Speakers : Awais Sheik, Nouman Ali Khan and Ahmed Sidky
“I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.” (Prophet Muhammad*)
When a person buys a car, they are told that they should read the owner’s manual and not stray from it. The manufacturers of the car will make the manual to ensure the car runs smoothly. Whenever there is a problem in the machinery, you should go back to the manual and look it up. Some people will say your car needs an oil change every 3,000 miles, but your manual might say every 7,000 miles. If you don’t follow the manual’s instructions, you will be wasting your money.
Similarly, humans have an owner’s manual. This owner’s manual is the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the teachings and saying of the Prophet*). Our creator (Allah) has given us this guide to make sure we run efficiently and properly. Whenever we have a problem we should consult the Qur’an. It is a book of guidance for us.
Nowadays, our first frame of reference to decide what we should do has become things like our desires, our emotions, social sciences, etc. This is not the proper way. Our first frame of reference should be the Qur’an.
Two things we should all do is:
1) Read and buy a copy of the Qur’an. We cannot maintain ourselves if we are not in touch with our “owner’s manual.”
2) Attend lectures on the Qur’an and the Seerah (the life of the Prophet Muhammad*). We cannot simply read the Qur’an in Arabic and not know what it means- we need to learn what it says. We cannot simply toss around Hadith, we need to know how the Prophet lived his life.
Nouman Ali Khan:
The Qur’an and Sunnah are inseparable. For instance, the Qur’an tells you to pray, the Sunnah establishes how it is done. The Qur’an is not an isolated entity. Those who say we should only follow the Qur’an (this is a recent movement) offer these basic 3 arguments. Their refutation is under them.
1) The Qur’an is divinely protected from alteration, while the Sunnah is not.
When we refer to the Sunnah, we are not simply referring to a few words, we are talking about the character and person of the Prophet Muhammad*. Virtually no one disagrees when we say the Prophet’s* greatest miracle was the Qur’an. When Allah sends a miracle, its physical component also is sent down. We know that the Prophet Muhammad* was considered the “walking Qur’an.” He was our model to live by. The people that offer this argument will also say that the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet Muhammad*) might have altered what the Prophet* said or did. The Sahabah were the vehicle Allah gave to spread Islam! They were the ones that would memorize the Qur’an and then later the ones who transcribed it. To say that the Sahabah could be trusted with the Qur’an and not the Sunnah is a fallacious argument.
2) Historical relevance. The Qur’an is supposed to be a guide for all mankind throughout time. To say that the Qur’an is understood through the Sunnah is making the Qur’an be bound by time.
The Qur’an is understood through the Sunnah. The Prophet* was the one who brought the message of the Qur’an. You cannot separate the message from the messenger. For instance, if a teacher walks into a classroom and tells a student to sit down and be quiet, it will be received differently than if a student walks in and says the same thing to another student. Also, the application of the Qur’an to modern times depends on its first application. The Prophet* knew more than any of us about what Allah desired from us, so it only makes sense that to understand how to apply the Qur’an in our modern daily lives we would need to see how the Prophet* interpreted it.
3) Overcontexualization/ Undercontextualization – The Qur’an is timeless and when we interpret it we may overcontextualize or undercontextualize.
Well, to understand the Qur’an you do need to understand at what point and at what time each verse was revealed. The common quote from the Qur’an that people use to justify Islam being a violent religion is the one that says to “strike them when you see them” (paraphrased). But at other times, the Qur’an says to live in peace, like in Surah-Kaafiroon it says, “To you be your religion, and to me my religion.” We cannot understand what Allah wants if we do not understand its context. At one point, the Muslims were being killed and fought, so fighting back was permissible.
The hardest part in Islam is to commit. The Prophet* said that “All my Ummah will enter heaven except those who refuse .” That seems like an absurd statement. Who who refuse heaven if they were being offered it? The people who do not follow the Sunnah are the ones who decline Heaven. The Sunnah of the Prophet* is our guide to heaven, it’s like Mapquest. You type in the directions to Heaven and you will get follow the Sunnah(I saw on a bumper sticker once: How to get to Heaven: Turn right and go straight).
The Sunnah seems to be optional in the minds of many. We’re not talking about the small sunnahs of washing your hands before you eat or the four Sunnah prayers before ‘Asr. We are talking about the sunnahs that include manners and tolerance. There was a Hadith in which a man came to the Prophet* and said that there was a woman that was famous for her praying and fasting, but she talks ill of her neighbors. The Prophet* said that she was destined for the hellfire. The man asked about a woman who would cook and give the food to the poor and she was never rude or ill mannered. The Prophet* said she was bound for heaven. This kind of Hadith illustrates that we can’t just pray and not be respectful. We can’t just outwardly do acts of worship but not change our hearts. The Sunnah isn’t just small things that are external, they include the hard sunnahs that affect the inside.
The biggest hypocrite at the time of the Prophet* was treated with respect. Despite all the terrible things the man did, including accusing the Prophet’s* wife of fornication, the Prophet* was gentle with him. When the man died, the Prophet* took off his own cloak and laid it on top of the man. He* prayed to Allah for the man’s forgiveness. In our times, this is unthinkable. Who would do such a thing? This displays the Prophet’s* immense love for humanity. Whenever we praise the Prophet*, he* also prays for us.
There was a question once in which the people were asked what three questions they would ask the Prophet* if they could go back in time to visit him*. Ahmed Sidky said (I wanted to clarify that this part is not my own example from life, it was his) that the Prophet* left us all the answers. They are his* Sunnah. There isn’t a real need to ask questions because we have the answers already.
When I mention the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him), often you will see an asterisk(*) next to his* name. This is so that I do not have to type “may peace and blessings be upon him” every time and so that I won’t have these weird abbreviations such as SAW and PBUH next to his name. The Muslims that read this, I assume know that when the Prophet* is mentioned we send blessings and salutations upon him. While I am writing this, I am also doing the same. For non-Muslims, please know that we do respect and love our Prophet* so when we say his*name we are sending blessings upon him.