Abu Ya`la in his Musnad (5:245) all with sound chains as stated by Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (3:14), cf. Shaykh Husayn Asad also. Also narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri by Ahmad, and from Abu Hurayra by Ahmad and Abu Dawud, both with fair chains as stated by Ibn Hajar. The latter mentioned two other chains for this hadith, one from `Ali and one from Ibn `Abbas. This is an example of the narrations which Ibn al-Jawzi incorrectly included in his Mawdu`at.

7Narrated from al-Hasan ibn `Ali by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (3:83) with a chain containing `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Uthman al-Hatibi whom Abu Hatim declared weak as stated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id (4:71-72), however, the contents of the hadith itself are confirmed by other evidence and Abu Hatim's lone discreditation does not suffice, as he is known for his severity, and Allah knows best.