Sunnah: Muakkadah and non-muakkadah

Q624 :You have stated in various answers given by you that by not observing a sunnah, a Muslim does not commit a sin or an act of disobedience. As you realize, sunnah is divided into "muakkadah" and "non-muakkadah." The first is compulsory, and the second voluntary or recommended. Obviously, non-observance of the type of sunnah which is "muakkadah" is an act of disobedience. Please comment.

A624 : When the Prophet gives us an express order to do something or avoid another, that order must be obeyed. The sanctity of obligation is clearly stated in the Qur'an when Allah commands us to act on whatever the Prophet bids us and refrain from whatever he forbids us. This divine order is contained in Verse 7 of Surah 59, "Al-Hashr." The Prophet, however, has done or said certain things without specifying that these were compulsory. On the other hand, he may have defined a compulsory part. Such a definition means that what is extra is not compulsory. When he does or encourages something which is other than the obligatory part, then we can only say that it is recommended. We have this particular case in prayer when the Prophet tells us for example, that Allah has made it obligatory to us to offer five prayers a day in a certain fashion and according to a particular time schedule. Obviously, the Prophet offered more prayers than those obligatory ones. The effect of this is that what we define as obligatory remains so and what goes beyond it remains recommended. This latter part can be divided into sunnah muakkadah and non-muakkadah, as you have correctly pointed out. What is "muakkadah" is that which the Prophet regularly did [and encouraged]. The other he did occasionally. Now we cannot describe either type as compulsory. Both are recommended. However, the muakkadah which was done regularly by the Prophet carries more weight and has more stress placed on it. But if a Muslim does not do it, he does not commit a sin or an act of disobedience. He simply loses the chance of earning the reward placed on it. May I refer you to the authentic Hadith related by Al-Bukhari which reports that a certain man came to the Prophet and asked him: "What prayers Allah has made obligatory to me?" The Prophet answered: "The five (daily prayers) unless you wish to volunteer something." The man asked him about the obligatory part of fasting, zakah, and other acts of worship. Every time the Prophet answered pointing out the obligatory part and adding the proviso "unless you wish to volunteer something." When the man finished his question, he said: "By Him who has sent you with the message of truth, I shall volunteer nothing. I will do these obligatory actions without omission or addition." When the man went away, the Prophet said: "He will prosper if he keeps his word." I feel that this authentic Hadith clarifies your query and shows that what is sunnah cannot be described as compulsory. Otherwise, its omission incurs punishment, which is not the case.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )