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The Meaning of "Sunnah" in the Quran


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Zeynab
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« on: May 31, 2011, 10:53:36 pm »

 BismEm


As-Salaam Alaikum, everyone. 

Here is a very important and informative article written by Brother Louay Fatoohi of
Quran Studies.
  It's about the term "sunnah" which is randomly used by the Hadith followers today to refer to the lifestyle or way of life of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).  In fact, according to the mainstream Hadithist Muslims, Islam comprisies of the "Quran and sunnah."  If you tell them the truth, that is, Islam is the Quran alone, they will label you as a "deviant."  But if you ask them what the Quran says about "sunnah," they will use Verses 59:7, 3:31 and 33:21 to justify adherence to "sunnah" even though these verses have nothing to do with "sunnah" or the "hadith." 

So, does the Glorious Quran order us to follow the "sunnah" as a separate field alongside with the Quran as propagated by the mainstream Muslims?  The answer is NO.  The Glorious Quran uses the term "sunnah" in a total of fourteen times in nine verses of the Glorious Quran but the Quran never refers to "sunnah" in the same context as the Hadith following Muslims do at present.  Just as the term "hadith" in the Quran has been misinterpreted by the Muslims, so has the use of the term "sunnah" been completely misinterpreted. 

To check the misinterpretation of the Quranic term "hadith" by the mainstream Muslims, please check our article Does the Quran refer to follow the man-written Hadith?

And similarly, to check the misinterpretation of the Quranic term "sunnah" by the mainstream, please carefully read the following article by Brother Louay Fatoohi.

 

QUOTE:

The term “Sunna” or “Sunnah” (written in Arabic as “Sunnat”) is familiar to all Muslims and many non-Muslims. It abbreviates the expression “sunnat ar-rasul (the sunna of the Messenger)” and refers to the words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad, and what he approved and disapproved of, explicitly and implicitly. I will study here the use of this term in the Qur’an.

The term “sunna” occurs fourteen times in nine Qur’anic verses. It is used in four verses in the expression “sunnat al-awwalin” or the “sunna of the ancients.” The term “sunna” is usually interpreted as meaning “example” or “fate,”   but it is a more general concept that means “way,” “practice,” “course,” “tradition,” “habit,” “state,” or “situation.” So “sunnat al-awwalin” should mean “the way or practice of the ancients.” These are three of those four verses: 

"Say [O Muhammad!] to the disbelievers that if they desist then they will be forgiven what has past; but if they return, then the way of the ancients (sunnat al-awwalin) has passed away."  (38.8)

"They (the disbelievers) will not believe in it (the Qur’an), and the way of the ancients (sunnat al-awwalin) has passed away." (15.13)

"Nothing prevented people from believing when the guidance came to them and from asking pardon of their Lord other than [arguing for] the way of the ancients (sunnat al-awwalin) to come upon them or for the torment to come upon them before their eyes." (18.55)


The term “sunna” appears eight times in five verses in the expression “sunnat Allah” or the “way of Allah.” One of these verses has both expressions “sunnat al-awwalin” and “sunnat Allah”:

"Do they (the disbelievers) wait for other than the way of the ancients (sunnat al-awwalin), but you will not find any alteration in the way of Allah (sunnat Allah) and you will not find any change in the way of Allah (sunnat Allah)."   (from 35.43)

Some exegetes understand the reference to “sunnat al-awwalin” as referring to God’s punishment of those who rejected the messengers that He sent to them. In this case, this expression could be translated as the “fate of the ancients.”

These are the other four verses in which “sunnat Allah” appears:

"There is not fault in the Prophet in seeking what Allah has ordained for him — the way of Allah (sunnat Allah) with those who passed away before. The commandment of Allah is a determinate decree."  (33.38)
 
"This is] the way of Allah (sunnat Allah) with those who passed away before, and you will not find any alteration in the way of Allah (sunnat Allah)."  (33.62)
 
"Their faith did not help them when they faced our might; [this is] the way of Allah (sunnat Allah) which applied in the past to His servants, and there the disbelievers lost."  (40.85)
 
"This is] the way of Allah (sunnat Allah) which applied in the past, and you will not find any alteration in the way of Allah (sunnat Allah)."  (48.23)


Finally, this verse uses the term “sunna” twice, first in reference to the way of the messengers that God sent before Muhammad and then in the expression “sunnatuna (Our sunna),” meaning God’s way

"[This is] the sunna of those whom we sent [as messengers] before you, and you will not find any change in Our way (sunnatuna) (sunnat Allah)."  (17.77)

To recap, in the nine verses in which the term “sunna” appears, it is used nine times to refer to the sunna of Allah, four times for the sunna of the people of old, and once for the sunna of the previous messengers of Allah.

So the Qur’an does not use the term “sunna” in the sense of the way/practice of Prophet Muhammad. The closest that the Qur’an comes to this use is in verse 17.73 which talks about the sunna of the messengers before Muhammad. Naturally, the reference here is to one sunna or way, as the essence of religion never changed, as so it must apply to Prophet Muhammad also. But this reference must refer to the one set of general practices and values that all Messengers followed, as commanded by God, rather than actions that are specific to any one of them. So the distinct meaning of the term “sunna” as the actions and deeds of Prophet Muhammad specifically is not found in the Qur’an. This observation, however, does not change the fact that the Qur’an commands the Muslim to follow and emulate the Prophet:

"You have had a good example in the Messenger of Allah for the person who hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much."  (33.21)

This command, of course, endorses the general behavior of the Prophet, both word and action, which is effectively what his Sunna means.

There are twelve verses that instruct the Muslims to “obey” the Prophet. To stress that obeying the Prophet is essential for obeying God, eleven of the twelve verses order the Muslims to “obey Allah and the Messenger” (3.32, 3.132), “obey Allah and obey the Messenger” (4.59, 4.92, 24.54, 47.33, 64.12), and “obey Allah and His Messenger” (8.1, 8.20, 8.46, 58.13). The twelve verse tells the Muslim: “Obey the Messenger that you may be shown mercy” (24.56). 

There are many more verses that command the Muslims to follow the Prophet. These verses confirm that the Prophet set by his words and deeds the best example for the Muslims, as God instructed him to do. This is why learning and understanding the behaviour of the Prophet is necessary for the Muslim. But we should always be aware of the fact the Sunna of the Prophet has never been as accessible after the Prophet as the Qur’an. Allah promised in the Qur’an that He will protect the Qur’an from being lost or changed, but He did not make such a promise about the Sunna of the Prophet. A number of factors affected what was written about and attributed to the Prophet over the decades and centuries after him. Indeed, various supposed details of the Sunna have been the subject of considerable disagreement among Muslims scholars from the early times after the Prophet. This fact should not stop us from being interested in learning the Sunna of the Prophet, but it should make us aware that this process is difficult and fraught with uncertainty. The suggestion that there is any source other than the Qur’an that we can fully trust about the history of the Prophet is in contradiction with history. To seriously study and examine the available sources of the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah is one way in which the Muslim discharges his/her duty to follow the Prophet.

The Qur'anic Verses that Contain the Term "Sunna"  (original)


قُل لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِن يَنتَهُوا يُغْفَرْ لَهُم مَّا قَدْ سَلَفَ وَإِن يَعُودُوا فَقَدْ مَضَتْ سُنَّتُ الْأَوَّلِينَ. ﴿8.38

لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ. ﴿15.13

وَمَا مَنَعَ النَّاسَ أَن يُؤْمِنُوا إِذْ جَاءَهُمُ الْهُدَىٰ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَّا أَن تَأْتِيَهُمْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ أَوْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ قُبُلًا. ﴿18.55

فَهَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا سُنَّتَ الْأَوَّلِينَ فَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّـهِ تَبْدِيلًا وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّـهِ تَحْوِيلًا. ﴿35.43

مَّا كَانَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ اللَّـهُ لَهُ سُنَّةَ اللَّـهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّـهِ قَدَرًا مَّقْدُورًا. ﴿33.38

سُنَّةَ اللَّـهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلُ وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّـهِ تَبْدِيلًا.  ﴿33.62

فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا سُنَّتَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْكَافِرُونَ. ﴿40.85

سُنَّةَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّـهِ تَبْدِيلًا. ﴿48.23

سُنَّةَ مَن قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِن رُّسُلِنَا وَلَا تَجِدُ لِسُنَّتِنَا تَحْوِيلًا. ﴿17.77


UNQUOTE:



Though this article has been very well penned by brother Fatoohi and I couldn't agree with it more, there is just one little point of his with which I differ.  Can anyone of you point out what that is?  Smiley 
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 10:41:33 pm »

Lovely article with very well researched facts with direct references to the Noble Quran.  Really well written.  And lol, I think I can perceive that one "little point" with which you differ.  I differ with it too  Cheesy and I'm sure a well-read person like brother Fatoohi also differs.  But he's a bit afraid to speak openly .. that unfortunately is nothing unusual.

A number of factors affected what was written about and attributed to the Prophet over the decades and centuries after him. This fact should not stop us from being interested in learning the Sunna of the Prophet, but it should make us aware that this process is difficult and fraught with uncertainty.

Indeed he is absolutely right that what's today known as "sunnah" is "fraught with uncertainty."   I couldn't agree more.  Thus, it's a very important reason to stop us from being interested in learning this sort of manipulated "sunnah" which attributes sweeping guessworks / falsehoods to the Prophet (S).  To be interested in something after knowing it to be so heavily tainted and controversial would amount to purposely seeking help from a source not warranted by God Almighty.   This itself is a huge violation of the Quran.  The fact that most Muslims today don't understand the gravity of such a violation is another matter.  But that doesn't mean we should waste our time on the fake sunnah after being aware that it's a massive forgery.  This is the point with which I differ because this fact about the bungling of Sunnah should seriously stop us from getting involved with it.

But we should always be aware of the fact the Sunna of the Prophet has never been as accessible after the Prophet as the Qur’an. Allah promised in the Qur’an that He will protect the Qur’an from being lost or changed, but He did not make such a promise about the Sunna of the Prophet.

hummm .. this is very important.  It reflects exactly the same meaning we have been emphasizing here in several posts, that is, following the Quran means following the Prophet (S).  But following the "sunnah" is not guarantee for either following the Quran nor following the Prophet (S) because the teachings of the Prophet (S) being taken from the Quran were identical to the Quranic principles.


Verse 33:21 also basically refers to Sunnat Allah.  Allah tells us to follow the Prophet (S) because the Prophet (S) followed the way shown by Allah.  If the Prophet (S) had followed some other way of his own not endorsed by Allah, then Allah would not command the people to follow him.  Thus, "sunnah" of the Prophet (S) is subject to the Prophet's following of Sunnah Allah.  Unfortunately, the concept of "sunnah" today is totally different.
 
It's a matter of common sense that the "sunnah" or the behaviour of the Prophet (S) which is necessary for us to follow cannot be taken as something different from the contents of the Quranic commandments.  That's because as you've mentioned the "essence of religion never changes."   So, if the Quran and "sunnah" are taken as two different sources (which is exactly what's be considered at present), that would logically & realistically involve a deviation from the confirmed and unchangeable principles of Faith, obviously through innovative man-made laws, neither approved by God Almighty nor by the Prophet (S) who did not deviate from the unchangeable principles of Faith.
 
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 08:39:53 pm »

Nice post sister Zeynab, good to get some original translations on "sunnah", where you can see clearly how far off the term "sunnah" is as of now.

And sister Heba, I agree with you on your disagreement to him saying "This fact should not stop us..."
Well, it certainly stopped me! hahaha but we both know we just won't blatantly reject it...
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 10:31:21 pm »

A number of factors affected what was written about and attributed to the Prophet over the decades and centuries after him. This fact should not stop us from being interested in learning the Sunna of the Prophet, but it should make us aware that this process is difficult and fraught with uncertainty.

Yes, I'm sure he doesn't mean it.  He's just trying to play it safe.  It should not stop us from being interesting in this man-made "sunna" only for the purpose of exposing its flaws and warning believers to beware and keep away from it. 

Otherwise the rest of the article is very good, very truthful and really helps to understand the big difference between the term "sunna" used in the Quran and the "sunna" of mainstream Muslims today, how much our imams have manipulated it.   Unfortunately, despite brother Fatoohi's passive stance, the Hadithists will still not accept this article.  The closer you try to bring them to the truth, the more they reject it.  Very sad and serious condition  Sad
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