The Advice of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Concerning the Incumbency of the Sunnah and Following the Salaf


The Advice of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz concerning the incumbency of the Sunnah and following the Salaf

An enlightening reminder about the obligation of following the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), and the obligation to interpret the Sunnah with the interpretation of the Salaf al-salih.


Then know that there cannot ever be any innovation, except that a proof against it has already passed, and there is a warning in it.

From Shihaab Ibn Khiraash [1] who said: ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (d.101H) – rahimahullah– wrote to a man,

“May peace be upon you, to proceed:

So verily I advise you to fear Allah, and to make His Command the objective, and to follow the Sunnah of His Messenger, and to leave off what people invented after him (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), from whatever is confirmed as his Sunnah, and his supply will suffice you.

Then know that there cannot ever be any innovation, except that a proof against it has already passed, and there is a warning in it. So adhere strictly to the Sunnah, for verily the Sunnah is – with the permission of Allah – a protection for you. Verily the one who practices the Sunnah is one who indeed knows what opposes it from mistakes and error, and foolishness, and deep thorough study.

So be pleased with for yourself what the people (i.e. the Salaf al-salih) were pleased with for themselves, for verily they stopped upon knowledge, and they sufficed with penetrating insight, and they were the strongest in studying the matters, and the virtue that was in them, in that case, they were the most adequate; since they (the Salaf al-salih – Righteous Predecessors) have already preceded. So indeed the guidance is not what you are upon, rather they preceded you to it. Therefore you say, he innovated a newly invented matter after them, so no one invents something, except that he opposes their path, and considers himself to be better than them. Indeed whatever they spoke was sufficient, and whatever they described was satisfying. So whatever is below them is deficient, and there is no good above them. Indeed people fell short of their mark, so they became dull, and others were too ambitious, so they went into extremes, and verily they (the Salaf) were in between the two, so they were upon the straight guidance.”

[Related by Ibn Battah in al-Ibanah (1/321-322), and by al-Lalikaa’ee in Sharh Usul al-I’tiqad (no. 16)]

From Imam Malik Ibn Anas, Imam Daarul-Hijrah (the scholar of the place of migration, i.e. al-Madinah) (d.179H) – rahimahullah – who said:

“‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz used to say, “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and the caretakers of the affairs (wulatul-umoor) enacted Sunnahs, taking to them is affirmation (tasdeeq) of the Book of Allah, and the completion of obedience to Allah, and strength upon the Religion of Allah. Whoever seeks guidance through them will be guided, and whoever seeks aid through them will be victorious, and whoever opposes them; he follows a path other than the Path of the Believers, and the close allies (wulat) of Allah are not with him, and his destination is Hell, and an evil end.”

The proof for this is the statement of Allah, “And whosoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger, after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the Path of the Believers; We shall keep him upon the path he has chosen, and roast him in Hell. What an evil destination!” [Surah Surah al-Nisa’, 4:115]

Malik said,

“I was amazed at ‘Umar when he obligated the Fire for such a person.”

And he added to his statement:

“…upon the Religion of Allah…”, “And it is not for anyone to change it, nor to replace it, nor to oppose anything from it.”

[Related by Ibn Battah in al-Ibanah (1/352-353)]

[1] He is Shihaab Ibn Khiraash Ibn Hawshab ash-Shaybaanee, from Kufah. He moved to Shaam, and lived in ar-Ramlah inside of Palestine, and he died there. He was sadooq (truthful), a person of the Sunnah. Refer to Tahdhib al-Kamal(12/568-572).
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