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Sunnah

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Sunnah

The traditional actions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad are called Sunnah (Arabic). Literally, it means “trodden path”, and therefore, the sunnah of the prophet means “the way of the prophet”. ‘Sunnah’ in Sunni Islam means those religious actions, customs and sayings that were instituted or done by Muhammad during his lifetime, according to the consensus of companions of Muhammad (Sahaba, meaning "friends"), and further through generation-to-generation transmission. According to some opinions, sunnah consists of those religious actions that were initiated by Abraham and were only revived by Muhammad.

Sunnah means what Muhammad said and did, as the Sahaba recorded.

Imam Malik and the Hanafi scholars differentiate between the Sunnah and the Hadith. Imam Malik, for instance, is supposed to have rejected hadiths that reached him because, according to him, they were against the 'established practice of the people of Medinah. In Shi'a Islam, the word 'Sunnah' means the deeds, sayings and approvals of Muhammad and the twelve Imams who Shi'a Muslims believe were chosen by God to succeed the prophet and to lead mankind in every aspect of life.

In the context of biographical records of Muhammad, sunnah is often synonymous with hadith as most of the personality traits of Muhammad are known through descriptions of him, his sayings and his actions.


Synonyms and alternate spellings: 

Further Information: See History of Islam and the Arabs


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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Sunnah