DEVINE REVELATION AND PRESERVATION OF SUNNAH
By Dr. A S Siddiqui
Quraan is the devine revelation from Allah and so is Sunnah of Prophet saw although it is not recited
as the Quraan is recited. This is why the Messenger of Allah saw said in reference to the Sunnah.
“I was given the Quraan and its equal with it”
The two main sources for an understanding
of the teachings of islam and for guidance in both relegious and worldly matters are the Holy Quraan and the words, actions
and the sanctions of the prophet saw which make up the Sunnah and are recorded in various collections of Hadith. The first
is of course the word of Allah about which the Holy Quraan itself says:
“The Falsehood cannot come at it
from before it or from behind it”
As to the Sunnah of the Prophet saw, Allah Almighty says that these are
the teachings which must be observed ; about them He has said in the Holy Quraan:
And whatsoever Messenger Mohammad
(saw) gives you take it and whatsoever he forbids you abstain from it. (Al-Hashr 59.7)
Best methods of tafsir,
is to explain the Quraan with the Quraan itself. What is mentioned in general terms in one place in the Quraan, is usually
explained in another place .When one does not find this easily , he should look to the Sunnah because its purpose is to explain
the Quraan and elaborate upon its meanings. If one can not find the tafsir in the Quraan or Sunnah he should refer to the
statements of the companions, who were the most knowledgeable of tafsir, for they witnessed the situations and incidents that
we did not witness. They also had the deepest comprehension, the most correct knowledge, and the most righteous works. Especially
the scholars and the leaders among them, such as the four rightly guided Khalifas and righteous Imams and Abdullah bin Masood
, May Allah be pleased with them all. Also among the scholars of the companions is the great scholar, the sea of knowledge,
Abdullah bin Abbas, the cousin of the Messenger saw and the explainer of the Quraan, as a result of the blessing of the supplication
of the messenger saw. Prophet saw invoked Allah for the benefit of Ibn Abbas:“ O Allah! Teach him Fiqh in the religion
( Fath Al-Bari 1.205 )
DUTIES OF THE PROPHET (SAW)
in the form of Hadith, helps to explain, clarify and present practical applications of the teachings of the Holy Quraan. It
is also complementary to the Holy Book. Without a study of Hadith a Muslim’s knowledge of his faith remains incomplete,
and without it neither the muslim nor the non-muslim can form a true picture of the Islamic faith and its fundamental spiritual,
moral, lagislative and cultural principles.
As all knowledgeable people are aware, the Quraan was not sent down
to muslims directly. Rather it was sent through the agency of the Prophet Mohammad saw, so that muslims might study and follow
it. Before it’s revelation a Messenger was raised up and the Quraan was sent down to him with the specific objective
that the people should read and interprete it in the light of the Prophets guidance and exposition and not according to their
own knowledge and understanding.
“And we have also sent down unto you ( O Mohammad saw ) the dhikr ( the
Quraan ), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them and that they may give thought.” (An-Nahl 16.44)
It is through the Quraan that mankind is informed both of the status and the duties of the prophet. It is stated repeatedly
that the prophet would not only recite the verses and make people remember them but also expound their meaning, unravel their
mystries and explain their wisdom. Sunnah is therefore explanation and addition to the Quraan.
conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from among themselves, reciting
unto them His Verses (the Qur'an), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and teaching them in the Book (the
Qur'an) and AlHikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet saw (i.e. his legal ways, statements, acts of worship,
etc.)] while before that they had been in manifest error.”(Al-Imran 3.164)
He it is Who sent among the unlettered
ones a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from among themselves, reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief
and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (this Qur'an, Islamic laws and Islamic jurisprudence) and Al-Hikmah (As-Sunnah:
legal ways, orders, acts of worship, etc. of Prophet Muhammad SAW). And verily, they had been before in mainfest error; (Al-Jumuah
In the verses above two things are distinctly and separately mentioned. Firstly ‘recitation’
of the revelations and secondly the ‘teachings’ of the book. The meaning of the first, recitation of the book,
is clear. But the second, the teaching of the book, evidently, therefore, signifies the explanation and interpretation of
the Quraanic verses and the exposition of their meaning, wisdom and commands.
In summery, on the basis of these
Quraanic statements, the Prophet is not only the Messenger of Allah but also the teacher and interpreter of the devine message
“Surely, we have sent down to you( O Mohammad saw) the Book ( the Quraan ) in truth that you might judge
between men by that which Allah has shown you, so be not a pleader for the treacherous” (An-Nisa 4.105)
we have not sent down the Book( the Quraan ) to you (O Mohammad saw), except that you may explain clearly unto them those
things in which they differ, and as a guidance and a mercy for a folk who believe.” (An-Nahl 16.64)
REVELATION OF THE SUNNAH
Sunnah of Prophet saw is part of revelation from Allah and therefore, it is mandatory
to have belief in the Sunnah. Sunnah is explanation and addition to Quraan.
Similarly (to complete my blessings on you)
we have sent among you a Messenger Mohammad saw of your own, reciting to you our verses (the Quran) and purifying you,and
teaching you the book (Quran) and the Hikmah (ie the sunnah, the islamic laws And fiqh – jurisprudence), and teaching
you that which you used not to know. (Al-Baqarah 2.151)
Sunnah is Revelation:
Nor does he speak of (his
own) desire. It is only a revelation revealed. (An-Najm 53.3-4)
Allah said (Nor does he speak of his own desire), asserting
that nothing the Prophet saw utters is of his own desire or wish. (It is a revelation revealed), means he only conveys to
the people what he was commanded to convey, in its entirety without any addition deduction.
The command to follow
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah Mohammad saw you have a good example to follow for him who hopes
for ( the meeting with) Allah and the last day,and remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzaab 33.21)
The above ayah is an
important principle, to follow the messenger of Allah in all his
words and deeds. Hence Allah commanded the people to
take the prophet saw as an example on the day of Al-Ahzab with regard to patience , guarding, striving and waiting for Allah
to provide the way out .( Ibn Kathir )
Refuting Sunnah amounts to Disbelief:
Say (O mohammad saw) Obey
Allah and the Messenger. But if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers. It is therefore, obligatory to
have belief in the Messengership of Mohammad saw. (Al-Imran 3.32)
Allah commands everyone “ obey Allah and
the Messenger”. But if they turn away, by defying the prophet saw, then Allah does not like the disbelievers. Thus testifying
that defiance of the messenger‘s command constitutes Kufr. Indeed, Allah does not like whosoever does this, even if
he claims that he loves Allah unless and until he follows the Prophet saw the Final Messenger from Allah. ( Tafsir Ibn Kathir).
Sunnah is an independent source to be obayed:
He who obeys the Messenger Mohammad (saw) has indeed obeyed
Allah. But he who turns away,then we have not sent you (O Mohammad saw) as a watcher over them. (An-Nisa 4.80.)
And whatsoever Messenger Mohammad (saw) gives you take it and whatsoever he forbids you abstain from it. (Al-Hashr 59.7)
Say ( O Mohammad saw to mankind ), If you (really) love Allah then follow me (ie accept Islamic monotheism, follow
the Quran and the Sunnah). Allah will love you and forgive all your sins. Allah is forgiving and most mersiful. (Al-Imran
Allah’s Love is attained by Following the Messenger saw:
This honourable Ayah judges against
those who claim to love Allah, yet do not follow the way of Mohammad saw. Such people are not true in their claim until they
follow the shariah of Mohammad saw and his religion in all his statements, actions and conditions.
It is recorded in
the Sahih that the Messenger saw said, “Whoever commits an act that does not conform with our matter ( Religion), then
it will be rejected of him.” This is why Allah said “If you really love Allah, then follow Mohammad saw, Allah
will love you.”
Meaning ,what you will earn is much more than what you sought in loving him, for Allah will
love you. Some people claimed that they love Allah so Allah tested them with this Ayah. ( Tafsir Ibn Kathir )
you who believe ! obey Allah and obey the Messenger Mohammad (saw), and those of you muslims who are in authority. And if
you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and the Messenger saw,if you believe in Allah and the last day.
It is not for a believer man or women, when Allah and his messenger have decreed a matter that they
should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and the Messenger he has indeed strayed into a plain
Is it correct to suppose that the Sunnah of Prophet or the way of the believers are historical narrations
written down after the lifetime of the companions, and therefore, unreliable? It is beyond doubt that the Quraan and its injunctions
and the command to believe in it and act according to it are valid and continue to be in force. As long as the path of following
the Quraan remains open, access to the believers way must also remain open. Likewise the means to obtain complete knowledge
of it must also remain unchanged. What other course is there to acquire detailed information regarding the practice of the
earliest muslims than to refer to the compilations of Traditions and the books on Tabaqat, Asma-al-Rijal, Sirah, Hadith and
Islamic history? To declare these sources of knowledge unreliable, false or fictitious would mean shutting the doors on practical
adherence to the Quraan.
Take Al- Muwatta , for example. It is the most authentic compilation of Ahadith. According
to Abu talib this volume of traditions was compiled in 120 to 130 A.H, ie 110 to 120 years after the death of the prophet.
Until about twelve to twenty three years before its compilation venerable companions who had the good fortune to see or hear
the Prophet in person were alive , while the number of Tabi-in ( Those who immediately followed the companions and profited
from their company ) who lived throughout the Islamic territories of the Hijaz, Syria, Egypt and Iraq and in Madinah itself,
where the book Al-Muwatta took shape, was very considerable indeed. The period of time between the generation of Tabi-in and
the prophet was the same as that between grandfather and grandchildren. People of that generation would have become acquainted
in the normal course of things with numerous details of the Prophets life, as all grandchildren are about the character, habits
and actions of their grandparents.
Consider the collection of Prophets sayings made by Imam Maalik, which were
made in the very place where the Prophet had spent the last ten years of his life. There was hardly any home that had not
come under his influence or did not have some association with
him. Imam malik read these out openly in that very town
and thousands of people came from all over the Islamic world and listened to him, many of them making copies , taking them
home and thereby transmitting their contents to tens of thousands of other men. Al-Muwatta too was read out publicly by him
to nearly a thousand people.
This process has been going on without interruption up to the present time and people
have been narrating it from their predecessors in the same way on an ever larger scale.Imam malik , moreover indicated the
names of some twentyfive of the Tabi-in and a few other Medinans as the sourses who had related the Traditions to him. These
collections have from time to time of their compilation, consistantly been recognized as correct and authentic. Today, we
find the entire collection of Al-Muwatta in the two sahihs.
To condemn the Al-Muwatta or the other standard compilations
of the traditions and their chain of transmitters as wholly inacurate is not only to sink to the depths of perdition but also
to indicate onc’s ignorance.
DEVINE PRESERVATION OF SUNNAH
It is established beyond doubt
from the Quraan that the Prophet is the leader, the guide, the ruller, the judge, the arbiter and the one to be obeyed. It
therefore, follows automatically that the wholehearted complience with his commands, instructions and pronouncements in respect
of religion, whether prescriptive or prohibitive, is an essential condition of faith.
The companions who had seen
him or heard him personally took exceptional pains to maintain and preserve the entire record of his sayings and deeds and
they handed it down to the succeding generations with utmost care and attention. In subsequent decades, the Almighty Allah
blessed the best, most meritorious members of the Ummah with good fortune. He granted them the means to compile, arrange,
examine, study, criticize, evaluate, learn, teach, translate, explain, preserve and propagate the enormous volume of the Sunnah
Indeed some fourteen hundred years have elapsed since the passing away of the blessed prophet, the
radiance of his sayings and good example is still with us to guide the seekers of truth – just as it was during the
earliest phase of Islam.
Today no objector or a habitual fault-finder would deny that such an arrangement by the
cherisher and sustainer of the world has consistently held good for the last fourteen centuries, and we firmly believe that
He will continue to do so in the time to come. Allah will not cease to produce men ready to serve His lofty design and purpose.
Since the Quraan is the Last Word of Allah and the Prophet Mohammad saw, His last
Messenger, it follows that no new scripture nor messenger is ever again to be sent down to mankind after the termination of
the glorious order of the Prophet Mohammad saw until the day of Final Judgement.
It is essential, therefore, that
this last book remains intact and unchanged at every stage from the time of its revelation until the end of this world. Further,
if the preservation of the Quraan is vitally important, then the continuance, transference and conservation of the prophet’s
verbal as well practical explanation of it is equelly necessary and remains intact, complete and unaltered as long as the
human race endured on earth.
(a) On the basis of the Quraan the prophet is the teacher and interpreter of the
(b) His authority when he explained and interpreted the Quraan remains unchanged.
(c) The continuance and
preservation of his interpretation of the Quraan is essential.
(d) Belief in the Quraan and the Sunnah is an essenttial
part of our faith.