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Sources Of Islamic Law Sunnah Notes

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Sources of Islamic law Professor Kamali 'principles of Islamic jurisprudence': THE SUNNAH

* Sunnah means clear path or established course of conduct. Can be good or bad and

set by individual or sect or community.

* Pre-Islamic Arabia Arabs used it in reference to ancient practices of community from

their forefathers.

* Opposite of Sunnah is bid'ah or innovation, by lack of precedent and continuity in the


* Sunnah is all that is narrated from the Prophet, his acts, his sayings whatever he has

approved, also his physical attributes and character.

* Ulema of jurisprudence exclude the physical attributes.

* Uswah hasanah (excellent conduct) in al-Ahzab (33:21) refers to the conduct of the


* When Prophet sent Mu'adh b. Jabal as a judge in Yemen and he was asked about the

sources for his decisions he said the Book of Allah, and then the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah.

* I leave you two things - the Book of Allah and my Sunnah, you shall not go astray so long as you hold onto them.

* Evidence to suggest that the Sunnah of the Prophet was introduced in legal theory towards the end of the first century. The term occurs in letters addressed to the Umayyad ruler by the Kharijite leader Abd Allah b Ibad and al-Hasan al-Basri. But this could mean that this is the only record of it and doesn't prove that the terminology wasn't used before then.

* Used to be used for the practice of the community and precedent of the Companions but al=Shafi'i tried to restrict it to the Prophet alone during the late second century.

* Ulema discourage saying the Sunnah of the Companions etc and it should be reserved for the Prophet.

* Variety of opinions as a Hadith says you are to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided caliphs. Al-Shawkani says the Prophet used Sunnah as a substitute for tariqah or the way that his Companions had shown. Prophet might not have used Sunnah in the exclusive sense that ulema later attempted to attach it to.

* Juristic usage - Sunnah meant different things. Ulema of usul al-fiqh, Sunnah is a source of Shariah and legal proof next to the Quran. Ulema of fiqh, Sunnah refers to things which are mandub.

* Sunnah can authorise and create not only mandub but also wajib, haram, makruh and mubah.

* Sunnah and Hadith have two different meanings. Hadith is narrative, communication or news of factual account of an event.

* Sunnah is the example or the law that is deduced from it.

* Sunnah must always be derived from genuine Hadiths - al Shafi'i. Proof-Value (Hujjiyyah) of Sunnah

* Words of the Prophet are divinely inspired - as Quran tells - al- Najm 53:3.

* Proof of authenticity may be definitive (qat'i) or amount to a preferable opinion (al-

zann al-rajih).

* All rulings of the Prophet constitute binding law, especially ones which correspond

with the Quran.

* Quran speaks of obedience to the Prophet and the duty of believers to submit his

judgement and his authority without question.

* Al-Hasr (59:7) - And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he

forbids you, abstain from it.

* Al-Nisa (4:58-59) - Obey God and obey the Messenger and those who are in charge of

affairs among you. Should you happen to dispute over something, then refer it to God and to the Messenger.

* Al-Nisa (4:80) - Whoever obeys the messenger verily obeys God.

* If Quran and Sunnah have dictated something, it is not on the believers to make their own choice. Al-Ahzab (33:36) - Whenever God and His Messenger have decided a matter it is not for a faithful man or woman to follow another course of his or her own choice. Classification and value

* Two most commonly accepted criteria for classification are subject matter ( matn) and

the manner of its transmission (isnad).

* Sunnah is of three types - verbal (qawli), actual (fi'li) and tacitly approved (taqriri).

* Verbal was the sayings of the Prophet, like livestock is liable to zakah.

* Actual sunnah was his deeds and actual instructions, like how he performed salah,

fasting, rituals of hajj, giving loans etc.

* Tacitly approved was acts and sayings of the Companions which the Prophet

approved of. Approval could be inferred from silence or lack of disapproval. E.g two Companions on a journey and couldn't find water so did wudhu by wiping hands, feet and face with clean sand. When they found water one performed prayer again and one didn't. Prophet approved of both courses of action - Sunnah taqririya.

* Bulk of Sunnah can be divided into legal and non legal.

* Non legal was rituals activities of the Prophet, like how he slept, ate, dressed etc.

* Matters like strategy of war are seen to be situational and not part of the Shariah.

* Certain activities can fall between legal and non legal. E.g Prophet kept his beard at a certain length and trimmed his moustache. Most say this is an example to be followed, but some have said this was the practice of the Arabs to prevent them from resembling Jews and some non-Arabs.

* Prophet used to go to 'id prayers by one route and return by another. Shafi'i jurists prefer mandub in such acts whereas Hanafis consider them as mubah.

* Legal Sunnah consists of the exemplary conduct of the Prophet. Can be divided into three types: in his capacity as Messenger of God, as the Head of State or imam or in his capacity as a judge.

* In his capacity as Messenger he laid down rules which are complementary to the Quran but also established rules which the Quran is silent. Sunnah has clarification of the ambiguous (mujmal) parts or specifies the general and absolute contents of the Quran.

* Difficult to know which of the three the Prophet was acted in. Main area of disagreement.

* Inquiries of this nature help to find the value of the Sunnah in question.

* If it is obligatory in the Quran then it would have the same value in the Sunnah. E.g salah is wajib and his acts of salah on the occasion of solar and lunar eclipse would be mandub.

* Sunnah can give clear indication of wajib, mandub or permissible.

* Subject matter of Sunnah can also have indication of its value. E.g salahs without adhans (id prayer or salat al istisqa).

* If no verification is possible then you must look at the intention behind its enactment.

* If a Prophetic act is to seek the pleasure of God then it is mandub, or wajib. If the intention can't be found then it is still mandub or wajib but is open to ijtihad and interpretation.

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