THE SUNNA IN THE QURAN
The Sunna, the example
of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is the main source of our
religious life, promoted and encouraged by the Quran. To cite a few verses:
He Who raised among
the unlettered ones a Messenger from them, reciting to them His signs,
purifies them and instructs them in the Book and the Wisdom. (al-Jumu‘a,
What is meant by the
Wisdom in the verse is, according to most interpreters of the Quran and the
Traditionists, the Sunna. The Quran, being of a miraculous exposition, is
never otiose nor exceeds the proper terms: as Wisdom in the verse comes after
Book as a separate word, it must refer to something different from the Book.
The Book is the Quran and the Wisdom is the Sunna which expands on what is
brief in the Book and clarifies its ambiguities, specifies what is
unconditional and general and vice versa, so that general principles or
specific rulings can be understood from what is commanded in the Quran.
The Quran in many
verses enjoins absolute obedience to God’s Messengers. This obedience is not
due to their person, but because of their mission as the ‘officials’ of God
in guiding people to truth both individually and socially, materially,
intellectually and spiritually.
We have not sent a
Messenger save to be obeyed by God’s leave. (al-Nisa’, 4.64)
O you who believe!
Obey God and His Messenger, and do not turn away from him. (al-Anfal, 8.20)
Obedience to God means
unconditional obedience to His Commandments in the Quran and His laws in
life and in the operation of the universe. Obedience to the Messenger, upon him
be peace and blessings, is following his way in all the aspects of life, in
practicing the Quran, and in all the orders of the Messenger besides the Quran.
The Sunna contains all the orders and prohibitions, warnings and encouragements
of God’s Messenger, who said: Take care! I have been given the Book and its
like together with it.1
Verse 20 of al-Anfal
warns the Muslims not to turn away from the Messenger. Therefore, disobedience
to the Sunna, even belittling and criticizing it, amounts to heresy, even
There are many other
verses which emphasize the importance of the Sunna, or following the example of
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings:
O you who believe!
Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority from amongst you.
The verse stresses,
besides obedience to God, obedience to God’s Messenger, and the repetition of
the verb obey in the imperative mood points to the fact that the Messenger has
the authority to command or forbid, and that the Muslims must carry out his
commands and refrain from his prohibitions. Besides, where obedience to those
in authority who share the same faith and feelings as the Muslims, is ordered,
the Prophet has a far greater right to be obeyed.
Obey God and His
Messenger and do not dispute with one another, lest you should be dissolved
(dispersed) and your strength fade away; and be steadfast. (al-Anfal, 8.46)
According to this verse,
the strength and unity of the Muslims lie in their submission to God and His
Messenger. The Sunna is the unique way or example set by God’s Messenger for
the Muslims to follow. Also, it is through the Sunna that a Muslim can live
according to the Quran. By putting the Quran into practice, God’s
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, established the way which the
Muslims must follow. From this viewpoint, the Sunna is more comprehensive than
the Quran and, without it, the Muslims cannot design their life according to
the Quran. So, obedience to God is possible by obeying the Messenger or by
following his Sunna. This is explicitly stated in the following verse:
Say (O Muhammad!):
‘If you love God, follow me so that God loves you.’ (Al ‘Imran, 3.31)
Love of God is
impossible for one to acquire without following the Prophet, upon him be peace
and blessings. No one can claim love of God, nor can he be loved by God, unless
he follows the Sunna.
Surely there is for
you in God’s Messenger an excellent example for him who aspires to God and
the Hereafter, and mentions God oft. (al-Ahzab, 33.21)
In order to secure
himself against any deviation and to follow the Straight Path without going
astray, a Muslim must cling to the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and
One day a woman came to
‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud and said: ‘I have heard that you call down God’s
curse upon the women who have tattoos on their bodies, who pluck hairs on their
faces, who force their teeth apart in order to look more beautiful, and who
change the creation of God.’ Ibn Mas‘ud answered: ‘This is to be found in
the Scripture of God.’ The woman objected: ‘I swear by God that I have read
whatever is between the two covers of the Book but could not find anything in
it related to this matter,’ Ibn Mas‘ud concluded: ‘Our Prophet called God’s
curse upon the women who wear wigs, who join somebody’s hair to theirs, and
who have tattoos on their bodies. And, have you not read in the Quran:
Whatever the Messenger brings to you, adopt it, and whatever he forbids you,
refrain from it (al-Hashr, 59.7)?’2
The Quran also
Nay, by your Lord,
they will never become believers until they choose you as judge to settle
the matters in dispute between them. (al-Nisa’, 4.65)
1. Abu Dawud, “Sunna,” 5.
2. Muslim, “Libas,” 120.