Believers are told in the Quran to obey the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.A.S)


The Sunnah is indivisible from the Quran, for it is the living interpretation of the Quran by Prophet Muhammad (saas), the possessor of great moral values who had such great consideration for believers that he would become distressed when they were troubled and would relieve them of their burdens and chains of bigotry.

The Quran cannot be understood and implemented in one`s life without the Sunnah. For example, in the Quran Allah tells believers to be affectionate toward each other, speak good words, and behave modestly. Commanding the right, forbidding the wrong, communicating the moral values of Islam to all humanity are set out as obligatory duties (fara`id). Cleanliness has been made obligatory. However, such matters are explained in the Quran in certain ways. Believers learn about the examples how to actually implement all these commands in their lives by means of the practices of the Prophet (saas). In the Quran, Allah (swt) reveals:

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)

The Prophet (saas) is a role model. Believers look at his Sunnah and learn how to implement its precepts and practices in their lives. Indeed, as soon as one looks at the Sunnah, one can see that the Prophet (saas) instructed his community in all matters and showed them how to act befitting a Muslim`s honor. The Prophet`s (saas) entire life reveals a seriousness, responsibility, and sensitivity of which not even the slightest detail is neglected. This is the result of our Prophet (saas) having taught "wisdom," alongside the Quran, to his community:

Allah showed great kindness to the believers when He sent a Messenger to them from among themselves to recite His Signs to them, purify them and teach them the Book and Wisdom, even though before that they were clearly misguided. (Surah Al `Imran: 164)


"The loss of the religion starts with the abandonment of the Sunnah. Just as a rope breaks fiber by fiber, so does religion vanish with one by one abandoning the Sunnah." (al-Darimi)

Various heresies have appeared during the history of Islam. Different sects have turned away from Islam`s essence and adopted heretical beliefs and un-Islamic practices.

In our day, too, some people reject the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas). "We read the Quran," they say, "and interpret it for ourselves without the need for any clarification by the Prophet (saas)." They turn their backs on the Sunnah, the practical application and implementation of the Quran.

The fact is that these people who have abandoned the Sunnah in fact ignore the Quran`s commandments. That is because the Sunnah is an explanation of the Quran and more importantly, the Quran orders Muslims to follow it. Allah (swt) has not only made obeying the Quran obligatory, but also obeying the Prophet (saas).

For this reason, Islam can only be practiced together with the Sunnah and Muslims can only apply the Quran into real life with its help. The Sunnah, on the other hand, is the belief of the Ahl al-Sunnah, which is the totality of our Prophet`s (saas) authentic hadiths and their subsequent interpretations by the great Islamic scholars.

Obeying the Prophet (saas) means complying with the Sunnah

The vital importance of the Prophet (saas) to believers is emphasized, as follows, in the Quranic verses addressed to him:

We have sent you bearing witness, bringing good news, and warning so that you might all believe in Allah and His Messenger as well as honor, respect, and glorify Him in the morning and the evening. Those who pledge their allegiance to you pledge allegiance to Allah. Allah`s hand is over their hands. Those who break their pledge only break it against themselves. But as for those who fulfill the contract they have made with Allah, We will give them an immense reward. (Surat al-Fath: 8-10)

One who has taken a vow of allegiance to the Prophet (saas) has taken it to Allah (swt). Our Lord also tells us that: "Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah." (Surat an-Nisa`: 80)

We can see from this verse just how important such obedience is. All Muslims are obliged to obey him due to his nature as a role model and his identity as a rule-maker. The Quran reveals that complying with our Prophet`s (saas) commands and rules is just as obligatory as is complying with the verses in the Book of Allah (swt). Indeed, in another verse, our Lord tells us this with regard to the Prophet`s (saas) power of forbidding and commanding:

[The believers are] those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, commanding them to do right and forbidding them to do wrong, making good things lawful for them and bad things forbidden for them, relieving them of their heavy loads and the chains that were around them. Those who believe in him, honor and help him, and follow the Light that has been sent down with him are successful. (Surat al-A`raf: 157)

In another verse, our Lord states:

You should accept whatever the Messenger gives you and abandon whatever he tells you to abandon. Have taqwa of Allah... (Surat al-Hashr: 7)

These verses show that in addition to what the Quran prohibits, the Prophet (saas) can prohibit other things to his community. Therefore, our Prophet (saas) states in one hadith: "Avoid that which I forbid you to do and do that which I command you to do to the best of your capacity." (Sahih Muslim, book 30, hadith no. 5818)

Other verses refer to the Prophet`s (saas) role as a rule-maker. Muslims take any matter on which they cannot agree to the Prophet (saas) and thereby obtain the best possible outcome.

O you who believe, obey Allah, the Messenger, and those in command among you. If you disagree about something, refer it back to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best thing to do and gives the best result. (Surat an-Nisa`: 59)

So absolute is the Prophet`s (saas) status as rule-maker that Allah (swt) told believers to obey his decisions wholeheartedly and without any doubt:

No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them and then do not resist what you decide and submit themselves [to you] completely. (Surat an-Nisa`: 65)

In another verse, the definitive nature of the Prophet`s (saas) judgment is set out in these terms:

When Allah and His Messenger have decided something, no believing man or woman has a choice about [following or not following] it. Anyone who disobeys Allah and His Messenger is clearly misguided. (Surat al-Ahzab: 36)

Opposing the Prophet`s (saas) role as rule-maker and disobeying his rules constitute denial.

But if anyone opposes the Messenger after the guidance has become clear to him, and follows a path other than that of the believers, We will hand him over to whatever he has turned to, and We will roast him in Hell. What an evil destination! (Surat an-Nisa`: 115)

Since the Prophet`s (saas) status as rule-maker and role model is set out in the Quran in such a clear and firm manner, to advocate turning one`s back on the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas) means opposing the Quran. As Muhammad Asad stated: "Following him in everything he did and in every rule of his is the same as following Islam itself. Turning away from his sunnah, on the other hand, means turning away from the essence of Islam." (Muhammad Asad, Al-Islam `ala Muftaqir al-Turuq, p. 110)

Indeed, the Companions lived their lives in such a way that all of their actions and words were in perfect accord with both the Quran and the Prophet (saas). One Companion relayed the following quotation:

"Allah (swt) sent us Muhammad (saas) as the prophet at a time when we knew nothing. Whatever we saw Muhammad do, we do the same, in the same way." (al-Nasa`i, Taqsir 1)

Clearly, the idea of "let`s go back to the Quran, for we have no need of the Sunnah" is incompatible with Islam and stems from a profound ignorance of Islam. Those who hold such a view resemble, in an analogy made by Muhammad Asad, people who want to enter a palace but are unwilling to use the key that opens its door. The Sunnah saves those who embrace it, for as Dahhak states: "Paradise and the Sunnah are in the same position, because those who enter Paradise in the Hereafter are saved, and those who cling to the sunnah in this world [are also saved]." (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, XII, 365) Imam Malik compared the Sunnah to Noah`s (as) ark, for "whoever boards it will be saved, and whoever does not will drown." (al-Suyuti, Miftah al-Jannah, pp. 53-54)

So great a vehicle of salvation is the Sunnah that in the Quran our Lord reveals that the Prophet`s (saas) commands and prohibitions "will bring people to life":

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 person and his heart and that you will be gathered to Him. (Surat al-Anfal: 24)

All of these verses show that a concept of Islam that has abandoned the Sunnah is false and incompatible with the Quran. Islam is the totality of the Quran and the Prophet`s (saas) Sunnah; there is no question of eliminating either one.

The source that conveys to us the Prophet`s (saas) exemplary behavior, as well as his wisdom and judgments, is the Sunnah, the creed of the Ahl al-Sunnah.

The prophets call believers to the life-giving paths

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 person and his heart and that you will be gathered to Him. (Surat al-Anfal: 24)

Looking at human history reveals that life began with the prophets. This is a true statement, for no religion can be comprehended and implemented in the absence of a messenger. For that reason, a messenger has been sent as a guide to every community.

As with the other prophets, Allah (swt) sent Prophet Muhammad (saas) with the perfect religion and the straight path. He has also made him a prophet for everyone until the Day of Judgment. Obeying, respecting, and loving him, in addition to imitating his lifestyle and abiding by his Sunnah, are responsibilities that all Muslims must try to fulfill.

Indeed, in the Quran obedience to the Prophet (saas) is considered as the same as obedience to Allah (swt). Believers are told to take the Quran and the Sunnah as their guides in matters on which they disagree. The following command is given in the Holy Quran:

No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them and then do not resist what you decide and submit themselves [to you] completely. (Surat an-Nisa`: 65)

As this verse makes crystal clear, the Prophet`s (saas) Sunnah is an absolute and immaculate source of commands, because it is the way of "interpreting, explaining, and applying the Quran." Therefore, no believer has the right to make interpretations (ta`wil) or be disobedient with regard to the Sunnah, the application of the Quran.

When Allah and His Messenger have decided something, no believing man or woman has a choice about [following or not following] it. Anyone who disobeys Allah and His Messenger is clearly misguided. (Surat al-Ahzab: 36)

In another verse, our Lord reveals:

The believers` reply, 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 al-Nur: 51)

Each verse in the Quran that deals with obeying the Prophet (saas) states that doing so is obligatory for all believers. That is why the Prophet`s (saas) practices are impeccable and are under the protection of Allah (swt). To put it another way, everything in the Sunnah is, in essence, based upon revelation.

Nor does he speak from whim. It is nothing but Revelation revealed. (Surat al-Najm: 3-4)

Therefore, when disagreement arises, believers are obliged to turn to the Quran and the Sunnah, Islam`s two fundamental reference points:

If you disagree about something, refer it back to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best thing to do and gives the best result. (Surat an-Nisa`: 59)

Not only did the Prophet (saas) transmit the verses he received from Allah (swt) to humanity, but he also explained them. Therefore, the Sunnah can be regarded as the interpretation of the Quran. Viewing it in this way will protect it from corruption, misunderstanding, and distortion and also facilitate its being understood.

Another verse reveals:

Say: "If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins." (Surah Al `Imran: 31)

An indication of one`s love for Allah (swt), therefore, is following His Prophet (saas), for doing so reveals that he/she is a follower of Allah (swt). No believer can regard obedience to Allah (swt) as sufficient and abandon obedience to the Prophet (saas). The Prophet (saas) gives the following glad tidings to those who comply with the Sunnah: "Whoever gives life to my Sunnah certainly loves me, and whoever loves me is with me in Paradise." (al-Tirmidhi)

While the Prophet (saas) imparts the above glad tidings to those who adhere by the Sunnah, in the Quran, our Lord warns the terrible consequences that result from rebelling against the Prophet (saas):

As for those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and overstep His limits, We will admit them into a Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surat an-Nisa`: 14)

Those who are unable to understand the Sunnah`s importance and who criticize it, despite what has been related above, are acting directly against the Prophet (saas).

The Prophet`s (saas) words and behavior, described as "conforming to sublime morality" by Allah (swt) in the Quran and by Aisha (ra) in her words that "the Prophet`s (saas) nature was the Quran," constitute a role model for all human beings. Just as one cannot attain true virtue without taking him as a role model, neither can one attain happiness in this world and the Hereafter without doing so. Those who abandon the Sunnah will lose a highly auspicious reward and be deprived of his intercession on the Day of Judgment.

Moreover, turning one`s back on the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas), who was most affectionate toward his ummah and most sensitive to any harm that might befall them, is showing ingratitude to such a great blessing.

A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is distressing to him. He is deeply concerned about you, and is gentle and merciful to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba: 128)

Those who hold mistaken opinions about the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) fail to comprehend the importance of his role. The duty entrusted to him requires a sense of responsibility so great that even the slightest detail could not be ignored. That is why our Prophet (saas) has so much to tell us on so many subjects, from trade to health, and from solidarity to education.

The Sunnah`s fundamental principle is its applicability. "Treat the people with ease and don`t be hard on them. Give them glad tidings and don`t fill them with aversion" (al-Bukhari, volume 4, book 52, hadith no. 275) is the clearest indication of this. His wife Aisha (ra) stated that he told his people to do that which they could easily accomplish. Therefore, everyone can adopt the Sunnah. His life is an example of applying the Quran to one`s daily life for every believer.

Another issue is the damaging results that arise when people abandon the Sunnah. Some Muslims, out of ignorance or idleness, have imposed heresy on the Islamic world by coming up with stipulations based on the speculations of people who essentially have no knowledge of Islam, or by following their own interpretations instead of the Sunnah`s guidance.

The Islamic world`s political and economic fragmentation occurred because the Muslims abandoned the Quran and the Prophet`s (saas) Sunnah. The ensuing instability will continue until believers understand that they are members of the community of the Prophet (saas) and strive to develop a community worthy of Him. The only road for Muslims, therefore, is to adhere tightly to the Quran and the Prophet`s (saas) Sunnah.

Any examination of the Prophet`s (saas) life shows that his attitude toward life was not one-dimensional. For example, many reliable hadiths discuss his various roles: a prophet, a head of state, an army commander, a soldier, and a trader. He prays, fasts, prays during the night, lives in a state of constant devout prayer and contemplation, and remembers Allah (swt). A modest leader, he also marries, buys things, treats and visits the sick, jokes with children, wrestles with his friends, and races his wife on the road.

Muslims can only understand and discharge their duties as Allah`s (swt) servants by studying the Prophet`s (saas) practices. The first source of information for this is the great hadith compilations of Muslim, al-Bukhari, and other classical-era hadith scholars. The vast collections of his words, deeds, and personal attributes, particularly those displayed during his prophethood, were collected with great care by narrators or reporters whom all Sunni scholars consider reliable.