Obeying the Messenger

Decisions of Allah and His Messenger

All praises be to Allah who tells us:

“It is not befitting for a believing man or woman when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any opinion about their decision.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:36)

He also informs us that the Messenger, peace be upon him:

“…does not say anything out of his own desire…” (Surah An-Najm 53:3)

These ayat shows us that when it is confirmed that Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, have made a decision or informed us about a matter, then no believer, male or female, may oppose this. To do so would contradict imaan.

The Guidance is in Obeying the Messenger

“Say: ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger: but if you turn away then he (the Messenger) is only responsible for the duty placed on him, and you for that placed in you. If you obey him, you shall be on right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only clear deliverance [of the Message]’.” (Surah An-Nur 24:54)

We can see that Allah makes obeying His Messenger a condition for guidance. Guidance cannot be acquired without obedience. The duty of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is to deliver the message, and the duty of the people is to obey it. Thus if we neglect our duty of belief and obedience, we harm only ourselves.

Addressing the Believers

All praises be to Allah who has ordered us to be obedient to Himself and His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, saying:

“Believers! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority among you; if you differ in anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger (for judgement) if you truly believe in Allah and the last day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:59)

He starts the ayah with the address ‘Believers!’ showing us that what is required comes a consequence of the name by which we are addressed. This is similar to Him saying: ‘You whom Allah had favoured and enriched with His bounties, be good to others as Allah has been good to you.‘ For this reason, legislative matters in the Qur’an are frequently addressed to the Believers, carrying the implication that if you believe, you should follow the order.

To Obey the Messenger is to Obey Allah

Let one not imagine that the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him should only be obeyed when his commands confirm the Qur’an. It is recorded that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“There will be a man with a full stomach, reclining on his pillow, who will hear a command from me and say, ‘Let the judge between us [in this matter] be Allah’s Book: we obey whatever we fin in it.’ [Know that] indeed I have been given the Book and, with it, that which is similar to it (the Sunnah).” (Recorded in Ahmad)

Here we find that the Sunnah must also be followed by the true believer. This does not  extend to those in positions of authority, who should only be obeyed in matters which are in obedience to Allah and His Messenger. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“One should listen and obey (those charged with authority) whether it were something he liked or something he hated, as long as he is not commanded to disobey Allah. If he is commanded to disobey Allah, he should neither listen nor obey.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The People of Authority

The people of authority refers to both the scholars and the rulers. Scholars are charged with protecting the religion and explaining it and teaching it. This is a great assignment which requires the people to obey and follow them. The rulers of the people must also uphold the religion, and compel people to adhere to it, punishing those who do not.  Thus these two groups are in charge of the affairs of the people, and others are their followers and subjects.

Matters of Dispute

We can further see from the ayah that if we differ in anything we should refer it to Allah and His Messenger and not to anyone else. Anyone who refers to other than Allah and His Messenger for adjudication opposes this command. One does therefore not truly enter into the realm of imaan until they refer all differences arising among the people to Allah and His Messenger.  This provides a protection and support for those who abide by it, and a powerful refutation for those that attack it.

The Excellence of Obeying the Messenger

The ayah ends with, “… that is best, and most suitable for final determination.” This means that what Allah has commanded us is best for us in this life and the Hereafter, and referring disputes to these clear rulings leads us to the ultimate happiness.

Anyone closely examining the evils of this world will find that they stem from disobedience to Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Similarly every good in this world comes from obeying them. All the evils of the Hereafter come from disobedience to these command, and the blessings result from obedience to them. Obedience is therefore the ultimate refuge and protection.

The Human Excellence

There are two additional actions which complete the happiness obtained from obeying the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The first is to invite people to obey him, and the second is to have patience and perseverance in fulfilling his mission.

Thus human excellence is confirmed in four matters:

  1. Knowing the Message of the Messenger, peace be upon him.
  2. Acting in accordance to this knowledge.
  3. Spreading this knowledge amongst the people and inviting them to it.
  4. Persevering and striving to accomplish this.

The one who seeks to learn how the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him lived, and want to follow them, will find that this was indeed their way.

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