The Obligation of Adhering to the Sunnah
by imâm al-madîna al-munawarrah 'alî abd-ur-rahmân al-hudhaifî
fellow muslims! fear allâh as he should be feared and obey him. that is better for you in this world and the hereafter.
dear muslims! know that allâh has done mankind a great favour by sending muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, to them as a messenger. allâh says,
|“we sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures.” (al-anbiyâ 21:107)
the muslim is specially blessed with the message of muhammad because he followed it and acted upon it; and the disbeliever is also generally blessed with the message of islâm because muslims’ adherence to the teachings of their religion prevents the evil of the disbelievers and dries up the sources of great corruption that could have occurred in the land. allâh says,
|“and did not allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: but allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.” (al-baqarah 2:251)
allâh revealed the greatest book to his messenger and he revealed to him the greatest explanation for that book in form of the sunnah. he undertakes the protection of the qur’ân and the sunnah from interpolations and changes and protects them from perverted ideas and interpretations. allâh established proof against mankind through the leader of all messengers. he guided muhammad to the best guidance and made easy for him the best of all paths. allâh says,
|“and we will make it easy for thee (to follow) the simple (path).” (al-a‘lâ 87:8)
allâh’s messenger said,
|“the best speech is the book of allâh. the best guidance is that of muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. the worst of all affairs are the innovations and every innovation is erroneous.” (muslim)
the messenger of allâh fulfilled his as far as levels of acts of worship; levels of the religion and level of meritorious deeds are concerned. he has fulfilled his obligation as best as possible. the messenger of allâh is the model for the worshipper, model for the caller for the way of allâh, model for the teacher, model for the ruler, model for the leader, model for the soldier, and model for the husband and father. he is exemplar per excellence in human interactions and in all aspects of human endeavours. allâh says,
|“you have indeed in the messenger of allâh a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in allâh and the final day, and who engages much in the praise of allâh.” (al-ahzâb 33:21)
‘aishah said, “the prophet’s [code of] conduct is the qur’ân.” this means, he used to follow the injunctions of the qur’ân in everything that he had to do and he abstained from all that the qur’ân prohibits.
fellow muslims! the sunnah of allâh’s messenger is the only guide to the straight path that the muslims should follow. the sunnah of allâh’s messenger entails all that is good. he who abandons the prophet’s sunnah will be deprived of all blessings and he who abandons some of the sunnah has missed blessings that are in proportion to the sunnah that he missed.
if this is the virtue of the sunnah and the lofty place it occupies islâm, what then is the meaning of this sunnah?
sunnah, in arabic language means: the trodden path and the followed norm. allâh says,
|“(this was our) way with the messengers we sent before thee: thou wilt find no change in our ways.” (al-isrâ 17:77)
in islâm, sunnah means: holding fast to and following the path of the prophet, his rightly guided successors and his companions in matters of belief and in their words and deeds. sunnah is also used to describe the sayings, deeds and approvals of the messenger, for these are the source of the muslim’s belief and deed.
dear brethren! the situation of the muslims today is a source of grief for every believer in the oneness of allâh. the enemies formed a confederation against them and they make them taste severe torment. muslims’ honour is violated in many lands and they are subjected to ignominy in many places.
ideological differences, political bigotry, nationalism of the days of ignorance and innovated acts of worship have tore apart the ranks of the muslims and weakened them. their weakness and degeneration are not attributable to fewness of their numbers. they are rather the greatest in number of all the adherents of religions. their calamity therefore lies in their negligence in implementing the injunctions of their religion. allâh says,
|“verily never will allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). but when (once) allâh wills a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides him, any to protect.” (ar-ra‘d 13:11)
brethren in faith! the situation in which the muslims find themselves today has awaken those with high-mindedness and given warning alarms and sincere admonition that muslims should return to their lord in repentance, hold fast unto their religion and put to practice the book of their lord and the sunnah of their prophet, so that allâh may show mercy to them and remove their calamity.
the diseases of the muslims are many and the causes of their degeneration are numerous. the matter can even become worse than they are now but the good ending is eventually for islâm.
the only remedy for this disease is to follow the sunnah. following the sunnah and adhering to the path of the righteous predecessors are the remedy for the diseases the muslims are suffering from. implementing the sunnah of allâh’s messenger is also the only way to blessings.
adhering to the sunnah means shunning differences. it means unity of purpose. adhering to the sunnah brings about victory over the enemies and the people of error and desire. some scholars said,
|“any country whose inhabitants follow the sunnah and in which the light of the sunnah illuminates is always given victory over its enemies. and any country in which the light of the sunnah is suppressed, will be defeated by the enemy.”
allâh’s messenger said
|, “my provision is put under the shade of my spear, ignominy and disgrace are made the lot of whoever disobeys my command and whoever emulates a people has become one of them.”
abû dâwûd and at-tirmidhî reported on the authority of al-irbâd ibn sâriyah that he said,
|“allâh’s messenger gave us an exhortation at which the eyes shed tears and the hearts were afraid. a man said: allâh’s messenger! it seems as if it were a farewell exhortation, so what injunction do you give us? he then said: i enjoin you to fear allâh, and to hear and obey even if it be a slave, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. you must then follow my sunnah and that of the rightly guided successors. hold to it and stick fast to it. avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error.”
calling unto the sunnah is the obligation of every muslim. the muslim should invite his brother to make up for the sunnah he has missed. he has to reminds whenever he becomes heedless and to teach him whenever he forgets. he should cooperate with him in doing good deeds and warn him against evil deeds.
the muslim should call a non-muslim to islâm by showing him the beauty of islâm and establishing the proof for him. the muslim should be an embodiment of islamic teachings.
as for you, the muslims of this country, you need to thank allâh for his many favours upon you. beware of the evil with which others were afflicted and beware of being indifferent to sins for it is a cause of punishments.
the muslim must endeavour to make his today better than his yesterday and his morrow better than his today. he should not be pleased by lacking in acts of obedience to allâh and being indifferent to sins.
fellow muslims! beware of things that could hinder your adherence to the sunnah. the greatest hindrance is to follow the desire. allâh says,
|“but if they hearken not to you, know that they only follow their own lusts: and who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, devoid of guidance from allâh? for allâh guides not people given to wrong-doing.” (al-qasas 28:50)
the righteous predecessors call the people of innovations followers of desires because their disagreement with the sunnah.
beware also of the temptations of this world and its lusts for all that prevents from following the sunnah. allâh says,
|“nay, you prefer the life of this world, although the hereafter is better and more lasting.” (al-a‘lâ 87:16-17)
allâh also says,
|“then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up as-salât (the prayers) (i.e. made their salât (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times) and have followed lusts. so they will be thrown in hell.” (maryam 19:59)
among things that hinders the adherence to the sunnah is emulating the misguided and misleading people. allâh says,
|“(say (o muhammad (peace be upon him)) to these idolaters (pagan arabs) of your folk:) follow what has been sent down unto you from your lord (the qur'ân and prophet muhammad's sunnah), and follow not any auliyâ' (protectors and helpers who order you to associate partners in worship with allâh), besides him (allâh). little do you remember!” (al-a‘râf 7:3)
ignorance also prevents adherence to the sunnah. the prophet said,
|“he whom allâh wants to bless, he gives him the understanding of the religion.”
dear muslim brother! you should not therefore allow anything to prevent you from following the sunnah. for none is saved from evils and punishments and none is favoured with blessings and paradise except those who follow the path of the prophet and his companions. allâh says,
|“say (o muhammad (peace be upon him) to mankind): "if you (really) love allâh then follow me (i.e. accept islamic monotheism, follow the qur'ân and the sunnah), allâh will love you and forgive you your sins. and allâh is oft-forgiving, most merciful."” (آl ‘imrân 3:31)
allâh also says,
|“o you who believe! obey allâh and his messenger, and turn not away from him (i.e. messenger muhammad (peace be upon him)) while you are hearing. and be not like those who say: "we have heard," but they hear not. verily! the worst of (moving) living creatures with allâh are the deaf and the dumb, those who understand not (i.e. the disbelievers). had allâh known of any good in them, he would indeed have made them listen; and even if he had made them listen, they would but have turned away with aversion (to the truth).” (al-anfâl 8:20-23)
dear brethren! the diseases from which the muslims are suffering and the punishment in this world and the hereafter are caused by their negligence of the prophet’s sunnah and his right path. allâh says,
|“and whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. and he pardons much.” (ash-shûrâ 42:30)
the clash of desires and opinions and the widespread dissentions are all caused by ignorance of the sunnah and its negligence on the part of the muslims. the messenger of allâh said,
|“i am leaving for you two things if you hold fast to them you will never go astray: the book of allâh and my sunnah.”
the prophet also said,
|“the jews were split up into seventy-one sects; and the christians were split up into seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects. all but one of these sects shall go to hell.” the companions said, “messenger of allâh! which one shall not go to hell?” he answered, “the one that follows my path and that of my companions.”
the cause of emergence of all sects, like khawârij and others, throughout the history of islâm is undoubtedly ignorance of the sunnah of the prophet and the negligence in practicing it in the part of the muslims. adherence of these sects misunderstood the sunnah of allâh’s messenger and they were misled in their interpretation of the texts of the qur’ân.
the khawârij of today also misunderstood the sunnah and keep away from the scholars who have better knowledge of the sunnah. these khawârij then regard their fellow muslims as disbelievers and violate the sanctity of their lives and properties as their predecessors had done. these fellows are oblivious of the fact that they are practically executing the plans of the enemies of islâm and thereby causing great evil in the land as a result of their destructive ideologies.
fellow muslims! go back to the sunnah of your prophet in terms of learning, teaching and implementation. hold fast unto the path of the righteous predecessors. that is the only remedy for the disease of the ummah. rein in all mischief-makers who want to destroy your life and your religion and fear allâh in all your undertakings.