Why to Follow the Sunnah
i have left among you two things you will never go astray as long as you hold fast to them: the book of allah and my sunnah.
— prophet muhammad-
as allah has revealed in this verse [today i have perfected your religion for you and completed my blessing upon you, and i am pleased with islam as a religion for you] (al-ma'idah 5:3), islam is the final divine religion. prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is [the messenger of allah and the seal of the prophets] (al-ahzab 33:40). 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 the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
the prophet is a blessed individual, whom allah has sent as a role model for all people with his moral values:
[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] (al-ahzab 33:21)
the prophet is a role model for everyone with his faith, godliness, knowledge, and superior moral values. with his patience, trust in allah, courage, devotion, closeness to allah, justice, compassion, love, 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 qualities to attain the moral model required by the the qur'an. for all these reasons, all his words, decisions, recommendations, advice, and life —the sunnah — represent a most valuable guide for all those who wish to understand and live by the qur'an.
many verses of the qur'an emphasize the importance of obeying the prophet and adhering to his path in. one of these reads:
[whoever obeys the messenger has obeyed allah. if anyone turns away, we did not send you [muhammad] to them as their keeper.](an-nisaa' 4:80)
one of the most important indicators of the believers' obedience and submission to allah is the level of their obedience and devotion to the prophet. that is because allah sent the prophets to show people the way to the true path. if people wish to abide by allah's commands and get his approval, they must obey the prophet and fully adhere to his path. this fact is clearly stated in the qur'an:
[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.] (al-baqarah 2:151)
muslim scholars interpret the wisdom mentioned in this verse to mean the prophet's sunnah.
moreover, believers have been commanded to take the qur'an and the sunnah as their guides on matters over which they disagree:
[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.](an-nisaa' 4:65)
the sunnah is the interpretation, explanation of, and commentary on the qur'an. therefore, no believer, neither man nor woman, has any right to reject it:
[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.](al-ahzab 33:36)
[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.](al-hashr 59:7)
[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 the ones who are successful.](an-nur 24:51)
submission to the prophet and complete compliance with his stipulations are signs of devout islamic consciousness. it emanates from the beleiver's full awareness that such submission is, in effect, a form of submission to almighty allah himself. true believers are of the firm conviction that the prophet [never speaks from whim. it is nothing but revelation revealed] (an-najm 53:3-4).
affirming the importance of adhering to his path, especially for the subsequent generations, the prophet stated,
those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. you must then follow my sunnah and that of the rightly guided caliphs [i.e. abu bakr, `umar ibn al-khattab, `uthman ibn `affan, and `ali ibn abi talib]. hold to it, and stick fast to it. avoid novelties [in matters of religion], for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error. (abu dawud)
the best word is the word of allah [the qur'an], and the best guidance is the guidance of muhammad. (ibn majah)
in addition, it must not be forgotten that the sunnah and the path to which the prophet called the faithful is a path that will give life to believers. in one verse, allah states,
[o you who believe, answer (the call of) allah and his messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life, and know that allah intervenes between a person and his heart, and that to him you shall be gathered.](al-anfal 8:24)
what devout believers must do is to adhere to the path of the prophet and to take his sunnah as their guide, knowing that he has called them to a path that will give them life. those who wish to attain the mercy and paradise of allah must, metaphorically speaking, build their house on solid foundations right from the outset:
[is he who founded his building upon duty to allah and his good pleasure better or he who founded his building on the brink of a crumbling cliff so that it toppled with him into the fire of hell? allah guides not wrongdoing folk.](at-tawbah 9:109)
anyone who acts out of a fear of allah and strives to gain his approval is a loyal follower of the prophet and seeks to resemble him in faith and moral values. this, however, is only possible through adhering to the qur'an and never departing from the sunnah.