Importance of Sunnah
- Muhammed Vanker

Fundamental Duties of Prophethood

Enumerating the fundamental duties of Risaalah (Prophethood), Allah – Ta’aala says in the Quran:

“Verily Allah has conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent amongst them a messenger from amongst themselves, reciting unto them the revelation of Allah, purifying them and teaching them the Kitaab (Quran) and Hikma (wisdom)”

(Al-Imraan: 164)

“It is he who has send among the unlettered, a messenger from among themselves, to recite to them His revelations, purify them and teach them the Quran and wisdom” (Jumma: 2)

Four fundamental duties of risaalah (Prophethood) have been counted in the above verses:-

  • Recitation of the Quran
  • Teaching of the Quran
  • Teaching of Hikma (literally translated as wisdom, it’s meaning will be explained later)
  • Purifying the Muslims

The difference between recitation and teaching of the Quran indicates that just as it was Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) duty to propogate the words of the Quran, it was also his duty to explain the meaning of the Quran.

The fact that explaining of the meaning of the Quran was amongst the chief duties of the Nabi (SAW) is corroborated by the verse:-

“And we have revealed unto you the remembrance (Quran) so that you may explain clearly to man what has been revealed for them, and that they may ponder” (Nahl: 44)

In fact there are numerous aayat in the Quran that cannot be understood without the Ahaadith of the Nabi (SAW). A few examples are:-

  • “He (SAW) frowned and turned away because there came to him the blind man, But what could tell you that perchance, he might grow in purity” (Abasa: 1)

This verse refers to the incident when Abdullah Ibn Umme Maktoom, a blind sahaabi came to Nabi (SAW) asking advice. Nabi (SAW) was at that time engaged in discussion with some of the leaders of the Quraish and therefore ignored Abdullah Ibn Umme Maktoom giving more attention to the leaders of the Quraish with the intention that they were more in need of his attention as they were still disbelievers, IbnUmme Maktoom was already a believer and would always return to Nabi (SAW) (Tafseer Ibn Katheer Vol 4 page 502)

  • “And remember when Allah had promised you one of the two parties, that it would be yours …” (Anfaal: 7)

Neither is the promise mentioned anywhere else in the Quran nor is there an indication regarding these two parties. There are however explained in the Ahaadith concerning the Battle of Badr; by the two parties is meant the caravan of Abu Sufyaan and the army of the Quraish, Allah had promised victory over any one of them. (Tafsir Ibn Katheer Vol 2 page 299)

These are just a few examples. There are many, many aayaat like these in the Quran that cannot be understood without the Ahaadith.

It could thus be concluded that amongst the other duties, Nabi (SAW) had also been entrusted with the explanation of the Quran (its meaning, rulings etc.)

Let us examine how he had fulfilled this responsibility.

Nabi (SAW) explanation of the Quran had taken two forms

  • Practical explanation, demonstration
  • Verbal explanation
  • Practical explanation

This took place when, after a command was passed in the Quran, Nabi (SAW) acted accordingly due to which the implication of that command was understood and the people had a practical demonstration e.g. the believers have been commanded in the Quran to perform salaat but the Quran does not explain the procedure of salaat. The Quran mentions only the necessary components of salaat (e.g. Wudu, Sajdah) but does not explain how salaat should be performed. The procedure of salaat had however been shown to the ummah by Nabi (SAW). His statement “Perform salaah as you see me performing salaat” (Bukhari’s Kitabu Salaat Vol.1. Pg 88) is then in answer to the questioning believer who reads the verse “establish salaat” and asks “How do I perform?”

(NB Nabi (SAW) had verbally also explained the procedure of salaat)

Similarly the Quran has declared Haj as compulsory but has not explained the procedure of Haj (apart from a brief mention of Araafat, Muzdalifa, Tawaaf, and the slaughtering of the animals) Nabi (SAW) performed Haj and practically demonstrated to the ummah how Haj should be completed. During this Haj, he addressed the sahaba saying

“Learn from me the rites of Haj, Probably I would not see you after this year”

  • Verbal explanation

Verbal explanation of the Quran is of two types:-

  • A verse of the Quran is mentioned after which it is explained or the ruling established from it is explained
  • A ruling is passed or a statement is made in conjunction with the Quran but reference is not made to the particular verse

An example could be the incident of Adi Ibn Haashim, who asked Nabi (SAW) if the words “Al-khaytul abyadu” and “Al-khaytil aswad” referred to two threads of cotton. (The two phrases would literally translate as “the white thread” and “the black thread”.) Nabi (SAW) replied “No, it is the darkness of the day and the darkness of the night”

(Bukhari – Kitab ut Tafseer)

Besides this, there are many other examples of the same nature. Similarly, the Books of Hadith are replete with examples of the second type of verbal explanation of the Quran. Let us just look at one example.

Nabi (SAW) said “None of you truly believes until his desire becomes subservient to that which I have brought.”

(Mishkaat Vol 1)

This is in conjunction with the verse “By your Rabb, they will not believe until they make you a judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction”


To summarize, Nabi (SAW) was entrusted with the explanation of the Quran. Thus a major portion of the Ahaadith either explain the Quran or are derived from the Quran. Just as it is compulsory to believe that the Nabi (SAW) fulfilled his duty in propagating the text (words) of the Quran, we should also have conviction that he had fulfilled his duty in explaining the Quran to the ummat. The treasures of Haadith bear testimony to our belief. We would also have to accept the authenticity of the Ahaadith until Qiyaamah because if the Quran is to be preserved until Qiyaamah, and the Quran cannot be fully understood without the Hadith, it is necessary that the Hadith too be preserved until Qiyaamah.

To be continued….