Hadith As Standing Authority Of The Shari’ah

Hadith As Standing Authority Of The Shari’ah

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


By Mujlisul Ulama

ALL THE commands given by the Ahadith are derived from the Qur’an and are an exposition thereof, although their particular nature has given rise to two forms. One of them being subordinate to the Qur’an, should be called exposition of the Qur’an.

Even though the relationship between the two be subtle and cannot be discovered without deep knowledge. The second is juridical. From this viewpoint the Hadith should constitute a permanent source of and standing authority for Islamic jurisprudence.

Therefore, those nusus (texts) of the Qur’an which pronounce the Hadith as exposition, indicate its subordinate and derivative nature, while those which show it to be a source of the Shari’ah declare its commandments to be like Qur’anic commandments and make it analogous to the Qur’an as bearing the authority of Shari’ah, as has been explained in his Hadith.

And indeed, the Prophet of God has prohibited certain things just as God has done, or has been stated in the following hadith:

Be aware that I have been given the Qur’an and its analogue also. [Abd Dawud]

These show that particular aspect of the Hadith which invests it with an independent position in respect of the Shari’ah. There is, however, another facet to the Hadith – certain commands are contained in the Hadith but not in the Qur’an as evidenced by the Hadith reported by Miqdam bin Ma’d’i Karb, which unequivocally establishes the authoritative stance and independent position of the Tradition in respect of Shari’ah

According to it the meat of the domestic ass is prohibited, although it is not prohibited by the Qur’an. Likewise, the meat of carnivorous or hunting animals has been forbidden by the Hadith and not by the Qur’an.

These and many other commandments which derive from the Tradition show the independent nature of the Hadith as the source of Shari’ah apart from the Qur’an. Sometimes even the link between the Hadith and the Qur’an is not visible, which is contrary to the Hadith being exposition of the Qur’an and the assumption made above to the effect that the Ahadith are-but exposition of the Qur’an.

The answer to this would be that such reports and commands cannot escape being exposition of the Qur’an, for, even if they do not appear in any particular ayah in part, they would, on the whole, be an exposition of the following ayah in which the matter has been put down as a general rule: 

Whatever the messenger giveth you, take it, and whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). [Qur’an 59:7].

Thus all commandments of this type made by the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) are an exposition of the above ayah. Here the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallim) has been directed to issue commands on his own and the legal decisions are declared to be parallel to those of the Qur’an.

By this token the two Ahadith quoted above are, according to this ayah (59:7), expositions of the latter, and all the commandments given by the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) consequently stand confirmed as the exposition of the Qur’an.

The Companions of the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and the virtuous ones of the succeeding generation (salaf saliheen) called such commands of permanent nature Qur’anic commandments and exposition of the Qur’an according to this very hadith.  

Hadrat ‘Abd Allah bin Mas’ud (radhiyallahu anhu) was once asked by an old woman: You curse a tattooing woman but nowhere in the Qur’an has tattooing been prohibited.” Hadhrat ‘Abd Allah bin Mas’ud replied: “I wish thou hadst been reading the Qur’an.

Does it not say “whatever the messenger giveth you”? The old woman said, “Yes, so is it written.” Hadhrat Mas’ud then said:

“If so, because of this authority the Prophet of God has cursed the tattooing woman and has commanded us to desist from this abominable act. This command of the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), by virtue of being an exposition of this ayah, has become a Qur’anic command itself.”

Another episode regarding the permanent nature of the Hadith as a primary source of the Shari’ah  relates to Imam Shafi’i. Once, when Imam Shafi’i was in the precincts of Ka’bah, he said with a scholar’s exuberant confidence: “Today I propose to reply every question on the authority of the Qur’an.” One of those present asked:

“Where is the commandment to kill a wasp within the precincts of Ka’bah in the Qur’an, which is permitted by the Shafi’i school?” Imam Shafi’i replied: the ayah “Whatever the messenger giveth you, take it,”  shows that it is obligatory upon us to obey the Holy Prophet, while the hadith “Follow Abi Bakr and ‘Umar after me,” makes it obligatory to follow both Abi Bakr and ‘Umar.

And since ‘Umar has said: “The wasp can be killed in Ka’bah,” this command is derived from the ayah, and being its exposition, constitutes a Qur’anic commandment

In sum, two aspects of the Hadith stand established. One is its derivative aspect, being an elaboration of the Qur’an, and the other is its subtle relationship with the Qur’an, being its standing authority, even though it is the elaboration of the latter. But manifestly, since the commandments of the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) are proof of the Qur’anic text, the Qur’an and the Hadith are kindred.

The Hadith, therefore, logically branches off into two kinds:

(i) as a primary source,
(ii) as the derivation of the Qur’anic text.

From the viewpoint of the Qur’an it will be regarded as derived, for it is its exposition (and exposition is subservient to what it discusses) and from the juridical point of view would be equated with the original source, as legal principles are derived from it also.

The Hadith is, therefore, a great intermediary (barzakh­i-kubra) which acquires knowledge from the Qur’an and passes it on to fiqh. Were the Hadith not there, no connecting link between the Qur’an and fiqh could have been possible, and the same is true of the significance.

Allah knows Best.

Islam Reigns