The Qur’ān and Sunnah are the two primary sources of Muslim faith, life, law and morality. There are as well the framework of the Islamic worldview and civilization. The Qur’ān is believed by all faithful Muslims to be literally the Book of God, and the sunnah, or life-example of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, is the key to the understanding and interiorization of the Qur’ān.
The Qur’ān is for Muslims the foundation of their faith and the sunnah is the framework of their morality. Together they constitute the two sources of the law (shari’a) of God, which is humanity’s guide to prosperity and happiness in this life and to the bliss of the hereafter. Both the Qur’an and Sunnah were revealed by God. The Qur’an, being the divine communication or revelation, (waḥy)was sent down to the Prophet through Gabriel, the angel of revelation. The sunnah, being Divine inspiration (ilhām), was taught and instituted by the Prophet Muḥammad. God says, “He it is who sent a messenger to the unlettered people from among themselves to recite to them His revelations, purify them and teach them the Book and Wisdom…” (al-jum’ah, 62:2). The Qur’an is the Book (Kitāb) and the Sunnah is the wisdom (ḥikmah) with which Muḥammad, the last prophet of God was sent to guide humankind to the straight way (al-ṣirāṭal-mustaqīm), whichleads to God.
After the Prophet’s death, ‘Āishah, the “mother of the faithful” was asked to describe the Prophet’s character, or moral conduct (khulq). She replied, “His character was the Qur’an.” During his life, the Prophet Muḥammad was the living embodiment of the Qur’an. After his death, his Sunnah will live in the life of the Muslim ummah till the day of Resurrection.
Although the Qur’an and Sunnah are materially and formally two independent sources, they are inextricably bound in a dynamic relationship. The rulings and precepts (aḥkām) of the Qur’an constitute the law (shar’) of God. They were supplemented by the precepts of the Sunnah, which possess equal authority with the precepts of the Qur’an. The authority of the Prophet’s Sunnah is legislated in the Qur’an, as God says: “He who obeys the Messenger would in fact obey God.” (al-Nisā’, 4:80) Even more emphatically God commands all Muslims, “Whatever the Messenger gives you, that you must take, and whatever he forbids you, you must desist there from.” (al-ḥashr, 59:7).
In answer to this divine command, and realizing the need to remind others of it, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) resolved to convene an annual summer institute of scholars and students to study the Book of God and Sunnah of His Prophet. To date, the Summer Institute met twice: in July and August of 2008 and 2009. The thirteen essays included in this volume constitute some of the proceedings of the first Summer Institute, 2008. It is our hope to publish the papers of the 2009 colloquium before the 2010 Summer Institute. We also hope that these annual volumes will serve as a reminder to Muslims and non-Muslims of the place of the Qur’an and Sunnah in the life of Muslim societies around the world, despite their cultural, racial and linguistic diversity.
The thirteen essays comprising this volume deal with a variety of subjects. While most of them treat in one way or another the Qur’an and Sunnah, two, as we shall see, are in reality not related to the main subject of this book. Yet they were included for reasons that will be explained below.
Since there is no clear continuity among the articles under discussion, I arranged them in terms of their specific approach or subject. I therefore placed first three articles which concentrate on a Qur’anic science or concept. The next five articles deal with the Qur’an in relation to non-Qur’anic disciplines. These are followed by three articles specifically dealing with the Sunnah and its juridical application, and two unrelated final articles which close this volume.
Therefore, this book may be seen to consist of three parts. The first part consists of three essays. It begins with Israr Ahmad Khan’s article on the important issue of abrogation (naskh) in the Qur’an. Dr. Khan is a professor of Qur’an and Sunnah at the International Islamic University, Malaysia. The second is by Aisha Musa, and deals with issues of just war, jihād, and fighting (qitāl) in the Qur’an. Dr. Musa is a professor of Islamic Studies in the department of religious studies, Florida International University. The third paper in this part is by Assad Busool. It presents comprehensively the concept of justice in the Qur’an. Dr. Busool is a writer and emeritus professor of Arabic, the American Islamic College, Chicago.
The next five papers deal with the Qur’an in relation to other disciplines, such as theology, broadly speaking, interscriptural relations and natural and social sciences. The first is on Religious Pluralism and the Qur’an by Mahmoud Ayoub. Dr. Ayoub is a professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim relations, Hartford Seminary. The second paper examines the relationship of the Qur’an with the earlier Abrahamic Scriptures. It is by Khaled Troudi, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, U. K. and research associate, International Islamic Institute (IIIT), Herndon, Va. The third essay is by Mohamed Nimer and is entitled, Exegesis, Social Science and the Place of the Jews in the Qur’an. Prof. Nimer relies on both classical Qur’an commentaries and contemporary non-exegetical sources. Dr. Nimer is an adjunct professor of Arab studies the American University, Washington D. C. The fourth article is by Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, which studies in some depth the relationship of the Qur’an to science. Dr. Ahmad is an adjunct professor, Georgetown University, Washington D. C. He is also president and founder of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. The final essay in this part is by Daoud Nasimi. His essay studies English translations of certain Qur’anic Verses containing particular rulings and injunctions. The themes he analyzes are the Friday Prayers and the woman’s veil or ḥijāb.
The next three essays constitute a somewhat coherent unit. The first, by Omer Awass, seeks to examine the question of authentication of the sunnah through a close analysis of Ibn Isḥāq’s sources of the important and controversial “ifk report.” Omer Awass is a PhD candidate, Temple University. This is followed by Sami Catovic’s essay on the significance of the actual text (matn) analysis of the Prophetic ḥadīth traditions. Sami Catovic is an attorney and a doctoral candidate, Temple University. The last essay in this part is by Muḥammad Adam el-Sheikh. It is concerned with the social and juridical status of divorced women and their right to “Post Divorce Financial Support.” Dr. el-Sheikh is himself a well-known jurist and a member of the Fiqh Council of North America.
The last two essays of this volume are simply two independent studies of two important subjects. The first, dealing with the “Sufi Hermeneutics of Ibn ‘Arabī and its Application to Interfaith Dialogue, is by Dr. Syafat’un al-Mirzana. Dr. al-Mirzana is a professor of religious studies, the Islamic University of Indonesia, Jakarta. The final paper is by Khaleel Mohammed. It is an appeal to Muslim scholars to evolve a coherent Muslim approach to Western Studies of Islam. Dr. Mohammed is a professor of Islamic studies, Department of Religious Studies, San Diego State University, San Diego, California.
Our reasons for including these two essays are not dependent on their subjects or themes, but on the fact that they are, each in its own right, a good contribution to Islamic studies. Moreover, they both touch on the Qur’an, the first from the Sufi perspective, and the second from the perspectives of Western Orientalist and modern scholars. Finally, each in its own way, touches on interfaith dialogue, whose significance to the life of Muslims in the West is undeniable.
The Sunnah of our Prophet Muḥammad, upon him be peace, is not in essence a body of religious literature, but a living and dynamic force which all Muslim ought to use as the model for their own lives. Muḥammad was a loving father, a just and loving husband, a political leader, but above all “the Messenger of God to all of humankind.” (al-A’rāf, 7:157) He is the Imām and role model for all Muslims. Following his noble example, or Sunnah, is the Islamic quest for achieving prophetic existence, the existence of the prophet Adam before he disobeyed God. We offer this humble effort as a little candle to illuminate our way to this noble quest.
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations
Professor Emeritus, Temple University,