Understanding Umar (RA) statement: the Book of Allah is sufficient for us‏

The below is taken from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab his life and & times by Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad as-sallabi


Ibn Abbas narrated that: “When the pain grew intense, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Bring me a sheet so that I may write something for you after which you will not go astray.” ‘Umar (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) is in severe pain, and the Book of Allah is sufficient for us.” They started arguing and raising their voices. He said, “Go away from me; it is not right that you should argue in front of me.” Ibn ‘Abbas went out saying, “It wast most unfortunate that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was prevented from writing his statement.”

Bukahri, Kitab al-Ilm

The scholars discussed this hadith and explained it in such a way that puts one’s mind at ease. An-Nawai discussed it at length and in detail in his commentary on Muslim, where he said:

“It should be noted that the Prophet (SAW) was infallible and could not lie or change any of the rulings of shari’ah, whether he was healthy or sick. He was also protected against failing to explain anything that needed explanation or conveying anything tha Allah had commanded him to convey. But he was not infallible against the diseases and sicknesses to which the body is susceptible and other such things that do not undermine his status and could not affect any of the issues of shari’ah that were already established. He (SAW) was bewitched and he imagined that he had done things that he had not done, but when he was in that state, he did not suggest anything that contradicted the rulings that he had previously established. Once you understand the point we are making, the scholars differed concerning the statement that the Prophet (SAW) wanted to write. It was said that he wanted to state that the caliphate should go to a specific person lest there be disputes and tribulations concerning it; or that he wanted to write something in which he would sum up the most important rulings, so as to dispel the risk of dispute concerning them and so that there would be agreement upon what was stated. The Prophet (SAW) thought of writing this statement because it seemed to him it would serve a purpose, or he had received revelation telling him to that. Then it appeared that it was better not do that, or received revelation to that effect, so the first command was abrogated.”

With regard to the words of ‘Umar, the scholars who commented on this hadith are unanimously agreed that this is indicative of ‘Umar’s knowledge of religion, virtues and subtle insight, because he feared that the Prophet (SAW) might write things that may be beyond them, for which they would incur punishment, because these matters would be clearly stated and there would be no room for ijtihad concerning them. This is why ‘Umar said, ‘The Book of Allah is sufficient for us,’ because Allah (SWT) says:

(…We have neglected nothing in the Book…) (Qur’an 6:38)

And:

(….This day, I have perfected your reliogon for you..) (Qur’an 5:3)

He knew that Allah perfected His religion and that the ummah was safe from misguidance, so he wanted to spare the Messenger of Allah (SAW) any further effort. ‘Umar had better insight that Ibn ‘Abbas and those who his view. Al-Khattabi said: It is not permissible to interpret what ‘Umar said as meaning that he thought the Messenger of Allah (SAW) might make a mistake, or some other inappropriate notion. Rather when he saw the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was in great pain and that death was approaching, he feared that this was akin to the talk of a sick person who does not speak in a definitive manner, and that the hypocrites would that this as a means to criticize Islam. His companions used to discuss some matters with him before he confirmed them in definitive terms, as happened on the day of al-Hudaybiyah concerning the treaty between him and Qurasyh. But when the Prophet (SAW) issued a command he did so in definitive terms, and none of them would discuss it with him.”

Sharh Muslim, Imam Nawai.

‘Umar words, “The Book of Allah is sufficient for us” were a response to those who were arguing with him, not to the command of the Prophet (SAW).

Sharh Muslim, Imam Nawai.

Shaykh ‘Ali al-Tantawi (for a bio on the shaykh http://archive.arabnews.com/?page=5§ion=0&article=2908&d=22&m=6&y=2001&pix=islam.jpg&category=Islam) commented

on this by saying: “What I think is that during his lengthy companionship with the Prophet (SAW), ‘Umar had grown accustomed to expressing his opinion because he knew that he had permission to do so; there are many reports which tell how he suggested things to the Messenger of Allah (SAW), requested things from him and asked about things. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) would confirm his view if he was right and correct him if he was wrong. When the Messenger (SAW) said, ‘Bring me a sheet so that I may write something for’, ‘Umar – as was his usual habit – offered his suggestion, saying that the Book of Allah was sufficient, and the Prophet (SAW) agreed with him. If he had wanted to go ahead and write the statement, he would have told ‘Umar to be quite and he would have done what he wanted.”

Akhbar Umar.

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