The Sunna

The Value Given to the Sunna of the Prophet by the Quran

In the Quran, the basic source of Islam, Allah puts Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his sunnah (words and actions of the Prophet and actions of others that were approved by the Prophet) in a special place, equating obedience to the Prophet to obedience to Himself. (Al-Nisa 4/80). But it should be noted here that all hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) are not binding on believers to the same degree. Actions can be compulsory, recommended, forbidden or reprehensible.     

One of the main reasons why some Muslims are careless or unconcerned about the sunnah is that they perceive the sunnah and hadiths as being outside the revelation; however, some hadiths are clearly derived revealed sources

One of the main reasons why some Muslims are careless or unconcerned about the sunnah is that they perceive the sunnah and hadiths as being outside the revelation; however, some hadiths are clearly derived from revealed sources. All the words and actions that were approved of or performed by the Prophet are approved by Allah. In other words, any mistakes the Prophet made were corrected. In this way, we can understand the purity of the Prophet's actions.

Even minor mistakes of the Prophet were corrected by verses in the Quran. Prophet Muhammad differed from other people in this way. If one were to suggest that his mistakes were not corrected, this is tantamount to stating that Islam includes mistakes or defects. At this point, it is not possible to say that this announcement is an "incontrovertible announcement" (belagun mubin). For this reason, one of the main reasons why the sunnah is so important in Islam is that most of the hadiths are revelation-based.              

When we analyze the verses of the Quran, we can see that the revelations are not limited to those contained in the revelation sent to Prophet Muhammad, and that there are many verses that state that the Prophet received revelations through ways other than the Quran.         

   It is stated in the Quran that all prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, were granted wisdom in addition to the revelations.  


"But for the Grace of Allah to thee and his Mercy, a party of them would certainly have plotted to lead thee astray. But (in fact) they will only lead their own souls astray, and to thee they can do no harm in the least. For Allah hath sent down to thee the Book and wisdom and taught thee what thou knewest not (before): And great is the Grace of Allah unto thee" (Al-Nisa 4/113).

Of course, Prophet Muhammad revealed the wisdom that came to him. In Surah Baqarah it is stated: "A similar (favor have ye already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and sanctifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and Wisdom, and in new knowledge" (Al-Baqarah 2/151).

Most of the scholars interpret the wisdom that was given to Prophet Muhammad in addition to the Quran as composing the sunnah of the Prophet. For example, Imam Shafii declares:    

"Allah first mentioned the book (which means the Quran) and secondly the wisdom. I have heard from those who have authority on Quranic sources that what is being referred to by the "wisdom" is the sunnah of the Prophet. The Quran is mentioned first and then, separately and secondly, the wisdom is added."      

Awzai points out that Hasan b. Atiyyae reported Archangel Gabriel taking the sunnah to the Prophet in the same way that he brought him the Quran. Another important piece of evidence that the Prophet received revelation from Allah in addition to the Quran was that he was given the responsibility and authority to explain the Quran. Prophet Muhammad fulfilled his duty not only with his personal knowledge and wisdom, but also with additional information granted by Allah.          

"(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought." (Al-Nahl 16/44).

ImageAllah stresses out the wisdom of Prophet Muhammad and his decisions and authority is granted to him to explain the verses of the Quran that require explanations. While fulfilling this duty, the Prophet first examines the verse and, if there is no clear information, he then looks to other sources until he arrives at the final decision

It can be understood from this that Prophet Muhammad had the authority to make a general decision without being dependent solely on the decisions of the Quran. For example, he would wait for a revelation about a certain situation, but if revelation did not come he would then arrive at a conclusion by taking other sources into account. Any minor errors that he made were corrected through revelation. Without a doubt, all of his decisions were guided by revelation and therefore we can understand that that all of his decisions were approved by divine revelation.        

In the Quran, in a verse related to the authority of Prophet Muhammad to make decisions, it is stated: "And Allah sends down rain from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death: verily in this is a Sign for those who listen" (Al-Nisa, 4/65).

While making a decision, the Prophet sometimes directly took a verse of the Quran (if there was an appropriate one) as a main source; at other times he would take into account a kind of extra-Quranic revelation and at other times he would make a decision based directly on personal experiences. Whatever the method was that he used, it is clear that all his activities and words were granted approval by divine revelation. 

There are many examples of decisions made by Prophet Muhammad related to topics that are not mentioned in the Quran, for example the time of prayer, the ritual of prayers, the performance of prayers, the requirements of supererogatory prayers, those things that negate or do not negate prayer, to whom obligatory alms can be given, the punishment for drinking alcohol, when women cannot pray, and the heritage of grandmother.

For the entire text, please see İsmail Lütfu Çakan, ”The Value Given to the Sunnah of the Prophet (The Place of Sunnah in Islam)”, Istanbul 1998, pages. 51-75


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