Bismillah walhamdolilah wasalatu wasalam ‘ala Rasool Allah

Asalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu,

Continuing in our talks about the science of fiqh, today we will look at the sources of Islamic Law.

As we know the sources of Islamic Law depend on two core sources: al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah. These two sources are the basis of which our religion is based upon. One without the under is not Islam, for verily they both go hand in hand. To understand the Qur’an as a source of Islamic Law is not difficult, thus we will not spend time on analyzing that aspect. However, understanding the Sunnah as a source of Islamic Law is one which requires a bit of analysis.

Truly, the status of the Sunnah is in high ranks within Islam. Unfortunately in our times, this important source of Islamic Law is not giving the importance it deserves. In the times which we live in, the Sunnah of our beloved Rasool sallalahu alayhi wasalam is pushed to the side. Many a people neglect to follow aspects of the sunnah, saying “O its only sunnah”. O my beloved brothers and sisters in Islam! Know that the sunnah is a source of guidance and holds great authority in our religion. Without it, we are like those who are lost in the desert without a guide.

The term Sunnah refers to four aspects within the life of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam:

  1. Actions – For example, how the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam prayed.
  2. Sayings/Commands – For example, the Prophet’s saying: “Deeds are judged by intentions”
  3. Tacit Approvals – For example, the Prophet refusing to eat a kind of desert lizard (personal choice) but allowed his companions to eat it.
  4. That which he left given the need – For example, normally for every salat their is a call to prayer (adzaan). However, for the Eid salat there is no call to prayer. Even though the need may have been present the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam did not command for the adzaan to be given for Eid salat. Therefore, it is sunnah to leave the adzaan for Eid salat.

The sunnah can be broken down into the above four broad categories and as Muslims, as believers in Allah azza wa jal, we must follow the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam because Allah says:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَى

He does not speak from his desires. Verily, it is inspiration which has been revealed. [Suyrah Najm V.3-4]

Allah also says, making very clear the status of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلاً

O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination [Surah Nisa V.59]

Allah makes clear that the believer is one who obeys Allah and obeys the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam. And truly, who would be able to practice Islam without the guidance of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam?

The sunnah is intended to explain the Qur’an. This can be broken down further into four categories:

  1. Sunnah details the summarized – For example, Allah tells us throughout the Qur’an to establish the prayers. We know the value of prayer within our life, we know it to be the second pilliar of Islam. However, if the believers were not required to follow the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam then how would we know how to establish the prayer?
  2. Sunnah limits the absolute – We know that the Islamic punishment, under an Islamic system and state, for thievery to have his/her hands cut off. However, the arabic word ‘hand’ could literally mean from shoulders down, or from the elbows down, or even from the wrist down. However, the sunnah makes clear that the understanding is from the wrists down.
  3. Sunnah affirms the Qur’an – For example, drinking alcohol is prohibited in the religion of Islam as per the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala found in the Qur’an. This fact is also affirmed by many ahadeeth of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi waslam.
  4. Sunnah brings rulings not found in the Qur’an – For example, Allah says in the Qur’an that He has made lawful for the believers all good and pure things and forbade for them the bad and evil things. Therefore, whatever is generally good and pure, Allah has made lawful for us. However, an exclusion to this is eating the flesh of domesticated donkeys because it is impure as is mentioned in statements of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam (Sahih Bukhari). Thus, the sunnah brought a ruling not directly stated in the Qur’an