Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states: “The word Sunnah is used in three different ways. These meanings are interrelated but they are also distinct.
According to the Muhaddithin (scholars of Hadith) it means the “way of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).” Whatever the Prophet said, did and things done in his presence and he approved them are called Sunnah. This Sunnah is reported through the Hadith (meaning statement). So Hadith is the verbalization of the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).
According to the Usuliyyin (the Scholars who explained the basic sources of Islam) the Sunnah is the second most important source of Islamic law. Islamic law is taken from the Glorious Qur’an and from the Sunnah. The Sunnah in this sense both explains the Qur’an and it also gives additional rules and guidance.
According to the Fuqaha’ (the Jurists) the Sunnah is second to Fard. The Fard means something obligatory and it must be done. To neglect the Fard without any excuse is a sin. The Sunnah is divided into Sunnah Mu’akkadah (Confirmed Sunnah) and Sunnah Ghair Mu’akkadah (Optional Sunnah). The Sunnah Mu’akkadah also should not be neglected, though it is not as important as the Fard. The Sunnah Ghair Mu’akkadah is recommended, but if someone neglects it, there is no sin or blame on that person.
All these categories are based on the Glorious Qur’an and the Prophetic Hadith and the understanding of the Fuqaha’ of Islam.”