Lecture 3 in the Jumuah series: UNPACKING THE QURAN-CENTRIC SCHOOL OF THOUGHT By Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on Friday 21 July 2017 (19 Shawaal 1438) at the Ahlulbait (as) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town.
After imploring Almighty Allah (swt) to send his most choicest of blessings upon Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) and his immaculate Ahlulbait (as), we continue the discussion as to whether the role of the Holy Messenger (SAWA) has importance in practicing Islam today.
Before we delve further into this topic, a brief recap of what has been established thus far is necessary:
1. According to the Quranic verses quoted previously, one of the prime responsibilities of the Prophet (SAWA) is Tabligh – propagation of the divine message to the people.
2. The essential point to understand is that Tabligh is not a duty that has been delegated in isolation. Rather, the Prophet (SAWA) has been commanded to practice Tabyeen (interpretation) in addition to communicating the message.
TABYEEN OF THE PROPHET (SAWA) IS GUARANTEED BY ALLAH (SWT)
The interpretation of the Nabi (SAWA) has been guaranteed by Allah (swt) to be free from all forms of error as in the Quran it states (53:2-4)
مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَی
“Indeed, your companion [Prophet Muhammad (S)] has neither gone astray nor has erred .
وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَی
Nor does he speak of concupiscent desire.
إِنْ هُوَ إِلاّ وَحْيٌ يُوحَی
His word is only a Revelation revealed to him.”
عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَی
“He has been taught [Divine Revelation, namely the Holy Qur’an] by the One intense in strength”
Some exegetes have interpreted this to mean that what is “revealed to him” in the ayah refers to the Quran only, and besides this the Prophet’s (SAWA) words and actions are not protected per these verses.
The proof of this lies in “Shadeedul Quwaa” whom they have interpreted to be Jibraeel (as), and since Jibraeel (as) only reveals the Quran to the Prophet (SAWA), therefore what the Prophet (SAWA) says out of revelation is the Quran. Based on this reasoning, the Quran is what is free from error, not the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAWA).
The response to this query is given in two forms, firstly by analysing the latter verses which follow in Surah Najm:
“Then he approached and came closer,
فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أوْ أدْنَی
And was at a distance of two bows length or closer.
فَأوْحَی إِلَی عَبْدِهِ مَا أوْحَی
Therefore, [Allah] revealed unto His servant whatever He revealed.”
The verses which follow continue to use the same grammar in the form of third person, indicating that the “He” referred to in all of these verses is the same being. The final ayah which explicitly uses the word “reveal” specifies that the Quran is talking about Allah (swt) himself, as He is the only One responsible for sending divine revelation.
Furthermore, the use of the ‘Abd’ (slave) is a clear indication that Jibraeel (as) was not involved in this interaction whatsoever, but it was rather Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) that was brought to that degree of spiritual proximity. From this we deduce that Shadeedul Quwaa must be Allah (swt) himself, as it is in complete agreement with the verses that follow (as mentioned above).
IS JIBRAIL THE TEACHER OF THE BEST OF CREATIONS?
Another issue of interpreting Shadeedul Quwaa as Jibraeel (as) is that not only is he occupying a higher status than the Prophet (SAWA), but in fact is his teacher! This viewpoint is in contradiction with numerous verses of the Quran in which Allah (swt) establishes the Prophet’s (SAW) superiority over all of creation.
In light of the Quran, the status of even human beings is above angels – yet it is claimed that an angel teaches the best of human beings?
Based upon this understanding, it is therefore only Allah (swt) that can be considered to hold the title of Shadeedul Quwaa.
Another important point to note:
Numerous exegetes have likely interpreted Shadeedul Quwaa to be Jibraeel (as) since the succeeding verses speak about a closeness or proximity that is impossible in case of Allah (swt).
In fact, the proximity that is spoken about in this verse is not physical – it is an inner intuition (shuhud -batini).
Once a man had asked Imam Ali (as): “Did you ever see God?” Imam (as) responded by saying: “How can I worship a God I have never seen? I have seen, but I did not see with my physical eyes.” This response of Imam (as) points towards the same reality that the Quran speaks about – witnessing Allah (swt) with the eyes of the heart.
WHERE IS THE TAFSIR OF THE PROPHET (SAWA)?
If we believe that Tabyeen (interpretation) is the prime responsibility of the Prophet (SAWA), then why don’t we find prophetic tafsir of every single surah and verse being recorded from him?
The response to this lies in our conventional understanding of Tafsir. Today Tafsir is a science that has been developed over the centuries where it is the formal explanation of the Quran verse by verse.
However, when we refer to the Tafsir of the Prophet (SAWA), we mean it in a much more broader sense.
The Prophet (SAWA) is a manifestation of Quranic principles and values. Sometimes by his words he explains different verses of Quran, and other times his character and interaction with this world explains the spirit of Quran.
For example, the Quran speaks about ibadaat and demands us to perform them. However, it is the Prophetic Sunnah which expands and explains the details of that ibadaat.
The Quran commands us to establish Salaah, which literally translates to just dua (prayer) – but it is the Prophet (SAWA) who gives us the commonly understood particular format of prayer. As it is recorded from him saying “Pray like you have seen me praying”.
Another classic example is that of Zakah. Zakah literally means “purification.” So the Quran is instructing the believers to purify their assets – in what manner? Who will explain that explicit method that Allah (swt) wants them to adhere by?
The final example, although there are numerous others, is that of Hajj. Hajj in Arabic translates to “Intention.” Does this mean we should merely make an intention to visit the house of Allah (swt), and the obligation has been completed?
Sometimes it is argued that the genuine Sunnah of the Prophet (SAWA) is the Quran itself. Although this is true, the Quran calls the Prophet (SAWA) the carrier of Khuluqin Atheem (exalted character) and Rahmatan Lil Alameen (divine universal mercy) – the implications of these noble titles can only be found within the recorded Sunnah. These are all different examples of Prophetic Tafsir.
Furthermore – if we take a Shi’i approach, – the interpretation of the Imams of the Ahlulbait (as) becomes part of the Prophetic interpretations which results in an abundance of available Tafasir. From a Shia theological perspective, ahadith recorded from Ahlulbait (as) are in fact the ahadith of the Prophet (SAWA) either in terms of meaning or words.
COMMAND TO OBEY THE PROPHET (SAWA)
Another set of verses of Quran which authenticate the Sunnah in our understanding of Allah’s (swt) Deen are verses of obedience.
In more than 12 ayahs, the Quran highlights obedience to the Prophet (SAWA) after Almighty Allah’s (swt) obedience.
The Quran in Surah Nisaa verse 59:
أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ
“Obey Allah and obey the Messenger”.
In principle, there is no difference between the obedience of Allah (swt) and the Prophet (SAWA) as Prophet’s (SAWA) obedience is also the command Allah (swt).
So the question is if the obedience of the Prophet (SAWA) and Allah (swt) is one and the same, then there should be no reason to distinguish a difference between their authorities, as the Quranic verse has evidently done so. By repeating the word “obey”, it signifies a difference in the kind of servitude offered to Nabi Muhammad (SAWA), and this servitude can only be carried out by obeying the Sunnah.
If the words and actions of the Prophet (SAWA) ought not be followed, then the Quran would not have made such a distinguished obligation on the believers.
In addition to the above, the Quran in the following verse explicitly declares us to accept what the Prophet (SAWA) has prescribed:
وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ
“And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain [from it] and fear Allah.” (59:7)
In this instance, Allah (swt) does not place any limitation or condition in accepting what should be taken from the Messenger (SAWA) – another testament to the importance in following what the Prophet (SAWA) has done.
Further deliberations of the words used in the ayah makes it more clear that it is referring to what he gives and forbids, and not only what he conveys. This at the same time does not mean that the Prophet’s (SAWA) authority is independent of Allah (swt), rather his action is based on Allah’s (swt) Divine instruction.
MARTYRDOM OF IMAM SADIQ (AS)
Yesterday marked the 25th of Shawaal which is the demise of Imam Jafar Sadiq (as), a man who introduced freedom of thought and tolerance towards different schools of belief in his time.
In the Imam’s (as) class, various sects of Islam were present – and in certain scenarios – the Imam (as) used to engage with atheists as well. This very spirit is what the Ahlulbait (as) attempted to spread amongst the people, however the society remained deceived by the plans of the enemies.
MASJIDUL AQSA UNDER SIEGE
Last Jumuah we had also received the tragic news that Masjidul Aqsa had been closed off for the performance of Jumuah, and as a result only those above the age of 50 were allowed to enter the masjid.
While this may cause heartache to the Muslim ummah, we should wake up to the reality that the Israeli regime have begun breaking all standards of coexistence that may have existed previously.
Despite this utter violation of human rights of the people of Palestine, barely any Islamic country has issued any statement of condemnation.
While the political ties between Israel and the Gulf countries continue to strengthen, the oppression inflicted upon the Palestinians only gets worse.In our local context, many have appealed for Qunut in the Jumuah salaah – yet still work towards Zionist objectives by creating hate and disunity within the Muslim community. This backward mentality will only cause further regression if we continue to remain negligent.