Chapter 1, Hadith & Seerah, The Authority of Sunnah / Saturday, August 16th, 2008

The status of the Holy Prophet

So , the first pertinent question in the subject is: What status does a prophet occupy when he is sent to the people? Has he no higher a status than that of a message – carrier or a postman who, after delivering the letter, has no concern with it whatsoever? The answer is certainly in the negative. The prophets are not sent merely to deliver the word of Allah. They are also requried to explain the divine Book, to interpret it, to expound it, to demonstrate the ways of its application and to present a practical example of its contents. Their duty is not restricted to reciting the words of the Book, rather they are supposed to teach it and to train people to run their lives in accordance with its requirements. The Holy Quran leaves no doubt concerning this point by saying:

Allah has surely blessed the believers with His favour when He raised in their midst a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the wisdom, while they were, earlier, in an open error (3:164).

He (Allah) is the One who raised up, among the unlettered, a Messenger from among themselves who recites the verses of Allah, and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the wisdom. (62:2)

The same functions were attributed to the Holy Prophet in the prayer of Sayyidna Ibrahim LJI %L when, according to the Holy Quran, he prayed:

Our Lord, raise in their midst a messenger from among themselves who recites to them Your verses and teaches them the Book and the wisdom and purifies them. (2: 129)

These are the terms of reference given to the Holy Prophet which include four distinct functions and the Holy Prophet has been entrusted with all of them:

(1) Recitation of the Verses of Allah.

(2) Teaching the Book of Allah.

(3) Teaching the Wisdom.

(4) Making the people pure.

Thus the Holy Quran leaves no ambiguities in the fact that the Holy Prophet is not supposed to merely recite the verses and then leave it to the people to interpret and apply them in whatever manner they like. Instead, he is sent to ‘teach’ the Book. Then, since teaching the Book is not enough, he is also required to teach “Wisdom” which is something additional to the “Book”. Still, this is not enough, therefore the Holy Prophet has also to ‘make the people pure’, meaning thereby that the theoretical teaching of the Book and the ‘Wisdom’ must be followed by a practical training to enable the people to apply the Book and the wisdom in the way Allah requires them to apply.

This verse of the Holy Quran describes the following functions of the Holy Prophet recited.

(a)    He is the authority in the way the Holy Book has to be

(b)   He has the final word in the interpretation of the Book.

(c)    He is the only source at which the wisdom based on divine guidance can be learned.

(d)   He is entrusted with the practical training of the people to bring his teachings into practice.

These functions of the Holy Prophet 4 can never be carried out unless his teachings, both oral and practical, are held to be authoritative for his followers, and the Muslims who are given under his training are made bound to obey and follow him. The functions ‘b’ and ‘c’, namely, the teaching of the Book and Wisdom require that his ‘sayings’ should be binding on the followers, while the function ‘d’, the practical training, requires that his ‘ acts ‘ should be an exam ple for the ummah, and the um,nah should be bound to follow it.

It is not merely a logical inference from the verse of the Holy Quran quoted above, but it is also mentioned in express terms by the Holy Quran in a large number of verses which give the Muslims a mandatory command to obey and follow him. While doing so, the Holy Quran has used two different terms namely, the ‘ita’ah’ (to obey) and the ‘ittiba’ (to follow). The first term refers to theorders and sayings of the Holy Prophet while the second relates to his acts and practice. By ordering the Muslims both to’ obey’ and to ‘follow’ the Holy PrQphet the Holy Quran has given an authority to both his sayings and acts.

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