بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله وعلى آله وصحبه
Sa‘eed ibn al-Musayyib رضي الله عنه once saw a man performing salah at a time when it was prohibited to do so; and he was performing abundant ruku’ and sujood therein, so he forbade him (from that action). The man asked him, “(Do you think) Allah will punish me for praying?” Ibn al-Musayyib replied with the following golden words:
لا ولكن يعذبك على خلاف السنة
“No, but He will Punish you for opposing the Sunnah”
[Sunan ad-Darimi, 1/404 (405); Musannaf Abd Al-Razzaq, 3/52 (4755); Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 2/466 and others – sanad graded as saheeh in ‘Irwa al-Ghaleel, 2/236]
This profound advice from one of the greatest Tabi’i is but an example of the utmost care and concern our Imams had in safeguarding the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم. In his questioning, the man put forward a sincere and an all-to-common excuse that continues to be used by the laity of Muslims of today – and it contains elements of emotion as well as inadvertent ignorance. The phrase “punish me for praying” can easily be interchanged with “punish me for <any act of worship>” that do not fulfill the conditions of acceptance as laid out by our Shari’ah; and the response would remain the same. This is because indeed acts of worship within Islam are not simply accepted based on one’s intentions alone, but equally, whether or not they are in accordance with the Sunnah of the best of all creation صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم.
For this reason Hasan al-Basri رحمه الله تعالى (d. 110 A.H) said that statements, actions and intention cannot be correct except according to the Sunnah. And his contemporary, Muhammad Ibn Sireen رحمه الله تعالى (d. 110 A.H) linked salvation in Islam to the Sunnah when he said, “As long as a person is with the ‘Athaar ([Prophetic] narrations) then he is on the Siraat (correct path).”
Al-Aawza’i رحمه الله تعالى (d. 156 A.H.) said, “We follow the Sunnah, where ever it goes (and leads us).”
Yoonus Ibn ‘Ubayd رحمه الله تعالى (d. 139H) said, “How amazing is the one who calls to the Sunnah today! And what is even more amazing than him is the one who answers the call to the Sunnah!?
[For further statements, refer to ‘Al-Sharh wal-Ibaanah’ of Ibn Battah, Sharhus-Sunnah of Barbahari, and Al-I’tisaam (1/112) of Shaatibi]
Al-Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyaad (d. 187H) would also say, “Follow a good life: Islam and the Sunnah”, therefore we must be careful not to waste time worshipping Allah سبحانه و تعالى with our own standards. Rather we should fervently stick to the Sunnah standard!
And indeed with Allah is success and from Him is guidance.