The status of the Sunnah in Islam
November 07 2019 11:57 PM
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque during sunset over the historical Eminonu district in Istanbul.

The Sunnah cannot dispense with the Qur’an: Allah Almighty chose Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, as His Prophet and selected him to deliver His final message. The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in which Allah commanded him to obey everything that was ordered of him; that is, to convey and explain His message to the people.
Allah Almighty says what means: “…And We revealed to you the message [i.e., the Qur’an] that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them…” [Qur’an: 16:44]

The declaration mentioned in the verse contains two commands:
1. To propagate the speech of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an). This is to openly communicate the Qur’an to (all) mankind as Allah Almighty has revealed to the Prophet  that which means: “O Messenger! Announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord…” [Qur’an: 5:67]
‘Aa’ishah, radhiallah ‘anha, is reported to have said: “Whoever says that Muhammad concealed anything that he was commanded to communicate has forged a great lie against Allah.” Then she read the abovementioned verse. [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Another narration is found in the book of Imaam Muslim  which states: “If the Messenger of Allah had concealed something that he was commanded to communicate, he would have concealed the saying of the Almighty (which means): “And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favour: ‘Keep your wife and fear Allah,’ while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him.” [Qur’an: 33:37]

2. To clarify words, sentences or verses from the Qur’an that are not easily understood by most people. Some verses may be comprehensive or general in their meaning, and the Sunnah clarifies and defines them through the Prophet’s sayings, actions and confirmations.

The Necessity of the Sunnah to Understand the Qur’an:
Allah says what means: “[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands...” [Qur’an: 5:38] In the context of this verse, the thief and the hand are mentioned in a general manner. It is the Sunnah that explains the first of them and places a restriction on it by explaining the meaning of the word ‘thief’ to mean the one who steals something worth at least a quarter of a Deenaar (a unit golden currency) according to the saying of the Prophet: “There is no cutting of the hand unless the thing stolen is worth a quarter of a Deenaar or more.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
The latter (i.e., how the hand is to be amputated) is explained by the actions of the Prophet and his Companions. They would amputate the hand of the thief from the wrist, as is known from a saying of the Prophet.
There are many other verses of the Qur’an that cannot be completely understood except through the Sunnah, such as:
1.        Allah says what means: “And when you travel throughout the land, there is no blame upon you for shortening the prayer, [especially] if you fear that those who disbelieve may disrupt [or attack] you. Indeed, the disbelievers are ever to you a clear enemy.” [Qur’an: 4:101] It is obvious from this verse that fear is a pre-requisite for the shortening of prayers. However, some of the Companions  asked the Prophet: “Why do we shorten our prayers while we feel safe?” He replied: “It is an allowance from Allah, so accept it.” [Muslim]
2. Allah says what means: “Say: ‘Who has forbidden the adornment of [i.e., from] Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good [lawful] things of provision?...” [Qur’an: 7:32]
But the Sunnah has forbidden some ‘adornments’, and this is evident from the saying of the Prophet : “The wearing of silk and gold has been made unlawful for males and lawful for the females of my nation.’’ [At-Tirmithi]
3. Allah says what means: “Say: ‘I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure - or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah…” [Qur’an: 6:145]
But the Sunnah has forbidden many things not mentioned in the above mentioned verse; an example of this lies in the saying of the Prophet: “All predatory animals with tusks and every bird with claws are forbidden for consumption.” There are other narrations that have forbidden the consumption of such animals, such as the one where the Prophet  is reported to have said: “Allah and His Messenger have prohibited the consumption of domesticated donkeys, for they are filth.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
There are many other examples that show the necessity of the Sunnah within Islamic Law. There is no other way to understand the Qur’an correctly except with the interpretation of the Sunnah.

The Inadequacy of Philology to Understand the Qur’an:
The Companions of the Prophet  were the most knowledgeable of people in the Arabic language, yet, if they were to attempt to understand the verses quoted above by relying on the Arabic language alone, then they would have erred.
It is agreed upon by the majority of Muslim scholars, past and present, that the Qur’an should first and foremost be interpreted by the Qur’an itself, then by the Sunnah, then by the sayings of the Companions, and so on.
It is here that the cause of deviation of scholastic theologians (Ahl Al-Kalaam), both ancient and modern, becomes clear, as well as their opposition to our righteous predecessors  in doctrine and law.
In short, what is obligatory upon all Muslims is that they do not separate the Qur’an from the Sunnah; moreover, it is obligatory to follow both of them and to formulate laws using both. This is a safeguard for the people, so that they do not falter and regress, as explained by the Prophet: “I am leaving behind two things - you will never go astray if you hold fast to them: the Qur’an and my Sunnah.” [At-Tirmithi]
(Source: A lecture delivered by Shaykh Al-Albaani)

Celebrating the Prophet’s birthday is an innovation
By Shaykh Muhammad Saalih bin al-‘Uthaimeen

O people! Fear Allah the Almighty and know that the greatest favour He has ever conferred upon His servants is sending them Prophets as warners and bearers of glad tidings. Allah sent these prophets with scriptures so that He would judge between people in their disputes. The most effective and esteemed message of all of these was that of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, whom Allah sent to guide all of mankind – and to seal prophethood.
Allah sent Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, after a break in the series of His messengers, when people were in dire need of His guidance. It was through him that Allah guided people after they were astray; united them after their disunity; and sufficed them after they were needy. They thus became brothers and supported the religion of Allah, due to his grace and bounty. It was due to this that nations submitted to this religion and its adherents became a luminous series in the annals of history.
Due to the wholeheartedness of the early Muslims with regard to the comprehensive implementation of Allah’s laws in personal issues, financial transactions, and social and community affairs in accordance with the precepts laid down by this religions guide and leader, Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, it naturally followed that they would be victorious in all their undertakings.
However, when the Muslims deviated from the correct path, the order and stability which they enjoyed collapsed, turning the Muslim nation into groups of disputing factions, whose enemies held as insignificant.
This nation will never regain its past power and dignity, nor will it re-live its glorious history, until and unless its people return to their religion and practice it in word as well as in deed, in compliance with the methodology of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them.
As a consequence of the comprehensive implementation of the religion of Islam, no devotional act or religious ceremonies can be initiated into it unless it has a basis in the conduct of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Mankind have been commanded by Allah to do no more than the following: to worship Allah alone; to offer him sincere devotion; and to be true in faith. Thus, whoever attempts to worship Allah with any act that He has not prescribed will have that act rejected by Him. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “He who performs any deed which is not according to what we are upon (i.e., the Prophet and his companions) then it is rejected.” Such acts are held as innovations in the sight of the lawgiver and every innovation is misguidance.
Among the innovations introduced into this religion is the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, which is celebrated in the month of Rabee’ Al-Awwal. People gather in the mosques or stay within their homes on the twelfth night of that month and send salutations upon the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, with innovated phrases as well as reciting laudatory poems and prose which concern him. These poems and prose are excessively commendatory and exceed the limits that were defined by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Some people even spend their nights cooking certain types of food, to be served on this occasion. Thus, they uselessly spend their time and money in matters that are not prescribed either by Allah or His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, nor were practiced by the four rightly-guided caliphs after him, nor any other of the Muslims who were from the first three distinct generations, whose merit was attested to by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
If these innovations were of any benefit, then surely the pious early Muslims would have preceded us in them? If they were meritorious then surely Allah would never have deprived the early Muslims, including the rightly-guided caliphs of them? The fact of the matter is that this practice was first introduced by people who lived during the fourth Hijri century.
Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, said in his book Iqtidaa’ As-Siraat Al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalafatu Ashaabu Al-Jaheem [The Implication of the Straightforward Way Is to Contradict the Companions of the Fire]: “Some people, due to their imitation of what the Christians do on the claimed birth-date of ‘Eesaa (Jesus), peace be upon him, or because of their love of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, or out of their wish to glorify him, celebrate the Prophet’s birthday. This is despite the fact that there is controversy among the scholars regarding the exact date of his birth. The early Muslims did not practice this, although there was good reason to honour and express their love of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and no preventing factors existed. Thus, if the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday was something meritorious, they would have had a better right to precede us in this, as their love and esteem of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, was far greater than ours. Also, they were far keener to perform good deeds in general than we were.
Loving and esteeming the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, was thus represented by the early Muslims in following his methodology, obeying him, applying his Sunnah inwardly and outwardly, propagating his mission and striving in this cause with their hearts, bodies and tongues.
Most of those who instigate religious innovations are heedless when it comes to the application of the well-known principles that were brought by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. They are like those who ornament the Qur’an but do not recite it, or recite it but do not follow its teachings.”
O Muslims! The innovation of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, which is done on the twelfth night of the month of Rabee’ Al-Awwal, has no historical basis. In fact, historians have differed greatly on the actual birth date of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Some have said that it was on the second of  Rabee’ Al-Awwal , others said the eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, seventeenth or twenty-second; thus making up seven different opinions. None of these opinions have any evidence which would make them take priority over others.
Moreover, the innovation of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has no religious basis. Neither the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, nor any of his Companions or the followers did so. In fact, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “You must hold fast to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs – cling to it stubbornly. Beware of innovations, for every innovation is misguidance.” (Abu Daawood, Tirmidhi).
Religious celebrations, festivals and other such occasions which glorify Allah and His Messenger are acts of worship. Only that which Allah has prescribed among these is considered to be from the pure Shari’ah, or Islamic law. None of these events can be taken as a means of devotion to Allah except those that have been sanctioned by Allah and His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
The Shari’ah already contains the sufficient means with which a believer can glorify the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and show his love to him. So fear Allah, O servants of Allah, and limit yourselves to Allah’s obligations and the Prophet’s Sunnah, to the exclusion of innovations.
Allah the Exalted and Almighty said that which translates as: “And verily this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This; He has ordained for you that you may become the pious.” (Al An’aam: 153).

The two most authentic books of Hadith
Of all the works of Hadith, Saheeh Al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim are regarded as the most authentic and authoritative books, after Al-Qur’an. Indeed the very word “Saheeh” means “authentic”.
Saheeh Al-Bukhari was compiled by Imaam (leader) of Hadith, Mohammad Ibn Ismaa’eel Al-Bukhari, born 194H in Bukhara, central Asia. He travelled at an early age seeking knowledge to Hijaaz (Makkah and Madinah), Ancient Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc. He devoted more than 16 years of his life to the actual compilation of this work. He learnt from more than 1,000 scholars.
It is said that Imaam Al-Bukhari collected over 300,000 Hadiths and he himself memorised 200,000 of which some were unreliable. He wrote many books especially on the bibliography of Hadith narrators and other books on various issues of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). However, his book ‘Saheeh Al-Bukhari’, stands out for being the most authentic book of Hadith. It was also the first book to contain only authentic Hadiths, while previous books contained authentic and non-authentic Hadiths, as well as sayings of the companions  and others. Imaam Al-Bukhari  died in his hometown, Bukhara in the territory of Khurasaan (West Turkistan), in the year 256H.
He grouped the traditions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, under various headings dealing with specific points of Islamic jurisprudence. In his time, the schools of law had been generally established and his objective was to catalogue the traditions he regarded as authentic in relation to their respective topics of jurisprudence.
Before he recorded each Hadith, he would perform ablution and offer a two-Rak’ah prayer and supplicate to Allah. Many religious scholars of Islam tried to find fault in the great remarkable collection, but without success. It is for this reason, they unanimously agreed that the most authentic book after the Book of Allah is Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
Some facts about Saheeh Al-Bukhari:
1. It contains 7,275 Hadiths, which he chose from the large number of Hadiths that he  had collected.
2. The number of complete unrepeated Hadiths is 2,230.
3. All the Hadiths mentioned are authentic.
4. The conditions for accepting a Hadith were very stringent. Such as:
a) The chain of narrators must be linked, i.e. every narrator must have met his predecessor, (the man of whom he heard the Hadith from, up to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.)
b) For it to be enclosed in the Saheeh, the narrators must be of the highest caliber regarding their piety, manners, memory, integrity, etc.
5. The book is not a mere book of narrations; it is essentially a course of study on Hadith, its derivatives, inductions and research.
6. Each one of its 97 chapters is headed by a relevant verse from the Quran that complements the meaning of the Hadiths quoted.
7. Finally, much more could be said about this monumental work, however, it is enough to say that many people have reached fame and achieved the highest qualifications by studying the book, researching it and commenting on it.
Saheeh Muslim is the second most authentic book of Hadith after Saheeh Al-Bukhari, compiled by Imaam Muslim ibn Al-Hajaaj Al-Nisapuri . Born in 202H and died in 261 H. He travelled widely to gather his collection of Hadith to Iraq Hijaaz, Ancient Syria, and Egypt. He learnt from many scholars, most of which were Al-Bukhari’s teachers. He also learnt from the Imaam Al-Bukhari himself  and became his most loyal student. Like Imaam Al-Bukhari, Allah have mercy upon him, he, Allah have mercy upon him, wrote many books on the sciences of Hadith.
He, Allah have mercy upon him, sought not so much to complement the issues at stake in the fiqh, the lslamic jurisprudence, but rather to produce a collection of sound traditions, an authentic record, on which future studies of Hadith could be based.

Some facts about Saheeh Muslim:
1. The book contains 4,000 non-repeated Hadiths and 12,000 repeated ones.
2. Many narrations are mentioned in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, but with different chain of narrators.
3. In every chapter more than one Hadith with the same meaning but with different chains and text are listed. The first Hadith in each chapter is the strongest, followed by weaker narrations in order to strengthen weaker narrations.
4. Excellent classification.
5. The book is forwarded by a detailed introduction about the basis of the sciences of Hadith.
Saheeh Al-Bukhari is preferred over Saheeh Muslim based on the authenticity of the Hadiths. Imaam Al-Bukhari was stricter in selecting Hadiths (chains) than Imaam Muslim . Besides considering all the conditions of a Saheeh Hadith, Imaam Al-Bukhari  stipulated a further condition that a narrator should meet the person from whom he is narrating the Hadith.
Imaam Muslim  however, did not stipulate the evidence of meeting the narrator from whom he is narrating, but according to him, it is sufficient to accept the Hadith of a narrator if he lives in the same period and there was the possibility of meeting the narrator from whom he is reporting the Hadith. So, the condition of Imaam Muslim was less strict than the condition of Imaam Al-Bukhari. 
While Bukhari’s compilation is considered the more reliable of the two, Muslim’s arrangement of his material has been recognised as superior, and rightly so. While Al-Bukhari  made the traditions in his collection testify to his own schedule of various points of law, Muslim  left them to speak for themselves.

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