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What is the Sunnah?

The Sunnah (سنة), plural سنن Sunan, is composed of the teachings, sayings, deeds and silent approval (or disapproval), attributed to Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The Sunnah is also defined as a path, a way, a manner of life, and as all the traditions and practices attributed to Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The word Sunnah is derived from the root (سن [sa-n-na]), meaning smooth and easy flow or direct flow path. The word literally means a clear and well trodden path.

The Sunnah is one of the two parts of wahy, divine Revelation, that were revealed to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The other part of the Wahy is the Holy Quran itself.

Allah says in the Quran:  “Your companion (Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)) has neither gone astray nor has erred. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.” [Quran: Surah al-Najm 53: Ayahs 2-4] 

It was narrated from al-Miqdaam ibn Ma’di Yakrib (رضی اللہ عنہ) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said:  

“Verily I have been given the Quran and something similar to it along with it. But soon there will be a time when a man will be reclining on his couch with a full stomach, and he will say, ‘You should adhere to this Quran: what you find that it says is permissible, take it as permissible, and what you find it says is forbidden, take it as forbidden.’ But indeed, whatever the Messenger of Allah forbids is like what Allah forbids.” [al-Tirmidhi (2664). Grade: hasan ghareeb with this isnaad, also classed as hasan by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2870)]. 

This is what was understood by the righteous salaf, pious predecessors, (may Allah be pleased with them): 

Hassan ibn ‘Atiyah said in al-Kifaayah by al-Khateeb (12): Jibreel used to bring the sunnah down to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as he used to bring the Quran down to him. End quote. [al-Daarimi in his Sunan (588) and by al-Khateeb in al-Kifaayah (12). It was attributed by al-Haafiz in al-Fath (13/291) to al-Bayhaqi, and he said: With a saheeh isnaad.].