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Questions about the Qur-aan and the Messenger

QA brother asked, “Did the message of Quran come to Mohammad (pbuh) or to people in general? Can a person be considered Muslim if he believes that Quran should be followed but not Mohammad (pbuh) or his sayings?”


AThe brief answers to your questions are: the Qur-aan was sent THROUGH the Prophet (Muĥammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) FOR ALL people of the world; and any person who believes that “only the Qur-aan should be followed, and not the Prophet” cannot be considered a Muslim.

Obviously, this brief answer requires some details. From my experience in addressing this type of questions, I have found it useful to clarify some underlying facts before discussing the specifics. The following four points are quite relevant in that respect:

  1. For human society to perform optimally and to its best potential, it must adopt a lifestyle system that strikes a fine balance among: different aspects of people’s individual and collective lives;  variety of human endeavours and pursuits; and drivers of human behaviour such as  emotions, instincts, intellect, urges, desires, needs, expectations, rights, obligations, fears, hopes, etc. If this balance is attained and such a balanced lifestyle is adopted and maintained by the majority of the people in the society, it results in justice, peace and excellence throughout that society. If any of these aspects, pursuits or drivers is over or underemphasized in any way as compared to its rightful position in the balanced scheme of things, the society will suffer some kind of imbalance, unfairness, disequilibrium and injustice, leading to serious problems in the society.
  2. Knowing that human beings in themselves do not have capability to design a lifestyle which is properly balanced, out of His Mercy, Allaah took it upon Himself to provide such a balanced lifestyle system, and called it Islam – a lifestyle system that brings peace to human society and its environment by way of voluntary human submission to the balance ordained by Allaah.
  3. As an additional act of mercy, He sent His messengers to teach and coach people in Islam and to implement, in a practical way, the complete Islamic system in their societies. Thus, the job of each messenger was to:
    • Invite people to Islam using signs of Allaah and rational evidence.
    • Coach those who accept his call to excel in their character and dealings; and to organize such believers into a society or community of excellence-pursuing people.
    • Teach them the core principles (in the words of Allaah -- the Book) and demonstrate how to put those words precisely into action.
    • Teach them wisdom to differentiate between: the core principles where there can be no compromise or deviation in views; and the details where people have flexibility and where different people can have legitimate difference of opinions.{footnote}More details can be found in my article on Deen and Sharee’ah -- http://ayubhamid.com/reflections/paradigms-a-attitudes/309-deen-and-shareeah

      {/footnote}
    • Make Islam the dominant way of life and teach his followers how to keep it that way or make it happen if it does not remain that way.
  4. All messengers were sent as Allaah’s representatives to be obeyed as such by His slaves (the whole mankind). That is why every messenger invited people to have Taqwa of Allaah and obey him -- the messenger. A believer is only that person who submits in obedience to both Allaah and His messengers unconditionally and exclusively. Obedience to Allaah means total, complete, unconditional submission to His revelations. Obedience to the messenger implies not only listening to or obeying the messenger’s commands but also following his model of putting the words of Allaah into practice because only his understanding of the words of Allaah is an authentic representation of Allaah’s Will expressed in those words and only his practice of Allaah’s words is approved and sanctioned by Allaah Himself. For Prophet Muĥammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Allaah SWT has emphasized these points in verses such as  3:31,4:64, 4:80, 33:21, 59:7, etc.{footnote}For details, please refer to my detailed article called “Role of the Prophets, Messengers, Sunnah and Hadeeth in Teaching Islam”.

    {/footnote}


Keeping this background in mind, now let us deal with your questions:

The Qur-aan was sent FOR all people of the world THROUGH the Prophet, who was the messenger bringing the message as well as the teacher and coach to practically demonstrate how the message should be implemented in practice. Although the Qur-aan was sent for all people, only those who have Taqwa will benefit from its guidance – i.e., those who have consciousness of Allaah watching them, realization of the accountability to Him and thus a strong desire to please Him while being scrupulously careful and cautious in avoiding His displeasure. The Qur-aan is meant for all people but it does not give them an unbridled liberty or a free hand to interpret its words as they like. There are some basic rules that, like any other text in the world, must be observed in understanding its message or interpreting it. For example: no word or verse should be interpreted out of its context; conclusions must be drawn with due consideration to all teachings on a topic; the meaning deduced must be aligned and consistent with overall themes and message of the Book, the meaning assigned to any of its words must be as it was understood at the time of its revelation, not a meaning that may have developed later on in subsequent developments in the society, etc. 

In addition, the contents of a book are best explained by its author or a person who has been directly coached by the author. Thus, if the Prophet gave a meaning to a word of the Qur-aan, no other meaning for that word can be considered valid. For example, the word Salaah or Zakaah will mean only what the Prophet described them to mean.

Now, the details and description of how the teachings of the Qur-aan were implemented by the Prophet individually in his life as well as collectively in the lives of his companions (in the Islamic society of Madeenah) were transmitted and conveyed to the succeeding generations in two ways:

  • Continuous chain of training and coaching from one generation to the next;
  • Verbal reports of the actions, words, approvals and disapprovals of the Prophet.


Both of these channels of communication / transmission continue to this day; however, the third generation{footnote}The Prophet himself taught and trained the first generation (the Sahaabah), who taught the second generation (the Taabi’een), who taught the third generation (the Tab’u-taabi’een).

{/footnote}  started codifying and documenting them in the format of formal books in three categories: Fiqh (the commands, rules and regulations derived both from practical training and verbal reports); Hadeeth (the verbal reports); and Seerah (the biography).

Unfortunately, over time, many Muslims have developed two extremist views about the role of the Prophet as a perfect model and especially the report of his words, actions and approvals (Hadeeth). On the one extreme are those who regard every Hadeeth as if it is infallible and eternal like the words of the Qur-aan to be taken literally and to be applicable to all times and situations,  disregarding such facts as:

  • Hadeeth is a verbal report wherein a companion may have transmitted his understanding of what the Prophet meant, not exactly the words uttered by the Prophet;
  • What the Prophet said to a person could have been specifically addressing the training and coaching needs of a particular person in his or her particular circumstances. In such a case, a clear understanding of the time, occasion and circumstances can be extremely important in determining the intent of the words of Hadeeth.
  • There were some matters that had nothing to do with Islamic principles or teachings but the Prophet performed them as an Arab human being, such as his style of dress and appearance.


Such extremists make Islam a set of inflexible rituals, instead of a dynamic lifestyle system designed to
establish justice, peace and excellence in the society.

On the other extreme are those who disregard all Hadeeth because of their doubts about the authenticity of some Hadeeth or because they came across a few Ahaadeeth with questionable content. Some of them go so far to the extreme that they claim that the Qur-aan is enough without the model and teachings of the Prophet. Those who go to that extent in their extremism, in fact, cross the boundary of Islam and lose their faith for two reasons:

  • They disbelieve in all such verses of the Qur-aan where the Muslims have been clearly and emphatically commanded to listen to and obey the Messenger, give up their own opinion in favour of the opinion of the Prophet, and accept whatever he gives and stay away from whatever he forbids{footnote}The reader who would like to see the relevant verses of the Qur-aan should refer to the article referenced earlier.

    {/footnote};
  • They disbelieve in the Messenger by denying his being the representative of Allaah and the narrator and demonstrator of His messages and teachings.


The appropriate and balanced approach is to accept the Prophet as the only perfect model of Islamic excellence in behaviour and lifestyle as an individual and to accept him and his companions as being the best model of the true and complete practice of the Qur-aanic teachings from whom we learn the true Islam and true message of the Qur-aan. However, we glean this knowledge from common and agreed upon themes and points from all sources of information including Ahaadeeth, Fiqh and Seerah.

Thus, the Qur-aan has been sent for the guidance of the whole mankind through the Prophet who practically explained and demonstrated its meaning and message. Anyone who does not accept that role of the Prophet nullifies his belief in his prophethood and contradicts the Qur-aan, and thus, cannot be regarded as a Muslim.  

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Comments  

 
0 #1 2010-11-26 00:16
Assalam alaikum Ayub Bahai,
This is a wonderful artical, Can you also add some details how Quran was arrange ? Is arrange after Prophet SAW passed away or during his life ?
I know the answer , but it may benefit others.
JAK
Arif Jahangiri
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