What does “Sunnah” mean?

Sa’d Ibn Abdillah reported that Muhammad Ibn Abdillah said: “Ahmad Ibn Hasan asked Ali Ar-Rida (a.) one day while a crowd of his companions gathered at his house. They argued about two different sayings of the Prophet (s.) about the same thing, after which Ali Ar-Rida (a.) said: God declared forbidden things as unlawful (Haram) and allowed things as lawful (Halal) and the obligations as obligatory (Fard). When something is reported that permits what God forbids, or prohibits what God permits, or removes a obligation that is clearly and validly reported in the Scripture of God without any abrogation, then it belongs to what has been abrogated, and for this reason there is no room to act upon it, because the Messenger (s.) did not declare forbidden what God declared to be permitted, and did not declare permitted what God declared to be forbidden, and made no change to the obligations of God. All his judgments on this are made out of obedience, submission and transmission from God and the Qur’an says so:” I obey only what is revealed to me.” (6:50) Therefore, the prophet (s.) was a follower and a transmitter of God with regard to what God commanded him to transmit of the message.” I said: “There is a saying of yours about a matter from the Messenger (s.) which is not in the Scripture, but is in the custom (Sunnah). Then something other than that is narrated.” He said: “In the same way the Prophet (s.) has forbidden something which is a prohibition of what is unlawful (Haram), and so his prohibition is in accordance with the prohibition of God, and the Messenger (s.) gave an order, and this order became fixed (Wajib), like the upright duties of God, and so his order was in accordance with the order of God. If it is narrated that the Prophet (s.) forbids something which is a prohibition of the unlawful (Haram), while something different from that is narrated, then there is no room to use it and the same is true of what the Messenger (s.) has ordered and we would consider it permissible what the Prophet (s.) did not consider permissible, unless it was done for fear in an emergency, but that we would declare permissible what the Messenger (s.) has forbidden, or that we would declare forbidden what the Messenger (s.) has permitted, would never be possible, because we are followers (Tabi’un) of the Prophet (s.) who submits to him, just as the Prophet (s.) followed the command of his Lord and submitted himself to him, and God said: “Whatever the Messenger (s.) sends you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it.” (59:7) The Prophet (s.) forbade something because it is forbidden (Haram), but also because of scorn (I’afah) and hatred (Karahah), and he ordered something that is neither a obligation (Fard) nor fixed (Wajib), but something which is excellent (Fadl) and weighty (Marjuh) in religion, which both the sick and the healthy person can leave out. So if the Messenger (s.) reports that he prohibited something because of scorn or that he ordered something because of its excellence, then one is free to use the option of refraining from it. If something has been handed down to you by us for which there are two consistent reports, from what is narrated, who is narrating it, about a prohibition and it cannot be rejected and the two consistent reports that have been narrated to you are correct and known, then you must take one of them or both together or one of them that you want and that is dear to you. This is given to you out of submission to the Messenger (s.) and because it is left to him and to us voluntarily, but whoever fails to do so because of his stubbornness, rejection, and refusal to submit to the Messenger (s.) is an associate (Mushrik) to Almighty Allah.If you have been given two different reports from us, compare them with the Scripture of God. Whatever was permitted and forbidden in the book, so follow that which is in accordance with the Scripture of God and that which is not in the Scripture of God, compare it with the customs (Sunnah) of the Prophet (s.). That which is in the custom of prohibition, which is a prohibition of what is unlawful (Haram), and that which was prescribed by the Messenger (s.) as an order to be obeyed, obey in accordance with what the Prophet (s.) forbade and ordered, and that which is a custom of prohibition out of scorn (I’afah) or hatred (Karahah), whereupon the other report says something else, so that is his approval for what was in contradiction to the Messenger (s.), he hated and forbade, and that is it, which you are free to do, if you take both together, or either one of them, whichever you wish and for which you have freedom to choose out of submission and obedience, and you leave it to the Messenger (s.) and for which you find no evidence whatsoever about anything, leave its knowledge to us, for we are rather entitled to it and do not express yourselves according to your own opinions and you are responsible for letting it go and establishing and stopping by it and you are demanding and asking until clarification comes to you from us.” [Uyun-ul-Akhbar of As-Saduq, Volume 1 Page 22 – 24]

عن علي بن الحسين ومحمد بن الحسن عن سعد بن عبد الله عن محمد بن عبد الله عن أحمد بن الحسن أنه سأل الرضا عليه السلام يوما وقد اجتمع عنده قوم من أصحابه وقد كانوا يتنازعون في الحديثين المختلفين عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله في الشئ الواحد فقال عليه السلام ان الله عز وجل حرم حراما وأحل حلالا وفرض فرائض فما جاء في تحليل ما حرم الله أو تحريم ما أحل الله أو دفع فريضة في كتاب الله رسمها بين قائم بلا ناسخ نسخ ذلك فذلك مما لا يسع الاخذ به لأن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله لم يكن ليحرم ما أحل الله ولا ليحلل حرم الله ولا ليغير فرايض الله وأحكامه في ذلك كله متبعا مسلما مؤديا عن الله وقول الله عز وجل ان اتبع إلا ما يوحى إلى فكان متبعا لله مؤديا عن الله ما امره به من تبليغ الرسالة قلت فإنه يرد عنكم الحديث في الشئ عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله مما ليس في الكتاب وهو في السنة ثم يرد خلافه فقال وكذلك قد نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله أشياء نهى حرام فوافق فذلك نهيه نهى الله وأمر بأشياء فصار ذلك الامر واجبا لازما كعدل فرايض تعالى ووافق في ذلك امره أمر الله تعالى فما جاء في النهى عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله نهى حرام جاء خلافه لم يسع استعمال ذلك وكذلك فيما أمر به لأنا نرخص فيما لم يرخص فيه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ونأمر بخلاف ما أمر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله إلا لعله خوف ضرورة فاما ان نستحل ما حرم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله أو نحرم استحل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله فيكون ذلك ابدا لأنا تابعون لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله مسلمون له كما كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله تابعا لأمر ربه عز وجل مسلما وقال عز وجل ما آتيكم الرسول فخذوه وما نهيكم فانتهوا وان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله نهى عن أشياء نهى حرام بل اعافه وكراهة وأمر بأشياء ليس فرض ولا واجب بل أمر فضل ورجحان في الدين رخص في ذلك للمعلول وغير المعلول فما كان عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله نهى اعافه أو أمر فضل فذلك يسع استعمال الرخص فيه إذا ورد عليكم عنا فيه الخبران باتفاق يرويه من يرويه في النهى ولا ينكره وكان الخبران صحيحين معروفين باتفاق الناقلة فيهما يجب الاخذ بأحدهما أو بهما جميعا أو بأيهما شئت وأحببت موسع ذلك لك من باب التسليم لرسول صلى الله عليه وآله والرد إليه والينا وكان تارك ذلك باب العناد والانكار وترك التسليم لرسول صلى الله عليه وآله مشركا بالله العظيم فما ورد عليكم من خبرين مختلفين فاعرضوهما على كتاب الله فما كان في كتاب موجودا حلالا أو حراما فاتبعوا ما وافق الكتاب ولم يكن في الكتاب فاعرضوه على سنن النبي فما كان في السنة موجودا منهيا عنه نهى حرام مأمورا به عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله أمر الزام فاتبعوا وافق نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وأمره وما كان السنة نهى اعافه أو كراهة ثم كان الخبر الآخر خلافه فذلك رخصه فيما عافه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وكرهه ويحرمه فذلك الذي يسع الاخذ بهما جميعا أو بأيهما شئت وسعك الاختيار من باب التسليم والاتباع والرد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وما لم تجدوه في شئ من الوجوه فردوا إلينا علمه فنحن أولى بذلك ولا تقولوا بآرائكم وعليكم بالكف والتثبت والوقوف وأنتم طالبون باحثون حتى يأتيكم البيان من عندنا

Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (s.) said: “The custom (Sunnah) consists of two customs: A custom regarding a duty, by which the following of it is the right guidance and the neglect of it is error, and a custom regarding something that is not obligatory and by which the following of it is excellence and the neglect of it is not a transgression.”[An-Nawadir of Ar-Rawandi, page 158]

عن موسى بن جعفر عن جعفر بن محمد عن محمد بن علي عن علي بن الحسين عن الحسين بن علي عن علي بن أبي طالب عليهم السلام عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله قال: السنة سنتان سنة في فريضة الأخذ بها بعدي هدى وتركها ضلالة وسنة في غير فريضة الأخذ بها فضيلة وتركها غير خطيئة

Dawud Ibn Kathir reported that he asked Imam As-Sadiq (a.): “Are the customs (Sunnah) of the Messenger of God (s.) like the obligations (Fard) of God?” He said: “God imposed upon the servants fixed duties (Fard). So whoever omits one of the fixed duties (Fard), so that he does not fulfill it and denies it, is an disbeliever (Kafir) and the Messenger of Allah (s.) ordered things, all of which are a benefit (Hasanah). Therefore, he who refrains from doing some of the things that God ordered His servants to obey, is not an disbeliever (kafir), but he refrains from doing the excellent (fadl) and is deficient in the good (khair).” [Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah of Al-Amili, Volume 1 page 30].

محمد بن يعقوب عن عدة من أصحابه عن أحمد بن محمد عن حسن بن محبوب عن داود بن كثير عن الإمام الصادق عليه السلام أنه سأله: سنن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم كفرائض الله عز وجل؟ فقال: إن الله عز وجل فرض فرائض موجبات على العباد، فمن ترك فريضة من الموجبات فلم يعمل بها وجحدها كان كافرا وأمر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم بأمور كلها حسنة فليس من ترك بعض ما أمر الله عز وجل به عباده من الطاعة بكافر، ولكنه تارك للفضل منقوص من الخير

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