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On the Obligation to Accept the Authority of the Prophet

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Imam Ash-Shaafi`ee

God's Command Ordering Obedience to the Apostle Is Both Associated with Obedience to Him and Ordered Independently

88. [Shafi`i said]: God said:

When God and His Apostle have decreed a matter, it is not for a believing man or a woman to exercise a choice in a matter affecting him; whoever opposes God and His Apostle has deviated into manifest error [Q. XXXIII, 36].

And He said:

O you who believe, obey God and obey the Apostle and those in authority among you. If you should quarrel about anything, refer it to God and the Apostle, if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is better and fairer in the issue [Q. IV, 62].

Some scholars have held that " those in authority " [means] the commanders of the Apostle's army. That is what more than one commentator has told us. But God knows best [Tabari adds that it may mean the leaders in matters of religion and law. See Tabari, Tafsir, Vol. VIII, pp. 495-504; Baydawi, p. 115.].

This is in accord with what [God] said, for the Arabs who had been around Makka knew nothing about command, and [the idea of] some submitting to the command of others was repugnant to them.

When, however, they submitted to [the authority of] the Apostle, they did not think that [such an authority] was fit to reside in any hands other than the Apostle's.

So they were commanded to obey "those in authority"- the ones whom the Apostle appointed, with conditional but not absolute obedience, concerning their rights and duties. However, [God] said: " If you should quarrel about anything, refer it to God," that is, in the event of disagreement.

89. Shafi`i said: [Bulaq ed., p 14.] This [i. e., the meaning implied in the latter command] is, if God will, as He said about " those in authority," namely, that " If you should quarrel " (but God knows best), they [the people] and the commander whom they were ordered to obey-should " refer it to God and the Apostle " for a settlement on the basis of what God and His Apostle said, if they know it. If you do not know what God's commands are, you should ask the Apostle, if you are able to reach him, [Tabari, Tafsir, Vol. VIII, pp. 504-505.] or any one of you who is able to do so. For this is an obligation concerning which there should be no disagreement, in accordance with God's saying:

When God and His Apostle have decreed a certain matter, it is not for a believing man or a woman to have a choice in a matter affecting him [Q. XXXIII, 36]. [See Baydawi, p. 558.

As to the disputes that happened after the Apostle's [death], the matter was decided in accordance with God's judgment [as laid down in the Quran] and then that of His Apostle [as laid down in the sunna]. But if a text were not applicable, the matter was decided by analogy on the strength of a precedent sought [either in the Qur'aan or the sunna] in the same manner as I have [already] explained concerning the qibla, [witnesses of] just character, equal compensation, and whatever God has prescribed in parallel cases. For He said:

Those who obey God and the Apostle are with the prophets and the veracious and the martyrs and the upright upon whom God has bestowed favor. Good company are these [Q. IV, 71].

And He said:

O you who have believed, obey God and His Apostle [Q. VIII, 20].

God's Command Ordering Obedience to His Apostle

God's Command Ordering Obedience to His Apostle

90. [Shafi'i said]: God, glorious be His praise, said:

Verily, those who swear allegiance to thee swear allegiance really to God; the hand of God is above their hands. So whoever breaks his oath, breaks it only to his own hurt, and to him who fulfills what he has pledged to God, He will grant a great reward [Q. XLVIII, 10].

And He said:

Whoever obeys the Apostle has obeyed God [Q. IV, 82].So God instructed [men] that their homage to the Apostle is homage to Him, and their obedience [to him] is obedience to Him.

And He said:

But no! by thy Lord, they will not become believers until they make thee judge in their disputes and do not afterwards find difficulty in Thy decisions, but surrender in full submission [Q. IV, 68].

This verse, we have been told, was revealed in connection with a land dispute between al-Zubayr and another man in which the Prophet gave a decision in favor of al-Zubayr. This decision is a sunna laid down by the Apostle, not a command in the text of the Qur'an.

[Translator's Note: Yahya b. Adam, in Kitab al-Kharaj, reports the case as follows: "One of the Helpers from among the Banu Umayya had a dispute with al" Zubayr concerning a creek (sharj) in the harra, and the Prophet said: Irrigate, O Zubayr, and then leave the water alone. Said the man of the Banu Umayya: Justice, O Prophet, even though he is the son of your aunts And the face of the Prophet changed so that the man knew that what he had said had hurt the prophet. Then the Prophet said: O Zubayr Shut off the water till it reaches the height of two ankles - or he said: -[till it] reaches the fence - and then let the water flow. It was revealed [then]-or he said: recited-: No, by thy Lord, they do not believe until they make thee judge in the tangles . . ." [Q. IV, 68]. Yahya b. Adam, Kitab al-Kharaj, ed.. A. M. Shakir (Cairo, 1347/1929), pp. 106-107; English translation by A. Ben Shemesh, entitled Taxation In Islam (Leiden, 1958), p.. 74. See also Tabari, Tafsir, Vol. VIII, pp. 519-23.]

The Qur'an indicates what I have just stated; for if this decision were a Quranic decision, it should have been prescribed in the text of the Book of God.

But if men fail to accept a decision based on a clear text of the Book of God, they undoubtedly cease to be believers, for they are rejecting a decision based on divine legislation. For God, Blessed and Most High, said:

Do not put the Apostle's calling on you for aid on the same footing amongst you as your calling on each other. God knowsthose of you who slip away secretly, so let those who go against His command beware lest a trial befall them, or a painful punishment [Q. XXIV, 63].

And He said:

When they are called to God and to His Apostle that he may judge between them, lo, a party of them avert themselves. But if they are in the right, they will come to him in submission.

Is there sickness in their hearts, or are they in doubt, or do they fear that God and His Apostle may act unjustly towards them. Nay, but they are the evildoers.

All that the believers said when they were called to God and His Apostle that he might judge between them was: 'We hear and obey.' These are the ones who prosper.

Whoever obeys God and His Apostle, and fears God and shows piety - these are the ones who attain felicity [Q. XXIV, 47-51].

Through this communication, God instructed men that their recourse to the Apostle to judge among them is a recourse to God's judgment, for the Apostle is the judge among them, and when they accept his judgment they do so only because of an obligation imposed by God.

And He instructed them that the [Prophet's] judgment is His judgment, for his judgment is imposed by Him and by His established knowledge - rendering him a man of destiny and assisting him by preserving him from error and [worldly] success - and by testifying that He guides him and causes him se; to obey His order.

So God imposed the obligation upon His creatures to obey His Apostle, and He instructed them that [obedience] to him is obedience to Him.The sum-total of what He instructed them is the duty to obey Him and His Apostle, and that obedience to the Apostle is obedience to Him. He [also] instructed them that He imposed the duty on His Apostle to obey His order, Glorious be His praise.

The Obligation Clear by God to His Creatures

The Obligation Clear by God to His Creatures That He Imposed upon His Apostle to Follow What He Revealed to Him, and What He Testified to of His Obeying His Commands, His Guidance, and That He Is the Guide of Any Who Follow Him

91. Shafi`i said: God, Glorious be His praise, said to His Prophet:

O Prophet, fear God, and obey not the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Verily God is All-knowing, All-wise. But follow what is revealed to thee from thy Lord. Verily God is aware of the things you do [Q. XXXIII, 1-2].

And He said:

Follow what has been revealed unto thee from thy Lord - there is no god but Him - and turn thou away from the polytheists [Q. VI, 106].

And He said:

Then we set thee upon an open way of the Law; therefore follow it, and follow not the whims of those who do not know [Q. XLV, 17].

So God instructed His Apostle that He has favored him with His established knowledge and that he will preserve him from mankind, for He said:

O thou Apostle, proclaim what is sent down to thee from thy Lord - if thou do it not thou hast not delivered His message - and God will defend thee from the people [Q. V, 71]. [See Tabari, Tafsir Vol. X, pp. 467-72. Previously the Prophet was safeguarded by a few of his followers.]

92. Shafi`i said: [Bulaq ea., p. 15] And [He], glorious be His praise, certified [the Prophet's] firm belief in what He commanded him, and in Guidance to himself and to whoever follows him. For He said:

Thus We have revealed to thee a spirit belonging to Our affair. Thou didst not know what either the Book or the Faith were. But We have made it a light by which We guide whoever We please of Our servants, and verily thou shalt guide unto a straight path [Q. XLII, 52].

And He said:

Had it not been for the bounty and mercy of God toward thee, a party of them would have proposed to lead thee astray; but they lead only themselves astray; they do not hurt thee at all. God has sent down to thee the Book and the Wisdom, and He has taught thee what thou didst not know; God's bounty to thee is ever great [Q. IV, 113].

Thus God declared that He commanded His Prophet to obey His order, and certified what he proclaimed on His behalf as well as what he certified for himself. [Tabari, Tafsir Vol. IX, pp. 199-201; Baydawi, pp. 126-27.] We [also] certify for him in order to draw near to God by our belief in Him, and we make entreaties to Him by belief in His words. [For] `Abd al`Aziz [b. Muh.ammad al-Darawardi] told us from `Amr b. Abi `Amr - the freed slave of al-Muttalib- from al-Muttalib b. Hantab that the Apostle of God said:

I have left nothing concerning which God has given you an order without giving you that order; nor have I neglected anything concerning which He has given you a prohibition without giving you that prohibition. [Al-Suyuti al-Jaami al-Saghir (Cairo, 1352/1933)]

93. Shafi`i said: What God has informed us of in His established knowledge and in His final and irrevocable judgment- a favor and a blessing from Him - is that He prevented those who attempted to lead [the Prophet] astray, and informed him that they could not hurt him at all.

In certifying that [the Prophet] guides mankind along a straight-forward path - the path of God - and that he delivers His message and obeys His commands - as we have stated before - and in ordering obedience to him and in emphasizing all [of this] in the [divine] communications just cited - God has given evidence to mankind that they should accept the judgment of the Apostle and obey his orders.

94. Shafi`i said: Whatever the Apostle has decreed that is not based on any [textual] command from God, he has done so by God's command. So God instructed us in His saying:

And verily thou wilt guide [mankind] to a straight path, the pathof God [Q. XLII, 52-53].

For the Apostle has laid down a sunna [on matters] for which there is a text in the Book of God as well as for others concerning which there is no [specific] text. But whatever he laid down in the sunna God has ordered us to obey, and He regards [our] obedience to him as obedience to Him, and [our] refusal to obey him as disobedience to Him for which no man will be forgiven; nor is an excuse for failure to obey the Apostle's sunna possible owing to what I have already stated and to what the Apostle [himself] has said:

Sufyan [b. 'Uyayna] told us from Salim Abu al-Nadr - a freed slave of 'Umar b . 'Ubayd-Allah-who heard 'U bayd-Allah b. Abi Rafi' relate from his father that the Apostle had said:

Let me find no one of you reclining on his couch and whenconfronted with an order of permission or prohibition from me,say: ' I do not know [whether this is obligatory or not]; we will follow only what we find in the Book of God.'

[Abu Dawud, Vol. IV, p. 200. This tradition is followed by a statement, paragraph 296 (Shakir's edition), which reads: "Sufyan [b. Uyayna] said: ' [This hadith] was related to me by Muhammad b. al-Munkadir, who transmitted it from the Prophet without citing the names of [other] authorities." such a tradition, lacking the names of other transmitters, is called hadith mursal. Shafi'i, however, seems to have depended on the authority of 'Ubayd-Allah b. Rafi', the son of Abu Rafi', a freed slave of the Prophet, who transmitted the tradition from his father (See Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, Vol. I, p. 488).]

95. Shafi`i said: [Bulaq ed., p. 16] The sunnas of the Apostle together with the [communications of the] Book of God fall in two categories: First, for every textual [communication] in the Book the Apostle laid down [a similar sunna] in conformity with divine communication. Second, for any [ambiguous] command the Apostle laid down on God's behalf [a sunna] clarifying the meaning implied by God and specifying what [kind of] duty God imposed, whether general or particular, and how man should carry it out. In both categories [the Prophet] followed the Book of God.

96. [Shafi`i] said: I know of no scholar who does not agree that the sunna of the Prophet falls in three categories, two of which were agreed upon unanimously. These two categories agree [on certain matters] and differ [on others].

First, for whatever acts there is textual [legislation] provided by God in the Book, the Apostle [merely] specified clearly what is in the text of the Book. Second, as to any [ambiguous] communication in the Book laid down by God, [the Prophet] specified the meaning implied by Him. These are the two categories on which scholars do not disagree.

The third category consists of what the Apostle has laid down in the sunna and concerning which there is no text in the Book.

97. Some [scholars] have said: God empowered [the Prophet], by virtue of the duty He imposed [on mankind] to obey Him and his success in obtaining [God's] approval in accordance with His established knowledge, to provide sunnas [for matters] on which there is no text in the Book. Others said: No sunna was ever laid down [by the Prophet] unless there was a basis [Literally: ' Foundation,', i. e., a fundamental principle or a precedent] for it in the Book, such as the sunna which specified the number of prayers [each day] and [the modes of] their performance, based on the general duty of prayer. In like manner, [tile Prophet] laid down sunnas dealing with sale [of property], as well as others. For God said:

Do not consume your property among you uselessly [Q. IV, 33].And He said:God has permitted sale and forbidden usury [Q. II, 277].

Whatever God has provided by [way of] permission or prohibition, he has specified on God's behalf as he did in [the case of the duty of] prayer.

Others said: [The Prophet] received a message from God confirming the sunna by a command from Him.

Still others said: [The Prophet] was inspired with all that he had laid down. The sunna is [divine] Wisdom inspired by God, and so whatever He inspired him with [constitutes] sunna. [For] `Abd al-'Azlz [b. Muhammad al-Darawardi] told us from 'Amr b. Abi 'Amr from al-Muttalib, who related that the Prophet said:

The trustworthy spirit [Gabriel] has inspired me [with the thought] that no soul will ever die until it will receive its full provision. Be, therefore, moderate in your request. [See note 13, above.]

98. Shafi`i said: [Bulaq, ed., p. 16] Among the things with which [the Prophet] was inspired is his sunna. This [sunna] is the Wisdom which God mentioned [in His Book], and whatever He sent down to him is a Book - the Book of God - all of these have been given to him as favors from God and by His will. These favors are either embodied in one Favor [I.e., the Message] or take different forms. We pray God for protection from error and success.

In whatever form it may take, God made it clear that He imposed the duty of obedience to His Apostle, and has given none of mankind an excuse to reject any order he knows to be the order of the Apostle of God. God has rather made men have need for him in [all matters of] religion and He has given the proof for it by providing that the sunna of the Apostle make clear the meanings of the duties laid down in His Book, so that it might be known that the sunna - whether in the form specifying the meaning of God's commands as provided in the text of the Book which they can read or in the form of legislation in the absence of such a text - in either form represents God's command and is in [full] agreement with that of His Apostle; both are [equally] binding in all circumstances. This has been confirmed by the Apostle in the tradition of Abu Rafi` which has already been cited. [See note 15, above.]

99. Shafi`i said: [Bulaq ed., p.16] I shall explain what I have already said about the sunna, [whether] it specifies the Book of God or provides [additional legislation] for matters on which there is no text in the Book, such examples as may clarify the meaning of the subject that was discussed.

The first one I take up will be [a discussion] on the sunna based on the Book of God. I shall discuss by means of istidlal (deductive reasoning) the sunna relating to the subject of the nasikh (abrogating) and the mansukh (abrogated) passages in the Book of God. Next, [I shall] state the duties provided in the text [of the Book] and the sunna which the Apostle has laid down on the basis of the Book; the general duties which the Apostle specified for its modes and its times of fulfillment; next, the general [commands] which were intended to be general and the general [commands] which were intended to be particular; and [finally] the sunna [of the Prophet] for which there is no text in the Book.

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