Did the Prophet ask us to follow his Sunnah?
Some self-claimed scholars deny the fact that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) did not explicitly state that the Sunnah is the second source of legislation, alongside the Quran. One wonders how they turned a blind eye on the Prophet’s explicit statements, in which he clearly declared that the Sunnah was divinely revealed to him in much of the same fashion as the Quran. Al Miqdad ibn Ma’ed Yakreb reported that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) said "I was given the book and a similar one with it. A time will come when a satiated man who has a full stomach sitting on his couch will say 'abide by the Quran and whatever you have found in it permit it and whatever is not there prohibit it'”. This means that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) was divinely given the Quran to be recited and was given its clarification with it which is the Sunnah.
Through the Prophetic Sunnah the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) was bestowed knowledge to clarify what was revealed in the Quran; he was also authorized to generalize rulings or restrict them to specific cases based upon that Divine knowledge. God chose the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) and bestowed guidance upon him to enable him to proscribe or enjoin new legislations that did not have their origins found in the Quran (albeit they were always within the framework of God's infinite knowledge). Muslims are obliged to follow these new rulings, and to give them the same weight that is given to the noble Quran. The above hadith proves the miraculous nature of the Prophet’s message (God's peace and blessings upon him), it is a clear evidence of the legal authority and validity of the Sunnah as a second source of legislation.
The Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) predicted from more than 1400 years ago that a group of ignorant people will appear and deny the validity of the Sunnah as a legal source of legislation. What is even more powerful is that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) had described these people with specific characteristics. He described them as men whose stomachs are full, imagery which indicates idiocy and feeble mindedness; a result from overindulging in one's food intake or that which results from idiocy. When the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) characterized them as those who are found “sitting on his couch”, this indicates these people are lazy, and prefer to stay home while passing uneducated judgments instead of seeking knowledge from legitimate sources. It is a fact that those who level grave allegations against the Prophet’s Sunnah don’t have a foundation of scholarship on whose hands they were taught, thus making them unknowingly ignorant to the religion.
Therefore, in this article I am aiming to clarify that when it comes to the Prophet’s Sunnah, there are two methods. The first method is the command of following the Prophet’s Sunnah and the second method is warning against those who deny it. As for the first method, the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) commanded Muslims to follow his Sunnah and the imperative nature of this command was carried out in various ways. One of the famous hadiths regarding this issue was reported by al ‘Irbad ibn Sariyyah who said that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) made a sermon in which he preached in a way that drew our tears and touched our hearts. They said “O Messenger of God, you have preached to us a farewell speech, would you give us an advice to hold on tightly to?" He replied, “Adhere to the piety of God, and obedience even if an Abyssinian slave became the ruler. You will also see many differences and disputes after I am gone so hold on tight to my Sunnah and follow the Sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs after me. Adhere to it and hold fast to it with your molars, and refrain from illegal innovations in religion as it is an act of misguidance."
Ibn Hiban reported this hadith in his collection of prophetic traditions under the title of “Chapter on the necessity of holding tight to the Prophet’s Sunnah and what is pertinent to it in terms of commands and prohibitions.” The above mentioned hadith indicates the necessity of holding tight to the Prophet’s Sunnah to an extent that one must hold fast to it with his molar; a metaphor which indicates not allowing the Sunnah to be taken from you at any cost. Along with commanding Muslims to abide by his Sunnah, the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) warned against illegal innovations in religion which have no legal origin in the Quran or the Sunnah. Imam al Junayd said in this regard “All the roads are blocked for creation except those who trace the Prophet’s (God's peace and blessings upon him) footsteps and follow his Sunnah and abide by his way as all the roads of goodness are open through Prophet Muhammad (God's peace and blessings upon him).”
As for the second method, it revolves around warning those who go against the Prophet’s Sunnah. It was reported through Anas Ibn Malik that three men came to the Prophet’s wives asking about the Prophet’s worship. When they heard the answer they felt that they could do much more and so they all made an oath. "One of them stood up and said 'As for me, I will pray all night indefinitely.' The other said 'I will fast the whole year without breaking my fast.' The third said 'As for me, I will isolate myself away from women and will never get married.' When the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) heard about what they said, he came over to them saying 'You are the ones who said such and such… I swear by God that I am the most fearful of God among you and the most pious to Him, yet I fast and break my fast, I pray and I lie down, and I get married. Whoever deviates away from my Sunnah does not belong to me'” (Al Bukhari).
The important point in this hadith regarding our topic is the Prophet’s (God's peace and blessings upon him) emphasis on the fact that whoever deviates from his Sunnah does not have a firm understanding nor practice of the religion of Islam, because the Sunnah is part and parcel of this religion as it is divine clarification of the noble Quran. It should be acted upon and held tightly to.