The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent by Allah (glorified and exalted be He) as a mercy to the worlds, so that we may be guided to Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and achieve eternal happiness, just by following his example. The best part is, the life and practices of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) are by their very nature extremely easy to implement!
Why Follow the Sunnah?
The benefits and importance of following the sunnah are clearly outlined in this unequivocal verse of the Qur’an:
“Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If you (really) love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur'an: Chapter 3, Verse 31]
If that isn’t enough to motivate us to follow our beloved Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) way of life, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) tells also us in a hadith qudsi:
“…My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it…” [Bukhari]
Apart from the above, following the sunnah has worldly benefits too: our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was an incredibly productive person, so by following his sunnah, we automatically draw from his productivity techniques – thereby enhancing our own productivity.
Following the Sunnah in the 21st Century
With our lives being so far distanced from the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (both in time and location), it can be difficult to see how implementing his example can be easy. Here are 5 practical ways to incorporate the sunnah into your life:
1. Find Out What It’s About
To follow the sunnah, you first need to know what it’s all about. This involves gaining knowledge – but make sure that the information you’re getting is authentic; since the benefit is in following the real sunnah, not the cultural and non-authentic religious practices that are sometimes rife in our communities.
Regarding sources of authentic knowledge, you can learn from classes, articles, lectures, or any other well-trusted means. And if you find bite-size pieces more effective, you can ‘subscribe’ to the sunnah by making use of the many regular channels that are available. For example, many of today’s popular ulama (scholars) use social media to provide a continuous stream of beneficial knowledge – such as daily hadiths, Qur’anic reminders, and sunnah-based advice. If you use such technologies, seek out and subscribe to these scholars’ feeds.
To go deeper into the topic, read books that are based on the authentic sources and find qualified teachers to explain what you read in order to confirm your understanding.
2. Seek Good Friends
Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us that your company contributes tremendously to the very course your life will take – he (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“Man is on the religion of his friend, so let every one of you examine whom he befriends.” [Tirmidhi]
Try to surround yourself with good people who will remind you of the sunnah. It’s good to be around those who verbally remind you, but it’s even better to be around those who actively practice the sunnah themselves. Humans are imitative creatures by nature, so merely being in the company of such good influences is bound to inspire you to follow their example.
3. Make It a Habit
Following the methodology of Productive Muslim’s Productive Habits seminar, actively think of how you can turn your selected sunnahs into everyday habits. This involves:
- identifying the sunnah: i.e. the action itself
- knowing what the reward for following the sunnah is
- finding an effective trigger that will remind you to do the action.
Say you want to implement the sunnah of making wudu before sleeping every night. The cycle could look like this:
Action: Making wudu before sleeping each night.
Identify the reward: Forgiveness will be sought for you by an angel (wow!) – as per the hadith: “…Whenever a slave spends his night in a state of purification, an angel spends his night within his (slave’s) hair and he does not turn over during the night except that he [the angel] says: ‘O Allah, forgive Your slave, for he went to sleep in a state of purification.’” [Reported by at-Tabaranee. See Saheeh al-Jamee (3831)]
Trigger: Identify the last thing you do before getting into bed – for example, brushing your teeth. Make that the trigger, telling yourself that from now on, after you brush your teeth, you’ll make wudu.
4. Identify and Relate the Sunnah to Your Roles
There have been many great people in the history of humanity, and many of them have been taken as examples and role models by the people of their time and future generations. However, our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is unique in that he is a flawless, timeless, universal role model: every other human had some flaws and negative sides to their character, but he (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the only one whose every aspect of life can be taken as a positive example.
He fulfilled a number of different roles in his life: he was the leader of the Muslim community, a husband, a father, a teacher, an army commander, a statesman and much more. Look at all his roles and find one those that relate to your own life – for example, if you’re a teacher, study the aspects of his seerah relating to his teaching methods. Take him as your ultimate role model in your job – learn his sunnahs as a teacher and try to incorporate that into your own teaching style.
By making the sunnah very specific – instead of letting the whole body of it overwhelm you – you can find in our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) your ultimate role model for any important role you play in life.
5. Set Visual Reminders
“And Remind, for verily a reminder benefits the believer.” [Qur'an: Chapter , Verse 55]
We humans are visual creatures, but in our modern societies, more often than not, what we see in the outside world calls us to vice and sin – like as the pornographic and materialistic advertisements all around us. One way of countering this is to use your sight in a beneficial way – by looking at that which reminds you of goodness, such as sunnahs you can implement. In your home or workplace, stick up visual reminders of the sunnahs you want to follow. These could be as simple as post-it notes, or as complex as Islamic infographics.
Aside from these tips, there are many other practical ways to incorporate the sunnah into your life. Feel free to suggest some in the comments section, and if you plan to try out some of the advice given in this article, come back later and let us know how it’s working out for you.
May Allah (glorified and exalted be He) help us all to incorporate the sunnah into our lives so that we may earn His love, forgiveness, and ultimately, success in both this life and the next, Aameen!