Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim was-salaat was-salaam `ala Rasulillah
Part V. Proofs From The Noble Qur'an For the Probativeness of the Sunna
Allah's Book is filled with verses that categorically denote the probativeness of the Sunna. These verses are at least five types, although a single verse can be of more than one type.
a) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of believing in the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --;
b) Verses that indicate that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part;
c) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of obeying the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- in absolute terms in whatever he orders and whatever he prohibits;
d) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of following and imitating him in all that issues from him as being examplary so as to be loved by Allah;
e) Verses indicating that Allah has tasked him with following and conveying whatever is revealed to him whether in recitative (matlu) or non-recitative form.
a) First Type of Verses Denoting the Probativeness of the Sunna: Verses That Indicate the Obligatoriness of Believing in the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --
The first type of verses denoting the probativeness of the Sunna are the verses that indicate the obligatoriness of believing in the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --. "Belief" or iman here signifies the confirmation of (tasdiq) and compliance with (idh`an) his message and with all that he brought from Allah, whether it is mentioned in the Qur'an or not. Of this type also are the verses that show that not to follow him and not to accept his judgment both negate belief:
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "O you who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He has revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily has wandered far astray." (4:136).
- And He said: "So believe in Allah and His messenger and the light which We have revealed. And Allah is Aware of what you do" (64:8).
- And He said: "Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all, (the messenger of) Him unto whom belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no God save Him. He quickens and He gives death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and in His words and follow him that haply you may be led aright" (7:158).
- Al-Qadi `Iyad said: "Iman in the Prophet Muhammad -- Allah bless and greet him -- is specifically obligatory, no iman is complete except through it, and no islam is correct except with it. Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "And as for him who believes not in Allah and His messenger Lo! We have prepared a flame for disbelievers" (48:13)."1
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "Lo! We have sent you (O Muhammad) as a witness and a bearer of good tidings and a warner, that you (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honor Him, and may revere Him, and may glorify Him at early dawn and at the close of day" (48:8-9).
- And He said: "The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere" (49:15).
- And He said: "They only are the true believers who believe in Allah and His messenger and, when they are with him on some common errand, go not away until they have asked leave of him. Lo! those who ask leave of you, those are they who believe in Allah and His messenger. So, if they ask your leave for some affair of theirs, give leave to whom you will of them, and ask for them forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (24:62).
Concerning this verse al-Shafi`i said: "He has made the completion of the beginning of belief - to which everything else is subordinate - belief in Allah then in His Messenger. So if a human being believes in Him but does not believe in His Messenger, the designation (ism) denoting completion of belief in now way whatsoever applies to him, until he believes in His Messenger together with Him."2
Ibn al-Qayyim said: "The verse incorporates among the requisites of belief the fact that they not go anywhere - when they are with him - except with his permission. It is all the more fitting that they also not adopt any position nor enter any path of knowledge except after his permission. Such permission on his part can be known by the proof of what he brought establishing the permission."3
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "Not unto the weak nor unto the sick nor unto those who can find naught to spend is any fault (to be imputed though they stay at home) if they are true (nasahu) to Allah and His messenger. Not unto the good is there any road (of blame). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (9:91). Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi said:
Being true (nasiha) is a term that expresses the generality of one's will toward the good of the party to whom one is being true. It is impossible to come up with a synonym for it. Its lexical meaning is sincerity (ikhlas).... Thus one's being true (nasiha) to Allah is one's correct belief in Him with unicity (al-wahdaniyya) and one's describing Him in terms appropriate to Him, declaring His transcendence from what is impermissible to apply to Him, desiring what makes one beloved to Him, staying far away from what causes His wrath, and sincerity in worshipping Him. Being true to His Book consists in believing in it, putting in practice its contents, beautifying its recitation, being humble before it, magnifying its status, striving to understanding it and acquire knowledge of it, and defending it from the interpretation of extremists and the attacks of atheists. As for being true to His Messenger it consists in confirming his prophethood, and doing one's utmost to obey his commands and prohibitions."4
Al-Ajurri said about the meaning of being true to Allah's Messenger:
It consists in coming to his aid, supporting him, and protecting him both alive and dead; in giving life to his Sunna by pursuing it, defending it, disseminating it; and in acquiring his noble manners and beautiful traits.5
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "And when it is said unto them: Come unto that which Allah has revealed and unto the messenger, you see the hypocrites turn from you with aversion" (4:61). Concerning this verse Ibn Hazm said:
Let one therefore beware of Allah Almighty and Exalted to Whom is the return. Let his soul feel fear upon recitation of this verse and his anxiety increase in intensity that he should be meant by the epithet mentioned in that verse - that despicable, ruinous trait which necessitates hellfire. So whoever debates his opponent in a given matter of the Religion and its rulings - which we were commanded to learn and understand - calling him unto what Allah has revealed and what the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- has said, but the other turns away and calls him unto analogy or to So-and-so's saying: let him know that Allah has named him a dissimulating hypocrite.... And if someone were to say: "We do not take except what we found in the Qur'an," such a person would be an apostate (kafir) by consensus of the Islamic Community, and would not thereby be obligated to pray more than one rak`a between the going down of the sun and the dark of night, and another one at dawn [cf. 17:78]. For this is the least that has been called salat, and there is no limit (hadd) set for the most in that chapter. One who follows such a position is an idolatrous disbeliever (kafir mushrik) whose life and property are licit. The only ones to go that path are some of the extremist Rafidis upon whose apostasy consensus has formed in the Community. And success is from Allah Almighty and Exalted. Now, should someone follow only what the entire Community has agreed upon and nothing else, leaving all that they differed about with regard to what the texts mention: such a person is a transgressor (fasiq) by consensus of the Community. These two preliminaries make it obligatory to accept what is transmitted.6
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "And they say: We believe in Allah and the messenger, and we obey; then after that a faction of them turn away. Such are not believers. But if right had been with them they would have come unto him willingly. Is there in their hearts a disease, or have they doubts, or fear they lest Allah and His messenger should wrong them in judgment? Nay, but such are evil doers. The saying of (all true) believers when they appeal unto Allah and His messenger to judge between them is only that they say: We hear and we obey. And such are the successful. He who obeys Allah and His messenger, and fears Allah, and keeps duty (unto Him): such indeed are the victorious. They swear by Allah solemnly that, if you order them, they will go forth. Say: Swear not; known obedience (is better). Lo! Allah is Informed of what you do. Say: Obey Allah and obey the messenger. But if you turn away, then (it is) for him (to do) only that wherewith he has been charged, and for you (to do) only that wherewith you have been charged. If you obey him, you will go aright. But the messenger has no other charge than to convey (the message), plainly" (24:47-54).
Concerning these verses al-Shafi`i said:
"Allah Almighty and Exalted has informed human beings in this verse that their call unto Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- that he judge between them is a call unto Allah's judgment. For the judge between them is Allah's Messenger, and if they surrender to the judgment of Allah's Messenger, then they but surrender to His, as stipulated by Allah Almighty and Exalted Himself."7
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "And it becomes not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided and affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest" (33:36).
Concerning this verse Ibn al-Qayyim said:
"Allah Almighty and Exalted has stated in this verse that there is no choice left for a believer after Allah's judgment and the judgment of His Prophet. Whoever makes an alternative choice after this, has strayed in manifest misguidance."8
- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "But nay, by your Lord! they will not believe (in truth) until they make you judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which you decide, and submit with full submission" (4:65).
Concerning this verse Ibn Hazm said:
This verse suffices for whoever understands and shows caution, believing in Allah and the Last Day, and knowing with certainty that this covenant is his Almighty Lord's covenant with him and His will recorded against him. Therefore, let every human being examine his soul, and if he finds in it any reserve towards the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- judgment in any report he knows to be authentic among those reports that reached him; or if he finds his soul reticent to submit to what has reached him from Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him --, but leaning instead to So-and-so's saying, or to his analogies and preferences; or if he sees that this soul sets up as judge over what he contends, someone other than Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- - whether a Companion or anyone lesser: let him know that Allah Almighty and Exalted has sworn an oath - and His Word is the truth! - that he is not a believer, and Allah has spoken the truth. If he is not a believer, then he is an apostate, and there is no middle way. Let him know also that all those he imitates, whether a Companion, or a Successor, or Malik, or Abu Hanifa, or al-Shafi`i, or Sufyan, or al-Awza`i, or Ahmad, or Dawud - Allah be well-pleased with all of them - they are all innocent of him in this world and the next, and the Day that witnesses rise forth.9
Ibn al-Qayyim said concerning the same verse:
Allah Almighty and Exalted swore by Himself that belief was absent from people until they made His Prophet a judge between whatever is in dispute between them whether minute or major. But He did not consider their making such arbitration a sufficient factor of their belief until the least element of reservation or unease at his verdict and judgment had completely disappeared from their hearts. And He did not even make the latter condition sufficient until they submitted with full submission and let themselves be led in complete followership.10
Al-Shafi`i explained thus the circumstances in which the verse was revealed:
This verse was revealed - according to what has reached us, and Allah knows best - in the matter of a man who contended with al-Zubayr over a piece of land, whereupon the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- ruled in favor of al-Zubayr. This judgment is a Sunna of Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- and not a ruling stipulated in the Qur'an. The Qur'an shows - and Allah knows best - what I have just described. If it had been a judgment based upon the Qur'an, it would have been a ruling stipulated by Allah's Book, in which case they, in refusing to submit to a stipulated ruling of Allah's Book, would have been considered not to be believers without any difficulty, simply for rejecting the ruling that had been revealed and refusing to submit to it.11
Al-Shafi`i thus adduced the verse as a proof for the probativeness of the Sunna by showing that this ruling was not specifically or clearly stipulated in Allah's Book, for had this been the case, their lack of belief would have stemmed from their rejection of the ruling of the Book and their refusal to submit to it, not from not resorting to the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- arbitration, nor from not submitting to the latter, nor from harboring reservations about it. In such a case it would have appeared more appropriate to say: "Nay, by your Lord! they will not believe until they accept the Book's ruling and submit to it fully." And Allah knows best.
The next post will examine the verses that indicate that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part.
b) Verses that indicate that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part
The second type of verses denoting the probativeness of the Sunna are the verses that indicate that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part. Among these verses are those that state that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- is teaching the Community the Book (al-kitab) and the Wisdom (al-hikma). The latter is, as al-Shafi'i and others said, the Sunna. Should we concede that it also means the Book, then the Prophet's teaching of Wisdom to the Community means its explanation, the exposition of its generalities, and the elucidation of its difficulties. All this dictates the probativeness of his explanation of the Book as contained in his sayings, his actions, and his tacit approval and disapproval. That is, his Sunna.
- Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- said: "And We have revealed unto you the Remembrance that you may explain to mankind that which has been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect" (16:44).
- And He said: "And we have revealed the Scripture unto you only that you may explain unto them that wherein they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe" (16:64).
- And He said: "Even as We have sent unto you a messenger from among you, who recites unto you Our revelations and cause you to grow, and teach you the Scripture and wisdom, and teach you that which you knew not" (2:151).
- And He said: "Allah verily has shown grace to the believers by sending unto them a messenger of their own who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom; although before (he came to them ) they were in flagrant error" (3:164).
- And He said: "He it is Who has sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and Wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest" (62:2).
- And He said: "Remember Allah's grace upon you and that which He has revealed unto you of the Scripture and of wisdom, whereby He does exhort you" (2:231).
- And He said: "Allah reveals unto you the Scripture and wisdom, and teaches you that which you knew not. The grace of Allah toward you has been infinite" (4:113).
- And He said: "And bear in mind that which is recited in your houses of the revelations of Allah and wisdom. Lo! Allah is Subtle, Aware" (33:34).
Al-Shafi'i said in commentary of these verses:
Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- mentioned the Book, and that is the Qur'an; He also mentioned wisdom. I have heard those whose opinion I trust among the people of knowledge of the Qur'an say that "wisdom" means the Sunna of Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him --. This supports what Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- said - and Allah knows best - because the Qur'an is a reminder (dhikr) and wisdom follows it, and Allah mentioned that He lavished favor on His creatures by teaching them the Book and wisdom. It is therefore impermissible - and Allah knows best - to say that wisdom here is anything other than the Sunna of Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him --. That is because it is coupled (maqruna) with the Book, and that Allah has made obedience to His Prophet a strict obligation, imposing upon people the absolute duty to follow his commands. Thus it is not permissible to say about anything that it is a strict obligation (fard) except about Allah's Book and the Sunna of His Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- due to what we just said, namely, that Allah has coupled belief in His Messenger with belief in Him.12
Al-Shafi'i means to show that wisdom is the Sunna because in all these verses Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- has joined it to the Book. This dictates differentiation (mughayara), so wisdom cannot denote the Book. However, it cannot be anything other than either the Book or the Sunna, because Allah has lavished His favor upon us by teaching them to us. Favor cannot consist in other than what is right, true, and in conformity with what is with Him. Wisdom must therefore be obligatorily followed just like the Book, especially since Allah has coupled it with the Book. But He has not enjoined upon us such obligation throughout His Book except with regard to two things: following His Book and following the Sunna of His Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --. It follows that wisdom refers specifically to the Sunna.
Next installment: c) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of obeying the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- in absolute terms in whatever he orders and whatever he prohibits
1Al-Qadi `Iyad, al-Shifa' (2:1).
2Al-Shafi`i, al-Risala (p. 75).
3Ibn al-Qayyim, I`lam al-Muwaqqi`in (1:58).
4As quoted in `Abd al-Khaliq, Hujjiyya al-Sunna (p. 293).
6Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (1:101, 2:80).
7Al-Shafi`i, al-Risala (p. 84).
8Ibn al-Qayyim, I`lam al-Muwaqqi`in (1:57).
9Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (1:100).
10Ibn al-Qayyim, I`lam al-Muwaqqi`in (1:57).
11Al-Shafi`i, al-Risala (p. 83).12Al-Shafi`i, al-Risala (p. 78).