Sunnah and Legislation

• The Obligation of Abiding by the Messenger’s Sunnah and The Disbelief of Whoever Rejects the Sunnah (first issue)

By: Shaikh &Imam Abd al-Aziz bin Baz - May Allah have - 2012-09-06



All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all that exists, and the good end will be for those who fear and obey Allah.  May peace and blessings be on Allah’s slave and Messenger, our Prophet, Muhammad r, who was sent as a mercy for all that exists, and as a proof for or against all humankind, and on his Family and Companions, who transferred the Book of their Lord U, and the Sunnah of their Prophet r to those who came after them.  They did all this with utmost trustworthiness and precision, preserving the meaning and the exact verbatim texts [of the Qur’an and Sunnah].  May Allah be pleased with them and make them pleased with Him, and may Allah make us from among their followers in guidance, with excellence.



            As to what follows:

            The scholars, past and present, have unanimously agreed that the foundations and principles that establish various rulings, such as the forbidden (haram) and the allowed (halal), are: Allah’s glorious Book, which falsehood cannot be mixed with it either from in front of it or from behind it, and the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, peace be on him, who does not speak out of his desires, but only spoke a revelation that is revealed [from Allah].  Then, [after these two resources] comes the consensus of Muslim scholars.  Scholars differed with regards to other principles, such as qiyas (meaning, deriving rulings for aspects without definite rulings, by comparing them to similar aspects that have rulings), with the majority of the scholars indicating that it is a proof if certain conditions are fulfilled.  The proofs establishing these principles are virtually unlimited, and are very well founded. 


            The first principle is the glorious Book of Allah.   Allah’s words assert the obligation of following His Book, holding fast to it, and respecting its limits in many instances in the Qur’an, as follows. 


            Allah U said, “Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord (the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah), and follow not any Auliya(protectors and helpers, etc. who order you to associate partners in worship with Allah), besides Him (Allah). Little do you remember!” (7:3)


            Allah U also said, “And this is a blessed Book (the Qur’an)which We have sent down, so follow it and fear Allah(i.e., do not disobey His Orders), that you may receive mercy (i.e., be saved from the torment of Hell).” (6:155)


            Allah U also said, “Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a light(Prophet Muhammad r)and a plain Book(thisQur’an), wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way(Islamic Monotheism).” (5:15-16)


            Allah U also said, “Verily, those who disbelieved in the Reminder(i.e., the Qur’an)when it came to them (shall receive the punishment). And verily, it is an honorable respected Book(because it is Allah’s Speech, and He has protected it from corruption)Falsehood cannot come to it from before it or behind it(it is)sent down by the All-Wise, Worthy of all praise.” (41:41-42)

            Allah U also said, “This Qur’an has been revealed to me that I may therewith warn you and whomsoever it may reach.” (6:19)


            Allah U also said, “This (Qur’an) is a Message for mankind (and a clear proof against them), in order that they may be warned thereby.” (14:52)


            There are many other ayat, Quranic statements that assert this meaning. 


            There are also authentic ahadeeth [plural of hadeeth] narrated from the Messenger of Allah r which ordain holding  to the Qur’an and uniting around it, and that whoever holds to it is indeed on guidance, and whoever abandons it is on misguidance.  Among what has been authentically established is what he r said in his speech during his Farewell Pilgrimage, “I am leaving you with something that, if you hold fast to it, you will never deviate, and it is the Book of Allah.” Muslim collected this hadeeth in his Sahih.


            Also, Muslim collected a hadeeth from Zaid bin Arqam (t) wherein the Prophet r said, “I am leaving you with two matters, the first is Allah’s Book; it has guidance and light in it. Therefore, abide by the Book of Allah and hold fast to it”, thus, asserting the status of the Book of Allah, “I also leave you with my family; I ask you to remember Allah when dealing with my family; I ask you to remember Allah when dealing with my family.”  In another narration, he r said about the Qur’an, “It is the rope of Allah; whoever holds fast to it, is on guidance, and whoever abandons it is on deviance.


            Ahadeeth with this meaning are plenty.  Indeed, there is sufficient proof in the unanimous agreement of the people of knowledge and faith, including the Companions and those who came after them, on the necessity of abiding by the Book of Allah, ruling by it, and referring to it for judgment.  These proofs are sufficient, and therefore, there is no need for detailed explanation of the extensive evidence that exists in this regard.


            As for the second of the three agreed on principles: It is whatever has been established from Allah’s Messenger r.  The Companions of the Prophet r and those who came after them among the people of knowledge and faith, believe in this foundational principle, use it as proof, and teach it to Muslims.  Many books have been written about this principle, and it has been explained in numerous books which teach the fundamentals of Islam.  The proofs for this principle are so abundant that they are virtually uncountable. 


            There are many proofs found in Allah’s glorious Book that order following and obeying the Prophet r.  These ayat are aimed at both those who lived in his time and those who came after them, because he is Allah’s Messenger to all of them.  They all are ordered to follow and obey him r, until the Last Hour commences.


            Allah’s Messenger r also explains the Book of Allah; he r clarifies and specifies the not entirely clear and the general statements in the Qur’an through his own statements, actions and agreeing to some statements and actions.  Had it not been for the Sunnah, Muslims would not know how many units of prayer are in each respective prayer, or how prayer is to be performed or what is required within it.  Muslims would not know the specifics of many different acts of worship, such as the rulings of fasting, obligatory charity, pilgrimage, jihad, ordering good, forbidding evil, transactions, prohibitions, code of punishment and law.


            Among the ayat that assert this meanings, are what follows of Allah’s statements, “And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad r)that you may obtain mercy” (3:132)


            Also, there is Allah’s statement, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger(Muhammad r), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messengerr, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (4:59)


            Allah U also said, “He who obeys the Messenger(Muhammad r), has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad r) as a watcher over them.” (4:80)


            How can the Messenger rbe obeyed, and how can the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger be referred to in all disputes, if the Sunnah is not even regarded as proof, or if it has not been preserved? Otherwise, Allah would have ordered His slaves to refer to what does not exist; this, indeed, would be among the biggest types of falsehood and the worst aspects of disbelief in, and wrong thinking about, Allah. 


            Allah U said, “We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad r) the reminder and the advice (theQur’an), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” (16:44)


            He U also said, “And We have not sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad r), except that you may explain clearly unto them those things in which they differ, and(as)a guidance and a mercy for a folk who believe.” (16:64)


            How can Allah U entrust His Messenger r to clarify what has been sent down to mankind, if his Sunnah does not exist and if it is not suitable as proof? 

            Similarly, Allah U said, “Say: ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away, he(Messenger Muhammad r) is only responsible for the duty placed on him (i.e., to convey Allah’s Message) and you for that placed on you. If you obey him, you shall be on the right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to convey (the message) in a clear way (i.e., to preach in a plain way).” (24:54)

            He U also said, “And perform As-Salat(Iqamat As-Salat), and give Zakat and obey the Messenger (Muhammad r)that you may receive mercy(from Allah).” (24:56)


            Allah I also said, “Say(O Muhammad r): “O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah - to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. La Ilaha illa Huwa(none has the right to be worshipped but He); It is He Who gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger(Muhammad r), the Prophet who can neither read nor write(i.e., Muhammad r)who believes in Allah and His Words [this Qur’an, the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and also Allah’s Word: “Be!” - and he was, i.e., `Esa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary)], and follow him so that you may be guided.’” (7:158)


            These ayat contain clear proof that guidance and mercy are attained by following the Prophet r.  How can anyone do that, without abiding by his Sunnah, or refraining from saying that the Sunnah was not preserved or that it cannot be relied on? 


            Allah said, “And let those who oppose the Messenger’s (Muhammad r)commandment(i.e., his Sunnah legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.)(among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah(disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant, etc.)befall them, or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” (24:63)


            And, “And whatsoever the Messenger(Muhammad r)gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain(from it).“ (59:7)

            There are plenty of ayat with this meaning all indicating the fact that we must obey the Prophet r, and follow his Sunnah.  We mentioned before various proofs stating the necessity of following the Book of Allah, abiding by it, and obeying its orders and prohibitions.  These two principles are inseparable, and whoever disputes or rejects one of them has also rejected the other, and thus, would be committing disbelief and deviation of the types that annuls Islam according to the consensus of the people of knowledge and faith.


            There are also numerous ahadeeth reported from the Messenger of Allah r asserting the necessity of obeying him, following what he came with, and prohibiting disobedience to him.  This obligation is true and binding for those who lived in his time and those who came after him, until the Day of Resurrection.


            Among these ahadeeth is what has been narrated in the two Sahihs, meaning, al-Bukhari and Muslim, from a hadeeth collected from Abu Hurairah (t), who reported that the Prophet r said, “Whoever obeys me obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me disobeys Allah.


            Also, in Sahih al-Bukhari, there is a hadeeth collected from Abu Hurairah (t) that the Prophet r said, “All of my Ummah (followers) will enter Paradise, except those who refuse [to enter].”  It was said, “Who would refuse that, O Messenger of Allah?”  He replied, “Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys me has refused [to enter Paradise].


            Imams Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and al-Hakim all collected a hadeeth using an authentic chain of narration from al-Miqdam bin Ma`di Karib, that the Messenger of Allah r said, “I have been given the Qur’an and its Equal with it. A time will come when a man will be reclining, having a full stomach,  and saying, ‘Follow this Qur’an; whatever you find halal (allowed)in it, then declare it as halal, and whatever you find haram (disallowed) in it, then declare it as haram.


            Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah also collected an authentic hadeeth from Ibn Abi Rafi`, from Abu Rafi` who reported that the Prophet r said, “Do not let me find one of you who, while reclining on his couch, receives some of my commandments or prohibitions, and says, ‘We do not know [about this]! Whatever we find in the Book of Allah, we will follow it.’


            Many ahadeeth have been narrated from Allah’s Messenger r in which he would order his Companions in his speeches, by saying, “There may be one who receives news who has more knowledge than one who conveys it”, while encouraging those present to convey his statements to those who were absent. 


            Among those ahadeeth is what has been collected in the two Sahihs, that when the Prophet r gave his sermon during his final pilgrimage, on the Day of `Arafah, which coincided with the Day of Slaughtering (Adh`ha), he r said to the gathering, “Let those present here convey [what I have said] to those who are not present, because the one who receives this news may be more understanding of it than the one who heard it [meaning, “directly from me”].


If the Sunnah was not ordained for whoever hears it and whoever receives it, if it wasn’t ordained until the Day of Resurrection, the Prophet r would not have ordered them to convey it.  This proves that the Sunnah is proof against all those who hear it from his mouth r, and all those to whom it was conveyed through authentic chains of narration. 


            The Companions of the Prophet r have preserved his Sunnah, be it what he did or said, and transformed to their successors its knowledge.  Then the Tabi`un, second generation of Islam, informed those who came after them, and likewise, the trustworthy scholars of each generation conveyed it from generation to the next generation.  They collected its knowledge in their books and clarified what is authentic and what is not authentic of it, by establishing scientific guidelines with which the authentic Sunnah is distinguished from what is not authentic.         The scholars also studied the books of Sunnah, such as the two Sahihs, and preserved them perfectly, just as Allah preserved His glorious Book from distortion by those who seek to corrupt and change it, and those who seek to invalidate it, just as He I said,

Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e., the Qur’an) and surely, We will guard it(from corruption).” [15:9]



            There is no doubt that the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger r is a part of the Revelation, and as such, Allah has preserved it, just as He preserved His Book.  Allah has raised knowledgeable scholars who critiqued hadeeth narrations to purify them from the corruption of those who seek to invalidate the Sunnah, and from the distortions of the ignorant, defending it against the additions to it added by the ignorant, the liars and those who do not believe in it.  Indeed, Allah I made the Sunnah an explanation for His noble Book, which specifies the general rulings contained within the Qur’an.  Allah also included in the Sunnah rulings not found in the glorious Book, such as some rulings of suckling, inheritance, the prohibition of marrying a woman and her aunts, whether paternal or maternal, among other rulings that are only found in the authentic Sunnah but not found in the glorious Book of Allah.


            It has been collected in the two Sahihs from Abu Hurairah (t) who said, “When Allah’s Messenger r died, and some Arabs apostatized [refusing to pay the obligatory charity], Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (t) said, ‘I will fight those who separate between prayer and obligatory charity.’ `Umar (t) said to him, ‘How can you fight them, when the Prophet r said, ‘I was ordered to fight the people, until they say La Ilaha Illa Allah (none has the right to be worshipped, except Allah), and if they say it, then they will have protected their blood and wealth from me, except in its due right’? Abu Bakr as-Siddiq said, ‘Is not zakat among its [Islam’s] due right? By Allah, if they refuse to give `Anaqan (a young female goat), which they used to give Allah’s Messenger r, I will fight them because of their refusal.’ `Umar said, ‘I knew at once that Allah has opened Abu Bakr’s heart to fighting those people, and consequently, knew that this was the truth.’”


            The Prophet’s Companions followed Abu Bakr’s lead in fighting the apostates, until some of them returned to Islam, while others who remained on their apostasy were killed.  This story is one of the main proofs which indicate the status of the Sunnah and the necessity of abiding by it.


            Once a grandmother came to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq(t) asking for her share of the inheritance [of her deceased grandson], and he said to her, “You have nothing in Allah’s Book, and I do not know if Allah’s Messenger r ordered for the grandmother be given anything, but I will ask the people about it.”  He (t) asked some of the Companions, and some of them testified that the Prophet r gave the grandmother a sixth of the inheritance, so Abu Bakr ordered that she be given a sixth.


            `Umar (t) used to order his governors to settle disputes between the people using the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger r.  When he was confused about the issue of a woman having a miscarriage due to a physical attack on her, he asked the Sahabah, the Prophet’s Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, about the ruling, and Muhammad bin Maslamah (t) and al-Mughirah bin Shu`bah (t) both testified that the Prophet r ruled that the expiation for it, is a male or a female slave [paid by the aggressor to the victim].  Therefore, `Umar (t) applied this ruling.


            Also when `Uthman was confused about the issue of a woman remaining in her husband’s home after his death [until her four month period of mourning ends], Fari`ah bint Malik bin Sinan, the sister of Abu Sa`id, may Allah be pleased with both of them, informed him that after the death of her husband, the Prophet r ordered her to remain in her deceased husband’s home, until her four month period ended.  `Uthman (t) ruled according to the Sunnah in this issue, as well as when he established the penalty on al-Walid bin `Uqbah for drinking wine.


            Likewise, when `Ali (t) found that `Uthman (t) said that one should not combine the acts of hajj and `umrah, Ali (t) pronounced his intention for joint hajj and `umrah, saying, “I would never abandon the Messenger’s Sunnah for the statement of anyone else among people.”


            When some people used Abu Bakr and `Umar as proof in the issue of hajj, in that, Abu Bakr and `Umar used to prefer performing the hajj alone without joining it with `umrah, Ibn `Abbas (t) said to them, “Rocks are about to fall on you from the sky! I tell you, ‘Allah’s Messenger r said,’ and you say, ‘Abu Bakr and `Umar said?’”


            Consequently, if someone disobeys the Messenger r and instead follows Abu Bakr or `Umar, it is feared that a torment may befall them, then what about following those who are less than Abu Bakr and `Umar, or those who follow their sheer opinion and ijtihad?


            When some people disputed with `Abdullah bin `Umar (t) about some aspects of the Sunnah, he said to them, “Are we ordered to follow `Umar, or are we ordered to follow the Sunnah?”


            Also when someone said to `Imran bin Husain (t), when he was teaching them the Sunnah, “Tell us about Allah’s Book”, he (t) became angry and said, “The Sunnah is the explanation of Allah’s Book.”


            Had it not been for the Sunnah, we would not know that Dhuhr prayer is four rak`ah units, or that Maghrib is three rak`ah, or that Fajr is two.  We would not know the specific rulings of zakat and other rulings that the Sunnah brought. 


There are many statements from the Sahabah which assert the importance of following the Sunnah, the necessity of abiding by it and warning against contradicting it.


            Al-Baihaqi collected a statement from Ayyub as-Sikhtiyani, the honorable scholar from the Tabi’un generation, who said, “If you report a Sunnah to someone and they reply to you by saying, ‘Forget this, and bring us something from the Qur’an,’ then know that they are misguided.”


          Al-Baihaqi also narrated that `Amir Ash-Sha`bi, may Allah bestow mercy on him, said to some people, “You became destroyed when you abandoned the athar,” in reference to authentic ahadeeth.  Al-Baihaqi also narrated that al-Awza`i, may Allah grant him mercy, said to some of his companions, “If a hadeeth reaches you from the Messenger of Allah, then beware of referring to another statement, because Allah’s Messenger rwas reporting from Allah I.”


            Al-Baihaqi narrated from the great Imam Sufyan bin Sa`id ath-Thawri, may Allah grant him mercy, that he said, “All knowledge is in the narrations.”


            Malik, may Allah grant him mercy, said, “There is none among us but refutes others and is refuted [regarding some of their opinions], except the resident of this grave.” He then pointed to the grave of Allah’s Messenger .


            Abu Hanifah, may Allah bestow mercy on him, said, “If a hadeeth comes from Allah’s Messenger r, then we place it above our head and eyes [in respect].”


          Ash-Shafi`i, may Allah grant him mercy, said, “If I narrate an authentic hadeeth from Allah’s Messenger r, but do not agree with it, then I testify before you that I have lost my mind.”  He, may Allah grant him mercy, also said, “If I say something contradictory to the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah r, then throw my statement against the wall.”


            ImamAhmad, may Allah bestow mercy on him, said, “I am amazed by some people, they know the chains of narrations and their authenticity [or lack thereof] leading to the Messenger of Allah r, but they follow the opinion of Sufyan, even though Allah r says,

Let those who oppose the Messenger’s (Muhammad r)commandment (i.e., his Sunnah legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.) (among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them. [24:63]”


            Ahmad then said, “Do you know what Fitnah means [in this ayah]? It means Shirk (polytheism). One may reject some of the Prophet’s statements, and then deviation may befall their heart causing their destruction.”


            Al-Baihaqi also narrated that Mujahid bin Jabr, the distinguished tabi`i (second generation of Islam) scholar, may Allah grant him mercy, said, when explaining Allah’s statement,


If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger.” [4:59]  Mujahid said, “Referring it to Allah, means to refer it to His Book, and referring to His Messenger, means to refer it to the Sunnah.”


            Al-Baihaqi also narrated that Az-Zuhri, may Allah bestow mercy on him, said, “Our scholars who have passed before us used to say, ‘Following the Sunnah attains salvation.’”


            Muwaffaq ad-Din bin Qudamah, may Allah grant him mercy, said in his book, Rawdhat An-Nadhir, “The second principle which is used as proof is the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger r. The Prophet’s statement is sufficient proof, because the Prophet’s miracles [provided to him by Allah] assert his truth, in addition to Allah ordaining obedience to him r, while warning against disobeying him.”


            Al-Hafidh Ibn Kathir, may Allah grant him mercy, said, while explaining Allah’s Statement,

And let those who oppose the Messenger’s (Muhammad r)commandment beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant, etc.)befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” [24:63]


            Ibn Kathir said that the ayah is in reference to, “… the commandment of Allah’s Messenger r, that is, his path, methodology, way, Sunnah, and laws. Therefore,  all statements and actions must be weighed against his statements and actions, and whatever agrees with [the Prophet’s statements and actions], is accepted, but whatever does not agree with it, is rejected on the one who said or did it, whoever they may be. It has been established in the two Sahihs, and other books of hadeeth, that Allah’s Messenger r said, ‘Whoever does an action that is not part of our affair (religion), then it (the action) is rejected.’ This ayah means, ‘Let those who contradict the Sharee`ah of the Messenger, inwardly and outwardly be warned and be afraid, ‘lest some Fitnah befall them’, meaning, in their hearts, such as disbelief, hypocrisy, or innovation, ‘or a painful torment be inflicted on them’, in this life by being killed, punished or imprisoned, and similar fate.”



            Imam Ahmad narrated that Abu Hurairah said, “Allah’s Messenger r said, ‘My example, as it pertains to you, is the example of a fire that was kindled by a man. Then, when the fire brought light to its surroundings, locusts and other bugs started flying on top of the fire, until they fell into it, while the man was trying to stop the bugs from falling into the fire, but they overpowered him and fell into it. This is the example of me and you, I am pushing you away from the fire at the middle part of your bodies, calling you away from it, but you are overpowering me and falling into it.



            As-Suyuti, may Allah grant him mercy, said in his book, Miftah-u al-Jannah fi-l-Ihtijaji bi-s-Sunnah, “Know, may Allah have mercy on you, that whoever rejects the fact that the established hadeeth of the Prophet r, whether reporting statements or actions, constitute proof, has committed disbelief and left the folds of Islam, and will be resurrected with the Jews and Christians, or with whomever Allah decides to resurrect him with from the groups of the disbelievers.”



            The statements of the Sahabah, tabi`un and those who came after them which promote glorifying the Sunnah, the necessity of following it, and warning against contradicting it, are plentiful.  I hope that the ayat, ahadeeth, and athar we mentioned here are sufficient and convincing to one desiring the truth.  We ask Allah that we, and all Muslims, are given help from Him to do what He loves, and to avoid the things which cause His anger.  We ask Allah to guide us all to the Straight Path, indeed He is All-Hearing and All-Near.



            May Allah send his peace and blessings on His slave and Messenger, our Prophet Muhammad r, as well as his Companions and those who follow him in guidance.





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