Status of Sunnah in Islam
Muhammad Nasir-ud-deen Al-Albaani
Praise be to Allah, Benediction and Peace be on the
Messenger of Allah, his family, his companions, and
This is a lecture which I delivered in the city of
Doha, the capital of Qatar, in the blessed month of
Ramadhan 1392 A.H. Some of my friends have suggested
to me to publish my lecture on account of need of
the Muslims to a work of its kind. In response to
their request, I am printing it for general propagation
on account of its advantage, having regard for the
reminiscences and history. I have added some separate
titles to assist the reader to collect the main ideas.
I pray to Allah, the Mighty, the Glorious, to write
me among those who defend the religion and those who
help enact the law; and to reward me for it. Surely
he is the most generous in responding to my prayer.
Damascus 22 Muharram-al-Haram 1394 A.H.
Status of Sunnah in Islam
that it cannot dispense with The Qur'an
All Praise be to Allah, we praise Him, seek His help
and His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from
the evils of our souls and evils of our deeds. One
whom Allah guides, none can lead him astray, and one
whom He misguides, none can guide him. I bear witness
that there is nothing worthy of worship(1)
except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW)
is His servant and His messenger.
you who believe, Fear Allah Truly, and do not die
except as Muslims.
Men fear your Lord who created you from one soul,
and created its partner, and from them spread men
and women in numbers. Take care, Allah will question
you about it and the kinship. Surely, Allah is ever
watchful of your deeds
those who believe. Fear Allah and say what is correct
so that it fits you. He will forgive your sins. Whoever
obeys Allah and His messenger that is a great achievement
The best of speech is the speech of Allah. That is
The Book of Allah. The best of guidance is the guidance
of Muhammad. Of all matters, the worst are innovations;
and everything new is an innovation, and every innovation
is a deviation, and every deviation leads to Hell-fire.
I do not think that I will be able to offer this high
ranking assembly - especially when there are distinguished
ulama (scholars) and professors present - some knowledge
which has not been dealt with before. If what I think
is true, I will rest contented that my address will
be a reminder, as it says in the Qur'an: Remind,
for the reminder would benefit the believers
I do not think that my talk in this blessed month
of Ramadhan, the month of importance, is an exposition
of something of its merits, rules and their practice,
and the like, which generally the preachers and instructors
touch on, on account of the benefit they give to the
listeners, and procure for them good and blessing;
but I have chosen my talk to be a study of a general
nature, surely it is one of the roots of the Shari'ah
(Islamic law). It is a declaration of the importance
attached to the Sunnah in the Islamic law.
The Role of Sunnah Towards
You all know that Allah, The Blessed and Mighty, chose
Muhammad (SAW) as His Prophet and picked him to deliver
the final message. The Qur'an was revealed to him
and commanded him to obey all what He had ordered
him to do, that is, to expound His message to the
people. Allah says, We
have revealed to you the Reminder (The Qur'an) to
expound to people what was revealed to them
I think that the declaration mentioned in the verse
contains two orders:
of the word and its arrangement. It is the communication
of the Qur'an and its non-concealment, and its pursuit
to Mankind just as Allah, The Blessed Almighty,
has revealed to the heart of the Prophet (SAW) which
is the intent of His saying
Messenger proclaim what is revealed to you from
your Lord (5:67).
Sayyida Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) is
reported to have said "Whosoever says that Muhammad
(SAW) concealed something which he was commanded
to communicate, is is a great calumny against Allah."
Then she read the abovementioned verse. (Bukhari
and Muslim have stated it.)
And according to the narration of Muslim: "If the
Messenger of Allah (SAW) had concealed something
which he was commanded to communicate, he would
have concealed the saying of The Almighty Behold
thou didst say to one who had received the grace
of Allah and thy favour: Keep your wife to yourself
and fear Allah. But thou didst hide in thy heart
that which Allah was about to make manifest; you
did fear the people, whereas Allah had a better
right that you should fear Him
explanation of the meaning of the word or sentence
or verse for which man needs an explanation, most
of which bear reference to 'Mujmal' (comprehensive)
verses or 'Amah' (general) verses or 'Mutlaq' (unbounded)
Then comes the Sunnah and clarifies the sentences
and specifies the verses called 'Amah' and defines
what is 'mutlaq' that is, in refernce to the saying
(Qaul) of The Prophet (SAW), his deed (Fi'l) and
the act he confirmed (Iqrar).
Allah says:The male thief
and female theif cutt of their hands
(5:38) is a fitting example of that. The thief in it
is general like the hand.
Necessity of Sunnah to Understand
The Qur'an and Parables on that...
The oral tradition explains the first of them and
restricts it by 'as-sareq' (the thief) who steals
something worth a fourth of a Dinar(2)
according to the saying of the Prophet (SAW) There
is no cutting - of the hand - unless the thing stolen
is worth a fourth of a Dinar or more (Buhkari
& Muslim) the two shaikhs have recorded this Hadeeth.
Again, the other is explained by the action of the Prophet
(SAW) or the action of his companions and his confirmation.
They used to cut the hand of the thief from the wrist
as is known in the work of Hadeeth. The oral tradition
explains the hand mentioned in the verse on Tayammum
(dust ablution) And
rub therewith your faces and hands
(5:6) is also the palm of the hand as is stated in a
Hadeeth Tayammum is the wiping of the face and the
hands recorded by the two shaikhs and Ahmad and
others from a tradition reported by Ammar bin Yasir
(may Allah be pleased with them).
There are other verses that cannot be completely understood
except through Sunnah. They are:
is whose who believe and confuse not their beliefs
with wrong,'dhulm'that are(truly) in security for
they are on(right) guidance (6:82).
The companions of the Prophet (SAW) understood the
word 'dhulm' in its general sense to mean every
wrong doing, even if it be little. On this account
the verse is regarded as dubious and they said,
"O Messenger of Allah, which of us did not involve
his faith with obscurity?" He (SAW) said; It
is not that. It is only the 'shirk'(3).
Have you not heard what Luqman said:
Shirk is a very great sin (dhulm)
(31:13). The two shaikhs have
recorded it with others.
you travel on earth, there is no blame on you to
shorten your prayer, for fear the unbelievers will
persecute you (4:101).
It is obvious from this verse that fear is a pre-requisite
for the shortening of prayers. Some of the Prophet's
companions asked him: "Why do we shorten our prayers
while we feel safe?" He said: It is a charity
from Allah, so accept it (Muslim).
carcass and it's blood are forbidden to you
(5:3). In explanation of this verse, the corpse
of locusts, fish, the livers, spleen of blood are
lawful. So the Prophet (SAW) said: He has made
two dead things and blood lawful: the locusts and
the fish, the liver and the spleen.
Baihaqi and others have recorded it as 'marfu' type
of hadeeth as also 'mauquf' type. The 'isnad' od
'mauquf' is authentic and it is as good as 'marfu'
tradition, since it is not stated in the form of
a 'ra'y' (decision based on one individual's judgement
not on Qur'an and Sunnah).
Allah says: I
find not in the message received by me by inspiration
any (food) forbidden to be taken by one who wishes
to, unless it is dead meat or blood poured forth
or the flesh of swine, for it is an abomination,
or what is impious (meat) on which a name has been
invoked other thatn Allah's
The Sunnah has forbidden many things not mentioned
in the verse mentioned above, as for example in
the saying of the Holy Prophet (SAW): All predatory
animals with tusk and every bird with claw are forbidden
for consumption. There are other traditions
which have forbidden the consumption of such animals
as the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said on
the Day of Khayber: Allah and His Messenger have
prohibited the consumption of domesticated asses,
for they are filth. The two shaikhs have reported
has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has
produced for His servants, and the things clean
and pure (which he has provided for sustenance)
The Sunnah, too, has forbidden some adornments,
and this is evident from the Prophet (SAW) who is
reported to have met some of his companions, and
had a silk garment in one hand, and gold in the
other, and said: These are prohibited to Muslim
males, lawful to females. The hadeeths in their
interpretation are many and well known in both the
authentic collections of hadeeths, and others and
the like of many examples well known to scholars
familiar with hadeeth and Islamic Jurispudence.
From what has been stated above, O Muslim Brethren,
you can see the importance attached to Sunnah in Islamic
Law. When we divert our intention again to the exaples
mentioned beside others not mentioned, we are certain
that there is no way to understand the Qur'an correctly
except in association with the interpretation of the
In the first example, the understanding of the 'sahabah'
of 'dhulm' mentioned in the verse is on its general
sense, despite the fact that the (Allah be pleased
with them) were, as stated by Ibn Mas'ud: "The best
of this community, most pious, profound in learning,
least of dissimulation." Yet with all that they erred
in their understanding of that.
Were it not for the Prophet (SAW), who held them back
from their mistaken notion, and made them take the
step in the right direction in that the correct meaning
of 'dhulm' in the context is shirk (association of
partnership with Allah), we too would have followed
in their wrong thinking. Allah, The Blessed and The
Most High saved us from that wrong notion by the grace
of the right direction of the Prophet (SAW) and his
In the second example - with Allah's guidance - if
not for the hadeeth mentioned above, we would have
been in doubt at least with regard to the shortening
of prayer (qasr-as-salat) during a journey while secure
- if we did stipulate the condition of fear as obvious
in the verse - till the companions saw the Prophet
(SAW) shorten the prayers when it was safe and secure.
In the third example, if not for the hadeeth, we would
have forbidden ourselves the consumption of good things
made lawful to us: locusts, fish, liver, and the spleen.
In the fourth example, if not for the hadeeths, some
of which we have mentioned, we would have considered
lawful what Allah has made unlawful through the dictum
of the holy Prophet (SAW) like predatory animals,
and the birds which have claws.
And so in the fifth example, if not for the hadeeths
in regard to this question, we would have considered
lawful what Allah prohibited through the words of
His Prophet (SAW) like gold and silk.
It is for this, some forbearers (as-salaf) say that
'Sunnah' pronounces judgement of The Book (al-Qur'an).
Deviation of Those Who are Satisfied with The Qur'an
to the Exclusion of Hadeeth
It is a matter of regret that according to the interpretation
found in the works of some commentators and moders
authors, that it is permissible to do what is stated
in the last two examples: Consumption of the predatory
animals and the waearing of gold and silk by referring
their interpretation only to the Qur'an.
Today, a sect exists called "Quranites" who comment
according to their whims and fancies; without seeking
the explanation of the authentic Sunnah. They only
accept and follow the Sunnah which suit their desires,
the rest they throw behind. The Prophet (SAW) is reported
to have said that: None of you reclines on his
bed, the order comes to him on an affair which I am
commanded to do or not to do. He says: "I don't know,
what is found in The Book of Allah we follow"
(Tirmidhi). According to another report: What is
found in The Book of Allah as 'Haram,' we pronounce
it 'haram' (forbidden). Surely, I am given The Qur'an
and its example with it. Yet, according to another
report: What the Messenger of Allah has forbidden,
Allah has prohibited it.
It is a matter of regret that one renowned scholar
has written a book on Islamic law and its dogma, and
in its preface, he says that he has written it and
that he has made reference only to The Qur'an.
This true hadeeth gives positive evidence that the divine
law of Islam - As-Shari'ah - is not merely Qur'an, but
Qur'an and Sunnah. Therefore, whoever holds fast to
one source for reference to the exclusion of the other,
he held fast to neither of them, since both complement
each other. The Qur'an says
obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah.
by your Lord they do not believe until they submit to
your adjucation in all disputes between them, then they
do not find themselves oppressed with your decisions
and they completely submit
(4:65). Again, Allah says When
a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger,
it does not behove a believer, man or woman, to have
choice in their matter. One who disobeys Allah and His
Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path
(33:36). Furthermore, Allah says What
the Messenger teaches you, take it, and what he forbids
you, avoid doing it (59:7).
In connection with this verse, I am marvelled by what
is corroborated by Ibn Mas'ud (Allah be pleased with
him) that is, a woman came to him and told him, "You
who says: May Allah's curse be on 'Al-Namisat' and
and those who tattoo." He said "Yes." She said, "I
read the Book of Allah (Al-Qur'an) from beginning
to its end. I did not find what you have said. He
told her, "If you have read it, you would have found
it. As for your reading what the Messenger teaches
you, take it, and what he forbids you, avoid doing
it." She said, "Certainly." He said, "I have heard
the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say May Allah's Curse
be on the Al-Namisat." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Inadequacy of Philology to
understand The Qur'an
From what has been stated above, it is clear that
there is no scope for anyone with all his Arabic Scholarship
to understand the glorious Qur'an, without the help
of the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), his sayings and
The companions of the Prophet (SAW) were the most
knowledgeable in the language, which The Qur'an was
revealed in, when it was not blemished by the incorrectness
of the common folks knowledge or their grammatical
mistakes. Yet, they erred in understanding the verses
quoted above when they relied on language alone.
It is self-evident that a man well-informed of the
Sunnah is more appropriate to understand The Qur'an
and deduce the rules from it than one who is ignorant
of it. How can it be a source to one who does not
reckon it and does not make reference to it?
For this reason, it is part of the rules agreed upon
that Qur'an should be interpreted by the Qur'an itself
as welll as the Sunnah, then by the sayings of the
Sahabah... etc. (5)
It is here that the cause of deviation of scholastic
theologians (Ahlul-Kalam) become clear, both ancient
and modern, and their opposition to the forbears 'As-salaf'
(May Allah be pleased with them) in their doctrines
not to speak of their laws. They are far from Sunnah,
and knowledge of it, and rely on their intelligence
and desires to decide on the verses of attributes
What is best is what was written down in the exposition
of Tahawi's doctrine (page 212 Fourth Edition):
When one is not well-informed of The Book and Sunnah,
what would he say about the Fundamentals of Religion
(usoolud-deen)? He only receives the assertion of
someone. If he says that he takes it from The Book
of Allah, he does not study the commentary of The
Qur'an on the basis of prophetic traditions, and reflects
over it, nor what the companions (Sahabah), and the
following generations narrated, which is transmitted
to us from the authorities whom the critics chose.
They have not transmitted the system and arrangement
of The Qur'an, but its poetic expression and meaning.
They did not learn the Qur'an like children, but studied
it with meaning. One who does not follow in their
footsteps, speaks on his own accord. One who does
that thinks it be the religion of Allah, and does
not study The Book of Allah, he sins, even if he is
One who studies The Qur'an and The Sunnah, he is rewarded,
even if he goes wrong, but if he is right in his opinion,
his reward is doubled. Then he says:
What is obligatory, is submission to the Messenger
(SAW) carrying out his saying and accepting his saying
with satisfaction and belief without contradicting
it with false ideas called 'opprehensive faculty'
(Ma'qul) bearing doubt or complaint, or offering the
opinions of men and the garbage of their intellect.
We unite with The Prophet (SAW) in judgement, submission,
obedience and compliance, just as we have unison with
Allah, glory be to Him, by worshipping Him by humility,
submissiveness, repentance and reliance.
In short, what is obligatory on all MUslims is that
they do not separate between Qur'an and Sunnah; whereas,
it is obligatory to take both of them and to formulate
the law on both of them.
This is a safeguard for them, so that they won't fall
right or left; and that they won't fall back in error
as explained by The Prophet (SAW): I leave behind
me two things. You will never go astray if you hold
fast to them: The Qur'an and my Sunnah.
It is self-evident after this that I say:
The Sunnah which has an important bearing on Islamic
Law is only the Sunnah confirmed by scientific channels,
and authentic chains of narrations known to the learned
in regard to hadeeths and the background of the narrators.
It is not the one which is found in different works
of Tafseers (commentaries of The Qur'an) and Islamic
jurisprudence (fiqh), and in different writings of
longing, intimidation, advices, and admonitions, etc...
They contain weak, spurious, and fabricated hadeeths,
of which Islam absolves, like the story of 'Harut
and Marut,' and the sotry of 'gharanik.' I have a
special letter which makes it void and it is printed(6).
A major part of it is recorded in two huge books namely
"A chain of weak and fabricated hadeeths and their
evil impact on the community." Their number upto date
have reached approximately four thousand hadeeths(7).
It is obligatory on the learned, especially those
who spread the knowledge of fiqh and legal opinions
among the public, that they shouldn't dare to argue
with hadeeth unless it is well-attested. Books of
jurisprudence, which they refer to, are normally filled
with traditions which are not well-attested, nor have
any bases, as is well-known to the learned.
I have begun an important project, and I think it
will be of use to those occupied with jurisprudence,
and I will name it: "Weak and Fabricated Hadeeths
in the Major Jurisprudence 'fiqh' Books," by which
by Al-Marghinani, in Hanafi fiqh,
by Ibnil-Qasim, in Maliki fiqh,
by Al-rafiee, in Shafiee fiqh,
by Ibn Quddamah, in Hanbali fiqh, and
Mujtahid, by Ibn Rushd-al-Andalusi, in comparative
I regret that I did not get the opportunity to finish
it, because the journal "Al-Wa'e-al-Islami" of Kuwait
which promised to publish it, when perused it, didn't
Although I missed this opportunity, perhaps I will
succeed on another occasion, Allah willing, to offer
to my bretheren occupied with jurisprudence a precise
learned course to help them to facilitate their knowledge
of the different categories of hadeeth with reference
to various sources from books on hadeeth, with an
explanation of its special nature and character and
reliance on them. Allah is the source of success.
Weakness of Hadeeth of Muadh
in the opinion And its disapproval
Before I conclude my talk, I think I must direct the
attention of brethren present to a well known hadeeth.
It is devoid of one of the books of jurisprudence
on account of its weakness in respect of its chain
of narration (isnad) and its contrdiction with what
we have concluded in this talk, regarding the illegitimacy
of discrimination in law between The Qur'an and Sunnah;
and the necessity of taking both.
It is a hadeeth of Muadh bin Jabal (May Allah be pleased
with him) that the Prophet (SAW) said to him when
he sent hin to Yaman: By what source will you decide?
He said, "By the book of Allah." He then asked, If
you don't find any guidline? He said, "I will
make an effort to form my own opinion." He said, Praise
be to Allah who makes success the effort of the envoy
of the Messenger of Allah, to what The Prophet likes.
As for the weakness of its 'isnad,' there is no scope
for its explanation now. But I have explained it clearly
in the above mentioned chain(8).
It would suffice now to mention that the Commander
of the Believers in the hadeeth 'Imam Al-Bukhari'
(may Allah have mercy on him) says that the hadeeth
is not recognized (munkar). After this I am permitted
to begin to explain the conflict which I pointed.
The tradition of Muadh gives the ruler a method of
three stages which does not permit to search for any
rule with regard to 'Ra'e' (personal opinion) except
that he does not find it in the Sunnah, nor in the
Sunnah, except that after he does not find it in The
Qur'an. It is in relation to 'Ra'e' a genuine method
with all the learned (ulama), so that they say, "Where
there is a tradition relating the deeds and utterances
of The Prophet (SAW), personal opinion is void." But
in relation to Sunnah, it is not true, because Sunnah
dictates The Qur'an and and clarifies its doctrines.
It is then essential to search for a ruling in Sunnah,
even if he thinks it is found in The Qur'an as we
have mentioned it.
Sunnah is not with The Qur'an in the same manner as
'Ar-Ra'e' with the Sunnah. No, definitely not. It
is rather necessary to regard the Qur'an and Sunnah
as being one source with no discrimination between
the two whatsoever. This is indicatied in a saying
of the Prophet (SAW): Certainly I have come with
The Qur'an and its like (meaning the Sunnah).
He said They are never separated until they come
to the Basin(9). The
compilation mentioned between them is not correct
because the separation between them is void as we
This is what I wish to draw attention to. If I am
right, it is from Allah; if wrong, it is from me.
I ask Allah Almighty to protect us and you from errors
and from all that displeases him. I conclude my praising
by "Al-Hamdu-lillahi rabbil-alameen" - Praise be to
Allah, The Lord of the Worlds.
There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah
- who really deserves to be worshipped by Mankind
A form of currency
is to disbelieve in the oneness of Allah, or to
offer any form of worship to other than Allah.
a woman who plucks hers or others eyebrows - to
be a thin line - to seek beauty. Such an act is
forbidden. It is a means to change the form of Allah's
Motanamisah: a woman who asks others to do it for
states other than what is known by many of the learned:
to comment on The Qur'an itself if there is not
any Sunnah, then by the Sunnah. This will be explained
in at then end of this treatise on the hadeeth of
Muadh bin Jabal - may Allah be pleased with him.
title is "Pitch of majaniq to demolish the story
of gharaniq" printed by Al-Maktabul-e-Islami
Story of gharaniq: is a fabricated story found in
some commentaries, claiming that a verse in The
Qur'an acknowledged the polytheists in their beliefs.
number at present [1394 A.H.] has exceeded five
thousand and may Allah make easy its publication
in the near future. So far only five hundred have
broken into print.
885 of the chain mentioned, and we hope that the
volume which includes it will be published shortly,
until the Day of Judgement