Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
As far as I know, fulfilling a sunna as a habit then leaving it, is a sin.
When I was younger, I used to read the first 9 ayat of surah al-kahf on fridays. Now I have stopped doing that completely. Am I sinning?
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate
I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah. It is best to strive to remain consistent on any religious routines–as this was the way of the Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him), and what he encouraged.
If one stopped any routines, it is best to
(a) renew one’s resolve and intention–through reflecting on the debt of gratitude one owes Allah; how to express one’s love for Allah; and on the everlasting reward of good deeds in the Hereafter; and
(b) make a gradual, steady plan to restore these routines and habits of spiritual works and good deeds.
One. Recommended Sunnas
In general, recommended sunnas (al-mustahabb/al-mandub) are worthy of reward if done with sincerity, but not sinful if left. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Haskafi, Ifadat al-Anwar Sharh al-Manar]
This is understood from many Hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), including his call, “Whatever I forbid you, leave completely; and whatever I call you to, do of it as much as you are able.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Note that leaving an emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada) without excuse is blameworthy and disliked, given their importance and emphasis.
Two. Consistency and Habits
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged us to have consistency in our actions.
He said, for example, “Take on what you can sustain. Allah does not stop [rewarding you] until you stop.” Then, ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) commented, “And the most beloved religious practice to him was what a person did most consistently.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
She also commented that, “His actions were consistent.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Imam Tibi (Allah have mercy upon him) explains, “From this, the scholars of the spiritual path discouraged leaving spiritual routines (awrad) like they discouraged leaving the obligatory.” [Tibi, al-Kashif ‘an Haqa’iq al-Sunan Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih; and quoted by Ibn Malak, Qari, Dahlawi, and others]
Three. How Do We Understand the Emphasis on Consistency?
This emphasis on consistency doesn’t mean that leaving spiritual routines — such as recommended sunnas — is sinful. [Khadimi/Birgivi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya]
Rather, the sunna of following the sunna is consistency; and this consistency is critical for anyone seeking to transform their relationship with Allah, and draw closer to Allah and His Love. [Ibid; Haddad, Book of Assistance; Ibn Ajiba, al-Futuhat al-Ilahiyya Sharh al-Mabahith al-Asliyya]
Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad (Allah have mercy on him) said,
“The aim and spirit of spiritual routines (awrad) is presence with Allah.
Aim for it; you will reach it only if you travel the road that leads to it, which is performing the external activities and striving to be present with Allah during them.
When you persevere in this you become immersed in the lights of Proximity, and the sciences of gnosis emanate upon you, at which your heart becomes wholly intent on God and presence becomes its nature and well-established quality.” [Haddad, Book of Assistance]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.