What does the term “Ahl al Sunna wa al Jama’ah” mean, and what is the difference between the two terms?
Sh. Muhammad al-Hasan al-Walid al-Dido al-Shanqītī | Translated by Osman Umarji
What does the term “Ahl al Sunna wa al Jama’ah̄” (“People of the Sunna and Community”) mean, and what is the difference between the two terms?1
This term (used in the question above) does not appear in the Qur’an or the Sunna. Undoubtedly, many hadith have commanded following the Sunna and other hadith have commanded sticking to the community [of Muslims].
It has been established on the authority of the companion Arbād ibn Sāriyah that the Prophet advised, “Whoever lives from amongst you [in the near future] will see a lot of discord and disagreement. So (you must) adhere to my and the Sunna of the rightly guided Caliphs. Bite down upon it with your molars (meaning hold on to it tightly).”2 This is a command to follow the sunna, and similarly in many other hadith he commanded us to stick firmly to his sunna.
The hadith of Miqd̄am ibn Ma’dy Karb where the Prophet said, “A man will be lying down on this couch when a command from what I have commanded will come to him or a prohibition from what I have prohibited and he will say, “Between us and between you is the Book of Allah, What we find in it to be halāl, we permit it, and what we find in it to be forbidden, we forbid it. Undoubtedly, whatever the Prophet has forbidden is equal to what Allah has forbidden.” The Prophet then said, “Indeed, I have been given the Quran and something similar with it.”3
Sticking with the Community
Similarly, the Prophet urged upon sticking with the community of Muslims in many hadith like when he said to Hudhayfa ibn al-Yamān. “Stick to the community of believers and their imam.” And, “The blood of any Muslim is not permissible except in one of three circumstances: An adulterer (who is not a virgin), a soul for a soul, and the one who has separated from the community of Muslims and left his religion.”4 The Prophet said, “Whoever separates a hand span from the community of Muslims and passes away, then he has died a death of jāhiliyah (ignorance).”5 He said, “Whoever separates from the community of believers, then he has indeed removed the noose of Islam from his neck.”6 The Prophet also said, “Allah’s hand is with the community of believers, and whoever isolates himself (by abandoning the believers) will be isolated in the fire.”7 And in another hadith he said, “Whoever desires the prosperous life of ease and comfort8 of paradise then let him stick tightly to the community of believers.” In another hadith he said, “The hand of Allah is with the community and indeed the wolf eats from the lone and distant sheep.” Likewise the prophet [sa] prohibited his companions to return the desert9 after the migration to Medina.
There are many hadith regarding the Sunna and these hadith collectively are a proof for the obligation of adhering to it. Similarly, the hadith about the community of believers are a proof for the obligation of sticking closely to it as well.
A Brief Epistemology of Sunna and Community
The scholars pieced together these two terms and coined what that the Prophet and his companions were upon “the sunna and community of the believers.” However, the meaning of the term sunna in this context is not the meaning of the term known amongst the scholars of Islamic law. The legal definition of sunna is a commanded legislative action that is not mandatory where one is rewarded for performing it and is not punished for leaving it. This is the meaning according to the scholars of Islamic law and the principles of Islamic law, but this is not the intended meaning. Also, the intended meaning of the community of believers is not a large number of individuals or a righteous group only. On the contrary, Allah says in the six chapter of the Qur’an, “And if you were to obey most of the people, they would misguide you from the path of Allah. “ The intended meaning of the Sunna is the way that the Prophet and his companions were upon. So this is what we call “Sunna” and “community” regarding their terminology, and there should be no arguing over terminology.10 terminology” is a famous axiom of Usōl al-Fiqh.]
- Translated from http://www.dedew.net/index.php?A__=5&type=4&h=1&linkid=700 ↩
- Related by Ahmed (4, 126-127), Abū Dawūd (4607), al-Tirmidhī (2687), Ibn Mājah (43) and al-Hākim in his Mustadrāk (1/95) who declared it sound and al-Dahabī agreed ↩
- Related by Ahmed (3/130) and Abū Dawūd 3804 and it is sound ↩
- Agreed upon ↩
- Related by Ahmed (3/445) and Muslim with a similar wording ↩
- Related by Ahmed (5/180), Abū Dawūd (4758) , Hākim (1/117) and al-Tirmidhī with a similar wording and he declared it Hasan Sahīh see Sunan al-Tirmidhī (2863). ↩
- Related by al-Hākim from Ibn Abbās (391) and Ibn ̔Umar (398) with Ibn Hajar declaring “Its narrators are sound, but the hadith has errors.” Al-Hakīm stated that the hadīth’s narrations are confused thus, “It is weak.” Fayd al-Qad̄ir vol. 2 pg. 344 ↩
- Ibn Jawzi says that “Hububah” means the “middle of Paradise.” See Gharīb al-Hadīth of Ibn Jawzī ↩
- Al-t’arub mentioned in the statement of the sheikh is in reference to the Prophet’s prohibiting the Muhājirōn to return to the Bedouin life after migrating to Medina. In fact as noted by Ibn Mundhir, it was from the major sins. See Lisān al-Arab vol.1 pg. 587 ↩
- La Mushaha fi al-Istilah” Lit. ”There are no disputes in [usages of ↩