Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW

Prologue: Allah is exhorting the Messenger not to merely recite the Quran but to explain it as well even to the most pious of men: "…And We have sent down unto you [O Muhammad] the Reminder, that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought." [Surah An-Nahl, 16: 44].

Allah further reminded us: "Whoever obeys the Messenger, has obeyed Allah." [Surah An-Nisa’, 4: 80]

1. The Status of The Sunnah: Second Source of Islamic Jurisprudence'

Allah Almighty Says: "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion." [Surah Al-Maidah, 5: 3]

The Prophet said that "I am leaving behind two things - you will never go astray if you hold fast to them: the Quran and my Sunnah." [At-Tirmidzi]

The Sunnah cannot dispense with the Quran: Allah Almighty had chose Muhammad SAW as His Prophet and selected him to deliver His final message. Allah revealed the Quran to the Prophet SAW which Allah commanded him to obey everything that was ordered of him; that is, to convey, and explain His message to the humanity.

Allah the Exalted Says: "…And We revealed to you the message [i.e., the Quran] that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them…" [Surah An-Nahl, 16:44]

The Verse Contains Two Commands.

1. To Propagate The Words Of Allah In The Quran.

Firstly, it is to openly convey the message of the Quran to the humanity as Allah Almighty has revealed to the Prophet that:

"O Messenger! Announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord…" [Surah Al-Maidah, 5:67]

‘Aishah binti Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, the Prophet’s wife is reported to have said: "Whoever says that Muhammad concealed anything that he was commanded to communicate has forged a great lie against Allah." Then she read the above mentioned verse. [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Another narration is found in the book of Imam Muslim which states: "If the Messenger of Allah had concealed something that he was commanded to communicate, he would have concealed the saying of the Almighty:

"And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favour: 'Keep your wife and fear Allah,' while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him." [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:37]

2. To Clarify Words, Sentences, Or Verses Of The Quran.

Some verses may be comprehensive or general in their meaning, and the Sunnah clarifies and defines them through the Prophet’s sayings, actions, and confirmations.

The Necessity of the Sunnah to Understand the Quran.

Allah Says: "[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands..." [Surah Al-Maidah, 5:38] In the context of this verse, the thief and the hand are mentioned in a general manner. It is the Sunnah that explains the first of them and places a restriction on it by explaining the meaning of the word 'thief' to mean the one who steals something worth at least a quarter of a Dinar (a unit golden currency) according to the saying of the Prophet SAW: "There is no cutting of the hand unless the thing stolen is worth a quarter of a Dinar or more." [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

The latter (i.e., how the hand is to be amputated) is explained by the actions of the Prophet and his Companions. They would amputate the hand of the thief from the wrist, as is known from a saying of the Prophet.

There are many other verses of the Quran that cannot be completely understood except through the Sunnah, such as:

1. Allah Says: "And when you travel throughout the land, there is no blame upon you for shortening the prayer, [especially] if you fear that those who disbelieve may disrupt [or attack] you. Indeed, the disbelievers are ever to you a clear enemy." [Surah An-Nisa', 4:101] It is obvious from the verse that fear is a pre-requisite for the shortening of prayers. However, some of the Companions asked the Prophet SAW: "Why do we shorten our prayers while we feel safe?" He replied: "It is an allowance from Allah, so accept it." [Muslim]

2. Allah Says: “Say: 'Who has forbidden the adornment of [i.e., from] Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good [lawful] things of provision?" [Surah Al-A'raf, 7:32]

However, the Sunnah has forbidden some 'adornments', and this is evident from the saying of the Prophet SAW: "The wearing of silk and gold has been made unlawful for males and lawful for the females of my nation.'' [At-Tirmidzi]

3. Allah Says: "Say: 'I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure - or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah…” [Surah Al-An'am, 6:145]

However, the Sunnah has forbidden many things not mentioned in the abovementioned verse; an example of this lies in the saying of the Prophet SAW: "All predatory animals with tusks and every bird with claws are forbidden for consumption." There are other narrations that have forbidden the consumption of such animals, such as the one where the Prophet SAW is reported to have said: "Allah and His Messenger have prohibited the consumption of domesticated donkeys, for they are filth." [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

There are many other examples that show the necessity of the Sunnah within Islamic Law. There is no other way to understand the Quran correctly except with the interpretation of the Sunnah

The Inadequacy of Philology to Understand the Quran.

The Companions of the Prophet were the most knowledgeable of people in the Arabic language, yet, if they were to attempt to understand the verses quoted above by relying on the Arabic language alone, and then they would have erred.

It is agreed upon by the majority of Muslim scholars, past and present, that the Quran should primarily be interpreted by the Quran itself, then by the Sunnah, then by the sayings of the Companions, and so on.

It is here that the cause of deviation of scholastic theologians (Ahl Al-Kalam), both ancient and modern, becomes clear, as well as their opposition to our righteous predecessors in doctrine and law.

In short, what is obligatory upon all Muslims is that they do not separate the Quran from the Sunnah; moreover, it is incumbent to follow both of them and to formulate laws using both. This is a safeguard for the people, so that they do not falter and regress, as explained by the Prophet SAW:

"I am leaving behind two things - you will never go astray if you hold fast to them: the Quran and my Sunnah." [At-Tirmidzi]

The Sunnah is to clarify the Revelation

Allah Almighty Says: "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion." [Surah Al-Maidah, 5: 3]

There is no doubt among the believers about the way of life of Islam. It is taken as a complete way of life. The Creator of the heavens and the earth has not left anything out of the glorious religion of His. As the above verse states that, this religion is made perfect and complete. However, something new has come in recent years from Satan, concerning the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah. It has been suggested by him to the hearts of some of the Muslims that the Quran, as Glorious as it is, is sufficient alone as guidance for humanity. Meaning that the Sunnah is something that can be left off, or abandoned. Surely, this disease has no place in Islam.

In order to address this issue we must ask ourselves an important question. How do we worship Allah? Do we worship Him any way we want? Is there a correct methodology to worshipping Allah? Is it sufficient for us to say and do whatever it is that we feel is worship and then call it worship and it will be accepted as such? Let us consider the saying of Allah:

"O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and make not vain your deeds!” [Surah Muhammad, 47: 33]

You must know that the Quran and the Sunnah do not contradict one another, rather they complement one another. When Allah Says in this verse that the Messenger is to be obeyed, he is not only talking to that honorable group of Muslims that accompanied the Prophet SAW during his lifetime. He is speaking to all of the Muslims that will come up until the Last Day.

Similarly, no one is ready to conceive the notion that when Allah, Says: “O you who believe!” that the only ones who believe are the Muslims who were with the Prophet SAW at that time and no one after them believed and no one else will ever believe! This would be grossly limiting the Quran.

Satan is very crafty! He may then try to sway your thinking from another angle. He may say that the Quran is simple to understand and that it needs no explanation. For it is true that Allah Says:

"We have indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember" [Surah Al-Qamar, 54: 32]

However, although the Quran is easy to understand, it does need to be explained so that it is properly understood.

Allah Says: "And when We have recited it to you [O Muhammad through Jibril (Gabriel)] then follow you its (The Quran's) recital. Then it is for Us (Allah) to make it clear (to you)." [Surah Al-Muddathir, 75: 18, 19]

Surely if the Quran had to be made clear to the Messenger then how much more so to you and I?

Allah Says: "…And We have sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the Reminder, that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought." [Surah An-Nahl, 16: 44]

In this verse, Allah is exhorting the Messenger to not merely recite the Quran but to explain it as well. Obviously, some explanation is required even to the most pious of men.

Furthermore, giving the needed details to carry out certain commands given in the Quran was another very vital role played by the Sunnah. For example, Allah commands us to establish the Prayers and to pay the obligatory charity (Zakah), saying:

“And establish the prayers and give Zakah (the obligatory charity) and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience].” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:43]

Yet, nowhere in the Quran does Allah give the required details to implement His command, and it was the Sunnah that gave us all the details of the how, when, who of this command.

Additionally, Allah Says: "… (In addition) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination." [Surah An-Nisa', 4: 59]

Once again, if we try to leave off the importance of the Sunnah, then how do we implement this verse of the Quran? Allah orders us to refer our differences to Him. This means for us to seek our answers from the Quran. He also attaches the Messenger to that particular order when He stated for us to refer to Him. If we leave off the Sunnah then this part of the verse has no meaning.

Allah Says:

"Whoever obeys the Messenger, has obeyed Allah." [An-Nisa', 4: 80]

"Say (O Muhammad): If you (really) love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins." [Ali-'Imran', 3: 31]

How can the Muslims of today follow the Prophet SAW and not refer to his Sunnah? How can we say that we love Allah and not try to follow the methodology of His Prophet?

Finally, I would like to conclude with a Hadith (narration) from the Messenger of Allah that was collected by Imam Malik in his book called Muwatta. The Prophet SAW said:

"I have left behind two matters. Those who hold fast to them will never go astray: The Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger." [at-Tirmidzi]

The reason that many of the Muslims are going astray today is because they are not only leaving off the Sunnah but they are leaving the Quran as well! If you are not giving the Sunnah its rights, then you are not giving the Quran its rights. Without the Sunnah then the second statement of your Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) also has no meaning.

2. Importance of Knowing the Narrators of Hadith

The narrators of Hadith are the most honorable and respectable Muslims, as they are keepers and preservers of Sunnah. Most of them are the companions of the Prophet who witnessed the acts and learnt the sayings of the Prophet SAW. Others are the successors of the companions. Who were blessed by Allah and they are highly respected by all Muslims. They are shinning stars of Islam.

Their hearts were free from worldly desires. Reading their biographies will increase love and devotion towards them and develop more interest to be faithful and obedient in the heart of the Muslim who reads their biography.

Allah Almighty Says: "Verily, We have sent down the Reminder, and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)." [Surah Al-Hijir, 15:9] The above promise made by Allah is obviously fulfilled in the undisputed purity of the Quranic text throughout the fourteen centuries since its revelation.

However, what is often forgotten by many Muslims is that the above divine promise also includes, by necessity, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW for it is the practical example of the implementation of the Quranic guidance, the Wisdom taught to the Prophet SAW along with the Scripture, and neither the Quran nor the Sunnah can be understood correctly without recourse to the other.

Allah preserved the Sunnah by enabling the Companions and their followers to memorize, write down and pass on the statements of the Messenger of Allah and the descriptions of his way, as well as to continue the blessings of practicing the Sunnah. Later, as the purity of the knowledge of the Sunnah became threatened, Allah caused the Muslim nation to produce outstanding individuals of incredible memory-skills and analytical expertise, who journeyed tirelessly to collect hundreds of thousands of narrations and distinguish the true words of precious wisdom of their Messenger from those corrupted by weak memories, from forgeries by unscrupulous liars, and from the statements of the enormous number of scholars, the Companions and those who followed their way, who had taught in various centers of learning and helped to transmit the legacy of Muhammad SAW - all of this achieved through precise attention to the words narrated and detailed familiarity with the biographies of the thousands of reporters of Hadith. Action being the best way to preserve teachings, the scholars of Islam also revived the practice of the blessed authentic Sunnah.

Unfortunately, however, statements will continue to be attributed to the Prophet SAW although the person quoting them may have no idea what the people of knowledge in the field of Hadith science have ruled regarding those hadiths, thus ironically being in danger of contravening the Prophet's widely-narrated stern warnings about attributing incorrect, unsound statements to him.

The methodology of the expert scholars of Hadith in assessing narrations and sorting out the genuine from the mistaken, fabricated etc. forms the subject-matter of a wealth of material left to us by the scholars of Hadith (traditionists).

A Hadith is composed of two parts: the Matn (text) and the Isnad (chain of reporters). A text may seem to be logical and reasonable but it needs an authentic Isnad with reliable reporters to be acceptable. 'Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH), one of the illustrious teachers of Imam Al-Bukhari said: "The Isnad is part of the religion, had it not been for the Isnad, then people would have claimed whatever they wished."

Among the sciences of Hadith is the study of the chain of reporters (the Isnad). Many Muslim scholars have specialized in this field. It includes identifying the name of each and every narrator (reporter), his character (his truthfulness, piety, public behavior), his ability and reputation as a memorizer and the types of narrations he is known to report, whether authentic, weak, fabricated, etc. In addition, each narrator should be identified by a rating given by other narrators who knew him. So all of these and many other details must be considered to know the degree to which a Hadith may be used as a basis for Islamic belief or practice (Syari’ah), or merely as a point of interest (not to be attributed to the sayings, etc. of the Prophet SAW).

After the Book of Allah (The Quran), the books of Hadith collection that were collected by Imams Bukhari and Muslim are considered by the Muslim scholars to be the most authentic books of Hadith. However, there are other famous scholars in the field who compiled books of Hadith such as; Abu Dawud (d.275), At-Tirmidzi (d. 279), An-Nasa’i (d. 303) and others.

3. Methodology of the Companions in Preserving the Sunnah

In order for the discussion about the Companions' ways of learning, practicing, preserving and conveying of the Sunnah, to be more complete it is vital to shed some light about the Companions and their methodology:

1. The Companions were fully aware of the responsibility they shoulder after the death of the Prophet SAW.

2. The Companions are all trustworthy. They never doubted one another in the matters of this religion and the narration of Hadith.

3. The Companions have developed a methodology for scrutinizing Hadiths and narrators, and by doing that have established the rules of ascertaining narrations for those who came after them.

4. The ability of different Companions to understand the Sunnah, memorize it and convey it varied from one Companion to another.

5. The Companions left Makkah and Madinah to many places around the Muslim world, at the time, for the purpose of delivering the message and teaching Islam to those who accepted it thus spreading the Sunnah throughout the land.

It is interesting to note that about 750 Companions narrated Hadiths, seven of whom narrated a high number of Hadiths, and about twenty narrated an average number, the rest narrated a small number.

The seven who narrated a large number of Hadiths are: Abu Hurairah who narrated 5374 Hadiths, 'Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar narrated 2630, Anas Ibn Malik narrated 2286, 'Aishah narrated 2210 Hadiths, 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas narrated 1660, Jabir Ibn 'Abdullah narrated 1540, and Abu Sa'id AI-Khudri narrated 1100 Hadiths. They understood their role and were aware of the significance of their ability in narrating the Hadiths and did their best to deliver them diligently and accurately. Muslims of all times are indebted to them.

4. The Two Most Authentic Books of Hadith

Sahih Al-Bukhari.

Of all the works of Hadith, Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are regarded as the most authentic and authoritative books, after Al-Quran. Indeed the very word "Sahih" means "authentic". Sahih Al-Bukhari was compiled by Imam (leader) of Hadith, Mohammad Ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, born 194H in Bukhara, central Asia. He traveled at an early age seeking knowledge to Hejaz (Makah and Madinah), Ancient Syria, Iraq, Egypt etc. He devoted more than 16 years of his life to the actual compilation of this work. He learn from more than 1000 scholars. It is said that Imam Al-Bukhari collected over 300,000 Hadiths and he himself memorized 200,000 of which some were unreliable. He wrote many books especially on the bibliography of Hadith narrators and other books on various issues of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). However, his book 'Sahih Al-Bukhari’ stands out for being the most authentic book of Hadith. It was also the first book to contain only authentic Hadiths, while previous books contained authentic and non-authentic Hadiths, as well as sayings of the companions and others. Imam Al-Bukhari died in his hometown, Bukhara in the territory of Khurasan (West Turkistan), in the year 256H.

He grouped the traditions of the Prophet SAW under various headings dealing with specific points of Islamic jurisprudence. In his time, the schools of law had been generally established and his objective was to catalogue the traditions he regarded as authentic in relation to their respective topics of jurisprudence.

Before he recorded each Hadith, he would perform ablution and offer a two-Raka’ah prayer and supplicate to Allah. Many religious scholars of Islam tried to find fault in the great remarkable collection, but without success. It is for this reason; they unanimously agreed that the most authentic book after the Book of Allah is Sahih Al-Bukhari.

Some Facts about Sahih Al-Bukhari.

1. It contains 7,275 Hadiths, which he chose from the large number of Hadiths that he had collected.

2. The number of complete unrepeated Hadiths is 2230.

3. All the Hadiths mentioned are authentic.

4. The conditions for accepting a Hadith were very stringent. Such as:

a) The chain of narrators must be linked, i.e. every narrator must have met his predecessor, (the man of whom he heard the Hadith from, up to the Prophet SAW.)

b) For it to be enclosed in the Sahih, the narrators must be of the highest caliber regarding their piety, manners, memory, integrity, etc.

5. The book is not a mere book of narrations; it is essentially a course of study on Hadith, its derivatives, inductions and research.

6. Each one of its 97 chapters is headed by a Greater Syria verse from the Quran that complements the meaning of the Hadiths quoted.

7. Finally, much more could be said about this monumental work, however, it is enough to say that many people have reached fame and achieved the highest qualifications by studying the book, researching it and commenting on it.

Sahih Muslim.

Sahih Muslim is the second most authentic book of Hadith after Sahih Al-Bukhari, compiled by Imam Muslim ibn Al-Hajaj Al-Nisapuri . Born in 202H and died in 261 H. He traveled widely to gather his collection of Hadith to Iraq, Hejaz, Ancient Syria, and Egypt. He learnt from many scholars, most of which were Al-Bukhari's teachers. He also learnt from the Imam Al-Bukhari himself and became his most loyal student. Like Imam Al-Bukhari, Allah has mercy upon him, he, Allah has mercy upon him, wrote many books on the sciences of Hadith.

He, Allah have mercy upon him, sought not so much to complement the issues at stake in the Fiqh, the Islamic jurisprudence, but rather to produce a collection of sound traditions, an authentic record, on which future studies of Hadith could be based.

Some Facts about Sahih Muslim.

1. The book contains 4000 non-repeated Hadiths and 12000 repeated ones.

2. Many narrations are mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari, but with different chain of narrators.

3. In every chapter more than one Hadith with the same meaning but with different chains and text are listed. The first Hadith in each chapter is the strongest, followed by weaker narrations in order to strengthen weaker narrations.

4. Excellent classification.

5. The book is forwarded by a detailed introduction about the basis of the sciences of Hadith.

Sahih Al-Bukhari is preferred over Sahih Muslim based on the authenticity of the Hadiths. Imam Al-Bukhari was stricter in selecting Hadiths (chains) than Imam Muslim. Besides considering all the conditions of a Sahih Hadith, Imam Al-Bukhari stipulated a further condition that a narrator should meet the person from whom he is narrating the Hadith.

Imam Muslim however, did not stipulate the evidence of meeting the narrator from whom he is narrating, but according to him, it is sufficient to accept the Hadith of a narrator if he lives in the same period and there was the possibility of meeting the narrator from whom he is reporting the Hadith. So, the condition of Imam Muslim was less strict than the condition of Imam Al-Bukhari.

While Bukhari's compilation is considered the more reliable of the two, Muslim's arrangement of his material has been recognized as superior, and rightly so. While Al-Bukhari made the traditions in his collection testify to his own schedule of various points of law, Muslim left them to speak for themselves.

5. The Sunnah during Prophet’s Era.

Muslims were, early on, aware of the significance of the Sunnah and its authority. They, one generation after the other, were keen to preserve the Sunnah because they saw that as a part of the preserving of the last revelations man is ever to receive. Their efforts were unabated, and the remarkable job they did is unparalleled in the experience of any other religion or civilization.

One of the main reasons behind this is the fact that the Prophet SAW clearly taught the Companions the importance of his Sunnah, its place in Islam and their role in saving it, teaching and conveying it to others around them and to those who would come after them. In so doing, he followed an effective methodology, which will be briefly outlined below:

1. The Prophet SAW emphasized the importance of seeking knowledge and teaching it to others. He said: "Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim (male and female)." [Ibn Majah] Also, he said: "Whosoever pursues a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will thereby make easy for him a path to Paradise. No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, without tranquility descending upon them, mercy enveloping them and angles surrounding them, and Allah making mention of them to those (angels) who are with Him." [Muslim]

2. He always had a center for teaching. Most of the time, it was the mosque.

3. He was soft in his dealings and always facilitated things and made them easy for others. He was merciful and humble and made himself readily available.

4. He never pushed people into anything. Instead, he gradually taught them and led them to change. He always motivated them to follow his example and be their best.

5. He would not continuously teach or work with them, but he would give them enough breaks to avoid overstressing or boring them.

6. He spoke plainly and clearly and he talked to people at their level of understanding and intellectual ability. Whenever appropriate, he spoke to people in their own dialect for the Arabs had different dialects.

7. He used the method of repetition. He would repeat whatever he wanted to stress for three times to insure that all heard him properly and clearly understood what he was saying.

8. When questioned, he would give more than what is expected as an answer and use the occasion to further clarify things for all, and teach about other things.

9. Whenever the Prophet SAW had to choose between two ways, he chose the easier way, which had facility and mercy if there was nothing forbidden in that, and he kept away from the difficult and harsh ways.

10. He attached special attention to teaching the women and provided those special times for questions. He encouraged them to ask and learn.

11. He used to do his best in everything, and he perfected whatever he did, thus setting an example for others.

The Companions did their utmost to convey Islam to the generations succeeding them in the best and most accurate way possible. They sincerely loved it, honestly lived according to it and faithfully preserved it and kept any impurity or irregularity out of it.

Their role in the preservation of Islam was one of utmost importance to its continuation, but they were highly prepared for it by the best teacher and trainer, the Prophet SAW. Thus the studying of this era, especially with respect to the history and authority of the Sunnah, is necessary to all Students of Knowledge.

And since this article will not provide enough details to properly cover the subject, it is recommended that the readers consult the following list of books on the subject:

Studies of Early Hadith Literature by M. M. Azami, Sunnah Qabla at-Tadwin (the Sunnah before Writing) by Ajaj Al-Khatib, The Sunnah and its Place in Islam by Mustafa As-Siba'ie, Manhajj an-Naqd fi Ulum Al-Hadith (The Methodology of Critique in the Sciences of Hadith) by Nur-ud-din Etr, Al-Hadith wal Muhaddithun (Hadith and Hadith Narrators) by Muhammad M. Abu Zahou, and Hujjiatus Sunnah (The Authority of the Sunnah) by Houcine Chouat.

6. The Sunnah the Era of the Companions and Their Followers

Most scholars group the main aspects of the methodology of the Companions in preserving the Sunnah into the following seven categories: prudence in narrating the hadiths, verification and substantiation of the hadiths before accepting them, critique, discussions and assessment of the narration, traveling for search and confirmation of the hadiths, memorization, practice and writing of the hadiths. Some scholars refer to these aspects as ‘rulings’, ‘methods’ or ‘ways’ instead of methodology.

6.1. Prudence in Narrating the Hadith.

Because of the fact that the Sunnah is a revelation and a sacred Source for this religion, the Companions were very careful when narrating what the Prophet SAW said or did. This vigilance was illustrated in:

Avoiding narration unless they had to. ‘Abdur Rahman Ibn Abi Laila said: “I have met with 120 Companions from the Ansar (supporters of the Prophet), none of who would narrate a hadith or answer a question of fatwa unless he absolutely had no choice but to do it. One would have to go and ask another instead of him, so much so you would keep going from one to the other until you get back to the first one you asked.” They understood that they were conveying the message brought to them by the Prophet SAW and that people see it as such, thus everyone wanted the other to do that because they may know it better. This, however, should not be construed to mean they avoided spreading the message or teaching Islam to others. This prudence indicates they were fully aware of their role and its significance. They would rather let others, who may be more knowledgeable, do the job, but once they had to do, they did it in the best way possible.

Limiting or discouraging the narration. This attitude was adopted for the purpose of protecting the Sunnah because it minimizes the possibility of mistakes or forgetfulness that may otherwise cause people to doubt the Sunnah or mistrust the narrators. This trend was strongly encouraged by Caliphs Abu Bakar and ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and was accepted and practiced by the Companions. This attitude is founded on the famous hadith narrated by many Companions: “It is sufficient —for one to tumble into lying - to narrate or repeat everything he/she hears.” [Al-Bukhari and others]

Encouraging narration from knowledgeable Companions. To strike a necessary balance between being cautious and insuring the transmission of the religion and the spreading of its teachings, the Companions who had a great deal of knowledge—like those recommended by the Prophet SAW never hesitated to narrate, write or teach the Sunnah. There are hundreds of narrations that encourage such practice so long as it is done in the right manner.

Opting for verbatim narration. Guided with instruction in the Hadith, “May Allah bless the person who hears a statement from me and conveys it as he or she heard it,” the Companions did all that was humanly possible to keep their narration verbatim of what they actually heard from the Prophet SAW. There are many reported incidents, which testify to this fact. Having such natural mastery of the Arabic – that was common among them—and the fact that they saw and heard the Prophet say, do and explain to them his teachings repeatedly, as well as their understanding of the need for verbatim transmission of narrations, all combined to make it easy for them not to cause changes as they narrate any Hadith.

6.2. Verification of the Hadith before Accepting It.

This is an important tool that the Companions established to safeguard the Sunnah against any foreign material interference and accidental or deliberate mistakes. This was a common prac­tice amongst all of the Companions when receiving or narrating the Sunnah. Imam Ath-Thahabi mentioned this practice, in one of his great books, addressing the issue of Hadith Memorizers. He said that it was one of the ways used by of the four Caliphs to protect the Hadith. For example, Abu Bakar was asked to rule in the case of a grandmother who came neither asking for her right in inheritance, he said that he knew of no amount due to her neither in the Book of Allah (i.e., Quran) nor the Sunnah of the Prophet. But when Al-Mughirah told that he has wit­nessed the Prophet give one-sixth of the total amount of the inheritance, he asked him if he had witness to substantiate this claim. And when Muhammad Ibn Maslamah witnessed to the truth of that figure, Abu Bakar accepted it and gave the grandmother exactly that.

In the case of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, Ath-Thahabi mentioned many incidents that testify to the fact that he always ascertained the narration when it was necessary to do so. He narrated that Malik Ibn Aws heard ‘Umar say to ‘Abdur-Rahman Ibn ‘Awf, Talhah Ibn Az-Zubair and Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas: “I ask by Allah, Who maintains the Heaven and Earth! Did you hear the Prophet say: ‘I am not to be inherited, whatever I leave is to be given in charity'? They said: `Yes, Allah is our witness.” [Ahmad]

After narrating the above incidents among others, Imam Ath-Thahabi repeatedly asserted that the verifications were not meant to doubt the truthfulness of any of the Companions rather they were necessary to establish a standard of care and respect for what the Prophet, sallallaahu alay­hi wa sallam, said or did. They did that for themselves and to institute a tradition to be fol­lowed and honored by all who come after them.

6.3. The Essential of the Method.

The purpose was to protect the Sunnah, not to doubt one another. All of the Companions are trustworthy as clearly stated in the Quran, and doubting their trustworthiness can certainly damage one's faith.

The purpose, also, was to establish a method and set an example to be followed by the rest of the Muslim nation. The truth, however, remains that Companions used to accept narration conveyed by any one of them. Their request of witnesses or that the narrator gives an oath that he is saying the truth was to establish the methodology, so that people would not take narrating a Hadith lightly. This fact may further be supported when considering that:

Sometimes they required a witness while at others they had the narrator give oath or reminded him of how serious it is to lie against the Prophet. This variation indicates that the purpose was actually to establish awareness of the significance of narrating the Hadith rather than set up a requirement of having more than one narrator as a condition for its authenticity.

There are a very large number of narrations, which indicate that in many cases the Companions had actually accepted Hadith from one narrator without seeking any substantiation or verification.

®Islam web.

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