ukim logo
West London Islamic Centre & Jamia Masjid

Islamic Articles::Belief & Aqueedah

Following in the Footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh)


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Verily I have left with you two things, if you hold unto them you will never go astray! The Book of Allah and my Sunnah.

Though we hear the term Qur'an and Sunnah all the time, we sometimes forget the significance of the Sunnah in our ritual, spiritual and wordly life. The Sunnah or example/traditions of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) as relayed to us via the science of Hadith (narrations) helps enrich the life of a Muslim, from eating food with your right hand, to sitting down to drink water or to sleeping on your right-side, each practice of a Sunnah bearing the fruits of reward for the practitioner.

But some people today frown on such character and personal immitation of the Messenger (pbuh), the article sheds some light of what the Qur'an says on this matter.

The Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) used to take the direction on different matters in their lives from the Qur'an, which they used to learn from Rasoolullaah (pbuh). In many instances, the aayaat (verses) of the Qur'an treat a subject in a general manner without a specific condition. Sometimes the aayaat will come as an absolute ruling without any precondition or limitation required by time, place, etc. As an example of what came in a general way in the Qur'an is the Salaat. The Qur'an does not mention how many Rak`ahs (units of prayer) we should make, or how to physically move during prayer, or the time for prayer.

Similarly, the Qur'an does not mention the minimum amount of money to have before giving Zakaat (charity) or the conditions by which to pay it. Many of our `Ibaadaat cannot be performed without stopping at the explanations related to the regulations, pillars, and conditions of nullification. It is thus a must to return to Rasoolullaah (pbuh) to know the rules in a comprehensive and clear manner.

Many times, the Companions faced incidents in which the Qur'an had no ruling, and there was a need to return to the Prophet (pbuh) to know the directive on such matters. It was the Prophet(pbuh) who was ordered by Allah (swt) teach humanity, and it is the Prophet(pbuh) who is the most knowledgeable of mankind about that which Allah (swt) expects from us.

Allah (swt) has told us about the duty of Rasoolullaah (pbuh) with respect to the Qur'an, where Allah (swt) said:

"And We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought." [Al Qur'an 16:44]

Allah (swt) also made it clear to us that the duty of Rasoolullaah (pbuh) is to clarify the truth to people when there is a dispute:

"And We sent down the Book to thee for the express purpose, that you should make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe." [Al Qur'an 16:64]

We are obligated to follow any judgement made by Rasoolullaah (pbuh) in any dispute:

"But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make you a judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction." [Al Qur'an 4:65]

Allah (swt) also mentioned that Rasoolullaah (pbuh) was given the Qur'an and Wisdom to teach people the regulations of their religion:

"Allah did confer a great favour on the believers when He sent among them an apostle from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error." [Al Qur'an 3:164]

Regarding the last aayah, most scholars and those of great knowledge said that the wisdom mentioned in the aayah means another thing besides the Qur'an. It is what Allah (swt) has given Rasoolullaah (pbuh) from the knowledge of matters and regulations that the rest of humanity can not attain. Imaam Ash-Shaafi`ee (raa) said that "Allah (swt) has mentioned the scripture which is the Qur'an, and he mentioned wisdom and I have learned from the people of knowledge that the wisdom here is the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). It is from the mercy of Allah (swt) that He has sent to us a way to practice what is in the Qur'an."

Allah (swt) did not stop by saying scripture only, but the inclusion of the Sunnah with the Qur'an is an indication of its important and the obligation on us to follow it as we have to follow the Qur'an. Imaam Ash-Shaafi`ee goes on saying that the letter 'wa' ('and' between Scripture and Wisdom in the aayah) is a letter of conjunctions in Arabic which requires that the two parts it joins must be different otherwise the sentence will be redundant, and Allah (swt) is far away from that.

And so when Allah (swt) said that he has conferred a great favor on the believers, He does not confer anything that is not correct and truthful. Therefore, this wisdom must be followed as the Qur'an, and Allah (swt) has never ordered us to follow anything but Him and His messenger (pbuh). Which must mean that this wisdom is what came from Rasoolullaah (pbuh) in the form of rules and sayings regarding legislation.

To clarify the concept of Sunnah and our obligation to follow it, Allah (swt) said:

"Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." [Al Qur'an 7:157]

Because this teaching is mentioned in general in this aayah, then it must include the rules in the Qur'an and Sunnah. A very strong indicator of the obligation upon us to follow the Sunnah can be found in this aayah:

"...And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it) , and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment." [Al Qur'an 59:7]

Allah has also made the obedience of Rasoolullaah (pbuh) in conjunction with the obedience to Him:

"And obey Allah and the Messenger, that ye may obtain mercy." [Al Qur'an 3:132]

We are asked by Allah (swt) to answer any order by Rasoolullaah (pbuh):

"O ye who believe! give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calleth you to that which will give you life." [Al Qur'an 8:24]

Allah made the obedience of Rasoolullaah (pbuh) an obedience to Him, and following Rasoolullaah (pbuh) an indication of the love of Allah (swt):

"He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah." [Al Qur'an 4:80]

"Say: If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you sins." [Al Qur'an 3:31]

And Allah (swt) warned us from not following the instructions of Rasoolullaah (pbuh):

"Then let those beware who withstand the Messenger’s order, lest some trial befall them, or a grievous penalty be inflicted on them." [Al Qur'an 24:63]

Not only that, but Allah (swt) told us that disobeying Rasoolullaah (pbuh) is disbelief:

"Say: Obey Allah and His Messenger.: But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith." [Al Qur'an 3:32]

It was never allowed by Allah (swt) that a believer disobey Rasoolullaah (pbuh):

"It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path." [Al Qur'an 33:36]

To show that not following the ruling of Rasoolullaah (pbuh) when a dispute occurs is a sign of hypocrisy, Allah (swt) says:

"They say, We believe in Allah and in the apostle, and we obey; but even after that, some of them turn away; they are not (really) Believers. When they are summoned to Allah and His apostle, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline (to come)....The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey"; it is such as these that will attain felicity." [Al Qur'an 24:47-51]

We conclude that the Sunnah is explanatory of the Qur’ân and any vilification of the Sunnah is consequently an undermining of the Qur’ân. Emulation of the Messenger is described in the Qur’an as a condition of faith and a means of salvation. Allah (swt) says:

“You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah as excellent example for him whose hopes are in Allah and the final day” [Al Qur'an 33:21]

The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who unfairly treats a non-Muslim who keeps a peace treaty with Muslims, or undermines his rights, or burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without his consent; then I will be his opponent on the Day of Judgment' [Related in Abu Dawud]