The Unique Position of Quran in Islam (Introduction and Part 1)


The purpose of this work is to show what The Quran says about its sole position in the religion of Islam. An overwhelming majority of the Muslim world believes that we are to follow both The Quran as well as Hadith and Sunnah in order to fully practise our religion. These are called the Traditionalist Muslims. They may be Sunni or Shia with the added dimensions of Sufi (mysticism oriented) and Salafi (doctrine oriented). They believe that The Quran supports their position.

The Muslims who disagree with this are Quranist Muslims or simply Quranists. We do not accept Hadith and Sunnah for a number of reasons. For the purposes of this essay, we will be concentrating on asserting Quran’s sole position as the authoritative source in Islam. We believe that The Quran simply does not support the Traditionalist position. Rather, it was misinterpreted and co-opted in order to legitimise Hadith and Sunnah which went on to distort the teachings of true Islam.

In this essay, we will analyse the various arguments from Quran that the Traditionalists employ and refute their positions with verses from Quran itself. Thus, readers should be able to see that Quran, when read as a whole, does not give authority to any other source.

We will arrange this essay as follows: First, we will describe the Traditionalist position briefly. Next, we will state our position and expound it with verses from Quran. It would then be up to the readers to decide which position is more tenable.

Obey Allah and obey the messenger

1. Traditionalist Position: When The Quran says ‘obey Allah and obey the messenger’, it is telling us that the messenger, meaning Nabi Muhammad, has a separate authority than The Quran. Hence, if we wanted to fulfil this command, we must follow Hadith and Sunnah since they represent the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad.

The Quranist Response: It is true that there are two obediences mentioned here, one to Allah and to the messenger. However, this does not mean that there are two different sources of information. Rather, these two mentions of obeying Allah and Messenger refer to the source and the medium of information respectively.

The best verse to demonstrate this is the following reference:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْا عَنْهُ وَأَنْتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ (الأنفال: 20)

O you who have believed. Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not turn away from him while you hear. (Al-Anfal, 20)

As the reader can see in the verse above, there are two obediences –  Allah and His messenger. However, when it comes to the response from the audience, it is about turning away from a single entity. Morever, there is an added phrase ‘while you hear’ after the ‘turning away’. This phrase shows that the ‘him’ mentioned before is the messenger. In general, people do not hear Allah!

This understanding fits in with the following reference:

مَنْ يُطِعْ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّهَ وَمَنْ تَوَلَّى فَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا (النساء: 80).

Whoever obeys the messenger, verily he has obeyed Allah. And whoever turns away, we did not send you over them as a guardian (An-Nisaa, 80)

From the above verse, we can see that the phrase ‘obeys the messenger’ is in present tense while the phrase ‘has obeyed Allah’ is in the past tense. This shows that when we obey the messenger, we have thus automatically obeyed Allah. It does not start with obeying Allah (as per The Quran, as Traditionalists allege) then obeying the messenger (as per The Hadith which they say explains The Quran). No, it a fluid and singular process. You obey the messenger and thus automatically obey Allah.

This again coheres with

إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلُ رَسُولٍ كَرِيمٍ (الحاقة: 40).
وَمَا هُوَ بِقَوْلِ شَاعِرٍ قَلِيلاً مَا تُؤْمِنُونَ (الحاقة: 41).
وَلاَ بِقَوْلِ كَاهِنٍ قَلِيلاً مَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (الحاقة: 42).
تَنزِيلٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (الحاقة: 43).
وَلَوْ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَيْنَا بَعْضَ الأَقَاوِيلِ (الحاقة: 44).
لَأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُ بِالْيَمِينِ (الحاقة: 45).
ثُمَّ لَقَطَعْنَا مِنْهُ الْوَتِينَ (الحاقة: 46).
فَمَا مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ عَنْهُ حَاجِزِينَ (الحاقة: 47).
وَإِنَّهُ لَتَذْكِرَةٌ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (الحاقة: 48).
Vs 40:  Verily it is the saying of the honoured messenger
Vs 41:  And it is not the saying of a poet, little do you believe
Vs 42: And it is not the saying of a soothesayer, little do you take heed
Vs 43: A descent from the Lord of the Worlds
Vs 44: And if he were to forge a saying upon us and make it part of his sayings
Vs 45: Verily we would seize him by the right hand
Vs 46: Then we will cut from him the artery
Vs 47: And no one from you can prevent us
Vs 48: and verily it is a reminder for the cautious.

The ‘it’ mentioned here is obviously The Quran because of the words ‘sha’ir’ (poet) and ‘tanzeel’ (descent). Even according to Traditionalists, Quran confounded great poets with its unsurpassed level of beauty.

The saying of the messenger as inspired by Allah is The Quran. This is what people listen to and obey. There would be dire consequences for the messenger himself if he were to forge sayings in the name of Allah.

As a practical exercise, please see all the commands to ‘say’ or ‘qul’ in The Quran (the final three chapters all begin with ‘say’). These are but a few of what the messenger told his people to ‘say’. If they were to obey him and said what they told him to say, would they not be also automatically obeying Allah?

Moreover, it should be noted that the messenger’s mission is centred around The Quran. This can be seen from verses like:

  1. Chapter Yunus (10), Verse 15 – which equates the clarifying signs with The Quran. The messenger is not to replace it or change it that but follow what is inspired to him.
  2. Chapter Qaf (50), Verse 45 – the messenger is commanded to remind with Quran. No hadith is mentioned at all
  3. Chapter Al-Furqan (25), Verse 30 – the messenger tells his Lord that his people have abandoned this Al-Quran.

Given the examples above, it would be impossible for ‘obeying the messenger’ be to a separate source. The Quran is the sole source of his teachings.

Next: Part 2 – Was the messenger inspired at all times?

About Farouk Peru 24 Articles
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