Who is the Author of the Sunnah?
The answer to the question ‘who is the author of the Sunnah’ seems to be evident. The Sunnah is a collection of the words, deeds, approvals or assessments made by the Messenger of Allah in his earthly life and recorded in the form of separate stories the Hadith. Hence, it is the Prophet who is the author of the Sunnah, isn’t he? Well, yes and no.
The Prophet Muhammad was chosen by the Almighty Allah as His Messenger in order to hand over to men the Last Revelation which He had passed on before through other prophets (such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus) but which the people failed to hear. Thus God chose Muhammad as His Last Prophet. Allah commanded that he should preach in such a way that people would not dare to turn away from the knowledge being sent to them. For this Allah granted Muhammad wisdom, sent the angel Jibril to him to instruct him in the matters of faith and would speak through the mouth of Muhammad. Anything that proceeded from the Prophet proceeded from Allah.
The famous faqih (jurist) and muhaddis (collector of the Hadith), the founder of one of the madhhabs of the Muslim jurisprudence Malik ibn Anas who lived in Medina in the 8th century CE and knew the descendants of many companions of the Prophet, used to say that the Hadith which he had collected were received from the Prophet, who received them from angel Jibril, who passed on to the Prophet the words of Allah. This statement may well form the basis of the answer to the question of who the author of the Sunnah is.
The words and deeds of the Prophet were the continuation of the Divine Revelation bestowed on men in the Quran. Collectively, they became the Sunnah, the Holy Tradition which detailed practical applications of the general commandments of the Quran. This division was brought forward by the Almighty Allah Humself. Its deepest meaning is in keeping the basic and global revelations about the foundations of this world and the universe and about the Omnipotent Allah as the Basis, the Beginning and the End of all that exists distinctly separate from the manifestation of these universal laws of Creation in a man’s day-to-day life.
This is quite logical. Allah ordains to us: one must do the namaz. This is said in the Quran. Then the Messenger of Allah goes on to say how exactly this needs to be done, for example, how many rakats there will be in each namaz depending on the time of day etc. The Almighty Allah must not stoop to petty administration, this is the job of His Deputy. “And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from.” (59:7)
Thus as we answer the question about who the author of the Sunnah was, we can safely say that the Sunnah was inspired in the Prophet by Allah, the Prophet passed it on to his companions, the companions passed it around to all those who believed, the latter having then recorded it in the form of the Hadith. In this respect we as the worshippers of Islam and of the word of the Prophet are very careful to keep up the authenticity of the Sunnah, therefore, the chain of narrators who brought to us the word of Allah uttered through the Prophet in its purity can also be reckoned with the authors of the Sunnah. Last but not least, the collectors of the Hadith, who sieved off the true words of the Prophet from the ones invented by men thus keeping for us the sacred knowledge in its fullness can also be named as participants in the Sunnah.
The Sunnah thus appears as the collective Testament of Islamic faith through which each Muslim can feel himself belonging to Allah’s Grace and Mercy.