Hujjiyyah Al-Sunnah or the “Authority of the Sunnah” is a subject covering the authority of the Prophet’s statements in both a theological and historical sense. In a theological sense it answers the questions, “Is a Prophetic statement authoritative in religion? Do I have to follow the Prophet’s teachings not found in the Qur’an?” In a historical sense it answers the questions, “Are the hadith compilations of today representative of what the Prophet actually said? How can we trust hadith compilations to accurately convey the Prophet’s teachings?” As is apparent, this article is treating the topic from a theological angle, not a historic one.
Hujiyyah Al-Sunnah is a concept firmly established throughout the Qur’an. A cursory reading of the Qur’an will show that, not only are the Qur’anic passages clear in communicating this concept, but it cements this concept in multiple ways. One of the more intriguing ways the Qur’an demonstrates the authority of the Prophet, is its affirmation of a divine revelation to the Prophet independent of the Qur’an both in practice (most importantly), and in theory as we shall see.
In this article brief article, we will look at two passages from the Qur’an which indicate an independent, divine revelation to the Prophet.
إِذْ تَقُولُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَلَن يَكْفِيَكُمْ أَن يُمِدَّكُمْ رَبُّكُم بِثَلَاثَةِ آلَافٍ مِّنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ مُنزَلِينَ
[Remember] when you said to the believers, “Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord reinforces you with three thousand angels sent down? [Qur’an 3:124]
In this passage, Allah is reminding the Prophet of how he comforted the believers, after the event’s occurrence. While comforting the believers, the Prophet informed them that Allah would reinforce their ranks with three thousand angels. There isn’t away the Prophet would know that Allah would reinforce their ranks with that specific number of angels, unless it had been divinely revealed to him. Yet, we don’t find any verses in the Qur’an where Allah promises to reinforce the believers with that number! Thus, the passage affirms a divine revelation to the Prophet, independent of the Quran which the Prophet conveyed to the believers.
سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَاءُ مِنَ النَّاسِ مَا وَلَّاهُمْ عَن قِبْلَتِهِمُ الَّتِي كَانُوا عَلَيْهَا ۚ قُل لِّلَّـهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ ﴿١٤٢﴾ وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا ۗ وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الْقِبْلَةَ الَّتِي كُنتَ عَلَيْهَا إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ الرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ ۚ وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللَّـهُ ۗ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّـهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَانَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿١٤٣﴾ قَدْ نَرَىٰ تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۖ فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا ۚ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۚ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ ۗ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ لَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۗ وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ
The foolish among the people will say, “What has turned them away from their qiblah, which they used to face?” Say, “To Allah belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path.” And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do. [Qur’an 2: 142-144]
This passage relays the issue of the qiblah change. What we understand from these passage that the Prophet, and believers were praying towards a qiblah other than the Ka’bah, and this qiblah was contrary to the Prophet’s preference. Furthermore, the passage confirms that the previous qiblah had been a divine command.
Yet, we don’t find this original command to pray to the previous qiblah anywhere in the Qur’an! It must then be concluded that there was a divine revelation to the Prophet, independent of the Qur’an, which he conveyed to the believers, and subsequently acted upon.
These are only two of many possible examples that come as a confirmation, and to reinforce what the Qur’an refers to occasionally as the “hikmah,” which is understood by many of the early Qur’anic commentators to be a reference to the Prophetic guidance.
وَاذْكُرْنَ مَا يُتْلَىٰ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَالْحِكْمَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ لَطِيفًا خَبِيرًا
And remember what is recited in your houses of the verses of Allah and hikmah. Indeed, Allah is ever Subtle and Acquainted [with all things]. [Qur’an 33: 34]
هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and hikmah – although they were before in clear error. [Qur’an 62: 2]
When understood in conjunction with another – the most appropriate way to understand the Qur’an is through the Qur’an! – it paints a clear picture of the Prophet being endowed with divine revelation, independent from the Qur’an that he conveyed, and was acted upon by the believers.