What are the divisions for Sunnah or the Prophet PBUH’s actions as divided by the scholars in their books?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Based on the above question, indeed, there are scholars who divide Sunnah into two which are tashri’iyyah and non-tashi’riyyah. Verily, this division is included under one of the divisions of Sunnah in which it is taken from the definition of the Sunnah itself.
The Definition of Sunnah
Sunnah lexically means a way of life which can either be commendable or not. While for the technical meaning, it is divided into two from the definition by the scholars of hadith and the scholars of usul:
- For the scholars of Hadith: “Sunnah is everything related to the Prophet PBUH among his words, actions, taqrir (consent), khuluqiyyah attributes, khalqiyyah attributes and the life of the Prophet PBUH whether before or after the Prophet PBUH was appointed as a prophet.” [See: Qawaid al-Tahdith, 61]
- For the scholars of Usul: “Sunnah is everything taken from the Prophet PBUH other than from al-Quran through words, actions and taqrir (consent) of the Prophet PBUH.”
In conclusion, the scholars of hadith and usul decided to say that Sunnah is everything related to the Prophet PBUH either in the form of words, actions or consent from the Prophet PBUH.
Division of Sunnah Based on the Definition
Looking at the above definition, Sunnah can be divided into three divisions:
- Sunnah Qawliyyah (utterance)
Sunnah Qawliyyah is every utterance of the Prophet PBUH. For example:
It is narrated by Umar bin al-Khattab RA where the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ
The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions
Sahih al-Bukhari (1)
- Sunnah Fi’liyyah (actions)
While sunnah fi’liyyah is every action of the Prophet PBUH or whatever narrated by the Companions RA from the actions of the Prophet PBUH like the methods to pray, hajj, ethics and etc. For example:
It is narrated by Malik bin al-Huwairith RA where the Prophet PBUH said:
وَصَلُّوا كَمَا رَأَيْتُمُونِي أُصَلِّي
and offer your prayers in the way you saw me offering my prayers
Sahih al-Bukhari (631, 6008 and 7246)
- Sunnah Taqririyyah (consent)
While Sunnah taqririyyah is whatever consented (being silent without any prohibition from the Prophet PBUH to that matter) by the Prophet PBUH through words or actions that come from the Companions RA. For example:
It is narrated by Ibn Umar RA where the Prophet PBUH said:
" لاَ يُصَلِّيَنَّ أَحَدٌ الْعَصْرَ إِلاَّ فِي بَنِي قُرَيْظَةَ ". فَأَدْرَكَ بَعْضُهُمُ الْعَصْرَ فِي الطَّرِيقِ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ لاَ نُصَلِّي حَتَّى نَأْتِيَهَا، وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ بَلْ نُصَلِّي لَمْ يُرَدْ مِنَّا ذَلِكَ. فَذُكِرَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَلَمْ يُعَنِّفْ وَاحِدًا مِنْهُمْ
"None should offer the 'Asr prayer but at Bani Quraiza." The 'Asr prayer became due for some of them on the way. Some of them decided not to offer the Salat but at Bani Quraiza while others decided to offer the Salat on the spot and said that the intention of the Prophet (ﷺ) was not what the former party had understood. And when that was told to the Prophet (ﷺ) he did not blame anyone of them.
Sahih al-Bukhari (946 and 4119)
In this hadith, some of the Companions understood literally the prohibition of the Prophet PBUH and delay their Asar prayer until it reached Maghrib time. However, some Companions understood it through the reason of mafhum (understanding) behind the prohibition of the Prophet PBUH is that the Prophet PBUH suggested that they should hasten their journey so they have the chance to perform their Asar prayer in its time. These actions of the Companions reached the Prophet PBUH and he PBUH acknowledged or agreed to both actions without denying any of them. [See: Fath al-Bari, 412/8]
After we understand the divisions of Sunnah based on the definitions given by the scholars, so, we will go to another division of Sunnah or anything related to the Prophet PBUH’s actions which are tashri’iyyah or non-tashri’iyyah even we originally should follow the Prophet PBUH in every matter as in the saying of Allah SWT:
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّـهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ
Say, [O Muhammad], "If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins
Surah Ali Imran (31)
Divisions of Sunnah Actions of the Prophet PBUH
Sheikh Dr Abdul Karim Zaidan in his book al-Wajiz expalined the actions of the Prophet PBUH that some of them become the source of tashri’ (تشريعية) and some do not become the source for tashri’ (غير تشريعية).
Definition of Tashri’iyyah
Sunnah tashri’iyyah is what comes from the Prophet PBUH by considering his position as a prophet as well as the messenger of Allah SWT. So, it is named as the source for Islamic law (tashri’iyyah).
In addition, there are many examples that can be brought upon in explaining this Sunnah tashri’iyyah whether through words, actions of the Prophet PBUH and etc. the same as what we explained in the definition of Sunnah above. Normally, this type of Sunnah (tashri’iyyah) is related to commandment and prohibition. Among the example of the Prophet PBUH’s actions which are considered as Sunnah tashri’iyyah are as what is told by the Prophet PBUH that reciting istighfar for more than 70 times as narrated in Sahih Imam al-Bukhari:
وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ وَأَتُوبُ إِلَيْهِ فِي اليَوْمِ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً
"By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day."
Sahih al-Bukhari (6307)
Definition of Ghair (non) Tashri’iyyah
Sunnah non-tashri’iyyah or its other name is jibilliyyah is what comes from the Prophet PBUH either through words or actions of the Prophet PBUH which do not consider his position as a prophet or a messenger of Allah SWT, but as a normal human being or due to his experience pertaining to worldly matters. It is not included under matters or sources of Islamic law (tashri’iyyah) because those words or actions are categorized under the Prophet PBUH’s custom or habit as a normal human being. Normally, this type of Sunnah (non-tashri’iyyah) tells on the Prophet PBUH’s inclination to some matters like food and drinks which are loved by the Prophet PBUH. Among the examples that we can give is that the part of meat loved by the Prophet PBUH is the meat of the back of the animal.
It is narrated from Aisha R.Anha that she says:
كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُحِبُّ الْحَلْوَاءَ وَالْعَسَلَ
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) used to love sweet edible things and honey
Sahih al-Bukhari (5431)
In understanding this hadith, scholars followed what has been mentioned by Sheikh Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili in his book where he stated that everything that comes from the Prophet PBUH in the form of habits as a human-like the way he stands, sits, walks, sleeps, eats, drinks and other actions are not considered as a sanctioning. This is because those actions appear due to his human nature and not because it is sanctioned. The scholars named these actions with the name al-jibilliyyah unless there are dalils which command us to do so. At that time, it becomes a sanctioning due to specific reasons and not solely because it comes from the Prophet PBUH. For example, eating with one’s right hand is mentioned in a hadith narrated from Ibn Ummm Salamah: "Dear child, mention Allah's Name, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is next to you." [See: al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami, 189]
Some scholars categorised Sunnah into a third category on matters which came from the Prophet PBUH which is specified for the Prophet PBUH according to the dalil. The scholars have differing opinions in stating the amount of specified matters to the Prophet PBUH. Imam al-Qurtubi is of the opinion that there 37 matters specified for the Prophet PBUH, while Imam al-Suyuthi is of the opinion that there 65 and Imam al-Ramli said that there are 47. Among the matters are the Prophet PBUH prohibits zakat from being given to him and his family. The Prophet PBUH was permitted to marry more than 4 wives and his PBUH wives are not permitted to marry others after the death of the Prophet PBUH. [See: Af’al al-Rasul, 1/276]
Hence, based on the above discussion, it can be concluded that there are three divisions in dividing the actions of the Prophet PBUH as what is divided by the scholars or its other name is jibilliyyah and the last one is matters specified only for the Prophet PBUH.
In conclusion, following each and every teaching of the Prophet PBUH is a commendable act because it is the proof of our love towards the Prophet PBUH. In addition, by loving and obeying the Prophet PBUH, it will raise our love and obedience towards Allah SWT as stated in al-Quran:
مَّن يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّـهَ ۖ وَمَن تَوَلَّىٰ فَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا
He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah; but those who turn away - We have not sent you over them as a guardian.
Surah al-Nisaa’ (80)
However, not everything that comes from the Prophet PBUH is a sanctioning (tashri’iyyah). This is because, there are some actions or matters did by the Prophet PBUH which do not come in the form of a sanctioning, while in fact, they are done due to the Prophet PBUH position as a normal human being. May Allah SWT gives us understanding in this religion as well as putting us in the ever after Paradise. Ameen.