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


Part IV. Allah's Approval of the Companions' Conformity With the Sunna

It is established that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- used to exhort his Community to hold on to his Sunna and warn them not to contravene it. It is further established that his Companions used to obey him faithfully in this and follow his sayings, deeds and tacit confirmations or disapprovals, considering that anything that issued from him in his capacity of prophet constitutes a proof to be followed, except in the following cases:

- In purely worldly matters, in which they felt free but not bound to consult him.

- In revealed matters foreign to their understandings, in which they sought explanations but which they held unquestionably true.

- In some acts of his considered restricted to him exclusively.

- In some commands of his which he did not himself enact, on the interpretive basis that such commands implied mere permissibility, not obligation.

In all the above exceptions the Companions may have refrained from following the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- order but not because they doubted that he must be followed nor because they doubted that disobeying him is forbidden.

We also know that the Companions were more capable than us in juridical striving (ijtihad) and the inference of rulings from the Book. Yet they did not try to understand the Book autonomously and on their own in everyday situations. Rather, they consulted with the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- as long as they were able to ask him. If he was absent when a Companions was involved in some important incident, the latter searched the Book first, then the Sunna, then, if he found nothing, he exerted his personal understanding. Later he went over his decision with the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and the latter would either confirm him or rectify his error. So these rulings issued from the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and the Companions, and Allah approved of them without telling them that they were wrong, as revelation was going on at that time. If their practice were wrong, Allah would have certainly corrected it. Not only did Allah not correct them but on the contrary He ordered them to follow and obey the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --, cautioning them against disobeying him and contravening him.

Following are some of the proofs for the points we have just listed, namely:

a) The Companions' firm adherence to the Sunna.

b) The fact they considered the Sunna a proof from his very lifetime.

c) Their avoidance of trying to understanding the Book independently as long as they could consult with him first or later.

d) Their discarding of their own juridical conclusions reached in his absence if, after they asked him about them, he differed with them.

- The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- began to wear a gold ring, whereupon people began to wear gold rings. Then he discarded it saying: "I shall never wear it again." So the people discarded their gold rings.

- As the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- was praying with his Companions he suddenly removed his sandals and placed them on his left. When the people saw this they all took off their sandals. After he finished praying he asked: "What made you take off your sandals?" They said: "We saw you take off yours." He replied: "Gibril told me that there was dirt on them."

- The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- had prayed two rak'as of the noon prayer in his mosque among the Muslims, when he was ordered to face the holy Sanctuary. Whereupon he turned around, and the Muslims turned with him.1

- Ibn Mas'ud came to the mosque on the day of Jum'a as the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- was delivering his sermon and heard him say: "Sit, all of you!" Whereupon Ibn Mas'ud sat down at the door of the mosque. Seeing him the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "Come over, 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud!"2

- 'Abd Allah ibn Rawaha heard the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- say: "Sit!" Whereupon he sat in the middle of the road. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- passed by him and said: "What are you doing?" He replied: "I heard you say: 'Sit' so I sat." The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "May Allah increase you in obedience."3

- A woman came to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and said: "O Messenger of Allah! The men have taken for themselves everything that you say. Set one day in which you will devote yourself to us so that we may come and hear you." He said: "Gather on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a place." They gathered and he came to them, teaching them what Allah had taught him. Then he said: "There is not one woman among you that sends before her [in the hereafter] three of her children except they shall block her from the Fire." One woman said: "Or two? Or two? Or two?" The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "Or two. Or two. Or two."4

- Mu'adh ibn Jabal said: "When Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- sent me to Yemen he said: 'How will you pass judgment if a judgment is asked of you?' I replied: 'I shall pass judgment on the basis of Allah's Book.' He said: 'What if it is not in Allah's Book?' I replied: 'Then on the basis of the Sunna of Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him --.' He said: 'What if it is not in the Sunna of Allah's Messenger?' I replied: 'Then I make a personal effort and I leave no stone unturned.' Whereupon the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- slapped my chest and said: 'Praise to Allah Who has graced the messenger of Allah's Messenger with what pleases Allah's Messenger.'"5

- The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- called Abu Sa'id ibn al-Mu'alla al-Ansari as the latter was praying. Abu Sa'id turned his face to him but did not answer him. After Abu Sa'id finished praying the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- asked him: "What prevented you from answering me? Did Allah not say "O believers! Obey Allah and the Messenger when he calls you to what quickens you" (8:24)?"6

- The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "Do not fast [two days] in succession without breaking your fast [in between]." They said: "But you do." He replied: "I am not like you. During the night my Lord feeds me and gives me drink." Yet they did not discontinue it. So the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- did not break his fast with them for two days - or two nights - then they saw the new moon. He said to them: "Had it come later, I would have made you fast longer," as if he was punishing them.7

- A man kissed his wife while fasting and experienced great pleasure from it, so he sent out his wife to ask about it. She went to see Umm Salama who said to her: "The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- kisses us even when he is fasting." She went back and told her husband, whereupon he said: "The Prophet is not like us, Allah makes licit for His Messenger whatever He wishes." The woman went back to see Umm Salama and found the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- with her. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "What does this woman want?" Umm Salama told him. He said: "Why do you not tell her that I kiss even when I am fasting?" She said: "I did, then she went back to her husband and he said: 'The Prophet is not like us, Allah makes licit for His Messenger whatever He wishes.'" Hearing this, the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- became angry and said: "Lo! I am the most Godwary among you, and the most aware and knowledgeable of the limits set by Allah."8

- 'Ali said: "I used to pass pre-seminal fluid frequently but was ashamed to ask the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- about it because of his daughter's position [as 'Ali's wife]. So I told al-Miqdad to ask him. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said: "Let him wash his organ and make ablution."9

- Ibn 'Umar narrated: "I divorced my wife while she was in her menses. 'Umar mentioned this to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --, whereupon the latter became upset. Then he said: "Let him take her back and keep her until after her menses pass, then a second menstrual period, then, after the latter is over, if he still desires to divorce her let him divorce her while she is in her state of purity and before touching her. That is the waiting-count ('idda) which Allah Almighty has commanded."10

- Ya'la ibn Umayya said: "I said to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab: '[Concerning the verse] "It is no sin for you to curtail worship if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you" (4:101). What if the people are safe?' He replied: 'I wonder just as you do.' So I asked the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and he said: 'It is a charity given you by Allah, so accept His charity.'"11 Al-Suyuti said in commentary of this hadith: "The scholars said that the Companions had understood the verse to mean that, short of a situation in which there is fear, the command to shorten the prayer is reversed, until the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- told them that the dispensation held in both cases."12

- The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- gave instructions to a party of Companions on the Day of [the battle of] the Clans: "Let no-one pray 'Asr - another narration states Dhuhr - before you reach the Banu Qurayza." On the way, one or more of them remarked that 'Asr had entered. Some said: "We shall not pray until we reach it."13 Others said: "On the contrary, we shall pray,14 because that was not what was meant [i.e. to delay prayer beyond its time]." Later on the incident was mentioned to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and he did not take to task either of the two groups.15

Imam al-Nawawi said in commenting on this hadith that he considers that every mujtahid can be correct. He said:

In this hadith there is evidence supporting those who act upon the understanding and according to analogy while attending to the actual meaning of words, and also to those who stick to the external letter. There is also evidence that the mujtahid must not be taken to task in what he did through his ijtihad if he did his best. And it can be inferred from this that every mujtahid is correct (wa qad yustadallu bihi 'ala an kulla mujtahidin musib). Those who take the opposite view can say that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- did not manifest which of the two sides was correct, but he did not take them to task. There is no disagreement that the mujtahid is not taken to task even if he was mistaken, as long as he did his utmost in striving. And Allah knows best.16

Ibn Hajar reiterates this position in his commentary on the same hadith in al-Bukhari:

In this hadith there is evidence that each one of the two mujtahids that differ in a matter of the branches, is correct" (wa fihi anna kulla mukhtalifayni fi al-furu' min al-mujtahidina musib).17

There is a superficial discrepancy concerning what prayer was actually mentioned, since it is related in al-Bukhari as 'Asr and in Muslim as Dhuhr. Both reports are authentic and confirmed by other sound chains. Al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajar said this discrepancy is resolved by the possibility that the travellers left in two groups, to each of whom was given a different order. The first group had not prayed Dhuhr yet; while the second had prayed Dhuhr, but not 'Asr. Or, it is solved by the possibility that one single group left together, containing those who had already prayed Dhuhr and those who had not. The import of the hadith was to make haste and not dismount to pray nor anything else.

- Abu Sa'id al-Khudri narrated that two men went on a trip and decided to pray but found no water. They made dry ablution (tayammum) then prayed. Thereafter, they found water and the time of prayer had not yet elapsed. One of them repeated his prayer, while the second one did not. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said to the latter: "You have followed the Sunna faithfully, and your prayer is complete." He said to the one who repeated his prayer: "You have twice the reward."18

- A group of the Companions was travelling, 'Umar and Mu'adh among them. The latter two woke up in need of major ablution (ghusl), but found no water. Each of them exercised his own juridical reasoning. Mu'adh made an analogy between purity by means of sand and that by means of water, whereupon he rubbed sand all over himself and prayed. 'Umar did not consider it correct and he postponed his prayer. When they returned to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- he showed them that Mu'adh's reasoning was incorrect as he had applied when a legal text was available to that effect, namely Allah's saying "Then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands therewith" (4:43). The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- said to Mu'adh: "It would have been enough for you to do that." Then he turned to 'Umar and explained to him that just as dry ablution eliminates the state of lesser impurity (al-hadath al-asghar), it also eliminated that of major impurity (al-hadath al-akbar). He also told him that the "touching of women" mentioned in the same verse - and because of which tayammum becomes permissible - does not refer to the preliminaries of intercourse but to intercourse itself.

Next post: 4. Proofs From The Noble Qur'an For the Probativeness of the Sunna


1Narrated by Ibn Sa'd in his Tabaqat (1:241-242), Ibn Abi Dawud, and al-Bazzar as cited by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 1:503).

2Narrated from Jabir by Abu Dawud with a sound chain in his Sunan (#1091) and Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:867 #1633); from Ibn 'Abbas by Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih (3:141); and mursal from 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah by 'Abd al-Razzaq in al-Musannaf (3:211) and Haythami in Zawa'id Musnad al-Harith (2:923).

3Narrated by 'Abd al-Razzaq in al-Musannaf (3:211), Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:867 #1633), and al-Muttaqi al-Hindi in Kanz al-'Ummal (#37170-37171).

4Narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri by Bukhari and Muslim.

5This is an example of a hadith that is not established from the perspective of isnad but which is considered nevertheless authentic and relied upon. Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi who said that a link of its chain was missing, Ahmad, al-Darimi, Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf (4:543, 6:13), al-Tayalisi in his Musnad (p. 76), 'Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad (p. 72), al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (20:170), Ibn Sa'd in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (2:347-348, 3:584), al-Khatib in his Tarikh (13:77) and al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih (1:188-189), al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (10:114), Ma'rifa al-Sunan (1:173-174 #291) and al-Madkhal (p. 207), Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:844-846 #1592-1594=2:56), al-Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (10:116), Ibn 'Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq, and others. Al-Bukhari in al-Tarikh al-Kabir (2:277) stated that it has no sound chain, as reiterated by Ibn al-Jawzi in al-'Ilal al-Mutanahiya (2:758-759 #1264) and Ibn Hazm in al-Ihkam (7:417=6:36). However, because it is unanimously considered authentic by the jurists, it is considered sahih as a hadith as indicated by Abu Bakr al-Razi in Ahkam al-Qur'an (3:179), Ibn al-'Arabi in 'Arida al-Ahwadhi, Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (1:4), Ibn al-Qayyim in I'lam al-Muwaqi'in (1:202-203), Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (4:182), al-Tahanawi in Muqaddima I'la' al-Sunan (2/2:57-58), al-Arna'ut in al-Tahawi's Sharh Mushkil al-Athar (9:213-214 #3584), al-Zayn in Musnad Ahmad (16:164 #21906), and the author of Nibras al-'Uqul (1:82-83) as cited in Hujjiyya al-Sunna (p. 287 n. 6). Al-Arna'ut cites other hadiths of similar type.

6Narrated by Bukhari and Ahmad. Also narrated from Ubay ibn Ka'b instead of Abu Sa'id by al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), al-Nasa'i in al-Sunan al-Kubra, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and others. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr cites both reports in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:864-865 #1630-1631).

7Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and al-Darimi.

8Narrated mursal from 'Ata' ibn Yasar by Malik in his Muwatta'.

9Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

10Narrated in the Nine Books.

11Narrated in the Nine Books except Bukhari and Malik.

12Al-Suyuti, Miftah al-Janna (p. 89 #165). Cf al-Baghawi, Sharh al-Sunna (4:168).

13Or: "Let us not pray until we reach it."

14Or: "Let us pray."

15Narrated from Ibn 'Umar by al-Bukhari with the wording 'Asr, and by Muslim with the wording Dhuhr.

16Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Jihad, Ch. 23, al-Mays ed. 11/12:341).

17Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (Kitab al-Maghazi, ch. 31, 1989 ed. 7:520).

18Narrated by al-Nasa'i, Abu Dawud, al-Darimi, and al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (1:231). Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (1:156 #2112), al-San'ani in Subul al-Salam (1:98), al-Zayla'i in Nasb al-Raya (1:160) and al-Tahanawi in I'la' al-Sunan (1:326) all indicated that it is sound (sahih) as stated by al-Hakim (1:178-179= 1990 ed. 1:286) and Ibn al-Sakan in al-Sihah.