The outweighing of these definitions is the second one, which includes the statements of the companions and their actions in the Sunnah, but taking into account that when the Sunnah is designated and defined, diverted to his Sunnah - peace be upon him -, while assigning it to that which emanated from the companions, comes rather constrained. Thus, it is said (the Sunnah of the upright successors) or (the upright Sunnah) and the reason for this shift in weight is the following:
1 – That Allah – the Almighty and Majestic – endorsed the companions and the followers in the Holy Quran, so He said: (The vanguard (of Islam)- the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds,- well- pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them has He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.) (1).
Ash-Shaatibi says: "the Sunnah of the companions - may Allah be pleased with them – is one to rely and refer to, in evidence for this: Allah’s tribute to them without exception (2), and their compliment with justice and what is due to it, such as His saying, Almighty: (you are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind) ( 3), and His saying: (Thus, have We made of you a nation justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves). (4).
2 - That the Messenger of Allah - peace be upon him - urged to take after them, he said: (You ought to follow my Tradition and that of the rightly-guided, upright successors; bite upon it with your back teeth ...) (5).
He also said: (The Children of Israel split following seventy-two sects, and my nation diverged to seventy-three, all of them in the fire except one, they said: which one is it, O Messenger of Allah? He said: that which my companions and I follow).
Our predecessors have realized the value of this Prophetic guidance, therefore decided to embrace as Sunnah, the words of the companions and their actions:
Ibn Abd Al-Barr narrated, based on his reliance on Maalik ibn Anas, he said: Omar bin Abdul Aziz said: “The Messenger of Allah- peace be upon him – and the guardians after him, instigated a set of examples to follow; adopting them amounts to trust in the Book of Allah, refinement of obedience to Allah and strength in the way of the religion of Allah. Whoever followed them, is surely guided, and whoever called upon them, is surely triumphant, and whoever violated them; has surely followed a path other than that becoming to people of faith, and Allah left him in the path he has chosen, and cast him in the Hell Fire; and what an awful refuge! "(6).
Ad- Daarimi related, based on his reliance on ‘Awn bin Abdullah bin ‘Utbah bin Mas’oud - may Allah be pleased with him – that he said: "I would not have liked that the companions of Mohammed - peace be upon him - did not disagree; if they agreed on something then one man left it, he forsook the Sunnah, and if they disagreed then one man followed the opinion of someone, he followed the Sunnah. "(7).
Ibn Abd Al-Barr narrated, based on his reliance on Saleh bin Kisan, who said: "I met with Az-Zuhari, while we were seeking knowledge, we said: let us compile the Sunnahs (precedents): so, we did write down what came from the Prophet - peace be upon him - then he said: let us write down what came from his companions for it is Sunnah. I said: It is not of the Sunnah, therefore we do not write it down, and he wrote and I did not, therefore he saved while I wasted."(8).
This is what prompted Imam Al-Bayhaqi to combine in his book "As-Sunan Al-Kubra" that which came from the Prophet - peace be upon him - and that which came from his companions and followers as their words and deeds, as if the Sunnah for him encompasses: the Mrfu’(narration attributed directly to the Prophet), Mawquf (narration attributed to the companions) and Maqtu’ (narration attributed to the followers).
3 – The training they received in matters of religious jurisprudence, so that they became better placed than others to formulate legal opinions and independent interpretation, as if what came from these as statement, formulated legal opinion or action, does not go beyond guidance by a precedent (Sunnah), or analogical reasoning about a precedent (Sunnah), so it was befitting to be within the concept of Sunnah.
As-Shaatibi said: "The majority of scholars favoured the companions when it came to weighting statements, a party among them has made statements by Abu Bakr and Omar into argument and evidence, and some of them counted the declarations of the four Successors as evidence, while some took the statements of the companions as overall argument and evidence, and each of them has a particular declaration relating to the Sunnah... It is sufficient above all: what came in the Statements regarding the duty to esteem them (the companions and the followers), to reprehend those who loathe them, and that he who loves them loves the Prophet - peace be upon him -, and he who loathes them loathes the Prophet - peace be upon him -, not owing to the fact that they saw him, or were seen in his proximity, or dialogued with him only, as there is no privilege in that, but it is due to the intensity of their devotion to him, endeavouring themselves to enact his Tradition, together with protecting and supporting him. Whoever achieved such a status, is surely well worthy to be taken as an example to follow, and his precedent be made a focal point to turn to."(9).
(1) Chapter At-Taubah / 100.
(2) ie: without exception.
(3) Chapter Al-‘Imran / 110.
(4) Chapter Al-Baqarah / 143.
(5) Narrated by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, Kitab As-Sunnah, the chapter pertaining to the necessity of the Sunnah, No (4607), and Al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, Kitab Al-‘Ilm, the chapter pertaining to what came in the adoption of the Prophetic Sunnah and avoidance of innovations, No (2676), and he said: sound and authentic. Ibn Majah in his Sunan; Al Muqaddimah: the chapter pertaining to following the Sunnah of the rightly-guided, upright Successors, No (42, 43).
(6) Jaami’ Bayan Al-‘Ilm (2 / 1176 No. 2326), and narrated by Al-Khatib in Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (1 / 435 No. 455).
(7) Sunan Ad-Daarimi, Introduction, the chapter pertaining to the differences among jurists (1 / 151).
(8) Jaami’ Bayan Al-‘Ilm (1 / 333 No (442), with an authentic chain of narration, and narrated by Abdul Razzaq in his Musannaf (11/258-259).
(9) Al-Muwaafaqaat (4 / 456, 462, 463).