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    The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

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    These are notes which a sister on a another forum wrote up on Shaykh Yasir Qadhi's lecture: Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    Which can be found here www.audioislam.com under the category of Usul Al-Hadith.

    The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul, rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” - Dhul-Nun

    "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." - Victor Frankl

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    Re: The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    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?



    Linguistically 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.



    The Shariee 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.



    Second Proof: 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.
    The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul, rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” - Dhul-Nun

    "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." - Victor Frankl

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    Re: The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    PART TWO



    The Fourth Proof: The Verses from the Qur’aan that prove that we are supposed to follow the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam.

    These verses are numerous and since we cannot mention them all we will break them into seven categories. InshaAllah.

    a) Verses in Qur’aan that command the people to believe in the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam. Example “Say O mankind! Verily I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. La ilahah illa Hua. It is He Who gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, The Prophet who can neither read or write, who believes in Allah and His words and follow him so that you may be guided.” Surah Al-A’raf : 158



    Now the Question arises what is the belief in Allah and His Messenger? When we say Muhammad ur Rasoolullah, what is the implication of it?

    What does it mean to have emaan in the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam?

    It means what ever the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam says believe in it. Having in emaan in Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam that he is the Prophet of Allah necessitates that we follow up by believing in him. The more we obey the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam the more emaan we will have and vice versa.







    b) Verses in Qur’aan that describe the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam as the explainer of Qur’aan.


    The Prophet’s sallahu Alayhi wasalam main role was to explain the Qur’aan. Allah subhana wa ta’ala sent him as a messenger to explain the Qur’aan. If Allah subhana wa ta’ala sent him as an explainer of Qur’aan then it follows that we must believe in the explanation and follow it.



    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah an-Nahl verse 44 that “ With clear signs and Books (We sent the messengers). And We have also sent down unto you the Dhikr (Qur’aan) that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought”.

    So the primary goal of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam was to explain the Qur’aan.



    c) Verses in Qur’aan that show that Allah subhana wa ta’ala revealed something along with the Qur’aan.

    Allah Subhana wa ta’ala says in Qur’aan that Allah revealed something Along with the Qur’aan and it is mentioned as the ‘Hikmah’ (wisdom)

    The Fact that Allah subhana wa ta’ala revealed something Along with the Qur’aan that is the wisdom shows that there is something else besides the Qur’aan. If someone to say what is this thing? Then you will not be able to think of anything except the Sunnah.

    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Baqarah: 151 “ Similarly, we have sent among you a Messenger of your own, reciting to you Our Verses and purifying you, and teaching you the Book and the Hikmah and teaching you that which you used not to know”.


    Imam Shafiee says that ‘ al-Hikmatu bi as-Sunnah’ that the Hikmah referred in these verses is nothing else but the Sunnah of Rasoolullah sallahu Alayhi wasalam.



    d) Verses in Qur’aan that explicitly state that Obedience to the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam is Obligatory.
    These number at least fifty in Qur’aan

    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Imran: 132 “ And Obey Allah and the Messenger that you may obtain mercy.” There are numerous verses that show that obedience to the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam is obligatory. In fact in Surah an-Nisa verse 65 Allah subhana wa ta’ala says explicitly that “ But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission”. Allah has negated emaan from everyone until they make Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam judge in every single matter and after the judgment their hearts should be content with the decision. If the person is not content then Allah is saying that they do not have emaan. This is the Most Explicit verse because Allah is saying that if you do not make Muhammad sallahu alayhi wasalm the judge in every single matter of yours then you do not have emaan.


    e) Verses that say that Obeying Prophet Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam is infact a sign of loving Allah.



    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Imran: 31 “ Say (O Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam to mankind): If you (really) love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful”


    If you presume that you love Allah then prove it by following the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam. Once you do so Allah will love you. The ONLY way for Allah to love you is by following the Sunnah of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam and this proves with out a shadow of doubt that Sunnah is the integral part of Islam.

    f) Verses that show the status of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam and the etiquette that he must be shown.


    Allah says in Surah Hujuraat: 1 “O you who believe! Make not (a decision) in advance before Allah and His Messenger (sallahu Alayhi wasalam), and fear Allah, verily! Allah is all-Hearing, all-Knowing”

    Ibn Abbas said, “ You do not put your statement above their statement and you do not put their understanding above their understanding”. In other words what ever Allah subhana wa ta’ala and Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam said you must accept it without putting your own speech before that or your understanding before that.

    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in the next verse “ O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet (sallahu Alayhi wasalam), nor speak aloud to him in talk as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds should be rendered fruitless while you perceive not”. If we are not even allowed to raise our voices above the voice of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam then what do you think about raising our opinion above the saying of Prophet sallahu alayhi wasalam. When this verse was revealed some of the sahabah they would only start whispering to Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam, they would speak in the lowest of tone that other people would have difficulty hearing them.



    g) Miscellanous verses that cannot be put in any particular category.

    Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Baqarah : 119 “Verily, We have sent you (O Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam ) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and a Warner. And you will not be asked about the dwellers of the blazing fire.” And other ayaat, which shows the status of Prophet sallahu alayhi wasalam proving that obeying him, is obligatory in Islam.



    Fifth Proof: Hadeeth of the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam that mention the following of him (sallahu Alayhi wasalam). There are many Ahadeeth regarding this topic. We will divide this category into three parts.



    a) The fact that the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam himself mentions that he has been given something along with the Qur’aan.

    Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam says that “ Verily I have been given the Qur’aan and something like it” (Sunnan Abu Dawood)” this means that the Sunnah of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam is equivalent to the Qur’aan (the legal weight)



    b) It is obligatory to obey the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam.
    In an authentic Hadeeth the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said “ that it will soon happen that a person will be sitting and reclining on his couch (in a state of ease and content) and he wills ay follow the Qur’aan and what ever will come from the Qur’aan is sufficient for you” in the other words rejecting the Sunnah and this is exactly the situation we are living today. Then the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said in the same Hadeeth that “ everything that I make halal it is as if Allah has made Halal and everything that I make Haram it is as if Allah has made it Haram” (Abu dawood) This is a clear explicit proof that Qur’aan is equivalent to Sunnah in it legal weight.



    c) Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam commanded the sahabas to preserve his Sunnah and forbade them from lying about him.

    Why would the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam tell the sahabah to preserve the Sunnah? Except if it is equally as important as the Qur’aan. The prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam said “ May Allah brighten the face of the person who hears my Hadeeth, memorizes it and passes it on to someone else” and he sallahu Alayhi wasalam also said at the farewell pilgrimage that “ let the one who is present tell the one who is absent” and the Hadeeth which has the most number of chains out of all the hundreds of Ahadeeth that have been narrated from the Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalm is that “whoever lies about me will find his place in the fire of hell” it is one of the miracles that Allah made this Hadeeth the most narrated with the maximum number of chains to show the danger of lying upon the Prophet sallahu alayhi wasalam.



    Sixth proof: Common sense. Allah says in the Qur’aan that “ establish the prayer” did

    Allah mention the number of rakah you have to pray for Fajr, Dhuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib and Isha? Nothing of this is mentioned in the Qur’aan. So it is not possible to follow the commands in the Qur’aan except by following the Sunnah. Likewise Allah subhana wa ta’ala says “give zakah” where in the Qur’aan does Allah subhana wa ta’ala say that you have to give 2.5 % of the savings for zakah? Does Allah mention the number of times the zakah should be given? It is not mentioned anywhere except the details are in the Sunnah.



    There is a group that started about one hundred years ago in the Indian Subcontinent but the ideas of this group are spread out in the world. They call themselves ‘Pervezies’ after their founder. This group they deny the Sunnah and in fact they say that it is shirk to follow the Sunnah of Prophet sallahu Alayhi wasalam. These people they pray only three times a day. They stand up for prayer; read Surah al Fatihah (which is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’aan) do ruku and sujud and then salam. Why because the only thing that is mentioned in the Qur’aan are Ruku and sujood. This group has been declared to be outside the fold of Islam because when someone denies the Sunnah they exit the fold of Islam. In America they are more commonly known as the Submitters and their leader was Rashad khalifah. He declared himself to be the Prophet and he was killed by someone in his house.

    The point is that when we cannot even do the basics pillars of Islam without turning to the Sunnah then how about the more advanced things?



    Seventh Point: There is unanimous consensus amongst the Muslims that we have to follow the Prophet Muhammad sallahu Alayhi wasalam.





    These are seven points that we have mentioned the legal status of Sunnah.






    Two of the Main doubts that they bring that are

    Qur’aan is complete and that the Sunnah has not been preserved. Not just the submitters but also even the modernist of our times bring these doubts. The modernist will not say that we deny the Sunnah but they will create doubt if the Sunnah is really preserved or not and as I mentioned earlier that the end result is the same. Denying the Sunnah.



    To say that we don’t have to follow the Sunnah is KUFR but to say that the Sunnah has not been preserved will lead a person to kufr but is not kufr in and of itself.



    There are two ways to refute these points.

    * First method is the detailed explanation of these seven points.
    * Second: Is to explain that Qur’aan is sufficient in and of itself but the Qur’aan has told you to go to Sunnah. This is like a loop and this is the refutation of the first point that Qur’aan is complete in and of itself.



    The second doubt that they bring is if the Sunnah is preserved or not.

    There are two ways to refute this point:

    * First
    is long detailed drawn out study of sciences of Hadeeth. How was the Sunnah preserved? What did the tabaieen do what did the taba taba’een do? The history etc



    · Second way The fact that Sunnah is a part of our religion necessitates that it will be preserved because Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah al Hijr Verse 9 “ Verily, It is We who have sent down the Dhikr and surely, We will guard it”. Some scholars say that the Dhikr here is Qur’aan and Sunnah but even if it is Qur’aan the fact that we need Sunnah to understand the Qur’aan it implies that the Sunnah is preserved.


    End of Lecture Alhumdullilah
    The Legal Status of the Sunnah in Islam

    Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul, rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” - Dhul-Nun

    "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." - Victor Frankl


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