The Quran and the Sunnah
The Quran is the sacred book of Muslims, and the final book of guidance from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the angel Gabriel (Jibrail). Every word of the Quran is the Word of Allah(subhanahu wa ta’ala). Revealed over a period of 23 years in the Arabic language, it contains 114 chapters (Surahs) over 6000 verses. Muslims learn to recite it in Arabic and many memorise it completely. Muslims are expected to try their best to understand the Quran and practice its teachings.
The Quran is unrivalled in its recording and preservation. Astonishingly, it has remained unchanged even to a letter for over fourteen centuries. In the Quran Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) addresses human beings directly. Its style cannot be compared with any other book. The Quran deals with man and his ultimate goal in life. Its teachings cover all aspects of this life and the life after death. It contains principles, doctrines and directions for every sphere of human activity. The theme of the Quran broadly consists of three fundamental concepts Tawhid, Risalah and Akhira. The success of human beings on this earth and in the life hereafter depends on belief in the obedience to the teachings of the Quran.
The Sunnah is the example of The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is contained in the books of Ahadith (plural of Hadith), which are a collection of his sayings, actions and the actions approved by him. It shows how to put the Guidance of the Quran into practice. The Ahadith were carefully recorded after the Prophet's death. Six particular collections have become prominent and are regarded as the most authentic:
- Abu Dawud
- Ibn Majah
- Below are some verses in the Qur'an, which prove the fact that we must obey and follow the Messenger Muhammad (SAW) if we are real Muslims (i.e. submitters):
3:31. Say (O Muhammad SAW): "If you (really) love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
3:32. Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW)."...
3:132. And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) that you may obtain mercy.
4:13. ...and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success.
4:59. O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger...
4:64. We sent no Messenger, but to be obeyed...
4:69. And whosoever obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace...
4:80. He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), has indeed obeyed Allah...
5:92. And obey Allah and the Messenger...
8:1. ...and obey Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW), if you are believers.
8:20. O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him (Messenger Muhammad SAW)...
8:46. And obey Allah and His Messenger...
9:71. ...and obey Allah and His Messenger...
24:52. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (SAW), fears Allah, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful ones.
24:54. Say: "Obey Allah and obey the Messenger...
24:56. ...and obey the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) that you may receive mercy (from Allah).
33:21. Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow...
33:33. ...and obey Allah and His Messenger...
33:71. ...And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (SAW) he has indeed achieved a great achievement.
47:33. O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger (Muhammad SAW)...
48:17. ...And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW), He will admit him to Gardens beneath which rivers flow (Paradise)...
59:7. ...And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)...
64:12. Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger (Muhammad SAW)...
39:41. Verily, We have sent down to you (O Muhammad SAW) the Book (this Quran) for mankind...
Allah is telling all Muslims to obey Muhammad (SAW). So the question here is "How do we obey and follow Muhammad (SAW)?". We follow him in his manners, actions, practices... etc. The Scholars of Islam have in fact dedicated their lives writing down these things [passed onto them from authentic chains leading to the Messenger (SAW), through the Sahaba(RA)] and preaching them to us through volumes and volumes of authentic books.
Allah only sent Messengers so that the people would obey them,
4:64. We sent no Messenger, but to be obeyed...
Allah narrates the story of 5 Messengers in Chapter 26 to prove this further:
Chapter 26 - Surah Ash-Shu'ara' [The Poets]
110. [Nuh said] "So keep your duty to Allah, fear Him and obey me."
126. [Hud said] "So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me."
144. [Salih said] "So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me."
163. [Lut said] "So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me."
179. [Shu'aib said] "So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me."
The way to obey and follow Muhammad (SAW) is by reading and learning what his Companions (RA), that were alive in his time, recorded. The Sahaba (RA) kept a careful account of his life, deeds, sayings and examples, and these have been gathered together as the Hadith. "Sunnah" is the name given to the ways of Muhammad (SAW). Most of what he has said or has done throughout his lifetime is recorded and memorised by his Companions (RA). The Sunnah is that which Muhammad (SAW) did, which he commanded, and which was not forbidden by him when done in his presence. Sahih Muslim and Sahih Al-Bukhari are the most authentic sources of Hadith.
It is also important to remember that the Sunnah is a source for us to go back to along side with the Qur'an.
4:59. ...if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (SAW), if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day.
How can we refer to the Messenger (SAW), as Allah tells us to do in this verse, if there are no Hadith/Sunnah to go back to?
Volume 1, Book 3, The Book of Knowledge
Hadith Number: 118
Narrated Abu Huraira (RA):
“People say that I have narrated many Hadith. Had it not been for two verses in the Qur'an, I would not have narrated a single Hadith.
And the verses are:
Chapter 2 - Surah Al-Baqarah [The Cow]
159. Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers.
160. Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed). These, I will accept their repentance. And I am the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.
And no doubt our Muhajir (emigrant) brothers used to be busy in the market with their business (bargains) and our Ansari brothers used to be busy with their property (agriculture). But I (Abu Huraira) used to stick to Allah's Apostle (SAW) contented with what will fill my stomach and I used to attend that which they used not to attend and I used to memorize that which they used not to memorize.”
Lastly, those people who reject the Sunnah and claim to "follow" the Qur'an, how would they know:
● How many rakah to pray for Fajr, Zuhr, 'Asr, Maghrib and 'Isha?
● That they are meant to say "Subhana Rabbi Al-A'la" 3 times in Sajdah?
● What events were taking place and where/why certain Surahs were revealed?
● That it is Haram to hang pictures in your house?
● That Surah Al-Ikhlas is equal to One-Third of the Qur'an?
● That Hajj Al-Mabrur (an accepted Hajj) is the greatest Jihad for Women?
● That the pen (which records deeds) is lifted from 3 people? (The young child till they reach puberty, the crazy person till they become sane, and the sleeping person till they wake up)
● To make certain types of Dua? (Such as before entering the bathroom, entering the Masjid, before sleeping etc.)
● The reward for reciting each letter of the Qur‘an? (10 hasanat per letter recited; Alif Lam Mim=30 hasanat)
● To eat with the right hand?
● To say "Bismillah" before you eat?
● That males should grow beards and shorten their moustaches?
● That it is disliked to sleep on your stomach?
● To give 2.5% of your wealth as Zakah to the poor each year?
● How to say the Adhan and Iqama?
The list could go on forever. We must understand that obeying the Messenger (SAW) is following the laws and orders of the Qur‘an. Muhammad (SAW) said "Cut the moustaches short and leave the beard (as it is)." [Narrated Ibn Umar (RA), Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 77, Hadith No. 5893]. Obeying this order of Muhammad (SAW) is actually a part of following the Qur'an. However, this is just a small example and there are many like it. We have to remember that Islam is a way of life (or a life style) and that Allah wants us to be like the Messenger (SAW). Allah sent Muhammad (SAW) to us as a role-model and as an example, and if it wasn’t for his Companions (RA) who practiced and taught everything he did and said, then we wouldn’t have any knowledge about the beautiful character of the best creature who walked on the face of this planet.
42:52. ...We have made this Qur'an a light where We guide whosoever of Our slaves We will. And verily, you (Muhammad SAW) are indeed guiding (mankind) to the Straight Path.
24:47. They (hypocrites) say: "We have believed in Allah and in the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and we obey," then a party of them turn away thereafter, such are not believers.
72:23. ...and whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (SAW), then verily, for him is the Fire of Hell, he shall dwell therein forever.
In our Da’wah, we have to explain to the non-Muslims that the Qur’an is the only comprehensive book available to mankind for guidance. Allah (S.W.T.) says that nothing has been omitted from it (6:38). It is further explained in detail (11:1 and 6:114). It guides us to believe and obey Messenger (s.a.w.s.) (3:31-32; 4:170 and 47:33). For our complete guidance, it is necessary for us to follow the Sunnah (Traditions of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)) because he is Allah's universal Messenger to the whole mankind (34:28). he is the Seal of the Prophets (33:40) whom our Creator sent with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to make it prevail over all religions (61:9).