The sunnah refers to the habits, practices, words, and decisions of the Prophet Muhammad in Sunni Islam, and of the Prophet and the twelve imams who succeeded him as leaders of the Muslim community in Shi’a Islam. Hadith are written records of the Sunnah as validated by early Muslim scholars, though the terms are often used interchangeably as hadith are now the only source for understanding the sunnah. Sunnah is an Arabic word meaning “habit.” It was a pre-Islamic Arab tradition to record a person’s sunnah after death, and this tradition carried over to the Prophet as the Arab world adopted Islam. The sunnah is spiritually important to Muslims as a guide to living, as the Qur’an contains numerous injunctions to believers to follow the example of Muhammad.
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