Sunna (2)


(Arab. custom, legal usage) originally denotes among Moslems the sayings and the example of Mohammed and his community, provided they are in accordance with the Koran, the meaning of which, however, is 'itself explained by the Sunna. The term is therefore (though incorrectly) used for the collections of moral and legal traditions traced to the Prophet, which supplement the Koran, somewhat like the Mishna (q.v.), which supplements the laws of the Pentateuch. The Sunna not only comprises religious doctrines and practice, but also civil and criminal laws and the usages of common life-the way to eat and to drink, and to dress, and the like. This tradition is first heard of during the civil wars among the adherents of the new faith, about half a century after the Flight. The single traditions, as we now possess them, rarely exceed six lines. The diction is carefully wrought, and the form is that of a dialogue. For the credibility and canonicity of a tradition it was originally necessary that it should have been heard by one truthful witness; but this law was much relaxed in after-time. At the end of the 3rd century (H.), a countless number of individual collections (Mosnad), mostly of an apocryphal character, had been produced by different theologians, but the first who sifted them critically, and without regard to any special theological system, was Bochary (d. 256. H.). His collection contains 7275 single traditions, 4000 of which, however, occur twice in the work. Moslim, his pupil, supplemented Bochary with another collection, containing 12,000, again including 4000 repetitions. Besides these, there are four more "canonical" collections by Aba Dawfud (d. 275 H.), Tirmidzy (d. 279), Nasay (d. 303), and Maga (d. 273). The Sunna, as we have it in these collections, contains, broadly speaking, more truth than it is generally supposed to contain, and, critically used, is, besides the Koran, the most authentic source of Islam. A selection from the different collections (both canonical and otherwise), called Mishcat A Masabih, has been translated into English by Capt. Matthews (Calcutta, 1809). Fragments from Bochary are found in the German translation, by Von Hammer, in the Fundgruben des Orients. SEE SONNA.

Bible concordance for SUN.

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