Implementing the Sunnah
Reaching out to the Community
Once, the Prophet SAW was travelling with a group of people in the desert. When they were hungry, duties were allocated amongst them. One volunteered to hunt, another to find water and another to clean and cook the hunt. One of them volunteered to erect a camp for Rasulullah SAW in order to provide him shade while everybody else attended to their duties. Rasulullah SAW disagreed, for he said that he was as in need of Allah's rewards to get closer to Allah as they were. Instead of relaxing, he allocated himself the task of foraging for firewood – this being a difficult and tiresome job given that wood was scarce in the desert.
This incident teaches us that the Prophet SAW did not sit around waiting for people to come to him for counsel. Instead, he engaged and became a part of the community. He did not distance himself or consider himself above the rest, issuing orders and decrees at his convenience.
Where is the Caring?
On the other end of the spectrum, people who claim to be of the sunnah have built divisions within the ummah. They are confident that theirs is the only correct path, but they do not guide others to follow the right path. Why the selfish attitude? Jannah has an infinite capacity, and inviting another to jannah does not deprive the inviter of his place in it. Why are some people happy to backbite and criticise people for practicing Islam wrongly, but shirk their responsibility to guide them to the correct way? Islam is a collective body, and none is a true believer unless he wants for his Muslim brother and sister what he wants for himself.
Compare this to the excellent attitude of Rasulullah SAW. Each of the Prophets and Messengers were granted an exclusive supplication of their own choice by Allah. Reported by Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, "For every prophet there is one special invocation (that will not be rejected) with which he appeals (to Allah), and I want to keep such an invocation for interceding for my followers in the Hereafter" (Bukhari). Muhammad SAW did not reserve his allocated dua to his close family and companions. His dua was instead dedicated to the whole of his ummah. What higher level of selflessness and caring is there, and where are we in comparison?
Implementing the Sunnah
The sunnah is not just about adopting the correct posture while praying or eating with the right hand.
One who claims to be Muslim should follow the sunnah whole heartedly, in every aspect of life. Every action we take, if done within the guidelines of the Qur'an and sunnah, can be a form of worship which can reap great benefits for us.
When it comes to our daily dealings, how much of the sunnah is properly implemented? A simple example is when parents marry their children off. The criteria for the intended spouse bears little or no element of the sunnah. Instead of focusing on piety, the priority is for the potential bride or groom to be an engineer or a doctor, with the right connections, the right amount of money, and the right looks. Even if both the parents have performed the hajj and claim to be pious, when it comes to marriage, all sunnah is abandoned, both in the choice of the bride or groom, and in the lavish wedding celebrations.
Even when it comes to advising their children on the choice of career, parents are lax in implementing the sunnah or giving them advice in accordance with the advice of the Prophet SAW. The criteria is the most lucrative career, without any analysis on whether the choice of university is beneficial or detrimental to the moral health, or whether intended path is allowed or forbidden in Islam.
Look at our daily dealings with each other. Do we conduct our business affairs in compliance with the guidelines and prohibitions taught by Prophet SAW? How many of us short change our customers, and how many of us have been cheated by Muslim service providers or traders? When we are entrusted with something, how many of us keep that trust and how many violate it to our advantage? How much profanity do we use in our daily conversations?
When it comes to marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance, do we prefer the decisions of the secular courts, instead of settling matters in the way advised by Allah and His Prophet? In matters of personal behaviour, do we control our anger, guard our tongues, behave kindly and try to eradicate arrogance from our behaviour – all of these actions being strongly advocated by authentic ahadith and are undoubtedly part of the sunnah? How do we resolve our disputes and differences - do we refer to the sunnah to determine such matters, or do we pick principles which are more advantageous to us?
If we cherry pick the aspects of Islam that we want to implement, and ignore the rest, then where is our sincerity towards Allah and His Messenger? If we call ourselves Muslims, but refuse to implement the sunnah when it comes to matter like divorce, inheritance and income, do we display the traits of believers or of hypocrites? This is the disjointed practice of Islam that many of us are immersed in today, and yet these are the same people who condemn others on the more minor aspects of the sunnah such as the length of fingernails!
A few centuries ago, a Muslim merchant from the Arabian Peninsular sold his wares in the Far East. Realising that he might have sold defective merchandise, he waited for the customer to come back. Days passed with no sign of the customer. His caravan departed back to Arabia without him. He stayed behind on his own accord, trying to find the customer. Almost a year later, he spotted the customer, and offered him a refund. The customer was astonished at the merchant's integrity. The merchant explained that what motivated his actions was derived from a hadith in which the Prophet SAW said that the honest merchant would be his close companion in jannah. On the strength of this one action, the customer embraced Islam and from there, Islam took it roots in ancient Malaya and Indonesia. The strength of one's actions in reflecting the sunnah should never be underestimated.
Another point is to also deepen our understanding of the sunnah. Ensure that we are spreading the correct message, and not something which originated from our own cultural traditions which have been confused with Islamic principles. Do not spread a sunnah if you are uncertain of its principle, and understand that all hadith were revealed in a particular context and in response to a particular situation. Use your wisdom, there is no point arguing about tattoos and body piercings, when the person you are talking to does not even understand how to perform salat correctly.