From the manifestations of Allāh’s lordship is that He governs and sustains the affairs of life in entirety. To Him belongs the dominion. He is the one who directs all the affairs to do with creation, command and recompense. To Him belongs the whole of creation; all of it is subservient to Him, owned by Him and in continuous need of Him.
Such sovereignty and might makes necessary that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) governs this entire creation with a perfect system that ensures its continuance, for Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) has not created this creation in mere play and then left it to its own accord.
“And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.”
Thus, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) created the heavens and the earth based upon laws which govern their very existence and has made mention of many of them in many places in His book:
“And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing. And the moon – We have determined for it phases, until it returns [appearing] like the old date stalk. It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).”
A universal feature that one will find with such laws is that of consistency and regularity. Gravity is an example of such a law. If the earth’s gravitational pull fluctuated and was irregular, the earth would not habitable. Likewise, if the boiling or freezing point of water were inconsistent, life would be unbearable and perhaps even impossible. Thus Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) declares such phenomena to be signs of His lordship:
“And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it they eat.”
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allāh has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth, are signs for a people who use reason.”
These universal laws of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) are not just restricted to matters pertaining to nature alone, rather they extend to the manner in which Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) deals with mankind, whether that be related to the way in which Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) guides, brings happiness, provides, gives victory, destroys nations, relieves people from distress, causes progress, failure and gives safety, and more. Many of these laws (sunan) that are related to societies and human interaction are fixed and determined just like the universal laws are too. Thus if a believer wants to understand how Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) interacts with His creation it is a necessity that he studies and reflects over such sunan which have been mentioned throughout the Qur’ān and Sunnah.
An example of such sunan is the way in which Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) deals with the hypocrites. Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) says:
“If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is disease and those who spread rumors in al-Madīnah do not cease, We will surely incite you against them; then they will not remain your neighbors therein except for a little. Accursed wherever they are found, [being] seized and massacred completely. [This is] the established way (sunnah) of Allāh with those who passed on before; and you will not find in the way (sunnah) of Allāh any change.”
Imam at-Tabari in his exegesis commented on the last part of the verse: “and you will not find in the way (sunnah) of Allāh any change.” Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) is saying to His Prophet Muhammad (subḥānahu wa ta’āla): “You will not find, O Muhammad, any change with regards to the sunnah of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) that he has decreed for His creation. So be sure to know that He is not going to change His sunnah for these hypocrites.”
Likewise Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) says:
“And they swore by Allāh their strongest oaths that if a warner came to them, they would be more guided than [any] one of the [previous] nations. But when a warner came to them, it did not increase them except in aversion. [Due to] arrogance in the land and plotting of evil; but the evil plot does not encompass except its own people. Then do they await except the way (sunnah) of the former peoples? But you will never find in the way (sunnah) of Allāh any change, and you will never find in the way of Allāh any alteration.”
Such verses make it evidently clear that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) has decreed certain laws with which He interacts with His creation. It is for this reason that He has related to us stories of the previous nations so that we take heed from their errors and not fall into the same situation as they did. Thus Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) says:
“Similar situations [as yours] have passed on before you, so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was the end of those who denied. This [Qur’ān] is a clear statement to [all] the people and a guidance and instruction for those conscious of Allāh.”
It is for this reason that it is wrong for us to read the verses that speak about disbelieving people and then think that they cannot be applied to us. Rather, from the reasons why Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) mentions such incidents, is to warn the believers not to follow in their footsteps and therefore face a similar fate to theirs.
It must be clear at this point that sunan that pertain to social matters can only be determined by Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) and His messenger (ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) since these sunan are unlike the universal sunan which are empirical by nature. It is the aim of these articles to provide an insight into some of these sunan based on scriptural evidence and in particular, the sunnah of social revival and change.
Determining the Sunan.
As it has been already stated, these sunan are determined by scriptural evidence since they are not generally empirical by nature. In fact in many cases one will find that perhaps logic might lead to a different conclusion of what the sunnah of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) states. For example, the Prophet (ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Wealth does not decrease by giving charity.”
Logically, one would assume that when one gives some of their wealth away in charity, their wealth would decrease. However, the very opposite is true. The scholars of Islām have interpreted the aforementioned narration by stating that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) blesses the person’s remaining wealth such that his wealth will be more fruitful and rewarding or that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) will replace that wealth that the person had given by providing him greater sustenance in the future. Likewise, logic might dictate that social reform, eradication of evil and achieving prosperity can only really occur through the change of government since it is the most influential mechanism to shape public opinion and see to people’s needs. However, a study of the Qur’ān and sunnah will show that the matter is not as simple as that. The important point that needs to be understood here is that the Qur’ān and sunnah has to be studied in depth to learn these sunan such that people are not fooled by what is apparent and therefore choose to ignore these divine injunctions.
Sometimes these sunan are explicitly expressed in the Qur’ān as sunnan, as we have seen from the verses from Sūrah al Aḥzāb and al Fātir. Other times however, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) may allude to a sunnah by mentioning a specific consequence resulting from a particular incident or condition being fulfilled. For example, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) says:
“And those cities – We destroyed them when they wronged, and We made for their destruction an appointed time.”
“Indeed, Allāh will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”
Sometimes conditional phrases are used so as to indicate these sunan:
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.”
“O you who have believed, if you support Allāh, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.”
Types of Sunan.
The sunan of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) are many and thus have not been enumerated as an exclusive list. Amongst these sunan are the following:
- The sunnah of cause and effect;
- The sunnah pertaining to guidance and misguidance;
- The sunnah of tests and tribulations;
- The sunnah pertaining to injustice;
- The sunnah pertaining to victory and defeat;
- The sunnah pertaining to sins and sinners;
- The sunnah pertaining to establishment upon the earth.
Part two of this article will discuss some of these sunan in detail inshā’ Allāh.
And Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) knows best.
References Al-Qur’ān 21:16  Al-Qur’ān 36:38-40  Al-Qur’ān 36:33  Al-Qur’ān 2:164  Al-Qur’ān 33:60-62  Tafsīr al-Tabari  Al-Qur’ān 35: 42-43  Al-Qur’ān 3:137-8  Tirmidhi  Al-Qur’ān 18:59  Al-Qur’ān 13:11  Al-Qur’ān 16:97  Al-Qur’ān 47:7