In this section incidents and statements which indicate that hadiths were considered as a main source of guidance during the Prophet’s ﷺ lifetime will be quoted and analysed. To start with, quoting the hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ says:
“I have left among you two things, as long as you hold fast to which, you will not go astray: Allah’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet”
(H., 3, vol. 1, p. 93; cf. Mishkat. vol. 1, pp. 47f.)
Another hadith states:
“I have indeed been brought the Quran and something like it along with it, yet the time is coming when a man replete on his couch will say: ‘Keep to this Quran; what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited’ but what God’s Messenger has prohibited is like what God has Prohibited”
(Mishkat. vol. 1, pp. 43f; cf. H., 3, vol. 1, p. 109; T., vol. 2, p. I ll; I.M., vol. 1, pp. 5f.)
Paying homage to the Prophet ﷺ, the Companions used to promise to observe his orders; in one story we are told that ‘Ubadah b. al-Samit said that he, along with a group of people, gave the pledge of allegiance to the Apostle of Allah ﷺ :
Narrated ‘Ubada bin As-Samit رضي الله عنه : Allah’s Apostle said to us while we were in a gathering,
“Give me the oath (pledge of allegiance) for:
(1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah,
(2) Not to steal,
(3) Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse,
(4) Not to kill your children,
(5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people),
(6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds.
The Prophet ﷺ added: Whoever amongst you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him.”
So we gave the pledge for that.
(Bukhari Hadith No. 17, Vol. 1) (Book #89, Hadith #320)
In another story Jabir b. ‘ Abd Allah رضي الله عنه said: “I gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet ﷺ that I would listen and obey…”
It has been narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. ‘Umar رضي الله عنه who said:
We used to take oath to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that we would listen to and obey his orders. He would tell us (to say in the oath): As far as it lies in my power.
Sahih Muslim, Book 20, Number 4604
These statements show us the high status attributed by the Prophet ﷺ himself to his Sunnah, to the extent that he appointed it, along with the Quran, as the main source of guidance to which Muslims should resort whenever they deal with the matters of law; moreover, he made it clear that what was enacted by him had the same authority as that enjoined by the Quran, and accordingly, it should be sincerely observed.
As far as the eagerness of the community to emulate the Prophet’s ﷺ example, to learn from him, and to observe his enactments is concerned, one encounters a number of anecdotes.
In one Ibn ‘Umar رضي الله عنه says:
“The Prophet ﷺ wore a gold ring and then the people followed him and wore gold rings too.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “I had this golden ring made for myself”.
He then threw it away and said: “I shall never put it on”.
Thereupon the people also threw their rings away”
Sahih Bukhari #7298
(note this incident was before the commandment that forbid males from wearing gold)
In another, we are told that the Companions made an effort to follow the Prophet ﷺ when he fasted continuously (al-wisal) without breaking his fast, and they did not refrain until he enjoined them to do so, explaining to them that this was one of his privileges.
Narrated/Authority of Aisha رضي الله عنها
Allah’s Apostle ﷺ forbade Al-Wisal (continuous fasting) out of mercy to them.
They said to him, “But you practice Al-Wisal?”
He said, “I am not similar to you, for my Lord gives me food and drink.”
Hadith No: 185 Sahih Bukhari. Chapter 31, Fasting
Furthermore, three of the Companions are reported to have gone to the wives of the Prophet ﷺ and asked them about the way in which the Prophet ﷺ worshipped God. Having received the answer, they were not satisfied and felt that in order to attain God’s Blessings and avoid His punishment, they had to do more, since they were not like the Prophet, whose sins are forgiven; but the Prophet ﷺ hindered them from doing so, telling them that they were not asked to do more than his Sunnah.
Rafi‘ b. Khadij رضي الله عنه is reported as saying:
“We used to give on rent land during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. We rented it on the share of one-third or one-fourth of the (produce) along with a definite quantity of com. One day a person from among my uncles came to us and said: Allah’s Messenger ﷺ forbade us this act which was a source of benefit to us, but the obedience to Allah and to His Messenger ﷺ is more beneficial to us …”.
In another account al-Nawwas b. Santan told us that he stayed with the Prophet ﷺ for one year, and remarked:
“What obstructed me to migrate was (nothing) but (persistent) inquiries from him (about Islam)”. He pointed out that it was common practice that when someone traveled to Madinah, he would stay with the Prophet ﷺ for some time in order to inquire of him about many issues and learn from him.
Before sending Mu‘adh b. Jabal to Yemen, the Prophet ﷺ asked him:
“How are you going to the judge the matters?”.
He said “I will judge according to Allah’s book”. “What are you going to do if you find nothing (about the matter you are dealing with) in Allah’s Book, the Prophet ﷺ asked.
Mu‘adh answered: “I will judge in accordance with the Sunnah of Allah’s Apostle”.
The prophet ﷺ asked: “what the situation will be if there is nothing neither in Allah’s book nor in the sunnah.
Mu‘adh’s reply was: “I will try to do my best to form an opinion and spare no pains”.
Whereupon the Prophet ﷺ expressed his satisfaction by tapping him on the breast and said:
“Praise be to Allah who disposed my Messenger to what Allah and His Apostle are pleased with”
Anas b. Malik reported that when the people of Yemen came to the Prophet ﷺ, they asked him to send them someone in order to teach them the Quran and the Sunnah, so he appointed Abu ‘Ubaydah for such a capacity.
These stories indicate evidently that the idea of the Quran and the Sunnah as basic sources of Islam was well-established; which is, in fact, the belief one would expect to be prevalent among those to whom the Quran constituted the absolute basic rules, and the Prophet ﷺ the ideal exemplar to be followed. This conclusion is in agreement with the conclusion that the impact of the Prophet ﷺ
on Muslim life cannot be overestimated, since he served as both religious and political head of Medina: Prophet of God, ruler, military commander, chief judge, lawgiver. As a result, the practice of the Prophet, his sunna or example, became the norm for community life