A recent phenomenon in the west has begun where; “Muslims” will examine their religion. They will speak on Fiqh (law), Aqeedah(theology), and other issues, and they will leave out the Sunnah. For the most part this new phenomenon is called “modernism”.
No “Muslim” would ever say that I don’t believe in Prophet Muhammad PBUH, or I would not obey him if he told me something. But now they try to find ways around this. Some of these excuses are “well hadith weren’t really preserved” or “Imam Bukhari died 200 years after the Prophet”. “I don’t know what Prophet Muhammad actually said” is the same as saying “we don’t care what Prophet Muhammad PBUH said”. If you deny that the Sunnah has been preserved, the end result is denying the Sunnah itself.
Let’s first start off with some simple definitions. The meaning of the word “Sunnah” linguistically means path, a way. “Sunnah” is a simple path, or a road. The Sharia(Islamic Rulings) definition of “Sunnah” depends on who uses it, and what context. The scholars of Fiqh(law) define “Sunnah” to be “that which is not obligatory to do, but if a person does it he is rewarded.” This is the most commonly known meaning of “Sunnah”. According to the Scholars of hadith, “Sunnah” is defined as “All of the actions, the statements, the tacit approvals, and the physical characteristics of the Prophet.” According to the Scholars of Aqeedah, the “Sunnah” is defined as what the Muslims believe. The Theology of the Muslims is called the Sunnah. That is why Ahlus-Sunnah wa al Jamaah, take the name that they do. They are the people of the Sunnah, meaning they follow the theology of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. For example when Imam Ahmad Raheemullah wrote a book about Aqeedah (theology) he titled it Usool ul Sunnah(Fundamentals of the Sunnah). Now lets define the word “Hadith.” Linguistically “hadith” is the opposite of “khadeem”, “Hadith” it means “something that is new”. A person’s statements are called “hadith” because he said something new that he didn’t say before. From a Sharia point of view, “Hadith” is a statement of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
What is the difference of Sunnah and the Hadith? Hadith is something that is tangible. You can open up Sahih Bukhari, and read what the Prophet said. The Sunnah is something that is Abstract, it can be found in Hadith, but it is an action so it is not tangible. Sunnah is something that he did, so there is no such thing as a Sahih(authentic) Sunnah or a Daef(weak) Sunnah, but there are Sahih Hadith and Daef Hadith. When we are talking about the Sunnah, we are talking about a methodology, when we are speaking of Hadith, we are speaking of a specific statement, specific chain of narration, it may be authentic or weak. Hadith is what preserved the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
What is the status of Sunnah in Islam? The scholars of Islam have three very similar opinions. The first opinion is that the Sunnah is second only to the Qur’an. We find an Ayah and Hadith about something, we accept the hadith first and then also accept the hadith. The second opinion, which is the majority opinion, is that the Qur’an and the Sunnah are equivalent in weight. This does not mean that Qur’an and Sunnah are equivalent in blessing, no doubt the Qur’an is the most blessed book and the holiest book, but this means they are equivalent in a Fiqh (legal) point of view. The third opinion, which no scholar actually had this opinion, is that the Sunnah is stronger than the Qur’an, but this opinion has been referred too. The reason for this was that the Qur’an needs the Sunnah to be understood, but the Sunnah does not need the Qur’an to be understood. One should note that the no scholar has the third opinion. The strongest opinion is the second opinion. One should always remember that this is regarding Fiqh (law) and not Barakah (blessing).
InshAllah, in the next post I will be jumping into daleel, for following the Sunnah. The next post should be up on Monday InshAllah, and it will be a shorter version of an Authority of Sunnah course.