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The Probativeness of the Sunna

The Sunna as Evidence

(Hujjiyya al-Sunna)

Parts 4 - 5

by Dr. G.F. Haddad ©

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IV. Allah's Approval of the Companions' Conformity With the Sunna

It is established that the Prophet ﷺ used to exhort his Community to hold on to his Sunna and warn them not to contravene it. It is further established that his Companions used to obey him faithfully in this and follow his sayings, deeds and tacit confirmations or disapprovals, considering that anything that issued from him in his capacity of prophet constitutes a proof to be followed, except* in the following cases:

- In purely worldly matters, in which they felt free but not bound to consult him.

- In revealed matters foreign to their understandings, in which they sought explanations but which they held unquestionably true.

- In some acts of his considered restricted to him exclusively.

- In some commands of his which he did not himself enact, on the interpretive basis that such commands implied mere permissibility, not obligation.

In all the above exceptions the Companions may have refrained from following the Prophet's ﷺ order but not because they doubted that he must be followe nor because they doubted that disobeying him is forbidden.

We also know that the Companions were more capable than us in juridical striving (ijtihad) and the inference of rulings from the Book. Yet they did not try to understand the Book autonomously and on their own in everyday situations. Rather, they consulted with the Prophet ﷺ as long as they were able to ask him. If he was absent when a Companions was involved in some important incident, the latter searched the Book first, then the Sunna, then, if he found nothing, he exerted his personal understanding. Later he went over his decision with the Prophet ﷺ and the latter would either confirm him or rectify his error. So these rulings issued from the Prophet ﷺ and the Companions, and Allah approved of them without telling them that they were wrong, as revelation was going on at that time. If their practice were wrong, Allah would have certainly corrected it. Not only did Allah not correct them but on the contrary He ordered them to follow and obey the Prophet ﷺ , cautioning them against disobeying him and contravening him.

Following are some of the proofs for the points we have just listed, namely:

a) The Companions' firm adherence to the Sunna.

b) The fact they considered the Sunna a proof from his very lifetime.

c) Their avoidance of trying to understanding the Book independently as long as they could consult with him first or later.

d) Their discarding of their own juridical conclusions reached in his absence if, after they asked him about them, he differed with them.

- The Prophet ﷺ began to wear a gold ring, whereupon people began to wear gold rings. Then he discarded it saying: "I shall never wear it again." So the people discarded their gold rings.

- As the Prophet ﷺ was praying with his Companions he suddenly removed his sandals and placed them on his left. When the people saw this they all took off their sandals. After he finished praying he asked: "What made you take off your sandals?" They said: "We saw you take off yours." He replied: "Gibril told me that there was dirt on them."

- The Prophet ﷺ had prayed two rak'as of the noon prayer in his mosque among the Muslims, when he was ordered to face the holy Sanctuary. Whereupon he turned around, and the Muslims turned with him.1

- Ibn Mas'ud came to the mosque on the day of Jum'a as the Prophet ﷺ was delivering his sermon and heard him say: "Sit, all of you!" Whereupon Ibn Mas'ud sat down at the door of the mosque. Seeing him the Prophet ﷺ said: "Come over, 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud!"2

- 'Abd Allah ibn Rawaha heard the Prophet ﷺ say: "Sit!" Whereupon he sat in the middle of the road. The Prophet ﷺ passed by him and said: "What are you doing?" He replied: "I heard you say: 'Sit' so I sat." The Prophet ﷺ said: "May Allah increase you in obedience."3

- A woman came to the Prophet ﷺ and said: "O Messenger of Allah! The men have taken for themselves everything that you say. Set one day in which you will devote yourself to us so that we may come and hear you." He said: "Gather on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a place." They gathered and he came to them, teaching them what Allah had taught him. Then he said: "There is not one woman among you that sends before her [in the hereafter] three of her children except they shall block her from the Fire." One woman said: "Or two? Or two? Or two?" The Prophet ﷺ said: "Or two. Or two. Or two."4

- Mu'adh ibn Jabal said: "When Allah's Messenger ﷺ sent me to Yemen he said: 'How will you pass judgment if a judgment is asked of you?' I replied: 'I shall pass judgment on the basis of Allah's Book.' He said: 'What if it is not in Allah's Book?' I replied: 'Then on the basis of the Sunna of Allah's Messenger ﷺ .' He said: 'What if it is not in the Sunna of Allah's Messenger?' I replied: 'Then I make a personal effort and I leave no stone unturned.' Whereupon the Prophet ﷺ slapped my chest and said: 'Praise to Allah Who has graced the messenger of Allah's Messenger with what pleases Allah's Messenger.'"5

- The Prophet ﷺ called Abu Sa'id ibn al-Mu'alla al-Ansari as the latter was praying. Abu Sa'id turned his face to him but did not answer him. After Abu Sa'id finished praying the Prophet ﷺ asked him: "What prevented you from answering me? Did Allah not say {O believers! Obey Allah and the Messenger when he calls you to what quickens you} (8:24)?"6

- The Prophet ﷺ said: "Do not fast [two days] in succession without breaking your fast [in between]." They said: "But you do." He replied: "I am not like you. During the night my Lord feeds me and gives me drink." Yet they did not discontinue it. So the Prophet ﷺ did not break his fast with them for two days - or two nights - then they saw the new moon. He said to them: "Had it come later, I would have made you fast longer," as if he was punishing them.7

- A man kissed his wife while fasting and experienced great pleasure from it, so he sent out his wife to ask about it. She went to see Umm Salama who said to her: "The Prophet ﷺ kisses us even when he is fasting." She went back and told her husband, whereupon he said: "The Prophet is not like us, Allah makes licit for His Messenger whatever He wishes." The woman went back to see Umm Salama and found the Prophet ﷺ with her. The Prophet ﷺ said: "What does this woman want?" Umm Salama told him. He said: "Why do you not tell her that I kiss even when I am fasting?" She said: "I did, then she went back to her husband and he said: 'The Prophet is not like us, Allah makes licit for His Messenger whatever He wishes.'" Hearing this, the Prophet ﷺ became angry and said: "Lo! I am the most Godwary among you, and the most aware and knowledgeable of the limits set by Allah."8

- 'Ali said: "I used to pass pre-seminal fluid frequently but was ashamed to ask the Prophet ﷺ about it because of his daughter's position [as 'Ali's wife]. So I told al-Miqdad to ask him. The Prophet ﷺ said: "Let him wash his organ and make ablution."9

- Ibn 'Umar narrated: "I divorced my wife while she was in her menses. 'Umar mentioned this to the Prophet ﷺ, whereupon the latter became upset. Then he said: "Let him take her back and keep her until after her menses pass, then a second menstrual period, then, after the latter is over, if he still desires to divorce her let him divorce her while she is in her state of purity and before touching her. That is the waiting-count ('idda) which Allah Almighty has commanded."10

- Ya'la ibn Umayya said: "I said to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab: '[Concerning the verse] {It is no sin for you to curtail worship if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you} (4:101). What if the people are safe?' He replied: 'I wonder just as you do.' So I asked the Prophet ﷺ and he said: 'It is a charity given you by Allah, so accept His charity.'"11 Al-Suyuti said in commentary of this hadith: "The scholars said that the Companions had understood the verse to mean that, short of a situation in which there is fear, the command to shorten the prayer is reversed, until the Prophet ﷺ told them that the dispensation held in both cases."12

- The Prophet ﷺ gave instructions to a party of Companions on the Day of [the battle of] the Clans: "Let no-one pray 'asr - another narration states zuhr - before you reach the Banu Qurayza." On the way, one or more of them remarked that 'asr had entered. Some said: "We shall not pray until we reach it."13 Others said: "On the contrary, we shall pray,14 because that was not what was meant [i.e. to delay prayer beyond its time]." Later on the incident was mentioned to the Prophet ﷺ and he did not take to task either of the two groups.15

Imam al-Nawawi said in commenting on this hadith that he considers that every mujtahid can be correct. He said:

In this hadith there is evidence supporting those who act upon the understanding and according to analogy while attending to the actual meaning of words, and also to those who stick to the external letter. There is also evidence that the mujtahid must not be taken to task in what he did through his ijtihad if he did his best. And it can be inferred from this that every mujtahid is correct (wa qad yustadallu bihi 'ala an kulla mujtahidin musib). Those who take the opposite view can say that the Prophet ﷺ did not manifest which of the two sides was correct, but he did not take them to task. There is no disagreement that the mujtahid is not taken to task even if he was mistaken, as long as he did his utmost in striving. And Allah knows best.16

Ibn Hajar reiterates this position in his commentary on the same hadith in al-Bukhari:

In this hadith there is evidence that each one of the two mujtahids that differ in a matter of the branches, is correct" (wa fihi anna kulla mukhtalifayni fi al-furu' min al-mujtahidina musib).17

There is a superficial discrepancy concerning what prayer was actually mentioned, since it is related in al-Bukhari as 'asr and in Muslim as zuhr. Both reports are authentic and confirmed by other sound chains. Al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajar said this discrepancy is resolved by the possibility that the travellers left in two groups, to each of whom was given a different order. The first group had not prayed zuhr yet; while the second had prayed zuhr, but not 'asr. Or, it is solved by the possibility that one single group left together, containing those who had already prayed zuhr and those who had not. The import of the hadith was to make haste and not dismount to pray nor anything else.

- Abu Sa'id al-Khudri narrated that two men went on a trip and decided to pray but found no water. They made dry ablution (tayammum) then prayed. Thereafter, they found water and the time of prayer had not yet elapsed. One of them repeated his prayer, while the second one did not. The Prophet ﷺ said to the latter: "You have followed the Sunna faithfully, and your prayer is complete." He said to the one who repeated his prayer: "You have twice the reward."18

- A group of the Companions was travelling, 'Umar and Mu'adh among them. The latter two woke up in need of major ablution (ghusl), but found no water. Each of them exercised his own juridical reasoning. Mu'adh made an analogy between purity by means of sand and that by means of water, whereupon he rubbed sand all over himself and prayed. 'Umar did not consider it correct and he postponed his prayer. When they returned to the Prophet ﷺ he showed them that Mu'adh's reasoning was incorrect as he had applied when a legal text was available to that effect, namely Allah's saying {Then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands therewith} (4:43). The Prophet ﷺ said to Mu'adh: "It would have been enough for you to do that." Then he turned to 'Umar and explained to him that just as dry ablution eliminates the state of lesser impurity (al-hadath al-asghar), it also eliminated that of major impurity (al-hadath al-akbar). He also told him that the "touching of women" mentioned in the same verse - and because of which tayammum becomes permissible - does not refer to the preliminaries of intercourse but to intercourse itself.

Next post below: 4. Proofs From The Noble Qur'an For the Probativeness of the Sunna


1Narrated by Ibn Sa'd in his Tabaqat (1:241-242), Ibn Abi Dawud, and al-Bazzar as cited by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 1:503).

2Narrated from Jabir by Abu Dawud with a sound chain in his Sunan (#1091) and Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:867 #1633); from Ibn 'Abbas by Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih (3:141); and mursal from 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah by 'Abd al-Razzaq in al-Musannaf (3:211) and Haythami in Zawa'id Musnad al-Harith (2:923).

3Narrated by 'Abd al-Razzaq in al-Musannaf (3:211), Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:867 #1633), and al-Muttaqi al-Hindi in Kanz al-'Ummal (#37170-37171).

4Narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri by Bukhari and Muslim.

5This is an example of a hadith that is not established from the perspective of isnad but which is considered nevertheless authentic and relied upon. Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi who said that a link of its chain was missing, Ahmad, al-Darimi, Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf (4:543, 6:13), al-Tayalisi in his Musnad (p. 76), 'Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad (p. 72), al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (20:170), Ibn Sa'd in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (2:347-348, 3:584), al-Khatib in his Tarikh (13:77) and al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih (1:188-189), al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (10:114), Ma'rifa al-Sunan (1:173-174 #291) and al-Madkhal (p. 207), Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:844-846 #1592-1594=2:56), al-Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (10:116), Ibn 'Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq, and others. Al-Bukhari in al-Tarikh al-Kabir (2:277) stated that it has no sound chain, as reiterated by Ibn al-Jawzi in al-'Ilal al-Mutanahiya (2:758-759 #1264) and Ibn Hazm in al-Ihkam (7:417=6:36). However, because it is unanimously considered authentic by the jurists, it is considered sahih as a hadith as indicated by Abu Bakr al-Razi in Ahkam al-Qur'an (3:179), Ibn al-'Arabi in 'Arida al-Ahwadhi, Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (1:4), Ibn al-Qayyim in I'lam al-Muwaqi'in (1:202-203), Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (4:182), al-Tahanawi in Muqaddima I'la' al-Sunan (2/2:57-58), al-Arna'ut in al-Tahawi's Sharh Mushkil al-Athar (9:213-214 #3584), al-Zayn in Musnad Ahmad (16:164 #21906), and the author of Nibras al-'Uqul (1:82-83) as cited in Hujjiyya al-Sunna (p. 287 n. 6). Al-Arna'ut cites other hadiths of similar type.

6Narrated by Bukhari and Ahmad. Also narrated from Ubay ibn Ka'b instead of Abu Sa'id by al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), al-Nasa'i in al-Sunan al-Kubra, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and others. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr cites both reports in Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:864-865 #1630-1631).

7Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and al-Darimi.

8Narrated mursal from 'Ata' ibn Yasar by Malik in his Muwatta'.

9Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

10Narrated in the Nine Books.

11Narrated in the Nine Books except Bukhari and Malik.

12Al-Suyuti, Miftah al-Janna (p. 89 #165). Cf al-Baghawi, Sharh al-Sunna (4:168).

13Or: "Let us not pray until we reach it."

14Or: "Let us pray."

15Narrated from Ibn 'Umar by al-Bukhari with the wording 'asr, and by Muslim with the wording zuhr.

16Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Jihad, Ch. 23, al-Mays ed. 11/12:341).

17Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (Kitab al-Maghazi, ch. 31, 1989 ed. 7:520).

18Narrated by al-Nasa'i, Abu Dawud, al-Darimi, and al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (1:231). Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (1:156 #2112), al-San'ani in Subul al-Salam (1:98), al-Zayla'i in Nasb al-Raya (1:160) and al-Tahanawi in I'la' al-Sunan (1:326) all indicated that it is sound (sahih) as stated by al-Hakim (1:178-179= 1990 ed. 1:286) and Ibn al-Sakan in al-Sihah.

note: Seeing him -sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- while awake [1-4] Probativeness of the Sunna

The latter post in particular, should be distributed as it lists essential points of principles of the Law (usul al-fiqh) in concise manner. It is adapted from Dr. ʿAbd al-Ghani ʿAbd al-Khaliq's book Hujjiyya al-Sunna, published in Arabic by IIIT at Herndon, VA.

[5] The Probativeness of the Sunna

IV. Proofs From The Noble Qur'an For the Probativeness of the Sunna

Allah's Book is filled with verses that categorically denote the probativeness of the Sunna. These verses are at least five types, although a single verse can be of more than one type.

a) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of believing in the Prophet ﷺ ;

b) Verses that indicate that the Prophet ﷺ elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part;

c) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of obeying the Prophet ﷺ in absolute terms in whatever he orders and whatever he prohibits;

d) Verses that indicate the obligatoriness of following and imitating him in all that issues from him as being examplary so as to be loved by Allah;

e) Verses indicating that Allah has tasked him with following and conveying whatever is revealed to him whether in recitative (matlu) or non-recitative form.

a) First Type of Verses Denoting the Probativeness of the Sunna: Verses That Indicate the Obligatoriness of Believing in the Prophet ﷺ

The first type of verses denoting the probativeness of the Sunna are the verses that indicate the obligatoriness of believing in the Prophet ﷺ . "Belief" or iman here signifies the confirmation of (tasdiq) and compliance with (idhʿan) his message and with all that he brought from Allah, whether it is mentioned in the Qur'an or not. Of this type also are the verses that show that not to follow him and not to accept his judgment both negate belief:

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {O you who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He has revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily has wandered far astray.} (4:136).

- And He said: {So believe in Allah and His messenger and the light which We have revealed. And Allah is Aware of what you do} (64:8).

- And He said: {Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all, (the messenger of) Him unto whom belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no God save Him. He quickens and He gives death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and in His words and follow him that haply you may be led arigh} (7:158).

- Al-Qadi ʿIyad said: "Iman in the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is specifically obligatory, no iman is complete except through it, and no islam is correct except with it. Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {And as for him who believes not in Allah and His messenger Lo! We have prepared a flame for disbelievers} (48:13)."1

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {Lo! We have sent you (O Muhammad) as a witness and a bearer of good tidings and a warner, that you (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honor Him, and may revere Him, and may glorify Him at early dawn and at the close of day} (48:8-9).

- And He said: { The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere} (49:15).

- And He said: {They only are the true believers who believe in Allah and His messenger and, when they are with him on some common errand, go not away until they have asked leave of him. Lo! those who ask leave of you, those are they who believe in Allah and His messenger. So, if they ask your leave for some affair of theirs, give leave to whom you will of them, and ask for them forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful} (24:62). Concerning this verse al-Shafiʿi said: "He has made the completion of the beginning of belief - to which everything else is subordinate - belief in Allah then in His Messenger. So if a human being believes in Him but does not believe in His Messenger, the designation (ism) denoting completion of belief in now way whatsoever applies to him, until he believes in His Messenger together with Him."2 Ibn al-Qayyim said: "The verse incorporates among the requisites of belief the fact that they not go anywhere - when they are with him - except with his permission. It is all the more fitting that they also not adopt any position nor enter any path of knowledge except after his permission. Such permission on his part can be known by the proof of what he brought establishing the permission."3

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {Not unto the weak nor unto the sick nor unto those who can find naught to spend is any fault (to be imputed though they stay at home) if they are true (nasahu) to Allah and His messenger. Not unto the good is there any road (of blame). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful} (9:91). Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi said:

Being true (nasiha) is a term that expresses the generality of one's will toward the good of the party to whom one is being true. It is impossible to come up with a synonym for it. Its lexical meaning is sincerity (ikhlas).... Thus one's being true (nasiha) to Allah is one's correct belief in Him with unicity (al-wahdaniyya) and one's describing Him in terms appropriate to Him, declaring His transcendence from what is impermissible to apply to Him, desiring what makes one beloved to Him, staying far away from what causes His wrath, and sincerity in worshipping Him. Being true to His Book consists in believing in it, putting in practice its contents, beautifying its recitation, being humble before it, magnifying its status, striving to understanding it and acquire knowledge of it, and defending it from the interpretation of extremists and the attacks of atheists. As for being true to His Messenger it consists in confirming his prophethood, and doing one's utmost to obey his commands and prohibitions."4

Al-Ajurri said about the meaning of being true to Allah's Messenger:

It consists in coming to his aid, supporting him, and protecting him both alive and dead; in giving life to his Sunna by pursuing it, defending it, disseminating it; and in acquiring his noble manners and beautiful traits.5

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {And when it is said unto them: Come unto that which Allah has revealed and unto the messenger, you see the hypocrites turn from you with aversion} (4:61). Concerning this verse Ibn Hazm said:

Let one therefore beware of Allah Almighty and Exalted to Whom is the return. Let his soul feel fear upon recitation of this verse and his anxiety increase in intensity that he should be meant by the epithet mentioned in that verse - that despicable, ruinous trait which necessitates hellfire. So whoever debates his opponent in a given matter of the Religion and its rulings - which we were commanded to learn and understand - calling him unto what Allah has revealed and what the Prophet ﷺ has said, but the other turns away and calls him unto analogy or to So-and-so's saying: let him know that Allah has named him a dissimulating hypocrite.... And if someone were to say: "We do not take except what we found in the Qur'an," such a person would be an apostate (kafir) by consensus of the Islamic Community, and would not thereby be obligated to pray more than one rakʿa between the going down of the sun and the dark of night, and another one at dawn [cf. 17:78]. For this is the least that has been called salat, and there is no limit (hadd) set for the most in that chapter. One who follows such a position is an idolatrous disbeliever (kafir mushrik) whose life and property are licit. The only ones to go that path are some of the extremist Rafidis upon whose apostasy consensus has formed in the Community. And success is from Allah Almighty and Exalted. Now, should someone follow only what the entire Community has agreed upon and nothing else, leaving all that they differed about with regard to what the texts mention: such a person is a trnasgresso (fasiq) by consensus of the Community. These two preliminaries make it obligatory to accept what is transmitted.6

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {And they say: We believe in Allah and the messenger, and we obey; then after that a faction of them turn away. Such are not believers. But if right had been with them they would have come unto him willingly. Is there in their hearts a disease, or have they doubts, or fear they lest Allah and His messenger should wrong them in judgment? Nay, but such are evil doers. The saying of (all true) believers when they appeal unto Allah and His messenger to judge between them is only that they say: We hear and we obey. And such are the successful. He who obeys Allah and His messenger, and fears Allah, and keeps duty (unto Him): such indeed are the victorious. They swear by Allah solemnly that, if you order them, they will go forth. Say: Swear not; known obedience (is better). Lo! Allah is Informed of what you do. Say: Obey Allah and obey the messenger. But if you turn away, then (it is) for him (to do) only that wherewith he has been charged, and for you (to do) only that wherewith you have been charged. If you obey him, you will go aright. But the messenger has no other charge than to convey (the message), plainly} (24:47-54). Concerning these verses al-Shafiʿi said: "Allah Almighty and Exalted has informed human beings in this verse that their call unto Allah's Messenger ﷺ that he judge between them is a call unto Allah's judgment. For the judge between them is Allah's Messenger, and if they surrender to the judgment of Allah's Messenger, then they but surrender to His, as stipulated by Allah Almighty and Exalted Himself."7

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {And it becomes not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided and affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest} (33:36). Concerning this verse Ibn al-Qayyim said: "Allah Almighty and Exalted has stated in this verse that there is no choice left for a believer after Allah's judgment and the judgment of His Prophet. Whoever makes an alternative choice after this, has strayed in manifest misguidance."8

- Allah Almighty and Exalted said: {But nay, by your Lord! they will not believe (in truth) until they make you judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which you decide, and submit with full submission} (4:65). Concerning this verse Ibn Hazm said:

This verse suffices for whoever understands and shows caution, believing in Allah and the Last Day, and knowing with certainty that this covenant is his Almighty Lord's covenant with him and His will recorded against him. Therefore, let every human being examine his soul, and if he finds in it any reserve towards the Prophet's ﷺ judgment in any report he knows to be authentic among those reports that reached him; or if he finds his soul reticent to submit to what has reached him from Allah's Messenger ﷺ, but leaning instead to So-and-so's saying, or to his analogies and preferences; or if he sees that this soul sets up as judge over what he contends, someone other than Allah's Messenger ﷺ - whether a Companion or anyone lesser: let him know that Allah Almighty and Exalted has sworn an oath - and His Word is the truth! - that he is not a believer, and Allah has spoken the truth. If he is not a believer, then he is an apostate, and there is no middle way. Let him know also that all those he imitates, whether a Companion, or a Successor, or Malik, or Abu Hanifa, or al-Shafiʿi, or Sufyan, or al-Awzaʿi, or Ahmad, or Dawud - Allah be well-pleased with all of them - they are all innocent of him in this world and the next, and the Day that witnesses rise forth.9

Ibn al-Qayyim said concerning the same verse:

Allah Almighty and Exalted swore by Himself that belief was absent from people until they made His Prophet a judge between whatever is in dispute between them whether minute or major. But He did not consider their making such arbitration a sufficient factor of their belief until the least element of reservation or unease at his verdict and judgment had completely disappeared from their hearts. And He did not even make the latter condition sufficient until they submitted with full submission and let themselves be led in complete followership.10

Al-Shafiʿi explained thus the circumstances in which the verse was revealed:

This verse was revealed - according to what has reached us, and Allah knows best - in the matter of a man who contended with al-Zubayr over a piece of land, whereupon the Prophet ﷺ ruled in favor of al-Zubayr. This judgment is a Sunna of Allah's Messenger ﷺ and not a ruling stipulated in the Qur'an. The Qur'an shows - and Allah knows best - what I have just described. If it had been a judgment based upon the Qur'an, it would have been a ruling stipulated by Allah's Book, in which case they, in refusing to submit to a stipulated ruling of Allah's Book, would have been considered not to be believers without any difficulty, simply for rejecting the ruling that had been revealed and refusing to submit to it.11

Al-Shafiʿi thus adduced the verse as a proof for the probativeness of the Sunna by showing that this ruling was not specifically or clearly stipulated in Allah's Book, for had this been the case, their lack of belief would have stemmed from their rejection of the ruling of the Book and their refusal to submit to it, not from not resorting to the Prophet's ﷺ arbitration, nor from not submitting to the latter, nor from harboring reservations about it. In such a case it would have appeared more appropriate to say: "Nay, by your Lord! they will not believe until they accept the Book's ruling and submit to it fully." And Allah knows best.

The next post will examine the verses that indicate that the Prophet ﷺ elucidates the Book and explains its wisdom in a manner that carries authority on Allah's part.


1Al-Qadi ʿIyad, al-Shifa' (2:1).

2Al-Shafiʿi, al-Risala (p. 75).

3Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlam al-Muwaqqiʿin (1:58).

4As quoted in ʿAbd al-Khaliq, Hujjiyya al-Sunna (p. 293).


6Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (1:101, 2:80).

7Al-Shafiʿi, al-Risala (p. 84).

8Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlam al-Muwaqqiʿin (1:57).

9Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (1:100).

10Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlam al-Muwaqqiʿin (1:57).

11Al-Shafiʿi, al-Risala (p. 83).

by GF Haddad ©

Further explanation

Note: "except" is a modifier for the first "follow" in the sense of "put into practice" whether on the spot or exclusively or literally.

- In revealed matters foreign to their understandings, in which they sought explanations but which they held unquestionably true.

For example when they heard the verse {Whoever Allah desires to guide, He opens up his breast to surrender}. They asked: "Messenger of Allah, how does He open up his breast?" The Prophet replied, upon him blessings and peace: "A great light is cast into it so it is opened up for (or due to) that light, and expanded." They asked: "Is there a recognizable sign for that?" He said: "Turning back to the abode of eternity, drawing away from the abode of delusion, and preparing for death before meeting death." Narrated by `Abd al-Razzaq in his Tafsir and others.

- In some commands of his which he did not himself enact, on the interpretive basis that such commands implied mere permissibility, not obligation...

"When one of you proposes to a woman, if he can look at whatever [limb] appeals to him, let him do so." Narrated by Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Chapter on a man looking at a woman he wants to marry. The commentators said "Let him do so" denotes mere permissibility (al-amru lil-ibaha).

Al-Khattabi confined it to face and hands whether with her permission and knowledge or without, and this is the position of the majority. Others allowed more, such as hair, Dawud al-Zahiri going as far as interpreting it as "all of her" (!) as mentioned in Amin Mahmud Khattab al-Subki's Fath al-Malik al-Ma`bud (3:240-242). Another Prophetic narration mentions ankles (`urqubayha) and mouth odor but by female proxy i.e. a woman checking another woman and then reporting back to her male relative.

WAllahu a`lam
GF Haddad

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