The Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) has two dimensions, internal and external. The internal sphere comprises his relationship with Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la), his view of life and its purpose and ultimate end, the aspirations of his soul, his heart's desires, his thoughts and feelings. The external sphere includes his words and deeds and daily habits. Together they form an integrated pattern of matchless beauty and harmony.
Prophet Muhammad's (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) outer life was firmly rooted in his inner life. For example, the way he sat expressed his awareness of his smallness before his Lord and his humility, while the way he ate expressed his consciousness of the greatness of his Lord, of his thankfulness for Allah's bounty and mercy. That there is a vital connection between the spirit and external appearance can best be seen in the movements of the Salah and the rituals of the Hajj. The minutest details of the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) external life were a projection of his inner life which was ever wakeful to the eternal presence of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la) and completely saturated with His power and glory. The external depended on and was determined by the internal.
Thus it is imperative for us to remember this relationship between the internal and the external in the Sunnah. We can derive the full benefit of observing the Sunnah only when we remember this inseparable connection.
To follow the Sunnah of Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), we have to follow both the inner and outer aspects of his life. We have to shape ourselves both inwardly and outwardly following his model. We have to put Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la) in the centre of our heart just as he did. We have to view life the way he viewed it, think the way he thought, desire what he desired and shun what he shunned, feel the way he felt and judge every experience of life as he judged his experiences. With the mind and heart shaped in this fashion we have to try our best to make our outward life resemble his.
Following the Sunnah alone can provide us the assurance of being on the sirat al mustaqim - in the course that is most pleasing to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la). This sets the heart at ease and offers us the courage and endurance needed to get through life's varied trials. It saves us from the many confusions, distractions and dissipation of life which waste our spirit, time, energy and resources. It saves us from all kinds of frustration and regrets. It gives our life a clear sense of direction and discipline as nothing else can. To live by the Sunnah is to heed Allah's call to 'grasp the firm handhold that never breaks' ( Al Baqarah 2:256 ). The Sunnah gives us an unshakable inner peace and a profound sense of safety, security and hope.
When one follows the Sunnah one in fact partakes in the life of his beloved Prophet (saws), partakes in the barakah that Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) received from Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la). What better thing can a Muslim expect to receive in life? The observance of the Sunnah at once eliminates the distance of time and place between us and the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). We are at once placed beside his noble presence in his blessed company. He (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) becomes a living reality in our lives and a source immeasurable joy and solace. Our hearts are sobered, softened and soothed.
The Sunnah unites the Muslims. It can cut across all barriers of power, wealth, language, geography and history. Living by it Muslims can have a universally shared mode of thinking, perception, responses to situations, goals and pattern of living. The bond that belief in tawhid creates among Muslims all over the world can be visibly materialized only through the observance of Sunnah. Nothing can then stand in its way.
Islam places great value on Muslim unity, brotherhood and fellowship in this world, and we also talk of them. But in reality we lost them centuries ago. We present a pitiable group of people, chaotic and hopelessly quarreling among ourselves. All over the world Muslims have set up many organizations and mechanisms of various sorts, hoping to bring back those lost but desired virtues among the Muslims, but with little success. It is time we asked why. Oftentimes with every good intention we gather with much publicity and fanfare only to dispute among ourselves and fall farther apart. Hardly any of these gatherings ever take the trouble to recall this instruction of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) imparted in his Farewell Sermon: 'Hold fast to the Book of Allah and my Sunnah.' What can be sadder than this? How long will we continue to overlook and ignore the message of the noble Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), and still foolishly hope to reap the benefits of Islam?
It is impossible to count the blessings of the Sunnah in our lives. They can only be experienced as one lives by them. Islam is like a mine of endless and priceless treasures, but the mine can be dug and the treasures can be possessed only through loving adherence to the Sunnah of the beloved Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'la). To savor the real taste of Islam and experience its full blessings in this and the next life one has to come to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). May Allah grant us the wisdom and tawfiq to do so.