The question as to where we get our religious
guidance from is a serious one. It cannot be decided on the basis of mere
emotional attachments to one school of thought or another. It has to be based on
carefully considered realities. My understanding on the issue is as follows.
There are two unchallengeable sources of shari‘ah from where
we get all its injunctions: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Both are equally
authentic in the way they were transmitted to the ummah. Hadith, if properly
transmitted, is the most important secondary source of information which
explains and clarifies what has already been given in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
It does neither add anything to what has been given as shari‘ah in the original
sources nor does it take away anything from them.
The Qur’an is the word of God, fully preserved by God Himself
(15:9) through the process of memorizing. There were scores of huffaz (those who
had memorized the entire text of it) in the first generation of Muslims, who
were followed by hundreds and thousands in the later generations.
There has been no single day when Muslims have been without
the complete Divine Book in the original, pure form after the demise of the
The case of the Sunnah is no different. The Prophet (sws)
introduced certain practices as part of the Islamic shari‘ah, which started
getting followed immediately in a way that continuity of practice has been
meticulously maintained from day one. All Muslims have been following these
religious practices given to them by the Prophet from the beginning of the
Muslim history. The daily prayers, zakah, hajj, fasting, funeral prayers,
jumu‘ah prayers, ‘id prayers, circumcision of male children etc., are some of
Books of Hadith, that contain a record of what the Prophet (sws)
said, or did, or what happened during his times were compiled – apart from
Mu’atta of Imam Malik – in the third century AH. Despite the fact that the
information contained in these books is in some cases an extremely
well-preserved record of the Prophet’s era, as much as humans could manage at
that time, what these books contain cannot add a single item to the list of
injunctions that are called shari‘ah. All that Ahadith do is that they explain
and clarify what is already there in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
There are a number of reasons why the above claim should be
accepted as correct. I’ll mention here one that is the most important of them
It is a well known fact that the authentic books of Ahadith
were compiled and published in the third century of hijrah calendar. Mu’atta of
Imam Malik, which is not one of the sihah sittah, was introduced in the second
half of the second century hijrah. Prior to the compilation of these books,
Ahadith were not available to the ummah. Only a few individuals had them, and
nobody – not a single individual – had them all. If Ahadith were a necessary
source of shari‘ah that were to explain some aspects of Islamic law that are not
there in the Qur’an and Sunnah, then it will have to be acknowledged that almost
the entire ummah lived for the first one-and-a-half century, God forbid, without
complete information about the Islamic law. What we believe is that the first
three generations were the best of the ummah! Alhamdulillah, they were fully
informed about the entire code of Islam through the Qur’an and the Sunnah,
which, as explained earlier, were introduced to the entire ummah from day one.