Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour
Question: Is it possible to say: “If you do an excessive act which is Sunna it is haram and punishable”?
To do something excessively is called “ghuluw” in Arabic. Excessiveness can range from being disliked (makruh) to being prohibited (haram). A person will have to check the ruling case by case to know whether excessiveness in a particular matter is disliked or prohibited.
An example of excessiveness would be like a washing the limbs in wudu. The method according to the sunna is to wash three times. If a person adds a fourth or a fifth washing, then this is considered excessiveness according to the Maliki scholars. There are some who said it is disliked and others who said it would be a prohibited form of excessiveness. [See the section of Wudu from the Mukhtasar of Khalil]
Examples where excessiveness would be disliked are; paying more than what is owed in zakat, doing more than the specific number of dhikr mentioned in Hadiths (like the 33 statements after prayer).
The Sunna of the Sunna
If a person is following a sunna in the proper method it was passed down, they will avoid excessiveness. This is why it is important to not only know the sunna, but how to perform the sunna. There is a sunna of performing the sunna.
An example would be eating dates to break one’s fast, which is sunna. The method to eat the dates would be that there be an odd number of dates, one at a time, taken with the right hand, begin chewing on the right side of the mouth (for the first bite) and to not make sounds while eating.