Prof. Dr. Ali Bakkal: "The Prophet As A Living Qur'an"

In our previous “Living with the Sunnah” IFSC seminar, Prof. Dr. Ali Bakkal of Akdeniz University talked about how the moral character and behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was so vital to his mission and also essential as an example.


Bakkal stated that all of the actions that comprised the Prophet’s (pbuh) manners and moral conduct are a “sunnah” for us. Indeed, they are a “sunnah of action” rather than simply that of words. Bakkal then asked, “If the Prophet (pbuh) says that ‘My Lord nurtured and disciplined me and taught me the best of conduct’ and if he also says that ‘I have been sent to perfect human conduct’ and then when Allah says ‘I have made him a beautiful example for you’ – after considering this, are we to assume that his actions are mere ordinary actions”?

Prof Bakkal referred to the time when people were asking Aisha (r.a) about the behaviour and character of the Prophet (pbuh). She responded to them by saying “Do none of you read the Qur’an? For the Qur’an was his conduct and character”. Bakkal elaborated this further by relating that “The Prophet (pbuh) was a walking Qur’an, a living Qur’an, and a type of talking Qur’an”.

Bakkal classified the actions and conduct of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) into three main categories: Legislative (Shariah), Personal and Private, and Normative:

1. His legislative character (Or actions connected with Shariah) is comprised of the following:

a) Declarations and statements

b) Forms of worship

c) His supplications

2. His personal and private actions which comprised the following:

a) Night Prayer as compulsory for the Prophet (pbuh); a “sunnah” for his community.

b) Fasting for several days without evening meals as recommended for the Prophet (pbuh); forbidden and “haram” for the Ummah.

c) Marrying more than four wives as a lawful action for the Prophet (pbuh); yet forbidden for his community.

d) Receiving charity as unlawful for the Prophet (pbuh); but allowed for the community.


3. Normative actions that are technically Shariah but have not been classified as such. Prof Ali Bakkal examined them as nine:

a) Those which derive from the Shariah

b) Actions he undertook in order to avoid imitating the non-Muslims

c) Exemplary moral actions

d) Actions that fortify and strengthen the human disposition

e) Practises suitable for the purposes of Jihad (Ali Bakkal stated that activities such as swimming, horse-riding, and marksmanship are not merely recreational but are meant to prepare people for fighting in a military jihad. These activities become Sunnah when they are carried out with the intention of them being a means for Jihad).

f) Actions pertaining to spiritual leadership and the giving of alms

g) Subjects where he resorted to mutual consulation (Prof. Bakkal stated that the Prophet[pbuh] only sought consultation with respect to worldly matters. For no human being could be in a position to speak to him about religion).

h) Everyday mundane behaviour: For example, the type of food he ate. Such actions do not pertain to Shariah, exemplary behaviour or moral conduct.

i) Actions and works that pertained only to the Dunya and worldly matters.


With regard to the last four categories, Prof Bakkal defined them as worldly aspects that are legally regarded as “permissible” while the others, given that they don’t just pertain to the marginal matters of Dunya are thus regarded as “Sunnah”.

Whilst answering a question pertaining to the relationship between men and women he gave an analogy of an apple that was cut in two halves, albeit unevenly. Regardless of the fact that they are uneven in size, they still form a whole when brought back together again. “God has given everybody a mission and duty according to their fitrah and disposition”, he said. “We have limitations with respect to our knowledge of matters. For example, for 20 years somebody may ask why you haven’t merged the different parts of your automobile into one. Yet there is a reason why we don’t do it. Thus, if sometimes we encounter a verse from the Qur’an or a Hadith that we don’t fully understand we still believe in it as part of our faith. For there is a certainty with us that Allah is Most Just!”