How could a layman understand the religion?

Assalaam o alykum Sir…

I have seen your website, and I must commend your efforts in the path of Deen…….may Allah bless you…..

Quran is the guiding light for us…..and we have (one after the other) explicit translations (of the meaning), tafaaseer and explanations ranging from tafseer by Abdullah bin Abbaas RA, to that of Muhammad Juna-Garhi…….

but I have a question regarding following of Sunnah e NAbi PBUH……

a plain, lay-man Muslim like me wants to go about following Sunnah (as simple as it is, and as simple as it used to be for Sahaaba RA – more specifically, as it was for a Bedouin who was told about Islam by Prophet PBUH in a straightforward manner, and he pledged to go neither short of that nor to excess that – as a riwaayat refers in Al Jami Assaheeh by Bukhari)…….but I am confronted with more than one issues………like criteria of acceptance of ahaadees…………like Muatta Imam Malik and Saheefa Hammam bin Munabbah RA were complied prior to those of Bukhari and Muslim, but are not counted in six authentic books…… + for any given issue or procedure, we find multiple opinions, viewpoints and statements (raaye), by people…..

and then there are Fiqhs……….with the current practice in Muslim world, it appears that one has to follow at least one of the Imaams…….or conversely, Fiqh e Jafaria (who have further subdivisions to an almost infinite level)……….

so, the point is:

1. who is right?

2. where at we would find true path of Prophet PBUH and his righteous followers?

3. when two ahaadees of equal magnitude (Raavi and Compiler) but different directions (meanings) are there, which one to follow?

4. what is the criteria of a Hadith book to be authentic?

I am sure that these questions need venturing into the Uloom ul Hadith, but so far as a common man is concerned, where should he find guidance from?

I hope you’d help me out in this regard…

assalaam o alykum.


Wa alaikum us salam wa Rahmatulah

Many thanks for your email and kind words on my work. I appreciate if you introduce yourself in detail.

Allah has provided us guidance at two levels:

1. One level is that of scholars who embark upon an endeavor to search the truth and use their findings to guide others. The question of learning ‘Uloom Hadith, evaluating Ahadith, searching through the knowledge-base developed throughout the history of Ummah etc. is relevant to them. It is not something expected from a layman to master these sciences.

2. Second level is related to a common man. All what we need in order to achieve salvation on the Day of Judgment is available to us through the Quran and the Sunnah Mutawatarah. If we read the Quran, it focuses on the basic elements of faith and moral principals. Only 7-8% of the Quranic verses deal with the directives (Shari’ah) and its interpretation is mostly agreed upon among scholars. If there is some difference, it has nothing to do with our salvation and nobody claims that. Whatever we feel right, we can follow that opinion and it is not a matter of salvation.

Detailed directives of Shari’ah are available to us in the form of Sunnah Mutawatarah which means availability of information through practice of generation after generation. Kindly read the following page explaining the difference between Mutawatar and Non-Mutawatar information.

We confidently know that the method of performing prayer, fasting, paying Zakat, performing Hajj, conducting marriage and divorce etc. are transmitted in this way. It is only minute details of these directives where difference of opinion exists. Allah will make us accountable on the issue whether we prayed or not, He will not make a layman accountable for the minute details of prayer e.g. Raf’a Yadain etc.. So searching through these minute details is not the task of a layman. Imam Shaf’ei has explained this in a very nice way. You can read his discourse:

The differences of opinion among scholars is developed due to three reasons:

1. Differences in understanding the meaning of a verse or a Hadith.

2. Difference in evaluating the authenticity of a Hadith

3. Agreement in No. 1 and 2 but difference in applying the directive to a particular situation

It is an amazing fact that scholars agree on the meaning of 80-90% of Ahadith. The difference exist only in 10-15% of its part.

None of the serious scholars think that the opinion he forms as a result of the above three reasons, is binding on every layman and he is obliged to follow his opinion. Every layman has the right to follow the opinion of a scholar upon whom he can rely upon. Some immature people do not study the religion in depth and start claiming that whatever they are presenting is the “only truth” and everyone else having a different opinion is wrong. On the contrary, serious scholars do not adopt this approach and are very humble in presenting their opinions.

Therefore, a layman for whom religion is something significant should:

1. Read the Quran and follow its tenets and moral guidelines.

2. Learn the Sunnah Mutawatarah and follow it in his daily routine.

3. Study those Ahadith about whom all scholars agree to be authentic.

4. Try to sit with serious and humble scholars, listen to their opinions and in case of their disagreement, follow the one which he founds closest to the moral principles discussed in the Quran and the Sunnah.

The six books of Hadith are called “Sihah Sitta” merely because these are the books which were widely circulated among scholars of a particular age. It does not mean that all of their Ahadith are Saheeh (authentic) and those found in other books are Da’eef (unauthentic). Some scholars include Muatta of Imam Malik in Sihah Sitta instead of Ibn Maja. Majority of them give Muata a weight equal to that of Bukhari and Muslim but do not include it in Sihah because 99% of its Ahadith are included in Bukhari and Muslim. Sahifa Hammam is a very short booklet containing only 138 Ahadith, so it could not be called a book.

I hope this will clarify my position. If further questions arise on this subject, I shall recommend you to read my book on Usool ul Hadith to clarify the doubts raised by our those brothers who do not believe in Sunnah and Hadith. It will not take much of your time and you will be able to evaluate the claims of anyone who believes in Sunnah or not by yourself. After that reading, if any further question arise, please feel free to discuss with me.

Remember in your prayers



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How could a layman understand the religion?
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