Does 33:21 tell us to enter the toilet with the same foot as 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).

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.

To conclude, 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.