Shaikh 'Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn 'Abdul-Khaaliq
From Al-Bayaan al-Ma'lool Fee 'Ilm al-Usool from within the chapter
entitled "Evidences in the Sharee'ah".
1. Its Definition
The Prophetic Sunnah consists of the statements of the Prophet and
his actions and his (tacit) approvals and the description of his
conduct and that of his self (i.e. appearance etc.)
A general definition of the Sunnah: (from Islamtoday.net)
The Sunnah, according to the scholars of hadÓth, is everything that
has been related from the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) from his statements, actions, tacit approvals,
personality, physical description, or biography. It does not matter
whether the information being related refers to something before the
beginning of his prophetic mission, or after it.
Explanation of this definition:
The statements of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him) include everything the Prophet said for various reasons
on different occasions. For example, he said: "Verily deeds are but
by intentions, and every person will have only what he intended."
The actions of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) include everything that the Prophet did that was related to
us by his Companions. This includes how he made ablutions, how he
performed his prayers, and how he made the Hajj pilgrimage.
The tacit approvals of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) includes everything that his Companions said or
did that he either showed his favor towards or at least did not
object to. Anything that had the tacit approval of the Prophet (may
the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is as valid as anything
that he said or did himself.
An example of this is the approval that was given to the Companions
when they used their discretion in deciding when to pray during the
Battle of BanÓ Qurayzah. Allah's Messenger (may the peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him) had said to them: "None of you should
perform your afternoon prayers until you arrive at BanÓ Qurayzah."
The Companions did not arrive at BanÓ Qurayzah until after sunset.
Some of them took the Prophet's words literally and postponed the
afternoon prayer, saying: "We will not pray until we get there."
Others understood that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) was only indicating to them that they should hurry
on their journey, so they stopped and prayed the afternoon prayer on
The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
learned about what the two groups had decided, but did not criticize
either of them.
As for the Prophet's personality, this would include the following
statement of `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her): "Allah's
Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was
never indecent or vulgar, nor was he loud at the marketplace. He
would never respond to the abuse of others with abuses of his own.
Instead, he would be tolerant and forgiving."
The physical description of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) is found in statements like the one related by
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him): "Allah's Messenger (may the
peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was neither overly tall nor
was he short. He was neither exceedingly white nor black. His hair
was neither excessively curly nor lank."
DEFINITION OF SUNNAH (madrassa in'aamiya, South Africa)
The Sunnah has been defined by the scholars of the science
of `Hadith' as follows:
"A word spoken or an act done or a confirmation given by the Holy
`Confirmation' in this definition is termed in Arabic as Taqrir. What
is meant by this term is like somebody said something, or acted in a
particular manner, and his saying or act came to the knowledge of the
Holy Prophet, and he either confirmed it in express words or remained
silent without giving any indication of disapproval. Such silence,
being an implied approval of the Holy Prophet is also included in the
term `Sunnah'. As the Sunnah, with all its three kinds (saying, act
and confirmation), relates to the Holy Prophet, its true status in
the Islamic law cannot be ascertained without ascertaining the status
of the Holy Prophet himself.
The Sunnah, however, is a very multifacted "reality" (not just
conceptually) the breadth of which far outstrips and cannot be
compressed into useful juristic categories.
Sunnah is also the natural form of living of man on earth. It is
innate but often veiled, hence the regular sending of Prophets and
Messengers, 'alayhimus-salaam, until the sealing of Nubuwwah. We take
that form from the Best of Creation, Sallallaahu 'alayhi wa-Sallam,
subordinately, the impeccant Rusul and `Anbiyaa' before
him, 'alayhimus-salaam, the khulafaa' raashidoon and the rest of the
Sahabah, radiyallaahu 'anhum `ajma'een, especially the most prominent
one (as well as those following them with `ihsaan until the end of
time, more so from the second and third generations). We will then
realize that, with scattered isolated exceptions such as
Yahyaa 'alayhis-salaam (fully dealt with by al-Qaadi 'Iyaad in "Ash-
Shifaa"), polygyny was their dominant form of living in a marital
context, of Islam as a paradigm to apply on earth, certainly not
because of an 'Arab custom [Applicable to Moosa, Daawud and
Sulayman, 'alayhimus-salam?]. Indeed, al-Qaadi 'Iyaad underlined the
fact that, contrary to wealth and eating, marrying, cohabiting and
procreating in abundance was part of masculine perfection and
wholesomeness, the subject of an unbroken chain of mutual priding in
each other, customarily, and reciprocal commendation for that
as "seerah maadiyah, adding that the topmost zuhhaad of the Sahaabah
(including of course 'Ali, radiyallaahu 'anhu) married a lot and had
a cornucopia of wives and slave women, hence children usually.
In other words, the higher existential connotation of Sunnah as a
well-trodden path endorsed such form of interacting with women rather
than any other form [Let alone bypassing them in favour of men!].
That Maalik chose something else did not detract his follower 'Iyaad
from such comment (repeated almost verbatim by Shaah Waliyyullaah
in "Al-Hujjatu'l-Baalighah", once more disclosing an uninterrupted
chain of being in this world until very recent times). The same holds
true of the more extreme decision of an-Nawaawi, Ibn Hazm or the
Andalusian Sufi ar-Rundi not to marry at all. Far from us even the
postulation of the possibility that, by not being at least
monogamous, men like an-Nawaawi or ar-Rundi were violating a Sunnah
which thing earned censure for its non-activation. Indeed, in "Al-
Qawaaneen al-Fiqhiyyah", Ibn Juzayy, always the balanced faqeeh, said
that, in its generality, nikaah was only mandoob (recommended,
meritorious) in its hukm, and became compulsory / waajib only in
respect of one of five possible scenarios, viz. the position of a man
with means to marry who fears the perpetration of zinaa in the event
of not contracting it. Not that such purely juristic point impinges
on the broader picture of the Sunnah as a form of living, but note
that the same ruling applies to a married man who is financially
capable of entering into another contract of marriage and fears that
he would commit adultery if he did not do so. No distinction between
one or more wives in this respect. He goes on to say that if he does
not fear zinaa but fears an inability to fulfil his obligations (most
probably the motivational source of an-Nawaawi and ar-Rundi's
personalized decisions), it would be makrooh (even if it entailed one
wife only). It wouldbe mustahabb for him whom is not afraid of
falling prey to zinaa and is financially empowered to conclude a
contract of marriage, again with no distinction whatsoever between
one or more wives. Indeed, all that is said as an introductory
preliminary to nikaah in general, encompassing all licit forms, and
you invariably find our classical fuqaha', when broaching the subject
of polygyny in a later, separate sub-section, launching themselves
into its special `ahkaam, usually starting with the equal
distribution of time which is the cornerstone of its permissibility.
They do not indulge in a regurgitation of the prefatory position on
the hukm shar`i of marriage as such by assigning a specific one to a
polygynous situation. The latter has been covered in the preface.
All other scenarios (save for the forbidden one of the financially
disabled man who is not afraid of zinaa if he stays unmarried) fall
under the residual class of the mubaah, the juristically neutral.
Therefore: a) To term polygyny mubaah in all its varieties, in terms
of a blanket judgment, is inaccurate; and b) marriage as such,
monogamous or polygynous, whilst mandoob 'ala'l-jumlah, acquires
different `ahkaam shar`iyyah or legal values in divergent
That again does not deflect from the general consideration that the
Prophetic Sunnah of living was to be married, since a young age,
hence "marriage" is a Sunnah in that wider existential understanding.
4) Indeed, the way such Sunnah of living moved from one dimension to
the other as the Deen became perfected, is a walking exegesis of the
Qur'aan, since the Qur'aan unquestionably addresses the believing men
and encourages them to marry 2 or 3 or 4 women who are pleasing to
them, and only if they cannot fulfill the well-known requisite of
outward justice in non-negotiable matters such as even allocation of
time, they are encouraged to take it easier on themselves, when beset
by such limitations, and either marry one wife or (as az-Zamakshari
clearly preferred) limit themselves to a multiplicity of slave women,
if they desire and can afford such less burdensome multiplicity,
rather than a plurality of wives.
Granted, the fi`l `amr in the `aayah is not one of injunctive command
but, technically, one of `ibaahah. Technically, again. In terms of
the existential message about the Sunnah of Allaah in creation,
reflected in the pure mirror of the living Qur'an of the Sunnah of
the Best of Creation, Sallallaahu 'alayhi wa-Salaam, at the stage of
the pinnacle of historical Islam in its unadulterated purity of
perfection or kamaal, it is more than that. It is a subtle guiding
and pointing by al-Haadi to the path of greater kamaal. Otherwise,
the `aayah would have been structured around the opposite permissive
encouragement to marry one wife or taking slave-women and only if ...
(dots suplied at length by apologetic pre-modernism modernists). But
Allah's speech, in its syntactical construction, taqdeem or ta`kheer
of words, phrases, rulings, indicating signs, etc, never entails any
redundancy or futility. Indeed, it entails no interchangeability. We
cannot say "na'budu 'iyyaka" simply because, more or less, the same
basic meaning is conveyed, even though, juristically, the one who
does so unwittingly would not have to repeat the salaat, and Allah