CIMS: ‘The meaning and validity of Sunnah in the light of Ahl al-Bayt perspective’

On Saturday 8th August 2015, The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) held a scholarly discussion inviting scholars from different Muslim schools of thought to discuss and disseminate their findings on ‘The meaning and validity of Sunnah in the light of Ahl al-Bayt perspective.” Held at Al-Mahdi Institute, the discussion was very well received by renowned Ullama and scholars from Al-Mahdi Institute and Babul Ilm, Birmingham and other organisations around UK.

The programme commenced with the recitation of the holy Qur’an followed by a presentation by Dr Shahid Merali on OpenFajr; a project which aims to harmonise and unify the time at which the fajr prayer is conducted (and the commencement of the fast) by providing accurate and robust data. More information on the project and its results can be found here.

Presenting the Ahl-al-Bayt perspective on the meaning and validity of Sunnah, was AMI’s Dr Ali-reza Bhojani who elaborated on the definition of Sunnah with comparisons between the different sects of Islam. He focused on Al-Sunnah as a source of Shari’a along with the meaning, definition and principle authority of Al-Sunnah. He also explained the relationship of Sunnah with the holy Qur’an, the means to Sunnah through Hadith, Ijma and the practice of observant Muslims, and how Ahadith was classified, recorded and developed in the early days.

Below are the important points from Dr Bhojani’s presentation..

Shi’a scholars define al-Sunnah as the the statement, actions and tacit approvals of a Ma’sum.

Based on theological reasoning, most contemporary Shi’a scholars hold an absolute notion of Isma for the prophet whereby he is free from all sins and mistakes.

Al-Sunnah is considered a subsidiary to the Qur’an and the vailidity of al-Sunnah is checked against the Qur’an for authenticity, however, the Qur’an is also not independent from Sunnah.

There are two ways of discovering Sunnah; linguistic evidence i.e. Ahadith and non-linguistic evidence i.e. Ijma (consensus) and Sirat al-mutashari’a (an established practice of obersving shari’a).

The early recorders of Ahadith were Imam Ali (as) and a few close companions such as; Abu Rafi, Salman al Farsi, Abu Dhar al-Ghifari and Asbagh Ibn Nubatah.

Ahadith recorded directly from a Ma’sum or from someone who heard a Ma’sum is reffered to as Usul. 400 of these Usul became popular, but, most of them are now lost. However, the hadith included in these Usul have been passed down and included in later works of hadith e.g. Al-Kafi by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni.


Both sides agreed upon the definition and the legal position of Sunnah as Masdar al-Shar (a great source of guidance) second to to the Quran, and also as the most authentic tafsir of the Quran.

There is unanimity in the collection and compilation of ahadith from the time of the Holy Prophet to the compilers of the second, third and forth centuries of Hijrah, to a great extent.

The process of classification of ahadith such as sahih, hasan, daif, mutawatir and ahad is also appeared almost the same though retaining some minor differences.

However, the differences have also been found in the areas of isnad (chain of narration) and their narrators. Scholars of hadith of Ahl al-Shia narrate ahadith mainly from the chain of the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt, while Ahl al-Sunnah rely mainly on sahaba. To Ahl al-Sunnah, it is crucial the isnad (chain) of a hadith goes back and reaches the Holy Prophet directly without any break at any stage. Whilst to Ahl al-Shia, the chain of a hadith must reache any Imam (al-Masum) directly to qualify for the criteria of a sahih hadith.

It is also found that there are great similarities in ahadith of Tawhid, basic beliefs, Ibadat, Ethics, Risalah and Akhirah, halal and haram. Though in some areas, there are differences but, they do not create any problems as they are not related to the articles of Faith and the core part of Islamic shariah.

The presentation was followed by an interactive discussion relating to the points raised in the presentation which provided the scholars an opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss appropriate solutions to avoid further misconceptions on the topic.

To view the images from the discussion, please click here.

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