The Role of Prophets, Messengers, Sunnah and Ahaadeeth in Teaching Islam

There seems to be a growing number of people raising questions about the sources of guidance and teachings of Islam. Is the Qur-aan enough for guidance? If yes, why do we need Sunnah or Hadeeth? Also, there has been much discussion on anti-Sunnah and anti-Hadeeth discussion groups and websites on the role of Sunnah in the practice of Islam and on the reliability and authenticity of Hadeeth. A discussion about Hadeeth cannot be clear and conclusive without examining and understanding the role or need of Sunnah of the Messenger. However, if one wants to clarify these issues from the Qur-aanic perspective, it is not possible without first exploring the role of the Messenger himself in the Deen of Islam and the relationship that a believer should have with a Messenger. To fully understand the role of Rasool (Messenger), a clear idea of the similarities and differences between a Nabiyy (prophet) and a Rasool (messenger) is also essential. A lack of clarity in understanding these concepts causes confusion about the Messenger’s role and the nature of his mission and of the Islamic work in general.

This booklet answers questions such as: What is a prophet? What is a messenger? What is difference, if any, between the two? What are their roles in providing the guidance to humanity? Did they receive only the revelations of the Book or did they receive something more? Is the Qur-aan enough for guidance? What is Sunnah? How does it fit in the provision of guidance? What is Hadeeth? Are Sunnah and Hadeeth synonymous? Are Ahaadeeth[i] reliable? Are they useful? What are the extremist and balanced approaches towards Sunnah and Hadeeth?

Nabiyy and Rasool

The Islamic term Nabiyy (prophet) is used for a person chosen and appointed by Allaah to do the following:

  • Call people to the Deen of Islam
  • To give them good news about the Jannah (Paradise), and
  • To warn them about the punishment of Jahannam (Hell).

Some of the prophets are endowed another distinction through appointment as Rasool (Messenger), which is a higher rank that carries a greater responsibility than that of a Nabiyy (prophet). While every messenger is also a prophet, not every prophet is a messenger. Usually, both Qur-aanic terms – Nabiyy and Rasool – are used interchangeably for the messengers because they are both prophets and messengers. This interchanging use may cause someone to mistakenly assume that the prophets and messengers are always the same but such confusion occurs only when someone does not keep all the teachings of the Qur-aan on a topic in view while drawing conclusions. For example, the Qur-aan hints that some prophets may not be messengers when it mentions prophets separately after mentioning messengers in the following verse:


And we did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that… Al-Ĥajj 22:52

The main difference between the two as indicated by the Qur-aan will be presented in a subsequent section.

The prophets mentioned in the Qur-aan, who have never been mentioned as messengers, for example, are Adam (Adam), Ya‘qoob (Jacob), Ayyoob (Job), Zakariyyaa (Zechariah) and Yaĥya (John). The Qur-aan also mentions Idrees, Al-Yasa‘a and Dzul-Kifl but there aren’t enough details to determine with certainty if they have been mentioned in the Bible and under what name. Some people think Idrees is Enoch in the Bible, Al-Yasa‘a is Isaiah or Elisha and Dzul-Kifl is Ezekiel.

The messengers mentioned in the Qur-aan include: Nooĥ (Noah), Ibraheem (Abraham), Looŧ (Lot), Isma‘eel (Ishmael), Isĥaaq (Isaac), Yoosuf (Joseph), Moosa (Moses), Haaroon (Aaron), Ilyaas (Elias, Elijah), Dawood (David), Sulaymaan (Solomon), Yoonus (Jonah), ‘Eesa (Jesus), peace be on all of them and Muĥammad Ŝall-Allaahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam (ŜA‘WS) who is the final prophet and messenger of Allaah. There are some other messengers like Shu‘aib, Hood, and Saalih who are mentioned only in the Qur-aan, but not in the Bible.

The topmost five Messengers are: Nooh, Ibraheem, Moosa, ‘Eesa and Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allaah SWT on all of them.

The Qur-aan calls Muhammad “the seal of the prophets” indicating that there can be no prophet after him.

“Muhammad is not a father of any of your men, he is, however, the messenger of Allaah and the seal of the prophets.”Al-Aĥzaab 33:40

Since every messenger is also a prophet and since there can be no prophet after Muhammad (ŜA‘WS) it automatically means that there can be no new messenger after him either. He being the final Prophet and Messenger until the Day of Judgment is further confirmed by Ahaadeeth such as the following:

 “The example of the relationship between myself and the previous prophets is like that of a person who built the most excellent and the most beautiful building except that a corner stone (brick) was missing. People would go around the building amazed by and marvelling at its splendour. They would wonder why was that brick not installed. I am that brick and I am the last of the prophets.” Bukhari, Book of Virtues, Chapter ‘Seal of Prophets’. Also reported in Muslim, Tirmidzee and Aboo-Dawood.

“The prophet-hood and messenger-hood are now finished. There will be no messenger or prophet after me.” Reported in Tirmidzee and Musnad Aĥmad from Anas Ibn Maalik

The Qur-aan mentions that every segment of humankind, since the spread of the human population over different geographical areas, was provided the benefit of Islamic guidance through a prophet or a messenger. However, it does not provide much information about the prophets except for Adam and Yahya, peace be upon them, and gives some details about the missions of a handful of the messengers. The reason is that the Qur-aan is not a book of history, but a book of guidance. It provides only necessary information that makes a point about the guidance it provides or which explains it. Thus, only those details from the life of Adam were provided that explain our purpose of temporary life on the earth, our need to remain vigilant against the machinations of Shaytaan and mankind’s need to abide by the commandments of Allaah SWT in order to reclaim eternal home in Jannah. The circumstances surrounding the birth of Yahya have been given to draw parallels between him and ‘Eesa, peace be upon them. Similarly, the anecdotes of the messengers have been mentioned, not to give their complete biographies but only to teach relevant lessons from their lives and to draw parallels from their missions to the work and mission of Muhammad ( ŜA‘WS). For example, the Qur-aan mentions:

“And all that We relate to you from the anecdotes of the messengers is in order that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And in it has come to you the truth, as well as admonition and a reminder for the believers.”Hood 11:120

The Bible has been written by people of Banee Israaeel as a book of their history, which is why it gives details of many more prophets all of whom were raised among them. However, we can accept only those stories of the prophets and messengers given in the Bible that are corroborated and confirmed by the Qur-aan or that are perfectly in line with the teachings of the Qur-aan. Similarly, many religious personalities in other parts of the world may have been prophets of Allaah whose teachings were distorted, as normally happens, after their death. However, we cannot be sure about their real status because we have no source of reliable knowledge that they were the prophets. The only people we can be sure about being prophets and messengers are the 25 personalities mentioned by the Qur-aan as such. The biblical prophets can be accepted as prophets, provided only those details of their life or teachings are accepted that are in line with the Qur-aan – the ultimate criterion of truth.


What differentiates a prophet from a good person or a reformer?

  1. As mentioned earlier, a prophet is chosen by Allaah SWT to do special work for Him. ‘Chosen’ does not mean that Allaah SWT likes some mature adult and chooses him to be a prophet or messenger. Rather, a person is chosen to be Nabiyy before his birth or conception so that he is brought up from his conception onwards with special qualities, well equipped and prepared for the job Allaah wants him to perform, often without the person himself being aware of it. If the parents of a prophet had not been informed beforehand that their child would be a prophet, the chosen person himself discovers that he has been selected to be a prophet only when he officially receives the revelation. Examples indicating selection before birth and special up-bringing:

    “And we gave him good news of Isĥaaq – a prophet from the righteous.”Aŝ-Ŝaafaat 37:112

    “Allaah gives you the good news of Yaĥya who will witness the truth of a command from Allaah, noble, chaste and a prophet from the righteous.”Aali-‘Imraan 3:39

    “In order that you may be brought up under My Eye.”Allaah SWT telling Moosa in Ŧaa-Haa 20:39 His mother was told to put him the river and assured, “Do not fear and do not worry! We shall bring him back to you and make him one of the messengers.” Al-Qaŝaŝ 28:7

    “And We gave Him wisdom in his childhood, compassion from Us and purity.” About Yahya in Maryam 19:12-13

  2. Once a prophet is raised and appointed by Allaah, everyone who claims to be Muslim and wants to remain a Muslim must accept him. Anyone who rejects a true prophet of Allaah is instantly a Kaafir. No one can seek salvation without accepting the current prophet. Since the advent of Prophet Muhammad, the last prophet, he is the current prophet until the Day of Judgment. Anyone who wants to attain salvation now must accept and believe in all prophets from Adam to Muhammad.

    “Say: We believe in Allaah, in what has been revealed to us and in what was revealed to Ibraheem, Isma‘eel, Isĥaaq, Ya‘qoob, and his descendents, and what was given to Moosa, to ‘Eesa and to (all) the prophets from their Lord. We do not discriminate against any of them, and we are Muslims (submissive) to Him.”Aali-‘Imraan 3:84

    This verse (Aali-‘Imraan 3:84) is almost the same as Al-Baqarah 2:136, which is followed by:

    “So if they believe in the same as you believe in, they have been (rightly) guided; but if they turn away, they are opposing just for the sake of opposition.”Al-Baqarah 2:137

    One must, however, follow only Islam as preached and taught by Muhammad (ŜA‘WS). Anyone who wants to benefit from the Hikmah (wisdom) of previous prophets, can do so only if it is corroborated by the Qur-aan or by the authentic Ahaadeeth.

    “Those who follow the Messenger, the Ummiyy[ii] prophet whom they find mentioned in the Towraat and Injeel -- who enjoins upon them what is right, forbids them what is wrong, allows them what is Ŧayyib (good, decent and clean), prohibits them from what is Khabeeth (evil, indecent, unclean), and relieves them of their burden and shackles which were upon them. So they who believe in him, honour him, support him and follow the light sent with him – it is those who will be the successful. Say: O people, indeed I am the Messenger of Allaah to you all – Allaah to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; there is no God except Him; He gives life and death. So believe in Allaah and His Messenger -- the Ummiyy prophet who believes in Allaah and His Words – and follow him (the Messenger) so that you may be guided.”Al-A‘raaf 7:157-158

  3. For the performance of their job, Allaah provides prophets and messengers support in the following forms:

    a) Allaah SWT provides prophets special knowledge and direct guidance so that:

    • They can inform mankind about the affairs of Ghayb (metaphysical realities, philosophical issues about human beings, etc.) on the basis of their personal knowledge gained from Allaah, instead of guesswork and conjecture as the philosophers do.
    • They have the authoritative knowledge of what the true teachings of Islam are: the Islamic laws in force at that time; the balanced religious way of life; and, the inappropriate practices being undertaken by Muslims in the name of religion because of the Bid‘ah, or the customs and traditions they have picked up from the Jahiliyyah[iii] society.

    For example, after mentioning a series of prophets and indicating that Allaah guided them, the Qur-aan sums it up:

    “And from among their fathers, their descendents, and their brothers – and We chose them and We guided them to the straight path.”Al-An‘aam 6:87

    And then it says:

    “These are the people to whom We gave the Book, the Ĥukm and prophet-hood.”Al-An‘aam 6:89

    This indicates that the prophets are accompanied by three distinct things:

    • The Book – revelation from Allaah SWT containing guidance and His commands;
    • The Ĥukm – the special ability, wisdom and vision to clearly understand the goals of the Book, to implement it to achieve those objectives and to solve life’s problems in proper order of priorities, in a balanced manner; and,
    • The Prophet-hood – the responsibility to guide people according to the Book and Ĥukm.

    Then it repeats:

    “They are those whom Allaah guided.”Al-An‘aam 6:90

    About the special knowledge that the prophets are granted:

    “And I know from Allaah what you do not know.” Nooh to his people in Al-A‘raaf 7:62

    “Thus did We show Ibraheem the kingdom of the heavens and the earth so that he be one of those who have faith with certainty.” Al-An‘aam 6:75

    “O my father, I have received knowledge that did not come to you, so follow me and I will guide you to the straight path.” Ibraheem to his father in Maryam 19:43

    “He indeed had a knowledge we taught him, but most people do not know.”Allaah said about Ya‘qoob in Soorah Yoosuf 12:68

    “And Allaah revealed the Book and the Wisdom on you, and taught you that which you did not know.” An-Nisaa 4:113

    These verses indicate that the special knowledge given to the prophets was in addition to the Book and the Wisdom. Had it been the same knowledge that was explicitly stated in the Book, it would not require a mention separate from the book and it could not be claimed that “you do not know”, because the words of the Book are known to people after the prophet recites them to people.


    b) Allaah protects them from the commitments of sins, i.e., a prophet is under the protection of Allaah SWT from making mistakes or committing sins. Being under Allaah’s protection means that his words, decisions and actions are all monitored and guided by Allaah so that the prophet remains a perfect model of human excellence which people can follow with full confidence and comfort of knowing that his behaviour is the correct behaviour and his teachings are the correct and fully approved of, by Allaah.

    The way Yoosuf was able to stay away from sin in an extremely tempting and inviting situation provides an example of how Allaah protect the prophets from improper behaviour:

    “She really desired him, and he would have desired her, had he not seen the clear sign from his Lord. Thus it was so that We could avert evil and immorality from him. Surely he was one of our chosen slaves.” Yoosuf 12:24

    The most difficult thing for a person to resist is the pressure from peers and the society. Many good, committed and dedicated people succumb to it. The prophets of Allaah are faced with the most extreme pressure that can be imagined, and it is only because of the protection of Allaah that they can withstand those pressures and continue to remain focussed on their mission, maintain balance in their approach and continue to wish well for those who do not mean them well:

    “And if it was not for the favour of Allaah and His mercy on you, a group of them was determined to mislead you, but they really mislead only themselves and cannot harm you at all. And Allaah revealed the Book and the Wisdom on you, and taught you that you did not know. Indeed Allaah’s favour on you has been great.” An-Nisaa 4:113

    “And they were about to pressure you away from that which We have revealed unto you, to fabricate something else about Us, and then they would have taken you as a friend. And if We had not strengthened you, you would have almost inclined to them a little.” Banee Israaeel 17:73-74

    However, the most critical proof of Allaah watching and monitoring their words and actions comes from the instances where they said or did something that was even slightly improper and Allaah immediately corrected them. For example:

    Nooh saw his son drowning and exclaimed, “O Allaah, my son is a part of my family”. Allaah immediately corrected him and told him that his son was not his family because of disbelief[iv].

    Ibraheem promised to pray for the forgiveness of his idolater father, but was corrected by Allaah reminding him that a believer could not pray for an idolater.[v]

    Moosa and Haroon expressed fear in facing Pharaoh, but were reminded of Allaah being with them.[vi]

    Our Rasool was once a little lax in responding to a blind man as compared to some Makkan chiefs to whom he was talking at that time and he was immediately reminded that eagerness to find the truth takes precedence over influence in the society[vii]. He was also questioned on pledging not to consume something that was allowed for consumption[viii].

    All these examples indicate that if ever a prophet said or did something that was not proper for a prophet, he was immediately corrected. Hence, everything else the prophet said or did was fully approved by Allaah SWT.


    c) Allaah makes some miracle(s) happen through a prophet to indicate that he is truly an appointee of Allaah. This is to distinguish them from false claimants to prophet-hood and to protect people from the Fitnah of the false prophets. Although a true prophet is outstanding in the excellence of his character and behaviour and that should be a clear indication of his being a special person from Allaah, ordinary people are usually not perceptive enough to make a clear distinction on that basis. Hence, to make it easier for people to recognize the prophets, being kind and merciful, Allaah SWT awards them a clear distinction by making miracle(s) happen for them. Here are a few examples from the Qur-aan:

    Moosa was given two miracles in the beginning to identify him as Allaah’s appointee:

    “Put your hand in your bosom, it will come out (shining) white without a disease, and draw your hand close to your side to be free from fear. These are two proofs (or credentials) from your Lord to Pharaoh and his chiefs.” Al-Qaŝaŝ 28:32

    Allaah SWT gave him the miracle of the staff converting to a live snake and then said,

    “And press your hand to your side, it will come forth white (and shining), without any disease as another sign

    And then commanded him and Haroon to go to Pharaoh with these two signs,

    “So go you both to him, and say: 'Verily, we are Messengers of your Lord, so let the Children of Israel go with us, and torment them not; indeed, we have come with a sign from your Lord! And peace will be upon him who follows the guidance!” Ŧaa-Haa 20:22, 47

    ‘Eesa was quoted as saying:

    "I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allaah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I bring the dead to life by Allah's leave; and I inform you what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if you believe.”‘ Eesa (Jesus) quoted in the Qur-aan, Aali-’Imraan 3:49.

    The following verse also shows that miracles were a means of showing the official appointment of a person by Allaah:

    “And their prophet said to them: Verily the sign of (Allaah’s sanction of) his leadership is that the box, which is source of tranquility for you and which contains the heirlooms of Moosa and Haroon, will come back to you, carried by angels. Indeed in this is a sign for you if you are believers.” Al Baqarah 2:248

    In this verse, the Qur-aan describes how Allaah used a miracle to indicate to people the legitimacy of Ŧaaloot’s appointment to the leadership of Banee Israaeel.

    (Some people deny miracles. For them, there will be a more detailed paper on miracles published in the near future.)

The Difference between a Nabiyy (Prophet) and a Rasool (Messenger)

A Nabiyy (Prophet) who is not a Rasool (Messenger)

A prophet does not bring any changes in the Sharee‘ah (Islamic rules and regulations). He reaffirms and reinstates the already existing code of Islamic life, purifies it from any changes or heresies, and refocuses on the spirit of the law, de-emphasizing its ritualistic aspects. A prophet’s emphasis is on reform of all aspects of the individual and collective lives of their people including the legal and justice system, state mechanism and political structure of the society through reminders, invitation, admonition and a peaceful Islamic movement in the society to which he has been sent.

A prophet may succeed in his reformation mission or he may not, depending upon how his people react to his call. Because of their speaking up against the Bid‘ah and un-Islamic practices, the reaction from the community and religious establishment against the prophets is usually very strong and harsh. Also, because of the comprehensive reforms they tried to establish, many prophets were persecuted, imprisoned or even killed by the leaders of the community whose leadership or power base was endangered by the Islamic reforms proposed by that prophet.

“They (Banee Israaeel) used to reject Allaah’s Aayaat (verses, signs) and to kill the prophets without any justification. That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress.” 2:61, 3:112

Yahya peace be upon him is a case in point. He did not bring any changes in Islamic Sharee‘ah, rather he was commanded to follow the Book strictly and forcefully:

“O Yaĥya, hold the Book with power (determination).” Maryam 19:12

He was killed on the order of a king for his criticism of the un-Islamic lifestyle the ruling establishment was living.

It must be remembered, however, that the prophets were sent for reformation only in the past. Since our Prophet is the last prophet of Allaah, there cannot be any true prophet after him. Anyone who claims to be a prophet is automatically a Kaafir and anyone who even attempts to evaluate the validity of a prophet’s claim also loses faith immediately. This is because even the thought of evaluation shows disbelief in the proclamation of the Qur-aan that Muhammad is the last prophet of Allaah.

After Prophet Muhammad (ŜA‘WS), the reformation work that was done previously by prophets and responsibility for reformation has been put on the shoulders of the true scholars of Islam. An Islamic scholar who dedicates his life and energies to call people to the original and pure religion of Islam, as distinct from the Bid‘ah or non-Islamic practices that the Muslims may have picked up from other societies is sometimes referred to as a ‘Mujaddid’ (Reformer). However, a Mujaddid does not have any special characteristics that will distinguish him from other scholars apart from his work such as: relentless efforts to remind and encourage people to practice pure Islam fully and completely; dedication to defend Islam from new fitnah’s, innovations, Bid‘ah and other changes in religion; and, launching of an Islamic movement to bring the control of society in the hands of the believers. The intent here is not to comment in detail about a Mujaddid and his role, but just to warn that after Prophet Muhammad, there can never be a true prophet, only the false claimants. However, the task of reformation will continue so that the true and pure Islam is always clearly indicated for those who want to follow it in their lives and that people keep trying to re-establish the dominance of Islam in the world.


A Rasool (Messenger)

A messenger’s duty includes all that a prophet does and much more. A messenger usually brings updates to the existing Islamic code of life (Sharee‘ah) and removes the burdens and shackles that have been imposed by the religious type of customs and traditions of the society. For example, both ‘Eesa and Muhammad ŜA‘WS have been described to bring changes in Sharee‘ah (Aali-‘Imraan 3:50) and to remove the burden and shackles placed on people (Al-A‘raaf 7:157).

In addition, the Messenger is responsible for establishing the kingdom of God (Islamic state) when none exists or re-establishing it if it has deteriorated. He is not sent just to advise and admonish. His job is to wrest the control of the world from rebels against Allaah and establish an Islamic society where Islam is the dominant way of life and wherein equity, peace and justice prevail.

Indeed We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs (Bayyinaat), and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (equity) that people may maintain (their affairs) with justice. And We sent down iron wherein is great military power, as well as many benefits for mankind, so that Allaah may identify who, without seeing Him, helps Him and His Messengers (in establishing the Islamic system of justice). Verily, Allaah is All-Strong, All-Mighty. Al-Ĥadeed 57:25

“It is He Who sent His messenger with Guidance and the True Deen so that it prevails /dominates over all other ways of life.” Aŝ-Ŝaff 61:9; Al-Fatĥ 48:28; At-Towbah 9:33

“Allaah has promised those who believe among you and do good deeds that He will surely grant them succession to authority upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will certainly establish for them their religion which he has approved for them and that He will surely substitute peace and security for them, after their fear; so that they submissively (like slaves) serve only me, not equating anything with me.” An-Noor 24:55

The crucial difference between a prophet and a messenger is that a Rasool is sent as a perfect Hujjah (clear evidence of the truth of Islam, serving as a final warning after which the guilt of the rejecters is established and punishment is executed) and a deciding factor for a society. A society is given a final chance to attain salvation by believing in and obeying a Rasool, after which all those who reject faith are purged from that society.

“Messengers (were sent) as bearers of good news (to believers) and warners (to rejecters) in order that people will have no Ĥujjah (argument, claim, excuse) against Allaah after the messengers (have given the message).” An-Nisaa 4:165

“And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger.” Banee Israaeel 17:15

“And never will your Lord destroy a population until He sends to their major city a Messenger reciting to them our Aayaat (verses, signs) and never would We destroy a population unless the people thereof are wrongdoers.” Al-Qaŝaŝ 28:59

After a Rasool performs his duty to its full extent to help people find guidance of Islam -- after all the troubles, sufferings, demonstration of perseverance and steadfastness -- the messengers are always victorious in their mission over their opponents who are eventually destroyed one way or the other. The struggle always ends in the form of the complete domination of Islam, success of the mission of the messenger and the dominance of believers, whether it happens in the life of the messenger or shortly after his departure.

“Allaah has decreed: Verily, it is I and My messengers who shall be victorious. Certainly, Allaah is All-Powerful, All-Mighty.” Al-Mujaadilah 58:21.

“And Our Commitment to Our slaves, the messengers, was already there that they would certainly be helped, and that Our soldiers would certainly be dominant.” Aŝ-Ŝaafaat 37:171-173

Similar to a prophet, a Rasool starts an Islamic movement with his call to Islam and sees it through until the movement succeeds in establishing a complete Islamic system covering all aspects of life of the society to which he is sent.

At the start of the mission, a messenger is taken through some extraordinary experiences about the affairs of Ghyab:

“And it is not Allaah’s way to give you the knowledge of Ghayb directly. Rather, He selects from His messengers whomever He wants. So Believe in Allaah and His messengers.” Aali-‘Imraan 3:179

The experiences Moosa AS had on both of his trips to Mount Sinai and his dialogue with Allaah are examples of such extraordinary experiences. Ibraheem AS and another prophet were shown the demonstration of bringing dead to life (Al-Baqarah 2:259-260).

Prophet Muhammad’s sighting of Jibreel and other signs of Allaah were among such experiences:

“And certainly he saw him (Jibreel) on a clear horizon. And he is not a withholder of (knowledge of) Unseen.” At-Takweer 81:23

“And he (Jibreel) was in the higher horizon. Then he approached and descended and was at a distance of two bow-lengths or nearer, and revealed to His slave what he revealed. The heart (of Muhammad) did not lie about what he saw. So will you dispute with him over what he saw? And he certainly saw him in another descent at the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary, near which is the Garden of Refuge (Paradise) when there covered the Lote Tree whatever covered it. The (Prophet’s) sight did not swerve nor did it transgress its limit. He certainly saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.” An-Najm 53:7-13

His experience of Israa was also of similar nature:

“Superbly perfect and glorified is Allaah who took His slave during a night from Masjid-al-Ĥaraam to Masjid-al-Aqsaa, surroundings of which We have blessed, to show him Our signs. Indeed, He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.”Banee-Israaeel 17:1

When Rasool embarks on his public call for a complete surrender to Allaah and Islam, naturally, the people with vested interest in the status quo become Rasool’s bitter enemies. The existing leadership, establishment and their followers and supporters, all those who have vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the power structure, bitterly oppose, persecute and torture Rasool and his followers so that the movement can be scuttled. The messenger continues to give the message and invite people to join his mission and movement despite all the opponents’ attacks and persecutions. He knows that his responsibility is only to deliver the message in the most appropriate manner according to the needs of the audience. If he has done that properly, the onus is on the disbelievers.

“If you turn away, then know that our Messenger’s responsibility is just to convey the message in the clearest way.”Al-Maaidah 5:92

“And obey Allaah and obey His Messenger, if you turn away, then our Messenger’s obligation is just to convey the message in the clearest way.”At-Taghaabun 64:12

Allaah wants people to choose faith or disbelief on their own free will, knowing that faith will be rewarded and the disbelief will be severely punished. However, because people tend to forget these realities, as mercy to them, He sends the messengers so that if they choose to disbelieve, they are fully warned of the consequences of their disbelief. A messenger knows that those who choose to reject his message will be destroyed in this world and punished in the Hereafter; hence, because of his love and compassion for humanity, he even tries harder to convince them of the truth of Islam.

“Perhaps you will kill yourself through grief over them, if they do not believe in this message.”Al-Kahf 18:6

The opponents try to pressure the Rasool into giving up or compromising. When that does not work, they try to pressure him into abandoning the idea of Islamic domination and adopt a ‘live and let live’ attitude, which usually means to thankfully accept ‘freedom’ to practice Islam in private life without challenging or tampering with the existing socio-economic systems and power structure (political system and leadership). But Rasool is not allowed to stop until the enemies are conquered and supremacy and dominance of Islam is established. During this struggle, Allaah SWT supports the messengers in His infinite ways, in addition to the miracles that are shown as a sign of their prophet-hood. For example:

They said to Moosa (Moses)]: "Whatever signs you may bring to us, to work therewith your sorcery on us, we shall never believe in you. So We sent on them: the flood, the locusts, the lice, the frogs, and the blood: (as a succession of) manifest signs, yet they remained arrogant, and they were of those people who were criminals. And when the punishment fell on them they said: "O Moosa (Moses)! Invoke your Lord for us because of His Promise to you. If you will remove the punishment from us, we indeed shall believe in you, and we shall let the Children of Israel go with you. But when We removed the punishment from them to a fixed term, which they had to reach, behold! They broke their word! So We inflicted retribution on them. We drowned them in the sea, because they rejected Our Aayaat (signs) and were heedless about them. Al-A‘raaf 7:132-136

And indeed We did send Moosa (Moses) with Our Aayaat (signs) to Pharaoh and his chiefs, He said: "Verily, I am a Messenger of the Lord of the universe. But when he came to them with Our Aayaat, behold! They laughed at them. And not an Ayah (sign) We showed them but it was greater than the former, and We seized them with torment, in order that they might turn [to Islam] And they said [to Moosa]: "O you sorcerer! Invoke your Lord for us according to what He has covenanted with you. Verily, We shall guide ourselves (aright). But when We removed the torment from them, behold! They broke their promise. Az-Zukhruf 43:46-50

Also, Allaah SWT guides them closely every step of the way as to what they should be doing. They keep receiving the Waĥy (revelation), in addition to the Waĥy comprising the Book, with instructions guiding them what to do next. For example:

Nooh was informed through Waĥy, “And it was revealed to Nooh: No one will believe from your people in addition to those who already have believed, so do not be distressed by what they have been doing.” Hood 11:37

Then, he was instructed to build the ark in advance of the flood:

“Build a boat under Our supervision and Instructions (Waĥy) and do not address Me concerning those who have wronged; indeed they are to be drowned.” Hood 11:37. Also see Al-Mu’minoon 23:27.

Yoosuf was informed of the interpretations of dreams:

“That is what my Lord has taught me.”(Yoosuf 12:37) and“My Lord, You have given me sovereignty over the country, and taught me of the interpretation of dreams.” (12:101)

When his brothers threw him in the well, he was informed through Waĥy:

“And We revealed to him (sent him Waĥy): You will certainly inform them (someday) about this affair of theirs, while they will be unaware of your identity.”(12:15)

This verse indicates three things: special upbringing of the messengers; Allaah revealing Ghayb (future events) to messengers; and, revelations in addition to those contained in the Book given to messenger at that time.

The whole dialogue between Moosa and Allaah SWT on Mount Sinai was Waĥy that was not part of the Book. He was told in the beginning,

“I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed.” (Ŧaa-haa 20:13) Then, the Waĥy continued with the instructions about the tasks he was to perform.

When Moosa was scared by the snake that his staff had turned into, Allaah SWT revealed to him:

“O Moosa, step forward and do not fear, you will surely be safe.”Al-Qaŝaŝ 28:31

When both brothers had apprehension about going to Pharaoh, they were told:

“Do not fear, I am with you I listen and I see.”Ŧaa-haa 20:46

They were also instructed by Waĥy:

“And We revealed (sent Waĥy) to Moosa and his brother: Dedicate some houses for your people in Egypt, make your houses Qiblah, establish Ŝalaah, and give good news to the believers.”(Yoonus 10:87)

These were initial instructions indicating the methodology to be used to start their work of organizing and uniting their people who were a disintegrated minority in Egypt.

When Moosa was scared seeing all the magic snakes, he was told by (Waĥy) revelation that:

“Do not fear, indeed it is you who are superior.”20:68 and that: “Throw your staff.” Al-A‘raaf 7:117

When hope for Pharaoh was given up and it was time to move on, he was told by Waĥy:

“Travel with my slaves at night, you certainly will be pursued.”(Shu’araa 26:52) The same event has also been reported as: “And We had revealed to Moosa: travel by night with My slaves and strike for them a dry path through the sea.” Ŧaa-haa 20:77

When they reached the sea, he was instructed by Waĥy, “Hit the sea with your staff.” Shu’araa 26:63

When Moosa implored for water in the desert, the response reported by the Qur-aan is,

“And We revealed (sent Waĥy) to Moosa that hit the rock with your staff.” Al-A‘raaf 7:160

And the list can go on, but these are enough examples to indicate that Allaah SWT is in frequent communication with His messengers through Waĥy, in addition to the Waĥy comprising the Book.

After the messenger and his followers exhaust all human endeavours in their given circumstances and whatever is possible, short of forcing them by Allaah’s power to believe, has been done but the disbelievers do not give up their opposition to the mission of the messenger, they are destroyed like the people of Nooh were destroyed. Or if, after the disbelievers have been shown a clear sign through a demanded miracle, they do not believe, they are destroyed like the people of Saalih were destroyed. Similarly, if and when the believers are in danger of being wiped out or the messenger is in the danger of being killed, despite all of their humanly possible efforts and employing all their abilities and every resource at their disposal, Allaah saves them with miracles and destroys the enemies, so that the messenger’s enemies never succeed in overpowering him or killing him[ix]. If the rejecters are in large numbers, the true believers in the messengers are taken out of the area and the whole locality is completely destroyed by some natural calamity as a punishment from the Creator. Examples are of Loot and Moosa peace be upon them. The end result is that disbelievers in a society where a Rasool has been sent either submit or are destroyed one way or the other. Here are some sample verses explaining these points:

“We have already sent messengers to many nations before you and We seized them (people of those nations) with loss of wealth and health so that they might humble themselves (to Us). Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytaan made attractive to them that which they were doing. So when they forgot that which they had been reminded, We opened the doors to them of everything until, in the midst of their enjoyment of what they were given, We seized them suddenly, and then they were in despair. So those who disbelieved/committed wrong were eliminated. And all praises and thanks to Allaah, the Lord of the universe… Say: Have you considered that if the punishment of Allaah comes to you unexpectedly or openly, will any be destroyed except the wrongdoers/disbelievers. And We do not send the messengers except as bearers of good news and warners. So whoever believes and reforms, they will have no fear or worry. But those who deny/reject our Aayaat, the punishment will reach them for their defiant disobedience.”Al-An’aam 6:42-49

“So We sent upon them a furious wind in the days of misfortune to make them taste the punishment of disgrace in the worldly life; but the punishment of the Hereafter is more disgracing and they will not be helped.”Fuŝŝilat 41:16

“You are but a human being like us. Then bring us a sign if you are of the truthful. So the punishment overtook them… Verily, in this is indeed a sign, yet most of them are not believers.”Shu‘araa 26:154, 158. Throughout this Soorah, Allaah has mentioned how the punishment of Allaah destroyed previous nations, after they had been shown the miracle. At the end of every narration of destruction of a messenger’s opponents, it repeats,

“Verily, in this is indeed a sign, yet most of them are not believers.”

And, indeed We have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad); of some of them We have related to you their story and of some We have not related to you their story, and it was not given to any Messenger that he should bring a sign except by the Leave of Allaah. So, when comes the Commandment of Allaah, the matter will be decided with truth, and the followers of falsehood will then be lost.Mu’min 40:78

The above indicates what happens to disbelievers and the rejecters, after the messenger had completely exhausted his efforts in delivering the message; however, we have not talked much about the matter of those who accept and believe in a messenger.

As mentioned earlier, the messengers are required to create a strong team of believers with unity of thought and action out of all the diverse people from different backgrounds, level of understanding and thinking patterns that have accepted a messenger’s call. Then they have to mobilize this team against the opponents to take over the affairs of the society from their hands and make the rule of Allaah the law of the land. To attain these monumental tasks, the believers are required to obey, unconditionally and without any reservation, the messenger as the representative of Allaah. That is why the call of a messenger has always been:

“So fear Allaah (Maintain Taqwa of Allaah) and obey me.”

(‘Eesa (Jesus) in Aali-‘Imraan 3:50 and Az-Zukhruf 43:63; Nooh in Ash-Shu’araa 26:108 and 110; Hood in 26:126 and 131; Ŝaaliĥ in 26:144 and 150; Looŧ 26:163; Shu‘aib 26:179)

Hence, a believer becomes a believer only after he has accepted this call of full obedience to the messenger of Allaah. Allaah himself reminds the believers:

“And We do not send any messenger except to be obeyed with the approval of Allaah.”An-Nisaa 4:64

On the surface, it may sound as if it is violating the Islamic fundamental of unconditional obedience only to Allaah, but a closer look will indicate that it is not. A believer does not obey the messenger as a human being, but only as Allaah’s representative whom Allaah is closely monitoring and constantly guiding or instructing and to whom Allaah SWT Himself has commanded us to obey. Because obedience to a Rasool is by Allaah’s own command and He Himself monitors the messenger in real-time to ensure that His own Will and Approval is being met, a Messenger’s instructions to believers are, in essence, like Allaah’s commands through the Book -- the only difference being that the instructions in the former case are conveyed through the words and actions of the messenger under the watchful eyes of Allaah instead of Allaah’s own Words, as in the case of the latter. That is why obedience of the Messenger is in fact obedience of Allaah – a fact declared by Allaah Himself:

“Whoever obeys the Messenger, obeys Allaah; and those who turn away, We have not sent you as a guardian over them.”An-Nisaa 4:80

Some people may think that this obedience to the messenger is the same as obedience to a political leader (Ameer) of Muslims. Far from it! No political leader is under direct supervision, directions and protection of Allaah to qualify for unconditional obedience. We obey leadership in performance of their community obligations only if they are in line with the Islamic rules and commands of Allaah and the decision is arrived at through the process of legitimate Shoora[x]. If and when they deviate, we are commanded to refuse their instructions.

The last point to be remembered about messengers is that when it comes to faith and obedience, Allaah and all of His messengers are one inseparable group. People cannot choose to believe in and obey Allaah disregarding His messengers, or believe in some messengers and not others, etc:

Indeed those who disbelieve in Allaah and His messengers or wish to discriminate[xi] between Allaah and His messengers or say, “We believe in some messengers and disbelieve in others” or wish to adopt a way in between – they are the real disbelievers. For such disbelievers, We have prepared a humiliating punishment.  An-Nisaa 4:150-151



So far, we have reviewed the Islamic concept of Nabee and Rasool, reviewed their common features and identified the differences between the two. Before moving forward to go over the details of the role of Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Messenger of Allaah, let us recap the salient features of a Rasool that were explored and clearly established on the basis of the evidence from the Qur-aan:

  1. A Rasool is a special person raised by Allaah from his conception onwards for performing the work of Risaalah (messenger-hood). He is brought up under Allaah’s care and especially prepared for the great task.
  2. He is given special knowledge of affairs of Ghayb to equip him with definite knowledge on the basis of which to call people to Islam and is provided with special training in performance of religious duties.
  3. Immediately after his appointment, Allaah starts sending him the following revelations (Waĥy):
    • He is given the Book – Revelation of the Word of Allaah
    • He is also bestowed Hikmah (wisdom and vision) to apply, in appropriate order and priority, the knowledge gained from training and from the Book and present it to people according to their level of understanding and style to make it easy for them to understand and believe.
    • He is continually given appropriate instructions as and when needed for the performance of his task.
  4. Throughout his mission he is under the supervision and protection of Allaah so that his performance remains free and pure of any inappropriate words, actions or behaviour. Even if anything slightly unbecoming of a messenger takes place, he is corrected immediately so that his life remains a perfect model for believers to emulate.
  5. A messenger is sent by Allaah to be obeyed unconditionally. A believer is only he who pledges to obey the messenger without any condition or reservation.

From this point onward, the verses of the Qur-aan that specifically determine the role of Muhammad Rasoolullaah ŜA‘WS shall be reviewed.


Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah

Like other Messengers, he was charged with the responsibility of establishing Islam as a dominant way of life so that believers live individually according to the guidance revealed to him and collectively as an Islamic state run according to that guidance. In addition, as mercy to all of humanity, he was also to put that Islamic state on a course of expansion and growth to become a global power. In the words of the Qur-aan:

“It is He Who sent His messenger with Guidance and the True Deen so that it prevails over all other ways of life, despiteMushriks[xii] detesting it.”  (Aŝ-Ŝaff 61:9; Al-Fat’h 48:28; At-Towbah 9:33)

This is the mission statement of the Messenger of Allaah that has been mentioned at three places in the Qur-aan.

To attain this mission, he was charged with far more responsibility towards the believers than just delivering the message that some people who do not understand his role, claim to be his sole function.


The Role of Rasoolullaah -- the Messenger of Allaah

The Qur-aan defines his role at four places in the Qur-aan in almost identical words. Firstly, when Ibraheem prayed to Allaah to send a messenger in his progeny (2:129), and then as a response to that Duaa and a favour and mercy to mankind in general and believers in particular, as quoted by the Qur-aan:

“(This favour is) Just as We have sent among you a Messenger from yourselves reciting to you our signs, purifying you, and teaching you the Book and wisdom, and teaching you what you did not know.”  Al-Baqarah 2:151

“Certainly Allaah did confer favour upon the believers when He sent among them a messenger from themselves, reciting to them His signs, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and wisdom, while they had been evidently lost before him.”Aali-‘Imraan 3:164

“It is He Who raised among the gentiles a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His signs, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and wisdom, while they had been evidently lost before him.”Al-Jumu‘ah 62:2

These verses not only mention his role in the life of believers but also define his methodology to achieve his mission. They also clearly contradict those who claim that the role of Messenger was only to deliver the book and that whatever else he did was as a political head of the believers (one of the oolul-amr), not as a Messenger. These verses clearly indicate that his messenger-hood responsibility was not restricted to the delivery of the message, but included other tasks that were to be performed as a Messenger, not as a political head of state. According to these verses, as a messenger, his job comprised the following responsibilities:

1.      Recitation

Signs of Allaah are ideas, facts or things that lead people to believe in Allaah rationally. They may be the natural signs or the verses of the Qur-aan because both lead people to believe in Allaah, if reflected upon rationally. Thus, the recitation of signs implies: using the signs of Allaah SWT present in human nature and in the nature of the environment surrounding the humanity to show people that believing in Allaah and in Islam makes sense; and reciting the Qur-aanic revelations openly to people so that the message reaches everyone. For this role, he was a deliverer and a preacher.

2.      Purification and Growth

For those who accepted the message, he was required to purify their un-Islamic or undesirable thoughts, outlook, paradigms, attitude, approach and actions as well as to help them grow in virtuous thoughts, outlook, paradigms, attitude, approach and actions, through an ongoing process of demonstration, coaching, discussion, feedback, etc. The objective of this process of continuous improvement was to help them excel in their conduct, dealings and behaviour. While fulfilling this obligation, he was like a personal trainer and coach to each of his companions.

3.      Teaching the Book

This teaching obligation has to be more than, and in addition to the recitation obligation referred to in point no.1; otherwise there was no need to mention it again. Naturally, it would involve explanations of special terminology of the Qur-aan, Tafseer of its contents, methods of inferring rules from the special style of the Qur-aan, demonstration of practicing its teachings through his own actions, and how to derive regulations from the Qur-aanic injunctions: How to offer Salaah, how to fast, how to perform Hajj, how to pay Zakaah, etc., how to implement its statutes, how to establish the systems Islam stands for, and how to develop, and establish the society of peace and justice for which he was sent. This role is further explained by the verses such as:

“And We revealed to you the Dzikr (the Qur-aan) so that you can explain clearly to the people what has been sent down to them and also that they might think.”An-Nahl 16:44

For example, when he explained to ‘Adiyy Bin Haatim that ‘the white thread’ and ‘the black thread’ represent “the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day”, he was teaching the Book. When he said, “Perform Ŝalaah as you see me do it”, he was teaching the Book. When, he went for the farewell Hajj and told people, “Learn from me the rites of Ĥajj, perhaps I would not see you after this year”, he was performing his job of teaching the Book.

4.      Teaching wisdom

This is in addition to teaching of the Book. It is the wisdom to apply the Qur-aanic injunctions to the affairs of the life, Judgment to apply proper commands at proper time, sense to prioritize what is essential and relevant at a particular stage of the Islamic movement and what is not so essential or relevant, smartness to adapt where adaptability is warranted, and insight into where to stand like a rock and where to be flexible.

The first job was easy. He presented the Qur-aan and we still have it. The questions about his other three duties as a messenger that need to be reflected upon are: Did he perform all these three duties? If he did perform these duties in his lifetime, did they end there; or are they supposed to benefit the subsequent generations as well. Is he the messenger until the Day of Judgment? If he is, how are the subsequent generations to benefit from the functions he performed during his Risaalah (messenger-hood)?

The truth of the matter is that if he is the Messenger of Allaah to all people until the Day of Judgment, which he definitely is, then the body of knowledge he produced in addition to the Qur-aan, while performing his three duties of purifying, teaching the Book and teaching wisdom, has to be available to all those people who believe in his messenger-hood after his death; otherwise, those believers will not be getting the benefit of the things he taught to people as the Messenger of Allaah. It necessitates that his actions and practices, his coaching, his instructions, his approvals and his disapprovals during the performance of his work must be conveyed to subsequent generations in one form or the other.


Another Perspective of his Role

The foregoing paragraphs explained the four responsibilities of the Messenger of Allaah in terms of the tasks to be performed and the methodology to be used for the fulfillment of his mission and realization of his vision. His functions as a Messenger have also been stated in terms of his goals he was sent to achieve as a messenger:

O Prophet, we have sent you as a witness, a giver of good news and a warner, a caller towards Allaah with His sanction, and an illuminating lamp.Al-Aĥzaab 33:45-46

He was a witness in terms of:

  • Presenting verbal witness about the truth of the Deen of Islam, details of the faith and its code of life;
  • Witnessing through his own lifestyle and behaviour how Islam is practised in action and the kind of excellent personality it produces;
  • Helping and coaching those who follow him in properly understanding and implementing Islam in their lives[xiii]; and
  • Witnessing in the court of Allaah SWT on the Day of Judgment that the message was appropriately delivered and demonstrated and that people were fully informed of the consequences of their choices[xiv].

He was a giver of good news to those who accepted and practised Islam and a warner of severe punishment to those who rejected that option. In performing this task, he was not a self styled reformer but one appointed and sanctioned by Allaah Himself, sent with a complete package for his education, coaching, guidance and support.

He was an illuminating lamp so that believers could find their way of practising Islam in their journey of life with the help of the light shone by his Uswah (model) comprised of his words, actions, behaviour and lifestyle.

The Qur-aan witnesses the fact that all of his teachings were based on the revelations:

“And he does not speak on his own desire, but it is revelation that is revealed (to him).”An-Najm 53:3-4

Some people may assume that this verse refers to the revelation of the Qur-aan. Anyone who claims that it applies only to the revelation of the Qur-aan is in fact applying his own bias in interpreting the meaning of this verse. There is nothing in this verse or any other place in the Qur-aan, which may indicate that his ‘speaking’ in this verse referred only to the ‘Qur-aan’. The word ‘yantiqu’ (he speaks) is general and we have no authority to make it specific without some evidence from the Qur-aan itself. While there is no indication throughout the Qur-aan to restrict the revelations mentioned in this verse to the Qur-aan itself, the Qur-aan provides ample evidence suggesting that the Messenger of Allaah was continuously instructed, guided and educated through the revelations in addition to the Qur-aan. Conveying this extra-Qur-aanic revelation is an extremely important part of the messenger-hood of Muhammad Rasoolullaah ŜA‘WS. The Uswah of the Prophet that we are required to emulate as believers reflects complete practice of both the revelations comprising the Qur-aan as well as the extra instructions given to him for implementing the teachings of the Qur-aan.


Examples of Extra-Qur-aanic Revelations[xv]

Many examples of the revelations that the messengers received in addition to the words of Allaah contained in the Book have been previously provided. The following are a few additional examples from the Qur-aan pertaining specifically to the Prophet Muhammad ŜA‘WS:

Ongoing instructions to the Rasool:

And when the Prophet confided something with one of his wives and she disclosed it, and Allaah informed him about it.At-Taĥreem 66:3

This verse tells us that the Prophet was informed by Allaah, but that Waĥy conveying that information is nowhere in the Qur-aan. This is a clear example of Allaah revealing things to the Prophet, helping and guiding him in the performance of his duties on an ongoing basis, and that those revelations were in addition to the revelation of the Book – the Qur-aan. We will refer to these revelations as ‘extra-book’ revelations.

The Qur-aan says:

When Allaah promised you people one of the two groups… Al-Anfaal 8:7

Where in the Qur-aan is this promise mentioned? The fact is that the promise was made to the prophet through an extra-Qur-aanic revelation.

Although there had been no command in the earlier revelations for the Prophet to pray Ŝalaah, Soorah Al-‘Alaq mentions that anti-Islamic Makkans wanted to stop the Prophet from praying Ŝalaah – a totally new practise that they had never seen practised before:

Did you see the one who stops the Slave when he prays.Al-‘Alaq 96:9-10

It indicates that the Prophet was commanded to offer Ŝalaah and was taught to do so through extra-Qur-aanic revelations.

While commenting on the Expedition of Badr, Allaah mentioned that He made the Prophet get out from his home for the battle and that He had promised him that the Muslims will be able to conquer one of the two gangs of Makkans through this expedition (Al-Anfaal 8:5-7). These instructions and the promise must have been sent through extra-Qur-aanic revelations, because they are nowhere in the Qur-aan itself.

Similarly, the Prophet conveyed Allaah’s promise to the believers before the battle of Uhad, and then while commenting on the battle, Allaah SWT said:

“And We had not made it (the promise of help) but to be good news for you and to soothe your hearts with it; and there is no help except from Allaah, the Omnipotent and the Wise.”Aali-‘Imraan 3:126

This subsequent statement about the assurance of help clearly indicates that Allaah SWT had communicated the assurance through Waĥy to his Messenger who had in turn communicated it to the believers. That original assurance not being in the Qur-aan is another example of extra-Qur-aanic revelations to the Messenger.

In Soorah Al-Aĥzaab, Allaah SWT mentions the Prophet’s reluctance to get married to Zaynab, then says, “We wedded her to you” and then reminds him of his function as the Messenger of Allaah saying, “The Prophet is not to feel any Haraj (stress, hardship, reluctance, hesitation) on whatever Allaah obligates for him.” (Al-Aĥzaab 33:37-38). All of this clearly indicates that the Prophet married Zaynab on the command of Allaah. The original command was extra-Qur-aanic, only the subsequent commentary and explanation is in the Qur-aan.


Explanation of the Qur-aan to the Rasool:

 “Indeed, upon Us is its collection and recitation. So when We have recited it, follow its recitation. Then, upon Us is its explanation.”(Al-Qiyaamah 75:16-19)

The last verse shows clearly that the Prophet was taught and explained the details about the revelation after the revelation of the words of the Qur-aan was completed. It also goes without saying that the knowledge taught to the Prophet in this manner was then used by him to teach and to explain the Book to the believers as has been indicated earlier that teaching the Book was one of his important duties and that was in addition to presenting the text of the Qur-aan to them.


Additional Commands for Muslims:

In addition to the education and instructions to the Prophet himself, the extra-Qur-aanic revelations (Waĥy) also provided rules and regulations for the Muslims to be followed and obeyed just on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah, without those rules being commanded through the words of the Qur-aan. For example:

The following verses emphasize and underscore the need for the Muslims to stop everything when call for Ŝalaatul-Jumu’ah is made and to proceed immediately to Ŝalaatul-Jumu‘ah, and censure those Muslims who did not stay during the Khutbah of the Prophet:

“O believers! When a call is given for the Ŝalaah on Friday, then proceed immediately to the remembrance of Allaah and leave the business. That is better for you, if you only knew. Then, when the Ŝalaah is concluded, disperse in the land and seek from the bounty of Allaah, and remember Allaah often so that you may succeed. But when they saw (an opportunity for) a business transaction or entertainment, they rushed to it and left you standing. Let them know that what is with Allaah is better than entertainment and business, and Allaah is the best of the providers.”Al-Jumu‘ah 62:9-11

The Call, Ŝalaah and Khutbah of Jumu’ah were being practised despite the fact that there was no command in the Qur-aan either for calling people to Ŝalaah, for establishing Ŝalaatul-Jumu’ah or for delivering Khutbah. This indicates that all three of these practices were instituted by the Prophet on the instructions given through extra-Qur-aanic revelation and that Muslims were supposed to obey them only on the authority of the command of the Messenger of Allaah, without explicit command being sent in the words of the Qur-aan.

Talking about Qiblah, Allaah SWT said:

“And We did designate the previous Qiblah only to identify those who follow the Messenger and those who turn about on their heals.”Al-Baqarah 2:143

There was no command in the Qur-aan for Muslims to make Jerusalem as their Qiblah, and Muslims did it in the obedience to the Messenger, but Allaah is indicating that it was so determined by Him. This indicates that the Messenger did so with approval of Allaah SWT. It also indicates that the obedience to the Messenger is in fact obedience to Allaah.

The Qur-aan has not commanded anywhere to offer funeral prayer over the dead, but the following instructions given to the Prophet about the hypocrites clearly indicate that the practice had been established by the Sunnah of the Prophet with the approval of Allaah:

“Do not ever pray over any of them who dies, or stand at his grave. Indeed they disbelieved in Allaah and His Messenger and died while they were disobedient.”At-Towbah 9:84  

After the set back in the battle of Uhad, when Muslims were in extremely bad shape, the Messenger of Allaah decided to chase the Kuffaar. The true believers obeyed the Messenger earnestly despite their bad condition. Later on, in His commentary, Allaah SWT praised those believers indicating that the commands of the Messenger carry full endorsement and approval of Allaah SWT:

“And Allaah does not let go in vain the reward of believers – those who responded to the call of Allaah and Messenger after the set back. For those who excelled among them and maintained Taqwa, there is a great reward”Aali-‘Imraan 3:171-172

When some hypocrites complained about the distribution of the booty of war, Allaah SWT commented:

“If only they had been satisfied with what Allaah and His Messenger gave them…”At-Towbah 9:59

When the properties of those who had vacated Madeenah were taken in public treasury, and some Muslims thought that they should be distributed to the army, they were told:

“Whatever, the Messenger gives you, take it; whatever he forbid you from, refrain from it. And fear Allaah, indeed Allaah is Severe in punishing. ”Al-Ĥashr 59:7

These are further examples indicating that the decisions of Messenger of Allaah are binding on the believers and that actions of the Messenger always carried full sanction and approval of Allaah SWT. Also consider the warning at the end of verse for not accepting a decision of the Messenger.

In brief, the Messenger of Allaah received constant education, training, instructions and commands in addition to those contained in the Qur-aan and that his responsibility was far greater than just delivering the message. He was responsible for purifying their mode of thinking, paradigms, attitudes, actions and behaviours; explaining them the teachings of the Qur-aan, and teaching them the wisdom. These functions were for the benefit of all the Muslims who believe in his messenger-hood until the Day of Judgment.


Responsibility of Believers to the Messenger

The previous section indicated the responsibilities that the Messenger had towards those who believe in him. What are the responsibilities of the believers to the Messenger of Allaah?

Unconditional Obedience and Emulation of his Uswah

While describing the special features of messengers of Allaah, we had given some examples indicating that unconditional obedience of a Messenger of Allaah is a part of believing a Messenger and that a believer has no choice but to obey a Messenger if he wants to remain a believer.

Now consider the following verses specifically for Muhammad, the last Messenger of Allaah:

And We did not send any Messenger except to be obeyed with Allaah’s approval. And if, when they did wrong to themselves, had come to you (O Messenger) and asked Allaah’s forgiveness and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allaah Acceptor of repentance and merciful. An-Nisaa 4:64

As mentioned earlier about the first part of this verse, it announces that a Messenger is sent to be obeyed and he has Allaah’s approval and sanction to be obeyed unconditionally. What the rest of the verse indicates is that not obeying the Messenger is a sin. Obedience to the Messenger is not an option, but a test of faith. Those who do not obey the Messenger do wrong to themselves and their disobedience was not to be forgiven unless the Messenger was approached and he himself requested forgiveness from Allaah for the wrongdoer. When that happened, only then Allaah would forgive.

Someone may claim that this obedience to the Messenger was only in those matters that were clearly commanded by the Qur-aan, nothing else. This assumption is wrong for two reasons: Qur-aanic injunctions being the commands of Allaah (not Messenger’s), obedience to them cannot be termed obedience to the Messenger, but to Allaah. The verse quoted above is distinctly talking about the obedience to Messenger, not to Allaah. Secondly, we have given examples in the previous section where the believers were required to obey the Prophet’s commands that were not explicitly mentioned in the Qur-aan and those commands of the Prophet did have Allaah’s full support and approval. Here is another example of a verse which indicates that the call for the prayer was instituted without an explicit command in the words of the Qur-aan and that it was fully supported by Allaah SWT:

When you people proclaimcall for Ŝalaah, they take it in ridicule and amusement. That is because they are the people who do not have sense.Al-Maaidah 5:58

As there is no place in the Qur-aan where Allaah SWT instructed the Prophet to do so, it means, then, either Allaah SWT directed the Messenger through Waĥy that was not part of the Qur-aan or the Prophet instituted it on his own wish but that wish was in line with the wishes of Allaah as indicated by Allaah’s comments in this verse. Either way, Muslims were supposed to obey the Prophet’s instructions on the word of the Prophet himself without support from the words of the Qur-aan.

Someone may argue that the method of call was determined by consultation with the companions so it was not a command of the Prophet, rather it was a collective decision. It should be remembered that the consultation was not about whether to call or not (the policy decision), but about the method to do so (the tool decision).

The point to be made is that the Muslims have an obligation to obey the Messenger. And it is because obedience to the Messenger is obedience to Allaah:

He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allaah; but those who turn away, We have not sent you as a guardian over them.An-Nisaa 4:80

As was also mentioned earlier, obedience of the Messenger is the obedience of Allaah because the Messenger represents the sanction, approval and wishes of Allaah. The phrase used in the second part of the verse is the typical phraseology that is used to indicate Allaah’s and His Messenger’s attitude towards disbelievers. It hints that the disobedience of the Messenger is, in reality, disbelief. Similar wording has been used in the following verse as well:

Say: Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger; however, if you turn away, then upon him (the Messenger) is only the obligation that he has been given; and upon you is the responsibility with which you have been charged. Now if you obey him, you will be guided, but the Messenger is not responsible except for clear notification.An-Noor 24:54

This verse, and some other verses like that, mention obedience to Allaah and obedience to Messenger distinctly to underscore the point that Messenger’s obedience is required on it own in his capacity as Messenger of Allaah.  

The verses like the following that mention Allaah’s and Messenger’s obedience together, emphasize that obedience of Allaah and Messenger are, in terms of a believer’s response to them, inseparable and should not be differentiated. Those who unconditionally obey Allaah and His Messenger are those who will be rewarded with the mercy of Allaah and His favours. Those who do not are not believers.

And obey Allaah and the Messenger so that you are treated with mercy.Aali-‘Imraan 3:132

And whoever obeys Allaah and the Messenger – they will be with ones upon whom Allaah has bestowed favour… An-Nisaa 4:69

The following verse further warns against differentiating between Allaah and His Messenger:

Indeed those who disbelieve in Allaah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allaah and His messengers and say, “We believe in some and disbelieve in others” and wish to adopt a way in between – they are the real disbelievers. For such disbelievers, We have prepared a humiliating punishment.  An-Nisaa 4:150-151

As has been indicated earlier, that the only reason the Messenger deserves unconditional obedience is that Allaah has commanded us to do so and has ensured the validity of the Messenger’s commands by continuously monitoring, guiding and controlling the Messenger’s words, actions and behaviour. In other words, the obedience of the Messenger is not obedience of his person, but the commands of Allaah he is conveying through his own words, actions and behaviour -- and all of those things are part of the guidance provided by the Messenger:

And whoever goes against the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows a way other than that of believers -- We will let him go for what he opted, and then throw him into the hell which is a bad destination.An-Nisaa 4:115

In that capacity, his obedience is crucial for salvation:

O believers, obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and do not invalidate (spoil) your deeds.Muhammad 47:33

Whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger, and transgress His limits, He (Allaah) will put him into the Fire to abide therein forever, and he will have a humiliating punishment.An-Nisaa 4:14

And whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger, for them is the fire of Hell, they will abide therein forever.Al-Jinn 72:23

These three verses warn people about the consequences of disobeying the Messenger: It invalidates even the rest of the good deeds of the disobedient and results in humiliating punishment in the Fire of Hell. The use of the word ‘humiliating’ warrants reflection. Usually people disobeyed the Messenger out of their arrogance, which caused compunction in their heart to unconditionally obey one of their fellow human beings. What they did not remember was that the Messenger was not an ordinary human being, but a man under constant guidance and watch of Allaah SWT.

Some people confuse obedience to the Messenger with the obedience to the political leadership of the Islamic state or Muslim community. The Qur-aan clearly distinguishes between the two. While the obedience to Allaah and His Messenger is unconditional, obedience to any kind of leadership is conditional. It is obligated only if it is in compliance with the commands of Allaah and His Messenger. If leadership orders something that is at variance with the commands of Allaah and His Messenger, the latter overrules the former. In case of dispute, the difference has to be settled by referring back to Allaah and His Messenger (their commands and teachings). This is the message of the following verse:

O believers, obey Allaah, obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allaah and the Messenger -- if you believe in Allaah and the last day. That is proper (attitude) and the best in result.An-Nisaa 4:59

In fact, the role of Messenger in settling the disputes and differences of opinion, once again is the test of faith. Even a compunction or hard feeling in the heart about the verdict, decision or command of the Messenger invalidates the faith:

But no, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you (O Messenger) the judge over what they dispute among themselves and then do not feel any discomfort inside them from what you have judged and submit (to your decision) in full submission.An-Nisaa 4:65

Although it is clear that the obedience to the leadership is separate from and in subservience to the obedience of Allaah and His Messenger, those who do not keep all injunctions of the Qur-aan on a topic in view before drawing conclusions from it, get confused by mention of consultation in the following verse and argue that the obedience to the Messenger of Allaah and to the Muslim leadership are one and the same:

So it is by the mercy of Allaah that you are lenient with them. Had you been rude and harsh, they would have disbanded from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in (conduct of) affairs. However, once you have made a decision, rely upon Allaah. Indeed Allaah loves those who rely upon Him.Aali-‘Imraan 3:159

Muslim leadership has been commanded to govern the affairs of the believers through Shoora (consultation). In this verse the Messenger of Allaah has been advised to consult as well. Does this mean that because of this the role of Messenger and that of Muslim leadership becomes one and the same? Only a person who is unaware of all other teachings of the Qur-aan, as have been quoted in this treatise, and who ignores the context of this verse can indulge in such a speculation.

Looking at the phrase “consult them in (the conduct of) affairs” within the context of the full verse itself clearly indicates that consultation of the Messenger is a function of his being accommodating, lenient and kind to people, and most importantly, as a function of his responsibility to teach and train them in Shoora that they will have to practice. Otherwise, he is to be obeyed in whatever he decides, even if the whole congregation dislikes that decision. “Once you have made a decision, rely on Allaah” refers to that option. The impact of this command to stick with the decision comes out clearly when considered in a larger context.

The larger context of the verse is that this is part of the commentary by Allaah SWT on the battle of Uhad. It was the practice of the Prophet that before executing a defensive strategy against a Makkan aggression, he used to assemble the Muslims and pose them a question that will seek their input but at the same time reveal their level of commitment and devotion to the faith. Thus, when the news of the Makkan army heading to invade Madeenah were received, the Prophet gathered the believers in the Masjid and asked whether the city should be defended from within the city or the invading army should be confronted outside of Madeenah. There was a mixed response, indicating to the Prophet who of the ‘professed’ believers were ready to defend their faith (true and sincere believers) and who were not so committed (hypocrites). He made the decision to go out and confront the army outside and went inside his quarters to get ready. During that time, the hypocrites who did not want to go out to fight convinced many Muslims that it will not be a good idea to go out. So, when the Prophet came out ready to proceed, people conveyed their feelings and suggested to defend the city from within, but the Prophet told them that he could not change his mind after making a decision. Then, the true believers who understood their obligation to obey the Messenger went along with him, but the hypocrites who wanted to treat him like other leaders, ignoring his privilege to overrule or decide by himself as the Messenger of Allaah, were angry for his ignoring their ‘consultation or advice’, hence they turned away and stayed behind. The phrase ‘When you have made a decision, rely upon Allaah’ is a clear vindication that the decisions of the Prophet carry the approval and sanction of Allaah and that the Prophet’s decision is binding on believers, even if majority of them have a different opinion. In executing his decision the Prophet should just rely on Allaah, without worrying about how many people will go along with his decision. And that is what was done by the Prophet.

Another case in point is the treaty of Hudaibiyah, which the Qur-aan calls the ‘evident victory’. It was extremely unpopular when the Messenger of Allaah signed it. Even faithful believers like ‘Umar were wary of the treaty, but the Messenger made the decision as the Messenger of Allaah, without consultation and despite the common sentiment of those with him.

Hence, confusing the role of the Messenger of Allaah with that of Muslim leadership is ignorant, inappropriate and dangerous. It is ignorant because it is not in line with the overall teachings of the Qur-aan; it is inappropriate because it brings the role of the Messenger down from its rightful place to the level of ordinary Muslim leadership; and it is dangerous because it elevates the role of Muslim leadership to a level where people may be expected to support their wrong policies or to obey them in their Un-Islamic decisions.

In Soorah Al-Mumtaĥinah, while describing the oath of allegiance from Muslim women to the Prophet, the Qur-aan says:

Nor will they disobey you in the right things (Ma‘roof ).Al-Mumtaĥinah 60:12

Someone may claim that this verse indicates the obedience to the Messenger is also conditional. Although this inculcates the point in the believer’s minds that no human being, as a human being, should ever be obeyed unconditionally, but it has to be read in conjunction with other teachings of the Qur-aan which clearly tell us that the Messenger is not obeyed in his own right, but only as a representative of Allaah who, in his capacity as a Messenger, is always under Allaah’s watch, always commands only what is right, and totally represents Allaah’s approval and sanction. Hence, obeying him is obeying Allaah.  

Thus the reality is that obedience to the Prophet’s authority as a Messenger and to the authority of Muslim leadership are at two different levels with the following key differences:

  • Obedience to the Messenger is unconditional, while obedience to the leadership is subject to compliance with the commands of Allaah and his Messenger.
  • Leadership has no authority to make decision without the due process of Shoora, a Messenger has right to make decisions as he deems fit and as commanded by Allaah but may consult the believers being kind to them and to train them.
  • People have to watch the decisions of their leaders to ensure that they are in line with commands of Allaah and His Messenger; Allaah watches the Messenger to ensure none of what he does or says is out of sync with His Desires so that believers can follow his footstep with confidence and full faith.

Listening to the commands of the Messenger of Allaah has been specially stressed in the Qur-aan:

O believers, respond to Allaah and to His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.Al-Anfaal 8:24

In fact, staying with him until the project is completed was a criterion of true faith:

The believers are only those who believe in Allaah and His Messenger and, when they are with him on a public project, they do not leave without seeking his permission. Certainly those who ask your permission are the ones who truly believe in Allaah and His Messenger.  An-Noor 24:62

The call of a Messenger cannot be considered call of an ordinary leader, dissenting or disregarding his instructions is sufficient cause for Allaah’s punishment:

Do not treat calling of the Messenger among yourselves like the call of one another. Allaah definitely knows those of you who slip away, concealed by others. So let those beware who dissent from his order, lest Fitnah strike them or they suffer a painful punishment.An-Noor 24:63

The truth is that a believer must give the top most priority in life to the demands of Allaah, His Messenger and Jihaad over everything else in the world:

Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your spouses, your relatives, the wealth which you have obtained, the business in which you fear decline, and the dwellings with which you are pleased are dearer to you than Allaah and His Messenger and Jihaad in His way, then wait until Allaah executes His command. And Allaah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.At –Towbah 9:24

The Messenger must have priority even over their ownselves:

The Prophet is preferable to the believers than their ownselves.Al-Aĥzaab 33:6

The two examples from Uhad and Hudaibiyah that we have used to explain the point in previous paragraphs may sound like administrative / executive decisions, however, we have given some examples earlier (in the previous section) where the Prophet had given commands regarding acts of worship which all the believers were expected to obey without those commands being mentioned in the Qur-aan. Also, reflect on the following verses:

Fight those who do not believe in Allaah or in the Last day and who do not consider unlawful what Allaah and His Messenger have made unlawful… Al-Anfaal 9:29

He enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them from what is wrong; makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil things; and relieves them of their burdens and fetters that were upon them.Al-A‘raaf 7:157

These verses indicate that Allaah has empowered the Messenger to issue pronouncements of lawful and unlawful and the believers have been commanded to follow those pronouncements. Even in their very personal affairs, such as marital affairs, the opinion, suggestion or command of the Prophet must take precedence over one’s personal opinion:

It is not for a believing man or a believing woman that they should have any choice about their affair when Allaah and His Messenger have decided a matter. Thus, whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger has strayed into clear misguidance.Al-Aĥzaab 33:36

Those who do not give that kind of preference to the opinion given by the Messenger of Allaah are considered to be disobedient to Allaah and His Messenger and have been declared to be misguided.

In addition to the explicit commands, directions or suggestions of the Prophet, the believers are expected to emulate the lifestyle, way of life and the personality of the Prophet, because he represents the epitome of excellence in everything he did in his life:

There certainly is for you in the Messenger of Allaah an excellent model for anyone whose hope is in Allaah and the Last Day and who remembers Allaah often.Al-Aĥzaab 33:21

His life was to illuminate the world with best model humanly possible for those who want to live a life that is pleasing to Allaah SWT:

O Prophet, we have sent you as a witness, a giver of good news and a warner, a caller towards Allaah with His approval, and an illuminating lamp.Al-Aĥzaab 33:45-46

In fact, anyone who loves Allaah and wants to be loved by Allaah has to follow the model of the Prophet every step of the way in his life:

Let them know (O Messenger), “If you love Allaah, follow my footsteps, Allaah will love you and forgive your sins.”  Aali-‘Imraan 3:31

This applies to everything in the life of the Prophet, unless he himself clarifies about something that it is from him as a human being, not as a Messenger of Allaah. Without such explicit declaration from him, a believer will take his every word to be given in his role as the Messenger of Allaah, which must be followed, emulated and obeyed.


Attitude, Feelings and Support

The kind of work the Messenger of Allaah performed, anti-Towheed elements had extremely emotional animosity and angry feelings towards him for which they always tried to kill him or get rid of him somehow. The hypocrites who did not have loyalty either to Towheed or to Shirk, but were only concerned with maximizing their own benefits, prestige, status, influence and power were extremely jealous of the honour, status, influence and success enjoyed by the Messenger of Allaah. They expressed their jealousy by inventing and propagating scandals against him and concocting other schemes to libel him. The true believers were very appreciative of the guidance brought by the Messenger of Allaah and of the way the Messenger had sacrificed all his belonging and comforts of his life for their betterment and their welfare. They used to show their appreciation by unparalleled respect, well wishing, honour and love for the Prophet evident in every interaction they had with the Messenger of Allaah. In fact, the work of the Messenger of Allaah was highly appreciated by Allaah himself and His angels, and Muslims were encouraged to do the same:

Indeed, Allaah and His angels confer Ŝalaah upon the Prophet, O Believers, you should also confer Ŝalaah and Salaam abundantly upon him.Al-Aĥzaab 33:56

This verse uses the same verb as is used for Ŝalaah performed for Allaah, but with one difference: it has a preposition after it. When the verb for Islamic term ‘ Ŝalaah’ is used without any preposition, it means a special act of reverence, worship and display of humility and submission to Allaah SWT. That is only and only to be preformed for Allaah SWT and none else whosoever. However, when it is used with a preposition ‘Alaa (upon), it has different meanings. If Allaah uses the verb for Himself bestowing it upon any of his creations, it means showering upon them special kindness, mercy, blessings that bring them honour, respect, good name, success and love among people as well as exceptionally tremendous rewards in the Hereafter[xvi]. When wished by any creations (angels or people) upon a person, it is an expression of their profound love and appreciation, well wishing for his success and higher status, and Duaa for Allaah’s blessings and mercy[xvii] upon him.

Salaam is well known for wishing peace as well as providing support. But the point to note is that Allaah’s command for wishing peace for him is emphasized by the word ‘Tasleem’, which indicates that this well wishing for peace and blessing and provision of support is not a one-time affair but a permanent attitude showing itself in the form of frequent Ŝalaatun-wa-salaam upon him. Having this kind of feelings of deep love, utmost respect, and sincere well wishing for the Messenger of Allaah is a sign of true faith.

Also consider the emphasis on honouring the Messenger of Allaah in the following verses:

So they who believe in him, honour him, help him and follow the light sent with him – it is those who will be the successful. Al-A‘raaf 7:157

We have sent you as a witness, a giver of good news and a warner so that you (people) believe in Allaah and His Messenger, assist him (the Messenger), honour him (the Messenger) and glorify Him (Allaah) day and night.Al-Fatĥ 48:8-9

In addition to honouring him and helping him in his mission, the believers are to give him preference over their own selves and their own lives:

The Prophet has rights over the believers more than they themselves, and his wives are their mothers.Al-Aĥzaab 33:6

In fact, just raising voice in his presence was a sufficient cause to render all of one’s good deeds in vain:

O believers, do not raise your voice above the voice of the Prophet nor be loud to him in talking like your loudness to one another, lest your deeds are rendered worthless without you realizing it.  Al-Ĥujuraat 49:2

Thus, honouring the Messenger, respecting him, talking to him softly, preferring him over oneself, invoking Allaah’s peace, mercy and blessings on him and dedicating one’s life and resources for the mission he was sent for are all part of the faith. Absence of these feelings and actions is indication of hypocrisy.


Recap of the Discussion so far

  1. The mission statement for the Messenger of Allaah was:

    To make Deen of truth -- Islamic system of life – a global order that is dominant over every other way of life in the world.

  2. To make this happen, Allaah SWT supported His Messenger by:
    • Revelation of guidance that included the Qur-aan and extra-Qur-aanic revelations;
    • Ongoing education and instructions as needed to perform his duties as well as continuous watch to protect him from any wrong decision or inappropriate behaviour; and,
    • Miracles, protection of life from adversaries and help beyond human means;
  3. He was obligated by Allaah SWT to:
    • Recite, convey and communicate the Qur-aan and present Allaah’s signs to people;
    • Purify the thinking, approach, ideas, habits, dealings and actions of the believers;
    • Teach, explain and expand on the message of the Qur-aan and demonstrate by practically implementing the revelation in his own life and the collective life of the community of the believers;
    • Teach Hikmah in implementing the Qur-aan and its systems with appropriate priorities, flexibility, in proper order and stages as well as in maintaining the balance among the diverse dimensions of Islamic responsibilities; and,
    • Live a life that embodies the Qur-aan and serves as the model of human excellence.
  4. The Believers are obligated by Allaah SWT to:
    • Obey His Messenger unconditionally in every instruction, whether it is stated in the words of the Qur-aan or not, unless he himself specifies a certain behaviour to be his own as a human being and not as a Messenger of Allaah;
    • Emulate his modal of life (Uswah), follow his footsteps and dedicate one’s life and resources for the success of his mission; and,
    • Appreciate his work for human salvation by loving, respecting and honouring him and by having good wishes for him.

All of the above is applicable throughout Prophet Muhammad’s era of Messenger-hood – which will last until the end of this world. All believers from the advent of the Messenger of Allaah to the Day of Judgment are required to fashion their lives in obedience to Allaah according to the two sources of knowledge of Allaah’s commands: The teachings of the Qur-aan that are expanded and supplemented by the second source – the teachings and Uswah of the Prophet that was based on the Qur-aan itself, extra-Qur-aanic revelations and wisdom of the Prophet, and that was watched and closely scrutinized by Allaah Himself.



Thus far, it has been clearly established from the Qur-aan that the believers are required to obey the Messenger of Allaah unconditionally and to follow his Uswah to earn the pleasure and love of Allaah. It has similarly been established that his Uswah demonstrated the proper way of practising Allaah’s commands conveyed through the Qur-aanic revelations and that, in practising Qur-aanic commands, he was further guided by supplemental revelations providing explanations, instructions and Hikmah.

To differentiate Allaah’s commands explicitly contained in the Qur-aan from the additional knowledge bestowed to the Rasool, the term ‘Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah’ (‘Sunnah’ for short) was designated to describe this second source of Islamic teachings.

The word Sunnah literally means a well-beaten, smooth, well-paved and busy path. Conceptually it represents a behaviour practised consistently. In the Qur-aan, the consistent way Allaah SWT treats people is called Sunnah of Allaah[xviii].

In simple words then, Sunnah represents the behaviour and practices, which were not explicitly stated in the Qur-aan, but were consistently adopted by the Rasool in implementing the Deen of Islam in practice and thus performing his job as the Messenger of Allaah. It becomes clear from the definition that if he performed a certain action differently at different times, then all of those different forms are acceptable, but none of them in itself is his Sunnah[xix]. Rather, his Sunnah in those matters is to perform them differently at different times.

Obviously, normal day-to-day matters that emanated from him being a human being and an Arab will not be regarded as his Sunnah. The example of such matters are: the Arabian clothing styles, the Arabian appearance or grooming styles, the Arabian food styles, the way Arabs used to go to attend the calls of nature, etc. These were the things that were common between him and the disbelievers like Aboo Jahl and Aboo Lahab. However, the things he taught as a messenger in these matters will be regarded his Sunnah. The examples are: washing hands before eating, eating with right hand only, dress covering specified minimum parts of the body and not being revealing or tight, the Du‘aas to recite at these occasions, etc.


What is the role of Sunnah in Islam?

Allaah SWT, the Almighty, Who Has power, authority and resources to do everything could have used any of the ways that we can imagine and those that we cannot imagine, to deliver guidance to human beings. But He, the Knower of the seen and unseen, and the Creator and Knower of human nature, chose to guide people through a combination of the Rasool and the Book. He went for:

  • Creating a special human being, training him from birth, making him shine with his intelligence, nobility, morals, conduct and exemplary behaviour in the society so that he enjoyed the utmost credibility and respect in his society; then,
  • Revealing the Book to him and making him responsible to recite the Book, teach and explain it, demonstrate it practically and show how to implement it in various stages and circumstances.

The Book built firm foundations of faith, gave its precise details, inculcated the faith in the minds and souls of the believers, and stimulated people to action and practice, while giving only key principles and major commands about the practices. The brevity of principles and commands made it easy to learn them by heart, recite them as reminders and keep them in conscious mind for practising them regularly. To complement the brevity of the key principles in the Book, the details of the practices were given to the Rasool to teach and demonstrate to the believers.

The Messenger practised and implemented the key principles given in the Book, which was supplemented by the additional guidance and instructions to him from Allaah. His personal practice of the Qur-aanic teachings served as live demonstrations of the ways of putting them into practice. He also acted as a personal coach and trainer to those who were willing to learn and practice those principles in their lives. This way, the believers were practically shown how to practice and were provided very effective, ever continuous and evolving training in all the execution details, practical dynamics and strategic wisdom to achieve Islamic goals.

This kind of teaching makes the details of practice of each command become ingrained in the day-to-day behaviour of the believers, and becomes their second nature and thus, a part of their lives. The ongoing recitation of the Qur-aan continues to reinforce key principles and commands as the trigger points of the desired behaviour whose details have been ingrained in their minds through demonstration, practice and coaching.

During this process the believers understand the appropriate level of rigidity, adaptability or flexibility to be observed while executing the various action steps that are involved in practising each of the key principles / commands. They develop a proper perspective of the relative importance of key commands, an expertise in dynamically fitting them into varying conditions of daily life. They also acquire a sense of striking balance in terms of depth and breadth of practising different commands in different circumstances according to their relative importance and role in the life of a believer.

For knowledge of practical nature, and that is what Islam is all about, just instructions in words are neither efficient nor effective in transferring expertise and knowledge. It is not efficient because it requires a lot more detailed instructions and explanations than demonstration and practical coaching. It is ineffective because the students or trainees do not get the proper idea about the activity in question without observing a demonstration and without doing it personally and being guided or coached along the way as experience grows. Imagine creating an expert in juggling, a successful sportsperson, a military general or a successful person in any career just by giving him books of instruction and sending him in the field to perform.

Just giving a book of guidance and expecting people to be able to live by it, without a trainer and coach would have been like giving swimming instructions and throwing someone into the water expecting him to swim to the other side. Allaah SWT has put us in this world expecting us to reach the beautiful Jannah on the other side without drowning ourselves in this world. Being extremely Merciful, He arranged expert coaches and trainers for us to help us swim successfully to our cherished destination. He gave us a brief command to ‘swim through the world and reach the Jannah’ and appointed Rasool ŜA‘WS to train us in practical swimming.

In short, according to this methodology:

  • Qur-aan precisely defines, meticulously builds and effectively strengthens faith, as well as gives high level, easy to remember commands, such as “Establish Ŝalaah”, ‘Enjoin Ma‘roof  (virtues that are generally accepted and recognized in a society)”, etc.;
  • Rasool is taught by additional revelations and instructions how to establish Ŝalaah, or what are appropriate strategies for enjoining Ma‘roof ;
  • He regularly practices it in different circumstances and situations, demonstrating all its details, variations, ways and forms;
  • Believers follow the Rasool, emulating him, practising the same actions the way he performed;
  • Rasool watches the believers practice and coaches them as needed;
  • Believers frequently recite the Qur-aan, which reinforces the commands, e.g. importance of establishing Ŝalaah and enjoining Ma‘roof ;
  • When they read or hear the brief command “Establish Ŝalaah”, etc., they know exactly what is meant by it because the whole concept and systems have been instilled into their minds through regular practice;
  • Believers teach the next generations the same way as they had learned from the Rasool.

All Qur-aanic commands were presented, practised, taught and coached in this manner.

Allaah SWT, the Knower of our nature, chose this methodology to train us in living an Islamic life because that was the best way for us. Had there been a better way, Allaah SWT, the possessor of absolute Hikmah (wisdom), would have used it. We may not be able to understand all the wisdom inherent in this methodology, but a little bit of sincere thought can lead us to appreciate some of its blessings.


Why not include everything in the Qur-aan itself?

Let us say, that Allaah SWT produced a book that covered detailed Islamic injunctions for every situation a human being could encounter so that the job of the Rasool was just to deliver the Book, nothing was left unspecified and people could find all answers they would ever need, written and preserved in the Book. Just imagine how voluminous that book would be! What would be the practical implications of including everything in the Book? What would be its impact on the life of a believer or of the Muslim community?

Allaah would have to reveal a book so voluminous that it would be totally unmanageable and inaccessible for people. It would have been too massive to be communicable to and among the human beings. No one would be able to learn the book or have it conveniently available for reference. It could be available only in big public libraries, not a handy reference guide in every Muslim home. People would lose touch with it very quickly and it would be forgotten and ignored. In a short time, it would become totally irrelevant for the normal life of a believer. Those who have developed policies and procedures manuals in business environment must have experienced what happens to those manuals in real life, even though those manuals cover only a very small segment of only one aspect of human life.

If such a book would give specific instructions about everything, it would have made life a living hell for people, putting them in a straight jacket unable to move. They would lose all their freedom and be overburdened by the details of the book. Because of the inordinate amount of details and complexities, it would become impossible to be practised. To imagine the complexity that can be created by describing every detail and exception, think of the Income tax act and its regulations. Only those who dedicate their careers to the intricacies of taxation can specialize only in some areas of the tax regime, not all of it. Tax is only one aspect of life, just extrapolating those complexities for a book encompassing all aspects of life can give you a slight idea of its complex and burdensome impracticality.

For those who want to practice, the burden would become so heavy that people would just be crushed under it. Jews tried to have a super book containing everything and see what they got in the form of Talmud, despite the fact that it is only a ritualistic religion, not a complete way of life. Even the rituals of religion have become so burdensome that the book has become irrelevant to the Jews except a very few of them. Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah, was sent to relieve them from the misery inflicted by those collections of rules.

Such a book would also become a source of permanent discord, division, fights and quarrels. Because of its complexities and unfathomable details, every expert would be arriving at different ‘expert’ opinion on ordinary matters of life. Because of the inordinate details and complexities, it would have become a source of fights and discord because every opinion formed or decision made by anyone would start an argument about whether it is a right choice for the circumstances or not. On the one hand, people would have lost all freedom because of having everything contained in the Book. They would have no choice but to follow the dictates of the Book as they were, leaving no room for human decision. On the other hand, they would not be able to live by it because of their lack of the knowledge of all of its contents due to its size, details and complexity. The book would become a punishment instead of Rahmah (Mercy).


Why we cannot have the Qur-aan without Sunnah?

Now let us take another view. Let us say that the Qur-aan is exactly as it is now, but the role of the Messenger beyond the delivery of the Book is completely removed. People have the Qur-aan, they are free to interpret it, draw conclusions from it and implement it as they think fulfils the objective of the text most appropriately as contained in the text itself. How would a Muslim’s life and Muslim community look like? What would be the impact on the Muslim Community?

The first impact would be that we would not have any community whatsoever. Communities are built on commonalities. We would have been left with no commonality. Everyone would have his/her own definition of every command in the Qur-aan. Considering the condition of our community, suddenly we would have one billion definitions of, say, Ŝalaah. Everyone would be claiming his definition to be the one fully in line with the Qur-aanic intent[xx]. Everyone would have his/her own meaning and interpretation of every verse of the Qur-aan. The whole community would be in complete chaos and turmoil without being able to build a consensus on anything at all. Those with leadership potential and aspirations would be able to find some followers and make their own group or sect. Soon there would be thousands of sects, instead of the few that we hear about now. Those who doubt this scenario should talk to some of those who promote and propose doing away with Sunnah and the works of the earlier generations and see if they can come up with a consensus on any Qur-aanic concept like Ŝalaah. Or, they should hold a convention of the Muslim community leadership and try to define any one Islamic concept.

Another point to consider is that how will anyone find out which of all those myriad of opinions represents what Allaah SWT really purported by that command. Sunnah of the Messenger provides us the only way of knowing what Allaah really meant by an injunction because he was in communication with and under supervision of Allaah constantly.

We should be thankful to Allaah SWT that He chose the Book plus Messenger option and made both of them Rahmah (mercy) for us.


Does acceptance of Sunnah mean that the Qur-aan is not complete?

Countries have constitutions, statutes and regulations. Organizations have policies and procedures. People have values they believe in and the action plans, task lists and to do lists to live by those values. The Qur-aan is the constitution, book of principles, manual of policies and list of values that is augmented by the regulations, procedures and task details provided by the Sunnah. It is an absolutely complete to guide human beings at the constitutional level, in setting policies and in providing principles and values to live by. But it is not a book of detailed regulations, procedures or tasks. To provide that kind of details has neither been its goal, nor its purpose. Thus accepting Sunnah as a valid source of regulations, details tasks and procedures does not invalidate the completeness of the Qur-aan for guidance.

Qur-aan contains the complete guidance and full code of life, which, if fulfilled, will earn a believer his salvation. The practical details of the code are, however, provided by Sunnah as explained in foregoing paragraphs.


Is Sunnah as important as the Qur-aan itself?

The relationship between the Qur-aan and Sunnah is like that between the Constitution and the statutes that are promulgated in accordance with and to implement the constitution; between a statute and the regulations that have been prescribed for that statute; between the policies and the procedures that are drawn up in compliance of those policies; or between the values and the action plans that are developed in accordance with those values. The two have their own roles and have their own significance that need not be compared[xxi].


Can Sunnah be at variance with the Qur-aan?

Sunnah can never be at variance with the Qur-aan as it is, by definition, complementary to the Qur-aan. It comprises of the additional knowledge, details and Hikmah (wisdom) used in implementing the teachings of the Qur-aan. Also, Sunnah cannot abrogate, override or nullify any provisions of the Qur-aan. The question of abrogation of a Qur-aanic injunction arises only if Allaah himself wants to change injunction or if the Prophet wants to change it. Neither of these situations can arise: if Allaah wanted to change his command revealed in the Qur-aan, He would do so right through the Qur-aan itself; if the Prophet wanted to change something, he was not authorized to do so. Allaah SWT had his say:

“Say: It is not for me to change it on my own accord. I only follow what is revealed to me.”Yoonus 10:15

In fact, the life of the Prophet was a perfect model of living by the Qur-aan, not at variance with the Qur-aan. Although he himself would never do anything that would violate the Qur-aanic teachings, he was also under strict surveillance by Allaah SWT Who Himself had presented him to the believers as a model to be followed unconditionally. That is why even a slight variation from the utmost standard of excellence was immediately noticed and recorded in the Qur-aan itself. That gives us an assurance beyond doubt that had he ever done anything variant from the Qur-aan, Allaah SWT would have immediately corrected and recorded in the Qur-aan for us to know it until the Day of Judgment. Hence, we can rely with full confidence on his Sunnah as the proper way of implementing the teachings of the Qur-aan.


Does Sunnah inhibit growth and development?

Some people may feel that following the practices, ideas and concepts of old generations inhibits our growth and development as an Ummah. This is possible only if people do not understand the difference between the teachings (principles, procedures, rules) and the tools (the physical means used to practices those teachings). Sunnah applies to principles, rules and procedures that are constant and remain unchanged over time, not to the tools that may change with the development of new technologies. For example, Sunnah teaches about the human behaviour in travelling and transport, not the tool of the travel or transport (camel, car or airplane). It teaches about rules and ethics of war, not the armaments themselves. Sunnah teaches about wiping on the socks, not the raw material they are made from.

The petrifaction problem occurs only when people treat tools, instead of teachings, as constants. Similarly, people who do not understand this difference are those who become confused about the role of Sunnah in a believer’s life. The fact is that most of the problems of petrifaction we are facing today are because people have confused the principles, teachings and rules with physical means and tools. And that is not the fault of Sunnah but our own misunderstanding about and ignorance in the matters of Deen.

In addition, Sunnah of the Prophet itself teaches where people have flexibility and where there is no flexibility, where there is adaptability and where originality must be preserved and what is very important and what is not so important. With the help of the wisdom taught by the Sunnah itself, people of every generation of Muslims can adapt and prioritize various teachings according to their circumstances.


Is Sunnah a Source of Discord or a Source of Unity?

Sunnah is the single most important factor that currently maintains some semblance of Ummah among the Muslims, despite their bad state of affairs. As has been explained earlier, if we discard Sunnah, we would create such chaos and discord that the Muslim Ummah would cease to exist as a community. It would break down into hundreds of thousands of small factions further destroying an already fragmented people. The differences that currently cause discord are mostly in minor things about which there may be multiple practices reported from the Prophet for the same action indicating that there are different options and alternatives in that action allowing the believers flexibility to do what they are comfortable with. Those who have not invested enough time and thought in learning Islamic teachings, may have heard or learnt only one such way and regarded that one way as Sunnah. Then, taking it rigidly and considering it the only alternative, they create discord in the community because of their ignorance and rigidity.

For an example of how Sunnah keeps the Ummah together, just consider Salaah. Currently, even in this disunited condition of the Ummah, there is a consensus about the essential rituals of Salaah regardless of the sect or group of the Muslims practising it as long as that the sect or group values Sunnah (all mainstream groups). The differences are only in minor things where the intent was to have a variety of practices. Those minor differences cause problems only because of the ignorance of people about the relatively low importance of those minor points, their lack of understanding of the religious matters, and their lack of knowledge about what is constant and what is changeable, but not because of the Sunnah itself. Those who doubt that Sunnah is a unifying factor should try to get the rejecters of Sunnah to develop some semblance of unity on any one matter of religious importance.

Although the rejecters of Sunnah propagate that Sunnah is the cause of the problems, just a little bit of realistic thinking exposes invalidity and superficiality of their claim. The one and only contribution they themselves have made to Muslims is that they have created more rifts and fights. The spread of their ideas is weakening the very foundations of religion while creating more fragmentation and discord. Their approach suddenly makes the known and accepted concepts of the Deen (Ŝalaah, Zakaah, Ĥajj, etc.) completely meaningless, without providing any acceptable or agreed upon alternative definitions. Allaah knows whether they do not realize what they are propagating or whether the destruction of Muslim community and getting rid of Islam is their real goal.


Bid‘ah (Heresy)

A practice or an interpretation of any Islamic concept that contravenes Sunnah is called Bid‘ah (Heresy, or fabrication in Deen). It an innovation of people in the matters of Deen, in addition to or in place of the Sunnah practices. While Sunnah is based on the guidance of Allaah provided to the Messenger, Bid‘ah is a misguidance invented by people. While Sunnah creates and maintains balance in the behaviour and attitude of the believers, even a slight /minor Bid‘ah disturbs that balance. Similarly, while Sunnah helps us in putting Qur-aanic injunctions properly into practice and thus establish Deen in our lives and in our society, Bid‘ah destroys the Deen[xxii]. If Bid‘ah is left unchecked it changes the face, spirit and form of the Deen altogether. Thus anyone who adds to the religious practices in addition to Sunnah or anyone who invents his/her own interpretations and practices disregarding Sunnah is inventing and practising Bid‘ah and is knowingly or unknowingly acting to destroy the Deen.

Sometimes people confuse the invention of tools with Bid‘ah. The important point to remember is that just like Sunnah is applicable to principles and practices of implementing the Qur-aanic injunctions in life, not the physical tools and implements; Bid‘ah also is applicable only to the principles, practices and interpretations of religious concepts that are invented in the matters of Deen, not to the new physical tools and technologies to accomplish the goals of those teachings.


How Bid‘ah destroys Deen

Bid‘ah slowly replaces Deen with the human innovations and changes its face, its spirit and substance altogether. That is how Deen of Islam got changed into Judaism and Christianity before us, because instead of strictly following the Deen according to the practices of the Messengers, their followers wanted to use their ‘free minds’ to develop their own ideas, conclusions and practices. Their innovations and heresies created new religions but lost the true Deen of Allaah. Those who insist of rejecting Sunnah are bent upon doing the same to Islam which Allaah SWT has so far protected from the same fate as happened in the past.

Bid‘ah also destroys the community, as indicated earlier, because there can never be unanimity on any humanly invented practice. Unity of thought and practice is only possible through the implementation of the Qur-aan as was done by the Sunnah of the Messenger.


How to be safe from Bid‘ah

The only way to preserve Deen and avoid Bid‘ah is to stick with the Sunnah as practised by the Prophet and as simulated by Sahaabah. Allaah SWT himself has identified the way of the believers (Sahaabah) as the right standard:

“Whoever goes against the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the way of believers, We shall turn him to the direction he has taken and bring him to the Hell – what an evil destination.”An-Nisaa 4:115


What areas of life are covered by Sunnah?

Unfortunately, nowadays when Sunnah is mentioned it is immediately associated only to some acts of worship, some matters of appearance and some mundane aspect of life such as how to eat, drink, brush with miswaak, etc. The use of some simple examples in this treatise to make some points may reinforce that wrong stereotype of Sunnah. Hence, it is important that it is explicitly stated that Sunnah has a much greater role in the life of a Muslim as well as the running the affairs of the Islamic community.

Islam is a complete way of life. It is not just a set of religious rituals. The same is true of Sunnah. Sunnah covers the full spectrum of life. The practices of the Prophet in every part of life are Sunnah and must be treated as such. Our Prophet’s job was not just to teach people how to pray or perform Hajj, but to train people how to live a complete Islamic life both individually and as an Ummah. Hence, In addition to teaching people Islamic rituals, he organized the people into a political entity, set us an Islamic system of organizing the community and running an Islamic state; he implemented Islamic statutes and regulations, established judicial system and implemented economic system; he fought wars, dealt with prisoners of wars and conquered people; and established international relations. He practically implemented the family laws, the inheritance laws, the economic system, the judicial system. In brief his Sunnah covers every aspect of life and elaborates how to live fully according to the Qur-aan in every aspect of individual and collective life.

Every facet of his Sunnah is important. Sunnah must be the source of our guidance in every aspect life and Bid‘ah must be avoided in all those areas.


How is Sunnah conveyed to subsequent generations? Is it reliable?

The greatest and the soundest source of conveying the Sunnah has been the same through which the Sunnah was conveyed to believers originally, i.e., practical demonstration and training. Through their passionate practice of the ways of the Prophet, Sunnah was well established in all aspect of life in the generation of Sahaabah and it continued to be so purely and completely during the time of Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar (Radiyallahu ‘Anhumaa – May Allaah be pleased with them both). During their tenure, a complete model of Islam as implemented by the Prophet was a living reality. That society is our reference point to define the implementation of the Qur-aan according to the Sunnah[xxiii].

In fact the greatest preserver of the Sunnah was the complete Islamic system in force according to which the Muslims society was being run. Every decision and practice of the Prophet was immediately implemented in the Islamic society of Madeenah. By the time of his death, every aspect of Islam had been fully implemented in the society according to his model and it was fully functioning with its own momentum. The institution of the state, the economic system, the political system, the Shoora system, the markets, the judiciary, the households, the rules of war, the matters of international relations everything was practically being practised in the Islamic state of Madeenah, in the Muslim society at large and in the Muslim households. People knew what Islam looks like and what is from the Qur-aan and how it was put into practice by the Prophet. Although over time some of its aspect were lost, or replaced by Bid‘ah, major parts of this system continued as practical preserver of the Sunnah for centuries until the political, economic and legal structure of Islamic system collapsed under colonization of Muslim lands, leaving only personal and religious matters in place.

In addition to the system being in existence, the process of practically training the believers continued from their generation onwards. Practising believers demonstrate to the next generation, train them in practice, and coach them closely until it is drilled into their minds and behaviour. This has been going on without any break from generation to generation and, hence, called Tawaatur (continuity) in action. This was also supplemented by education of the next generations by the previous generation’s most knowledgeable people. The most knowledgeable of Sahaabah (the first generation) taught those in Tabi‘een (the second generation) who were to keen to learn and practice Islamic teaching to the best of the standards. The formal education process continued from generation to generation also without a break.

Then, some knowledgeable people from the third and fourth generations of Muslims, who had learned both the Qur-aan and the Sunnah through both continuity of practical training without any break  (Tawaatur) and continuity though education (words), documented and codified all Islamic teachings from the Qur-aan and Sunnah in the form of Fiqh (understanding of rules of Sharee‘ah). Although their Fiqh opinions included their own derivations and extrapolations which are the product of fallible human beings, the teachings of the primary sources (the Qur-aan and the Sunnah) were discernable form their own opinions. Their endeavours further ensured preservation of Sunnah in its pure form as it was practised during the time of the Prophet and Sahaabah). This documented source became a crosscheck tool to identify if anyone started to add one’s own inventions (Bid‘ah) into the Islamic practices.

Another channel of its communication was through words. The believers from one generation to the next generation reported the words, actions, approvals and disapprovals of Rasoolullaah (Messenger of Allaah). These reports were called Hadeeth (plural: Ahaadeeth). These reports were learnt by heart as well as documented (written) by many individuals among the Sahaabah and subsequent generations of Muslims. Then in the third and fourth generation of Muslims, some people undertook the job of collecting and consolidating this knowledge from individuals and compiled it in the form of well-organized books of reference. Many of the scholars of Fiqh were also scholars of Hadeeth.

In short, the practices of the Messenger of Allaah were diligently preserved through fully functioning system as well as through meticulous adoption of those practices by Sahaabah and succeeding generations of Muslims. They were also preserved through codification of Fiqh and through the reporting of authentic Ahaadeeth. Some people ignorantly assume that Sunnah was only reported through Ahaadeeth and then they further assume, equally ignorantly, that Ahaadeeth were reported only a few centuries later, hence they conclude that Sunnah is not reliable. That is not the case. As has been mentioned earlier, Sunnah was established in the society in its pure form in the time of the Khulafaa-Raashideen (the rightly guided successors to the Prophet). For example, Muslims did not start offering Ŝalaah as it is offered because some books of Ahaadeeth reported it that way. The Ummah was offering Ŝalaah the way the Prophet offered it if his life time, and continued to do so in the generation of the companions (Sahaabah) and the next generation (Tabi‘een), etc. The Sunnah was well established in the society and continued to be so, it was also continually being documented, taught and compiled in the form of reference books of Fiqh and Hadeeth.

Although there are possibilities of personal opinions, innovations and fabrication entering into these three sources. They can be systematically identified. In case of the continuity of actions from generation to generation, there is the possibility of people adding their own self-invented practices, modifying Sunnah practices or abandoning a Sunnah practice (each of which – addition, modification or abandonment -- is a Bid‘ah). If a Bid‘ah goes unchecked though a few generations, it can become difficult to separate it from the Sunnah. But such innovations usually are either geographically local or confined to a certain group of people. Different people in different groups and different localities usually invent different things and the whole Ummah never adopts an innovation or Bid‘ah globally[xxiv], as we can observe in the case of our Ummah. When the actions of the Ummah are considered as a whole, the common element of Sunnah becomes clear, leaving all the local or parochial innovations aside.

In addition, the codification of Fiqh was done when the action of the Ummah were still pure of Bid‘ah. Hence, the actions indicated as Sunnah in their original compilations become a solid evidence of the Sunnah of the Prophet. Fabrication of Ahaadeeth has also been well sorted out by the exquisitely superb work of Muhadditheen. Although each of the channels of Sunnah knowledge give us a reasonably reliable view of how the Qur-aanic injunctions were implemented in the practices of the Prophet, when all three are taken together, it gives us undisputable knowledge of the Sunnah.

In other words, the Sunnah of the Prophet is preserved in the practices that are common among the Ummah as a whole, and through continuous transmission from generation to generation without any gap or any break in between. It is further corroborated by Sunnah mentioned in the Fiqh and those reported in the Ahaadeeth. Thus the true Sunnah of the Prophet has been preserved beyond doubt through three sources. For example, the proper way demonstrated by Sunnah of fulfilling Qur-aanic command about Ŝalaah, Zakaah, Ŝowm or Ĥajj can be easily determined by taking the practices that are commonly considered Sunnah among the billion-strong Ummah in practising these acts of worship. Corroborating those common practices of Sunnah with the documentation of Sunnah practices relative to these acts of worship in the books of Fiqh and Hadeeth will give you extremely authentic view how the Prophet put those commands of the Qur-aan in action. It is the ultimate in preservation and authenticity that no one in the right mind can deny. Anyone who denies the authenticity of the body of Sunnah corroborated through all of the sources is indirectly denying the authenticity of the Qur-aan because Allaah preserved the Qur-aan itself through the same generation of Muslims who passed us the Sunnah. Anyone who denies the authenticity of the body of Sunnah should not believe anything else in this world because nothing in this world else comes even close to the authenticity of the Sunnah.

The body of Sunnah indicated by the corroboration of all three sources are the Sunnah beyond doubt, but even the variations of Sunnah that are indicated in the Books of Fiqh or collections of Hadeeth are valuable sources of knowing where the Prophet practised different things at different occasions and what kind of flexibility we have in those areas.

Thus, for any contemporary seeker of knowledge, the authenticity of the Sunnah that is corroborated through all of the three sources is, obviously, beyond doubt and that Sunnah must be followed in obedience to the Qur-aan. Anyone who rejects such Sunan (plural of Sunnah) that are beyond doubt, he/she is an innovator, rejecter of the commands of the Qur-aan and destroyer of Deen. For example, if someone rejects the common format of Ŝalaah[xxv] as was performed by the Prophet, as is being practised all over the Muslim world (five times, Raka’aat, Takbeer, recitation of the Qur-aan, Qiyaam, Rukoo’, Sajdah, Qa‘dah, etc.) and as is validly indicated in the books of Fiqh and books of Hadeeth, and instead, he/she wants to redefine what is Salaah is one such person.


Worldly Benefits of the Prophet’s Ways

As Sunnah is based on the guidance from Allaah SWT, it represents the ideal ways of living. Although the essence of the Sunnah is learning from the Prophet’s behaviour how to implement the injunctions of the Qur-aan in our day-to-day lives and how to establish the ideal human society that the Qur-aan envisages, even the ordinary acts that the Prophet performed as normal chores of human living have good lessons for us. Those who follow the Prophet’s practices properly in all areas of life, benefit from it because if its being the best standard of human behaviour, without needing to learn it through trial and error and without relying on imperfect human knowledge or subsequent discoveries about the proper way of doing things[xxvi]. Conforming to his behaviour even in as minor actions as drinking water, eating food, and brushing teeth brings tremendous benefits. It is because his were the right and most balanced ways of living. For example, those who eat according to Sunnah will be eating more whole grain foods (non-refined), more vegetables, less meat, eating slowly, chewing properly, eating only when really hungry, stopping eating before being stuffed, etc. They will be maintaining healthy habits without needing to depend on modern food guides and professional advice. Those drinking water according to Sunnah will be drinking exactly in the manner that the modern medicine has discovered to be the ideal way of consuming liquids. Those following the Prophet’s dental hygiene routines of brushing teeth before Ŝalaah will have the cleanest mouths, healthiest gums and the most solid teeth.

However, like all other Islamic actions, these benefits accrue only when the action is done with proper spirit and understanding, not carried out only to fulfil a ritual requirement. The case in point is brushing the teeth. A person properly following the Sunnah will brush his teeth nicely while performing Wudhoo for Ŝalaah with the intention of following the Sunnah of cleaning the mouth and teeth properly. He will attain many times the reward from the Ŝalaah as promised plus enjoy a healthy mouth and teeth. On the other hand, a person who is just putting a check mark on a ritual will have the brush (Miswaak) in his pocket and will just run the brush over his teeth when lining up for Ŝalaah, while his mouth still smells awful and his teeth are decaying due to lack of hygiene.

Allaah's messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us over 1,400 years ago: 

  • Always wash your hands after using the toilet; and preferably perform wudhoo by washing your hands, arms, face etc.  
  • Wash hands before and after you eat.
  • Always eat with your right hand (use your left hand for dirty and impure things and the right hand for eating, drinking and shaking hands). 
  • Don't eat until you are hungry.
  • Never fill your stomach.
  • Divide your stomach into three parts; one for food; one for drink; and one for air.
  • Always sit while you are eating or drinking.

The latest research and studies have highlighted the benefits of following these minor Sunnahs and many of the health professionals are now teaching people exactly what was the Sunnah of the Prophet.


Extremism in respect of Sunnah

Like many other situations with contemporary Muslims, Sunnah is also being treated with extremism.

On the one hand are those who, instead of learning the wisdom of practising Islamic obligations from the Sunnah, treat Sunnah ritually. They are usually interested only in those Sunnah that pertain to the acts of worship. They mostly ignore the Sunnah in dealings, personal qualities and relationships as well as his Sunnah pertaining to the missionary work of the Messenger. Their emphasis is on the form instead of substance as the example of brushing of teeth given above. And their priorities are totally out of place. For example, Allaah sent His Messenger for the dominance of Islam in this world. His Sunnah of making this mission the number one priority of life and all his practices in achieving that mission are totally missed. Similarly, the Prophet himself informed that he was sent for the perfection of excellence in dealings and morality. Instead of paying attention to excellence in behaviour, all of their emphasis is on the length of the beard, wearing of a cap/turban or other matters of appearance that he performed as an Arab, not as a messenger and that have no relevance either to the excellence in faith, Taqwa, or behaviour. Even if any Sunnah other than those about the appearance are mentioned, all the emphasis is laid upon such matters as which foot should go in/out when entering/exiting washroom or Masjid – the matters that should be of interest only after excellence in characters has been built, close relationship with Allaah has been deeply established and life has been dedicated to the establishment of Islam as the dominant way of life in this world. The relative importance of different practices of the Prophet and their relevance under the given circumstances is not learned from the Uswah of Rasool. Because of their misplaced emphasis and wrong approach, Sunnah is portrayed and understood to be a set of ritual practices in petty affairs of life. In addition, because of their unbalanced attitude, differences of opinion in insignificant matters become the basis of fighting / bickering and splitting the Ummah into sects and groups.

On the other hand, there are those who reject Sunnah altogether. They either are those who, in knee jerk reaction to the extremism of the group just mentioned, have gone too far without understanding the real issue. Or they are those who have accepted the non-Islamic way of thinking as the correct one and now want to conform Islam to the Jaahiliyyah (ignorance) of the Non-Islamic cultures and traditions. If the established Sunnahs continue to be established and respected, they cannot do what they want. Hence they are bent upon getting rid of them. Whatever the motive for rejecting the Sunnah, the effect of their extremism is: more fights, more division and destruction of whatever is left of the fibre that binds the community together.



The balanced view about the Sunnah is that it is an extremely important source of Islamic teachings that complements the brevity of the Qur-aan. We must obey and follow the Uswah of the Prophet (Sunnah) while learning from it the wisdom in implementing and prioritizing the Qur-aanic teachings in our given circumstances, societies and the conditions of people. We must also recognize that in certain matters there can be more than one practices, all alternatives being equally valid, to indicate the flexibility and the options that exist for the matter under consideration. In those cases, one of the options is not Sunnah but keeping the variety is Sunnah. We must also learn to pay more attention to the substance and spirit than its form and appearance. Finally, his Arabian styles are not Sunnah, but his teachings in those matters are.  Accepting, adopting and practising Sunnah in this balanced way will only help us to build, develop and maintain the kind of unified, cohesive and powerful society that the Prophet established in Arabia.



Biography of the Prophet is called Seeratunnabi, or Seerah, for short. Some aspects of the Seerah of the Prophet are preserved in the Qur-aan, but most of its details reach us through Hadeeth and biographical / historical books. Study of and reflection on his Seerah teaches us of his life history, highlights many of his Sunnahs and helps us learn the wisdom he used in dealing with the variety of situations that he faced during various stages of the Islamic movement.

Prophet Muhammad ŜA‘WS was the only man in this world who succeeded in completely changing a nation in the shortest time, to the deepest level of its core, in the most comprehensive aspects, with least loss of life, in the most compassionate way and setting the best record at winning the hearts of his enemies. He revolutionized their paradigm, their outlook, their attitude, their hearts, their minds, their morals, their values, their behaviour, their political system, their social structure, the legal codes, the economic system, their preferences, their goals and their interests. He transformed them from a lawless society to the most organized, law-abiding, and peaceful society; from uneducated masses to the leaders of knowledge and enlightenment; and from the crudest nomads to the most sophisticated civilization in the world. He was able to achieve all this because he was guided by the Qur-aan and extra-Qur-aanic revelations from Allaah all the way and at every stage of his movement. His Seerah and the guidance of the Qur-aan are intricately related to each other. For those who are interested to understand the Qur-aanic way of creating the best human society and those who want to repeat the success of beneficially revolutionizing a society to its full potential must study the Qur-aan along with the Seerah of the Prophet. They both go hand in hand in imparting that knowledge and wisdom.

Although Seerah is not the topic of this treatise[xxvii], this part has been included just to show the difference as well as the relationships among Qur-aan, Sunnah, Seerah and Hadeeth.



What is Hadeeth?

Hadeeth means a statement, story, talk, conversation, message, or report. As an Islamic concept it means a report of any of the Prophet’s words, actions, approvals, disapprovals or indifferences. ‘Words’ include instructions, orders or prohibitions. ‘Actions’ include any thing he did or abstained from. ‘Approval’ also includes concurrences. ‘Indifference’ represents the situations where he saw someone do something but did not express any disapproval.

Hadeeth, being a report, can be authentic, suspect or fabricated and its contents can be valid, invalid or a mixture of valid and invalid information.


Are Sunnah and Hadeeth synonymous?

Hadeeth and Sunnah are often used synonymously. However, they are not one and the same. The difference between the two is subtle but crucial. Sunnah as a source of Islamic law is the goal, while Hadeeth is one of the vehicles to inform/learn about the Sunnah.

Sunnah represents Islamic teachings derived from the actions and practices of the Messenger of Allaah. It is the practical Islamic model derived from the lifestyle of the Prophet. That model was immediately adopted and put into practice by his Sahaabah (Companions). In other words, Sunnah is action oriented and pertains to actions – emanating from the actions of the Prophet and immediately conserved in the actions of his followers. Hence, it has basically been preserved through the actions of the Ummah continued from generation to generation.

Codification of Islamic teachings in the form of Fiqh and reporting of the Prophet’s actions in the form of Hadeeth and Seerah became additional means of preserving the Sunnah.

Ahaadeeth that report actions and practices of the Messenger of Allaah are one of the sources of transmitting the knowledge of Sunnah. However, not all Ahaadeeth represent Sunnah. A Hadeeth may not be a report of Sunnah for two reasons. Firstly, Ahaadeeth that report words and explanations that are not narrations of the practices of the Prophet are not reports of Sunnah. For example, they may provide knowledge of a biographical (Seerah) or historical nature. Later on in this treatise, some examples have been given of the knowledge that Ahaadeeth provide which is additional to Sunnah. Secondly, a Hadeeth may be invalid, reported out of context or reporting a misunderstood message. Such reports also do not represent Sunnah. Thus, a Hadeeth may or may not be a report of Sunnah. Conversely, not all Sunnah may have been reported in the form of Hadeeth. Some of the Sunnah preserved by various jurists in their books of Fiqh or by historians in the Seerah may have not been reported in the books of Hadeeth.

Because there is a possibility of doubt in the authenticity of a Hadeeth, a Muslim can rightfully question the validity of a Hadeeth or reject a Hadeeth for which (s)he feels that there are reasonable grounds to indicate that it is invalid. However, a Muslim cannot question the validity of the Sunnah as a source of Islamic teachings. It is an essential source that complements the Qur-aan. Anyone who rejects Sunnah is, in fact, rejecting the Qur-aan wherein the Prophet has been charged with the responsibility of providing the official explanation of the commands of the Qur-aan and to implement the Qur-aan in practice as Allaah wanted it to be implemented. The rejecters of Sunnah are also rejecting the clear commands of the Qur-aan where the Muslims have been commanded to follow the footsteps of the Prophet, and to take his behaviour as the best model of Islamic practices.

While we can never be 100% sure about a particular report in a Hadeeth, we can be 100% sure of the established Sunnah. The Sunnah of the Prophet is adequately preserved in the common practices of the Ummah, practices that have been transmitted continuously from generation to generation. Those common practices are further corroborated by Sunnah mentioned in the Fiqh and those reported in the Ahaadeeth. Thus, the true Sunnah of the Prophet has been preserved beyond doubt through three sources. It is the ultimate preservation and authenticity that no one can deny.

Sunnah of the Prophet could have variations representing different practices in the areas where the Prophet demonstrated flexibility by practising different things at different times. Considering the process of selection and documentation of Hadeeth, some reports that were genuine about the actions of the Prophet, his Sunnah, could have been rejected by a Muhaddith because they were different from the practices the compiler believed to be the Sunnah. Consequently, some knowledge of Sunnah may not have been recorded in the existing collections of Hadeeth, while it may have been documented through the codification of Fiqh. It means that Hadeeth is one source of the knowledge of Sunnah, but not an exclusive one.

Thus, Sunnah and Hadeeth are not synonymous: All Sunnah is not reported through Hadeeth; Hadeeth is not the exclusive source of knowing Sunnah; and not all Hadeeth reports Sunnah. Sunnah, as a complementary but crucial source of Islamic teachings that is mandated by the Qur-aan itself, is the end while Hadeeth is one of the means.


How did the reporting of Hadeeth start?

After the death of the Prophet in 11 AH, the Muslim community continued performing the day-to-day activities as they had been trained. In addition to practising all they had learned from the Prophet, many Sahaabah memorized the words they had heard and actions they had observed from him. In addition, some Sahaabah -- such as Aboo Ayyoob Anŝaari, Zaid Bin Thaabit, ‘Ali Bin Abi Ŧaalib, Samurah Bin Jundub, ‘Abdullaah Bin ‘Amr, Anas Bin Maalik, etc. – wrote them down[xxviii] as well.

For educating the next generation, in addition to passing Islamic teachings on to their children through practical coaching, Sahaabah also started teaching their knowledge as an educational activity quoting what they heard and saw from the Prophet.

Also, not everyone was exposed to the Sunnah of the Prophet concerning those situations that are not commonly experienced by people on a regular basis. When such a situation would arise, the believers would immediately be interested to find out what the Prophet said, did, or instructed to do in such a situation. Those who knew would report the Prophet’s words, actions, approvals, disapprovals or indifferences relating to that situation. On the basis of that knowledge of Sunnah, believers would act accordingly knowing that conformance with Sunnah was crucial to practicing Islam properly.

This reporting was in line with the command of Allaah to the wives of the Prophet to report what they learn from him:

And mention (spread to other people) what is recited, in your homes, of the verses of Allaah and wisdom. Indeed Allaah is ever subtle and aware of all things.Al-Aĥzaab 33:34

Wisdom, as explained earlier, is the proper implementation of the teachings of the Qur-aan in the day-to-day life by the Prophet. The wives of the Prophet are being commanded to spread to other people, in addition to the Qur-aan, the wisdom they learn from the actions and daily Islamic living of the Prophet (Sunnah). This is a clear endorsement of the reporting of Sunnah.

The second generation (Tabi‘een) started learning from Sahaabah as much as possible, from as many of them as possible. This started the process of reporting. After learning from Sahaabah, the second generation would often describe that they heard from so and so that the Prophet said/did such and such. Some of them started writing and collecting whatever they learnt from Sahaabah. Thus, many Taabi’een (the second generation Muslims) maintained their own collection of the reports of the words and actions of the Prophet that they had learnt from different Sahaabah teachers.

The first generation of Muslims were extremely cautious in reporting the words and actions of the Prophet lest they may say something inappropriately and thus, be subjected to Allaah’s anger for ascribing something to His Prophet that was not exactly as it was intended to be. It was commonly known among Sahaabah (reported by more than 100 Sahaabah) that:

“Whoever intentionally lies on me (attributes something to me that is not from me) should determine his place in Hell.”[xxix]


Were Ahaadeeth fabricated?

The attitude of extreme care, caution and scruple in reporting something about the Prophet was passed along and continued with the second generation of noble Muslims (Taabi’een). But the rapid expansion of the Ummah, political turmoil, opportunistic human tendencies and dilution of faith with passage of time raised some unscrupulous people and hypocrites. Observing the value the believers rightfully placed on Sunnah, they started concocting and inventing Ahaadeeth of their own.


Why were Ahaadeeth invented?

People fabricated Ahaadeeth because they were rightfully believed to be a valid source of Islamic law and teachings in their society. No one would have bothered to concoct a Hadeeth if Sunnah would not have been an essential source of Islamic teachings. Naturally, people forge only the currency that is legal tender.

There were three kinds of motives for this heinous crime:

  • Some sort of worldly expediency, or having an axe to grind e.g., financial benefits, recognition as knowledgeable person, achieving a desired outcome out of argument/conflict, etc. Also in this category was the desire to seek favour with political authorities by concocting Hadeeth in their favour;
  • Self-deceiving ‘good’ motives such as inventing Fadhaail (virtues) and blessings to attract people to recite more Qur-aan, or do some other ‘good’ thing or being more ‘spiritual’, inventing scary descriptions to encourage people to worry about the Hereafter, etc. There were people who even confessed that to detract people from Fiqh and bring them to Qur-aan, they invented Ahaadeeth giving virtues of the Soorahs. Similarly, some ‘pious’ people invented statements to scare people and stimulate them emotionally towards Deen and the Hereafter[xxx].
  • Justifying an extremist or hypocritical behaviour, assertion or goal.

Whatever the motivation, it was a deadly game, and very injurious to the purity of Islam and to the fabricators’ own end in the Hereafter.


What was done to identify the real Ahaadeeth from those invented?

The true believers rose to the challenge posed by the dishonest, unscrupulous fabricators. They developed such scientific methodologies and a superb system of validation that is unmatched in the history of mankind. Scholars called ‘Muhadditheen’ (experts on Hadeeth) dedicated their lives to the sciences of identifying the reliable narrations of Hadeeth from those of suspect or fabricated nature. To achieve this goal, the following methodologies were developed and employed:

  • Any person reporting a Hadeeth had to identify the complete chain of narrators through which the Hadeeth was transmitted from the Prophet to the current reporter.
  • The reporter’s personal life, and everyone else’s in the chain of narration, was examined in terms of habits, abilities, practices and way of life. If his actions, behaviour and personality appeared to be that of an Allaah-fearing, honest, truthful person, then the narrator’s capacity to remember was judged and his reputation in the community was gauged. A Hadeeth was accepted from a person only if he was considered reliable from all these criteria. Even a semblance of lying in one’s behaviour was considered enough cause to treat him as an unreliable reporter.
  • The chain was scrutinized and validated to establish if each successive narrator mentioned in the chain had actually, at any time during his/her life, met and taught the next narrator.
  • To facilitate this task, detailed biographies of the narrators of Hadeeth were compiled with all the relevant information that would help determine if that person was eligible to be relied upon in reporting of a Hadeeth or if he appropriately fit in a certain chain of narrators.
  • Each narrator was appropriately rated in terms of reliability, similar to a credit rating done by Dominion Bond Rating Service, Moody’s, Dunn & Bradstreet or Standard & Poor.
  • Similarly acceptable chains of narrators were also evaluated and rated. Good chains were distinguished from the suspect ones.
  • The fabricators of Hadeeth and their fabrications were identified and documented.

These were tremendous and unparalleled research efforts that were carried out as labours of love by many dedicated scholars. They produced the results that were as close to perfect as human resources allow but could not be absolutely perfect due to the nature of the work. The major thrust of this work was establishing the reliability of the narrators and their interaction, which has a large element of subjectivity. For example, people’s opinions about others are quite subjective. Establishing reliability or lack thereof about people spread all over the Islamic territory on the basis of other people’s views about them has a built-in subjectivity. An eminent scholar, thinker and reformer like Syed Maudoodi may be held in contempt by the majority of Pakistanis, while debauch, morally bankrupt and anti-Islamic elements like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or Mustafa Kamal Pasha may be revered by the masses. Although people of knowledge might know the reality of who is who, the masses may not. An opinion formed on the basis of general reputation (opinion of masses) might be misleading. In addition, many personal biases, parochial affiliations, and personal likes and dislikes may also play a role in assessing the reliability, or unreliability of a person.

Then, there was one area where the scholars of Hadeeth (Muhadditheen) were not as rigorous in applying their strict reporting rules. If a report did not talk about legal matters, but only about things that were geared to encouraging people to do good deeds or about scaring people about the life Hereafter, they were accepted without much scrutiny[xxxi]. Thus, many reports were accepted the message of which was in essence dubious in nature and the authenticity of which was questionable. That is the kind of suspect material that has been used by subsequent generations to justify mysticism and other Bid‘ah practices.

Thus, in addition to the validation of a Hadeeth on the basis of the narrators, they also need to be evaluated on the basis of the contents of the narration to see if it conforms to the teachings of the Qur-aan, because true Sunnah will complement the Qur-aan, but can never be at variance with it. It also needs to be judged in relation to more authentic Ahaadeeth, authentic practices proved by Mutawaatar[xxxii] (continued) actions from generation to generation and consensus of the Ummah. Another criterion to evaluate a purported Hadeeth with is that it should fit with the essence and spirit of Islam. The Prophet said, “If you hear a Hadeeth from me that feels familiar to your heart and with which you feel emotionally impacted and you find it close to you, then I am closer to it than you. But if you hear a Hadeeth from me with which you feel uncomfortable and from which you feel emotionally repelled and you feel at a distance from it, then I am farther from it than you.” From Aboo Ĥumaid in ‘Al-Kifaayah fi ’Ilmir-Rawaayah’

The Prophet also said, “If you are told about a Hadeeth from me that you find according to your generally accepted good values, take it; but if you are told a Hadeeth from me that is like something generally undesirable, do not take it because I never say undesirable things nor am I disposed towards them.” Muhammad Bin Jubair Bin Muŧ‘am from his father in ‘Al-Kifaayah fi ’Ilmir-Rawaayah’

Naturally, these types of tests can be applied only by those extraordinary, eminent scholars who have dedicated their lives to properly understand, comprehend and practice Islam as practised by the Prophet and his companions. It is not something ordinary Muslims can do. Above all, it is not something to be taken from those who want to invent a new kind of Islam more fitting with Un-Islamic (Western or other) philosophies, approaches and ideas than with the practices of the Prophet and his companions.


Are the existing Hadeeth collections perfect?

As no human endeavour can be perfect, it is illogical and unnatural to assume that the compilers of Hadeeth did not, by mistake, accept a Hadeeth that was suspect or reject a Hadeeth that was correct. Both possibilities do exist and we cannot claim perfection for any collection of Hadeeth.

However, the experts in the sciences of Hadeeth have rated the following books to be the most reliable, having the least risk of those kinds of mistakes:

  • Muwatta’ of Maalik Ibn Anas
  • Jaami’- Saheeh of Muhammad Ibn Ismaa’eel Al-Bukhaari
  • Jaami’- Saheeh of Muslim Ibn Hajjaaj Qushairee

They have also rated the following in a high reliability category:

  • Sunan of Aboo Daawood
  • Jaami’ of Tirmidzee
  • Sunan of Imam An-Nasaaee
  • Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hambal

Other reasonable collections are:

Sunan of Ibn Maajah, Musnad of Idrees Shaafi’ee, Mustadrak of Haakim and collections of Daarmee, Bayhaqee, Daaraqutnee, and Tabaraanee. The experts in the sciences of Hadeeth have noticed that although the majority of Ahaadeeth in these collections are reliable, many are weak in reliability (Dha’eef).

The writings of the following contain many weak and fabricated reports:

Ibn Jareer Tabaree, Khateeb Baghdaadee, Aboo Na’eem, Ibn ‘Asaakir, Dailamee, Ibn ‘adiyy, Ibn Mardawayh and Waaqidee. Although they may have some good and valid reports, only an expert of the sciences of Hadeeth can cull those and present them for the benefit of others.

Some people want to discard all Hadeeth collections just because a handful of the Ahaadeeth might be suspect. Discarding thousands of pearls of wisdom because of a few that appear to be incorrect is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The rejecters of Hadeeth have a handful of narrations that are objectionable in their opinion. Each of them keeps bringing up those few and attacking the whole collection because of their objections to those few. They want to deprive the Ummah from an immense source of knowledge, just because they find some of the Ahaadeeth not to their liking. Even if the examples they quote are considered to be invalid, how does that justify rejection of the Hadeeth altogether? If this approach/philosophy of rejecting the whole because of the problems with a part is used for anything else in life, life will become un-sustainable. Taking that approach, we should never drive a car nor fly in a plane because of the risk of being in an accident. We should never believe in any story, history, quotation, biography, etc. because it may not be completely accurate.

Granted that there is a difference of significance between historical books / biographical accounts and Ahaadeeth due to their religious significance, hence there is greater risk in accepting an invalid Hadeeth than the other things mentioned as examples. It is precisely due to this greater risk that greater scrutiny and validation efforts are undertaken for establishing the authenticity and accuracy of a Hadeeth. That is why very special people have dedicated their whole lives to do this task to the best possible standards. It is just like currency notes. Everyone knows their value and some people forge them for that reason. To counter their forging efforts and catch if the forgery takes place, the issuing authorities use techniques and systems that reduce the risk to the minimum, but it is never eliminated. The greater the value of the currency note, the greater risk that it will be forged and the more sophisticated are the techniques used by the issuing authority to discourage forgery and to catch the fake notes. Although risk of forgery remains, people do forge and they are caught, but the use of currency is not given up. But if people stop using the currency notes because there might be some counterfeit currency in circulation, the economy will collapse. Another example will be that of food on which our life depends. If we start rejecting food because many things that are presented as foods are risky for health, we will starve ourselves to death. Instead, the department of health ensures there are adequate controls in place to protect people from those risks and to research, identify and educate the public about the risks and dangers of various food items. Similar to the currency system and food, we have an extremely valuable source of Islamic knowledge that is protected through an unparalleled system to identify forged attributions to the Prophet. The system has achieved its objectives superbly and continues to function exceptionally well.

Perhaps it should be reiterated here that the Qur-aan is the ultimate guardian of the truth and it is the criterion that helps us identify if any Hadeeth is not according to its teachings and spirit. Also, the teachings derived from Hadeeth are further corroborated by the Mutawaatar Sunnah and against the full body of the Hadeeth knowledge. This system of checks and balances is an effective mechanism to catch any counterfeit Hadeeth that slips through the scrutiny of the Muhadditheen.

This noble work on the validation and selections of Ahaadeeth has continued throughout the Islamic History. Many subsequent scholars have done further research and evaluation on the basis of the previously documented works. However, all these collections and works are for the benefit of the research scholars and jurists who specialize in the interpretation, extrapolation, application and implementation of Islamic law in the contemporary societies.

The ordinary Muslims cannot really rely on the contents of these books. For their benefit, different scholars have compiled different selections from the aforementioned earlier works from different perspectives of day-to-day needs of general public. Some of the examples are: Riyaadh-us-Saaliheen, Mishkaatul Masaabeeh, An-Nawawiy’s Forty Ahaadeeth and Forty Hadeeth Qudsi of Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies. Many contemporary scholars have also compiled selections of valid Ahaadeeth (with translations into different local languages such as Urdu and English) from all of the sources mentioned earlier that are relevant and beneficial for contemporary ordinary Muslims. Some useful collections with Urdu translation are M’aariful-Hadeeth, Raahi ‘Amal, Zaadi Raah, Tarjumaanul-Hadeeth, and Intikhaabi Hadeeth. The general Muslim public does not need to go through the scrutiny, evaluation and critique of the voluminous collections. That work has been done for their benefit to fulfill their needs.

Those who reject a source of knowledge that has been keenly scrutinized and preserved, they continue to willingly accept many historical narratives where the accuracy is quite suspect, embellished by propaganda and totally un-scrutinized for accuracy. If they are not schizophrenic, why would they adopt one kind of attitude in all affairs of life but totally different to Hadeeth? Why would they single out Hadeeth for abnormal treatment, unless they want to get rid of Islam as a way of life and want to convert it to something that is suitable to a lifestyle they cherish.


Are these collections useful?

When used properly, they are an extremely useful and invaluable source of Islamic knowledge of Sunnah. Although there is a risk that a practice that is not Sunnah may be considered Sunnah on the basis of a suspect Hadeeth, the risk is absolutely mitigated by the splendid work of the Muhadditheen. When Collections of Hadeeth are used as a complementary source of the knowledge of Sunnah along with the Sunnah preserved through the Mutawaatar actions and codification of Fiqh, and are judged by the criteria of conformance to the Qur-aan, the risk is totally eliminated.

In addition to being an important source of knowledge of Sunnah, Ahaadeeth are also an important source of knowledge to help us understand the Qur-aan by providing pertinent prophetic explanations to some verses of the Qur-aan, providing biographical information to supplement the brevity of the Qur-aan and to provide proper context for some incidents referred to in the Qur-aan.

Following are some examples that just paraphrase, explain and re-emphasize the message of the Qur-aan:

Ĥajj of the House is people’s obligation to Allaah, whoever can afford means to travel for it, but whoever adopts disbelief, then Allaah does not care for the worlds.Aali-’Imraan

This is explained by the following comments from the Prophet:

“Whoever has the travel expenses and means of traveling to the House of Allaah and does not perform Ĥajj, it does not matter for him if he dies as a Jew or Christian.” Reported by ‘Ali in Tirmidzee and by Aboo Umaamah in Aboo Dawood.

The following Hadeeth explains the message of the two verses of the Qur-aan given underneath:

“None of you can be a believer unless his aspirations become subservient to what I have brought.”

This is the same message as given by the Qur-aan:

It is not for a believing man or a believing woman that they should have any choice about their affair when Allaah and His Messenger have decided a matter. Thus, whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger has clearly gone astray.Al-Aĥzaab 33:36

But no, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you (O Messenger) the judge over what they dispute among themselves and then do not feel any discomfort inside them from what you have judged and submit (to your decision) in full submission.An-Nisaa 4:65

However, the following verses of the Qur-aan cannot be understood properly without the biographical and historical background provided by Ahaadeeth and Seerah:

The Qur-aan says:

So when Zaid had no longer interest in her (divorced her), We married her to you.

Without the help of Hadeeth and Seerah, no one can understand or figure out: Who was Zaid? Who was her? And what had transpired?

The Qur-aan says:

He frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man.‘Abasa 80:1-2

Try to explain these verses just on the basis of the Qur-aan and identify who frowned and turned away and who was the blind man? When did it happen? What were the circumstances?

The Qur-aan says:

When Allaah promised you people one of the two groups…Al-Anfaal 8:7

Who were these two groups and where in the Qur-aan they have been explained?

The Qur-aan says:

When you were on the near side of the valley, and they were on the farther side and the caravan was downward from you... Al-Anfaal 8:42

Can anyone figure out without referring to the Seerah and Hadeeth that which valley and caravan are being talked about and who are ‘they’?

What regions are meant in the following verse?

Allaah has helped you in many regions…At-Towbah 8:25

The Qur-aan says:

If you do not help him, Allaah has already helped him when the disbelievers had expelled him as one of the two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, “Do not worry, indeed Allaah is with us”… At-Towbah 8:40

Who expelled, who was with him, which cave they were in and why would the other companion worry?

The Qur-aan says:

And on the three who were left behind… At-Towbah 8:118

Who the three who were left behind? From where? What was their matter? What did they repent from? When was repentance accepted?

We can go and on, to show that there are many places in the Qur-aan where no one can understand the text without knowing the details and background that comes from Hadeeth and Seerah.


Are they like History?

First of all there is a monumental difference in the value and quality of information reported by both sources. Hadeeth reports wise words and beautiful actions of the Messenger of Allaah; history reports events of fallible societies and, mostly violent and criminal activities of political leaders. Even in terms of authenticity, historical accounts are so much inferior in quality than Ahaadeeth that there is no comparison.

History is just one narration of the happenings of a certain period from the eyes of the authors who have all the human weaknesses, biases, perspectives, preferences, loyalties and animosities that greatly influence what is reported and how it is reported. There is hardly any scientific scrutiny or examination of history when compared to the scrutiny and tests a Hadeeth goes through. The only evaluation tool that is available to authenticate historical accounts is a comparison between the versions of events recorded by various authors. That is a not a good test of the validity of the information being conveyed. Basically, history is usually written by or at the behest of conquerors or victorious nations, and the winners of wars tend to promote only their view of things. They usually give a very bleak and negative picture of the losers. Historians present the prevalent view blessed by the powers that be. Regardless of how many comparisons are done, all writers usually carry the same biases and sentiments. Often differing views are silenced and eliminated through coercion, ostracism and terrorizing.


Are they like the Bible?

Books of Hadeeth are so tremendously superior in quality and accuracy over the contents of the Bible that even they cannot be compared. Following are the major differences:

The Bible is a collection of writings of unknown people. Ignoring a few letters and correspondence attributed to Paul, none of the authors of any of the books in the Old or New Testament are known. Their knowledge, intelligence, honesty, behaviour, and personality -- nothing is known. Some of them have even apparently cheated by copying material from others, which is evidenced by the duplications of exact words and passages in subsequent books. The Bible mostly contains mythology, hearsay or opinions and the explanations of some ignorant people (ignorance evidenced by the unscientific, illogical and incorrect statements made). Some of the authors appear to have been devoid of morals or ethics considering the type of things they have written. That is why there is so much inaccuracy in facts, in consistency and so many contradictions. There are only minor parts here and there where even a Messenger has been quoted such as Moses said… or Jesus said…Even in those cases there is no way of verifying the accuracy of such claims.

On the other hand, every Hadeeth quoted in the Books of Hadeeth has an identifiable reporter and chain of narrators and almost always it quotes the Messenger of Allaah and it is verifiable for consistency with the Qur-aan.

Secondly, the Bible is actually a book of history written from the tunnel vision viewpoint of a particular race. The Old Testament completely revolves around Israelites and records who fought/killed whom, who married/had sex with whom and who begot whom, along with some religious teachings mentioned in passing. If the genealogical, sexual and killing accounts are taken out of that part of the Bible, only a few pages will remain. From the perspective of the quality of historical information, it appears to be even inferior to ordinary books of history and relates more to mythological literature than anything else. New Testament is more like a biography of Jesus, containing some of his discourses along with events of his life.

Those who think or treat Ahaadeeth like the narrations in the Bible, apparently then, know neither the Bible nor the Hadeeth. Otherwise they would not make such an invalid categorization.


Cautions needed in using Hadeeth to draw conclusions

It goes without saying that the Qur-aan is the ultimate criterion of the validity of the message of a Hadeeth because Sunnah is complementary to the Qur-aan and can never be at variance with it. Similarly, it has to be consistent in its message to the overall spirit of the message of the Qur-aan and the Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet. These assessments can be properly carried out only by those who have dedicated their lives to the knowledge of the Qur-aan, Sunnah and Hadeeth.

When scholars have established the validity of a Hadeeth, people should still be careful in using Ahaadeeth for drawing practical guidance. While drawing conclusions from Ahaadeeth, it is important that all valid Ahaadeeth on a subject matter are considered. Each Hadeeth could also be evaluated in comparison to other Ahaadeeth on the same subject, giving attention to the status of the reporters among the companions of the Prophet as well as the number of different reporters reporting the same or similar point. In addition, the following two important factors must be kept in mind:


Reporting in own words

Hadeeth have been reported in the words of the people reporting them, and not exactly the words of the Prophet. Despite the best of the intentions, sincerity and attention, the understanding of the words by a listener might be at variance with the speaker and or words used by the reporter may not be conveying exactly the same message as the speaker. Many synonyms have subtle difference in their meaning that may matter a lot in some cases. Unless the words were repeated in front of the Prophet and accepted by him, or many Sahaabah reported exactly the same words, we cannot be sure about a reporter’s choice of words. Thus, we can get a general impression from the wording of Hadeeth but cannot take them literally or dwell upon legal nuances of the words used. Here is an example indicating a slight change in word can mean a lot:

Baraa bin ‘Aadzib reports: The Messenger of Allaah said: When you are ready to go to bed, perform Wudhoo like Wudhoo for Ŝalaah, then lie on your right side and say, “O Allaah, I tender myself to You, entrust my affairs to You, take You as my backer, turning to You in fear and coming to You with ambition. There is no refuge and no protection from You except You. I believe in Your Book that You have revealed and Your Prophet that You have sent as messenger.” If you die, you will die on your nature (Fitrah). Make these words the last words you speak. Baraa says that I learned the words as ‘Your Messenger that You sent as messenger’. The Prophet corrected, “No! ‘Your Prophet that You sent as messenger.”

There is a subtle but important difference between the two words “Messenger” and “Prophet”, as was explained in the beginning of this book. The phrase: “Your Prophet that You sent as messenger”, explains the complete role of the Prophet as a Prophet and a Messenger. By saying Messenger in its place makes ‘arsalta’ (sent as messenger) redundant and it does not clarify the point that as a messenger of Allaah, he was also a prophet.


Special circumstances, situations in special cases

Many answers, explanations, admonitions and instructions given by the Prophet to the companions were very much dependent on a variety of factors that had to do with the level of knowledge, intellect and understanding of the addressee(s), their personal commitment and level of faith, their special situations or problems, and special circumstances of the situation being talked about. Those kinds of explanations, communications, instructions and sayings cannot be taken literally and applied carte blanche to everything and every situation. Although even those Ahaadeeth are valuable to teach us the Hikmah of dealing with special situations or personal circumstances of each case, we cannot generalize them and apply them everywhere. Hence, to benefit from such Ahaadeeth properly, we must know the circumstances of the situation when those words were said. Only that knowledge would give us the perspective to develop an appropriate understanding of the words of the Prophet and to learn Hikmah from it.

For example, “The leaders will be from Quraish” was a temporary instruction relevant to the circumstances of the Arabian Peninsula at that time. This instruction was to avoid arguments on this issue and the Fitnah that could have happened because of the feelings of a faction in Ansaar who thought the succession of the leadership after the Prophet’s death should be to Ansaar for their services. This did help on his death. However, it cannot be taken as a permanent command for a certain race to be leaders.

Similarly, “I have been commanded to fight people, until they say Laa ilaaha illallaah”. The word ‘people’ in this Hadeeth was only applicable to Quraish who were the first addressees of the Messenger’s Da’wah[xxxiii]. It is Allaah’s Sunnah (consistent practice) that people of the locality where a messenger is sent, either have to become Muslim or they are destroyed. This cannot be applicable to other people of the world. If it is taken to apply to everyone, it becomes against the Qur-aan because Allaah SWT Himself has given the permission to accept Jizyah from the People of the Book if they surrender to the Islamic state.[xxxiv] Although it was specifically mentioned in reference to the People of the Book, it was applicable to all non-believers other than Quraish. The Prophet himself accepted Jizyah from Christians and Zoroastrians. Similarly, other Arabs tribes who entered into agreements with the Islamic state were not forced to become Muslims. Thus both Qur-aan and Other Ahaadeeth indicate that fighting until they become Muslim was only for Quraish. For others, the rule was fighting until they either become Muslim or subservient to Muslim rule. Either the context has been lost in reporting the statement or the word ‘people’ has been inadvertently generalized instead of keeping it to the ‘People of Quraish”.

On the other hand, there can be some comments made by the Prophet for a particular situation that were intended to be applicable in general.

Many factors have to be considered to understand proper applications of the Ahaadeeth to practical situations, including context of the circumstances and perspectives in which certain words were said. When applying any Hadeeth to practical situations, every word of the Hadeeth should not be taken literally. Rather, the general message conveyed by the Hadeeth should be derived and used for determining Sunnah from it, in the light of the overall message conveyed by other Ahaadeeth and the Qur-aanic provision.


Motivational / Inspirational Ahaadeeth

As it is known that Muhadditheen were slack in their evaluation of the authenticity of Ahaadeeth that were geared to motivate people to do certain spiritual acts or to scare people about indulgence in this world, such Ahaadeeth should be accepted with a grain of salt. They should be quoted or used only after due scrutiny about their validity and their testing against the overall message and mission of Islam. Although some researchers were able to identify such fabrications, most commentators of the Qur-aan, writers of Islamic books and Sufis have continued spreading these suspect narrations without due scrutiny.


Extremist Tendencies towards Hadeeth

As mentioned earlier, one extremism is to reject Ahaadeeth altogether as a source of the knowledge of Sunnah. This view is so untenable and illogical that it does not require any further discussion. These rejecters have picked up a handful of Ahaadeeth from the vast treasure of thousands of the Ahaadeeth to discredit and devalue the whole collection. They keep bringing up those handful narrations that are not even 1% of the Ahaadeeth collection and want us to discard all authentic and extremely valuable source of Islamic knowledge because of the infinitesimal portion that is suspect. There is no rhyme or reason for rejecting this great source of knowledge just because of a small risk that some of them can be fabricated. Unfortunately, most of the rejecters of Hadeeth also become rejecters of Sunnah. Because of their inability to comprehend the difference between Hadeeth and Sunnah, they confuse the two and their disbelief, suspicion and lack of trust in Hadeeth leads them to deny the role of Sunnah in living Islamically. What they do not realize is that by denying/rejecting Sunnah, they deny/disobey clear injunctions of the Qur-aan and hence, negate their faith. They also invalidate their faith in Messenger-hood (Risaalah) by denying the Messenger’s role of explaining and demonstrating the teachings of the Qur-aan through his words and his Sunnah as a model of Islamic behaviour.

On the other extreme are people who take every Hadeeth as if it were applicable universally, regardless of the context and circumstances in which the words were said or the action took place. They take every word of a narration of Hadeeth as if it were the preserved word of Allaah, not the fallible words used by mortal human beings to express what they understood to be the intent of the Messenger of Allaah. They apply Hadeeth literally like the words of the Qur-aan, instead of using the Ahaadeeth to get general sense, spirit and direction about the subject matter. They have also started thinking of the Ahaadeeth which are contained in some famous compilations as the exclusive source of the knowledge of the Sunnah, ignoring the Sunnah that may have been learnt by early jurists (fuqahaa) through Tawaatur of actions and preserved in their Fiqh. All these improper tendencies towards Ahaadeeth cause their own problems. Such approach to Hadeeth is one reason of sectarian feelings among various segments of the Ummah, where each segment has support of some Ahaadeeth that they are following, thinking the other to be wrong. It deprives the Ummah of the flexibility that was intended by the variations of the practices of the Prophet. And it overshadows the wisdom that must be learnt from the variety of the actions of the Prophet in different circumstances, and with different people in their different situations.


Conclusions from the Discussion on Sunnah and Hadeeth

  • The Prophet was sent not only to deliver the Book to people but also to live according to the Book and teach people how to implement the teachings of the Book in one’s individual and community life. His lifestyle was the embodiment of the teachings of the Qur-aan.
  • Sunnah, which means well-travelled path, is the word used to represent the lifestyle and the practices of the Prophet. It provides the practical details and manner in which to live by the teachings of the Qur-aan. It provides us the wisdom to be used in implementing the Qur-aan that was taught to the Prophet in addition to the Qur-aan.
  • Denial of the Sunnah as the source of Islamic teachings is, in fact, the denial of the Qur-aan that clearly commands us to follow the model of the Messenger.
  • Although every Sunnah is extremely valuable and beneficial, NOT all Sunnah are equally important. The priority of the Sunnah goes hand in hand with the objectives for which the Deen of Islam was sent. Naturally, the Sunnah about the appearance and form has the least significance and the least priority.
  • Sunnah has been conveyed to us through the continuous practices of the Ummah, as well as by the codification of the Fiqh and documentations of the Ahaadeeth.
  • Sunnah and Hadeeth are not synonymous. Neither all Ahaadeeth report Sunnah, nor Ahaadeeth are the only source of the knowledge of the Sunnah. They are, however, a very important source.
  • In addition to Sunnah, Ahaadeeth provide us very valuable knowledge to help us understand the life of the Prophet (Seerah) and the verses of the Qur-aan.
  • We cannot discard all the Ahaadeeth because there is a possibility of some Hadeeth being invalid. We cannot throw away the baby with the bath water.
  • Only those who have specialized knowledge and expertise in evaluation of Ahaadeeth can determine in which category a purported Hadeeth falls. Only they can rate them properly. Any comments, categorization or evaluation of any Hadeeth by non-professional people will be arbitrary and dangerous. General public should rely on the short selections compiled for their benefit.
  • Ahaadeeth about Virtues (Fadhaail) of certain actions or about scaring people into becoming good should be taken with a grain of salt because the same rigorous test of their validity had not been applied to them as was applied to others.
  • A validated Hadeeth should be used with care to draw conclusions from it. Special circumstances and the situation in which a certain action was done or a certain statement was made must be kept in mind along with other general principles such as considering all Ahaadeeth on a subject matter, the number of chains of narrators reporting a Hadeeth and the scholarly status of the originator of a narration of a Hadeeth.


Posted in instalments on internet from August 27, 2002 to November 18, 2002. Then, compiled into the booklet form in July 8, 2003.

[i]Plural of Hadeeth

[ii]Ummiyy means gentile, non-Israelite, Ishmaelite or unlettered, and all of these meanings apply here.

[iii]Literally, it means ignorance, but in Islam it is used for non-Muslim ideologies or societies because they have chosen to remain ignorant of the knowledge and guidance bestowed by Allaah SWT.

[iv]Hood 11:45-46

[v]Mumtaĥinah 60:4

[vi]Ŧaa-Haa 20:45-46

[vii]‘Abasa 80:1-10

[viii]Taĥreem 66:1

[ix]Prophet Muhammad was assured, “Allaah will protect you from people.” Al-Maaidah 6:67

[x]Consultative decision making process mandated by Allaah SWT.

[xi]They believe in or obey Allaah, but not His messengers. 

[xii]Polytheists, those who equate others with Allaah, assign partners to Allaah, mix other lifestyles with Allaah’s Deen (Islam), obey others in the matter in which Allaah should be obeyed, etc.

[xiii]For these three meanings, refer to Al-Baqarah 2:143

[xiv]An-Nahl 16:89

[xv]The Prophet himself said, “Be aware that I have been given the Qur-aan and a similar thing with it.” Reported by Miqdam Bin Ma’dikarab in Aboo Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ad-Daarmi

[xvi]In addition to this verse, other examples of its use by Allaah are:

“They are those upon whom are Ŝalawaat and Mercy from their Lord.” Al-Baqarah 2:157

“It is He who confers Ŝalaah (blessings) upon you all, and His angels (ask Him to do so), to bring you out of darknesses into the light; as He indeed is Merciful to the believers.” Al-Aĥzaab 33:43

[xvii]Other examples of people wishing Ŝalaah upon others are:

“And do not perform Ŝalaah ever on any of them (the hypocrites) who dies and do not stand at his grave.”  At-Towbah 9:84

“And among the Bedouins are some who believe in Allaah and the Last Day and consider what they spend as means of nearness to Allaah and of obtaining invocations (Ŝalawaat) from the Messenger. Verily, it is a means of nearness for them. Allaah will admit them into His mercy.” At-Towbah 9:99

“Take (O Muhammad) from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause their growth; and invoke Salaah upon them. Certainly your invocations (Ŝalawaat) are reassurance (source of security) for them.”  At-Towbah 9:103

[xviii]For example Al-Aĥzaab 33:38 and Faaŧir 35:43. Also see author’s article on Sunnah of Allaah: http://ayubhamid.com/reflections/qur-aan/examples-of-misinterpretations/468-sunnatullaah-sunnah-of-allaah

[xix]Jurists usually call such actions non-emphasized Sunnah (Ghair Muakkadah) just to indicate that they were performed by the prophet at some time. However, to understand the proper concept of Sunnah, we need to keep clear of the Fiqh terminology for now.

[xx]You can find ample evidence of this phenomenon among the so-called ‘Quran Only’ groups.

[xxi]When it comes to belief and obedience, a believer should not differentiate between Allaah and his Messengers, as suggested by An-Nisaa 4:150

[xxii]The Messenger of Allaah said, “Whoever respects an innovator, he helps the destruction of Islam.”

Also, “Every new thing (in matters of Deen) is heresy, every heresy is misguidance, and every misguidance will be taking into the Fire.”

[xxiii]The prophet himself commanded, “You are duty-bound to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Successors.” Reported in Sunan of Ibn Maajah, chapter 6 of Muqaddamah The Prophet also said, “The best society is my society (the companions), then those who succeed them and then those who succeed them.”

[xxiv]As prophet said, ‘My Ummah will never have a consensus on misguidance.

Also, “One group of my Ummah will always remain steadfastly on the truth. They will not be hurt by those who abandon them, and they will stay like that until Allaah’s command comes.” Reported in Muslim from Thowbaan

[xxv]How the Salaah performed by the Prophet was perfectly as commanded by the Qur-aan, please see author’s article: Salaah from the Qur-aan

[xxvi]The writer had a personal experience in 1997 when attending a full day workshop on handling angry, or irate people and managing anger. The instructor referred to a psychological research which indicated that if an angry person washes his forearms with water, anger dissipates. That was exactly what the Prophet had told us about by encouraging people to cool their anger by performing Wudhoo (ablution).

[xxvii]For study of Seerah, please refer to ‘His Slave and Messenger’ by the same author.

[xxviii]M. M. Azami has quoted 50 such examples in his ‘Studies in Early Hadith Literature’.

[xxix]Hadeeth Selection by Abdul Ghaffar Hasan ‘Umarpoori (page 38) with reference to Fathaul-Mulhim

[xxx]Fundamentals of Tadabbur on Hadeeth (Urdu), Amin Ahsan Islahi, page 127-129

[xxxi]Ahmad Bin Hambal is reported to have said, “When we narrate from the Messenger of Allaah regarding Halaal, Haraam, Sunnah and regulations, we are very strict regarding the chain of narrators. But when we report from the Messenger in matters of virtues of actions from which no rule is explained or revoked, we neglect in the chain of narrators.” Amin Ahsan Islahi in ‘Fundamentals of Reflecting on Hadeeth’ with reference to a quote from ‘Al-Kifaayah fi ’Ilmir-Rawaayah’

[xxxii]This is expressed by Imam Maalik in the words, “The practice here is like this”, citing actions of people of Madeenah as indicators of the Sunnah of the Prophet.

[xxxiii]At-Towbah 9:1-14

[xxxiv]At-Towbah 9:29

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