Linguistically, Sunnah is an Arabic word which means a path or a way. However, Islamically, it is a primary source of law taken from the sayings, actions and approvals of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS.) Muslims believe that the law he came with, is a divine revelation from our Creator, Allah. However many people believe that the Qur’aan is the only form of divine revelation, as it is the literal word of Allah. This view is incorrect as it contradicts the Qur’aan itself.
Concerning the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), Allah says: “Your companion (Muhammad) is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he speak of his own desire. It is (only) the revelation with which he is inspired” (Surah An-Najm 53:2-4).
Thus as Muslims, we are required to believe that the Qur’aan and Sunnah go hand in hand together as our sources of legislated law. Both are revelation from Allah, the most High. The Qur’an is composed of the actual words of Allah, whereas the Sunnah is its physical and spiritual manifestation through the words, actions, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS.) Another difference is that the Qur’aan is recited formally in the prayers whereas the Sunnah is not. When a person follows the Sunnah it simply refers to the practical application of Divine direction by following the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS.)
Muslims today are benefactors of centuries old chains of narrations which trace back to the very sayings and actions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad himself. The early companions would emulate the Prophet’s every behavior and every action so as to attempt to perfect their life and religion. It is through multiple systems of narrative authenticity that Muslims compiled volumes of Hadith or sayings of the Prophet which together with divine text from the Qur’an forms the backbone of applied Quranic Sciences.