Authority of the Sunnah – II
“Nor does he speak of his own desire. It is only a Revelation revealed.” [Quran 53: 3-4]
In many of the articles we have dealt with the subject of position of Sunnah in Islam and demonstrated its importance to being a Muslim. In the next few articles we will focus on the subject of authority of the Sunnah or Hujjiyyatus Sunnah for it is a foundation of the correct Islamic faith, and in particular, the correct understanding of the role of the Prophet Muhammad as Messenger of Allah as well as the understanding and application of his Sunnah.
The Arabic word Hujjiyyah is an adjective derived from the root word Hujjah which means an, "indication, evidence and a definitive proof.” And so the term Hujjiyyatus Sunnah is used to indicate that Sunnah can be used as legitimate evidence in support of correct action in Islam, actions for which there is an indication that they are acceptable practices by Allah.
And for that reason, the term Hujjiyyatus Sunnah directly implies that is similar to the Quran in being a reference and a source of evidence for all kind of Islamic practices or actions. This fact is clearly indicated in the verse, “O You who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger [Muhammad ] and those in authority [Scholars] amongst you. And if you are in dispute over any matter refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are actually believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better for you and more seemly in the end.” [Quran 4:59]
This verse is one of the best descriptions of the Hujjiyyatus Sunnah—even more so a description and support of an authority of the Sunnah that is independent from the Quran.
Scholars are in agreement that the use of the word obey—`Atee`u in Arabic—which is directly repeated before the `Messenger' to emphasize his obedience besides that of Allah, is in fact an indication that the Messenger represents an independent source of legislative authority.
The next part of the same verse deals with the same issue in a slightly different fashion. It explicitly states that one should refer to both the Quran AND the Sunnah—and not just to Quran—for matters of dispute in the religion. This is the true meaning of the authority of the Sunnah. Any time Muslims are in need of guidance regarding something or seeking evidence in support of some opinion or needing judgment for issues of disputes and difference they are required to refer all of that to both of the Quran and the Sunnah, not the Quran alone, not anyone of them alone, they must both be consulted equally. And it is for this very reason that many scholars, past and recent, have called the Sunnah, "Shaqiqatul Quran or the half sister of the Quran.”
Another term that must be mentioned here is the Arabic, "Rudduh," which is translated as, "refer to or take back to.” This is exactly how to deal with or react to authority: whenever we have a need for judgment or guidance we refer those needs to the authority, which is the Quran and the Sunnah.
With this in mind, any time we read other Quranic verses which direct the Muslims to obey the Prophet we will be able to realise that it is the authority of Sunnah that is at the core of the message intended in these verses. Read the following verse, "Whatsoever the messenger gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids for you abstain from it. And be aware of Allah. Verily Allah is severe in punishment." [Quran 59:7]
Authority of the Sunnah – I