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I have a few questions about Sunnah:

  • What is it?
  • Is it an action or belief?
  • Is it mentioned in the Quran?

Also, I would like to know where I can read more on it.

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7 Answers 7

Sunnah

Sunnah is derived from the word sanna (سن), which literally means a clear, well-trodden path. It is used to describe the practices of Prophet Muhammad (S), and is usually practiced by a Sunni Muslim.

A Sunni Muslim is one who practices these usages of the Prophet's (S) sunnah.

What did the Prophet (S) say about Sunnah?

In Rasulallah's (S) farewell speech (sermon), he said:

Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

He basically told the Ummah, as long as you followed the Quran, and tried to be as much like him as you could, you will have your place in Heaven.

What does the Quran say about Sunnah?

The Quran does not directly mention Sunnah, as it is/was used. However, Muhammad Muhsin Khan, when translating the Quran into English, interpreted the following:

And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. [2:4]

In his works, he interpreted that, when Allah (S) says what has been revealed to you, he is not only speaking of the Quran, but all that has come before it, and the Messengers that brought it:

And who believe in (the Quran and the Sunnah) which has been sent down (revealed) to you (Muhammad Peace be upon him ) and in [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.] which were sent down before you and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter they are certain in faith [2:4]

There are many other instances of this interpretation in the Muhsin Khan's translated Quran.

Would you like to learn more about Sunnah? Follow the links above, and do a quick Google search. You will find lots of information.

Is this the only definition of Sunnah?

No.

On top of the above, Sunnah could also mean mustahabb (مستحبّ), which means recommendation. When used in relation to Islam, a Sunnah is a religious action that is encouraged and rewarded, but is not mandatory, and is not Haram (a sin) if you don't do it. For example, it is Sunnah to do Wudhu (clean oneself) before sleeping.

Sunnah could also be used in prayer. In this case, Sunnah is doing extra rak'at for each prayer:

  • Salat al-Fajr - 2 rak‘at before, none after until after sunrise.
  • Salat al-Dhuhr - 2 rak‘at before and after
  • Salat al-‘Asr - none before or after
  • Salat al-Maghrib - 2 after
  • Salat al-‘Isha - 2 after

Praying these rak'at are not mandatory, but get you extra rewards. Therefore, they are Sunnah.

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@Dynamic - I think what ashes999 is trying to say (and correct me if I'm wrong), is that you should clarify that the word "sunnah" is also used to describe an act that is mustahab. –  System Down Jun 22 '12 at 19:47
    
@SystemDown Made that edit. –  Dynamic Jun 22 '12 at 19:57
    
This is a good beginning for an answer - but IMHO missing a few things. Sunnah has different definitions in fiqh, aqeedah, manhaj, hadith, etc. –  Ansari Jun 22 '12 at 21:41
    
@Ansari If you would like, I can make this post a Community Wiki, and you would be able to edit it freely with that extra information. I am not completely sure that I know the correct info to add here. Of course, you can alwys add your own answer :-) –  Dynamic Jun 22 '12 at 23:25
    
Good answer. I wish I could improve it, but I don't know how to describe my knowledge in English. Anyway, in summary, the word "Sunnah" has been used with two main meanings. In Fiqh, it's used to mean "recommended, but not obligatory", while in Osool (علم الأصول), it's used to mean "every thing said, done or accepted by the Prophet (saaw)". The first conveys a verdict on an action, while the second is his path in life (المنهاج). This second meaning is the one referred to by Qur'an and Hadith. –  Hosam Aly Dec 31 '12 at 8:15
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First of all I would like to clear the concept to you. The Holy Quran is the collection of all Allah's messages which were revealed upon our great Prophet Hazrat Muhammad(SM). If you have read Quran with the verse's meanings then you have certainly noticed that though Allah declared to perform Salat (prayer) and other Ibadats, there are no directions on how to perform that specific Ibadat. So, in a word Quran is the sum-total briefing of the whole world.

Again, Sunnah means the activities, orders, the silent agreements, the agreements, etc.(like these) of our great Prophet(SM). Sunnah describes the activities(how to perform, how to maintain the specific order of that Ibadat, etc.) declared in the Holy "Quran". Sunnah's position is next to Quran.

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God says the in Holy Quran:

"من يطع الرسول فقط أطاع الله، ومن تولى فما أرسلناك عليهم حفيظا " النساء:80

He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah; but those who turn away - We have not sent you over them as a guardian. (AL Nisa:80)

In other words, obedience to the Prophet is obedience to God and disobedience to the Messenger of Allah is a disobedience to Allah. And obedience to the Prophet reflected by following his Sunnah and following what ordered it and avoid what was forbidden it.

Note: following Sunnah doesn't mean tradition human beings, but following the tradition of the Messenger of Allah,who infallible of guilt and sin.

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Sunnah is the sayings, actions, approvals, dis-approvals, mannerisms, and physical descriptions the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him). Now, before I go into the answer I would like to clarify two things. One, is that many think that Hadith and Sunnah is the same, and that is not the case. Hadith has the same description of that of sunnah, that I mentioned above. But, the difference is that Hadith is the container through which the Sunnah is communicated to us, so the Sunnah is the content of Hadith.

Two, Sunnah can be split into two categories:

  1. سنة طبيعية
  2. سنة تشريعية

The first category can be translated as Natural Sunnah, this is how the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) lived His life as a human Arab in Arabia, what he disliked as a human being and what he liked, this type of Sunnah is not part of Islam, so we are not obliged to follow this sunnah. But if we do, there is nothing wrong. An example of this sunnah is the desert lizard, the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) did not like to eat it, but it was only a personal dislike not regarding religion, Hadith.

As for the second category, it can be translated as legal sunnah, and this is from which the religion is built from.

What is it? (Sunnah)

It refers to the way of the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him), it is the sayings, actions, approvals, dis-approvals, mannerisms, and physical descriptions of Him (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him).

Is it an action or belief?

I don't totally understand, but if I understand correctly, the answer is no it is not a belief, for the sunnah is part of Islam not something separate.

Is it mentioned in the Quran?

Yes it is mentioned in the Quran. You can find throughout the Quran mentioning that one should follow the prophet (May Allah's blessings and peace be upon Him).

Like the following Ayah in Surat Al Hashar Ayah 7:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانْتَهُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

And whatever the Messenger has given you - take; and what he has forbidden you - refrain from. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty

and

In Surat Al Imran Ayah 31:

Say, [O Muhammad], "If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."

There are other Ayahs in the Quran which order the following of the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him), the above two are examples of some of the.

Sources: The foundations of Islamic Studies part 2, module 1 video a

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according to Sunni Sunnah is sayings, practices, or acceptances of prophet. according to Shia Sunnah is sayings, practices, or acceptances of any of the fourteen infallibles.

in Quran:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّـهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّـهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا

[33:21] Sahih International There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.

http://tanzil.net/#33:21

here you can read about Real Sunnah:

http://www.al-islam.org/real/

(reading this book by professor Tijani is highly recommended)

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-1 What is Real Sunnah? Is there fake Sunnah? –  Dynamic Jun 22 '12 at 21:22
    
@Dynamic yes sure. there is fake sunnah. read that book to know. also tanzil.net/#6:153 –  Battle of Karbala Jun 22 '12 at 21:38
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Regarding "Is it mentioned in the Quran?" part of the question:

He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah.

(4:80)

Of course personal practices of Muhammad (May Salat and Salam be upon him) cannot be directly taken as orders. However, obedience to the rasulullah has different degrees and at the highest degree, you follow all his footsteps. Why? Because you believe he is the messenger of Allah and thus know he cannot be wrong. Being the ultimate servant of God, he leads the way. Therefore if you ignore sunnah, you will miss a lot.

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This word has different usages which causes confusion. The context determines the sense in which you are using it.

  • Sometimes it is equated with the word 'Hadith'
  • Sometimes it is loosely applied to all the acts performed by the Prophet. (IMHO uswah-e-hasanah i.e. the best practices is the correct term for this)
  • Sometimes it refers to those rakah's of prayers that are not obligatory but the Prophet offered them more or less regularly
  • Sometimes it is used as an independent source of deen. This, I think, is the usage which is not well understood amongst the masses. So, I'll explain it further.

Please try to categorize all the responses you receive in the above categories. It will certainly help

Sunnah as an independent source of religion

In which form have we received religion?

Qur'an?

Yes! But is Qur'an the only thing that the prophet gave to his followers?

Of course not! Here comes the Sunnah. The prophet also initiated some religious practices which have come down to us through perpetual practice of intermediary generations e.g. the way of offering Salah, the rates of Zakah, the celebration of Eids, circumcision of male off-springs etc. We know that Qur'an is silent about these but majority of Muslims ever since the beginning have considered them a part of religion.

Please note that this is different from Hadith. Hadith is basically a historical record which may also record the Sunnah being practiced at that time. Had there been no hadith written even then Sunnah would have been there.

That's why I said that Sunnah is an independent source in itself as compared to Hadith. Hadith may contain explanation of Qur'an and Sunnah but it does not add anything into religion.

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