Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Rahim

Why Muslims Must Follow the Sunna As Well As the Quran



The Mistake of those who confuse the Sunna and the hadiths

Special Focus on Hijab

Links to Other Articles



Allah SWT says repeatedly in the Quran to obey both Him and the Messenger. One example is Surah an-Nisa ayah 59.

Ya ayyuha alladhina amanu ati Allaha wa ati ar-Rasul wa ulu'l-amr min kum. Fa in tanaza'tun fi shay'in fa rudduhu ilaAllahi wa ar-Rasul in kuntum tu'minuna bIllahi wa'l-Yawmi al-Akhir. Dhalika khayrun wa ahsanu ta'wil.

O you, those who have faith, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you dispute over a thing, then return it to Allah and the Messenger, if you have faith in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more beautiful of interpretation.

He says that the Prophet (sAas) has been sent to explain the Quran, not just to deliver it (Surah an-Nahl ayah 44).

Bi al-bayyinat wa az-Zubur wa anzalna ilayka adh-Dhikra li-tubayyina li an-nas maa nuzzila ilayhim wa la'allahum yatafakkarun.

By clear proofs and scriptures, and We have sent down on you (O Prophet) the Reminder, that you can explain to humankind what is sent down for them and in order that they may reflect.

He says that people do not have faith if they do not take the Prophet (sAas) as the judge of their disputes (Surah an-Nisa ayah 65).

Fa laa wa Rabbika laa yu'minuna hatta yuhakkimuka fi maa shajara baynahum thumma laa yajidu fi anfusihim haraj min maa qadayta wa yusallimu taslima.

No, by your Lord and Sustainer, they do not have faith until they have you (O Prophet) judge what is disputed among them, then they do not find in their souls any distress at what you have decided, and they accept it wholly and completely.

He says that when He and the Prophet (sAas) have decided a matter, it is not for any believing man or woman to do anything but obey (Surah al-Ahzab ayah 36).

Wa maa kana li mu'min wa laa mu'minah idha qadaAllahu wa Rasuluhu amran an yakuna lahum al-khiyarat min amrihim wa man ya'siAllaha wa Rasulaha faqad dalla dalala mubin.

And it is not ever for a faithful man or a faithful woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided an affair that there is any choice for them in their affair, and who disobeys Allah and His Messenger, so he is indeed wandering far astray.

He says that what the Messenger gives, people should take, and what he prohibits, they should abstain from (Surah al-Hashr ayah 7).

...Wa maa atakum ar-Rasul fa khudhuhu wa maa nahakhum anhu fa intahu. Wa ittaquAllah innAllaha Shadid al-Iqab.

...And what the Messenger gives you, so take it, and what he prohibits you, so refrain from it. And be in awe of Allah. Surely Allah is Stern of Punishment.

How do we determine what the Prophet (sAas) has ordered, in order to obey it?

How do we find out what he judged in disputes so that we can abide by it?

How do we know what he has decided on matters, so that we can submit to it?

How do we discover what he has given, so that we can take it, or what he has prohibited, so we can abstain from it?

The answer to all these questions is very simple: we look to the SUNNA. If you deny the validity of the Sunna then you may end up disobeying what the Prophet (sAas) has commanded, turning away from what he has judged, rejecting what he has decided, ignoring what he has given, and doing what he has prohibited.

And if you do these acts of disobedience, turning-away, rejecting, ignoring, and doing-the-prohibited then YOU HAVE DISOBEYED ALLAH. It's that simple. It is incumbent upon every Muslim to obey both the Quran and the Sunna. Read the verses I have cited for yourself. What do you think they mean?


The Mistake of Those Who Confuse the Sunna and the Hadiths

Very often, those who proclaim that they follow the Quran only, ignore the Sunna and concentrate on the hadiths. They assume that if they can refute or disprove the hadiths, they have proved their own position.

Their mistake is to assume that the Sunna and the hadiths are the same thing. This is incorrect. No scholar of Islam has ever claimed that the sources of Shari'a are "the Quran and the hadiths". Rather, the correct statement is that the sources of Shari'a are the Quran and the SUNNA.

The hadiths are a textual source for determining what the Sunna is. But they are not by themselves the Sunna.

The scholars of Islam have developed a sophisticated methodology for collecting the hadiths and for determining from them what the Sunna is.

Collecting the hadiths: Briefly, the great collectors of hadiths such as Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim followed a methodology that they collected everything that there was on a subject, and they marked down how authentic it was. Rather than discarding the material they felt was not wholly authentic, so that it became lost to history, they included it. This means that other scholars can examine the evidence for themselves, and make their own determination of what is authentic.

The above description of the methodology of the hadith collectors should make it abundantly clear why there are hadiths that appear to be contradictory, hadiths with variant wordings, and all the other problems with hadiths that the rejectors point to. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, and the other great hadith collectors, were not incompetent. Rather, they saw their job to be preserving the evidence so that each later scholar could make his own determination.

Simply put, the rejectors are attempting to take the honesty of Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, and the others and to twist it to prove their own point.

There is no reason for any Muslim to be confused or feel doubt because of variant hadiths in the collections. It is simply a matter of learning about the methodologies and procedures of the scholars.

Here are some links that provide information about the methodology of the hadith scholars:

Modern Historical Methodology Versus Hadith Methodology - This essay discusses the methodology of the hadith collectors in quite a bit of detail and compares it to modern historiographical methods

An Introduction to the Science of Hadith - This essay discusses in detail the methodology for classifying and rejecting hadiths, and the terminology used

Issues Concerning Hadith - This page contains several essays discussing specific concerns that have been raised about the hadiths

Determining the Sunna: The science of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is the science of deriving rulings from the sources of Shari'a. Part of fiqh is determining from the hadiths what the Sunna is. This too is a sophisticated science.

First, all the hadiths on a given subject should be gathered. Next, the scholar studies their authenticity to determine which give a correct report of what the Prophet (sAas) said, did, or allowed. He may consider such factors as what the practice of the Muslims in the matter has been, if the absence of reports to the contrary actually indicates a consensus of the Sahaba (rAa) behind the existing reports, even if only a few people have transmitted them, and other issues.

It is only after this analysis that the scholar has made his determination of what the Sunna is. He does not simply pick and choose hadiths at random, or take their text out of context. The reason he may only quote one or two is that he has determined that it or they express most clearly what the Sunna is.

Here are some links that provide information about the science of fiqh:

Sources of Islamic Law - This essay discusses the many sources of Shari'a beyond just the literal text of a hadith, and also how different schools of fiqh developed with slightly different methodologies

Usul al-Fiqh: Source Methodology In Islamic Law - This essay also discusses the history of fiqh, and different methodologies that are used

Inshallah, the information provided at the above links should be more than enough to reassure any Muslim that the collection of hadiths and the derivation of rulings from them is anything but haphazard. The claims made by the hadith rejectors are based on ignorance. If they had studied Islamic science, they would see how ridiculous what they say is.

Suggestion for further reading: If you have the money, and are interested in educating yourself further on this issue, I highly recommend purchasing "Studies In Early Hadith Literature" by M.M. Azami. It is available from Shaykh Azami has studied the history of the transmission and preservation of the hadiths in great depth. It is not possible to have any doubts about the authenticity and truth of the hadiths after reading this book. Mashallah!


Special Focus on Hijab

One of the favorite tricks of the hadith rejectors is to announce that it is not obligatory for the Muslim woman to cover her hair. Surah an-Nur ayah 31 says in part, "Tell the faithful extend their KHUMUR to cover their bosoms". The word "khumur" is the plural of "khimar". According to the hadith rejectors the meaning of "khimar" is simply "a covering" because the root KHAMARA means "to cover". Thus, they say, the Quran here only tells the women to extend a covering over their bosoms. They say that the Quran does not mention the covering of the head.

Is this true? Because of the importance of hijab, it is worth exploring this issue in depth.

The hijab of the Muslim woman has been set out in two verses of the Quran, Surah an-Nur ayah 31 and Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59. The list of commands contained in these verses is as follows:

1) Lower the gaze (24:31)

2) Guard the private parts (24:31)

3) Not display their beauty "except what is apparent of it" (24:31)

4) Extend the khimar to cover the bosom (24:31)

5) Not display their beauty beyond "what is apparent of it" except to the people listed in 24:31

6) Not stamp their feet so as to reveal hidden beauty (24:31)

7) Draw the jilbab close around them when abroad (33:59)

What does "except what is apparent" mean? This is one of the passages in the Quran that is not clear in meaning (see Surah Ali Imran ayah 7). This is one of the passages in the Quran that the Prophet (sAas) needs to explain. And Surah an-Nahl ayah 44 (see above) tells us that the Prophet will explain the Quran. The Prophet's explanation of "what is apparent" is the face and the hands (to see dalils for this claim, go to Opinions of scholars in favor of displaying the face and hands). Therefore, following what the Prophet (sAas) has explained of the Quran, we can re-write the list this way:

1) Lower the gaze (24:31)

2) Guard the private parts (24:31)

3) Not display their beauty except their faces and hands (24:31)

4) Extend the khimar to cover the bosom (24:31)

5) Not display their beauty beyond the face and hands except to the people listed in 24:31

6) Not stamp their feet so as to reveal hidden beauty (24:31)

7) Draw the jilbab close around them when abroad (33:59)

Now, it is very clear. If a woman must conceal all of her beauty except her face and hands, she must necessarily be concealing her hair. Even if "not to display their beauty except what is apparent" were the only text in the verse, yet as the Prophet (sAas) has explained the meaning of the Quran, a woman would still have to cover everything but her face and hands.

We can also look at the meaning of the word "khimar". The word "khimar" comes from the root KHAMARA meaning "to cover". However, the particular form "khimar" may have a more specific meaning. Let's look at what it is:

1) In the Arabic of the Prophet (sAas), the word "khimar" referred to a HEADCOVERING. This can be seen in the hadiths in which the Prophet (sAas) wiped his wet hands over his khimar and his socks, from which the scholars have derived that it is halal to wipe wet hands over the HEADCOVERING and the socks.

2) The authorities on classical Arabic have defined the word "khimar" as a HEADCOVERING. For instance the dictionary Aqrab al-Mawarid defines the word "khimar" as, "All such pieces of cloth which are used to cover the head. It is a piece of cloth which is used by a woman to cover her head". The great scholar Imam Abu'l-Fida ibn Kathir defines the word "khimar" in the following words, "Khumur is the plural of khimar which means something that covers, and is what is used to cover the head. This is what is known among the people as a khimar". A modern scholar, Shaykh Muhammad al-Munajjid says, "Khimar comes from the word khamr, the root meaning of which is to cover. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 'Khammiru aaniyatakum (cover your vessels).' Everything that covers something else is called its khimar. But in common usage khimar has come to be used as a name for the garment with which a woman covers her head; in some cases this does not go against the linguistic meaning of khimar. Some of the fuqaha have defined it as that which covers the head, the temples and the neck. The difference between the hijab and the khimar is that the hijab is something which covers all of a woman’s body, whilst the khimar in general is something with which a woman covers her head".

3) Imam Abu Abdullah Qurtubi describes the historical circumstances relating to the wearing of the khimar in pre-Islamic Arabia as follows, "Women in those days used to cover their heads with the khimar, throwing its ends upon their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimar". Similarly, Imam Abu'l-Fida ibn Kathir reports, "'Draw their khumur to cover their bosoms' means that they should wear the khimar in such a way that they cover their chests so that they will be different from the women of the jahiliyyah who did not do that but would pass in front of men with their chests uncovered and with their necks, forelocks, hair and earrings uncovered". Both of these descriptions provide clear, explicit, specific explanations of what "extend their khimars to cover their bosoms" means.

4) The scholars have agreed unanimously that the khimar is a HEADCOVERING.

Please do not try to interpret the Quran by just looking up in some dictionary what the meaning of the root KHAMARA means. Each of the forms derived from this root may have a specific meaning. In order to interpret the Quran properly you need to know what the specific meaning of the particular form "khimar" was in the Arabic of the Prophet (sAas). According to the common usage recorded from that time (in the hadiths), to dictionaries that have preserved the classical Arabic, and to the reports of the actual practice of the women of that time, the khimar is a HEADCOVERING. Can you present any hadiths or other Arabic writing of the time of the Prophet (sAas) that use the word "khimar" to mean a shirt or any type of covering other than a HEADCOVERING? Can you present entries from dictionaries of classical Arabic that fail to give HEADCOVERING as a defintion of "khimar"? Can you present reports of the dress of the pre-Islamic Arab women that apply the word "khimar" to other than a HEADCOVERING? Can you present opinions of the ulama that the khimar is other than a HEADCOVERING? If not, you have not refuted any of the evidence presented here. The examples I have given above are the accepted ways of determining what the meaning of the Quran is.

Now, if I told you "extend your hat to cover your ears" you would know automatically that the hat is a heacovering because that is what the word "hat" means in English, and you would understand automatically that the hat is to remain on the head while being extended down to cover the ears. Likewise the Arabs, when they were told "extend your khimar to cover your bosom", knew automatically that the khimar was a HEADCOVERING because that is what the word "khimar" means in Arabic, and they understood automatically that the khimar was to remain on the head while being extended to cover the bosom.

There can be no doubt about it, the meaning of the Arabic word "khimar" is HEADCOVERING. The Quran doesn't mention the word "head" separately because there is no need to, any more than English-speakers need to be told that a hat is worn on the head.

So let's have a third go at that list of commands for hijab:

1) Lower the gaze (24:31)

2) Guard the private parts (24:31)

3) Not display their beauty except their faces and hands (24:31)

4) Extend the HEADCOVERING to cover the bosom (24:31)

5) Not display the beauty beyond the face and hands except to the people listed in 24:31

6) Not stamp the feet so as to reveal hidden beauty (24:31)

7) Draw the jilbab close around them when abroad (33:59)

From this we can see that the Muslim woman has been given two directives in regard to covering the hair. The first directive is that the hair, along with the rest of the body except the face and the hands, must be concealed except before the people listed in 24:31. The second directive is that the hair should specifically be covered by the khimar, which must also extend to cover the neck and upper chest.

The directives of the Quran and Sunnah are quite clear and they quite clearly direct women to wear HEADSCARVES and to cover all of their bodies except the face and hands. Along with the jilbab (outergarment) and the modest conduct of lowering the gaze, guarding the private parts, and not stamping the feet, THIS IS HIJAB.

This is what Allah SWT and His Messenger have decided in this matter. It is not for a believing man or a believing woman to say anything further or to disobey (Quran 33:36).


Links to Other Articles on The Necessity of the Sunna

About the Prophet and his Sunna

The Authority of the Prophet and His Sunna

The Authority of Sunna

Declaration About the Sunna

The Deviation of those who are satisfied with The Qur'an to the exclusion of Hadith

Following the Messenger of Allah is a Must

Introduction to The Sunna and Its Position in the Islamic Law

It is Unfeasible to Act Solely on the Basis of the Quran

A Look at Hadith Rejecters' Claims

On the Obligation to Accept the Authority of the Prophet

A multi-part article: The Quran on: