Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What to say to Hadith Rejecters?

Once upon a time, I thought it was okay to be a Qur'an-only Muslim. My 3-yr shahadah anniversary passed just last month, so about 3 years ago I was in the "I am not sure I want to be a Muslim" stage. Shortly after that I moved into a Qur'an-only mentality, since I accepted the Qur'an but didn't understand some of the stickier aspects of Shari'ah and Fiqh. I just didn't want to accept the Sunnah as a source of Islam.

It might be a position that might be unfamiliar to many born'n'raised Muslims, since they have grown up hearing stories about the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), hearing his sayings which directed them towards righteousness and good manners. On the other hand, Muslims who convert (like me) might be exposed to anti-Muslim websites that take ahadith out of context and really try to smear the character of our noble prophet (saaws.) So even though a hadith rejecter might accept the Qur'an and the prophethood of Muhammad (saaws), he might be faced with statements from him which seem, through some twisting while out of context, to be contradictory to Islam.

One tactic of a hadith rejecter is to say that Muhammad (saaws) forbid his Companions (raa) from writing down his sayings. This is true--but of course, where do they find this information? Of course, it's a hadith. So that line of reasoning is flawed to begin with, but I want to try to respond to it anyway in case anyone else has wondered about this. I have heard from several sources that even though Muhammad (saaws) did forbid his Companions (raa) from writing down his sayings, he did later allow them. I haven't found a specific reference for it, though. They also explain the reason for the prohibition--it was not so that the sayings of Muhammad (saaws) wouldn't be preserved, but rather so that they would not be confused or mixed in with the Qur'an, so that the Qur'an would remain pure in their writing of it. And we know that once this was assured, the Companions (raa) were allowed to write down hadith as well.

I think the best way to start to respond to anyone who wants to reject hadith, however, is with the Qur'an, the Noble Book and Speech of Allah Almighty, Lord of the Worlds. When the Lord of the Worlds has bestowed on us revelation, how can we argue with it? And glorified and exalted be He, He has bestowed on us such revelation.

The Lord of the Worlds has said what can be translated as:

4:59 O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result..

4:60 Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to Taghut, while they were commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray

4:61 And when it is said to them, "Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger," you see the hypocrites turning away from you in aversion.

4:62 So how [will it be] when disaster strikes them because of what their hands have put forth and then they come to you swearing by Allah , "We intended nothing but good conduct and accommodation."

4:63 Those are the ones of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts, so turn away from them but admonish them and speak to them a far-reaching word.

4:64 And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah. And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

4:65 But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.

I pasted the entire passage just to show the whole context. In this passage we see that Allah has told us to obey Allah, and to obey the messenger (i.e., Muhammad saaws;) to refer our judgments to Allah and to His messenger. And then Allah describes the Hypocrites, who instead of turning to Allah and the messenger they turn to other things which they find more important. They are told to come to what Allah has revealed (i.e., the Qur'an), and to the Messenger. Why to the Messenger...?

But then Allah describes them as hypocrites, the people who turn away from the Messenger. And then Allah reminds us that He sent Messengers to be obeyed! Not just revelation, not just scriptures sent down from the heavens, but Allah (SWT) sent us Messengers as well. Then He (SWT) tells us that true belief and submission is to make Muhammad, the final messenger, who was sent to all of mankind, a judge over their matters.

I ask Allah (SWT) to make us not among the hypocrites, but to be among those who submit to His will, who obey His messenger, and to be counted among the believers. I think this is the better way to begin a discussion with a hadith rejecter: with the Qur'an. And in the Qur'an our Lord has commanded us to obey the Messenger.


Jamilah said...

Asalamu Alaikum Sister

I think a lot of reverts may have gone through a 'quran only' stage in the beginning. I remember finding an article written by the Queen of Jordan about how we didn't need hadiths and the Quran was the perfect book (which it is). At the time I was in total agreement, but now I see how she was wrong.

I've recently had a lengthy discussion with people about hadith rejection. Not necessarily about rejecting all hadiths but just some that may be a bit hard to swallow. I'm still a new muslim (2 years in August, Alahamduliah) but I find it very dangerous to reject some of the authentic hadith.

Anyway, enough rambling for now. Great post. May Allah reward you for your insight.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Jamilah -

There is a difference between finding a hadith to be difficult to swallow, and tossing every saying of the Prophet (saaws) into the mud. A hadith rejecter might say that those who accept hadith worship them, which isn't the case at all, something I find truly repulsive.

There is a real science to the hadith. While the Qur'an has been trasmitted mutawatir (by multiple narrators) so have many, many ahadith. But most ahadith have only one or a few narrators. So there is a real precise science to determining what is authentic and what is not, scholars have made it their life's work to study this because it is so important to our deen.

Faraz said...

There was an article on al-Balagh a while back that analyzes this issue, here.

It answers a lot of the basic questions around why the claims of hadith-rejecters don't quite hold up to real scrutiny.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

As salaamu 'alaikum,

Your post was very articulate, and BarakaLLaahu Feeki.In substance, I don't disagree with you here, and you have rightly cited the Qur'anic verses which instruct us to obey the Prophet Muhammad [Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam].However, I think that to equate those commands with automatic acceptance of each and every single narration out there that has been labeled 'Hadeeth' is a bit misplaced. The Prophet is not in our presence, so I fear that the label of 'Hypocrite' being applied to those who find some sayings fishy is unjust.

That is the point of Hadeeth science, to ascertain, to the best of our ability, if a certain narration actually came from the Prophet. The scholars have disagreed, and will continue to find narrations that they disagree about, meaning one will accept and one will reject.

I would also like to say that the Qur'an is-in the end, the most reliable source of information, and while to throw Hadeeth [as well as our other sources] out of the window would be foolish, the reliability and superiority of Allah's words do deserve more of our recognition.

well, off for Fajr prayer.


Mohamed said...

Dr Herbert Berg-PhD

Schacht asserts that hadiths, particularly from Muhammad, did not form, together with the Qur'an, the original bases of Islamic law and jurisprudence as is traditionally assumed. Rather, hadiths were an innovation begun after some of the legal foundation had already been built. "The ancient schools of law shared the old concept of sunna or ‘living tradition’ as the ideal practice of the community, expressed in the accepted doctrine of the school." And this ideal practice was embodied in various forms, but certainly not exclusively in the hadiths from the Prophet. Schacht argues that it was not until al-Shafi`i that ‘sunna’ was exclusively identified with the contents of hadiths from the Prophet to which he gave, not for the first time, but for the first time consistently, overriding authority. Al-Shafi`i argued that even a single, isolated hadith going back to Muhammad, assuming its isnad is not suspect, takes precedence over the opinions and arguments of any and all Companions, Successors, and later authorities. Schacht notes that:

Two generations before Shafi`i reference to traditions from Companions and Successors was the rule, to traditions from the Prophet himself the exception, and it was left to Shafi`i to make the exception the principle. We shall have to conclude that, generally and broadly speaking, traditions from Companions and Successors are earlier than those from the Prophet.

Based on these conclusions, Schacht offers the following schema of the growth of legal hadiths. The ancient schools of law had a ‘living tradition’ (sunna) which was largely based on individual reasoning (ra'y). Later this sunna came to be associated with and attributed to the earlier generations of the Successors and Companions. Later still, hadiths with isnads extending back to Muhammad came into circulation by traditionists towards the middle of the second century. Finally, the efforts of al-Shafi`i and other traditionists secured for these hadiths from the Prophet supreme authority.

Mohamed said...

Goldziher maintains that, while reliance on the sunna to regulate the empire was favoured, there was still in these early years of Islam insufficient material going back to Muhammad himself. Scholars sought to fill the gaps left by the Qur'an and the sunna with material from other sources. Some borrowed from Roman law. Others attempted to fill these lacunae with their own opinions (ra'y). This latter option came under a concerted attack by those who believed that all legal and ethical questions (not addressed by the Qur'an) must be referred back to the Prophet himself, that is, must be rooted in hadiths.These supporters of hadiths (ahl al-hadith) were extremely successful in establishing hadiths as a primary source of law and in discrediting ra'y. But in many ways it was a Pyrrhic victory. The various legal madhhabs were loath to sacrifice their doctrines and so they found it more expedient to fabricate hadiths or adapt existing hadiths in their support. Even the advocates of ra'y were eventually persuaded or cajoled into accepting the authority of hadiths and so they too "found" hadiths which substantiated their doctrines that had hitherto been based upon the opinions of their schools’ founders and teachers. The insistence of the advocates of hadiths that the only opinions of any value were those which could appeal to the authority of the Prophet resulted in the situation that "where no traditional matter was to be had, men speedily began to fabricate it. The greater the demand, the busier was invention with the manufacture of apocryphal traditions in support of the respective theses."

In summary, Goldziher sees in hadiths "a battlefield of the political and dynastic conflicts of the first few centuries of Islam; it is a mirror of the aspirations of various parties, each of which wants to make the Prophet himself their witness and authority." Likewise,

Every stream and counter-stream of thought in Islam has found its expression in the form of a hadith, and there is no difference in this respect between the various contrasting opinions in whatever field. What we learnt about political parties holds true too for differences regarding religious law, dogmatic points of difference etc. Every ra'y or hawa, every sunna and bid`a has sought and found expression in the form of hadith.

And even though Muslim traditionalists developed elaborate means to scrutinize the mass of traditions that were then extant in the Muslim lands, they were "able to exclude only part of the most obvious falsifications from the hadith material." Goldziher, for all his scepticism, accepted that the practice of preserving hadiths was authentic and that some hadiths were likely to be authentic. However, having said that, Goldziher is adamant in maintaining that:

In the absence of authentic evidence it would indeed be rash to attempt to express the most tentative opinions as to which parts of the hadith are the oldest material, or even as to which of them date back to the generation immediately following the Prophet’s death. Closer acquaintance with the vast stock of hadiths induces sceptical caution rather than optimistic trust regarding the material brought together in the carefully compiled collections.

Amy said...

I've actually read this before. Schacht and Goldziher do not amount to the compendium of scholarship on the issue of ahadith. They're two drops in a bucket vastly diluted by the weight of centuries of scholarship.

Additionally, there are other Western scholars which have disagreed with Schacht and Goldziher, and refuted their claims.

I don't have the materials handy to cite them for you, unfortunately. But I'm quite sure they're in the same book from which you're quoting, if you'll just read a few pages further.

Mohamed said...

They refuted some of the reasoning of Schacht but few questioned their over all theory. Most Western historians reject the hadiths over all authenticity. Muslims themselves accuse other sects of fabrication of hadith. Why is it that Shai hadith are fabrications but not Sunnis? Why should it be one is authentic the others are false? Maybe they are all fabricated.

Most hadiths contradict the Koran tooth and nail anyways.

Amy said...

This is an egregious over-simplification about Shia vs. Sunni Hadith. It's not that one set is authentic and the other fabricated, but they have different methods of judging authenticity in the first place.

And to say Hadith contradict the Qur'an 'tooth and nail' shows a lack of understanding of both.

Mohamed said...

Ok, lets start from here:

Then we go here

Then maybe you can also go here

Enjoy the contradictions

Real Islam is only Koran

Asfora said...

Salaam Aleykum
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