Importance of Sunnah and Hadith

The two fundamental sources of knowledge other than Quran in Islam are Sunnah and Hadith. Teachings of the Holy Quran can be best understood in the light of these sources. The Qur’an is the directly revealed word of God (Allah) and the Sunnah gives the practical implications of Qur’an. The Sunnah shows how the commandments and teachings mentioned in Qur’an can be put to practice. Sunnah and hadith are generally taken as two synonyms terms, but they are not. The Arabic word ‘sunnah’ means the way Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lead his life whereas ‘hadith’ is a narration, or an act or an approval of the Holy Prophet.  The explosion of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries confronted Islamic scholars with a daunting task: to preserve the knowledge of the Sunnah of the Prophet. Hence the science of hadith evaluation was born. For a proper understanding it is necessary to know precisely the difference between Hadith and Sunnah.

 

DEFINITIONS

 

Hadith

Hadith implies the narration of a saying, or of an act, or of an approval of the Prophet (PBUH) irrespective of whether the matter is authenticated or still disputed. The Muhaddithin (the scholars of Hadith) employ the term, Khabar for Hadith. A Khabar bears the possibility of being either right or wrong. In other words, the Muhaddithin believe that a Khabar may be authentic or it may be false.

 

Sunnah

This means the way of life which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught the people in theory and practice and for which, in his capacity as a teacher of Shari`ah (Islamic Law), he laid down ideal standards of leading a life which one should meet to earn Allah’s approval through complete submission to His Commandments.

 

IMPORTANCE

 

The Prophet’s sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allah and must be considered a fundamental source of guidance along with Qur’an. The Hadith represents a personal source of divine guidance which Allah granted His Prophet (PBUH) which was similar in its nature to the Qur’an itself. The Prophet (PBUH) reiterated this point in one of his recorded statements, Indeed, I was given the Qur’an and something similar to it along with it. [Sunan Abu Dawud]. Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, he or she must consider what the Prophet (PBUH) said or did regarding it. In the Qur’an, Allah instructs the believers to offer salaah and pay zakaah (2:43). However, in order to obey these instructions correctly, one must study the methodology of the Prophet (PBUH) in this regard. The same is true of all other modes of worship and of other commandments and laws. The relation between the Qur’an and Sunnah is that of the soul and the body. In other words, the soul or the spirit of the Qur’an is given, in the Sunnah of the Prophet, a form for its display. Both go together to complete the splendid edifice of Islam. Take away any one of them, and the whole structure falls apart. 

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