Traditions of the Prophet are Indispensable to an Understanding of Qur’an

 [Maulana Najeeb Qasmi D.B]             
                 بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ    الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Qur’an:  It is the Holy Book which All Almighty revealed to his last prophet for the guidance of the mankind so that he could explain its ordinances and teachings to them by his words and deeds.

Traditions: Traditions of the prophet [Ahadeeth] refer to the sayings, pronouncements, attributes, and practices of the prophet as narrated by his companions or by his holy consorts. They also include his acquiescence in acts done by his companions within his knowledge.

Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was the First Interpreter of Qur’an: It is evident from the nature of Qur’an and Hadeeth that the person who was the recipient of wahy was the person eminently fit for interpreting the gospel in the first instance. So how can we understand the Qur’an without a reference to his words and deeds? Allah Almighty Himself has pointed out this fact in the Qur’an. Suffice it to quote two Quranic ayats in this context:

” . . . and We have revealed unto you the Remembrance that you may explain to mankind that which has been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect” [An-Nahl: 44].

“And We have revealed the Scripture unto you only that you may explain unto them that wherein they differ . . . .” [An-Nahl: 64].

In the above two verses Allah has amply clarified that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) is the first exegist of the Holy Qur’an and that he has been obligated by Allah Almighty to explain all its ordinances and teachings explicitly to the Muslim community.  We, therefore, firmly believe that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has discharged his obligation very well. The corpus of the sayings and practices of the prophet which has been transferred to us through the companions of the prophet and those succeeding them and those who succeeded them next constitutes the first compendium of the interpretation of Qur’an which is most authentic and most reliable. We, therefore, believe that no understanding of the Qur’an is possible without understanding the traditions of the prophet.

Obedience to Allah is Bound with Obedience to His Prophet

In numerous verses of the Qur’an obedience to Allah is enjoined along with obedience to the Messenger of Allah.  Sometimes believers are exhorted to obey the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). This is because the prophet is the carrier of the ordinances of Allah. Without the obedience of the prophet obedience of Allah is not possible. The commands and directions of the prophet have reached us through the compendium off the ahadeeth. If somebody callously denies the authenticity or non-binding character of the ahadeeth he is guilty of demolishing hundreds of ayaat which enjoins the obedience of the prophet. In other words he is saying that what God Almighty has ordered us, that is obedience of the prophet is beyond our competence.

In Ayat 80 of Surah An-Nisa God Almighty has explicitly proclaimed that “One who obeyed the prophet he surely obeyed Allah”.

Similarly in Ayat 31 of Surah Al Imran God Almighty has equated obedience off the prophet to the love of God:  “Say: If you love God then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive all of your sins.”

Allah has promised eternal paradise as a reward for obedience of Allah and his prophet and warned of hell for those who disobey Allah and his prophet: “These are the limits [prescribed by] Allah. Whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will make him enter Paradise underneath which rivers flow, where they will dwell forever. That will be the great success. And whosoever disobeys Allah and His messenger and transgresses His limits, He will make him enter Fire, where he will dwell for ever; his will be a shameful doom” [An-Nisa: 13-14].

Allah has made Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) an exemplar till the end of the world. That is, the sum of the sayings and practices of the prophet as preserved in the form ofahadeeth is a good example to be emulated by the true believers. “Verily in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who looks unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much” [Al-Ahzaab: 21].

Obligation of Obedience of the Prophet according to Traditions

The head of all prophets and the last messenger Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) himself has emphasized the obligation of obeying Qur’an along with following the traditions of the prophet. Obedience of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) is impossible without knowledge of the pronouncements and practices of the prophet.  Almost all collections of ahadeeth are replete with statements of the prophet exhorting to his obedience. Out of them only three are quoted here:

The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: “One who obeyed me obeyed Allah and one who disobeyed me disobeyed Allah [Bukhari; Muslim].The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) pronounced: “If I forbid you from doing something desist from it; and when I order you to do something do it to the best of your ability” [Bukhari; Muslim].The Messenger of Allah aphorized: “All members of my community shall enter paradise except those who refuse it“. He was asked O Messenger of Allah who can refuse entry into paradise? He replied: Those who obey me shall enter paradise and those who disobeyed me they refused (to enter paradise) [Bukhari; Muslim].

Consensus of the Community on Obedience of the Prophet

Following the example of the companions of the Prophet during his life time and after his demise, the Islamic community has evolved a consensus on the obligatory nature of following the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) because the companions first tried to find the solution of their problems in the Qur’an then in the traditions (hadith) of His prophet. On this basis the great majority of Muslim theologians have identified two types of wahy:

Wahy matlu [recited revelation, i.e. the Quran proper]. And Wahy ghair matlu [non-recited revelation, i.e. the words of the prophet which though spoken by the prophet nevertheless express the divine intents].

Verses 3-4 of Surah An-Najm speak: “He does not speak at his liking; it is but an inspiration that is inspired.”  In the same way Ayat 129 of Al-Baqarah pronounces: “O Creator of us raise a messenger among them from among themselves who recites to them Your verses and teaches them the Book and wisdom and purifies them.”  Here the Book means Qur’an and wisdom means the sayings of the prophet.

Generality of Qur’anic Ordinances

It is a feature of the Qur’an that its ordinances have been laid down in general and abstract terms.  Even the four pillars of Islam – – salat, siyamzakat, and hajj have been prescribed but their details have not been elaborated.  Now who fills the gap?? For this purpose Allah deputes His messengers to the mankind so that they would elaborate and clarify the ordinances of Allah though their own words and deeds. For instance, Qur’an in many places prescribes qiamruku‘, and sujud.  However, the details of performance of salat have been provided nowhere. Similarly zakat has been made obligatory but the quantum of zakat and other particulars have not been mentioned. All such details have been laid down by the teachings and practices of the prophet.  It follows that if we don’t acknowledge the Sunnah of the prophet as the first and basic source of interpretation of the Qur’an most of the Qur’anic ordinances will become abstract and meaningless. The abstract is operationalized by means ofahadeeth. It follows that Quran can neither be understood nor implemented except through the medium of ahadeeth.

Similarly, in Surah Al-Jum’uah there is a general direction that whenever a call for the salat of Jum’uah is given leave sale and purchase of goods and hurry up to remembrance of Allah. It is only instructions of the prophet that govern the arrangements for the salat of Jum’uah.

In addition many questions relating to Quran have been settled by hadeeth.  Therefore, it is impossible to understand Quran without hadeeth.

A Clarification

Allah has directed us to reflect over Qur’an. But this reflection ought to be done in the light of the words and deed of the first interpreter of the Qur’an Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). On many occasions Allah has directed his messenger to clarify the scripture to the people. It is our firm belief that the prophet has discharged his duty very well. However, it is regretted that some people have declared some ahadeeth interpreting the Qur’an as “weak” and discarding them impose their own arbitrary opinions. This is wrong and unjustified. We must certainly deliberate into and reflect over the Qur’an deeply but not at the expense of ahadeeth. We ought to make an allowance for weak ahadeeth if they are helpful in clarifying problems.  Solutions of the new issues and problems must be found in Qur’an but not by ignoring the supplement of the Quran viz. the ahadeeth of the prophet.

Fallacy I

A fallacy which needs to be demolished here is that some misguided people misinterpreting the wording of certain ayats for instance “Clarification for all things” [An-Nahl: 89] or “Details for all things” [Al-An’am: 154] assert that the solution of every problem is present in the Qur’an and that there is no need at all to take ahadeeth into account.

This is a fallacy which must be combated. On the one hand, it is enjoined on innumerable occasions that people obey Allah and His messenger even obedience of the messenger has been equated with the obedience of Allah. But on the other hand there is provision proclaiming that only Qur’an should be taken into account and nothing else. Had it been so there was no need to impose the obligation of obedience of the prophet.

Fallacy II

Some misguided people taking into account the controversies among the experts on ahadeeth and the jurists regarding the unreliability of certain categories of ahadeeth or non-credibility of certain narrators of ahadeeth have taken a stand on the unreliability of the entire corpus of ahadeeth. This is another fallacy which needs to be demolished.

Such misguided persons must know that Allah has promised to preserve his book till the end of the world. At the same time, Allah has also placed the mission of clarifying and elaborating the Shari’ah on the shoulders of his messenger, which mission he has accomplished with remarkable success. It follows that just as the gospel is preserved for ever similarly the traditions of the prophet supportive of the Hadith shall be preserved for ever, Allah- willing. The preservation of Qur’an does not mean merely preservation of the letter of Qur’an shorn of its meaning.  If the letter remains and meaning is lost then the whole purpose of transmission of Qur’an is lost.

I pray to Allah to enable us to lead our lives in accordance with Qur’an and Sunnah. Aameen!


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