Synopsis of third chapter of Approaching the Sunnah by Dr Yusuf al Qaradawi----must read---circulate to all friends who want to understand Sunnah
Dr. Qaradawi extensively deals with the issue of principles for correct understanding of the Sunnah in the third chapter which is the most important part of the book. He discussed here eight principles and offered many hadiths under each principle for the sake of elaboration and clarification. Fortunately this chapter of the book solves a lot of problems regarding understanding many hadiths and against which objections were raised by many quarters including the enemies and the orientalists.
These principles are:
Firstly, Understanding the Sunnah in the light of the Qur’an. It is because the Sunnah is the exposition of the Qur’an. That is why the sahīh, established Sunnah is not found to contradict the injunctions of the Qur’an. If people have supposed such contradiction to exist, then it must be a sunnah that is not sahīh, or the understanding of which is not sahīh, or it may be that the contradiction is not real but merely conjectured. Thus the hadith about the alleged ‘gharānīq’ is undoubtedly rebutted because it is contradictory to the Qur’an. Similarly the hadith about women – “Consult with them and then oppose them” – is invalid and false because it contradicts a verse of the Qur’an: ‘And if the two of them desire [to engage a wet-nurse] by mutual consent and consulting one another, then it is no sin for either of them” (al-Baqarah, 2: 233). Again if there is any apparent contradiction between the Qur’an and the Sunnah, then Qur’an should be preferred over the Sunnah. For example, the following hadiths – “There is no sadaqah on vegetables”, “The one burying alive and the one buried are [both] in the Fire”, “Indeed your father and my father are in the Fire”, are rejected or refrained away from because they contradict respectively the following Qur’anic verses – “…and yield up its due on the day of its harvesting” (al-An‘ām), “And when the infant girl buried alive is asked for what sin she was slain” (al-Takwīr, 81: 8-9), and “ And they are not punished until We have sent a messenger” (al-Isrā’, 17:15).
Secondly, gathering relevant [sahih] hadiths on a subject together and juxtaposing the ambiguous alongside the explicit, the absolute alongside the restricted, the general alongside the particularized with the objective of interpreting one with the other making the intended meaning plain and clear. For the example, the hadiths on wearing the izār (the lower garment) long where the treat against doing so is made severe, like the one narrated by Muslim on the authority of Abū Darr, “[There are] three to who God will not speak on the Day of Resurrection: the benefactor who does not give anything except as a favor; the quick profiteer whose commodity is [sold] by a lying oath; and the one who wears his izār long.” If all the relevant hadiths are put together is will be evident that the implication of this hadith is not general or absolute, but is restricted, as is clear from many hadiths, like the following one narrated by Muslim from Ibn Umar, “ I heard God’s Messenger, with these my two ears. Saying: ‘One who trails his izār not meaning by that [anything] but conceit, then indeed God will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection.’” Similarly, the hadith in al-Bukhārī that Abū Umāmah saw an implement of tillage (a plow) and said: “I heard God’s Messenger, saying: ‘This does not enter the house of a people except that God causes disgrace to enter it [also].’ ” Apparently the hadith portrays Islam to be averse to agriculture, which is also exploited by the Orientalists. Whereas if the relevant group of hadiths are put together, it will be plain that the aforementioned hadith is confined to a particular context, and that Islam simulates agriculture and cultivation and promises splendid virtues for this. Take for example the following hadith, “[There is] not one from the Muslims who plants a plant or sows a seed, then a bird eats from it, or a person, or a animal, except that there is from it an act of charity [recorded] for him.” Umar even asked a person who was in his death-bed to plant his land before death embraces him.
Thirdly, Dr. Qaradawi prefers reconciliation and combination (Tawfīq) between two apparent contradictory sahīh hadiths rather than recourse to preference (tarjīh). For example, the hadiths on restraining women from visiting the graveyards like the one – ‘God’s Messenger condemned women visitors (zawwārāt) to the graves’, and the hadiths on permitting them like the one – ‘I had forbidden you to visit graves, but [now I say:] visit them.’ This apparent contradiction between these two categories of hadiths may be resolved through combination and reconciliation that is that the ‘condemnation’ mentioned in the hadith – as al- Qurtubī said – as referring to over-frequent visiting, which is the connotation of (the intensive form of) al-zawwārāt, the expression used in the hadith. Similarly, the hadiths on ‘Azal (coitus interruptus): ‘From Jābir, he said, ‘We used to practice withdrawal with the knowledge of God’s Messenger, while the Qur’an was being revealed (agreed upon),’ and, Muslim and Ahmad narrated from Jābir, ‘Practice withdrawal from her if you wish. But indeed there would come to her what is decreed for her,’ and the hadith mentioned in Muslim and Ahmad that when the Prophet was asked about it he said, ‘That is a hidden [form of] burying alive, and she ‘When the infant girl buried alive shall ask…,’ and the hadith in Ahmad from Ibn Abbās, ‘He forbade withdrawal from a free woman except with her permission.’ It would appear from the group of hadiths cited that they demonstrate the acceptability of withdrawal. That is the position of the majority of jurists, except that one may not practice withdrawal from a free woman without her permission and consent in view of her right of enjoyment of the act. The author then discussed the issue of abrogation in hadiths and termed some people’s recourse to it hastily without much consideration. He then mentioned a statement of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī to clarify its policy: ‘Whenever it is feasible of two hadiths that they be acted upon together, let them be acted upon together, and [let] not one of the two be suspended [for] the other. If nothing is feasible of the two hadiths except [their] difference, then the difference in them [can be regarded from] two distinctions: (a) that one of the two [hadiths] is abrogating, and the other is abrogated, so one acts according to the abrogating, and one leaves the abrogated, (b) or that the two differ and there is no evidence as to which of the two is abrogating, and which is abrogated. In this case we are to go for one and leave the other when that one is stronger than the other, or that one is more established than the other, or more comfortable with the Book of Allah, …or what the greater number of the Companions of God’s Messenger were on.
Fourthly, the Sunnah is to be understood alongwith the causes, associations, and objectives of a given hadith. According to al-Qaradawi, as one is obligated to know the background of revelation for a proper understanding of the Qur’an, one is also required to know particular circumstances which the hadith text addresses. A penetrating observer will find that many hadiths are based upon particular reasons, or associated circumstances, or aimed to specific intentions. When one is equipped with these knowledge, one will not mix up between what is particular and what is general, what is temporal and what is eternal, what is partial and what is all-comprehensive. For example, the following hadiths: ‘You know better the affairs of your worldly life’, ‘I am quit of any Muslim who settles [among] the associationists,’ ‘A woman may not travel except a mahram is accompanying her,’ ‘The leaders are from the Quraysh.’ Many people misunderstood the hadiths whereas these are associated with certain reasons, circumstances and objectives. The first hadith is mistaken by many to be free license to formulate rules on the issues of economics, civic, and political duties, and the like, because these are of their worldly concerns, whereas these are related with a specific occasion/incident of the pollination of date-palm. Accordingly, the second hadith is mistaken by many to mean prohibition of settling in any non-Muslim country, whereas it is absolutely related to the obligation of Hijrah from the land of the Associationists to the Prophet in order to help him. The same is also applied for the third and the fourth hadiths. The Companions of the Prophet and their successors also investigated the underlying reasons and circumstances of the texts and acted accordingly. Different attitudes shown by the Prophet and the first two caliphs, and by ‘Uthmān, and ‘Ali towards ‘stray camels’ is a case in this regard. The Prophet and the first two caliphs ordered for leaving the stray camels alone in their ways, whereas ‘Uthmān ordered them to be sold and the price be given to the owners, and on the contrary, ‘Ali ordered them to be rounded up and kept safe for their owners. ‘Ali and ‘Uthmān did not in fact oppose the Prophet, but they looked at the purpose, that is protecting the owners from any eventual loss, and then they acted accordingly. The same is applied for the traditional measures of the prophetic period replaced by volume or weight in our time, the traditional two nisābs of gold and silver for calculating zakāt replaced by money in our days, and despite the hadiths on zakāt al-fitr to be given in between fajr and ‘Īd prayer, and to be given in foodstuffs, the ruling is now changed to be allowed to make the payment anytime before ‘Īd days and in money, etc.
Fifthly, one is to distinguish between changeable means and stable ends. Failing to do so is one of primary causes for confusion and error in the understanding of Sunnah. Some people focus their energy and concern upon the medicines, nutriments, herbs, grains, and other things to be Prophet’s prescribed medication for certain bodily diseases, whereas, Qaradawi thinks, these prescriptions and their like are not of the spirit of the Prophetic medicine, rather its spirit is preservation of the life and health of the human being. The same is applied to the hadiths – ‘The weight is the weight of the people of Makkah, and the measure is the measure of the people of Madinah’, and – ‘Fast upon sighting the crescent and stop fasting upon sighting it’. In the first hadith the Prophet prescribed the weight of Makkah and the measure of Madinah for the sake of standardization and unification with much more precision and because those were the most progressive in that era. Today we may use any other standard rather than those which will ensure the desired objectives. In the second hadith the Prophet prescribed such a method that is sighting the crescent with the eyes, which was practical and available to the majority of people, one that does not put extra hardship or impediment on them. Qaradawi says that today we have a better alternative at our disposal which is the use of definitive mathematical and astronomical calculation and it will better realize the objective of the hadith remaining further from erroneous interpretation or conjecture or falsehood in determining the opening and end of the month.
Sixthly, distinction should be made between literal and figurative expressions in the hadiths. The author says that in Arabic there is plentitude of figurative expressions. Being the most expressive in spoken Arabic, the Prophet also made extensive figurative expressions. Some of these figurative expressions convey information while some other conveys injunctions. Thus a distinction is to be demarcated between these two, failing which made some people even in our time prone to prescribe the forbidden and vice versa, making the supererogatory obligatory and vice versa. Dr. Qaradawi says that closing the door to figurative expression in understanding the hadiths has led to many contemporary misunderstandings of the Sunnah by Muslims and non-Muslims. According to Qaradawi, the following hadiths which were exploited by the enemies to trivialize and vilify Islam are to be understood figuratively: - ‘The Black Stone is from the Garden’, ‘Know that the Garden is under the shade of the sword’, ‘The Nile and the Euphrates are from the Garden’. Similarly, the author warns against latitude in leaving the literal meaning. For example, the hadiths on Anti-Christ (Masīh al-Dajjāl) are interpreted by some people to symbolize the now dominant Western civilization.
Seventhly, a proper distinction is to be made between the Unseen and the Visible. The hadiths contains information regarding the Seen and the Unseen world. Qaradawi says that the affairs of the Unseen world should not be interpreted on the basis of the Seen worldly affairs. This is where the Mu‘tazilis, the so-called school of rational theology, stumbled.
Finally, Dr. Qaradawi suggests that the Sunnah is to be understood in most of the cases in light with the lexical meanings of the words in which the Sunanh has come. For words surely change in their connotations from one epoch to another, which is known to every student of the evolutions of language and vocabularies. Thus people should not read current terms into old texts. A pertinent word in this case is taswīr (image) which has come in many sahīh hadiths and about those who make image (musawwir) the Prophet threatened them with the severest torment. According to Qaradawi, many people preoccupied with hadiths and fiqh include under the category of musawwir the so-called operators of the electronic device called ‘the camera’ in our age. These people tend to forget that ‘copying a form’ (shakl) through a device is quite different from ‘making/curbing an image’ (taswīr), and that the Arabs did not coin the word taswīr to mean this.
In conclusion, through this short synopsis on this great book of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi I would love to urge every one including the general Muslims and the Islamic scholars, educationists and intellectuals to study the book. In this epoch of human civilization when the attack on Islam is all-round and all-comprehensive, especially centering the Sunnah of the Prophet, this book will help us a great deal to understand the Sunnah, to resolve the cotemporary crises, and to rebut the machinations and false propaganda made by the internmokhteral and external enemies against Islam, especially, against the Sunnah of the Prophet.
via Facebook status of Jonab Shah Abdul Hannan, former Secretary of Bangladesh Government.