Implementation of the Sunnah
We cannot successfully implement the sunnah without the love Rasulullah SAW. Rather, it is at the time where the love for him enters our hearts, that is when we will be able to implement the sunnah with sincerity and honour. It well is known that he was sent to mankind as a mercy to mankind. Hence we should also emulate that quality of mercy when spreading the sunnah.
For example, Rasulullah SAW has asked us to leave what he has prohibited us from doing, and to do what he has commanded us to do to the maximum of our abilities. He left the door open for everyone to do according to his obedience, his ability and his love for Allah. This is his mercy to his nation - by not setting impossible or rigorous benchmarks on the non-obligatory aspects of worship, he has spared those who are not able to do as much as others from punishment.
If we understand this, when we see people around us failing to implement sunnah, it is not our place to judge them. It is alarming to see some people, armed with a limited knowledge of sunnah being extremely quick to point fingers and judge others. There are those who think that a superficial study of the sunnah empowers them with the right to judge others. These can be the harshest of people, those who are in the culture of pointing out the mistakes of others, and condemning everyone else as kaffirs, hypocrites and criminals.
The true understanding of the sunnah will instead give priority to the root of the faith. Spreading the sunnah entails, first and foremost, instilling faith in Allah in the hearts of others, and to achieve the unity of the ummah. Following the lead demonstrated by Rasulullah SAW, the way of the sunnah is initiated by gaining the trust and respect of the others before advice about the proper course of action and behaviour can be rendered to them. There is no room for personal anger, harshness and judgmental behaviour in this equation.
Ruling or Manner – which comes first?
One of the fundamental knowledge in Islam is to acquire manner (adab) before knowledge. Once the manner is established, and Islam takes root in the heart, that is when the knowledge becomes useful. Knowledge on its own can be destructive if not curbed by proper implementation through manner.
If you claim you love the Prophet SAW, then study his manner: his character, his wisdom and his kindness.
In surah Tawbah, the status of Rasulullah SAW and his caring for the ummah is confirmed: There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful [9:128]
Study his biography to acquaint yourself with him. Try to obtain literature about the Prophet SAW that quotes authentic sources instead of the author's personal opinions. A reliable biography will also shed light on many ahadeeth and the context in which they were transmitted, which will further exemplify his patience, gentleness and mercy.
The manner of Nabi Muhammad SAW was soft and gentle. He was the only Prophet and Messenger to have been granted some of the attributes of Allah – the qualities of rauf and rahim, closeness and mercy. It is essential for us to remember these qualities in him. He did not simply reproach, instead, he guided people with gentleness, patience and humility. These core characteristics gave him the merit and the credibility to spread the message of Allah, and this is the perfectness of manner that we should aim to emulate within ourselves.
Our ummah is now lacking manner, humbleness and compassion. We have lost sight that the highest form of sunnah is kindness, generosity, love of Allah and fear of Allah.
If we spread the sunnah with ruthlessness and insensitivity, or worse, using foul language or bullying behaviour, we will turn people away from Islam instead of towards it. We should first do a reality check on our own behaviour before trying to correct others. Further, it is more constructive to overlook the mistakes of others and forgive them when they err. Once we have established the love of Muhammad SAW in them, we can then revisit their mistakes and counsel them in a moderate way.
Division in the Ummah
If we claim to love Allah, then it is incumbent on us to follow His Prophet SAW. This means complete obedience, without being picky of the aspects of Islam which are convenient for us.
Nowadays, people follow the sunnah from their own personal angles, giving precedence to their own Shuyukh, ideologies and interpretations in preference to the teachings of Nabi Muhammad SAW. Sometimes we give even priority to our wrong interpretations caused by our unsupervised interpretation of Islam. Such actions create division in an already fragmented Islamic society.
Allegiance should be to Allah and His Messenger, and such divisiveness has always been prohibited in Islam. It is not right for us to create polarisation within the Islamic community. Nothing of the sunnah ever promoted us to be so intolerant and disunited.
Many of those claiming to be of the sunnah have built gaps, divided the family and consequently the ummah, all in the name of the sunnah. The way of Islam is of unity and taking the middle path. From the examples of the early Muslims, for instance, they remained kind to their non Muslim parents, despite all the torture and hardship inflicted by such parents on them. Their behaviour resonates the important Islamic value of kindness to parents, and stresses the role of unity.
Commanding the right and forbidding the wrong
One may wonder about the duty of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong. It is true that it is a Muslim's duty to do so, but there is a prescribed manner and ruling in implementing it. This topic requires extensive discussion which will be addressed elsewhere. Suffice to say that commanding the right and forbidding the wrong should be executed with wisdom, in order to gain unity and brotherhood. It should be done with proper consideration to the dignity of the person we are trying to correct. This principle automatically means that abusive, aggressive and insulting behaviour is disallowed.
Visualise the better option if you are severely ill. Would it be enough if someone calls for an ambulance and then leaves you on your own? Or would you be more comforted if someone sends you to the hospital, and accompanies you through the medication and treatment? Spreading the sunnah follows a similar emotional and psychological pattern. When a person is spiritually sick, lost or in error, we should guide that person step by step, with patience and compassion. Commanding and forcing them will make them retreat from Islam.
In spreading the sunnah, we do not have the right to judge others, and to decide whether others are destined for paradise or hellfire. This right is reserved for Allah alone. We do not know their circumstances, the contents of their heart, or even their knowledge and exposure to Islam. Even if they behave mistakenly, it is not our right to conclude that they are destined for hellfire. It could be that Allah will look at their purity of intention and forgive their erroneous implementation, but this is knowledge of the unseen which only Allah possesses, and which we have no right to second guess Him.
Our individual self righteous behavior, if left unchecked, may even frighten away the very ones we are trying to guide and correct. How many people now avoid the mosque for fear of reprimand or ridicule? This backfires from the original aim of spreading the sunnah. Our aim is to attract people towards the correct behaviour in Islam, not to make them shy away from it.
The more one observes the sunnah, the more humble the person should become. The holier than thou attitude that many of us carry should be ditched if we truly want to lead others to the sunnah. When one becomes too arrogant of his religious knowledge, and constantly looks down on others, how assured is he that he will not be placed in hellfire first due to his conceited nature? In the authentic hadith reported by Muslim and At-Tirmithi the Prophet SAW said, "One will not enter Paradise, if one has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart."
So what is the best way of implementing the sunnah? Click here to find out.