Do the words in 33:21 instruct us to mimic every act done by the Prophet?

A good example has been set for you in the messenger of God for anyone
who seeks God and the Last Day and who constantly thinks about God.

33:21

This glorious Quranic verse has been badly manipulated by those who wish to find Quranic justification for what is termed 'the sunna of Muhammad' when there is none. The Quran states clearly that the only sunna is the 'Sunna of God' (33:62, 35:43 and 48:23).

PART 1

According to the hadith advocates, the words in 33:21, which state that the messenger has set a good example for the believers, mean that all believers must follow every little thing that the messenger did. This includes all his actions from the way he observed his prayers and other rituals, up to his personal habits such as: which hand he used to eat with, how long he grew his beard, with which foot he entered the toilet, how he blew his nose in the morning and even whether he urinated standing up or seated! Obviously this is not the message of 33:2,1 nor for that reason why God sends His messengers, nor what God wants us to learn from His messengers! Needless to say, when we read the words in 33:21 we find a totally different message to the one they portray.

The hadith advocates always quote the words "usswaton hasana" (good example) from 33:21 yet they totally disregard the rest of the verse. When we consider all of the words in 33:21 we find that God tells us that the messenger has set a good example in specifically two matters, they are:

1- The messenger has set a good example in seeking God and the Last Day.

2- The messenger has set a good example in constantly thinking about God.

God is very specific with regards to what capacity the messenger has set a good example. He did not set an example in everything he has ever done, nor should he be followed blindly as a person, but he did set an example specifically in these two matters.

Consequently, if we wish to follow the example of the messenger, we too should seek God and the Last Day, and constantly think about God.

We do not need volumes upon volumes of fabricated tales from the likes of Abu Huraira to be able to seek God and the Last Day, nor to constantly think of God.

That is not all. The Quran continues to provide us with solid confirmation that the good example (usswaton hasana) set by the messenger is related specifically to the context given in the Quran.
Let us look at the following two Quranic verses:

A 'usswaton hasana' (good example) has been set for you in Abraham and those with him when they said to their people, "We are exonerated from you and what you worship besides God and we reject you. Animosity and hatred has set in between us and you, and will remain forever until you believe in God alone. 60:4

A 'usswaton hasana' (good example) has been set in them for you for those who seek God and the Last Day. As for those who turn away, God is the Rich, the Praiseworthy. 60:6

From the above Quranic words we are able to derive the following key issues:

1- The same phrase "usswaton hasana" (good example) which is used in 33:21 (in connection with Muhammad) is used in 60:4 and 60:6 in connection with Abraham and those with him.

2- In 60:4 and 60:6 God gives us the exact context of how Abraham and those with him have set a good example, that being; in denouncing the idol worshippers and their deeds, and also in seeking God and the last day. This is identical in context to 33:21 where God gives us the exact context of how Muhammad had set a good example, that being; in seeking God and the last day, and in constantly thinking about God. The question here is if the good example in 33:21 means we have to find out how Muhammad entered the toilet and how he grew his beard and what position he slept in, should we also inquire about and follow the way Abraham entered the toilet, how he ate, if he had a beard, and in what position he urinated? Wait a minute! The words in 60:4 tell us that not only Abraham, but also those with him, they all set a good example for us. Should we thus inquire about and follow the individual habits of those who were with Abraham?

3- A very significant observation in 60:4 is in the words “laqad kana lakum” which mean: you have been given. The word "you" addresses all readers of the Quran, which includes us today. What this means is that Abraham and those who were with him have set a good example for all readers of the Quran.
The words in 60:4 tell us that not only Abraham, but also those with him, all set a good example for us. Should we thus inquire about and follow the individual habits of those who were with Abraham as well?
The answer is no! The context of 33:21 is not any different from the context of 60:4. All these righteous people set a good example for us; specifically in seeking God and the Last Day and in constantly thinking about God.

The words "and those with him (Abraham)" indicate that God is speaking about normal believers among the followers of Abraham, and not the sons of Abraham. When God speaks in the Quran about Abraham's descendents, who were also Prophets (Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob), God always refers to them by name. Examples are found in 1:125, 2:132, 2:140, 4:163, 12:38. The Prophet sons of Abraham are never referred to in the Quran as "those with him". So what does this phrase "those with him" tell us?

We note that God says that "those with him" (ordinary believers) have also set a good example for us. This provides even further conclusive evidence that the phrase "usswaton hasana" (good example) is not an invitation for us to follow the hadith or sunna of anyone. If this were the case, we must also follow the hadith and sunna of the ordinary folk who were with Abraham!

4- The words in 60:4 and 60:6 also confirm that any good believer who observes the righteous deeds spoken of in these verses, will also set a good example and not just Abraham and those with him or Muhammad (as in 33:21). Therefore if this "good example" can be set by any genuine believer, then this refutes the manner in which the Sunnis manipulate 33:21 to imply that we must mimic Prophet Muhammad in all his personal habits.

It follows that the good example set by Muhammad (33:21), and by Abraham and those with him (60:4-6) must be understood specifically in the context given in the Quran; seeking God and the last day, in denouncing idolatry, and in constantly thinking about God.

PART 2

Having established the correct context of the words "good example" set by the messenger, it is necessary to respond to those who claim that in order to be able to follow the example of the messenger, we would need to know exactly what the messenger did to achieve the acts listed in 33:21. They add that such details are found only in the hadith. So let us see what the Quran says about this matter.

The "good example" in 33:21 speaks of 3 specific acts:
1- Seeking God
2- Seeking the Last Day (Hereafter)
3- Thinking about God constantly.

God assures us that the Quran has all the details (6:114), that is provides explanations of all things (16:89), and that nothing has been left out of the Book (
6:38).
As a result, if we wish to follow the example of the messenger and achieve the 3 acts above, we would expect to find clear instructions in the "fully detailed" Quran (6:114) about these 3 acts. We should not need to rely on any other source to derive this information:

Or do you have some other book in which you are studying?
68:37

1- Seeking God

Seeking God means seeking His approval and His love, and being totally devoted to Him alone.

Seeking God's approval
Numerous Quranic verses instruct us to seek God's approval through doing good work, giving to charity, maintaining our Salat and so on:

The good that you give is for your own good. Indeed that which you give should be for the sole aim of seeking God's approval. The good that you give will be fully repaid back to you, and you will not be treated unjustly. 2:272

And the ones who were patient, seeking their Lord's approval, and observed the Salat, and gave from what We have provided them, secretly and openly, and who avert a bad deed with a good deed; those shall have the ultimate abode.
13:22

What you give as Zakat, seeking God's approval
; it is those who are the multipliers. 30:39

Seeking God's love
The Quran lists various attributes which we should work to have in order to attain the love of God. The following are some examples:

You shall do good; God loves the good-doers.
2:195

God loves the reverent.
3:76

You shall trust in God. God loves the trusting ones. 3:159

God loves those who are equitable.
5:42

God loves those who purify themselves.
9:108

Being totally devoted to God alone
Once again, we find the correct way to be devoted to God alone outlined in the Quran:

Say, "My Salat, my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted to God, the Lord of the worlds.
6:162

We have brought down to you the Book with truth, so worship God devoting the religion purely to Him.
39:2

If they argue with you, say, "I have submitted my face to God, and so do the ones who follow me."
3:20

I have turned my face towards the One who initiated the heavens and the earth
; a monotheist, I am not one of the mushrikeen. 6:79

2- Seeking the Last Day (Hereafter)

We read in the Quran that some people live for their worldly life, while others seek the Last Day and invest for it. It is the second group of people who are the winners and who will attain the reward of Paradise:

Some of you want this world and some of you want the Hereafter.
3:152

Are you satisfied with the worldly life over the Hereafter? The enjoyment of the worldly life will mean so little in the Hereafter.
9:38

God extends the provision for whomever He wills and withholds it. They are overjoyed with the worldly life, yet, compared to the Hereafter, the worldly life is but a brief enjoyment.
13:26

As for the believer who seeks the Hereafter and strives for it with the striving it deserves; the striving of those is gratefully received.
17:19

Whoever seeks the harvest of the Hereafter
, We increase for him his harvest and whoever seeks the harvest of this world, We will give him thereof and he will have no share in the Hereafter. 42:20

3- Thinking about God constantly

The instruction to remember God frequently is also spelled clearly in the Quran,

O you who believe, you shall remember God frequently.
33:41

So remember Me and I will remember you, and be thankful to Me and do not disbelieve. 2:152

Those who remember God
while standing, sitting and on their sides ..... 3:191

You shall remember your Lord
within yourself humbly and fearfully, without loudness of voice, in the mornings and the evenings, and do not be among the oblivious. 7:205

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The Quranic information presented above fully covers the 3 acts mentioned in 33:21. We do not need any explanatory hadith to guide us to how to remember God frequently or how to seek His approval, nor to provide us with the benefits of seeking the Hereafter!
The messenger of God, who was the first to set eyes on the Holy Quran, was also given all the above recipes to attain the 3 acts in 33:21.
It follows that God would command Prophet Muhammad to follow nothing other than the Quran:

Say (O Muhammad), "I am not a novelty among the messengers, nor do I know what will happen to me or to you. I follow nothing other than what is revealed to me (Quran). I am no more than a clear warner."
46:9

Some hadith followers claim that the words "what is revealed to me" in 46:9 include the hadith of Prophet Muhammad. However, this claim violates the Quranic assurance that the only revelation brought down to Prophet Muhammad was the Holy Quran:

And We brought down to you the Book with truth, confirming what came before it of the Scripture and superseding it. So rule among them in accordance with what God has brought down (the Book).
5:48

The words in 5:48 clearly mention
"the Book" as what God "brought down" to Prophet Muhammad. It goes without saying that the "Book" here refers to the Quran and not the book of Bukhari or others.
In addition, God commands the Prophet to rule among the people in accordance to what God "brought down" to him, which according to the same verse, is the "Book" (Quran).
If every word uttered by the Prophet (his hadith) was also brought down to him by God (as they claim), then why did God only mention the "Book" (5:48) for what was "brought down"?

In addition, we read in
6:19 how Prophet Muhammad was commanded to utter what God called the "greatest testimony". That testimony was a confirmation of what Prophet Muhammad received from God. Needless to say, only the Quran is mentioned in that testimony:

Say (O Muhammad), "What thing is the greatest testimony?" Say, "God is Witness between me and you, and this Quran has been revealed to me to warn you with it and whomever it reaches. 6:19