Importance of Sunnah & HadithsDecember 4, 2010
Hadith: The Integral part of Islam (Articles Series)
– Introduction to ‘Hadith: The Integral Part of Islam’
– Article 1: What are Hadeeth and Sunnah?
– Article 2: Is Quran the only form of Revelation to Mohammad (SAS)?
– Article 3: Role of Prophet Muhammad (SAS)
– Article 4: Importance of Sunnah, Hadith & Scholars
– Article 5: Referring to Messenger (SAS), on the issue of Hadiths
– Article 6: Reply to common arguments of Hadith Rejecters (Part1)
– Article 7: Reply to common arguments of Hadith Rejecters (Part2)
– Conclusion & References
– Rahil Ahmed Khan.
There are two main fundamental sources of knowledge in Islam – The Qur’an and the Hadeeth. Often people associate Islam with teachings and commandments of only Qur’an; this is true for both Muslims and non-Muslims. However this attitude of ignoring the Hadeeth or Sunnah has lead to many misunderstandings about the already misunderstood way of life, Islam. Best example being that of the perception of Islam promoting hatred. Such doubts and baseless allegations arise mostly due to partial study of Islamic literature.
The Qur’an is the directly revealed word of God (Allah) and the Sunnah gives the practical implications of Qur’an. The Sunnah shows how the commandments and teachings mentioned in Qur’an can be put to practice. Sunnah wipes of all the arguments regarding the practicability of Qur’an’s teachings. It leaves no room for something like, ‘It was easy for God to reveal but difficult for people to practice’. As also mentioned in Qur’an 17:94-95 :-
And what has kept people from believing when guidance has come to them, except that they said: “Has God sent a mortal man as the Messenger?”
Say: “If angels had been walking about on earth as their abode, We would surely have sent down upon them an angel from heaven as Messenger.”
Thus by sending a human as messenger for humans God (Allah) left no argument what so ever, and Allah knows the best. Thus the messenger (pbuh)’s life itself acted as a revelation and whatever he did, said or allowed is also from Allah as explained further in this article and mentioned by Allah in Qur’an Surah (chapter) 53, Ayah (verse) 3-4.
Hadeeth: The Arabic word Hadeeth basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’. However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salaah, zakaah), its meaning changed in Islam. From the time of the Prophet (pbuh), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term Hadeeth began to be used almost exclusively for reports that spoke of his actions and sayings.
Hadeeth and Sunnah: The term Hadeeth has become a synonym for the term Sunnah, though there is some difference in their meanings. Sunnah, according to Arabic lexicographers, means ‘a way; course; rule; manner of acting or conduct of life’. Sunnah, as a technical term in the Science of Hadeeth, refers to whatever statements, acts, approvals, physical or character descriptions that are attributable to the Prophet (pbuh) along with his biography before or after the beginning of his prophet hood. It is thus synonymous with the term Hadeeth. However, according to Usool al-Fiqh science (legal methodology), Sunnah refers to only the statements, acts and approvals of the Prophet (PBUH). It also refers to whatever is supported by evidence from the sharee‘ah (Islamic laws); the opposite of bid‘ah (innovation). And in the Legalistic science of Fiqh the term Sunnah refers to recommended acts. The Examples of different types of Sunnah as per Science of Hadith could be seen below,
Example of ‘Statement’
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (saww) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. God will not accept his fasting.)”
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127 (1903) (Bukhari)
Example for ‘Acts’
Malik b. Huwairith reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) raised his hands apposite his ears at the time of reciting the takbir (i. e. at the time of beginning the prayer) and then again raised his hands apposite the ears at the time of bowing and when he lifted his head after bowing he said: Allah listened to him who praised Him, and did like it (raised his hands up to the ears). (Muslim 4:762)
Example of ‘Approval’
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: I used to sell camels at al-Baqi for dinars and take dirhams for them, and sell for dirhams and take dinars for them. I would take these for these and give these for these. I went to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who was in the house of Hafsah. I said: Apostle of Allah , take it easy, I shall ask you (a question): I sell camels at al-Baqi’. I sell (them) for dinars and take dirhams and I sell for dirhams and take dinars. I take these for these, and give these for these. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) then said: There is no harm in taking them at the current rate so long as you do not separate leaving something to be settled. (22:3348) Suna Abu Dawud [Thus Prophet(PBUH) allowed money exchange with condition]
Example of character ‘Description’
Anas b. Malik reported: I served the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) for ten years, and, by Allah, he never said to me any harsh word, and he never said to me about a thing as to why I had done that and as to why I had not done that. (Muslim 30:5720)
IMPORTANCE OF HADITH
1. Revelation: The Prophet’s sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allah (One True God) and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance along with Qur’an. Allah in the Qur’an said concerning the Prophet (pbuh) –
He does not speak on his own, out of his own desire; That is but a Revelation that is revealed to him.
Therefore, the Hadeeth represents a personal source of divine guidance which Allah granted His Prophet (pbuh) which was similar in its nature to the Qur’an itself. The Prophet (pbuh) reiterated this point in one of his recorded statements, “Indeed, I was given the Qur’an and something similar to it along with it.” [Sunan Abu Dawud]
2. Tafseer: The preservation of the Qur’an was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Was that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording. However, Allah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’an to the Prophet (PBUH) himself. Allah states the following in the Qur’an regarding its interpretation:
(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee [Muhammad (pbuh)] the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought. [Qur’an 16:44]
Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, he or she must consider what the Prophet (PBUH) said or did regarding it. E.g. in the Qur’an, Allah instructs the believers to offer salaah (formal prayers) and pay zakaah (obligatory charity) in Chapter 2, verse 43. However, in order to obey these instructions correctly, one must study the methodology of the Prophet (PBUH) in this regard. Among his many clarifications concerning Salaah and zakaah, he instructed his followers saying “Pray as you saw me pray,”[ Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 1, no. 604.] and he specified that surplus wealth, unused for a year, should be given as zakaah.
3. Laws: One of the primary duties of the Prophet (pbuh) was to judge between people in their disputes. Since his judgments were all based on revelation, as stated earlier, they must be considered a primary source of principles by which judgments are carried out in an Islamic State. Allah also addressed this responsibility in the Qur’an saying:
O believers obey Allah, obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you dispute about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger. [Quran 4:59]
Thus, Hadeeths are essential for the smooth running of the law courts in an Islamic State.
4. Moral Ideal: Since the Prophet (pbuh) was guided by revelation in his personal life, his character and social interactions became prime examples of moral conduct for Muslims until the Last Day. Attention was drawn to this fact in the following verse of Qur’an:
Surely there is for all of you a good example (of conduct) in the way of Allah’s Messenger [Qur’an 33:21]
Consequently, the daily life of the Prophet (pbuh) as recorded in hadeeth represents an ideal code of good conduct.
5. Preservation of Islam: The science of narration, collection and criticism of hadeeth was unknown to the world prior to the era of the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, it was due in part to the absence of such a reliable science that the messages of the former prophets became lost or distorted in the generations that followed them. Therefore, it may be said that it is largely due to the science of hadeeth that the final message of Islam has been preserved in it is original purity for all times. This is alluded to in the Qur’anic verse:
“Indeed, I have revealed the Reminder, I will, indeed, protect it.” [Qur’an 15: 90]
DISASTER OF IGNORING THE SUNNAH
Sunnah is ignored mostly out of arrogance and ignorance. Arrogance is having knowledge about a Sunnah and then ignoring it. Similarly, ignorance is being unaware of an authentic Sunnah.
Arrogant usually have the argument that Qur’an is enough to follow Islam. I’ll like to remind them that Allah takes vows by Himself very few times in Quran (most of the vows are taken by His creation). And one such place where He takes vow by Himself is Chapter4, Verse 65:-
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee (Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]) judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction. [Qur’an 4:65]
According to me there are two main points to note here:-
1) “…they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee [Muhammad (pbuh)] judge in all disputes between them…”
2) “…and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.”
Thus Qur’an in very clear words state that our lives must be in accordance with the judging of Mohammed (pbuh) or else it leads to DISBELIEF. And once we know the Sunnah there must be no resistance on our part.
A single ayah of Qur’an is enough to make people realize the facts about the graveness of sidelining the Sunnah. However if you need more; here they are (after all Sunnah is the part of Islamic Faith, and no one has real faith unless he follows the Sunnah):-
– How many of our decisions might go against messenger if we don’t know/sideline/reject Sunnah-
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.(33:36 Quran)
-Ignoring Sunnah may lead to punishment here or in hereafter-
Just to give one example through a Hadith,
Salama b. Akwa’ reported on the authority of his father that a person ate in the presence of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) with his left hand, whereupon he said: Eat with your right hand. He said: I cannot do that, whereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: May you not be able to do that. It was vanity (excessive pride) that prevented him from doing it, and he could not raise it (the right hand) up to his mouth. (Book 023, Hadith 5011)(Bukhari)
-The very fact of sending messengers?-
We sent not a messenger, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah. If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah’s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful. (Quran 4:64)
-Take WHAT messenger assigns-
What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken away) from the people of the townships,- belongs to Allah,- to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; In order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear Allah. for Allah is strict in Punishment.(Qur’an 59:7)