Amr is a statement

By default without added context, can any mere action prove compulsion and be construed as an amr (imperative)? The answer according to the Ahnaf is ‘No’ as an amr is a statement and not an action.

By Alm. S A Rahman

فال العلامة أبو البركات في كتابه المنار: منه (اي من الخاص) الأمر و هو قول القائل لغيره علي سبيل الإستعلاء إفعل. و يختص مراده بصيغة لازمة حتي لا يكون الفعل موجبا خلافا لبعض أصحاب الشافعي رحمه الله تعالي للمنع عن الوصال و خلع النعال. و الوجوب أستفيد بقوله عليه السلام صلو كما رأيتموني أصلي لا بالفعل و سمي الفعل به لأنه سببه اهـ

Amr is a statement said to someone other than themselves from an authoritative position using imperative words. Amr is a type of khas and it is specific with a statement or word. Hence, an action by it mere act will not be considered an amr (imperative) nor wajib.

The Ahnaf maintain that amr (imperative) are words; actions by default do not infer an imperative or compulsion.

The prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) used to fast a number of days without breaking the fast in between. Upon seeing this, the sahabah also began fasting without a break. The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) told the sahabah to stop fasting in this manner as they did not have the same strength Allah Almighty had given him.

In another instance, the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) was praying and whilst in salah, he took off his shoes. The sahabah also took off their shoes in turn. Upon finishing, the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) asked the sahabah why they had taken their shoes off during salah. They replied, ‘We saw you take it off so we took it off’. The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) replied, ‘Jibra’il (peace be upon him) informed me that on it there was impurity’.

If actions were imperative, in both instances it would have been compulsory for the sahabah to do as the Prophet (peace be upon him) did. However, this was not the case as the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) did not expect the sahabah to do these actions as a matter of compulsion without his express direction.

In contrast, some argue that an imperative can be inferred through an actions as well as words. They use the occasion of the battle of Khandaq. The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) missed his Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib salah due to the battle and so he prayed the missed salahs together at Isha consecutively. The sahabah also did the same thing. Some say that this is evidence that amr can be through action as the sahabah had to pray the same way after seeing the prayer of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, this proof is incomplete. The prophet (peace be upon him) did pray the missed salahs as mentioned but he then turned and said ‘Pray as you see me pray’. So the sahabah were not compelled to pray by the mere fact that they saw the prophet (peace be upon him) pray rather it was because he commanded them to pray.

قال الله سبحانه و تعالي و ما امر فرعون برشيد

Alternatively, some argue the case that an amr (imperative) can be inferred through action by using the ayat (11:97), ‘The amr of the Pharaoh was not rashid (prudent)’. The word ‘rashid’ is used in Arabic to describe an action whilst ‘sadid’ is used to describe a statement. Hence, here the amr refers to the action of the Pharaoh and not his statement. Allm. Nasafi declares this argument to have moved beyond the matter being discussed. Here, Amr refers to action as a metaphor due to it being the cause for action. Whilst, the key discussion here is whether amr can be inferred through action literally and by default without the aid of further contextual evidences.