Incoherence of Sunnah Rejection

In this short article, I will address three common arguments made by the Sunnah-rejecters (also known as hadith-rejecters or Quranists) for why they reject the Sunnah as a source of law in Islam and only accept the Quran.

In a previous article, I detailed some of the many proofs in the Quran itself that the Sunnah must be followed. It is recommended you read that article first: Does Quran say to Follow the Sunnah?

This article will be filled with responses and rebuttals, so be warned.

Argument 1: The Quran is Completely Detailed

This is one of the most appealed-to argument. It typically goes as follows:

Allah says in the Quran, “[This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail” (11:1), “We brought the Book down to you providing explanations for all things” (16:89), “Shall I seek other than God as a lawmaker when it is He who has brought down to you the Book fully detailed?” (6:114), and “We have not neglected in the Book a thing.” (6:38)

These are only some of the verses where Allah calls the Quran “fully detailed.” So, how is it possible for you to look for a source of law outside the Quran?

There are plenty of ways of responding to this argument. I will present one.

Response: Even you don’t believe the Quran is fully detailed.

One can ask this person: Does the Quran mention polar bears?

He can say: Yes, since he mentions animals in general and polar bears are only a specific animal. Being fully detailed does not mean you need to mention every specific thing. We would say: Then, you cannot have a problem with Allah explaining the religion in general in the Quran then the Prophet (SAW) explaining the specifics.

Conversely, he can say: The Quran does not mention polar bears, but what the verse means by “fully detailed” is that every religious thing is detailed.

Then, we say: Alright, it is fair to limit “fully detailed” to matters of religion. But, you do not even believe the Quran contains all the details of religious matters. We can agree Salah is a part of Islam. Why doesn’t Allah detail how to pray Salah in the Quran?

He has a few options here. All of them self-defeating. He can say: We know how to pray from other means so Quran does not need to detail. Then, he has essentially opened the door for us to say: The Sunnah is simply another means for us to learn the details of our religion so the Quran does not need to detail everything in the Sunnah.

He can say: Quran tells us where to learn how to pray. We can say: You have allowed the Quran to skip religious details if it points us where to take them from. The Quran tells us to take from the Prophet (SAW).

He can in some odd situations say: The Quran does explain how to do Salah. Then, he’s saying something absurd, and anyone can see it. There’s no detailed explanation of the Salah in the Quran at all except scattered mentions of ruku’ and sujood. But, that doesn’t tell us anything about how many ruku’ to do, how many sujood to do, or how many raka’ahs to do at what times.

If he says: The commonly accepted way of Salah is an innovation and only my own homebrewed Quran-interpreted version of “Salah” is correct, then there’s no point in continuing a conversation with someone like this. If someone thinks that the whole Muslim Ummah has forgotten how to do Salah and only they and their Quranic interpretation are correct, there’s no help for them except Allah.

So, what do the verses of the Quran being “fully detailed” really mean?

It is helpful at this point to realize that the Quran never actually claims it is “fully” detailed. Rather, the Quran mentions in several places that it is “mufassil” i.e. detailed, but claiming it means “fully detailed” is a translator’s choice.

The Quran is detailed as it guides people to the religion of truth and removes them from the religions of falsehood. It also details for us where to get guidance and who to obey: the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It does not claim to have details about everything in existence nor everything in religion.

The same applies to the verses that says the Quran provides “explanations to all things” or that Allah has “not neglected in the Book a thing.[efn_note]Whether this verse actually refers to the Quran is debatable, but I assume it refers to the Quran for the sake of the article. But, go read the verse 6:38 fully yourself and see whether it is more likely it refers to the Quran or to the Preserved Tablets that contain all details about the world from past and future.[/efn_note]” The Quran gives us complete religious guidance, and part of that guidance is pointing us to the Sunnah. Nothing in these verses requires every single literal detail of Islam to be mentioned in the Quran.

Argument 2: The Prophet Was Commanded to Only Follow Quran

This is also quite a common argument. It goes something like this:

Allah tells the Prophet to follow nothing except the Quran in several verses. For example, He says:

Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt. The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. (6:114-115)

And Allah says:

These are God’s verses that we recite to you truthfully. In which statement other than God and His verses do they believe? (45:6)

Although this is a very common talking point, I struggled to find any good arguments made by the Sunnah-rejecters for it.

The verses as quoted above do not even mention the Quran. They only mention God as a source of law or God’s revelation. How does that support anyone’s position? We believe Sunnah is a way of knowing God’s revelation. So, bringing verses about following God’s law is hardly evidence against us.

He may say: Allah says, In which statement other than God and His verses do they believe?” so why do you believe in the hadith which is a statement other than God’s verses?

I would ask: Do you believe in the statement “The moon revolves around the earth”?

He should say: Obviously, but the verse refers to statements about religion.

I would ask: Ok, let’s take that for granted. Do you believe in the statement “Maghrib has three rakahs”?

If he says: No, don’t waste your time arguing with people that don’t even know the number of rakahs in Maghrib. He should say: Yes. 

Then, I would say: Then, you do believe in statements about the religion other than God’s verses.

Then, what does the verse mean?

The verse says in a better translation: “Then in what statement after Allah and His verses will they believe?” Note the “after” instead of “other than.” This verse simply means: what will you believe rather than the Quran i.e. after you turn away from the Quran? It is clearly not meant as a blanket criticism to believing anything in the religion except what is in the Quran. That would not be a sensible interpretation in any sense.

This is all the more clear when we see that the context of the verses is talking to the disbelievers which is why Allah starts the verse by saying: “These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you in truth.” This is to emphasize that the Quran is true while believers already know the Quran is true.

Our view is obviously not to believe in anything rather than the Quran. We believe in the Sunnah in addition to the Quran, not rather than it or after turning away from it.

Argument 3: Quran Says Don’t Believe in ‘Hadith’

This is the most ridiculous of the arguments (if it can be considered an argument) some Sunnah-rejecters use. They say:

Quran tells us not to follow Hadith. Allah says: “Then in what Hadith after the Qur’an will they believe?” and “These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you in truth. Then in what Hadith after Allah and His verses will they believe?” 

Allah also says the Quran is the best Hadith. He says: “Allah has sent down the best Hadith: a consistent Book wherein is reiteration.” (39:23)

Then, why do you follow Hadith other than the Quran?

Even when Sunnah-rejecters don’t say this argument out loud, they say it implicitly by translating the above verses like that.

The simple question is: Why did you leave the word “Hadith” which just means “statements” untranslated?

The answer is obvious: They want to deceive people into thinking the verse talks about the Hadith that we usually mean in English i.e. the hadith of the Prophet (SAW). But, obviously, hadith is a common word in Arabic that just means “statements.”

So, it is not “Then in what Hadith after the Qur’an will they believe?” but it is “Then in what statement after the Qur’an will they believe?

It is not “Then in what Hadith after Allah and His verses will they believe?” but it is “Then in what statement after Allah and His verses will they believe?” Refer to the previous section about what this means.

The verses are obviously not talking about the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW). In fact, the term “hadith” was not applied to the words of the Prophet (SAW) until after him. So, the verses cannot be referring to it since the term did not even exist at the time.

If the Sunnah-rejecter really has that much trouble with terminology, I am open to changing the term for the reports about the words and actions of the Prophet (SAW) to “Athar” as that is also a common term for them. Will they follow the Athar then?

Conclusion

In conclusion, follow the commandments of Allah in the Quran and obey the Messenger and his Sunnah so that you may enter Paradise. It is not possible to follow Allah except by following the Messenger. All praise is for Allah, and salutations are on the Messenger.

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