The Quran about the term “sunna”

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful

Muslims around the world are familiar with the concept of “sunna.” The word “sunna” refers to the traditions/stories about the messenger Muhammad, his way of life, his statements and actions. But if we look at the direct meaning of this word, then we will see that in the Quranic text it means “law.”

In the Quran, God applies the word “sunna” in ten ayats. If this word is understood as “lifestyle“, “custom” or “tradition“, then the meaning of these passages turns out to be rather confusing.

The laws (sunana) of God have already been discarded before you, so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was the end of those who denied. (3:137)

 

Here one cannot understand “sunna” as a “custom” or “lifestyle“, because people, on the contrary, defended their customs and way of life, motivating their actions by the fact that they got them from their ancestors. Moreover, the word “sunna” God applies to Himself. Therefore, we cannot understand the word “sunna” except as a “law“, because such terms as “the custom of God” or “the way of life of God” are unnatural.

There is not to be upon the prophet any discomfort concerning that which God has imposed upon him the established law of God (sunnata-llahi) with those who have passed on before. And ever is the affair of God a destiny decreed. (33:38)

Then do they await except the law (sunnata) of the former peoples? But you will never find in the law of God (sunnata-llahi) any change, and you will never find in the law of God (sunnata-llahi) any alteration! (35:43)

But never did their faith benefit them once they saw Our power by the established law of God (sunnata-llahi) which was rejected by His servants! (40:85)

…the established law of God (sunnata-llahi) which has occurred before. And never will you find in the law of God any change! (48:23)

 

Since the days of Adam, people who were guided by their passions did not cease to violate the laws of God. The Almighty from the very beginning of the history of mankind sent the laws through the messengers to people so that people could live in peace, justice and harmony.

Law (sunnatana) of those We had sent before you of Our messengers; and you will not find in Our laws (lisunnatina) any alteration! (17:77)

 

Human essence, interpersonal relations have not undergone a significant change. Only the “technical” habitat changes. To avoid previous mistakes, the Creator draws our attention to the history of the nations to whom the messengers brought the laws of God.

God wants to make clear to you and guide you to the laws (sunana) of those before you and to accept your repentance. And God is Knowing and Wise. (4:26)

Say to those who closed themselves if they cease, what has previously occurred will be forgiven for them. But if they return – then the precedent law (sunnatu) has been continuing. (8:38)

They do not believe in this and the ancient law (sunnata) was cast off! (15:13)

And nothing has prevented the people from believing when Guidance came to them and from asking forgiveness of their Lord except that there befall them the precedent law (sunnatu) of the ancients or that the punishment should come before them! (18:55)

 

Laws invented by people themselves in opposition to the laws of God or claiming to be equal in fulfilment can’t be an example for achieving harmony on earth and happiness in the last life.

Once again we recall the passage:

Law (sunnatana) of those We had sent before you of Our messengers; and you will not find in Our laws (lisunnatina) any alteration! (17:77)

 

It becomes obvious that the above passages imply the very laws of God brought by the messengers.

As before, people still ceaselessly violate the laws of God, distort and try to change them in order to please their passions and speculations. Therefore, throughout the history of mankind, God sent messengers, again and again, to restore again their immutable laws through them.

By the established law of God (sunnata-llahi) with those who passed on before; and you will not find in the law of God (sunnata-llahi) any change! (33:62)

 

The Creator of all things unequivocally expressed that there is no substitute for His laws. So do we dare to offer anything in exchange to His prescriptions?!