The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Gamal Al Banna in Egypt Today

Noha El-Hennawy has a great story in Egypt Today this month about Gamal Al Banna and the debate around the sanctity of the Sunna in Islam, which I referred to in my previous post.

El-Banna dismisses accusations that he is calling on the faithful to abandon the Sunnah, but insists that the orally transmitted traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) are less binding on Muslims than the Qur’an itself.

“We cannot deny the Sunnah, even though it has been proven that most of the sayings attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) have been made up, were narrated in other people’s words or were transmitted inaccurately. This does not mean that there are no true sayings that set many Islamic fundamental principles; what it does mean is that it’s high time to study the Sunnah in a different way,� El-Banna says.

“The Qur’an never goes into detail,� he continues. “It talks about prayers and almsgiving and pilgrimage, but without specifying details. Does this mean the Qur’an forgot to mention them? Of course not. Had the Qur’an mentioned these details, they would have been eternally binding, which would have prevented the text from being compatible with different ages. In the meantime, we needed to know how to obey God’s commandments.

“For example, when God commanded Muslims to pray, he let the Prophet (PBUH) show us how. The Sunnah, whether it refers to the Prophet’s deeds or saying, is thus binding as long as it is compatible with progress. If it happens to be incompatible with the demands of any age, we must refer back to the Qur’an.�