Question: Does the Prophetic command indicate obligation?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Does a Command Mean Obligation?
Commands addressed to creation from Allah Most High and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) generally indicate obligation. [Zuhayli, al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami]
That is, unless, any of the following factors are found:
(1) Explicit mention of recommendation [Ibid.]
(2) There is contextual or legal evidence that illustrates that the command is for a recommendation. [Ibid.]
Allah Most High says, “O believers! When you contract a loan for a fixed period of time, commit it to writing…” [Qur’an; 2:282]
The command to commit the loan to write would generally indicate obligation. However, the following verse indicates that it is for a recommendation.
He says, “If you trust one another, then there is no need for a security, but the debtor should honor this trust by repaying the debt—and let them fear Allah, their Lord.” [Qur’an; 2:283]
Thus, if there is trust between the contracting parties, the command to record the contract is of mere recommendation. [Ibid.]
The Hadith of the Blind Man
The Prophetic narration that you have quoted has come in multiple narrations.
Ibn Umm Maktum (Allah be pleased with him) is narrated to have said, “O Messenger of Allah, indeed Medina has many predatory animals and critters.” The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied, “Do you hear come to the prayer, come to success? Then come.” [Bayhaqi]
After bringing this narration, Imam al-Bayhaqi quotes from Imam Ahmad that Abu Bakr al-Faqih said, “The Prophet’s command to this blind man to attend the congregation does not indicate obligation because he gave permission to Itban bin Malik, who was blind.” [Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra]
Here we see, a scholarly indication of an underlying reason that the Prophetic command does not always indicate obligation.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; a student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of the Qur’an and the Islamic sciences