How does the Qur'an deal with the Sunna?
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 Qur�an.
To cite a few verses:
It is not for any believer, man or woman, when God and His Messenger have
decreed a matter, to have the choice in the affair. Whosoever disobeys God
and His Messenger has gone astray into manifest error. (al-Ahzab, 33.36)
...Those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the Messenger,
the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and
the Gospel, enjoining on them the good, and forbidding them the evil, making
lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things,
and relieving them of their loads, and the fetters that were upon them. Those
who believe in him and succor him and help him, and follow the light that has
been sent down with him � they are the prosperers. (al-A�raf, 7.156�7)
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.
What is meant by the Wisdom in the last verse is, according to most interpreters
of the Qur�an and the Traditionists, the Sunna. The Qur�an, 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 Qur�an 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 Qur�an.
The Qur�an 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�,
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
Qur�an 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 Qur�an, and in all the orders of the
Messenger besides the Qur�an. 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 apostasy.
There are many other verses which emphasize the importance of the Sunna,
or following the ex-ample 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. (al-Nisa�, 4.59)
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.
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 Qur�an. By putting the Qur�an 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 Qur�an and, without it, the Muslims cannot design their life according
to the Qur�an. So, obedience to God is pos-sible 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
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 blessings.
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 Qur�an:
Whatever the Messenger brings to you, adopt it, and whatever he forbids you,
refrain from it (al-Hashr, 59.7)?� 2
The Qur�an also declares:
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.