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MuhammedAli

Establishing Literal Understanding Of Prophetic Words From Hadith Of Ijtihad And Its Impact On Hadith Of Good/bad Sunnah.

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Introduction:

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) has reportedly stated, one who introduces into Islam a good Sunnah he/she will be rewarded and those who act on this good Sunnah will also receive equal reward, Hadith: “He who introduced some good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] From the literal reading of the words of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) it is clear that it is permissible to introduce into Islam good Sunnahs/Biddahs and to follow them. If it was impermissible to introduce good Sunnahs/Biddahs into Islam then Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) would not have told of reward. The Muslims believe the literal implications of this Hadith and accept all interpretations that can be derived according to historical context. Prophetic teaching is that Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) has been granted ‘Jawami Al Kalim’ meaning the ability to express vast meanings in few sentences. Hence the multiple interpretations of this Hadith are in agreement with this nature of prophetic words hence all are valid. Now, the opponents of religion of Islam argue against the literal implications and interpret the Hadith in historical context in order to negate the understanding of Muslims. Their understanding is; in a gathering where people are reluctant to give charity, one who gives charity and those who follow his example all will receive equal reward. Readers should note, this is article is continuation of response given to brother Sa’id Imtiaz, here and here.

Evidence For Validity Of Holding To Literal Meaning Of Prophetic Words:

Hadith records Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) gave following instruction to a group of Sahabah after returning from the battle of Al Ahzab: “None of you Muslims should offer the Asr prayer but at Banu Quraiza's place.” While they were travelling toward the tribe of Quraiza the Hadith records: “The Asr prayer became due for some of them on the way.” This divided the companions into two groups, one group said: “We will not offer it till we reach it, the place of Banu Quraiza.” While the other group said: “No, we will pray at this spot, for the Prophet did not mean that for us.” The Hadith goes on to record that the difference of opinion was brought to attention of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) who did not rebuke either group: “Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not berate any of the two groups.” [Ref: Bukhari, B59, H445]

Position Of Both Group Of Companions On This Matter:

The first group acted on the literal instructions of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) and did not perform Asr prayer. They second group of companions via Ijtihad came to conclusion that Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) was not preventing them from performing Asr prayer on the way but he was instructing them to travel quickly and reach the destination before Asr prayer and then perform the Asr prayer. So they realized they will not reach destination before the Asr prayer time expires and worship of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is more important then reaching a destination quickly hence they decided to perform the prayers on the way: “… (Some) people being afraid that the time for prayer would expire, said their prayers before reaching the street of Banu Quraiza.” [Ref: Muslim, B19, H4374] The other group they said: “We will not offer it till we reach it, the place of Banu Quraiza.” [Ref: Bukhari, B59, H445] “We will not say our prayer except where the Messenger of Allah has ordered us to say it even if the time expires.” [Ref: Muslim, B19, H4374] This establishes one group of companions held to literal instructions and made no Ijtihad hence did not perform prayers on the way to destination and also establishes one group of companions did engage in Ijtihad and performed prayers on the way to said destination.

Reaction Of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) To This Difference:

Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim record the following words regarding this difference of opinion between the companions: ”When he learned of the difference in the view of the two groups of the people, the Messenger of Allah did not blame anyone from the two groups.” [Ref: Muslim, B19, H4374] “Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not berate any of the two groups.” [Ref: Bukhari, B59, H445] Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) not correcting any group indicates both groups of companions were correct in their approach because Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is reported to have said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, and he is able to change it with his hand, then change it with his hand (by taking action); if he cannot, (do so) with his tongue then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot then with his heart (by hating it and feeling that it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith.” [Ref: Ibn Majah, B5, H1275] Disobedience to command of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is form of Munkir (i.e. evil/wrong) hence Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) would have clearly pointed out the error of Ijtihad if there was any. Therefore the conclusion both groups were correct in their understanding is established.

The Principle Derived From Incident Of Banu Quraiza:

From this historical event it is established; literal implications of prophetic words and interpreted implications derived using tool of Ijtihad are both be correct. If any of the two interpretations of prophetic words was in contradiction with Prophet’s (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) teaching he would have corrected the wrong party. An important point, both groups were correct hence Prophet’s (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) methodology is of literal and reinterpretation.

Hadith Of Good Sunnah In Light Of Approved Methodologies:

Understanding the prophetic words literally and acting upon them as Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) instructed is established. Also reinterpreting the words of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) in light of other evidence is also established. The following prophetic words now can be understood according Prophet’s (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) approved methodologies: “He who introduced some good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] The literal reading of Hadith establishes reward for introducing good Sunnahs/Biddahs into Islam and which is akin to establishing permissibility of introducing good Sunnahs/Biddah into Islam. The reinterpreting methodology establishes reward for engaging in prophetic Sunnahs which people are reluctant to practice and this is akin to granting permission for engaging in prophetic Sunnahs which people are reluctant to engage.

Conclusion:

Prophetic words are according to ‘Jawami Al Kalim’ nature hence they can be interpreted differently depending on the evidence. From the Hadith of Bani Quraiza it was deduced that Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) approved the actions of two groups of companions who differed over the meaning of prophetic words. One group held to the literal meaning of words while the other reinterpreted the words and came to different understanding. As a result one group did not perform their prayers until they reached their destination while the other performed it on the way to destination. In context of objective of this article it is important to point out; the Muslims in regards to the Hadith of good Sunnah hold to the literal meaning and consider it permissible to create good Sunnah/Biddahs and introduce them into Islam with hope of gaining reward from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), while accepting the interpretation presented by opponents of Islam. It is important to point out, we the Muslims accept the interpretation of Hadith in discussion but not their understanding of; it is not permitted to introduce good innovations into Islam.

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