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The Probativeness of the Sunna

The Sunna as Evidence

(Hujjiyya al-Sunna)

Part 14

by Dr. G.F. Haddad ©

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4. Proofs From the Noble Sunna for the Probativeness of the Sunna

(ii) The second of the three types of proofs in the Sunna for the probativeness of the Sunna is his order to hold fast to his Sunna and his prohibition to follow or practice only what is found in the Qur'an, in abandonment of the Sunna and in pursuit of lusts and independent opinion.

As the proofs previously adduced show, the Prophet ﷺ does not command other than what Allah made required, and he does not prohibit other than what Allah forbade.

Al-ʿIrbad ibn Sariya said:

Allah's Messenger ﷺ prayed among us that day then turned to face us and admonished us intensely so that the eyes wept and the hearts trembled. A man said: "O Messenger of Allah! This resembles the admonishment of one who bids farewell, therefore what solemn promise do you require of us?" He replied: "I exhort you to beware of Allah -- Almighty and Exalted. I exhort you to hear and obey even if your leader is a black Ethiopian. Lo! Whoever of you lives shall live to see great divisions. You must follow my Sunna and the Sunna of the rightly-guided, upright caliphs after me. Hold on to it firmly, bite upon it with your very teeth! Beware of newfangled matters. Every newfangled matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance."1

The Prophet ﷺ heard voices coming from the datepalm groves and he enquired about them. They said: ʿThey are pollinating the trees." He said: "If they did not it would be fine." So they did not pollinate them that year, and the dates came out undersized. When they mentioned this to the Prophet ﷺ he said: "If it is something that pertains to your world then it is up to you, and if it is something that pertains to your Religion then it is up to me."2

Another version states that the Prophet ﷺ replied: "I am only a human being. If I tell you something that pertains to your Religion then follow it, but if I tell you something that pertains to your mundane matters, then I am only a human being."3

The Prophet ﷺ said: "O people! Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- has made pilgrimage obligatory upon you, therefore accomplish the pilgrimage." A man asked: "Every year, O Messenger of Allah?" The Prophet ﷺ kept silent. The man asked again, and then asked a third time. Whereupon the Prophet ﷺ said: "If I said yes it would become obligatory and you would not be able to fulfill it." Then he said: "Leave me alone as long as I leave you alone. Those before you perished for no other reason than asking too many questions and then differing with their Prophets. If I order you to do something then do it to the extent that you can, and if I forbid you something, then leave it."4

The Prophet ﷺ did something by following the easier dispensation (rukhsa), whereupon some people disdained to avail themselves of it. When news of this reached him he praised Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- and glorified Him then said: "What is the matter with certain people who disdain to avail themselves of something which I practice. By Allah! I am the most knowledgeable of Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- among them, and the most intense of them in fear of Him."5 Ibn Hajar said:

Ibn al-Tin related from al-Dawudi that the latter said: "Disdaining to take up whatever dispensation the Prophet ﷺ used is among the greatest sins because one sees himself as more Godwary than Allah's Messenger ﷺ." There is no doubt that one who believes this is a heretic. However, those that did it in the hadith gave as their reason, that the Prophet's past and future sins had been forgiven and so his case was different from theirs. Hence - according to their reasoning - those whose sins have not been forgiven are in need of following the stricter and harder way in order to be saved. So the Prophet ﷺ informed them that even if Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- had forgiven him, he was still the most Godwary and most intense of all of them in fear of Him. Therefore, whatever he does - whether in the way of dispensation or strictness - he does with the most Godwariness and intense fear of Allah. The immense favor of being forgiven in no way impelled him to leave earnest effort in his deeds. On the contrary, he showed gratitude.6

(iii) The third of the three types of proofs in the Sunna for the probativeness of the Sunna is his command to listen to his hadith, memorize it, and convey it to whoever did not hear it both of his contemporaries and posterity, promising them immense reward for it.

This command of the Prophet ﷺ to memorize and convey his hadith necessitates the probativeness of the Sunna. Al-Shafiʿi (ra) said:

The fact that Allah's Messenger ﷺ made it desirable for each individual to listen to his sayings, memorize them, and convey them, indicates that he did not command that there be conveyed from him other than what constitutes a proof against him to whom it is conveyed. For nothing is conveyed from him except [the stipulations of] what is lawful so that it be followed, what is illicit so that it be avoided, legal punishment, trade and transactions of goods, as well as faithful advice concerning the Religion and the present life.7

Similar evidence is provided by the Prophet's ﷺ prohibition from lying about him and that of concealing any knowledge that came from him, which would be tantamount to changing Allah's ruling, failing to inform people of it, and putting into practice other than that which Allah -- Almighty and Exalted -- revealed. If the hadith were not probative as we mentioned, there would have been no difference between lying and otherwise, or between concealment of what the Prophet ﷺ brought and lying about him. Nor would the latter two offences incur such heavy punishment as Hellfire.8

Abu Dharr (ra) said: "The Prophet ﷺ ordered us not to be overcome in commanding the good, forbidding the wrong, and teaching people the sunan."9 Al-Bayhaqi narrated it then added:

If following Allah's Messenger ﷺ in what he made a Sunna is obligatoryand knowing it is an enduring obligation, it is also true that following his Sunna is impossible until we know it, and knowing it is impossible until we accept truthful reports from him. Accepting such reports is therefore a precondition for followership. Hence we were commanded to teach them [the Sunan] and to invite people to them.10

The Prophet ﷺ said in his Farewell Pilgrimage: "Lo! Let every witness among you tell the one who is absent. Perhaps the one who is conveyed to shall understand better than the one who heard in the first place."11 Al-Bayhaqi said: "If it were not for the definite proof adduced by the Sunna, the Prophet ﷺ would not have said in his address, after teaching whoever saw him the matter of their Religion: ʿLet every witness tell the absent one etc.'"12

Similar to the above hadith is the mass-transmitted narration whereby the Prophet ﷺ said:

May Allah brighten the face [= grant prosperity and felicity] of that of His servants who hears my words, remembers [or preserves] them, guards them, and hands them on. Many a transmitter of knowledge does not himself understand it, and many may transmit knowledge to others who are more versed in it than they. The heart of a Muslim shall never harbor vindictive feelings against three things: sincerity in deeds made for Allah's sake; faithfulness to Muslims; and conformity to the community of believers. For truly their supplication encompasses the rest of the people.13

The Prophet ﷺ also said: "Whoever lies about me willfully, let him take now his seat in the Fire!"14 We related another version of this mass-narrated hadith.15 A third version states: "Truly if one lies about me it is not like lying about anyone else. Whoever lies about me wilfully, let him take now his seat in the Fire!"16

The Prophet ﷺ is also reported to say: "When innovations appear in my Community the person of knowledge has to show his knowledge. If he does not do so, then upon be Allah's curse, that of the angels, and that of all people. There shall be accepted from him neither ʿbarter' (sarf) nor ʿbalance' (ʿadal)."17 Another versions states: "When innovations appear and my Companions are insulted, the person of knowledge has to show his knowledge. If he does not do so, then upon be Allah's curse, that of the angels, and that of all people."18 Al-Walid ibn Muslim, Abu Bakr ibn ʿAyyash, and ʿAbbad ibn al-ʿAwamm said in explanation of "his knowledge": "It means the Sunna."19

Al-Suyuti said:

From the beginning of Prophethood until the death of the last of the Companions there are 120 years. The century of the Successors starts at the year 100 and extends to the year 170. Then that of the Successors' Successors from then to about 220. At that time innovations appeared en masse, the Muʿtazila let their tongues loose, the philosophers raised their heads, the people of knowledge were put on trial for not saying that the Qur'an was created, and the state of affairs changed radically. This has not changed until now, and witnesses to the truth of his saying ﷺ : "After that lying will spread."20


1See post entitled "The Meaning of Bidʿa" for the documentation of this hadith.

2Narrated from Anas, Thabit, and ʿA'isha with sound chains by Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (1:201 #22), and Abu Yaʿla in his Musnad (6:198, 6:237). Also narrated by Muslim with the wording: "You know best about your mundane matters." Also narrated from the words: "If it is something..." by al-Daraqutni in his Sunan (1:382), Also narrated with sound chains as part of a long hadith that arose in a different circumstance by Ahmad and Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih (1:214 #410),

3Narrated from Rafiʿ ibn Khadij by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (4:280) and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (1:202 #23) with a fair chain as stated by Shaykh Shuʿayb al-Arna'ut.

4Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim, al-Nasa'i, and Ahmad. Also narrated from the words "Leave me alone" to the end by Bukhari, al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), Ibn Majah, and Ahmad.

5Narrated from ʿA'isha by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Ahmad.

6Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 13:279).

7Al-Shafiʿi, al-Risala (p. 402-403).

8See the two hadiths documented in the post entitled [11] Probativeness of Sunna: "Whoever is asked about knowledge and conceals it shall come on the Day of Resurrection wearing a bridle of fire, and whoever says something about the Qur'an without knowledge, shall come on the Day of Resurrection wearing a bridle of fire." "Beware of narrating something about me except what you know for sure, for whoever deliberately lies about me, let him take from now his seat in the Fire; and whoever says something about the Qur'an on the basis of his own opinion, let him take from now his seat in the Fire."

9Narrated by al-Darimi in his Musnad and al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal (p. 258), Shuʿab al-Iman (6:18), and al-Iʿtiqad (p. 232) with a chain of sound narrators except for one unknown narrator as stated by al-Haythami in Majmaʿ al-Zawa'id (5:216).

10Al-Bayhaqi, al-Iʿtiqad (p. 232).

11Narrated from Abu Bakrah by Ibn Majah in his Sunan and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:182-184 #192-194) with three chains, two of them sound; also, as part of a longer narration, by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and al-Darimi. Also narrated from ʿUbada ibn al-Samit by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir with a chain of sound narrators as stated by al-Haythami in Majmaʿ al-Zawa'id (1:139). The second sentence is narrated without the first from ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿAmr by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:190 #200) with a very weak chain because of ʿAbd al-ʿAziz ibn ʿUbayd Allah.

12Al-Bayhaqi as cited by ʿAbd al-Khaliq in Hujjiyya al-Sunna (p. 320).

13A mass-transmitted (mutawatir) hadith beginning with the words naddar Allahu imri'an and narrated from the following Companions: 1. Zayd ibn Thabit by al-Tirmidhi (hasan in the printed eds.), Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Darimi, al-Shafiʿi in his Risala (#1102), al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (#4891-4892, #4925, #4994), Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:175 #184), al-Ramahurmuzi in al-Muhaddith al-Fasil (p. 64), Ibn Abi ʿAsim in al-Sunna (p. 45 #94), al-Khatib in Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith (p. 24) and al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih (2:71), al-Tahawi in Sharh Mushkil al-Athar (2:232= 4:282 #1600), and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (1:270 #67, 2:454 #680), all with sound chains as stated by al-Arna'ut, al-Albani, and al-Zuhayri; 2. Jubayr ibn Mutʿim by Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Darimi, al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (#1541-1544), Abu Yaʿla in his Musnad (1:347 #7413), al-Hakim (1:87=1990 ed. 1:162), al-Qudaʿi in Musnad al-Shihab (#1421), al-Tahawi in Sharh Mushkil al-Athar (2:232=4:282 #1601), al-Khatib in Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith (p. 18), and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:184-187 #195-197), all with weak chains because of Muhammad ibn Ishaq who is a concealer in his narrative chains (mudallis), cf. al-Haythami in Majmaʿ al-Zawa'id (1:139); 3. Anas by Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Tabarani in al-Awsat, and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:187-189 #198-199) with weak chains - as stated by al-Haythami (1:138-139) - the collected force of which raise the hadith to the grade of fair as stated by al-Zuhayri and his shaykh al-Albani; 4. Abu Saʿid al-Khudri by al-Bazzar with a chain of trustworthy narrators except for Saʿid ibn Bazigh who may be unknown as stated by al-Haythami in Majmaʿ al-Zawa'id (1:137); 5. Abu al-Darda' by al-Darimi and al-Tabarani in al-Kabir with a very weak chain because of ʿAbd al-Rahman ibn Zayd ("ibn Zubayd al-Yami" in al-Darimi) as stated by al-Haythami (1:137); 6. ʿUmayr ibn Qatada al-Laythi by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir with a chain containing one narrator whose state is unsure as mentioned by al-Haythami (1:138); 7. al-Nuʿman ibn Bashir by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir with a very weak chain because of ʿIsa al-Khabbat and by al-Hakim (1:88=1990 ed. 1:164) with a sound chain as confirmed by al-Dhahabi and as indicated by al-Haythami (1:138); 8. Jabir and 9. Saʿd ibn Abi Waqqas by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat with weak chains as stated by al-Haythami (1:138-139); 10. Wabisa by al-Bazzar with a chain of sound narrators according to al-Haythami (1:139); 11. Ibn Masʿud by al-Tirmidhi with two chains (hasan sahih), Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Abu Yaʿla in his Musnad (#5126, #5296), al-Shafiʿi in his (1:14), al-Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (1:233-234), al-Khatib in al-Kifaya (p. 29, p. 173) and Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith (p. 18-19, p. 26), al-Bayhaqi in Maʿrifa al-Sunan (1:15-16, 1:43) and Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (6:540), Abu Nuʿaym in Tarikh Asbahan (2:90) and al-Hilya (7:331) where he graded it sahih, al-Hakim in Maʿrifa ʿUlum al-Hadith (p. 322), Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:178-182 #188-191), Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (1:268 #66, 1271-272 #68-69) with three fair chains according to al-Arna'ut, one of them with the wording "Allah have mercy on someone who hears a hadith from me then conveys it..." Al-Kattani in Nazm al-Mutanathir adds the following Companion-narrators of this hadith: 12. Bashir ibn al-Nuʿman; 13. Muʿadh ibn Jabal; 14. Abu Qirfasa; 15. Rabiʿa ibn ʿUthman al-Taymi; 16. Ibn ʿUmar; 17. Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani; 18. ʿA'isha; 19. Abu Hurayra; 20. Shayba ibn ʿUthman. Al-Tirmidhi's version does not mention the last sentence, while al-Shafiʿi's adds "and guard them from delusion." On the variant wordings of this important hadith also see ʿAbd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda's al-Rasul al-Muʿallim (p. 55-56).

14A mass-narrated (mutawatir) hadith from many Companions in Bukhari and Muslim. One version narrated from Ibn ʿAbbas by Ahmad with three chains, al-Tirmidhi (hasan), and - with a sound chain - Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf begins with the words: "Avoid relating my words except what you know for sure."

15See above, n. 8.

16Narrated from al-Mughira ibn Shuʿba by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Ahmad. In Bukhari's version al-Mughira continnues and says: "I heard the Prophet ﷺ say: ʿWhoever is wailed over [at burial], shall be punished to the extent of the [people's] wailing over him.'"

17Narrated from Jabir ibn Zayd by al-Rabiʿal-Azdi in his Musnad (p. 365).

18Narrated from Jabir by al-Dani in al-Sunan al-Warida fi al-Fitan (3:632) and from Muʿadh ibn Jabal by al-Khallal in al-Sunna (3:495).


20Al-Suyuti in al-Mubarakfuri, Tuhfa al-Ahwadhi (6:482) and ʿAzim Abadi, ʿAwn al-Maʿbud (12:267). Cf. Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 6:7). The hadith al-Suyuti quoted is narrated from Ibn Masʿud by Bukhari and Muslim in the wording: "The best of people are my century, then those that follow them, then those that follow the latter. After that there will come people who will be eager to commit perjury while bearing witness." [Another sound version states: "After that lying will spread."].

GF Haddad

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