An innocent question but pregnant with sinister implications. Today we are seeing again a rise of those who reject the Hadith of the Prophet and claim to follow only the Quran directly.
Why is this a big deal? Because when you remove the Sunnah, you are basically removing the entirety of the Shari’ah. The Sunnah is the key through which you open the door of the Quran. Without that you can only speculate what’s inside and nothing more than that. We’ll let the Quran itself answer the above-mentioned question.
But even before even going to the Quran, tell me this – Does the Quran specify that it was revealed upon someone called Muhammad? Does it tell us who was this man receiving the revelation from the Most High? Was he a pure Arab or a migrant Jew? Is it the same Muhammad who settles in Madinah or was it someone else? How do you KNOW?
One of our teachers, Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu, in his commentary of Riyadhus Saliheen mentioned:
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The Sunnah does not need the Quran to explain what it says. Nowhere in the Quran do you see the Quran explaining what the Prophet’s ﷺ words meant. Rather the Quran needs the Sunnah for explanation and elaboration. Whoever tells us that he can extract the rulings directly from the Quran without referring to the Sunnah, even the most ignorant of the people can tell you that such people are merely playing around. This was the case with one of the first groups that broke away from believers, this is their approach – to focus on the Quran without referring to the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.
You get the root of the command from the Book of Allah. But how to fulfill it and what are its details? That is explained in the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.
Why then did Allah say for us to refer to the people of knowledge?
Why did Jibrîl have to teach the Prophet ﷺ?
Why did the Prophet ﷺ teach and clarify questions?
The first step to fight the religion of Allah is to attack the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. Check history and you can see where the Orientalists have attacked. They know that they can’t touch the Quran for it has been established and preserved. They can’t criticize it for the Quran is restricted. Allah has blessed the Ummah with men who have become places of preservation and dedicated their lives for the Book of Allah.
From the Quran – a Record of the Revelation Given to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)
Allah says in the Quran:
“Nor does he speak of (his own) desire.
It is only a Revelation revealed.” [Surah Al-Najm, 53:3-4]
In another place Allah says:
“And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad (ﷺ) the Dhikr [reminder and the advice (i.e. the Qur’ân)], that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” [Surah Al-Nahl, 16:44]
Allah tells us:
Move not your tongue with it, [O Muhammad], to hasten with recitation of the Qur’an.
Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation.
So when We have recited it [through Gabriel], then follow its recitation.
Then upon Us is obligated its clarification [to you]. [Surah Al-Qiyamah, 75:16-19]
Allah makes three promises here in the Quran:
- Allah will collect or preserve the Quran.
- Allah will see to it that it is properly recited.
- Allah will explain or clarify it
What other explanation of the Quran do we have but the Sunnah of the Messenger ﷺ upon whom the Message was revealed.
I said [to the Prophet’s wife], “O Mother of the Believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.” Aisha said, “Have you not read the Quran?” I said, “O course!” Aisha said, “Verily, the character of the Prophet of Allah ﷺ was the Quran.” [Muslim]
Allah commands us in Surah Muhammad:
O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and do not invalidate your deeds. [Surah Muhammad, 47:33]
Allah didn’t say, ‘Obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ’; rather Allah puts even more emphasis by saying, ‘Obey Allah AND Obey the Messenger ﷺ.’ The last part of the ayah is very clear in terms of the result for those who reject or miss out on either of the two parts separately. The ways (Sunnah) of the Messenger (ﷺ) are the ways of Allah.
Let’s say that even this isn’t clear enough for some and is not water-tight for them. Allah further commands us:
He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah; but those who turn away – We have not sent you over them as a guardian. [Surah Al-Nisâ’, 4:80]
And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty. [Surah Al-Ḥashr, 59:7]
Certainly, did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error. [Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:164]
What does the Messenger ﷺ do after Allah’s instructions to him?
- He recited to the people Allah’s revelations.
- He shows them how to be purified.
- He teaches them the Book.
- He teaches them wisdom.
How does the Prophet ﷺ purify and teach? What is the wisdom being taught? Where exactly can you find these explanations and details which the Prophet ﷺ has set down in word and example and passed on to us through his Companions? How do we know what the Prophet did in response to the ayat after they came to him? Keep in mind that the rules recorded in the Quran are directly from the words of Allah; they do not convey the words of the Prophet ﷺ to his community. Think about it! Through the Quran we know the precise words of the Revelation sent down personally to the Prophet (ﷺ), but without the Hadith we do not know how he purified and taught his people, how he explained and applied the ayat to them. We can keep finding many, many more ayat in the Quran which give authority to, and talk about, the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. For those looking for the truth this should suffice to force them to think and research the loopholes of what they believe in.
It was narrated from Al-Miqdâm ibn Ma’di Yakrib that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“Verily I have been given the Quran and something similar to it along with it. But soon there will be a time when a man will be reclining on his couch with a full stomach, and he will say, ‘You should adhere to this Quran: What you find it to say as permissible, take it as permissible, and what you find it to say as forbidden, take it as forbidden.’ But indeed, [I tell you] whatever the Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbids is like what Allah forbids.” [al-Tirmidhi]
From the Hadith — a Record of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) Sunnah [Way of Life]
Now, take for example, the most basic of what Muslims are required to do: the five Pillars of Islam? Shahadah – Salah – Zakah – Fasting – Hajj
For example, how would we know when to pray, how to pray, what to recite when praying— where do we get all this information? Nor, for example, does the Quran give us details on the exact places of Hajj, how to do it and even when to do it. So, can we do our Hajj in the Vatican, then?
Now, consider those who quote the ayah of the Quran where Allah proclaims:
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. [Surah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:3]
They say that we don’t actually need the ahadith because Allah has perfected the religion. But what is the day on which Allah perfected the religion? The 9th of Dhul Hijjah, 9AH. And, how exactly do you know this date? (From examining the Hadith, of course.) Also, nowhere does Allah restrict Islam to being perfected by the Quran alone, whereas, as we saw, the mentions of obeying the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) are abundant. Since he is not alive for us to consult today, we know his exemplary conduct and teaching, his Sunnah, as they are preserved for us in the Hadith accounts.
Our beloved Prophet has already prepared us to expect people of this sort who would call for rejecting the Sunnah.
Narrated Al- Miqdâm ibn Ma’di Yakrib: The Prophet ﷺ said:
Beware! I have been given the Qur’an and something like it, yet the time is coming when a man replete on his couch will say: Keep to the Qur’an; what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited. (Sunan Abi Dawud)
From our Hadith Scholars – an Understanding of our Islamic Sources
Imam Ahmed in his Musnad records a hadith where the Prophet ﷺ forbade writing down his words, but the very same Imam went on to collect around 40,000 ahadith and wrote them down. A contradiction, you say? Not really. If we actually read the narration, the Prophet ﷺ then told them not to write down these events at the time, but to spread orally his instructions, his way, his Sunnah. Had writing down been permanently prohibited, he would have closed off all means of making known the Revelation by prohibiting both the written and the oral transmission of the Sunnah. There are two other hadith reports that are quoted by “Quran only” advocates, reports that speak of this prohibition, but both are weak in narrative (isnâd) status.
This prohibition to write down the Hadith was —if we consult the Prophetic timeline— at the very start of the Madinan period. The Prophet ﷺ later allowed this collection in writing, on down the line, once the Quran had been established in the hearts of the people.
To say that ahadith began being documented only two hundred years after the Prophet ﷺ is just plain ignorant. Can those who doubt the early attention to preserving the Prophet’s history in word and deed explain why the likes of Abu Bakr, Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah Ibn Amr and Anas Ibn Malik, etc. each had his own collection of the Prophet’s ahadith writen down!
Sheikh Mustafa al-Azami has demolished this ‘Quran only’ argument in his PhD thesis at Cambridge University by tracing nearly 52 prominent Sahaba who wrote down ahadith [i] during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ .
It is famously said that to preserve the honour of Al-Mustafa, Allah brought forth 2 Mustafa’s: Sheikh Mustafa Sibai’ and Sheikh Muhammad Mustafa Azami. Their works are immensely beneficial and should be read by all to better understand the importance of the Sunnah and its preservation.
Furthermore, the Prophet ﷺ himself dictated ahadith to his scribes. He gave Mu’adh Ibn Jabal a document containing rules regarding Zakah and Charity when he sent him to Yemen. The letters of the Prophet ﷺ famously sent out to the political leaders around the Arabia of his time are too well known for any of us today seriously to pursue any more this ‘Quran only’ line of argument.
If not the Hadith, then How the Quran?
Be it written or be it in oral transmission – we have both the Quran and Sunnah preserved through a chain of narration. The Quran and its varying modes of recitation, like Hafs, etc., each has its own transmission chain tracing it back to the Prophet ﷺ. Likewise with the Sunnah. Our teacher Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu, before even being admitted into the Islamic University of Madinah had memorized the Quran and 300 ahadith with each complete chain of narrators. He mentions further how in Madinah, his teacher, Sheikh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbad memorized not just the 6 Books of Hadith but also the Musnad of Imam Ahmed, the Muwatta of Imam Malik and others – ALL INCLUDING their chains of narrations (isnâd) reaching all the way back. What then about the great scholars of the past who were celebrated for their memories?
Touching upon the detailed and legendary Sciences of Hadith that our 1400 years of scholarship has meticulously built —thus authenticating the words of the Prophet ﷺ— would go over the heads of those who ignorantly reject his Sunnah. The accomplishments of this specialist science are intricate and mind-boggling in an age which depends upon computer modeling.
Before even trying to go there, let them explain away the above-quoted ayat of the Quran, and then we can talk about the hadith which they quote to support their case. Oxymoronic isn’t it? Quoting something as proof in your argument when you yourself don’t consider it as definitive proof.
A Mutawatir type of hadith is considered to be the strongest category in terms of the Science of Hadith. Mutawatir (مُتَواتِر) means ‘successive.’ A successive narration is one conveyed by multiple streams of narrators in such large numbers at all levels of the chain of narrators —all the way back to the source— that it’s impossible that the narrators could have conspired to come together to lie about it.
The foremost question that now arises is that if you reject ahadith on the premise that they were narrated by humans —and they could err— then where do you think the Quran came from? Allah didn’t reveal the Quran in the form of a physical book personally handed down from the sky, but rather as speech to be preserved on the tongues, and in the hearts, of the Sahaba. How has this Quran —which you want to follow exclusively— reached you, if not through the very Sahaba whose memories you reject as lacking adequate trustworthiness!
To summarize, Allah tells us about His Prophet,
Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.
It is not but a revelation revealed,
Taught to him by one intense in strength…
[Surah an-Najm, 3-4]
We can say that the Quran is a massive collection of mutawatir ahadith in and of itself. Accordingly, the Sunnah cannot be rejected without rejecting the Quran along with it! Instead, the two logically go together, hand in hand.
The Quran is a Mutawattir Hadith and the Sunnah is a Wahiy (revelation) from Allah, The Most High. Let that last point sink in and that alone should be more than enough to stop the uninformed talk of excluding the Sunnah as part of the Guidance brought to us by our beloved Prophet (ﷺ).
[i] These 52 Sahaba are:
– Abu Umamah – Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari – Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq
– Abu Bakra Al-Thaqafi – Abu Rafi’ – Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri
– Abu Shah – Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari – Abu Hurairah
– Abu Hind – Ubay bin Ka’b – Asma bint Umais
– Usaid bin Hudhair – Anas bin Malik – Al-Bara’ bin ‘Azib
– Jabir bin Samura – Jabir bin Abdullah – Jareer Al-Bajali
– Al-Hasan bin Ali – Rafi’ bin Khadeej – Zaid bin Arqam
– Zaid bin Thabi – Subai’a Al-Aslamiyya – Sa’d bin Ubada
– Salman Al-Farisi – Al-Sa’ib bin Yazeed – Samura bin Jundub
– Sahl bin Sa’d – Shaddad bin Aws – Sham’oun Al-Azdi
– Al-Dhahhak bin Sufyan – Al-Dhahhak bin Qais – A’isha
– Abdullah bin Abi Awfa – Abdullah bin Al-Zubair – Ibn Al-Abbas
– Ibn Umar – Abdullah bin Amr – Ibn Mas’ud
– Itban bin Malik – Ali bin Abi Talib – Umar bin Al-Khattab
– Amr bin Hazm – Fatima Al-Zahra – Fatima bint Qais
– Mohammad bin Maslama – Mu’adh bin Jabal
– Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan – Al-Mugheerah bin Shu’ba
– Maymoonah – Al-Nu’man bin Basheer – Wathila bin Al-Asqa’[Dirasat fil Hadith Al-Nabawi 1/92-142]