I like the way you describe sources of Islam. I however want to see some more clarifications about few questions:
Are the principles of Islam derived only from Qur’an or from Qur’an and Sunnah? Why?
If they are coming from both Qur’an and Sunnah, is it possible that there is no evidence of a principle of Islam in Qur’an while there are a plenty of evidences for it in Sunnah or vice versa? Why?
You said that Hadith cannot be credited equal to Sunnah because it is word of mouth of fallible people that reaches us through history and thus is not reliable. I would like to say that Sunnah is also the same. It is true that it’s not the word of mouth but it is understanding and perception of people from their previous generation that come into practice. One can find a lot of examples in every nation where a custom (Sunnat) has been gradually and un-intentionally changed through out the history to the degree that no one has any idea about the original custom and actually all think that what they are doing is the same as the original practice. Question is that: Why do you think that the transmission of a practice is SIGNIFICANTLY more reliable than the transmission of words?
I really do not know what exactly is implied by the term ‘Principles of Islam’. If you imply the ‘principles of deriving Islam’, then these principles, in my opinion, are based primarily on common sense. However, if ‘principles of Islam’ is used for the ‘basics of the Shari`ah‘, then the answer to your question, according to my understanding, is that the basics of the Shari`ah have been transmitted to us through the Qur’an and the Sunnah and, therefore, these two sources should be seen as the primary sources for the directives of Islam. As for ‘why’ should the Qur’an and the Sunnah be considered the primary sources of the Shari`ah, I have tried to address this question in one of my previous responses to a question titled “Difference Between Hadith & Sunnah“. I would request you to kindly refer to that question and the later discussions on that question, which you can easily access through the main question.
Both the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah are independent and primary sources of the directives of the Shari`ah. Thus, it is possible that a directive of the Shari`ah may be transmitted on the basis only of one of these two primary sources of the Shari`ah.
The difference between Hadith and Sunnah, according to my understanding, does not relate merely to the contents of the two sources but, on the contrary, relates to their respective scope and nature of formation and transmission1. Referring to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), you write:
It is true that it’s not the word of mouth but it is understanding and perception of people from their previous generation that come into practice.
In my opinion, as I have clarified in a number of my previous responses, this is not the case. Firstly, in contrast to the transmission of Hadith, the transmission of the Qur’an as well as that of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) is not dependent upon the understanding and perception of individuals. Secondly, because of the enormity of the number of people transmitting the Qur’an and Sunnah, any mistakes and deviations in the transmission of these sources are easily noticed and corrected. Neither of these aspects is present in the transmission of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh).
I hope this helps.
September 7, 2002