Living the sunna therefore means emulating his inner as well as his outer perfection. The sunna has to come easily and naturally to us, as the normal lifestyle of our species. ‘Not one of you has iman’, he insisted, ‘until his desire, his personal preference, his hawa, is in accordance with what I have brought.’
Today, among our Muslim communities, there are many who have not learnt this lesson. There are some misguided fools who imagine that one can achieve spiritual excellence without adhering to the Sunna. This notion, that there can be ihsan without islam, is a falsehood, repudiated by all the Muslims and the Sufis, since the beginning of Islam. For instance, Imam Jalal al-Din Rumi says:
‘I am the servant of the Qur’an, for as long as I have a soul.
I am the dust on the road of Muhammad, the Chosen One ﷺ.
If someone interprets my words in any other way,
That person I deplore, and I deplore his words.’
We can make no claim to be following the outward sunna, unless we have some share in emulating his inner perfection also. There are many Muslims whose body language and manners betray their ignorance of this insight. To pray, fast, eat halal, and observe the other aspects of the outward sunna, will produce only a lopsided, partial type of Muslim, unless we have been working on our inward lives. We need to watch the nafs, the ego, like a cat watching a mousehole. We need to grind it down, so that we become like light.
The Sahaba converted millions of men and women, most of them devout Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Zoroastrians, even without speaking to them. The Qur’an was not translated, and few of them learnt the local languages. But the sheer radiance of their presence, and the natural beauty of the sunna, with its graciousness, dignity and poise, won over the hearts of those who saw them.
Source: The Sunna as Primordiality by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad