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Importance of Sunnah

By Kazi Nasrat Ali

[Bismillahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim I start my write-up in the name of Allah (SWT), the most merciful and the most beneficent. I seek refuge in Allah, from any error or misrepresentation in this write-up; and all praises and thanks are due to Allah (SWT)]

Today there are many Muslims who ignore Sunnah or the way of the Prophet (SWS). This is not the right way of Islam. Quran and Sunnah together preserve our deen (religion). They together constitute the right path for our salvation. But there is a strange phenomenon among the Muslims these days when pointed out to do such as such as per Sunnah, they reply it is only a Sunnah and not required. This has led to many misunderstandings of our deen and has created many deviated paths. Due this attitude, there also has developed a dangerous quran-only fiqh.

Meaning of Sunnah and Hadith

Literally Sunnah ( )means a way, a course, a rule or manner, manner of acting or conduct of life whether good or bad The word Sunnah has been used differently by scholars in different disciplines. That is because the purpose and goal of different disciplines and different.

Definition according to Jurists: Jurists are mainly concerned with legal ruling of an act. It may fall under one of 5 categories (7 as per Hanafiis) mandatory (wajib), recommended(mustahaab, mandub), permissible (mubah), disliked (makhruh), unlawful (haram). The basic definition of Sunnah for the jurist is an act that is recommended and non-compulsory or an act that one is requested to perform but not in a strict sense or an act not continually observed by the Prophet (SAW), an act that if performed has rewards attached to it and if not performed, there is no penalty for it. This act is called Sunnah by the jurist and it falls under mustahaab, mandub. Definition according to Usul al-Fiqh: The main concern here is the determination of what is an authority in the Islamic Law and how that authority is used to derive laws.

The basic definition of Sunnah as per Usul al-Fiqh is What comes from the Prophet (SAW) in the form of speech, action, or tactical approval, other than the Quran. Definition according to Hadith Scholars: The main concern here is the determination of whether a report about the Prophet (his saying, actions, physical attributes, tacit approval etc.) are authentic or not or fall under what degree of authenticity. The basic definition of Sunnah as per Usul al-Fiqh is What has been passed down from the Prophet (peace be upon him) of his statements, actions, tactical approvals, manners, physical characteristics or biography, regardless of whether it was before he was declared as a Prophet or afterwards. Definition according to Aqeedah: The main concern here is the determination of what a Muslim should believe and to separate a true Muslim from a heretic. The basic definition of Sunnah as per aqeedah is The foundations of the faith, the obligatory deeds, the matters of creed and the definitive rulings of Islam. Here Sunnah is used in opposition to bidah. In this respect, when we say he is from ahl al-sunnah wa jamaah, that means his belief is based on the Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet.

Lexically it means news, information. Quran has used it in this meaning in a few places. However the technical meaning of the word to the Hadith Scholars is that it is a report of the Sunnah. We can say it is the carrier of the Sunnah. A Hadith (pl. ahadith) is has two parts isnad and matn. Isnad refers to the chain of narrators of the Hadith and matn contains the text of the report. Based on the credibility of the narrators or analysis of the matn, a hadith can fall under 4 basic categories Sahih (Authentic), hasan (good), daeef (weak) or maudhoo (fabricated).

Authority and Importance of Sunnah

In todays world, many Muslims dont follow Sunnah in toto. They say, in their ignorance, we only follow Quran and following Sunnah is only optional. The proof concerning the importance of Sunnah can be divided into 4 categories 1. Quran Quran states in many verses the importance of following the Prophets way. Lets bring some of the Quranic ayat


<<He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad SAW) as a watcher over them>>

<<O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and
those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (SAW), if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination. >>

<< And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) that you may obtain mercy>>

<<O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him (i.e. Messenger Muhammad SAW) while you are hearing. >>
The above verses are very clear about the importance of obeying the Messenger of Allah (SWS). Obedience to the Prophet (SWS) is nothing less than obedience to Allah. These verses cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted in any other way. In verse An-Nisa: 59 (stated above), Allah orders Muslims to obey Allah and His Messenger in case there is a dispute. If we look carefully, in the verse,

), refer to Allah and we see that Allah says ( the Messenger. The word and is use and not then (thumma) indicating the importance of judgment given by the Messenger. Further

refer to the Messenger means refer to his judgment during his lifetime and his sunnah after his death. Verse [Ale-Imran: 132], indicates that Allahs mercy in the next life will be on those who obey the Messenger (i.e. his sunnah). Verse [Al-Anfal: 20] further indicates the obligation to obey the Messenger when we hear and know what he is talking about. There are many other verses in the Quran with different verbs (ateeu, attabiu, raddu etc..) that Allah orders the believers to obey the Messenger, follow the Messenger, turn to the Messenger etc. Our great scholar Ibn Taymiyyah stated that the position of sunnah has been confirmed in over 40 places in the Quran [Majmooat al-Fataawa Ibn Taymiyyah]. So if anyone with sound mind reads the Quran, he cant miss the importance of following the sunnah. 2. Authentic Hadith After establishing the importance of sunnah directly from the Quran, we can turn to authentic Hadith where the Prophet (SWS) himself stated the importance of following his sunnah. During the farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (SWS) said: I have left among you two things that if you adhere to them you will never be misguided: The Book of Allah, and the Sunnah of His Prophet [Sahih Hadith, recorded by Malik, al-Baihaqi, al-Hakim] In another authentic Hadith, the Prophet (SWS) said: I had better not find anyone of you reclining on his bed and there comes to him one of my commandments or one of my prohibitions and he says about it I do not know, what we find in the book of Allah do we follow(only) . In these above ahadith the Prophet (SWS) warned the Muslims who neglect his sunnah. There are many other authentic Hadith indicating the importance of sunnah of the Prophet and danger of leaving them or neglecting them. 3. View of the Companions The companions are the ones who best understood the Quran our deen. They have been highly praised by Allah and the Prophet for their righteousness and adherence to the Prophets commands. The first 4 rightly guided khalifs (Abu Bkr, Umar, Uthmaan, Ali) are the best of the

companions and are also given the glad tiding of junnah by the Prophet (SWS). We can see some of their views on the sunnah. Abu Bakr (RA) stated: I have not left anything that the messenger of Allah used to do except that I also act upon it. I fear that if I were to leave any of his commands, I would become deviated. [al-ibaanab an shareeah al-firq al-naajih by ubaidullah ibn battah] It has been reported that Umar(RA) has reverted his judgment (on inheritance for widows) after finding the sunnah of the Prophet. There are many other instances, authentically reported, where we find that the companions felt obliged to follow the sunnah of the Prophet in the fear that they may go astray and earn Allahs wrath. 4. Scholarly Opinion The great scholars of Islam, throughout the ages, have agreed that it is obligatory to follow the sunnah of the Prophets. Ibn Khuzaymah said: No one can say anything if the Messenger of Allah (SWS) has already spoken (on a matter) and it comes to us through a sound chain. Mujaahid said: We accept some sayings and reject others of everybody except the Messenger of Allah. Urwah said: Following the sunnah is to establish the religion. It must be also noted that the four great Imams Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafii, Imam Ahmed - after whom the four madhabs/schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali) are based, place the sunnah of the Prophet side by side with the book of Allah while giving their fatwa, whenever any Hadith reach them through authentic narrations. All of these 4 Imams indicated that if an authentic Hadith reaches you that contradict their ruling then follow the Hadith.

Sunnah as a source of Law

Now that we have established the importance of Sunnah in the lives of Muslims, we must examine where it falls in regard to extracting the Sharia law. There are 3 opinions:

First opinion: The Quran takes precedence over the sunnah. Second opinion: The Quran and the sunnah are equal in authority. First opinion: The sunnah takes precedence over the Quran. These 3 opinions have their own proofs from the Quran and the sunnah. Whatever opinion we take, that is not our concern for our topic. What we find is that, the sunnah has been used as a source of Sharia law and without that our Sharia Law would be incomplete and deficient. The majority of Scholars of Usul l-Fiqh of Ahl l-sunnah wa jamah have recognized 4 sources of Sharia law, namely: The Quran, Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyas. They have placed Sunnah as the 2nd source of law.

Allah has preserved the Sunnah

It is our understanding that Allah has preserved the Sunnah of the Prophet. If we study Hadith Sciences we find how meticulously the Hadiths are preserved and how much scrutiny were done to categorize them as Authentic, Hasan, Weak or Fabricated. Numerous Hadith Scholars of the early generations spent their lifetime to master Hadith Sciences, so when Hadith Scholars agree upon the authenticity of an Hadith, we have no option but to act upon it.

Ruling concerning those rejecting Sunnah

We must understand and establish with proof that Sunnah is type of revelation from Allah, and the need to follow the sunnah has been firmly established from the Quran itself. Then we can say that one who rejects sunnah, in fact rejects numerous verses of the Quran. And if one rejects one verse of the Quran, he becomes a disbeliever. So we can say, whoever rejects sunnah in its entirety is in fact a disbeliever and Allah knows best. In fact, it is a scholarly consensus that the one who rejects sunnah of the Prophet is an apostate. Ibn Hazm wrote: If a person says we only follow what we find in the Quran, then he has become an unbeliever according to the consensus of the nation

The above discussion has definitely proven the authority and importance of sunnah. The Prophet (SWS) was sent as a teacher and a role model for all of mankind. He was sent as a warner of Allahs wrath and punishment, a bearer or good tidings, as well as a guide to Paradise. He was sent as a mercy to mankind. <<O Prophet! Verily, We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner and as one who invites to Allah (alone) by His permission and as a lamp that gives light. >>(Suratul Ahzaab 33:45-46) ] The sunnah of the Prophet (SWS) must be applied in all walks of a Muslims life in the matters of warship, interaction with others, matters of government affairs, family life and business.

Allah knows best. All thanks and praises are due to Allah.

References: a) b) A Textbook of Hadith Studies by Hashim Kamali The Authority and Importance of The Sunnah by Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo

Abbreviations: a) b) SWS = sallallahu alaihi wa sallam (Peace be on him) SWT = Subhanu wa Taala (Glorified and Exalted).