Allah Ta’ala declares: “Say (to the Believers) O Muhammad, (sallallahu alaihi wasallam)! If you love Allah, then follow me (Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Allah will love you and he will forgive your sins.” This verse alone makes it abundantly clear that to earn the love of Allah Ta’ala and gain salvation in both the worlds, there is only one path – the path of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). This path of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) encompasses every aspect of our lives. From birth to death the beautiful and noble teachings of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) are to be implemented. This is known as the path of the sunnah.
As for the sunnah, there is really no such thing as a “small sunnah.” Every sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is worth more than the seven heavens and the seven earths. It is a unanimous view of the Fuqaha (jurists) that to mock or ridicule any sunnah is an act of kufr. Thus the sunnah enjoys an extremely lofty position in Deen.
Nevertheless, there are those sunnats that pertain to the apparent actions of a person. The sunnats of eating, drinking, sleeping, purification, appearance, etc., all fall under this category. Every effort should be made to adhere to all these sunnats. Each one of these sunnats is worth more than the entire universe. Therefore one should strive to make them a part and parcel of one’s life.
However, there are certain teachings of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) pertaining to our innerselves which, although they embody the very spirit of the sunnah, are rarely even considered as something to learn or to inculcate in oneself. Many people don’t even regard them as having any connection to the Sunnah. Yet we find Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) laying great stress on these internal aspects which contain the spirit of the sunnah.
There are many sunnats that pertain to the inner-self. These are aspects that are linked to the heart, such as, humility, contentment, good character, tolerance and forbearance, forgiveness, sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude), etc. Likewise, to refrain from pride, riya (ostentation), anger for personal reasons, greed, love for the world, etc., are also aspects of the internal sunnats. Some examples from the Ahadith will illustrate the importance this aspect was accorded by Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum). For instance the humility of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was to the utmost degree. Despite his extremely elevated position, Rasulullah (sallallahualaihi wasallam) would ride a donkey, milk the sheep himself, mend his shoes, help in the household chores, serve the guests personally and sit on the bare ground. He would even say: “I eat in the manner that a slave eats and I sit in the manner that a slave sits.” He also disliked sitting in a distinguished position or walking in front while everyone else followed behind.
The Sahaba (R.A.) also followed in the footsteps of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Once Sayyidina Umar (R.A.), after he had become the Calipha, came out in the bazaar with a container of water and began giving the people water to drink. Someone inquired of him as to what was the reason for this. He replied: “I received several deputations and as a result I found some change in my heart (i.e. my ego was boosted). To remove this malady I have adopted this treatment.” Since they were immersed in the spirit of the sunnah, they easily detected any shadow of pride, ostentation, etc. Hence they even subjected themselves to various forms of “treatments” to cleanse their hearts of these ailments.
We also find the entire life of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) filled with incidents of forgiveness. he forgave the Jewish lady that poisoned a lamb and gave it to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to eat. On the occasion of the conquest of Makkah he forgave all those who had persecuted him and his Sahaba (R.A.). When Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was falsely accused of not distributing the booty fairly, all he said was: “May Allah shower his blessings on Moosa (alaihis salaam). He was troubled with much worse things but he observed patience.” The forgiveness of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was endless. This is also a great sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). To what extent have we practiced this sunnah?
Another aspect is that of anger. It is reported in the Hadith that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) never became angry nor did he ever take revenge for his personal self. He only displayed anger when any aspect of Deen was violated. Once a bedouin came up to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and violently pulled his shawl thus leaving a mark on his shoulder. He then demanded that he be given something. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) merely smiled and ordered that something be given to him. Hazrath Anas (R.A.) reports that for ten long years he was in the service of Rasulullah (sallallahualaihi wasallam). However, in this entire period of time not once did Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) rebuke him or scold him for not having fulfilled some instruction or having committed some error. Have we judged ourselves in the light of this example? Or do we become enraged at the least abuse directed at us, and become incensed at the slightest mistake of some subordinate? Here also is a sunnah to learn and to practice.
In the same light the it is a part of adopting the sunnah that the concerns that permeated the blessed heart of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) become our concern. It is reported in a Hadith that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was in constant grief and perpetual concern (Shamaa’il Tirmizi). It is obvious that his concern was not for the material things of this world. Allah Ta’ala had offered to turn the mountain in to gold for Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) but he declined. His concern was that of Deen. His concern was of how to save mankind from the perpetual destruction of the Hereafter. In adopting the sunnah, this concern also should become our concern.
If one ponders over these sunnats, one will find that neglecting them will have very serious consequences. If one neglects the sunnah of humility, one will automatically fall into the sin of pride. In this regard Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “That person will not enter Jannah who has pride to the extent of a mustard seed” (Mishkaat). Likewise not inculcating the sunnah of contentment will result in one falling into greed. Greed brings about the destruction of one’s wordly life as well as the life of the Hereafter. It is reported from Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) that he said: “The love of the world is the root of all evil” (Mishkaat). Thus we understand that every sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is to be practiced upon. The sunnah encompasses a complete code of life which covers the external as well as the internal aspects. Together with practicing upon the external sunnats, every effort must be made to inculcate those aspects which pertain to the inner-self, which very few even regard as sunnah. May Allah Ta’ala enable us to follow the example of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as closely as possible.