Sunnah means the ‘path’ or ‘example’, the whole of rules of life, the habits and the usual precepts of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) that have been transmitted to us about many situations, practically in every occasion, from the most practical ones like the way to dress, to the highest one like the way to perform the prayers. It is the sum of what he did or said or agreed to during his life. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is considered by the dervishes to be the best human moral example to follow.
They are testimonies not deriving directly from the Qur’ān but divided in different degrees according to the presence or not, the closeness and trustfulness of the witness, and reliability of the source by which it has been transmitted.
The Naqshbandi sufi order try to follow the sunnah the most faithfully possible.
While adaab, is the good behavior of the dervish. With adab and sunnah the dervish may solve the 90 % of all issues and situations. The rest depends on his originality.
Because we need to give an answer to our life not with a ‘decision’ but with an ‘inspiration’.
And this can only happen when we are deep immersed in the present.
Adab means to imitate the example of our Shaykhs and saints who were inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) which in turn was inspired by the heavenly style. The sunnah is the divine expression of that style. Many of these rules are observed also by other traditions.
For the dervish every action counts, it carries a meaning, a wisdom; depending on the manner he performs it, it will have the different effects on himself. In the Way nothing is accidental or selected according to our own personal taste.
The sunnah is applied to every aspect of life, making it sweet joyful, because real life is supposed to be sweet and joyful.
The term also refers to an attitude where what is rewarded is not so much the talent, but the devotion, the commitment, the love; because it is the love that connects us to love.
When the master tells the disciple that it is sunnah to eat with the right hand or to leave the house with the left foot first, and to enter with the right foot, if he respond by saying: “Why should I do that? What is wrong if I happen to do the opposite? It will not change that much, right?”. That means that for him it is difficult to make experiences and to learn.
But if the disciple accepts, trusts, for love, he may receive something. He will discover the differences, the subtleties, and acquire an awareness and a presence whenever he will enter into a place with the right foot. He will be inside the Way, in intimacy.
This aspect too, is part of the larger system of sunnah and abab: although imperceptible to an outside view, is one of the pillars of every Sufi community.
To observe the sunnah put us in a stream that is not of this world. It makes us enter in the trail of those who have walked before us, all the saints, prophets and masters.
We say “first experiences, then we talk.” Then we will be together, we will use the same language, because we will have seen and experienced the same things.
The sunnah is the armor that protects us. It is archetypal, we may amplify those requirements of conduct millions of times and it will be always right and good for all, it will create harmony. If we amplify instead the lifestyle of the world, the result is under everyone’s eyes.
This is always a good method to know if we are doing the right thing, to multiply it.
The lives of the prophets are valid models for everyone and brings peace. To walk along the Way is like walking along the blade of a sword: you must be present and precise not to hurt yourself.
To dance on the edge of the blade is all the art.
The dervish spreads signs everywhere to show that he has put God first, through his manners, his look, his way of thinking: he continues to do so until he himself becomes a sign.
He starts with the outside world, he surrounded himself with the Divine until he gets very close. This is his service to humanity, and to God.
The sunnah also extends to the personal environment we live in.
The dervish fills his house with calligraphies of the divine Names, more than the photos of himself to the beach.
The sunnah is an always valid model: it will never be wrong to behave well, to show respect, to pray, because these are the values that make us universal, that rise us above our small human frame.
The dervish offers to God first his love and his service.