Why do we have to follow the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad and not just follow the
Why do we have to follow a specific Mathab?
Praise be to Allaah.
The first question may appear strange and somewhat surprising to committed,
practising Muslims. How can something which is so obviously one of the bases of
Islaam become a matter for discussion and debate? But since the question has been
asked, we will present, with the help of Allaah, the principles and bases of the
importance of the Sunnah, the obligation to follow it and the ruling concerning
those who reject it. By so doing, we will also refute the doubters and the misguided
group who call themselves “Qur’aaniyyeen” (the Qur’aan has nothing to do with them!)
In sha Allaah this discussion will be of benefit to everyone who wants to understand
the truth of the matter.
Proof of the importance of the Sunnah
(1) The Qur’aan speaks of the importance of the Sunnah, for example:
(a) Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “He who obeys the Messenger has
indeed obeyed Allaah . . .” [al-Nisaa’ 4:80] Allaah described obedience to the
Prophet (peace be upon him) as being a part of obedience to Him. Then He made a
connection between obedience to Him and obedience to the Prophet (peace be upon
him): “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger . . .” [al-Nisaa’ 4:59]
(b) Allaah warns us not to go against the Prophet (peace be upon him), and states
that whoever disobeys him will be doomed to eternal Hell. Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning): “. . . And let those who oppose the Messenger’s
commandment beware, lest some fitnah (trial, affliction, etc.) befall them or a
painful torment be inflicted on them.” [al-Nur 24:63]
(c) Allaah has made obedience to His Prophet a religious duty; resisting or opposing
it is a sign of hypocrisy: “”But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until
they make you [Muhammad] judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves
no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.”
(d) Allaah commands His slaves to respond to Him and His Messenger: “O you who
believe! Answer Allaah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to
that which will give you life . . .” [al-Anfaal 8:24]
(e) Allaah also commands His slaves to refer all disputes to him: “. . . (And) if
you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allaah and His Messenger . .
.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:59]
(2) The Sunnah itself indicates the importance of the Sunnah. For example:
(a) Al-Tirmidhi reported from Abu Raafi’ and others that the Prophet (peace be upon
him) said: “I do not want to see any one of you reclining on his couch and, when he
hears of my instructions or prohibitions, saying ‘I don’t accept it; we didn’t find
any such thing in the Book of Allaah.’” Abu ‘Eesaa said: This is a saheeh hasan
hadeeth. (See Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Shaakir edition, no. 2663).
Al-’Irbaad ibn Saariyah, may Allaah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said: “Would any of you think, reclining on his couch, that
Allaah would only describe what is forbidden in the Qur’aan? I tell you, by Allaah,
that I have warned and commanded and prohibited things that are as important as what
is in the Qur’aan, if not more so.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, Kitaab al-Khiraj
(b) Abu Dawud also reported from al-’Irbaad ibn Saariyah, may Allaah be pleased with
him, that “the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) led us in prayer one day,
then he turned to us and exhorted us strongly . . . (he said), ‘Pay attention to my
sunnah (way) and the way of the Rightly-guided Khaleefahs after me, adhere to it and
hold fast to it.’” (Saheeh Abi Dawud, Kitaab al-Sunnah).
(3) The scholars’ consensus (ijmaa’) affirming the importance of the Sunnah.
Al-Shaafi’i, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “I do not know of anyone among the
Sahaabah and Taabi’een who narrated a report from the Messenger of Allaah (peace be
upon him) without accepting it, adhering to it and affirming that this was sunnah.
Those who came after the Taabi’een, and those whom we met did likewise: they all
accepted the reports and took them to be sunnah, praising those who followed them
and criticizing those who went against them. Whoever deviated from this path would
be regarded by us as having deviated from the way of the Companions of the Prophet
(peace be upon him) and the scholars who followed them, and would be considered as
one of the ignorant.
(4) Common sense indicates the importance of the Sunnah.
The fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allaah indicates
that we must believe everything he said and obey every command he gave. It goes
without saying that he has told us things and given instructions in addition to what
is in the Qur’aan. It is futile to make a distinction between the Sunnah and the
Qur’aan when it comes to adhering to it and responding to it. It is obligatory to
believe in what he has told us, and to obey his instructions.
The ruling concerning those who deny the importance of the Sunnah is that they are
kaafirs, because they deny and reject a well-known and undeniable part of the
As regards your second question, about whether a Muslim is required to follow a
particular madhhab, the answer is that he does not have to. For the average “rank
and file” Muslim, his madhhab is that of his mufti or the scholar whom he consults
for religious verdicts; he must ask those pious scholars whom he trusts for opinions
when necessary. If a person has enough knowledge to distinguish which evidence and
opinion is stronger, then he must follow the scholarly opinion which has the
strongest support from the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is acceptable for a Muslim to
follow one of the four well-known madhhabs, on the condition that he understands
that the truth in any given issue may lie with another madhhab, in which case he
must ignore his own madhhab’s opinion and follow the truth. The Muslim’s aim is to
follow the truth that is in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah. The madhhabs of
fiqh are only a means of reaching ahkaam (rules) based on the Qur’aan and Sunnah,
they are not Qur’aan and Sunnah.
We ask Allaah to show us the truth and help us to follow it, and to show us
falsehood and help us to avoid it. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid