What is the Sunnah?

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What is the Sunnah?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The lexical meaning of the Sunnah is “way, process, nature, principle and law”. As a term, it means  all of the expressions, statements and deeds of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The meaning of statement is not to refuse a matter by remaining silent. Hadiths explain verses of the Qur’an. Verses of the Qur’an explain divine intention which is declared briefly. They give a judgment on a subject which is not included in the Qur’an.

The order of “Perform salah!” is the essence; its details are included in the hadiths. There are no details concerning the numbers of rakahs of salahs, the forms of praying in the verses of the Qur’an. Then, how would the order of “Perform Salah” be fulfilled if there was no Sunnah? “Perform salah the way you see me performing it.” (Glorious Hadith).

Similarly, the particulars and details of the order of “Give alms” is certain by hadiths.

Badiuzzaman explains hadiths as “the primary tafsir (interpretation)” of the Qur’an. While the explanations of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about the verses of the Qur’an is “the first interpretations”, his answers to the questions of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is the first fatwas (Islamic religious ruling) too. Also, the Ijtihads (making of a decision in Islamic law) that were made by him is the first in history. The apostle of God guided his Ummah through ijtihads as he did regarding every issue.

“When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct).” (Surah An-Nisa, 4/83)

Every destination has a different way. The way of becoming rich and a scholar is not the same. For the first, the rules that are peculiar to the economy must be followed and the ones who are successful are to be taken as examples. For the second, one must be the student of experts on science.

Reaching the divine truths is only possible through following the authorized experts of this area.

“Self-evidently truth and reality lie in prophethood and in the hands of prophets. While evil, misguidance, and loss are with those who oppose them.” (The Flashes, The Seventeenth Flash)

A verse that informs presents the Sunnah as a requirement for the love of God:

Say: "If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins; for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surah Aal-e-Imran, 3/31)

The prophet Muhammad is an exemplary human (PBUH) who is loved and consented by God. The love of God of a person who does not follow him is doomed to be unfulfilled. While the truth is this, turning away from the Sunnah of the Prophet by deciding to act upon only with verses as a result of being possessed by delusion and this means to give up resembling the person who is loved by God.

If a person tries to evaluate the Qur’an with his own ideas instead of with the light of hadiths, the result will not be the way of the apostle of God (PBUH) but that man’s personal way. It is clear where this way will lead to.

What is meant by understanding the Qur’an is living with it and letting it live. At this point, the greatest guide is the apostle of God (PBUH). Let us read this truth from the verses of the Qur’an:

“Take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear Allah; for Allah is strict in Punishment.” (Surah Al-Hashr, 59/7)

“Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him.” (Surah An-Najm, 53/3-4)

“He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah: but if any turn away, We have not sent thee to watch over their (evil deeds).” (Surah An-Nisa, 4/80)

When the subject of adherence to the Sunnah is mentioned, we understand the notion of following the way of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and thus being on the right way in every issue.

Now let us ask ourselves the following question: What would a believer do if he/she were in the time of the prophet? Of course, he/she would follow the apostle of God in every subject. Wouldn’t he?

So, at this moment, it is the same thing by being very observant of the Sunnah of the prophet (PBUH).

Badiuzzaman divides the Sunnahs into three main categories:

“The sources of the Noble Prophet’s Illustrious Practices are three: his words, his acts, and his conduct.” (The Flashes, the Eleventh Flash)

So, the sacred practices of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is comprised by “the bright statements from His blessed language”, “the deeds that He performed” and the exemplary ethics that He showed himself to the humanity”.

A Muslim starts to imitate the lord of the prophets (PBUH) from the fards (the duties that are commanded by God). As the orders of God are fard and they are also sunnah since they are performed by the apostle of God (PBUH). That is, a believer who is very observant of the orders of God and keeps himself away from the prohibitions will be regarded to have performed the fard parts of the Sunnah.

A believer who performs the fards continues his spiritual development with nafilah (supererogatory) worships.  Nafilah means worships apart from fard and wajib (obligatory).

As the Sunnahs of five daily prayers is in the group of Nafilah worships, there are many nafilah worships such as the Duha prayer, tahiyyat al-Masjid (the prayer of greeting the Masjid) and the night prayer.

“Adat al Hasana” (Good Habits) is the human deeds of the apostle of God such as eating, drinking and sitting. Any of these are a good example for humans. When a believer tries to do his daily activities by imitating the apostle of God (PBUH), he will be able to find another kind of prosperity and an opportunity to have peace in worldly deeds.

“One who makes it his practice to follow the Practices of the Prophet (PBUH) transforms all his acts into worship, and may make his whole life fruitful and yielding of reward.” (The Flashes, the Eleventh Flash)

As for the Behavioral Sunnahs, these form a spectacular picture that were drawn by “taqwa, affection, all faculties of good morals, the highest moral qualities of human and the strongest humanistic characteristics.

The presence of fear and love of God in heart is among the Behavioral Sunnahs.

“I am the one who loves God the most. And I am the one who fears of Him the most.” (Hadith)

Prof.Dr. Alaaddin Başar

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