Will you please give information about the bindingness of the Sunnah acting in accordance with it and understanding whether it is based on revelation or not?

The Details of the Question

Will you please give information about the bindingness of the Sunnah acting in accordance with it and understanding whether it is based on revelation or not?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Sunnah is what the Prophet did, said, and all of his acts and attitudes. Then, we can say that what he did during his lifetime is the Sunnah.

The word Sunnah used in fiqh books means “there is reward if we do it but there is no sin if we do not do it.” For instance, eating with the right hand, cleaning the teeth, not eating while standing, etc.

However, when we consider the word Sunnah in its broad sense, it includes everything that our Prophet did. In that case, the demands and prohibitions of Allah are also included in the Sunnah. For instance, did our Prophet perform prayers? Yes. Then, it is sunnah to perform prayers.

Accordingly, it is necessary to divide sunnah into parts.

Fard: Everything that Allah definitely wants us to do or to avoid. It is our Prophet who carries out the commands and prohibitions of Allah in the best way and who serves as an example. If we act in accordance with the Prophet, we will have followed the Prophet such as performing prayers, fasting, avoiding fornication and not eating anything haram (forbidden).

Wajib: The wajibs of our religions: for instance, it is wajib to perform the prayer of witr as three rak’ahs.

Nafilah (supererogatory): They are the things that are other than fard and wajib that we carry out while performing prayers. For instance, to read some verses from the Quran while performing prayers is fard but to read subhanaka prayer is nafilah.

Adab (appropriate behavior): We name the following as adab. If we do as the Prophet did while doing our daily tasks like eating, sleeping, entering the mosque or toilet, etc, we will have done them in accordance with their procedures. A person who does not act accordingly is not regarded to have committed sins.

It means we can divide the sunnah as fard, wajib, nafilah and adab. This is the order of the superiority of the parts of sunnah.

We can think of it like a human body. Man has necessary organs to live: for instance, the brain, heart, head, etc. The principles that we must believe in are like the heart and brain of our spirit.

Our body has sense organs like eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. Fards are like them. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of our spirit. A person who does not perform fards is like a person without hands, feet, eyes and ears.

We also have some beauties and adornments like fingers, eyebrows and hair in our bodies. We can live without them. However, if we have them, we will be perfect. Similarly, the nafilah and adab parts of the sunnah are the adornments and beauties of our spirit. If we perform them, we will receive many rewards; if we do not perform them, we will not receive any sins.

To sum up, the fard and wajib parts are the sunnahs that are obligatory to be performed. We will receive many rewards if we perform the nafilah and adab parts.

As for harams, we must protect our spirits from killing and poisoning harams as we protect our bodies from killing factors like aids, poison and fire.

The Bindingness of the Sunnah and Hadith

We will deal with that issue in accordance with the Qur’an, glorious hadiths, views of scholars and silently approved (taqrir) revelation.

a. The Quran: There are some verses showing that Hazrat Prophet receives revelation other than the Quran (1), too.

Some of them are as follows:

1- It is understood from the following verses that our Prophet was given wisdom along with the Book: ‘Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom’, (2) ‘sent down to him the Book and wisdom’, (3).

Those two words have both similarity and difference. Accordingly, since what is meant by the Book is the Quran, wisdom has to be something else. The probability that it is the Sunnah is the strongest probability.(4) It is the point of difference. The point of similarity is that both of them originate from revelation.(5)

2- The promise stated in the following verse was given to Muslims but it is not stated what it was in the verse: “Behold! Allah promised you one of the two (enemy) parties, that it should be yours: ye wished that the one unarmed should be yours” (6). It proves that it is informed through another kind of revelation.

3- The following verse proves definitely that there exists revelation apart from the Quran:

“When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts, and she then divulged it (to another) and Allah made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said "Who told thee this?" He said "He told me who knows and is well-acquainted (with all things)."(7)

Although there is no explanation about the disclosure of the secret in the Quran, the Prophet knows about it. It becomes clear that there exists revelation which is not included in the Quran since he cannot know it on his own and since it is stated that Allah informed him.

b. Hadiths:

1- According to the narration of Miqdad b. Ma’dikarib, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the following:

“...I was given the Book and the like of it”(8)

2- Qudsi Hadiths: (9) The following phrases that are present in those kinds of hadiths: “the Messenger of Allah stated the following in the hadith that he reported from his Lord”, “Allah stated the following in the hadith that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) narrated” and the fact that those hadiths started with the words “O my slaves” proves that Hazrat Prophet received revelation other than the Quran.

3- The famous event that is known as the Jibril (Gabriel) hadith: (10). Jibril came in the form of a man, asked some questions and received answers; Hazrat Prophet told his companions that it was Jibril and that he had come to teach them the religion.

4- The expressions of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) like ‘certainly my Lord revealed to me, (11) I was ordered, I was forbidden, (12) and the fact that he said Jibril taught him some things (13) prove that revelation other than the Quran exists, too.(14)

The fact that Hazrat Prophet said “actually I did not know about them but Allah informed me about them” when he answered the questions of a Jewish person”(15) supports that issue.

3. Views of the Scholars:

The Companions of the Prophet knew that our Prophet (pbuh) received revelation other than the Quran from his practices, explanations and words. They expressed it many times. Scholars also expressed their views about the origin of the Sunnah based on hadiths and the expressions of the companions; most of them expressed that the source of the Sunnah was based on revelation.

Hazrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that there was revelation about Hazrat Khadija and that she was given a manor in Paradise.

The expression that is present in narrations: Jibril brought down the Sunnah as he brought down the Quran shows that there exists revelation other than the Quran. (16) In addition, the fact that the Prophet received the information like treating the neighbors well, making wudu (ablution), performing prayers, calling out the talbiya, performing prayers in the sacred Aqiq Valley, the times of the prayers, the gate of Paradise through which the umma of Muhammad will enter, the name of Hazrat Hamza (may Allah be pleased with him) being written on a tablet by the beings of the sky (17) shows that there exists revelation other than the Quran.

Tawus says that he himself has a written text that was sent by revelation about diyah (blood money, ransom) and that decrees about zakat and diyah came by revelation. (18)

By saying, “when a hadith from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) reaches you, never make judgments contrary to it; because the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was a conveyor from Allah, the Exalted” (19), Awzai stated that the sunnah was based on revelation.

As we have mentioned before, a person who made important explanations about the issue was Imam Shafi. (20) According to the person whom he bases his knowledge on and whose knowledge he relies on and the understanding that he himself also accepts, the Sunnah is either revelation, or the statement of the revelation or something that Allah handed him. It is based on his prophethood that is peculiar to him and the wisdom that Allah inspires him based on it. No matter which one of the above alternatives is accepted, Allah ordered people to obey the Messenger of Allah and to act in accordance with the Sunnah. The explanation of the Quran by the Sunnah takes place either by the prophethood coming from Allah, or by inspiration or by the “command” that was given to him.

Ibn Hazm, who agrees on the same views, defines the sunnah as non-recited (ghayr matluw) revelation and says that it is necessary to obey the sunnah, which is the second revelation, as it is necessary to obey the Quran. They are the same in that they are binding and they come from Allah.(21)

Ghazali states that the sunnah is based on revelation and that it is non-recited revelation.(22)

If the whole sunnah is regarded as revelation, it becomes spontaneously clear that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) cannot change the Sunnah as he cannot change the Quran.(23)

There arises an important issue along with the understanding that the whole sunnah is based on revelation just like the Quran. If Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) waited for the revelation of sunnah like the verses of the Quran for every situation and event, how are his ijtihads and consultations to be dealt with? There were definitely some times when he waited for revelation but to think and accept that he acted like that in every phase of his life will cause problems.

Due to those situations, some scholars had the view that not all of the sunnah but some of it was based on revelation and some of it was based on situations like ijtihad and consultation.

For instance, Ibn Qutayba says the following, dividing the source of the sunnah into three:

a) the sunnah that Jibril brought from Allah. (24)
b) the sunnah that Allah left to His Messenger (pbuh), that He wanted him to explain his view. (25)
c) the sunnah that the Messenger of Allah practiced for adab; the sunnah that one receives rewards when one performs but does not receive any punishment when one abandons. (26)

Sarakhsi of Hanafis, who adopts the same view, says that the judgments that Hazrat Prophet made based on his opinion and ijtihad are like revelation:

Revelation consists of two parts:

1- Apparent revelation. It is divided into three.

a) The revelation that comes through the tongue of the angel that is perceived by the ear and that is certainly known to be coming from Allah. That part is the revelation of the Quran.

b) The revelation that is explained to the Prophet by the angel through signs, without any words. (27)

c) Inspiration. It is the divine manifestation in the heart of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) without any doubt. A light arises in his heart and the judgment about the issue becomes clear.

2- Esoteric revelation: Calling it as “ma yushbihu’l-wahy” (resembling revelation), Sarakhsi says that there are judgments that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) reached through his opinion and ijtihad. The fact that he is not left free to make mistakes and that he is always under the control of revelation makes that kind of judgments like revelation. The ijtihads of other people from his umma are not like the ijtihad of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) since there exists the probability of making mistakes and it is impossible to correct them through revelation. (28)

That explanation of Sarakhsi means all of the acts of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) are based on and are corrected by revelation. The act or word of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) is either true or wrong. If it remains as it is, it becomes apparent that it is true because Allah will not let a wrong act or word continue.

Shatibi says the following:

Hadith is either pure revelation coming from Allah or an ijtihad by Hazrat Prophet (pbuh). However, in that case, his ijtihad is either based on a sound revelation in the Book or sunnah or has been checked by it. Even if the view that Hazrat Prophet can make a mistake in his ijtihad is accepted, he will never be left on a mistake; he will be corrected at once. In the end, he will find the truth. Therefore, there is no probability of mistakes in anything that comes from him. (29)

Acting upon those views, it can be said that those who say all of the sunnah is revelation do not exaggerate because all of the sunnah is checked by revelation; it is either left as it is or corrected. That is, since we cannot accept the existence of an application that is not checked by revelation, we can say as a conclusion that all of the sunnah is based on revelation. However, when we say that all of the sunnah is based on revelation, we mean the sunnah that was determined during the age of the Messenger of Allah and that reached us as sound.

d. Silently approved (taqrir) revelation

What we defined as taqrir sunnah when we explained the sunnah is the silent approval by Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) of some actions or words that he saw or heard. (30) That is, when the companions did or said something based on their Jahiliyya applications or their own opinions, Hazrat Prophet sometimes corrected them, sometimes changed them and sometimes did not say anything. The companions regarded his silence as approval because it would not be appropriate for a prophet to leave a mistake as it was. Therefore, his silence meant that action or word was not wrong.

The companions were under the control of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh); similarly, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was always under the control of revelation as a necessity of the attribute of ismah (innocence) (31). Therefore, it should be known that his mistake would not be left without correction (32) and that the warning would be made at once, without any delay (33). Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) differs from everybody else and from those who are authorized to make ijtihad. It is known that he was warned because of some of his actions even before he became a prophet. (34)

Once, when he wanted to take off his izar (outer garment) in order to throw stones but he was prevented. In another occasion, he wanted to take off his izar to help his uncle Abu Talib to repair the Zamzam Well but he fainted. He said someone with white clothes told him to cover himself when he came to.(35)

His body was protected to save him from exposing the parts that are not suitable to show to others; he was also protected from some unpleasant applications of that period. According to his own statement, he wanted to watch some games and entertainment in the places where marriage ceremonies were held but he fell asleep and could not watch or hear them; after that, he did not commit any bad things till he was appointed as a prophet.(36)

Can it be thought that a person who was under protection even when he was not a prophet and when he was not appointed as an example for his umma and humanity yet would not be protected in a period when he became an example in all aspects for his umma and humanity and that his errors and mistakes would not be corrected? (37)

As a matter of fact, we see some examples of it in the Quran.

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) were worried about the protection of the revelation and Allah, the Exalted, eliminated his worry by saying there is no need to worry about it.(38)

He was warned about the issues like the guidance of men, people’s obeying the command of Allah, that his duty was only to convey the message of Allah that guidance depended on Allah’s will and that the result depended on the will of Allah (39); he was warned about Abu Talib, whom he asked for forgiveness; and he was forbidden to pray for his uncle. (40)

On the other hand, he was stopped from cursing his enemies after the Battle of Uhud (41) from his wish of mutilation after what was made to Hazrat Hamza (may Allah be pleased with him) (42).

Furthermore, he was warned about releasing the prisoners of war in return for ransom after the Battle of Badr (43); he was prevented from the application he wanted in order to win the hearts of hypocrites (munafiqs) (44) ; he was also warned when he made himself haram what Allah had made halal due to the wishes of the prisoners of war .(45)

Those verses above and similar verses are clear indications that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) was corrected when what he did was not in compliance with the divine consent. Allah, the Exalted, first leaves him free and wants him to make ijtihad or consultation with his companions. Then, if it was in compatible with Allah’s consent, it was left as it was; if it was not, he was corrected. As a matter of fact, the fact that he first said the children of the polytheists were like their fathers and then he said that they would go to Paradise, that he first said the lizards were cursed Jews and then gave up that idea due to the warning by revelation, that first he said the view about torture in grave was a Jewish mischief and then accepted the existence of torture in grave due to the warning by revelation and he took refuge in Allah from it in his prayers, (46) shows that he was warned and corrected outside the revelation of the Quran too.

As it is seen, it is impossible for the Messenger of Allah to continue a wrong deed, act or word that he saw or was informed about because that kind of silent approval is followed by the umma; it is also impossible for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to continue the wrong acts or words in the presence of Allah; whatever he did during his lifetime is an example and something to be followed for us.

Then, Allah, who is All- Knowing, All-Aware, All-hearing, All-Seeing and Wise, either corrected all kinds of words, deeds and acts of the Prophet or approved them and left them as they were. Whether we call those things that Allah did not change and left as they were as esoteric revelation as Hanafi scholars called them (47) or as silently approved revelation, we can say that the sunnah of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) is based on revelation.

Acting upon that fact, we think that we should accept that the continuation of some of the customs and traditions of the community the Prophet lived in were checked by Allah and since they were silently approved, it is not correct to regard them as only customs and traditions. Besides, we had stated that they were based on Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) or other prophets.

Then, even if the attitudes and acts of the Prophet had existed in the same form in the period of Jahiliyya, they would have been corrected by revelation if they were wrong. It can be said that those that were not corrected were approved.


1- Although it is said that what is meant by the verse: “Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him” is the Quran, there are some scholars who say it includes the sunnah too. For instance, Elmalılı (a Turkish tafsir scholar) interprets that verse as “It, that is, the Quran or his speech, is nothing but revelation. It cannot be expressed in any other way. It can only be sent as revelation.” Thus, he indicates that the sunnah is revelation too. (Yazır, Hak Dini VII, 457); Cf Qurtubi, Tafsir, XVII,84-85; Aydınlı, Abdullah, Sünnetin Kaynağı Hakkında, Din Öğretimi dergisi, Issue37, Ank, 1992, p.48; Kırbaşoğlu, Sünnet, 236 et al.
2- al-Baqara, 48; Aal-e-Imran, 164.
3- an-Nisa, 113; al-Jumua, 2.
4- For those who say what is meant by wisdom is sunnah, see Hasan al-Basri, Qatada, Yahya b. Kathir, (Suyuti, Miftahu’l-Janna, s.23); Imam ash-Shafii, ar Risala, 32,78,93.
5- The fact that the Quran and sunnah are revelation brings about the question what the difference between them is. We understand from that verse that there is no difference between them in terms of nature. However, one of them is wahy matluw (recited revelation), the other is wahy ghayr matluw (non-recited revelation). Suyuti explains the issue as follows: The word of Allah has two parts. Allah says to Jibril, “Say to the Prophet Allah commands you to do this and that. Jibril understands the divine wish and conveys it to the Prophet. It can be resembled to a king sending a reliable person as a delegate to his subjects and the conveyance of the message by the delegate through his own words. The other is: Allah says to Jibril, “Go to the Prophet and read this book to him.” Jibril reads the book to the Prophet exactly, word for word. The revelation of the Quran can be resembled to the second from and the sunnah to the first form. Therefore, it is said that it is permissible to report the sunnah with the meaning. Suyuti, al-Itqan, I,45; see Subhi as-Salih, Hadis İlimleri, p.261-262; Karaman, Hadis Usulü, p.9-10.
6- al-Anfal, 7.
7- at-Tahrim, 3.
8- It is important for our issue that it is stated at the beginning of the hadith that there will emerge some people who will say we will accept what is in the Quran but we will reject what is not in it and that the sunnah is given. See Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 6.
9- Those hadiths that are called qudsi (sacred) or divine are stated by being attributed to Allah. There are some views that both the words and meanings of them belong to Allah or the meaning belongs to Allah and the words belong to the Prophet like the other hadiths. See Al-Hadith, wa’l-Muhaddithun, p.18; Qawaidu’t-Tahdith, p.64 et al.
10- See, Bukhari, Eeman, 37; Muslim, Eeman, 1; Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 16; Tirmidhi, Eeman,4.
11- Muslim, Jannah, 63-64; See, Aydınlı, Sünnetin Kaynağı, p.50-51; Toksarı, Sünnet, p.98-99; Abu Dawud, Adab, 48.
12- Muslim, Eeman, 32-36; See, al-Munawi, Fayzu’l-Qadir, VI, 289-290.
13- For examples, see, Muslim, Janaiz, 1; Tirmidhi, Eeman, 18; Jihad, 32.
14- Although some researchers claim that since the hadiths in which the word revelation is mentioned are narrated in terms of meaning, they cannot be accepted as evidence that hadiths in general are revelaed (Erul, Bünyamin, İslamiyat, C.1, s.1, p.55 et al), in another article, the same person says that it is not possible to say that Allah is not in contact with Hazrat Prophet except the Quran. He also says the Messenger of Allah was appointed with the duty of tabligh (conveying the message), teaching and explaining. However, he also says that it will be better to call it wisdom. (Erul, Bünyamin, İslamiyat, V.III, p.1., p.184.
15- Muslim, Hayd, 34.
16- Bukhari, Nikah, 108.
17- See respectively, Suyuti, Miftah, 29; Musnad, II, 85,160; Bukhari, Adab, 28; Muslim, 1,140; Abu Dawud, Manasik, 24,27; Tirmidhi, Hajj, 14; Abu Dawud, Salat, 2; Bukhari, Badu’l-Khalq, 6; Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 9; Musnad, I, 191; Ibn Hisham, Sira, III, 101-102.
18- Suyuti, Miftah, 29.
19- Abdulghani Abdulkhaliq, Hujja, 337; It is said that there is ijma (consensus) that sunnah is based on revelation. See, ibid, p.338; It is reported that Hasan b. Atiyya said sunnah is based on revelation like the Quran. Darimi, Muqaddima, 49.
20- Imam Shafii, who says wahy matluw is the Quran and wahy ghayr matluw is the sunnah, states that the sunnah is the ‘wisdom’ mentioned in the Quran. (ar-Risala, 3-4,10; al-Umm, V, 127,128.)
21- Ibn Hazim, al-Ihkam, 93; cf. Kırbaşoğlu, Sünnet, p.260-261.
22- Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 83; that Khattabi has the same opinion, see Khattabi, Maalimu’s-Sunan, V, 10.
23- Çakan, İ.Lütfi, Hadislerde Görülen İhtilaflar ve Çözüm Yolları, Ist, 1982, p.96.
24- The hadith that states a woman and her maternal or paternal aunt cannot be married to the same man at the same time is like that. Bukhari, Nikah, 27; Muslim, Nikah, 37-38.
25- He gives the following incident as example: wearing silk clothes is haram for men but Hazrat Prophet lets Abdurrahman b. Awf wear silk clothes due to his illness. See, Bukhari, Jihad, 91; Libas, 29; Muslim, Libas, 24-26.
26- Ibn Qutayba, Abu Muh. Abdullah, Ta’wilu Mukhtalifi’l-Hadith, Beirut, 1972, p.196 et al.
27- Phrases like the holy spirit blew into my heart are revelation of that kind. Ibn Majah, Tijarah, 2; Bayhaqi, Sunan, VII, 76; Suyuti, Miftah, 30.
28- Sarakhsi, Shamsuddin, Usulu’s-Sarakhsi, Beirut, 1973, II, 90-96.
29- Shatibi, Muwafaqat, IV, 19; For similar views, see, Abdulghani, Hujja, p.334 et al.
30- See, Aydınlı, Istılah, 148; Also See, Bukhari, I’tisam, 24.
31-Ismah, one of the attributes of the prophets, means being away from unbelief, not knowing Allah, telling lies, making mistakes, erring, neglecting, not knowing the details of the Shariah. It also means impossibility of continuing to make a mistake. See, Ghazali, Mustasfa, II, 212-214; Sabuni, Maturidiyye Akâidi, trans Bekir Topaloğlu, Ank. 1979, s.212-212; Yazır, Hak Dini, IX, 6357; Abdulghani, Hujja, 108 et al.
32- Sarakhsi, Usul, II, 68.
33- Sabuni, Maturidiyya, 121; Abdulghani, Hujja, p.222; For the view of Ibn Taymiyya that prophets will not be let continue to make a mistake, see Abduljalil Eesa, Ijtihadu’r-Rasul, Egypt, nd. p.33.
34- That Allah protected him (pbuh) from the impurities of Jahiliyya, see Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, I, 121; Abu Nuaym, Dalail, I, 129; Bayhaqi, Dalail, I, 313.
35- Abu Nuaym, Dalail, I, 147; See also, Bukhari, I, 96; Muslim, I, 268; Bayhaqi, Dalail, I, 313-314.
36- See. Tabari, Tarikh, II, 196; Abu Nuaym, Dalail, I, 143; Bayhaqi, Dalail, I, 315; Once, they took him (pbuh) to an entertainment by force, but he disappeared; Then, he said; a white-skinned, tall man said to me; ‘O Muhammad! Never touch that idol. Go back!’”. Cf Musnad, II, 68-69; Köksal, İslam Tarihi, II,117-121.
37- For more information, see Sarakhsi, Usul, II, 91; Ghazali, Mustasfa, II,214; Sabuni, Maturidiyya, p.121; Abdülghani, Hujja, 221-222; Abduljalil Eesa, İjtihad, p.31-33; Çakan, İhtilaflar, p.96,113; Erdoğan, Sünnet, 192 et al.
38- Qiyamah, 16-17.
39- See respectively al-Ghashiya, 21-22; Hud, 12; al-Kahf, 23; al,-Qasas, 56; Yunus, 99; ash-Shuara, 3.
40- at-Tawba, 113.
41- Tirmidhi, Tafsir, sura 3/12; Aal-e-Imran, 128; Abduljalil Eesa, Ijtihad, p.95.
42- The organs of Hazrat Hamza like his ear and nose had been cut off and his liver had been removed. Ibn Hisham, Sira, III, 101-103. For the verse, see an-Nahl, 126-127.
43- al-Anfal, 67-68. See Abdülghani, Hujja, 185.
44- at-Tawba, 88, 84; See Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, II, 378; Abduljalil Eesa, p.105.
45- at-Tahrim, 1-2.
46- See Abduljalil Eesa, Ijtihad, s.59-66.
47- See, Sarakhsi, II, 90-91; Tahanawi, Muh. Ali b. Ali, Kashshafu Istilahati’l-Funun, Ist, 1984, II, 1523.

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