"i have left among you two things; you will never go astray as long as you hold fast on to them: the book of allah and my sunnah." (al-hakim)
as our lord has revealed in the verse "today i have perfected your religion for you and completed my blessing upon you and i am pleased with islam as the religion for you" (surat al-ma'ida, 3), islam is the final divine religion. "prophet muhammad (saaws) is the messenger of allah and the final seal of the prophets" (surat al-ahzab, 40). the faithful learn the kind of moral values they need to display in order to attain the approval, compassion and paradise of allah; what they must avoid and what they must abide by; what is lawful and what is forbidden; in short, all the details regarding the kind of life that will be pleasing to allah from the qur'an. another mercy and blessing of our lord for believers is the sunnah of our prophet (saaws).
our prophet (saaws) is a blessed individual, whom allah has sent as a role model for all people with his moral values, as is revealed in the verse "you have an excellent model in the messenger of allah, for all who put their hope in allah and the last day and remember allah much" (surat al-ahzab, 21).
he is a role model for everyone with his faith, godliness, knowledge and superior moral values. with his patience, trust in allah, courage, devotion and closeness to allah, justice, compassion, love and affection for believers, and foresight he possessed moral values that are greatly admired by the faithful. all believers strongly desire and strive to possess these features. that is because possessing superior moral values similar to those of our prophet (saaws) means abiding by the moral values of the qur'an. for all these reasons, therefore, all words, decisions, recommendations, advice and life - the sunnah in other words - of our prophet (saaws) is a most valuable guide for all those who wish to understand and live by the qur'an.
allah has revealed the importance of obeying the prophet and adhering to his path in many verses of the qur'an. one of these reads:
whoever obeys the messenger has obeyed allah. if anyone turns away, we did not send you to them as their keeper. (surat an-nisa', 80)
one of the most important signs that someone obeys and has submitted to allah is that person's obedience and devotion to the prophet. that is because allah sent the prophets to show people the way, by his leave, to the true path. if a person wishes to become someone who abides by allah's path and of whom allah will approve, he must obey our prophet (saaws) and fully adhere to his path. our lord informs us of this fact in the verse, "for this we sent a messenger to you from among you to recite our signs to you and purify you and teach you the book and wisdom and teach you things you did not know before" (surat al-baqara, 151).
islamic scholars are unanimously agreed that the expression "wisdom" in this verse means "the sunnah of our prophet (saaws)."
believers have been commanded to take the qur'an and the honored sunnah of our prophet (saaws) as their guides on matters over which they disagree. in the qur'an our lord states:
no, by your lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them, and then find no resistance within themselves to what you decide and submit themselves completely. (surat an-nisa', 65)
as is clearly set out in this verse, the practices of our prophet (saaws) are an obligation for believers. that is because the sunnah is the interpretation and explanation of and commentary on the qur'an. therefore, no believer, neither man nor woman, has any right of rejection with regard to the honored sunnah of our prophet (saaws). this is revealed in these terms in the qur'an:
when allah and his messenger have decided something it is not for any man or woman of the believers to have a choice about it. anyone who disobeys allah and his messenger is clearly misguided. (surat al-ahzab, 36)
… whatever the messenger gives you you should accept and whatever he forbids you you should forgo. have fear [and respect] of allah - allah is severe in retribution. (surat al-hashr, 7)
the reply of the believers when they are summoned to allah and his messenger so that he can judge between them, is to say, "we hear and we obey." they are ones who are successful. (surat an-nur, 51)
a person's submission to our prophet (saaws) and complete compliance with his stipulations is a sign that that person acts with a devout consciousness. if a person sincerely adheres to our prophet (saaws) and feels not the slightest doubt in his heart about the stipulations issued by him, that person is aware that he is actually abiding by the commandments of allah. in the words "nor does he speak from whim. it is nothing but a revelation revealed" (surat an-najm, 3-4), our lord reveals that our prophet (saaws) spoke solely through his revelation and that his words are under his protection. indeed, in the hadith our prophet (saaws) has stated the importance of adhering to his path, and that subsequent generations in particular need to be most sensitive to this matter:
… those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. you must then follow my sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs. hold to it and stick fast to it. avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error. (abu dawud, narrated irbad ibn sariyah)
the best word is the word of allah and the best guidance is the guidance of muhammad. (sunan ibn maajah, muqaddima, 7)
in addition, it must not be forgotten that the sunnah of our prophet (saaws) and the path to which he called the faithful is a path that will give life to believers. in one verse allah states:
o you who believe! respond to allah and to the messenger when he calls you to what will bring you to life! know that allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that you will be gathered to him. (surat al-anfal, 24)
what devout believers must do is to adhere to the path of our prophet (saaws) and to take his sunnah as their guide, in the knowledge that he has called them to a path that will give them life. someone who wishes to attain the mercy and paradise of allah must build his house on solid foundations right from the outset. someone who has taken the qur'an as his guide and the moral values of our prophet (saaws) as a role model is someone who adheres to the true path. in the qur'an, allah refers to people who build on solid foundations right from the outset thus:
who is better: someone who founds his building on fear [and awareness] of allah and his good pleasure, or someone who founds his building on the brink of a crumbling precipice so that it collapses with him into the fire of hell? allah does not love wrongdoers. (surat at-tawba, 109)
anyone who acts out of a fear of allah and strives to gain his approval is a loyal follower of our prophet (saaws), and seeks to resemble him in faith and moral values. resembling our prophet (saaws), however, is only possible by adhering to the qur'an and never departing from the honored sunnah.