By Umer Sultan| Part 1: Preface to What is the Sunnah and Hadith?
One of the most common topic of discussion among Muslims now a days is about the Sunnah. Most of us Muslims have heard this word ‘Sunnah‘ and in many discussions we might have heard brothers and sisters questioning, discussing and arguing the following:
If Hadith is the saying of Prophet Muhammad, is Sunnah the actions of the Prophet? What is the significance of either one?
What is Sunnah? What is the authority of Sunnah?
I don’t have to follow Sunnah, I can leave it. It is not like it is Fard (obligatory).
Is Sunnah below the Qur’an? Is Sunnah inferior than the Qur’an?
I don’t understand the difference between Sunnah and Hadith!
Is beard a Sunnah or Wajib (commanded)? I was told it is Sunnah, but others say it is Wajib? What is the difference? Can both be true at the same time or not? I am confused.
The list, however, continues and I am not here to compile the list. Each of these issues will be addressed piece meal inshallah (God Willing) in the course of this post and the ones that will Inshallah follow it. Every week I will inshallah try to post a new one.
The Sunnah has been defined by the scholars of the science of Hadith as follows:
“A word spoken, or an act done, or a confirmation given by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).”
We are in the 21st century, where the Muslim communities are blissful with the ignorance of Islam. Picking up a book on Islam and reading is considered being very religious thus something not needed beyond the Cultural Islam; attending weekly halaqa (gathering) of ‘Ulema (Islamic Scholars) is either looked down upon by self described “modern” Muslims or a person attending is considered to be “very religious” by our uncles and aunts in the community. Thus with all this negative stigma associated with learning Islamic knowledge, youth remains forever blissful in ignorance while firmly believing that they know all about Islam, which they learned from their parents, from watching other people act, accompanied with a book and a lecture or two here and there.
This is where our understanding of the Sunnah or the lack of understanding of the Sunnah comes in. Those of us from the South Asian background- Indo-Pak, have a different understanding of the Sunnah from the Muslims of other backgrounds based on my observations and experiences. We believe that the Sunnah is “recommended or optional,” at least that was I learned from the Cultural Islam and have noticed others think this way too. This notion will be changed in due time Inshallah, if you finish the series.
In this 21st Century, there is also a growing movement that is busy in creating confusion among the minds of the Muslims about the authority of the Sunnah and Hadith. As I have mentioned, the status of the understanding of Islam among the Muslim populace is probably at its record low, it is very easy for the Orientalists and their aides within Muslim communities to create confusion in our youth’s minds. The authenticity of Hadith is questioned and there are people rejecting the Sunnah and Hadith out of lack of understanding. However, once a person sees the real nature of the Science of Hadith even to its intro level, it is an humbling experience! Inshallah you will get that after you will finish the series.
In this series, I will be basically summarizing a very introductory book on the Sunnah for everyone with some additional information from other scholarly sources if possible. I was able to finish this book within 24 hours, because of its very simple English and easy organization of topics. I think this book should be taught to Muslims in their Middle Schools, infact I believe so!
Part 1 will start from an Introduction to Sunnah. It will cover the status of Prophet Muhammad, the 2 kinds of revelations he received-1st we all know as The Qur’an, and the 2nd will be covered!! “Is obedience to Prophet Muhammad a prerequisite of being Muslim?” will be addressed based entirely from the Qur’an. Then the authority of Prophet Muhammad himself will be addressed, whether he had the authority to interpret the Qur’an? and does the Qur’an even needs explanation and interpretation?? What was the authority of Prophet Muhammad and how does this authority differs from his worldly affairs?
Part 2 will begin with the foundation of things learned in Part 1. It will address how Sunnah was preserved by introducing Hadith and its three different kinds. Was Hadith compiled only in the third century, 300 years after the Prophet left this world as Orientalist say?? The authenticity of these three major forms of Hadith and the four methods used to preserve Hadith will be addressed. We will also learn how the Prophet Muhammad dealt with the issue of Hadith himself, and what books and letters he ordered to be written!!
In Part 2 we will also meet Abu Hurairah, the most Hadith narrator; ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, author of ‘The Script of Truth’ (Sahifah as-Sadiqah); young Anas ibn Malik; ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and his collection, and other companions of Prophet Muhammad; then we will learn about the Tabi’in- the pupils of the companions, like Imam Sha’bi, Khalifah Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz, Imam Zuhri with a list of names and books of many other Tabi’in and their students called Taba Tabi’in.
In the end of Part 2, we will learn about the criticism of Hadith, how the Ahadith (plural of Hadith) are rated and graded-Sound, good, weak, fabricated; how the narrators are scrutinized in order to accept a Hadith from them.
Please share this post with others as a preface to posts that are to come. This is the part of knowledge of Islam that is obligatory on us to learn. Truly if we start understanding even the basics of Sunnah, we will start appreciating Islam even more and we will thank Allah Ta’ala even more for granting us His gift of Islam.
Of course, my summarized blog version will not do justice to the original book by the Shaykh. As I said this book is so easy, I believe it should be taught to Muslim Middle School students.
Stay tuned via e-mails and blog’s Facebook page and invite your friends to spread the khair (good).
“Believe, then, in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may be on the right path.” [The Noble Qur’an 7:158]
Other Blog Posts to check out:
If you like it, you share it!
Remember me in your Du’a (supplication).