(of Understanding Islam)
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi
In the pursuit of developing a sound understanding of the faith, the Farahi School emphasizes three fundamental principles of utmost significance:
- The holy Qur’an serves as the sole criterion to distinguish between right and wrong in the realm of religious knowledge within Islam. It holds the position of being the guardian (muhaymin) over all forms of divine revelation. The primary objective of its revelation is to settle religious disputes among human beings, enabling them to adhere to the truth firmly. The Qur’an itself claims this status, leading to the following fundamental understandings about the Book:
a. Firstly, the text of the Qur’an is well-defined and confined to what an overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world, with the exception of some regions, recite from their codices. This text is recited following the way known as qirā’ah al-‘āmmah (reading of the generality of the believers). Consequently, all other readings are not considered the Qur’an and cannot be attributed to the word of God.
b. Secondly, the Qur’an is qaṭ‘ī al-dalālah, meaning its words can perfectly express the author’s intent with absolute certainty. A reader who approaches it with the intention to follow its guidance and endeavors to understand it based on its language can be led to the intended meanings of its words. Any failure to comprehend the divine text can be attributed to the readers’ lack of knowledge or effort, not to any flaw in the language or expression of the Qur’an.
c. Thirdly, all the verses of the Qur’an, which form the basis for human guidance or misguidance, are clear and utterly comprehensible (muhkam). The simile verses (mutashābihāt) employ metaphors to express the bounties of Heaven for the successful servants of God on the Last Day or the afflictions for the losers in the afterworld, or they refer analogously to attributes of God, His acts, or other transcendent realities. While the reality of the referents in the simile verses cannot be fully grasped by human understanding in this world, the diction employed in these verses remains clear Arabic (‘arabī mubīn), allowing us to understand their meanings. Nonetheless, these verses should not be subjected to unnecessary hairsplitting discussions.
d. Fourthly, no indirect (khafī) or direct (jalī) revelation external to the Qur’an can validly affect or alter the divine injunctions specified in the Book. Not even the Messenger of God, the recipient of the Qur’an, has the authority to change it in any manner. All matters pertaining to beliefs (‘īmān) and theological principles (‘aqīdah) are to be derived from the clear and explicit verses of the Qur’an. Likewise, it serves as the ultimate criterion to discard anything erroneously taken as a religious reality. Every form of divine revelation (wahī), divine Inspiration (ilhām, ilqā’), research conclusions, and viewpoints of individual scholars should be assessed based on its eternal words. The opinions and works of esteemed scholars from the past, such as Abū Hanīfah, Shāfi‘ī, Bukhārī, Muslim, Ash‘arī, Māturīdī, Shiblī, and Junayd, are to be evaluated in light of the Qur’an’s everlasting guidance. No view, regardless of its esteemed origin, can be entertained if it goes against the verdicts of the Qur’an.
- In Islam, the Sunnah refers to the religious tradition established by the Prophet Abraham (sws) and revived in its pure form by the last Prophet of God (sws). It was enriched with additional practices and re-instituted among the believers as an integral part of Islam. The Qur’an specifically directed the Prophet (sws) to follow the religion (millah) of Abraham (sws), and since this tradition (the Sunnah) was an inherent part of Abraham’s (sws) religion, Prophet Muhammad (sws) was obligated to follow it himself and command the believers to adopt it.
The authenticity and historicity of the Sunnah are as compelling as that of the Qur’an. The only distinction between the two lies in their transmission process. The Qur’an was communicated by the Prophet (sws) to the entire body of Companions, who transmitted it to the next generation through consensus as a written and spoken text. Similarly, the Prophet (sws) taught the Sunnah to the entire generation of Companions, who collectively received, adopted, and practiced it. They transmitted it with consensus to the succeeding generations. Throughout history, both the Qur’an and the Sunnah have been passed down from one generation to the next within the Muslim community. Just like the Qur’an, the authenticity of the Sunnah has always been established and received with consensus by the believers at different points in Muslim history. Therefore, there is no room for any dispute or contestation regarding its credibility and epistemological authority.
- In Islam, the scope of religious teachings (dīn) is strictly confined to the contents of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. Anything external to these two sources cannot be considered a part of the religion, and introducing foreign practices or concepts as part of Islam is not valid. The Prophetic Ḥadīth, which refers to reports about the sayings, actions, and tacit approvals of the Prophet (sws) transmitted through individual narrators (akhbār-i ahād), does not introduce new beliefs or practices to the religion. However, they do explain and clarify the religious content found in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. They may also provide exemplary guidance on the performance of religious practices and carrying out divine commands as demonstrated by the Prophet (sws). Beyond this, Ḥadīths do not play a role.
Therefore, a Ḥadīth report cannot be considered valid if it carries religious knowledge in any other way. Merely attributing a report to the Prophet (sws) does not automatically make it a valid Ḥadīth and incorporate it into the religion.
All Ḥadīths that provide explanations and clarifications of religious teachings and play an acceptable role have a binding religious force for a believer who is convinced of their authenticity. If a believer believes a Ḥadīth report to be a valid transmission of the sayings, actions, or tacit approvals of the Prophet (sws), they are obligated to follow it and cannot validly contradict it. If the Ḥadīth contains a Prophetic command, the believer must unquestionably submit and surrender before its verdict.