Chapter 2, Hadith & Seerah, The Authority of Sunnah / Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Another point of view often presented by some westernized circles is that the authority of the Holy Prophet (SAWS)is, no doubt, established by the Holy Quran even for all the generations for all times to come. But the scope of this authority is limited only to the doctrinal affairs and the matters of worship. The function of a prophet, according to them, is restricted to correct the doctrinal beliefs of the Ummah and to teach them how to worship Allah. As far as the worldly affairs are concerned, they are not governed by the prophetic authority. These worldly affairs include, in their view, all the economic, social and political affairs which should be settled according to the expediency at each relevant time, and the Prophetic authority has no concern with them. Even if the Holy Prophet (SAWS) gives some directions in these fields, he does so in his private capacity, and not as a Messenger. So, it is not necessary for the Ummah to comply with such directions.

To substantiate this proposition, a particular tradition of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) is often quoted, though out of context, in which he said to his companions.

“You know more about your worldly affairs.”

Before 1 quote this tradition in its full context, the very concept upon which this proposition is based needs examination.

In fact, this view is based on a serious misconception about the whole structure of Islamic order.

The misconception is that Islam, like some other religions, is restricted only to some doctrines and some rituals. It has no concern with the day-to-day affairs of the human life. After observing the prescribed doctrines and rituals, everybody is free to run his life in whatever way he likes, not hindered in any manner by the divine imperatives. That is why the advocates of this view confine the Prophetic authority to some doctrines and rituals only.

But the misconception, however fashionable it may seem to be, is a misconception. It is an established fact that Islam, unlike some other religions which can coincide and co-exist with the secular concept of life, is not merely a set of doctrines and rituals. It is a complete way of life which deals with the political, economic and social problems as well as with theological issues. The Holy Quran says,

“O those who believe, respond to the call of Allah and His Messenger when he calls you for what gives you life.” (8:24).

It means that Allah and His Messenger call people towards life. How is it imagined that the affairs of life are totally out of the jurisdiction of Allah and His Messenger? Nobody who has studied the Holy Quran can endorse that its teachings are limited to worship and rituals. There are specific injunctions in the Holy Quran about sale, purchase loans, mortgage, partnership, penal laws, inheritance, matrimonial relations, political affairs, problems of war and peace and other aspects of international relations. If the Islamic teachings were limited to the doctrinal and ritual matters, there is no reason why such injunctions are mentioned in the Holy Quran.

Likewise the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) ideals with the economic, social, political and legal problems in such detail that voluminous books have been written to compile them. How can it be envisaged that the Holy Prophet (SAWS) entered this field in such detailed manner without having any authority or jurisdiction? The injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah in this field are so absolute, imperative, and of mandatory nature that they cannot be imagined to be personal advices lacking any legal force.

We have already quoted a large number of verses from the Holy Quran which enjoin the obedience of Allah and the Messenger upon the believers. This ‘obedience’ has nowhere been limited to some particular field. It is an all-embracing obedience which requires total submission from the believers, having no exception whatsoever.

It is true that in this field, which is termed in the Islamic law as ‘mu’amalat’, the Holy Quran and Sunnah have mostly given some broad principles, and left most of the details open to be settled according to ever-changing needs, but in strict conformity with the principles laid down by them. Thus the field not occupied by the Quran and Sunnah is a wider field where the requirements of expediency can well play their role. But it doe not mean that the Quran and Sunnah have no concern with this vital branch of human life which has always been the basic cause of unrest in the history of humanity, and in which the so called ‘rational views’ mostly conflicting with each other, have always fallen prey to satanic desires leading the world to disaster.

Anyhow, the fallacy of this narrow viewpoint about Islam which excludes all the practical spheres of life from its pale, rather, to be more correct, makes them devoid of its guidance, cannot sustain before the overwhelming arguments which stand to rule it out totally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *