It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said:
May Allah prosper the person who heard my saying, memorized it, comprehended it and retold it (to others) as he had heard it, since a carrier of knowledge may not be a scholar and perhaps one may transport knowledge to a more learned one."(38)
The Prophetic tradition means the specific actions, sayings and the declarations (confirmations)* of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
Allah, the Almighty ordered us to follow the Prophet (s.a.w.) and practise his traditions (sunnah) by saying:
...whatever the Apostle gives you accept it, and whatever he forbids you abstain (from it).
Holy Qur'an (59:7)
Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah an excellent examplar for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day...
Holy Qur'an (33:21)
...and If you have a dispute concerning any matter refer it to Allah and the Apostle.
Holy Qur'an (4:59)
*- Taqrir in Arabic means "confirmation". it is a declaration, approval and signature and means that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), himself had a witness for the actions practised by the Muslims but, did not forbid them.
These divine instructions were strictly adhered to by the Ahlul-Bait and those who followed their radiant path and advocated sincere adherance to the Book of Allah and the Prophetic sunnah in interpretation, narration, jurisprudence, legislation and ideology and other Islamic knowledge and sciences.
Thus, the Prophetic sunnah is the second source among the sources of thought and legislation on which the Muslims depended for judgement, laws and values.
Most of the Shari'ah laws, and their concepts were not clearly detailed in the Book of Allah like the laws concerning the paying of poor-rate (zakat), prayer, wealth, holy struggle (jihad), family, and international relations and others.
Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) started explaining them and clarifying their rules to the Muslims through his sayings and actions. He (s.a.ws) told the Imams of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) to return to the Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions as two main sources for explaining Islamic laws and rules and to refuse analogy, opinion, approval and other sources upon which some jurists of Islamic sects depended in their inductions and inferences.
It is narrated that Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
Never is there anything but that is mentioned either in the Book of Allah or in the Prophetic tradition."(39)
Sama'ah asked Imam Musa bin Ja'far: "I said to him: 'Is everything found in the Book of Allah and the tradition of His Prophet (s.a.w.); or do you comment on them?' He (a.s.) replied: 'Yes, all things are found in the Book of Allah and the sunnah of His Prophet '".(40)
Narrated Imam Ali bin Musa al-Ridha (a.s.) said:
Do not accept any saying (relating them to us) which disagrees with the Qur'an; surely our sayings should agree with the Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions; we speak either quoting them from Allah or His Messenger."(41)
It is narrated that Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
Do not accept any narrative related to us unless they agree with the Qur'an and the sunnah."(42)
Indeed the Imams of Ahlul-Bait memorized the Prophetic traditions quoting them from their fathers who quote them from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and called people to write them down from the period (of rule) of Ali and his son Hasan (a.s.) while the caliphs forbid the writing down of the sunnah and they continued so till the period of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz(43) who ordered, again, to write down the Prophetic traditions in the year of 99 A.H.(44)
Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
My narration is my father's, and my father's is my grandfather's, and my grandfather's is his father's, and his; father's is the narrative of Ali bin Abi Talib, and the narrative of Ali is the narrative of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), and the narrative of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), is the words of Allah. the Exalted."(45)
The Imams of Ahlul-Bait were those who comprehended and understood the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, memorized, narrated them to others, and explained their contents to the Muslim nation.
Scholarly Methods for Proving the true Sunnah:
In order to distinguish the true narratives (sunnah) from the interpolated and false ones, the scholars of the school of Ahlul-Bait placed some scholarly and ideological bases and measures for proving true sunnah. The most prominant of them are:
1. Any hadith (the Prophet's sayings) should be checked with the Book of Allah to see whether it is correct or not. If it conforms with the Qur'an, then, it is of true hadith, but, if it contradicts the divine text, then it is a false one.
2. All hadiths mentioned in the books of hadith, disregarding the reliability of their narrators, should be checked and investigated by the scholars in order to be sure of the reliability of the narrator and his truthfulness.
3. The scholars should not accept any narration unless their narrators are described by piety and truthfulness, disregarding the sect or the group to which the narrator belonged.
Therefore, the method of the jurists of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) is not to view a book of hadith as completely correct or as completely false.