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Traditions (Ahádís). This shows that the Sunnat must be placed on a level with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; whilst the Qurán is a revelation superior to them all. To no sect of Musalmáns is the Qurán alone the rule of faith. The Shía'hs, it is true, reject the Sunnat, but they have in their own collection of Traditions an exact equivalent.
The nature of the inspiration of the Sunnat and its authoritative value are questions of the first importance, whether Islám is viewed from a theological or a political stand-point.
"Muhammad said that seventy-three sects would arise, of whom only one would be worthy of Paradise. The Companions inquired which sect would be so highly favoured. The Prophet replied :- The one which remains firm in my way and in that of my friends.' It is certain that this must refer to the Ahl-i-Sunnat wa Jama'at." (Sunnís.)2
It is laid down as a preliminary religious duty that obedience should be rendered to the Sunnat of the Prophet. Thus in the fourth Súra of the Qurán it is written: "O true believers! obey God and obey the apostle." "We have not sent any apostle but that he might be obeyed by the permission of God." From these and similar passages the following doctrine is deduced: "It is plain that the Prophet (on whom and on whose descendants be the mercy and peace of God!) is free from sin in what he ordered to be done, and in what he prohibited, in all his words and acts; for were it otherwise how could obedience rendered to him be accounted as obedience paid to God?" Believers are exhorted to render obedience to God by witnessing to His divinity, and to the Prophet by bearing witness to his prophetship; this is a sign of love, and love is the cause of nearness to God. The Prophet himself is reported to have
1. Prolégomènes d'Ibn Khaldoun vol. i. p. 195,
2. Takmíl-ul-Imán, p. 16.
3. Mudárij-un-Nabuwat, p. 285,
said, "Obey me that God may regard you as friends." From this statement the conclusion is drawn that "the love of God (to man) is conditional on obedience to the Prophet." Belief in and obedience to the Prophet are essential elements of the true faith, and he who possesses not both of these is in error.1
In order to show the necessity of this obedience, God is said to have appointed Muhammad as the Mediator between Himself and man. In a lower sense, believers are to follow the "Sunnat" of the four Khalífs, Abu Bakr, Omar, Osmán, and 'Alí, who are true guides to men.
To the Muslim all that the Prophet did was perfectly in accord with the will of God. Moral laws have a different application when applied to him. His jealousy, his cruelty to the Jewish tribes, his indulgence in licentiousness, his bold assertion of equality with God as regards his commands, his every act and word, are sinless, and a guide to men as long as the world shall last. It is easy for an apologist for Muhammad to say that this is an accretion, something which engrafted itself on to a simpler system. It is no such thing. It is rather one of the essential parts of the system. Let Muhammad be his own witness :-" He who loves not my Sunnat is not my follower." "He who revives my Sunnat revives me, and will be with me in Paradise." "He who in distress holds fast to the Sunnat will receive the reward of a hundred martyrs." As might be expected, the setting up of his own acts and words as an infallible and unvarying rule of faith accounts more than anything else for the immobility of the Muhammadan world, for it must be always remembered that in Islám Church and State are one. The Arab proverb, "Al mulk wa dín tawáminí"-country and religion are twins-is the popular form of expressing the unity of Church and State.
1. "Les docteurs de la loi sont unaniment d'accord sur l'obligation de conformer ses actions à ce qui est indiqué dans les traditions attribuées au Prophète." Ibn Khaldoun, vol. ii. p. 465.
To the mind of the Musalmán the rule of the one is the rule of the other, a truth sometimes forgotten by politicians who look hopefully on the reform of Turkey or the regeneration of the House of Osmán. The Sunnat as much as the Qurán covers all law, whether political, social, moral, or religious. A modern writer who has an intimate acquaintance with Islám says:"If Islám is to be a power for good in the future, it is imperatively necessary to cut off the social system from the religion. The difficulty lies in the close connection between the religious and social ordinances in the Kurán, the two are so intermingled that it is hard to see how they can be disentangled without destroying both." I believe this to be impossible, and the case becomes still more hopeless when we remember that the same remark would apply to the Sunnat. To forget this is to go astray, for Ibn Khaldoun distinctly speaks of "the Law derived from the Qurán and the Sunnat," of the "maxims of Musalmán Law based on the text of the Qurán and the teaching of the Traditions."1
The Prophet had a great dread of all innovation. The technical term for anything new is "bida't," and of it, it is said: "Bida't is the changer of Sunnat." In other words, if men seek after things new, if fresh forms of thought arise, and the changing condition of society demands new modes of expression for the Faith, or new laws to regulate the community, if in internals or externals, any new thing (bida't) is introduced, it is to be shunned. The law as revealed in the Qurán and the Sunnat is perfect. Everything not in accordance with the precepts therein contained is innovation, and all innovation is heresy. Meanwhile some
1. In June 1827, A. D., Sultán Mahmud issued a manifesto protesting against interference in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire, "the affairs of which are conducted upon the principles of sacred legislation, and all the regulations of which are strictly connected with the principles of religion." These principles still remain in force, for the famous Fatvá given by the Council of the 'Ulamá, in July 1879, anent Khair-ud-dín's proposed reforms, speaks of "the unalterable principles of the Sheri," or Law.
"bida't" is allowable, such as the teaching of etymology and syntax, the establishment of schools, guest-houses, &c., which things did not exist in the time of the Prophet; but it is distinctly and clearly laid down that compliance with the least Sunnat (i.e. the obeying the least of the orders of the Prophet, however trivial) is far better than doing some new thing, however advantageous and desirable it may be.
There are many stories which illustrate the importance the Companions of the Prophet attached to Sunnat. "The Khalíf Omar looked towards the black stone at Mecca, and said, 'By God, I know that thou art only a stone, and canst grant no benefit, canst do no harm. If I had not known that the Prophet kissed thee, I would not have done so, but on account of that I do it.' Abdullah-Ibn-'Umr was seen riding his camel round and round a certain place. In answer to an inquiry as to his reason for so doing he said:
I know not, only I have seen the Prophet do so here." Ahmad-Ibn-Hanbal, one of the four great Imáms, and the founder of the Hanbalí school of interpretation, is said to have been appointed on account of the care with which he observed the Sunnat. One day when sitting in an assembly he alone of all present observed some formal custom authorised by the practice of the Prophet. Gabriel at once appeared and informed him that now, and on account of his act, he was appointed an Imám.1 In short, it is distinctly laid down that the best of all works is the following of the practice of Muhammad. The essence of religion has been. stated by a learned theologian to consist of three things: first, to follow the Prophet in morals and in acts; secondly, to eat only lawful food; thirdly, to be sincere in all actions.
1. "The respect which modern Muslims pay to their Prophet is almost idolatrous. The Imám Ibn Hanbal would not even eat water-melons because although he knew the Prophet ate them, he could not learn whether he ate them with or without the rind, or whether he broke, bit or cut them: and he forbade a woman, who questioned him as to the propriety of the act, to spin by the light of torches passing in the streets by night, because the Prophet had not mentioned that it was lawful to do so.' Lane's Modern Egyptians, vol, i. p. 354.
The Sunnat is now known to Musalmáns through the collections of Traditions gathered together by the men whose names they now bear. The whole are called Sihah-Sittah, or six correct books." Not one of these collectors flourished until the third century of the Hijra, and so, as may be easily supposed, their work has not passed unchallenged. There is by no means an absolute consensus of opinion among the Sunnís as to the exact value of each Tradition, yet all admit that a' genuine Tradition' must be obeyed. Whether the Prophet spoke what in the Traditions is recorded as spoken by him under the influence of the highest kind of inspiration is, as will be shown in the next chapter, a disputed point; but it matters little. Whatever may have been the degree, it was according to Muslim belief a real inspiration, and thus his every act and word became a law as binding upon his followers as the example of Christ is upon Christians.
The Shía'hs do not acknowledge the Sihah-Sittah, the six correct books of the Sunnís, but it by no means follows that they reject Tradition. They have five books of Traditions, the earliest of which was compiled by Abu Ja'far Muhammad A.H. 329, or a century later than the Sahíh-i-Bukhárí, the most trustworthy of the Sunní set. Thus all Musalmán sects accept the first and second ground of the faith-the Qurán and the Sunnat-as the inspired will of God; the Shía'hs substituting in the place of the Traditions on which the Sunnat is based, a collection of their own. What it is important to maintain is this, that the Qurán alone is to no Musalmán an all-sufficient guide.
3. IJMA'.-The third foundation of the Faith is called Ijmá', a word signifying to be collected or assembled. Technically it means the unanimous consent of the leading theologians, or what in Christian theology would be called the "unanimous consent of the Fathers." Practically it is a collection of the opinions of the Companions, the Tábi'ín and the Taba-i-Tábi'ín. "The Law," says Ibn Khaldoun