In Islam our role model, super-est hero and dearest love is our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He is the door through which we reach God, and as stated in the Qur’aan, he (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy to all mankind (not just Muslims!) and is a mercy to the worlds (not just earth or the visible world – more on that in another post maybe).
And from the life and example of our Beloved Prophet, we have records of his actions and words. This is called the sunnah, and as Muslims we must follow the sunnah. It is not obligatory, such as the five obligatory pillars of Islam: declaration of faith that Allah is God and Prophet Muhammad is his messenger, praying 5 times a day, fasting in the month of Ramadhan, compulsory alms-giving for those who meet the criteria, and performing the Hajj if one is has the health and wealth. But following the sunnah is something we are highly highly encouraged to do, its rewards are magnificent, and any Muslim who loves his Prophet will definitely want to do what he can.
At first my exposure to the sunnah was limited, but as i learnt more, i realized two things:
- the sunnah is EXTENSIVE. It covers so many many many things
- far from being a burden or problem, it actually simplifies our lives to an extraordinary degree
THE SUNNAH IS EXTENSIVE
Let me just make a short list of some of the things i’ve learnt, if only as a reminder and form of revision for myself:
- eat with your right hand
- eat as a group on a shared platter
- food for one is enough for two
- sit to eat and drink
- do not gulp water, but drink in sips
- start your meal with some water, have a bit more in the middle of it, then finish up your water at the end
- take things as good omens (i.e. think positive)
- expose a part of your body to the rain for a bit
- oil your hair some days and on some days don’t
- comb your hair on some days and on some days don’t
- use perfume (men: light coloured with stronger scent, women: more colourful with a mild scent)
- use the toothstick upon waking up, before prayers, before teaching, and a few other occasions i cannot recall
- do not blow into your food or drink if it is too hot
- do not add salt to cooking, but use your finger to touch the salt and place that small amount on your tongue before you eat
- eat fruits first before heavier food, not after
- sleep on your right side, with your palm under your cheek
- don’t be angry, don’t be angry, don’t be angry (feeling angry is normal but here the prohibition is acting out in anger)
- do not waste water
- give names to your belongings
We could go on for a very long time.
What strikes me as impressive and frankly a sign to me (i spent a lot of time thinking and wondering, not wanting to blindly follow the religion my parents brought me into. I always felt at home but i wanted to be very certain and unshakeable in my faith) that Islam is the true religion (that said i still respect my friends of different faiths; to you is your way of life, to me mine) is how the sunnah covers everything from the obvious to the minute. This is guidance for every aspect of our lives.
IT SIMPLIFIES OUR LIVES
Yes, and i know it might seem so otherwise because we have social norms, personal preferences, and even with all those out of the way you gotta take some time to learn the sunnah and start implementing them.
But the beauty in it is that it frees us from deciding, and we know that deciding takes up will power and cognitive effort, both of which are finite. Too many decisions leaves a person exhausted, and really sometimes we don’t know what to choose.
When you know you have an example to follow, set by the best of creation, it takes away the uncertainty of following and the hassle, albeit small, of deciding.
And as time goes by, we will all see little by little how science reveals the wisdom, validity and benefit behind the sunnah. So for those who want concrete facts as well, know that you will get it. We follow because it is good for us and because we love our Prophet, but we also research and dig deeper because it is also our command to seek knowledge and to strive to understand more.
Life is very simple, and the sunnah makes it so. I’m not a good example, by a long shot, but honestly i find that as i implement little by little, i feel good (i reckon it’s a combination of health benefits + placebo effect + benefits in my head cos i feel good doing it and i feel a connection to my Nabi) and have been able to free up so much space in my life, my head, my heart and my worldly possessions.
So many other philosophies and methods exist which point in the same direction, and to me they are all approaching the path that has already been set out by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
The whole world doesn’t have to be Muslim or follow the sunnah, but if each individual who reads this takes some time to think and act appropriately, there will be a positive spillover and ripple effect, God willing.
I would like to end this post with a reminder first and foremost to myself: the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was merciful to all and it was his beautiful character that won over so many hearts, healed so many people, and set the benchmark for what we must strive to.
I wish you all peace.
May Allaah bestow peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad, his family, companions, lineage and people, forever and always.