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Qur'an and Sunnah is an often quoted Islamic term regarding the sources of Islam. Muslims hold that Islam is derived from two sources: one being infallible and containing compressed information — the Qur'an — and another being a detailed explanation of the everyday application of the principles established in the Qur'an: The Sunnah, or the living example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Basis of term

The Hadith about the Quran and Sunnah refers to a Hadith, or oral tradition about the words and deeds (Sunnah) of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Sunni Muslims accept this Hadith as Sahih (authentic), whereas the Shi'a Muslims reject this Hadith as Mawdoo (fabricated). The Hadith is used by the Sunnis to stress the importance of following the Sunnah.It was reported to have been said during Muhammad's Farewell Sermon atop Mount Arafat after his Last Pilgrimage. According to one version of the narration, Muhammad said:
I have left among you two matters by holding fast to which, you shall never be misguided: the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Prophet.

This version is cited in many Sunni Hadith books. Amongst those is:
Zaid bin Arqam r.a., narrated that the messenger of Allah said: "Indeed, I am leaving among you, that which if you hold fast to them, you shall not be misguided after me. One of then is greater than the other: (First is) The book of Allah is a rope extended from the sky to the earth, and (the second is) my family, the people of my house (ahlul bait), and they shall not split until they meet me at the hawd, so look at how you deal with them after me." (Sahih).

Jabir bin Abdullah said: "I saw the Messenger of Allah during his Hajj, on the Day of Arafah (on his last pilgramage). He was upon his camel Al-Qaswa, giving a Khutbah, so he said: O People! Indeed, I have left among you, that which if you hold fast to it, you shall not go astray: The Book of Allah (Quran) and my Family, the People of my House (Ahlul-Bait).(Sahih)

The same Hadith is also narrated in the following manner:
I have left among you two matters by holding fast to which, you shall never be misguided: the Book of Allah and my Sunna. And these two shall never part ways until they show up at the Pond

This version is also cited in many Sunni hadith works. Among those is:


This hadith is considered Sahih by the Sunni, as stated by following scholars:

The Hadith al-Thaqalayn refers to a saying (hadith) about al-Thaqalayn, which translates to "the two weighty things." In this hadith Muhammad referred to the Qur'an and Ahl al-Bayt ('people of the house', Muhammed's family) as the two weighty things. Although the Hadith is accepted by both Sunnis and Shi'as, the two groups differ on the exact wording of what Muhammad said, as well how to interpret these words. The Shi'as use the Hadith al-Thaqalayn to prove their claim that Muhammad meant for all his successors to be from his own family (Ahl al-Bayt). The Sunnis reject this view and believe in a different interpretation of Hadith al-Thaqalayn.

Sunni and Shi'a Concordance

Both Sunnis and Shi'as accept that Muhammad said the following:
"I am leaving among you something which is very important and should be followed, you will not go astray if you get hold of it after I am gone, one part of it being more important than the other: Allah's Book, which is a rope stretched from Heaven to Earth, and my close relatives, who belong to my household.
These two will not separate from one another till they come down to the reservoir, so consider how you act regarding them after my departure."
(Tirmidhi, Sahih Muslim)

Both Sunnis and the Shi'a believe in respecting Ahl al-Bayt. However, it is only the Shi'a who claim that the Caliph (leader) of the Muslim community must always be a descendant of Muhammad. Sunnis reject the claim that only the Ahl al-Bayt should govern, partly because of the historical animosity held by the leaders of Quraysh against Muhammad and his family, particularly Ali.

Sunni view

One view of Sunnis - especially of Sufis - is that they accept the hadith and use it to support the greatness and rank of Ali. They do not see this as a contradiction of the greatness and rank of Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and other Sahabah.

The Sunnis reject the idea that the Hadith al-Thaqalayn is mutawattir, and they also reject the idea that it was narrated by over 35 of Muhammad's companions. Instead, the Sunnis reject many of the versions of Hadith al-Thaqalayn, classifying them as Dhaeef, or weak in authenticity, and believe that it was narrated by no more than 10 of Muhammad's companions.

They believe that Muhammad only mentioned Hadith al-Thaqalayn at Ghadir Khumm, and reject the idea that Muhammad said it during his Farewell Sermon atop Mount Arafat. The Sunnis believe that Muhammad only mentioned the Two Weighty Things on his way back to Medinah (at Ghadir Khumm), and that his speech was therefore directed primarily to those living in Medinah because it was they who would have the task of taking care of Muhammad's family after his death.

Shi'a view

Shi'as reject this Hadith and deem it to be a fabrication designed to distract from what they deem to be the real saying of Muhammad: the 'Hadith of the two weighty things'. The Sunnis accept both the 'Hadith of the Quran and Sunnah' and the 'Hadith of the two weighty things', since the Hadith about Quran and Sunnah was said by the Prophet in front of the larger gathering during his Farewell Sermon, and the Hadith about Quran and Ahl al-Bayt was said by the Prophet in front of the smaller gathering at Ghadir Khummmarker. The Shi'as believe that only the 'Hadith of the two weighty things' is authentic.

At the same time, Shi'as do agree with the meaning of the Hadith, even if they deem it a fabrication. The Shi'as believe in following the Sunnah of Muhammad, but they say that this is only possible via the Ahl al-Bayt (Muhammad's family).

The Shi'as believe that Muhammad said Hadith al-Thaqalayn multiple times in multiple settings in multiple wordings. They argue that Muhammad said Hadith al-Thaqalayn at Mount Arafat during his Farewell Sermon, at Ghadir Khumm, in the mosque of Medinah, during his last illness, and at many other places and times. The Shi'as believe that Muhammad said this hadith so many times because he wanted to stress how important it was that the Muslims only take his own descendants as leaders.

The Shi'as believe that this hadith is mutawattir, meaning that it has been related so many times by so many people that there is no doubt about its authenticity. The Shi'a claim that this hadith is the most authentic of hadiths, claiming that it has been narrated by over 35 companions of Muhammad.

The Hadith al-Thaqalayn is used by the Shi'a, among other reasons, to justify their claim of Ali's succession to Muhammad. Shi'as view this hadith as a clear indication that Muhammad wished to keep the matter of leadership within his own family, starting with his cousin Ali. They say that Muhammad was clearly indicating that only the Ahl al-Bayt have a right to authority and leadership. It is based on this claim that the Shi'as reject the first three Sunni Caliphs, referring to them as usurpers and tyrants.

Because the Shi'a believe that Muhammad said Hadith al-Thaqalayn on many occasions, the Shi'a have many different versions of what Muhammad said. One such version corresponds closely to what the Sunnis also believe in:
Muhammad said: "One of them (i.e. the Thaqalayn) is the Book of Allah and the other one is my select progeny (Itrat), that is family (Ahlul-Bayt). Beware of how you behave (with) them when I am gone from amongst you, for Allah, the Merciful, has informed me that these two (i.e., Quran and Ahlul-Bayt) shall never separate from each other until they reach me in Heaven at the Pool (of al-Kawthar). I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt. I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt. Once more! I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt."

The Shi'as, however, also believe in other versions of the Hadith such as:
"I have left with you something, which if you strictly adhere to, you shall never go astray–The Book of Allah and my progeny."

"I leave you two weighty things, if you stick to both you will never go astray after me: the Book of Allah and my progeny."

"I am leaving for you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to both of them, you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah, and my progeny, that is, my Ahl al-Bayt. The Merciful has informed me that these two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise)."

It is these latter versions that more strongly support the Shi'a interpretation that Muhammad intended to keep the leadership of the Muslims within his own family. Hence the majority of Islam chooses to accept Ali as the rightful succescor of Muhammed.

See also


Further Reading

  • Musa, Aisha Y. Hadith as Scripture: Discussions on the Authority of Prophetic Traditions in Islam, New York: Palgrave, 2008.

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