So we continue with prophetic statements from The Content of Prophetic Hadiths
- Statements of the Prophet
Prophetic statements are divided into five categories:
- Statements about rituals:
These are the ahadith al-sha’a”ir, Muhammad’s instructions, comprising his messengerhood, on how to perform the ritual obligations of the Book. Believers of Muhammad’s message have to obey his orders; their adherence to them is what we have called ‘combined obedience’.
- Statements about the unseen world:
These are the ahadith al-akhbar bi’l-ghayb, Muhammad’s speculations
about the unseen world. Because of the fact that he, as a prophet, had no special knowledge about the unseen world, it would be improper for us to take his words as truth. Like every human
being, he could only believe in the existence of the unseen world and, like every human being, could only confirm things of the unseen world if they became empirically perceptible, for example, by scientific research. If such things had not been sufficiently researched, he—like everyone else—had to rely on what the Book says about it.
Moreover, since the things of the unseen world are part of the onto logical reality of the cosmos they were above and beyond the sphere of Eman and hence, strictly speaking, not in Muhammad’s area of expertise.
- Statements about legal injunctions:
These are the ahadith al-ahkam which comprise every legal injunction and every piece of legislation that Muhammad issued. They are in strict compliance with the verses of the Book and between the limits that Allah has set. They are, as we have pointed out, only informative
for us, since, as orders of his time, they show us how Muhammad applied the divine injunctions to the contingent social and political problems that he faced in ancient Arabia. His statements have non normative value for us because they merely reflect his activities as a mujtahid who responded to the needs of his time and who applied rulings that the objective conditions of his society made necessary.
Due to their historical contingency our ijtihads may considerably deviate from his ijtihads—even if this does not diminish our love for the Prophet Muhammad!
- Sacred statements:
This category refers traditionally to the ahadith al-qudsiyya about the unseen world which, as the name indicates, were thought to be inspired by divine revelation. However, we cannot accept them as sacred or divine for the same reasons as given for the ahadith al-akhbar bi’l-ghayb: Muhammad, as Prophet, simply could not have spoken such words, as his knowledge of the unseen world amounted basically to nothing. Moreover, we reject the existence of such sacred statements because they imply that the Book was in some way ambiguous or needed further elaboration or additional explanations.
A note: A hadith qudsi is, according to the so called ‘ulama al-qur’an scholars, defined as a saying of God that was spoken through the medium of the Prophet. It is also called wahy ghayr matlu, nonrecited revelation, in order to distinguish it from wahy matlu, recited revelation, which is the Qur’an. While the Qur’an is the actual word of Allah (verbatim), a hadith qudsi contains God’s message expressed in the words of the Prophet. The Qur’an enjoys, at least theoretically, superior status due to several theological and hadith-specific considerations, for example, due to the fact that the Qur’an was narrated through tawatur (multilateral) chains of transmission, while the ahadith qudsiyya were narrated only by a khabar wahid (solitary) chain of transmission
The fact that the Islamic tradition acknowledges the existence of divine revelation outside the covers of the Qur’an is unacceptable as it opens up the possibility of divine inspirations that are expressed in human words— a possibility too close to the claims of sanctity of Islamic fiqh that we wants to combat.
We believe that if Allah had thought it necessary to add explanations, He would have given them within the Book. This was, of course, not necessary as we hear in the following two verses:
“Shall I seek for judge other than God? When He it is who has sent unto you the book, explained in detail [mufassalan].”… (Al-An’am 6:114). And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in our name, We should certainly, seize him by his right hand, and We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart. ( Al-haqa 69:44–46).
From the second verse, taken from Surat Al-haqa, we realize that fabricating lies about Allah includes words of defamation and slander as well as words of praise and glorification. But even if these fabrications contain praise and glorification, they still remain spurious words put into the mouth of Allah. Even if positive and well-intended, they are still fabrications for which Allah’s punishment is, as we hear in 69:46, very severe. God forbid that the Prophet might have done such a thing!
- Personal statements:
These are the ahadith al-hayat al-insani which cover the sayings about Muhammad’s personal life, his eating and sleeping habits, his favorite pastimes, his way of dressing, speaking, travelling, walking, running, hunting, and so on. They also include his kindness, good-naturedness, tolerance, courage, and his feelings about justice and injustice, truth and falsehood, hardship and welfare, and so forth.
We hear and thoroughly absorb all these biographical details of Muhammad’s daily private and public life so that our souls are polished, our spirits uplifted, and our virtues strengthened. But we deny the legitimacy of turning such personal matters into normative behavior to be emulated by everyone on this planet at all times and throughout every period of Conclusion
The aim of this series has been to solve one of the most complex problems of Islamic history, that is, to define the form and essence of the Sunna of the Prophet. We have demonstrated that it is necessary to place the Sunna into the epistemological, cultural and political context of seventh-century Arabia. We showed that we, living in the twenty-first century, must be critical of the Sunna’s contingent and context-bound nature as well as of formulations and definitions of the Sunna that Islamic fiqh invented during the seventh to the ninth centuries.
We have made it clear that Muhammad bin Abdallah was a human being. What made him different was his reception of divine revelation, as we hear in verse 110 of Surat Al-Kahf: Say: “I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the inspiration [wahy] has come to me… ( Al-Kahf 18:110.
Revelation came down to Muhammad complete in form and content, which means that he delivered it to his people exactly as he heard it. His great mission was to make it public, that is, to ‘unhide’ what was hidden and to make clear what was unclear. On this we hear the Book:
And remember God took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it… (al ‘Imran 3:187) Through his transmission of the divine text—and here we compare Muhammad to a conductor transmitting an electric current—the Prophet became a messenger of Allah. It was this mission that distinguished him from all the other prophets and messengers that humankind had seen before.
We learn that prophets and messengers who preceded Muhammad had been equipped with special gifts of miraculous power that they possessed independently from the messages they carried to the people. Muhammad’s mission as a prophet and messenger, in contrast, was solely authorized by Allah’s order to deliver the text of the divine revelations exactly as he heard it.
It is because of this mission that Allah asks the Muslim-Believers to be obedient to Muhammad as messenger (rasul ), not as prophet (nabi) or human being ( al-bashr al-insan). Why? Because obedience requires the impeccability of the one whom we obey, and Muhammad was not in any way impeccable either as human being or as prophet—only as messenger (within the boundaries that the Book stipulates). Numerous passages in the Book could be quoted to illustrate this truth.
As for the thorny problem of how to correctly follow Muhammad’s Sunna we conclude that we should emulate not his rules as such but the manner in which he harmonized with the Book the ‘becoming’ and ‘progressing’ of his society on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century. In other words, we should follow his model and also apply the divine rules but this time within the political-historical context of our own time.
He presents to us the first and most authentic model of how to transform the ‘being’ of-and-in-itself of the Book into concrete realities of society, state, family, and such, a model ijtihad which we have to emulate for our own times, the twenty-first century.
This insight allows us to conclude that Muhammad was a pragmatic leader who received the ‘absolute’ and applied it to the ‘particular’ of his time. As we have seen, he was certainly a wise man, but, as we have also seen, the wisdom of his Sunna was not derived from a divine source. This implies that our philosophical and theological knowledge, which should be anchored in divine knowledge, can only be derived from the Book alone.
It cannot come from the words and statements of Muhammad even if he was God’s most perfect Messenger. Only Allah alone, not His Messenger, should be the ultimate source of knowledge. Nor shall the words of his companions and contemporaries be the inspiration for contemporary thought.
Finally, let us assure the follower that we are committed to following the Sunna of the Prophet but only to the extent and degree we defined in this series. We are indeed willing to emulate the example of Muhammad but only within the parameters of a new Islamic jurisprudence that we propose in this volume.uman history.