Introduction to The Sunnah and Its Position in the Islamic Law
Dr. Mustafa As Sibaai
belongs to Allah. We seek His help and we ask His forgiveness. We seek
refuge in Allah from the evil of ourselves. Whosoever Allah guides, no
one can lead him astray; and whosoever He leads astray, no one can
guide. I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah, and I bear
witness that Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) is his servant and
Messenger. He sent him with truth--sent him as a bearer of good news on
the face of the coming Hour of Judgment.
obeys Almighty Allah and His Messenger is on the right path; and whoever
disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he harms only himself, and Allah will
not be hurt in the least.
the Arabic language (without any religious con****) means a way or
method which can have two states, either a good Sunnah or a bad Sunnah.
As Rasoolullaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said in a hadith:
does a good Sunnah he will get the reward for it and the reward from
other people doing the same thing until the day of judgment. And
whosoever does a bad Sunnah he will have the punishment from doing it
and the punishment of others who practice it" [Muslim]
definition of Sunnah differs, however, depending on the area of
Sharee`ah. For example, a scholar in the area of Usool (fundamental
principles) will define Sunnah as whatever was reported that
Rasoolullaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, did, or permitted to
do. As an example of what he said, are the hadeeths which deal with the
different Ahkam (regulations) in different con****s, such as his
(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) saying:
"The reward of deeds depends on intentions..." [Bukhari & Muslim]
of what he did is that which his Companions have reported of him
(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam)) doing in the matters of `Ibaadaat (acts
of worship), such as: The way to perform Salaat (prayer), Hajj
(pilgrimage), Adab us-Siyaam (etiquette of fasting). An example of what
he (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) permitted to do is whenever he kept
silent upon seeing the Companions doing things; his (sallallaahu `alayhi
wa sallam) silence served as approval; or his acknowledgment to the
Companions that they did the right thing.
of his permission is when the Companions made Ijtihaad (decision by
reasoning) during the battle of Bani Quraydha. He (sallallaahu `alayhi
wa sallam) said: "Do not pray `Asr till you are at Bani Quraydha"
[Bukhari & Muslim]
Some of the
Companions understood that to mean that they should delay prayer till
they reach the place. However, some Companions understood that to mean
that they have to hurry, and so they did pray `Asr on time. In neither
case did the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) say anyone of them
was wrong and he did not reject what they did.
example where Rasoolullaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said
something when he saw an action by a Companion is when Khalod ibn
al-Waleed ate a lizard that Rasoolullaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam)
refused to eat. Some of the
Companions wondered, and asked him "Is it haraam (unlawful) to eat it, o Messenger of Allah?" The Prophet replied:
"No, but it is not common in my area, and I don't feel to eat it" [Bukhari & Muslim]
familiar meaning of Sunnah is that of legal daleel (evidence, proof)
whether it is in the Qur’aan, the Prophet's sayings, or Ijtihaad by the
Companions, such as the collection of Qur’aan in one book and unifying
the reading of the Qur’aan on one Harf (reading style). Opposite to this
is Bid`ah (inovation) in religion [about] which Rasoolullaah
(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said clearly "Follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the righteous Caliphs after me" and did not say follow my bid`ah which should not be taken as the same as Sunnah.
This can be
shown by the definition used in fiqh were we say this is the Sunnah
divorce and that is the Bid`ah divorce. These differences in looking at
Sunnah is dependent on the faculty of scholars, just like any area of
science where definitions vary.
we can define the Sunnah as whatever Rasoolullaah (sallallaahu `alayhi
wa sallam) said or did to be way of life for us