Ijtihaad (personal reasoning) of the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam
Fatwa No: 259375

Question

As-salaamu 3laikum, I heard that some customs of the Arabs were approved by Allah and became part of the Islamic religion such as hospitality. Could this also be true of some things in the sunnah - that Rasulullah salla Allahu 3laihi wa salam would so something and it would be approved by Allah? If so, how does that relate to the ayah in the Qur'an about Rasulullah salla Allahu 3laihi wa salam not speaking from his own desire? How does revelation happen in the case of the sunnah and in the case of the customs already present among the Arabs? Jazaak Allahu khair

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and messenger.

 

Indeed, Arabs had adopted a set of virtuous manners which Islam polished, approved what is praiseworthy, and perfected those which lacked perfection thereof. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Verily, I have been sent in order to perfect good manners.” [Maalik and Ahmad]

Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.} [Quran 53:3] Ibn ‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him commented on the verse saying, “The verse means that as far as the revelation of the Quran is concerned, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did not speak out of his self inclination.

At-Tabari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “The verse underlines that the Quran is a divine revelation and not the words of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; it is a divine inspiration sent down by Allaah …

Thus, it is known that the verse does not mean that all that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) spoke of was divine revelation which he received from Allaah. Rather, it means that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was infallible in terms of the divine message which he delivered. However, this was not the case concerning his own personal views which pertained to matters that are open to Ijtihaad (personal reasoning).

For example, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, once passed by the people who had been busy in artificially pollinating the date palm trees. Thereupon, he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “If you were not to do it, it might be good for you. (So, they abandoned this practice) and there was a decline in the produce.” He (the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) happened to pass by them and said: “What has gone wrong with your trees?” They said, “You said so-and-so (and we acted upon your words).” Thereupon he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “You have better knowledge in the affairs of the world.” [Muslim]

The Hadeeth was reported with a slightly different wording which reads, “…When the matter is related to worldly affairs, manage it in the way you find suitable; however, if it is related to your religion, abide by my commands.” [Ahmad and Ibn Maajah]

Another version reads, “...If it is related to your worldly affairs, you are more knowledgeable of your own affairs; if it is related to your religion, it should be referred to me.” [Ahmad]

This is why the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whatever I have told you that it was from Allaah (divine inspiration), it is beyond doubt.” [Al-Bazzaar and Ibn Hibbaan]

Al-Haythami  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “The Hadeeth was reported on the authority of Ahmad ibn Mansoor Ar-Ramaadi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him who was a trustworthy narrator. His trustworthiness was spoken about by some Hadeeth critics in a way that does not undermine his reliability; the other narrators are among those accredited by Al-Bukhari or Muslim, or one of them.” [End of quote]

This does not mean that when the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, spoke of other than the divine revelation, he was speaking in vain, with idle talk, or out of his personal desire. It rather means that the Ijtihaad of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, may or may not be approved by Allaah. This is why An-Nasafi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him commented on the previously mentioned verse as follows, “It means, ‘Whatever the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, conveyed to you of the Quran, he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is not speaking out of his own inclination or personal opinion. It is a divine revelation sent down to him from Allaah. This verse is used as evidence to support the argument of those who reject the idea that the Prophets may practice Ijtihaad (and maintain, instead, that whatever is uttered by them is divine inspiration). This view is refutable; Allaah, The Exalted, allowed the Prophets to practice Ijtihaad. If their Ijtihaad was approved and endorsed by Allaah, it was considered just like divine inspiration and not a mere personal endeavor or view.

There is a famous disagreement among scholars regarding the idea of Ijtihaad of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in matters untackled by the divine revelation. The majority of Muslim scholars hold that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is allowed to practice Ijtihaad in matters pertaining to legislation and religious matters. If the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, practiced Ijtihaad and was right, his Ijtihaad was approved by Allaah; otherwise, it would be proven wrong via divine inspiration. For instance, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, practiced Ijtihaad regarding the prisoners of war in the Battle of Badr. He, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, accepted the ransom and set them free. He, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, also practiced Ijtihaad in giving the hypocrites the permission not to participate in Tabook Battle. Shaykh Zakariyya Al-Ansaari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “The preponderant opinion is that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is allowed to practice Ijtihaad, and this actually occurred. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means):

·   {It is not for a prophet to have captives [of war] until he inflicts a massacre [upon Allaah 's enemies] in the land. Some Muslims desire the commodities of this world, but Allaah desires [for you] the Hereafter. And Allaah is Exalted in Might and Wise.} [Quran 8:67]

·   {May Allaah pardon you, [O Muhammad]; why did you give them permission [to remain behind]? [You should not have] until it was evident to you who were truthful and you knew [who were] the liars.} [Quran 9:43]

Allaah, The Exalted, disapproved of such actions and blamed the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, for accepting the ransom for the prisoners of war in the Battle of Badr and for giving permission for those whose hypocrisy was evident as they remained behind and did not join him in the Battle of Tabook. Verily, divine reproof can never be for a matter decided by divine inspiration. Therefore, it is clear that those two incidents were based upon Ijtihaad made by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Allaah Knows best.

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