Muslims were, early on, aware of the significance of the Sunnah and its authority. They, one generation after the other, were keen to preserve the Sunnah because they saw that as a part of the preserving of the last revelations man is ever to receive. Their efforts were unabated, and the remarkable job they did is unparalleled in the experience of any other religion or civilisation.
One of the main reasons behind this is the fact that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, clearly taught the Companions the importance of his Sunnah, its place in Islam and their role in saving it, teaching and conveying it to others around them and to those who would come after them. In so doing, he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, followed an effective methodology, which will be briefly outlined below:
1. He emphasised the importance of seeking knowledge and teaching it to others. He said: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim (male and female).” [Ibn Maajah] Also, he said: “Whosoever pursues a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will thereby make easy for him a path to Paradise. No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, without tranquility descending upon them, mercy enveloping them and angels surrounding them, and Allah making mention of them to those (angels) who are with Him.” [Muslim]
2. He always had a centre for teaching. Most of the time, it was the mosque.
3. He was soft in his dealings and always facilitated things and made them easy for others. He was merciful and humble and made himself readily available.
4. He never pushed people into anything. Instead, he gradually taught them and led them to change. He always motivated them to follow his example and be their best.
5. He would not continuously teach or work with them, but he would give them enough breaks to avoid overstressing or boring them.
6. He spoke plainly and clearly and he talked to people at their level of understanding and intellectual ability. Whenever appropriate, he spoke to people in their own dialect for the Arabs had different dialects.
7. He used the method of repetition. He would repeat whatever he wanted to stress for three times to insure that all heard him properly and clearly understood what he was saying.
8. When questioned, he would give more than what is expected as an answer and use the occasion to further clarify things for all, and teach about other things.
9. Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two ways, he chose the easier way, which had facility and mercy if there was nothing forbidden in that, and he kept away from the difficult and harsh ways.
10. He attached special attention to teaching the women and provided them special times for questions. He encouraged them to ask and learn.
11. He used to do his best in everything, and he perfected whatever he did, thus setting an example for others.
The era of the Companions and their Followers
The Companions did their utmost to convey Islam to the generations succeeding them in the best and most accurate way possible. They sincerely loved it, honestly lived according to it and faithfully preserved it and kept any impurity or irregularity out of it.
Their role in the preservation of Islam was one of utmost importance to its continuation, but they were highly prepared for it by the best teacher and trainer, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Thus the studying of this era, especially with respect to the history and authority of the Sunnah, is necessary to all Students of Knowledge.
For detailed reading there are many books on Hadiths and Sunnah:
Methodology of the Companions in Preserving the Sunnah
Before discussing the Companions’ ways of learning, practising, preserving and conveying of the Sunnah, it is worthwhile to shed some light on the main points one needs to understand about the Companions and their methodology:
1. The Companions were fully aware of the responsibility they shoulder after the death of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
2. The Companions are all trustworthy. They never doubted one another in the matters of this religion and the narration of Hadith.
3. The Companions have developed a methodology for scrutinising Hadiths and narrators, and by doing that have established the rules of ascertaining narrations for those who came after them.
4. The ability of different Companions to understand the Sunnah, memorise it and convey it varied from one Companion to another.
5. The Companions left Makkah and Madinah to many places around the Muslim world, at the time, for the purpose of delivering the message and teaching Islam to those who accepted it thus spreading the Sunnah throughout the land.
It is interesting to note that about 750 Companions narrated Hadiths, seven of whom narrated a high number of Hadiths, and about 20 narrated an average number, the rest narrated a small number.
The seven who narrated a large number of Hadiths are: Abu Hurairah who narrated 5,374 Hadiths, ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Umar narrated 2,630, Anas Ibn Maalik narrated 2,286, ‘Aa’ishah narrated 2,210, ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated 1,660, Jaabir Ibn ‘Abdullaah narrated 1,540, and Abu Sa’eed AI-Khudri narrated 1,100 Hadiths. They understood their role and were aware of the significance of their ability in narrating the Hadiths and did their best to deliver them diligently and accurately. Muslims of all times are indebted to them.
Article source: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/
The status of Sunnah
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 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 abovementioned 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
The era of the Companions and their followers
Most scholars group the main aspects of the methodology of the Companions in preserving the Sunnah into the following seven categories: prudence in narrating the Hadiths, verification and substantiation of the Hadiths before accepting them, critique, discussions and assessment of the narration, travelling for search and confirmation of the Hadiths, memorisation, practice and writing of the Hadiths. Some scholars refer to these aspects as ‘rulings’, ‘methods’ or ‘ways’ instead of methodology.
1- Prudence in narrating the Hadith:
Because of the fact that the Sunnah is a revelation and a sacred Source for this religion, the Companions were very careful when narrating what the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said or did. This vigilance was illustrated in:
lAvoiding narration unless they had to. ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Abi Layla said: “I have met with 120 Companions from the Ansaar (supporters of the Prophet), none of whom would narrate a Hadith or answer a question of fatwa unless he absolutely had no choice but to do it. One would have to go and ask another instead of him, so much so you would keep going from one to the other until you get back to the first one you asked.”
They understood that they were conveying the message brought to them by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and that people see it as such, thus everyone wanted the other to do that because they may know it better. This, however, should not be construed to mean they avoided spreading the message or teaching Islam to others. This prudence indicates they were fully aware of their role and its significance. They would rather let others, who may be more knowledgeable, do the job, but once they had to do, they did it in the best way possible.
lLimiting or discouraging the narration. This attitude was adopted for the purpose of protecting the Sunnah because it minimises the possibility of mistakes or forgetfulness that may otherwise cause people to doubt the Sunnah or mistrust the narrators. This trend was strongly encouraged by Caliphs Abu Bakr, radhiallah ‘anhu, and ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattaab, radhiallah ‘anhu, and was accepted and practiced by the Companions . This attitude is founded on the famous Hadith narrated by many Companions : “It is sufficient - for one to tumble into lying - to narrate or repeat everything he/she hears.” [Al-Bukhari and others]
lEncouraging narration from knowledgeable Companions. To strike a necessary balance between being cautious and insuring the transmission of the religion and the spreading of its teachings, the Companions who had a great deal of knowledge - like those recommended by the Prophet - never hesitated to narrate, write or teach the Sunnah. There are hundreds of narrations that encourage such practice so long as it is done in the right manner.
l Opting for verbatim narration. Guided with instruction in the Hadith, “May Allah bless the person who hears a statement from me and conveys it as he/she heard it,” the Companions did all that was humanly possible to keep their narration verbatim of what they actually heard from the Prophet. There are many reported incidents, which testify to this fact. Having such natural mastery of the Arabic – that was common among them - and the fact that they saw and heard the Prophet say, do and explain to them his teachings repeatedly, as well as their understanding of the need for verbatim transmission of narrations, all combined to make it easy for them not to cause changes as they narrate any Hadith.
2- Verification of the Hadith before accepting it
This is an important tool that the Companions established to safeguard the Sunnah against any foreign material interference and accidental or deliberate mistakes. This was a common practice amongst all of the Companions when receiving or narrating the Sunnah.
Imaam Ath-Thahabi mentioned this practice, in one of his great books, addressing the issue of Hadith memorisers. He said that it was one of the ways used by of the four Caliphs to protect the Hadith. For example, Abu Bakr was asked to rule in the case of a grandmother who came asking for her right in inheritance, he said that he knew of no amount due to her neither in the Book of Allah (i.e., Qur’an) nor the Sunnah of the Prophet. But when Al-Mugheerah told that he has witnessed the Prophet give one-sixth of the total amount of the inheritance, he asked him if he had witness to substantiate this claim. And when Muhammad Ibn Maslamah witnessed to the truth of that figure, Abu Bakr accepted it and gave the grandmother exactly that.
In the case of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattaab Ath-Thahabi mentioned many incidents that testify to the fact that he always ascertained the narration when it was necessary to do so. He narrated that Maalik Ibn Aws heard ‘Umar say to ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn ‘Awf, Talhah Ibn Az-Zubayr and Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqaas: “I ask by Allah, Who maintains the Heaven and Earth! Did you hear the Prophet say: ‘I am not to be inherited, whatever I leave is to be given in charity’? They said: ‘Yes, Allah is our witness.’” [Ahmad]
After narrating the above incidents among others, Imaam Ath-Thahabi repeatedly asserted that the verifications were not meant to doubt the truthfulness of any of the Companions rather they were necessary to establish a standard of care and respect for what the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said or did. They did that for themselves and to institute a tradition to be followed and honored by all who come after them.
In summary, it is essential to note the following about this method:
l The purpose was to protect the Sunnah, not to doubt one another. All of the Companions are trustworthy as clearly stated in the Qur’an, and doubting their trustworthiness can certainly damage one’s faith.
lThe purpose, also, was to establish a method and set an example to be followed by the rest of the Muslim nation. The truth, however, remains that Companions used to accept narration conveyed by any one of them. Their request of witnesses or that the narrator gives an oath that he is saying the truth was to establish the methodology, so that people would not take narrating a Hadith lightly. This fact may further be supported when considering that:
lSometimes they required a witness while at others they had the narrator give oath or reminded him of how serious it is to lie against the Prophet. This variation indicates that the purpose was actually to establish awareness of the significance of narrating the Hadith rather than set up a requirement of having more than one narrator as a condition for its authenticity.
lThere are a very large number of narrations, which indicate that in many cases the Companions had actually accepted Hadith from one narrator without seeking any substantiation or verification.
Amongst the believers there is no doubt about this way of life called Islam. It is a complete way of life. The Creator of the heavens and the earth has not left anything out of this glorious religion (way of life) of His. As the above verse states that this religion is perfect and complete. However, something new has come in fairly recent years from Satan, concerning the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. It has been suggested by him to the hearts of some of the Muslims that the Qur’an, as Glorious as it is, is sufficient as guidance for mankind. Meaning that the Sunnah is something that can be left off, or abandoned. Surely this is a disease that has no place in this wonderful religion (Islam).
In order to address this issue we must ask ourselves an important question. How do we worship Allah? Do we worship Him any way we want? Is there a correct methodology to worshipping Allah? Is it sufficient for us to say and do whatever it is that we feel is worship and then call it worship and it will be accepted as such? Let us consider the saying of Allah (which means): “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and make not vain your deeds!” [Qur’an; 47: 33]
You must know that the Qur’an and the Sunnah do not contradict one another, rather they complement one another. When Allah Says in this verse that the Messenger is to be obeyed, he is not only talking to that honourable group of Muslims that accompanied the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, during his lifetime. He is speaking to all of the Muslims that will come up until the Last Day.
Similarly, no one is ready to conceive the notion that when Allah, Says (what means): “O you who believe!” that the only ones who believe are the Muslims who were with the Prophet at that time and no one after them believed and no one else will ever believe! This would be grossly limiting the Qur’an.
Satan is crafty! He may then try to sway your thinking from another angle. He may say that the Qur’an is simple to understand and that it needs no explanation. For it is true that Allah Says (what means): “We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember” [Qur’an; 54: 32]
However, although the Qur’an is easy to understand, it does need to be explained so that it is properly understood. Allah Says (what means): “And when We have recited it to you [O Muhammad through Jibreel (Gabriel)] then follow you its (The Qur’an’s) recital. Then it is for Us (Allah) to make it clear (to you).” [Qur’an; 75: 18,19]
Surely if the Qur’an had to be made clear to the Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, then how much more so to you and I?
Allah Says (what means): “…And We have sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the Reminder, that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” [Qur’an; 16: 44] In this verse, Allah is exhorting the Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, not merely to recite the Qur’an but to explain it as well. Obviously, some explanation is required even to the most pious of men.
Furthermore, giving the needed details to carry out certain commands given in the Qur’an was another very vital role played by the Sunnah. For example, Allah commands us to establish the Prayers and to pay the obligatory charity (Zakaah), saying (what means): “And establish the prayers and give Zakaah (the obligatory charity) and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience].” [Qur’an; 2:43] Yet, nowhere in the Qur’an does Allah give the required details to implement His command, and it was the Sunnah that gave us all the details of the how, when, who of this command.
Additionally, Allah Says (what means): “…(And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [Qur’an; 4: 59]
Once again, if we try to leave off the importance of the Sunnah, then how do we implement this verse of the Qur’an? Allah orders us to refer our differences to Him. This means for us to seek our answers from the Qur’an. He also attaches the Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to that particular order when He stated for us to refer to Him. If we leave off the Sunnah then this part of the verse has no meaning. Allah Says (what means): “Whoever obeys the Messenger, has obeyed Allah.” [Qur’an; 4: 80]
And (what means): “Say (O Muhammad): If you (really) love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” [Qur’an; 3: 31]
How can the Muslims of today follow the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and not refer to his Sunnah? How can we say that we love Allah and not try to follow the methodology of His Prophet ?
Finally, we would like to conclude with a Hadith (narration) from the Messenger of Allah that was collected by Imaam Maalik in his book called Muwatta. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “I have left behind two matters. Those who hold fast to them will never go astray: The Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.”
The reason that many of the Muslims are going astray today is because they are not only leaving off the Sunnah but they are leaving the Qur’an as well! If you are not giving the Sunnah its rights, then you are not giving the Qur’an its rights.
Without the Sunnah then the second statement of your Shahaadah (testimony of faith) also has no meaning.
Article source: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/
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