23.3 C
New York
HomeExpertsDeciphering the Sunnah: Understanding the Multifaceted Teachings of Prophet Muhammad

Deciphering the Sunnah: Understanding the Multifaceted Teachings of Prophet Muhammad

“We’ve also heard this from you!”

The sentence you read above is a reader comment written under one of my YouTube videos. I can continue as follows: “What more can I say!”

There are others who write their thoughts with much more offensive expressions and accusatory statements on the same topic. Bless them, may they exist. Although I don’t adopt the style they use, I would say, “If it were me, as a person in search of truth, I wouldn’t express my thoughts in this way,” but I thank them.

The topic is the different qualities of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In other words, whether every statement he made, every physical act he performed, and every action and statement he witnessed and tacitly approved, have binding value for Muslims until the Day of Judgment. Experts in the field will appreciate that I touched on two main controversial issues of ‘hadith discipline’ in the previous sentence. The first is the definition of Sunnah, and I made this definition according to Imam Shafi’i. The second is the binding nature of the Sunnah.

In the video where this comment was made, I actually refer to the different qualities of our Prophet (pbuh) all the time, as I refer to hadiths and Sunnah in almost every topic I cover, presenting them as references and pointing to the tradition that has been practiced in Islamic scholarly history for 14 centuries. I underscore whether the hadith in question is binding or not. I have to do both. Because according to my belief, a Quranic Islam, an Islam explained by translations alone, does not exist.

An Islam that excludes Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), disregarding his statements and practices, does not exist. Think about it, you will ignore the words and behaviors of a Prophet who has the obligation of delivering, explaining, teaching, and applying (i.e., conveying, clarifying, instructing, and implementing) the message of the Quran, and then you will interpret the Quran. Doesn’t this mean you are granting yourself an interpretive right that you don’t recognize for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to whom the Quran was revealed?

Moreover, explaining with the approach “Every word, practice, and approval of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is binding on Muslims until the Day of Judgment, and nothing else can be considered,” is also wrong. Because this means stopping and freezing history. It means living Islam is only possible under the conditions of 14 centuries ago. Then, like on movie platforms, let’s build the 14-century Mecca and Medina, and live under those conditions as Muslims. Is this possible, for the love of God?

What is the correct approach? The right thing is to differentiate the sayings, actions, and approvals of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) according to the qualities he possesses and to accept as they are the things he did with his prophetic quality (i.e., conveying, clarifying, instructing, and implementing), and to interpret the things he did with his other qualities. Indeed, our scholars throughout the history of Islamic knowledge have done this. Even the things he did with his prophetic quality have been divided into 8 categories under the name “Ef’al-i Mükellefin”: obligatory, recommended, Sunnah, preferable, permissible, forbidden, disliked, and invalid. For example, what does permissible mean? It means you earn a reward if you do it, and it’s not a sin if you leave it. But the Messenger of Allah did it! Think about it.

However, I also don’t blame those who wrote those comments. Maybe they heard this for the first time in their lives and that’s why they say, “We’ve also heard this from you!” I too had said and thought similar things years ago when I first heard this from my teachers during my theology faculty student years.

Let me now just list, without comment, the names of the scholars who said this before me, their dates of death, and their classifications of Sunnah.

Binary classification:

1-Süneni hüda ve sünen-i zevâid. Sünen means the plural of Sunnah. Hüda Sunnahs are the words and behaviors of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with his prophetic quality that bind every Muslim until the Day of Judgment. Zevaid is everything else. Imam Azam Abu Hanifa (d. 150)

2- “Sunnah is of two types: The first is the Sunnah whose practice is obligatory and whose abandonment is disbelief. The second is the Sunnah whose practice is virtuous and whose abandonment is harmful.” (Abu Abdullah Makhul b. Abi Muslim Sharab b. Shazel ash-Shami ad-Dimashqi al-Huzeli d. 112)

Tripartite classification: Words and behaviors stated with the qualities of fatwa, judgment, and head of state. (Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Muslim bin Qutaybah (d. 276)

Quadruple classification: Proclamation, fatwa, judgment, and imamate/head of state. (Abul-Abbas Shihabuddin Ahmed bin Idris al-Misri al-Qarafi d. 684)

Quintuple classification:

Actions both done by Prophet Muhammad and commanded for us to do. Actions done by Prophet Muhammad as a human being. Actions specific to Prophet Muhammad. Actions explaining the general rulings in the Quran. Actions outside these four groups. (Abu al-Husayn al-Basri (d. 436) Septuple classification:

Actions of imitation. Natural actions. Actions specific to Prophet Muhammad. Actions that state a general ruling and restrict an absolute ruling. Actions that are not of imitation, natural, specific to Prophet Muhammad, or explanatory, and whose nature is unknown. Actions done by Prophet Muhammad whose nature is unknown. Actions of Prophet Muhammad not intended for worship (closeness to God). (Shah Waliullah ad-Dihlawi (d. 1176) Twelvefold classification:

1-Legislation 2-Issuing fatwas 3-Judgment 4-Imamate/Head of state 5-Guidance 6-Reconciling people 7-Giving advice to those who seek it 8-Advising 9-Encouraging people to perfect traits 10-Teaching truths 11-Disciplining/Rebuking 12-Natural/human traits. (Tahir bin Ashur (d. 1973)

That’s all for now. Actually, the topic is very long. I hope these classifications have given an idea about the place of Sunnah in legislation for those who say “We’ve also heard this from you!” with good intentions and religious sensitivity. If I didn’t believe in them, I wouldn’t spend so much time on it, I would just laugh and move on.

Take a second to support Politurco.com on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

Most Popular

Recent Comments