O you who believe, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when He calls you to what will bring you to life. Know that Allah intervenes between a person and his heart and that you will be gathered to Him. (Surat al-Anfal, 24)
Looking at human history reveals that life began with the prophets. This is a true statement, for no religion can be comprehended and implemented in the absence of a prophet. For that reason, a messenger has been sent as a guide to every community.
As with the other prophets, Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (saas) with the perfect religion and the straight path. He has also made him a prophet for everyone until the Day of Judgment. Obeying, respecting, and loving him, in addition to imitating his lifestyle and abiding by his Sunnah, are responsibilities that all Muslims must try to fulfill.
Indeed, in the Qur'an obedience to the Prophet (saas) is considered as the same as obedience to Allah. Believers are told to take the Qur'an and the Sunnah as their guides in matters on which they disagree. The following command is given in the Noble Qur'an:
No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them and then do not resist what you decide and submit themselves [to you] completely. (Surat an-Nisa', 65)
As this verse makes crystal clear, the Prophet's (saas) Sunnah is an absolute and immaculate source of commands, because it is the way of "interpreting, explaining, and applying the Qur'an." Therefore, no believer has the right to make interpretations (ta'wil) or be disobedient with regard to the Sunnah, the application of the Qur'an.
When Allah and His Messenger have decided something, no believing man or woman has a choice about [following or not following] it. Anyone who disobeys Allah and His Messenger is clearly misguided. (Surat al-Ahzab, 36)
In another verse, our Lord reveals:
The believers' reply, when they are summoned to Allah and His Messenger so that he can judge between them, is to say, "We hear and we obey." They are ones who are successful. (Surat an-Nur, 51)
Each verse in the Qur'an that deals with obeying the Prophet (saas) states that doing so is obligatory for believers. That is why the Prophet's (saas) practices are impeccable and are under the protection of Allah. To put it another way, everything in the Sunnah is, in essence, based upon revelation.
Nor does he speak from whim. It is nothing but Revelation revealed. (Surat al-Najm, 3-4)
Therefore, when disagreement arises, believers are obliged to turn to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, Islam's two fundamental reference points:
If you disagree about something, refer it back to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best thing to do and gives the best result. (Surat an-Nisa', 59)
Not only did the Prophet (saas) transmit the verses he received from Allah (swt) to humanity, but he also explained them. Therefore, the Sunnah can be regarded as the interpretation of the Qur'an. Viewing it in this way will protect it from corruption, misunderstanding, and distortion and also facilitate its being understood.
Another verse reveals:
Say: "If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins." (Surah Al 'Imran, 31)
An indication of one's love for Allah (swt), therefore, is following His Prophet (saas), for doing so reveals that he/she is a follower of Allah (swt). No believer can regard obedience to Allah (swt) as sufficient and abandon obedience to the Prophet (saas). The Prophet (saas) gives the following glad tidings to those who comply with the Sunnah: "Whoever gives life to my Sunnah certainly loves me, and whoever loves me is with me in Paradise." (al-Tirmidhi)
While the Prophet (saas) imparts the above glad tidings to those who adhere by the Sunnah, in the Qur'an, our Lord warns the terrible consequences that result from rebelling against the Prophet (saas):
As for those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and overstep His limits, We will admit them into a Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surat an-Nisa', 14)
Those who are unable to understand the Sunnah's importance and who criticize it, despite what has been related above, are acting directly against the Prophet (saas).
The Prophet's (saas) words and behavior, described as "conforming to sublime morality" by Allah (swt) in the Qur'an, and by Aisha (ra) in her words that "the Prophet's (saas) nature was the Qur'an," constitute a role model for all human beings. Just as one cannot attain true virtue without taking him as a role model, neither can one attain happiness in this world and the Hereafter without doing so.
Those who abandon the Sunnah will lose a highly auspicious reward and be deprived of his intercession on the Day of Judgment. Moreover, turning one's back on the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas), who was most affectionate toward his ummah and most sensitive to any harm that might befall them, is showing ingratitude to such a great blessing:
A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is distressing to him. He is deeply concerned about you, and is gentle and merciful to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba, 128)
Those who hold mistaken opinions about the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) fail to comprehend the importance of his role. The duty entrusted to him requires a sense of responsibility so great that even the slightest detail could not be ignored. That is why our Prophet (saas) has so much to tell us on so many subjects, from trade to health, and from solidarity to education.
The Sunnah's fundamental principle is its applicability. "Treat the people with ease and don't be hard on them. Give them glad tidings and don't fill them with aversion" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Hadith No. 275) is the clearest indication of this. His wife Aisha (ra) stated that he told his people to do that which they could easily accomplish. Therefore, everyone can adopt the Sunnah. His life is an example of applying the Qur'an to one's daily life for every believer.
Another issue is the damaging results that arise when people abandon the Sunnah. Some Muslims, out of ignorance or idleness, have imposed heresy on the Islamic world by coming up with stipulations based on the speculations of people who essentially have no knowledge of Islam, or by following their own interpretations instead of the Sunnah's guidance.
The Islamic world's political and economic problems occurred because the Muslims abandoned the Qur'an and the Prophet's (saas) Sunnah. The ensuing instability will continue until believers understand that they are members of the community of the same prophet and strive to develop a community worthy of him. The only road for Muslims, therefore, is to adhere tightly to the Qur'an and the Prophet's (saas) Sunnah.
Any examination of the Prophet's (saas) life shows that his attitude toward life was not one-dimensional. For example, many reliable hadiths discuss his various roles: a prophet, a head of state, an army commander, a soldier, and a trader. He prays, fasts, prays during the night, lives in a state of constant devout prayer and contemplation, and remembers Allah (swt). A modest leader, he also marries, buys things, treats and visits the sick, jokes with children, wrestles with his friends, and races his wife on the road.
Muslims can properly discharge their duties as Allah's (swt) servants only by studying and observing the Prophet's (saas) practices. The first source of information for this is the great hadith compilations of Muslim, al-Bukhari, and other classical-era hadith scholars. The vast collections of his words, deeds, and personal attributes, particularly those displayed during his prophethood, were collected with great care by narrators or reporters whom all Sunni scholars consider reliable.