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)