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What is the relation between Perpetual Sunnah and Hadith

 

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What are the reasons that sunnah cannot be based on Ahadith?

Ahmad Raies

Sri Nagar, India

April 2012

Dear Brother

Wa alaikum us salam wa Rahmatullah

Some scholars have a view that the Sunnah of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم should be determined based on the perpetual practice of Muslims, and not Hadith because they are solitary reports about the practice of the Prophet. On this issue, I had long discussion with several of these scholars and after listening their view in depth, I had no other option except to disagree with their opinion. We see several practices in present day Muslims which are available in form of perpetual practice (Tawatur 'Amali). For example, the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, the commemorations of Muharram, visiting shrines of saints are also perpetual practices widely performed in the Muslim world. Should we regard them as Sunnah? The obvious answer is no because the criteria for being Sunnah is that it is perpetual in practice of the first generation of Muslims i.e. companions and not us. It is possible that a practice is included in Muslim rituals and it gets the status of perpetuity after 3-4 years. So the only that practice could be Sunnah which is regarded as Sunnah by the companions of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. Even if later generations leave that practice, it will still remain as Sunnah.

A researcher on these issues compared the process of perpetual practice with a river bed. As a river flows, the water makes its course by incorporating the elements of its way. Similarly, practices of different times and societies become part of the perpetual practice. Therefore, we should look at the practice of the first generation and not the later ones.

Now the next question is: Where do we find record of the practice of companions? How could we know that some practice was common among the companions of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم? The obvious answer is that it is available in form of reports in the books of Hadith and Aathar. Suppose, if some photos or movies of the companions were available in which we could have seen their practices, it was the most convincing source of information about their practices. However, at that time, no camera was invented. If the companions had written some books, it would have a good source of information but in their society, paper was available but it was used only as an extended memory and not as a mode of transmission of knowledge.

All of the knowledge of companions and their practice is transmitted through single-narrated reports. If we combine all reports about a particular matter, we can know their opinions about it. For instance, prayer method is transmitted through process of perpetuity. We find the same method in all the reports of the companions and there is no difference in that. Wherever minute differences exist (e.g. Rafa' Yadain, placement of hands while standing etc.),are nothing more than legitimate variants, but the basic method is the same.

Therefore, the only source of information about the perpetual practice of companions is the books of Hadith and Aathar in which their practice is mentioned. We shall see this practice and decide about each practice whether it is Sunnah or not. Due to this reason, in the second and third century Hijra, Malik Ibn Anas (93-179/711-795), Bukhari (194-256/810-870), Muslim (204-261/819-875) and all other Hadith expert tried to document the Sunnah because they knew that the perpetual practice of Muslims may incorporate other foreign elements in later centuries. Now, there books are the only source of Sunnah and no other source of Sunnah exists in the world.

Had all Hadith books not compiled properly, we would have no method to verify whether a practice is Sunnah or not. For instance, if a person had claimed that celebration of the birthday of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم are Sunnah, we would have not be able to reject his claim on the grounds that it was not celebrated at the time of companions. Due to great effort of the Hadith experts (Mohadiseen), we have complete record of the practice of companions, so we do not need to look at any other source to determine what is a legitimate Sunnah of the Prophet and what is not.

Please feel free to discuss this issue.

Wassalam

Mubashir

مصنف کی دیگر تحریریں

تقابلی مطالعہ پروگرام / مسلم تاریخ پروگرام Quranic Arabic Program / Quranic Studies Program / / علوم القرآن پروگرام / قرآنی عربی پروگرام/سفرنامہ ترکی/††مسلم دنیا اور ذہنی، فکری اور نفسیاتی غلامی/اسلام میں جسمانی و ذہنی غلامی کے انسداد کی تاریخ ††/تعمیر شخصیت پروگرام/قرآن اور بائبلکے دیس میں/علوم الحدیث: ایک تعارف ††/کتاب الرسالہ: امام شافعی کی اصول فقہ پر پہلی کتاب کا اردو ترجمہ و تلخیص/اسلام اور دور حاضر کی تبدیلیاں ††/ایڈورٹائزنگ کا اخلاقی پہلو سے جائزہ ††/الحاد جدید کے مغربی اور مسلم معاشروں پر اثرات ††/اسلام اور نسلی و قومی امتیاز ††/اپنی شخصیت اور کردار کی تعمیر کیسے کی جائے؟/مایوسی کا علاج کیوں کر ممکن ہے؟/دور جدید میں دعوت دین کا طریق کار ††/اسلام کا خطرہ: محض ایک وہم یا حقیقت/Quranic Concept of Human Life Cycle/Empirical Evidence of Manís Accountability

 

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