Question: Should we only follow the Qur’an, or do we have to follow the Sunna too?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your critical question.
The Qur’an itself commands us to follow Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Removing his teaching from the picture would be both self-contradictory and practically impossible.
This methodology, called Quranism, only came into existence in the last two centuries and should be politely ignored.
Obeying the Prophet
It is not possible to follow the Qur’an without following the commands and prohibitions that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself made. This is for the straightforward reason that Qur’an commands us to obey him in countless verses. (Qur’an 4: 59, 65, 69, and 80; 8: 20; 24: 52, and 63; 33: 36; 48: 10)
Many commands would be impossible to apply from a merely linguistic point of view and whose interpretation is only possible through a secondary source (mujmal), such as praying, performing Hajj, etc.
Hadith as unreliable
The attack launched against the Sunna is that it is not authentic because it has reached us through dubious chains of transmission (ahad). Any very cursory study of hadith criticism would show this to be false, besides the fact that countless core rulings from the Sunna have reached us through multiple sources (mutawatir manawi).
Out of the frying pan into the fire
Another argument is that the Arabic language is a sufficient interpreter of the Qur’an. This argument is actually disproven by the self-same argument wielded against using dubious chains of transmission (ahad).
While Arabic, in general, is based on well-known and well-attested uses of grammar and diction, the minutiae that are often used to explain the less obvious word usages of the Qur’an fall victim to the same problem of being transmitted by dubious chains of transmission (ahad) that are more often than not subject to much, much less criticism and examination than that which hadiths have been subjected to. Anyone who has dealt with Arabic dictionaries and the early anthologies of Arabic literature can tell you that.
Proponents of this approach have fled from the probabilistic nature of certain hadith literature to something equally, if not more probabilistic.
The middle ground is to deal with every piece of evidence as it actually is without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Please also see:
Al-Shafi’i’s Risala, tr. Majid Khuddari
It would be both practically and morally impossible to truly apply the Qur’an as complete religion if we were to ignore the role of the Sunna. All Muslims follow the example and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace).
I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.