Things that I learned in the TAM 08: A definition of following the Sunnah

I was asked to share some of the things I learned from the TAM and some of the action items that we need to take into consideration ISA. I will have to start by saying that I learned a lot, especially by the challenging questions and discussions from my brothers and sisters to the instructors including myself. I will keep it as brief as possible and I will try to write more messages as I find time ISA.

I was presenting the part of the Basic Tarbiya Training course in which I was running a discussion of how we can establish love with people around us. I mentioned the incident of the Prophet (PBUH) grabbing the hand of Moaaz (r) telling him, “O Moaaz, I love you for the sake of Allah …” and continued to give him the advice. The discussion at that point transformed into a fundamental discussion of the definition of the Sunna of the prophet (PBUH).

One of the sisters said, “I find it so weird that someone picks my hand and tells me I love you.”

The question that came to mind and to the discussion was: is grabbing the hand of someone and saying to her I love you, part of the Sunnah of the prophet?

The answer is definitely YES. The Sunnah, as defined by scholars of Usul is what the prophet (PBUH) said, did, or approved of after he became the messenger of Allah*. Therefore, grabbing the hand of someone and telling him, I love you, is part of the Sunnah. How is it then weird to this sister?

There are two reasons that will make someone feels that an action of the prophet (PBUH) is weird or not accepted. First, one should question the basis on which we base our judgment. We often tend to judge the Sunnah based on factors that need judgment themselves. For that matter, we should actually use the Sunnah to judge those factors and not vise versa.

The other important reason is our misunderstanding of the Sunna of the prophet and that is the point I want to focus on here. I want to first write a very clear yet subtle difference in the definition of “following” the Sunnah of the prophet. People tend to borrow from the definition above and say, “following the Sunnah is following what the prophet did, said, or approved of.” This definition, in a sense, is not accurate (unless you define accurately what the word following means). The prophet did so many things and none of the scholars would dare to say we should do to follow his Sunnha. As obviously known, the prophet dug a ditch around Madinah at the time of al-ahzab and no one ever claims that this should be done these days. Although the Sunnah of the prophet was to dig a ditch around Madina, it will look weird if someone does that these days claiming that he is following the Sunnah of the prophet.

Although, the example above is naïve and all of us know it, in many ways of our life we dig a ditch around us and claim that we are following the Sunna of the prophet. The way we dress, the way we speak, the way we express our feelings, the way we think of Islamic work, and even the way we deal with our families is full of examples in which we are literally following the model of digging the ditch around us. We are the ones who make the Sunnah appear very weird and irrelevant to people around us especially people who are closely monitoring us to find out what Islam is.

We ought to define following the Sunnah of the prophet as doing what we think he (PBUH) would do should he were to do it now. With this definition we will make the Sunnah as relevant as it should be and it will make sense to all.

  • Digging the trench is a sunnah but protecting your land with all possible sophisticated means is the real Sunnah
  • Grabbing the hand and saying I love you is a sunnah but expressing the care and love is the real Sunnah
  • Sending people with messages is the sunnah but utilizing all possible sophisticated means of communication is the real sunnah
  • Brushing the teeth with a specific tree branch is a sunnah but using the best tooth brush and tooth paste to clean the mouth is the real Sunnah**
  • And so on ..

Coming back to the Basic Tarbiya course***, one should understand that the Sunnah of the prophet (PBUH) is to love others, care about them, express this love, communicate his message to them, etc (as we described in detail during the course). The methods and the tools are subject to change and are dependent on the context which the prophet himself would have changed them when the context changes.

Comments are appreciated …

* Sheikh Mustafa Al-Seba3i (r), “Sunnah and its position in Islamic Sharia”
** One would claim that it is proven scientifically that this specific tree branch is the best way of cleaning the teeth. Well, you know my answer
*** the whole sound track of the course is available and will be uploaded if the requests are a lot 🙂 (since it is kind of long)

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5 thoughts on “Things that I learned in the TAM 08: A definition of following the Sunnah

  1. AA, I got this blog from the MY NET email and mashaAllah thanks for sharing. The parallelism of “a sunna” vs “the meaning of the sunna” illuminated the idea very well. I’ve often had a hard time explaining the ideas you present. The best I’ve come up with is “don’t take things too literally, just use your common sense” or “let us return to the big picture”. But I think you did the idea more justice. JAK for sharing.

    Lamya, MY Chicago

  2. So youre saying the past 1400 years of following the sunnah is misguided and now MAS Youth has found the REAL sunnah?

    The ARROGANCE of MAS has gone too far. THIS is how Christianity evolved into what it is. By re-interpreting the religion. Its incredible to believe that MY teaches this in their circles. Youre fooling yourselves! Please follow the sunnah as it OUGHT to be followed! Not making some ridiculous claims that go against 1400 years of Islamic scholars.

    I cant wait to see how you will justify another concert!

  3. I never said that Muslims were wrong for 1400 years. I also do not see arrogance in trying to express my opinion about following the Sunnah of our prophet. I would like to understand what exactly you do not agree with in my post. I think this is a very genuine definition of following the Sunna: to understand it, apply to the context we are living in

  4. I know the road that mas travels down when you say “apply to the context we are living in”. Saying May Allah reward you instead of JAK, etc. MAS is a whitewashed organization that has no concept of traditional Islamic values. All ive ever heard from mas is how masjids dont know what theyre doing, msa’s dont know what theyre doing, shaikhs they dont agree with dont know what theyre doing, etc. And yet, mas has NO scholars guiding its movement. NONE. MAS is a headless chicken running around with no good direction.

  5. Would you please contact me whamza15@gmail.com? I would like to understand more about your views about MAS. I also will remove the comments since they are not discussing the blog and are not valuable to the reader. Please make whatever comments you want to make (either agree or disagree) but do not bring other subjects not related to the post.

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