SUNNAH and it’s categories

What is Sunnah?

The word sunnah literally means the way or the custom and the sunnah of the Prophet(ﷺ) means the way of the Prophet(ﷺ) or the Prophet’s(ﷺ) tradition. The word sunnah indicates and means the sayings, the deeds and the approval of the Prophet(ﷺ) in the span of 23 years during his prophethood i.e it means what the Prophet(ﷺ) said what the Prophet(ﷺ) did and what the Prophet(ﷺ) approved in the span of 23 years during his prophethood.

Sunnah categories:

The sunnah of the Prophet(ﷺ) can be divided into three types:

1. Sunnah Qawliyyah (the sayings of the Prophet(ﷺ)).
2. Sunnah Al Filiyya (actions of the Prophet(ﷺ)).
3. Sunnah Taqririyyah (the approval of the Prophet(ﷺ)).


An example of the first type of sunnah i.e Sunnate Qawlih i.e the sayings of the Prophet(ﷺ).
Prophet(ﷺ) said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari- 631) [Sahih]

So, this is the commandment of the Prophet(ﷺ), it’s a saying of the Prophet(ﷺ) and it’s the duty of a Muslim that we should follow it.

An example of the second type of sunnah Sunnate Faili i.e the deeds of the Prophet(ﷺ).
Narrated by `Abdullah bin `Umar: “Whenever I saw the Prophet(ﷺ) offer salah, he used to raise his hand up to the shoulders and then when he said the takbir he again did the same action(raised the hands up to the shoulders) and then he bowed down. When he came up, he said, Sami Allahu-liman hamidah (Allah hears those who praise Allah(S.W.T)) and again he did the same action(raised the hands up to the shoulders) but he did not do the action (raising the hands up to the shoulders) between the two prostrations when he said the takbir.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari- 736) [Sahih]

So, this is the action of the Prophet(ﷺ). Sahaba sees the action and narrates it, this becomes Sunnate Faili.

An example of the third type of sunnah Sunnate Taqriri i.e the approval of the Prophet(ﷺ).
Narrated by Qays ibn Amr: “The Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) saw a person praying after the congregational prayer at dawn(Fajr) was over. The Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said: There are two rak’ahs of the dawn prayer (i.e. the prescribed rak’ahs). The man replied: I did not pray the two rak’ahs before the dawn prayer. Hence I offered them now. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) kept silent.” (Abu Dawud- 1267) [Sahih]

Now because the Prophet(ﷺ) was silent it gives indication that he approved it. Because if something is wrong, it’s the duty of the Prophet(ﷺ) to correct it so because he kept silent it gives an approval.

So, this comes the third category, Sunnate Taqriri i.e the approval of the Prophet(ﷺ).


In these three types of sunnah, if all the hadiths are authentic i.e all the hadiths are Sahih, the sunnah that carries the maximum weight is Sunnate Qawlih (the sayings of the Prophet(ﷺ)). Because that is the general ruling, whether the Prophet(ﷺ) says something or if the Prophet(ﷺ) commands something it means he has done it intentionally and with the purpose that is the highest degree amongst the three.

The next is Sunnate Faili that is action of the Prophet(ﷺ). So, what the Prophet(ﷺ) did maybe a sahaba saw it and narrates it. But there can be occasions where the Prophet(ﷺ) did certain things out of necessity which may not be the normal norm. Therefore, the action of the Prophet(ﷺ) carries less weight than the saying of the Prophet(ﷺ). Saying is that consciousness and that’s the general ruling and if there’s a difference between the saying and the action of the Prophet(ﷺ) the saying of the Prophet(ﷺ) carries more weight because maybe the action was done out of some reason or out of some purpose, with the person who’s seeing it he may not be aware of it.

The third among the three is the Sunnate Taqriri approval of the Prophet(ﷺ) that
means he kept silent, that means it is approved, it is permissible.

Reference: Dr. Zakir Naik

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