Lesson No. 1
Legal Status of the Sunnah:
Why are we talking about this topic?
The reason in my opinion is that the vast majority of the Muslims in the west are unaware of this topic.
For example they will prepare a lecture, give their fiqhi opinion, they Aqeedah with out going back to the Sunnah and this is a phenomena, which is more common in the west than in the east. Especially in America and Canada. This is because of a moment here known as ‘Modernism’, which seeks to revive Islam to fit to the present time and in order for this to happen they have to reject if not all the Sunnah but a major part of it. So in order to achieve this goal they have this mentality that the Sunnah is not as important as the Qur’aan. None of the Muslims will actually stand up and say that ‘ I hardly believe in Sunnah, or say that ‘ I will not do what the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam commanded’ but they have ways around it. They will say, “Hadeeth were not truly preserved. Imam Bukhari died 200 years after the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam so we are not sure if the Hadeeth were really persevered”. Basically if someone says this they are rejecting the Sunnah. If a person quotes a Hadeeth and someone denies it saying ‘I am not really sure if the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said this’ it is as if he is saying that he does not care really what the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said. When we think about this we realize that if a person denies that the Sunnah has been preserved then that person is denying the Sunnah of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam.
When you quote the Hadeeth from the Bukhari, which has NO ambiguity, what so ever in it and it is as clear as the light of the day they will say “ well that’s your interpretation of the Hadeeth, there are difference of opinion in this matter. You have your proofs I am sure the other scholars have their own proofs” The fact that you quoted them the Hadeeth has no affect what so ever. This is the mentality of many Muslims especially in this part of the world for reasons that are historical and other factors.
In England the idea of Modernism is not as firmly as rooted in Muslims as it is in America. This is why this topic holds a great importance.
Sunnah linguistically means ‘a path, a way’. So Sunnah is a simple path put out in front of you. According the shariee point of view, Sunnah has many meanings depending on who uses it. For example we hear people say “ o, that’s not fard its Sunnah”, this is one meaning of the Sunnah depending on the context its used.
The scholars of Fiqh define Sunnah
to be “ That which is not obligatory to do but if a person does so he is rewarded” For example the two raka’ah after the Zuhr prayer are not Fard its Sunnah, by this meaning of the definition. This is most commonly known meaning of Sunnah here, when a person hears the word Sunnah he will automatically think of something that is less than the Fard.
The scholars of Hadeeth define Sunnah
to be: “ All of the statements, the Actions, the approvals and the characteristics of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam”. The Approvals of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam were those acts that were done in front of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam and he did not object to them. The characteristics of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam include his behavior, his looks his seerah etc. All these are Sunnah according to the scholars of Hadeeth.
The word Sunnah is used differently depending on the context. For example a scholar of Hadeeth would say that it was the Prophet’s Sunnah to pray in masjid five times a day but in reality we know that it is Fard upon a Muslim man to pray in Masjid Five times a day.
The Scholars of Aqeedah define Sunnah to be:
what Muslim believes. This is why when a person asks you are you Muslim you will reply in affirmative but when he asks what type of Muslim are you then you will reply that you are “Ahlus-Sunnah wal jama’ah”
The meaning of the word Sunnah here means that the person is following the beliefs of Prophet Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam and His companions May Allah be pleased with them all.
When Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal rahimullah wrote the book on Aqeedah he titled the book as ‘ Usool-us-Sunnah’ He wasn’t talking about the sciences of Hadeeth at all. He was talking about what a Muslim believes.
What does the word Hadeeth mean?
Hadeeth is the opposite of Qadeem. Hadeeth is something that is new. This is why the person’s statements are all called Hadeeth, those new statements that he hasn’t spoken before.
point of view is those statements that Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said.
What is the relationship between Sunnah and Hadeeth?
The Sunnah is the Abstract concept of Prophet’s sallahu Alayhi wasalam life. The Hadeeth is the reality meaning when we open of Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim we actually see the words in front of us in print. So the Sunnah is preserved in the Hadeeth. We cannot say that it is a da’ef Sunnah or a sahih Sunnah, Sunnah is what the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam did but we can say da’ef Hadeeth and Sahih Hadeeth. Hadeeth is the physical method in which the Sunnah is preserved. Hadeeth basically is what preserved the Sunnah of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam.
What is the status of the Sunnah in Islam?
The scholars have three very similar Opinions.
First opinion states: “ Sunnah is second to the Qur’aan in terms of Legal weight”
Meaning when a matter is presented and we have proofs from Qur’aan and the Sunnah we give preference to Qur’aan first and then the Hadeeth. We still take the Hadeeth but after giving preference to Qur’aan.
Second Opinion states: This is the opinion of Majority of the Scholars which is that the “ Qur’aan and Sunnah are equivalent in weight (in legal point of view)”
Not from a blessing point of view. Qur’aan is No doubt more blessed than the Sunnah meaning when we open of the Qur’aan we get blessings just for reading it. Qur’aan is the actual speech of Allah. We are talking about the actual legal application of Sunnah.
For example Allah says, “ do not do this” and the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam says “Do not do this”, are these two prohibitions equal in weight? This is what is implied here.
According to Majority of the Scholars they are equal in weight. The proofs for this will be discussed soon. So if the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam says, “this is halal and this is Haram it is just as Allah saying this is Halal and this is Haram” It is equivalent in weight
The Third Opinion
is that of some scholars who did not explicitly say this but hint towards it is that the Sunnah is of a stronger authority than the Qur’aan because the Qur’aan is more in need of the Sunnah than the Sunnah in need of the Qur’aan. In other words we cannot understand the Qur’aan with out the Sunnah. For example Allah says in Qur’aan that ‘ a thief male or female cut off his hands’ this is all that is said in Qur’aan. If this were taken literally then the thief regardless of what he stole, be that as trivial as a pen or as expensive as diamonds his hands will be cut off. From where will we cut the hands? When we go to the Sunnah there is a certain minimum amount mentioned, if the thief stole more than this then his hands are cut off. His right hand will be cut from the wrist. We find this information in the Sunnah.
No one actually said that Sunnah is more important than the Qur’aan and the correct opinion is that Qur’aan and Sunnah are equivalent in its legal weight.
Rest of the Lecture deals with proving this point and this is divided into Seven Categories.
If a person understands and memorizes these proofs there is no way that he would trivialize the Sunnah. Therefore it is imperative especially for those who are involved in Da’wah to understand these points and memorize them with their evidence they can easily defend the Sunnah. Realize that when we defend the Sunnah it is as if we are defending the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam. The sahabah were blessed that they could physically defend the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam as they were alive at his time but for us we have nothing left except that we defend the honor of Prophet sallahu alayhi wasalam by defending his Sunnah.
The First Proof of the importance of the Sunnah:
Is the fact that all the Prophets were infallible. Meaning that the Prophets Alayhimus-salam could not commit sin. They were all infallible when it came to the spreading of Message of Islam. No Prophet ever lied or made a mistake or was incorrect in spreading the message. Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Maida Verse 67 that “ O Messenger! Proclaim which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message. Allah will protect you from mankind. Verily, Allah guides not the people who disbelieve”.
In other words Allah subhana wa ta’ala is assuring the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam that ‘ you convey the message and I will protect you’. In Surah al Haqqah Ayaat 40-47 Allah subhana wa ta’ala says “ That this is Verily, the word of an honoured Messenger. It is not the word of a poet: little is that you believe! Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little is that you remember! This is the Revelation sent down from the Lord of the Alameen And if he (Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam) had forged a false saying concerning Us (Allah subhana wa ta’ala) We surely would have seized him by his right hand And then we certainly would have cut off his life artery And none of you would have withheld Us from him”.
This is to something ponder upon. Is there any possibility that the Prophet sallahu Alay wasalam could lie? Is there any remote chance that the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam could invent something and then attribute to Allah subhana wa ta’ala? It is inconceivable, Not possible. Then why did Allah subhana wa ta’ala reveal these ayaat? To show that what ever that came from Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam was indeed from Allah subhana wa ta’ala. The point is that when it comes to spread the religion of Allah all the Prophets are infallible. They cannot make the slightest mistake intentionally or unintentionally.
What about the sins?
As for the major sins none of the Prophets committed Major sins. As for the minor sins there is some ikhtilaaf. For example our father Adam Alayhi salam committed a sin by eating from the forbidden tree and scholars give other instances but this is for certainty that none of the Prophets committed Minor sins continuously. May be they might have fell into one mistake once but they repented from it like in the case of Adam Alayhi salam.
Therefore the Prophets have reached such a level that it has become imperative upon us to follow them. Why? Because everything that they say comes from Allah subhana wa ta’ala.
This is the actual intent of sending the Prophets. If Allah subhana wa ta’ala willed He could have sent a Book as a whole on the mountains and it would have been a miracle like the Qur’aan and the people would have followed it. Allah did not will it like that and never has it ever occurred. Allah has always chosen Prophets and Messengers to be sent to mankind. Allah has never communicated with mankind directly except through His Prophets and Messengers. So the Role of the Prophet is that he conveys the message and the people obey him.
Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah an-Nisa verse 64 “ We sent no Messenger, but to be obeyed by Allah’s Leave…”
Like wise in surah ash-Shu’ara whenever a new Prophet is mentioned the same message is repeated Verse 126 “ So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me”
This is the second proof that the reason for sending the Prophets was so that the mankind would obey them.
Third Proof: The Obedience of the Sahabah towards the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam.
When ever the sahabas used to obey the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam , Allah would praise them and the least Allah will not reprimand them for their obedience. And when the Sahabas disobeyed the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam then Allah subhana wa ta’ala sent verses reprimanding them for their act. When the sahabas disobeyed the Prophet in the battle of Uhud, Allah revealed verses that are recited to this day, that the reason that you lost was due to your own sins, that you disobeyed the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam. Like wise when the sahaba would obey the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam Allah would praise them “ Qaalu samina wa atha’na” “ they say we hear and we obey”. For example, when the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam used to stand up for prayer he used to pray with shoes sometimes. One day he took of his shoes and put them to his left hand side. All the sahabas imitated this act in the salah. When the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam finished the prayer he asked them the reason for their imitating, as he did not command them to remove the shoes. The sahabas responded by saying that “O Prophet of Allah we saw you take of the shoes and put them on the left hand side so we too took off our shoes and put them on the left hand side” The Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said that Jibreel alayhi salam came to me and informed me that there was some najas on my shoes so I could not pray in them and that is the reason I took o my shoes and put them on the left hand side.
We see that the sahabas followed the Prophet sallahu alayhi wasalam obediently while the Qur’aan was being revealed. The reason for saying is that is because if the sahabas were doing some mistake then the purpose of the Qur’aan was to guide them. Just like when they disobeyed the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam in the battle of Uhud Ayaat were revealed reprimanding them similarly when they obeyed the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam Allah did not reveal Ayaat to reprimand them thus showing His subhana wa ta’ala approval.