Please answer the following questions:
What is the meaning of “Sunnat”? Is its plural referred as “Sunnah” or “Sunnan”?
What is the meaning of “Sunnat Rasool” and “Sunnat Allah”?
Are “Sunnat”, “Sunnat Rasool” and “Sunnat Allah” used as words or as specific terms?
Is the word/term of “Sunnat Rasool” referred to as ‘Sunnah’ of the last prophet Muhammad pbuh or is it ‘Sunnah’ of all the prophets? Are ‘Sunnah’ of the last prophet Muhammad pbuh and ‘Sunnah’ of the other prophets, two separate subjects/matters? Are some ‘Sunnah’ common amongst all the prophets and some exclusive for each prophet? Was ‘SHAR’IAH’ separate for all the prophets? If it was, then ‘Sunnah’, perhaps, should also be separate/exclusive for such prophets?
Is there any significance of the CORRECT comprehension of these words/terms while one is reading the Quran, translation of the Quran or any of its ‘Tafseers’? If it is significant, WHAT is it and WHY? There are so many types of ‘Tafseers’. Most often, “Sunnat Allah” CANNOT be grasped from them. What’s the solution to this? HOW does one comprehend what is “Sunnat Allah” from the translations or the ‘Tafseers’ of the Quran? It’s so often heard that people, including the Muslim societies/nations of today (ie about 1400 years after the Muslim calendar of ‘Hijrat’), get completely MISLEAD on the guidance of God for NOT correctly comprehending the “Sunnat Allah”. Like “Sunnat Allah”, can “Sunnat Rasool” be comprehended from the Quran?
Are “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘RASOOL’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘NABI’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘LAYMAN individual Muslim’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘Muslim SCHOLARS’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘HYPOCRITE’ (individual or society/nation) different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘sincere/honest/true/genuine’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘Muslim SOCIETY/NATION’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘KAFIR individual’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘KAFIR society/nation’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘Non Muslim individual’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the ‘Non Muslim society/nation’ different, “Sunnat Allah” for the society/nation where a ‘Rasool/Nabi’ is present different and “Sunnat Allah” for the society/nation where no ‘Rasool/Nabi’ is present different?
With respect to the implications/significance of the ‘Sunnah’, can all the ‘Sunnah’ of “Allah” be listed/recorded separately, as different sections or as different chapters? If they can be, are such AUTHENTIC lists/records available, where and by what title or name? In the ‘INZAR’ by the prophets (ie RASOOLS), prophets repeatedly warned their addressees about the established facts that confirm the “Sunnat Allah” regarding disobedience to the prophets, be it the ‘HYPOCRITES’ or the ‘KAFIRS’. Similarly, in the ‘TABSHEER’ by the prophets (ie RASOOLS), prophets had ALSO repeatedly given the good news to their addressees about the established facts that confirm the “Sunnat Allah” regarding obedience to the prophets. Such an ‘INZAR’ and ‘TABSHEER’ by the prophets perhaps emphasizes the significance of the CORRECT comprehension of (all) the “Sunnat Allah”. Perhaps, attention towards these “Sunnat Allah” do effect, positively.
With respect to the implications/significance of the ‘Sunnah’, can all the ‘Sunnah’ of the “prophet Muhammed pbuh”, all the ‘Sunnah’ of the “Rasools” be listed/recorded separately, as different sections or as different chapters? If they can be, are such AUTHENTIC lists/records available, where and by what title or name? WITHOUT such AUTHENTIC records, Bid’ah perhaps CANNOT be avoided. In one of your responses (Some Clarification on Determining Bid`ah), you wrote: Bid`ah is to make an unauthenticated addition to the corpus of Islam, as it was taught by the Prophet (pbuh). In this sense, Bid`ah may include a belief or a practice that is promoted as an integral part of Islam without the authority of the Prophet (pbuh). For the determination of Bid`ah, the Qur’an, the Sunnah as well as the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) serve a useful source of information.
Thank you for your assistance. May God bless you all, eternally. Amen.
The word Sunnah (plural form: ‘sunan’) means the well trodden path. In the basic religious sources it is used both literally and as a term. As a term of Islamic literature it refers to the practices which along with the beliefs form the basic corpus of religion. Many of these practices originate from the Prophets and Messengers of Allah right from the beginning of the revelatory history and has been inherited by the Prophet (pbuh) from his great grandfather Abraham (pbuh). The Prophet [pbuh] disseminated these practices as a necessary part of religion among his followers. For details please see: ‘What is the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh)‘, ‘How Can we DetermineSunnah in the Present Times?‘ and ‘Difference Between Hadith and Sunnah‘.
“Sunnah of Allah” refers to the specific practice, principle or law of God that He has ordained for himself. For example, one of His laws that he has ordained relates to His Messengers according to which these Messengers necessarily succeed in their mission and their rejecters are punished in the very World after completion of Itmam al-Hujjah on them.
One may ask how can we tell where a particular word is used as a term and where has it been used in its literal sense. Since the Holy Qur’an, like cotemporary technical books, does not provide list of the meaning of the terms it uses we need to be well versed in the language of the Holy Qur’an to grasp the correct implication of the words it uses. When we study the Holy Qur’an we find both types of usages. Though delicate, yet this distinction is not very difficult to make. One could easily differentiate between the two. You need to acquaint yourself with the style of the Book. An exhaustive reading would make you well versed in that literature and you will be able to ascertain whether, at a given instance, a particular word is used in its literal sense or as a term. A thorough study of the language and style of the Holy Qur’an and taking the context in which words occur in consideration will lead to the right meaning. Without a fair knowledge in this regard one is very likely to misconstrue certain words. Tafseer works sometimes ignore the correct implication of the word because of interpretation offered by a scholar of the past. This is not a very accurate approach and must be avoided. The safe way would be clinging to the language of the text of the Holy Qur’an, its diction style and usage to avoid any misunderstanding since the Almighty has passed his guidance to us in the package of language. Nevertheless, as should be clear from the foregoing explanation, such a distinction can only be accurately made by a person who has been properly trained in language as well as has the experience to do this work.
The phrase “Sunnah of Allah” is often used in literal sense meaning the principles or line of action God has ordained for himself to deal with the creatures as his wisdom and justice demand. Necessarily He would be dealing with individuals or groups of different behaviors differently.
As regards the matter of the Indhar (warning) and Tabsheer (giving glad tidings) of the Messengers of Allah these in fact refer to the same laws of Allah i.e., his practice of punishing the rejecters of Rusul (messengers) and blessing the followers in the very world and, thereby, making the two groups a sign of the final Day of accountability, justice and retribution.
With respect to the implications/significance of the ‘Sunnah’, can all the ‘Sunnah’ of the “prophet Muhammed pbuh”, all the ‘Sunnah’ of the “Rasools” be listed/recorded separately, as different sections or as different chapters? If they can be, are such AUTHENTIC lists/records available, where and by what title or name?
For a list of the Sunnah of the Prophet, please refer to: ‘Difference between Hadith and Sunnah‘. In contrast to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), more work needs to be done to compile a list of all the Sunnah of Allah that have been mentioned in the Qur’an.
The following facts about the Sunnah make it clear and separate from all kinds of misconceptions.
The Prophet (pbuh) saw to it that all the articles of Sunnah be disseminated among the entire generation of the companions and they adopt these practices and observed them as integral part of Islam.
The companions not only practiced these Sunan but also taught these to their children and to all Muslim converts. They carried these Sunan to all those areas where Islam spread and propagated these themselves acting as model of these sunan.
The succeeding generations of the Muslim community received these with consensus and passed on them to us as a living tradition and in the best reliable source, tawatur (generation to generation mode of transfer). The Muslims in all ages clung to these and there never occurred a break in its perpetuation and none of the efforts of tempering with could succeed. This transmission of the Sunan has been through consensus of the companions and has been preserved through the ages thus making these reliable in ultimate form.
It is because of the above mentioned status of Sunnah that no innovation crept in this through the ages. You have rightly observed that the Bid`ah implies any kind of innovation in the basic religious code as the Prophet (pbuh) taught it. However it is generally referred to the practices not beliefs. The Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah and the saying ascribed to the Prophet [pbuh] are the only source of the religious knowledge.
I hope the above answers the most part of your query
Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
March 25, 2003