The second source
The Sunnah is an important source of doctrine and its understanding. This is because:
• It contains prohibitions and allowances that are not mentioned in the Qur’an.
• It explains the verses of the Qur’an and tells the incident or the circumstance by which the verses were revealed.
• It elaborates the abstract verses.
• It unlimits the limited verses. An example is the verse saying, “For those who did good (their reward) is good and even more.” (10:26) The term “more”, The Prophet explained, means a vision of the face of Allah in Paradise. No one would have been able to know what more, people of Paradise will be given until the Sunnah explained it. Another is the meaning of the verse , “and establish prayer.” Allah said simply, establish prayer, but did not say how many prayers, nor even how we should pray. Similarly, we are commanded to pay zakat (charity), but no details of how this is to be assessed or how often it is to be paid or given. These details come to us from the Sunnah. The Sunnah also contains prohibitions that are not mentioned in the Qur’an. Because of this, Muslims have all agreed that the Sunnah must be a second source for Islamic doctrines and beliefs.
The Prophet explained this saying, “I have left you with two things. You shall never go astray so long as you hold tightly on to them: The Book of Allah, and my Sunnah.”(5) Allah has commanded us to obey His Prophet saying, “Whoever obeys the Prophet has obeyed Allah” (4:80). If obedience to Allah means following what was revealed in the Qur’an, then obedience to the Prophet means to keep to his Sunnah. Allah said, “It is He who has raised up among the common people a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the Wisdom.” (62:2) Wisdom is the Sunnah according to Ibn Abbas’s explanation of this verse. Allah said, “Whatever the Messenger has given you then take-it, and whatever he has forbidden you-refrain from it.” (59:7) The Prophet said, “I was given the Qur’an and something like it with it.”(6)
Whoever rejects the Sunnah which the Prophet brought to us has disobeyed Allah in conformity with this verse, and has not taken what the Prophet brought. The Prophet said “I should not find any of you leaning upon his couch who, when told of something that I ordered, then says, ‘I don’t know, (I know only the Qur’an)! We only follow what we find in the Book of Allah’” The Prophet then said, “I have been given the Qur’an and something like it with it!”(7) In another narration he said, “The Messenger of Allah has forbidden things as Allah has forbidden things.”(8) This is confirmed by what Allah said in the verse, “Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor in the Last Day, those who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden.” (9:29) Allah also informs us of the Prophet’s “He enjoins upon them what is lawful, and forbids them what is unlawful.” (7:157) Both of these verses confirm that the Prophet does prohibit and permit as Allah does.
This being the case, the Sunnah contains prohibitions and permissions that do not appear in the Qur’an, which was the first part of the revelation. Then what is prohibited and what is permitted must depend on correct and sound narrations, since Allah has forbidden us to declare things to be lawful or unlawful by doubtful evidence. As example of what was prohibited in the Sunnah but not in the Qur’an, is the use of animals with fangs as food, and the eating of birds with talons, and the eating of domestic donkeys, and the wearing of gold and silk by men, while women may wear both.
An example of what was permitted, according to the Sunnah, what is found dead in the sea may be eaten though it had not been slaughtered. Allah said, “Maitah [animals found dead unslaughtered](9) are forbidden to you” (5:3). Then, the Sunnah made an exception to this for fish.
Allah said, “you have an excellent pattern in the Messenger of Allah, [an example to follow] for he who hopes Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah often.” (33:21) How then could a Muslim take the Messenger as an example, while he rejects his Sunnah and claims it has nothing to do with him? Sometimes the Sunnah restricts the meaning of the Qur’an. Allah said, “Oh believers, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered - the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.”
The Sunnah pronounced that if the victim was a disbeliever and the killer was a Muslim, this ruling would not apply. The Prophet said that a Muslim would not be executed in retaliation for the killing of a disbeliever.
(5) Malik, Muwatta, 1:93.
(6) Tirmidhi. Narration is authentic.
(7) Bukhari and Muslim.
(8) Tirmidhi No. 2663. Albani said in mishkat “Authentic” (See mishkat No. 162-163)
(9) animals allowed to be eaten but were not slaughtered expressly for food.