Concepts. What is Sunnah?
Among all Muslims worldwide these concepts are agreed upon. Although we all agree on the Qur’an and these basics, building past the very basic foundations of “Sunnah” (which also overlap historical events) is where the Sunni and Shi’a divide begins to take shape. I’m going to keep this simple so I don’t make this article too large or off topic. In an upcoming article I’m going to explain about the division in historical events, it’s effect on the followers of the religion and modern times.
There are three main usages of the word “Sunnah” among Muslims:
- “The Way” – In the earliest description of Jesus’ followers, before Paul’s mission to the Pagans where they were first called “Christians” in a derogatory sense, the movement of the original disciples of Jesus who were in the Synagogues was known as “the Way.” (Acts 9:2). Muslims carry on this tradition and description in the word “as-Sunnah” which means “the Way.” When we refer to the Sunnah (unless otherwise ascribed to another Prophet or Jesus Christ) we are generally referring to “the Way” of the Prophet Muhammad. The Sunnah in this sense refers to the things he is reported to have said, did or approved of in hadith. In the same way that we use it for the Prophet Muhammad, we can also apply this to others, such as the “Sunnah of Jesus Christ” or “the Way of Jesus Christ” based on what we know of the things he said, did or approved. We can apply the usage to “the Way” of any of the other Prophets or Messengers when refering to events in their lives.
- Reference – Sunnah is a reference to the collective recordings of Hadith. For example, the “Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad” says, “Messenger of Allah [Muhammad] said, ‘When any of you is invited to a meal, he should accept the invitation. If he is observing Sawm (fasting), he should supplicate for the betterment of the host and if he is not fasting, he should eat.’ (Sahih Muslim)” So, as an example, Muslims would say, “The ‘Sunnah says,’ it is better for us not to turn down an invite to a meal when invited.” Sunnah is a reference to any hadith in any of the recorded volumes.
- Legal Term – Sunnah is also a “legal definition” used by the ‘Uleema (Scholars/Judges) to classify if something is recommended for one’s own good. Legal classifications is where we get our concept of what is “sin” against God, ourselves, fellow humans, animals, planet, etc. In this case, there is 5 categorizations in Shari’ah:
- Fardh (Mandatory; Get God’s blessing for doing and His punishment for not doing)
- Sunnah (Recommended; Get God’s blessing for doing and nothing for not doing)
- Mubah (Permissible; Don’t get God’s blessing for doing and don’t get his punishment for not doing)
- Makruh (Strongly disliked though technically permitted; Don’t get God’s blessing for doing but get His blessing for NOT doing)
- Haram (Forbidden; Get God’s punishment for doing and get His blessing for NOT doing)
The concept of Sunnah is integral to both sects of Islam, Sunni and Shi’a, as it guides us to better enlightenment by the example of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, whom we believe was sent by God as the “Seal” of “the Way” of the Prophet’s and Messengers and their Revelations before him.
Article by BrJimC © 2016