A Look at Hadith Rejecters' Claims
by Khalid Baig
A Look at Hadith Rejecters' Claims
Summary of Hadith Rejecters' Claims
1. A) We, Quranists, do not make a distinction between obeying Allah and obeying His Messenger, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Anyone who obeys the Qur'an has no other option but to obey the Messenger, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, too. Had we been living with him, we would have no hesitation in blindly following his orders. We do make a distinction but that is between Allah and Hadith collectors like Bukhari, Muslim, Nassai, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud. We accept Allah's Word that He has protected the Quran from corruption, but why should we accept the words of these hadith collectors? Are they as infallible as Allah?
1. B) Qur'an is sufficient and does not need any further explanation.
2. Hadith is the same as the gospels of Christianity. Indeed the time span between death of Messenger Muhammad, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and the compilation of Sahihs was almost the same as that between the departure of Jesus, Alayhis salam, and compilation of the Bible. How can Muslims reject one but accept the other?
3. Dr. Maurice Bucaille finds that Saheeh is as unscientific as the Bible.
4. The Messenger, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, may have elaborated on items like mode of Salah. Such hadith is probably from the Messenger, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and should be obeyed. But what about the hadith that contradict the Qur'an.
5. The root cause of Muslim decay is their reverence for the hadith.
6. Allah has protected only the Qur'an -- not Islam -- from corruption.
7. Allah expects from His slaves exclusive servitude. When Sunnis talk of Quran and Sunnah, the Qur'an is undermined for its exclusivity is lost.
"If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger he is indeed on a clearly wrong path." [Al-Ahzab, 33:36]
"He that obeys Allah and His Messenger has already attained the great victory." [Al-Ahzab, 33:71].
For the past fourteen centuries Qur'an and Sunnah have been the twin undisputed sources of Guidance for Muslims. In every generation, the Muslims devoted the best of their minds and talents to their study. They learned both the words and meanings of the Qur'an through the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and made an unprecedented effort in preserving them for the next generation. The result: The development of the marvelous -- and unparalleled -- science of hadith, one of the brightest aspects of Muslim history.
What does it mean to believe in a Prophet except to pledge to follow him? And so the teachings of the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, have always guided this Ummah. No body, in his right mind, could or did question this practice. Then something happened. During the colonial period, when most of the Muslim world came under the subjugation of the West, some "scholars" arose in places like Egypt (Taha Hussein), India (Abdullah Chakralawi and Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz), and Turkey (Zia Gogelup), who began questioning the authenticity and relevance of hadith. It was not that some genius had found flaws in the hadith study that had eluded the entire ummah for thirteen centuries. It was simply that the pressures from the dominant Western civilization to conform were too strong for them to withstand. They buckled. Prophetic teachings and life example -- Hadith -- was the obstacle in this process and so it became the target.
Another factor helped them. Today most Muslims, including the vast majority of the western-educated Muslims, have meager knowledge of hadith, having spent no time in studying even the fundamentals of this vast subject. How many know the difference between Sahih and Hasan, or between Maudau and Dhaif? The certification process used in hadith transmission? Names of any hadith book produced in the first century of Hijrah, or the number of such books? A majority probably would not be able to name even the six principal hadith books (Sihah Sitta) or know anything about the history of their compilation. Obviously such atmosphere provides a fertile ground for sowing suspicions and doubts.
They call themselves as ahle-Qur'an or Quranists. This is misleading. For their distinction is not in affirming the Qur'an, but in rejecting the Hadith. The ideas of munkareen-e-hadith evolve into three mutually contradictory strains. The first holds that the job of the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was only to deliver the Qur'an. We are to follow only the Qur'an and nothing else, as were the Companions. Further, hadith is not needed to understand the Qur'an, which is sufficient for providing guidance. The second group holds that the Companions were required to follow the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, but we are not. The third holds that, in theory, we also have to follow the hadith but we did not receive ahadith through authentic sources and therefore we have to reject all ahadith collections!
Internal contradictions are a hallmark of false ideologies. How can anyone hold the first position yet profess belief in Qur'an while it says: "And We have sent down unto You the Message so that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them." [An-Nahal, 16:44]. And this: "Allah did confer a great favor on the Believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs (Verses) of Allah, purifying them, instructing them in Scripture, and teaching them Wisdom. While before that they were in manifest error." [A'ale Imran 3:164].
How can anyone hold the second position (limiting the Prophethood to 23 years) yet profess belief in Qur'an, while it says: "We did not send you except as Mercy for all creatures." [Al-Anbia, 21:107] And, "We have not sent you except as a Messenger to all mankind, giving them glad tidings and warning them against sin." [Saba, 34:28]
The third position seems to have avoided these obvious pitfalls, yet in reality it is no different. Consider statements 1, 4, and 7 in the summary of hadith rejecters' claims. So hadith undermines Qur'an's exclusivity, yet would have been followed blindly at the time of the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Ahadith cannot be followed because they are not reliable, yet can be followed for ritual prayers.
Salah and Hadith Rejecters
But we don't need a favor for hadith about salah (coming from the same books and the same narrators who are declared as unreliable). We need an answer to this question: If the Qur'an is the only authentic source of Guidance, why did it never explain how to offer salah, although it repeatedly talks about its importance, associating it with eternal success and failure? What would we think of a communication that repeatedly emphasizes a certain act but never explains how to perform it? There are only two possibilities. Either it is a terrible omission (and in that case it cannot be from God) or another source for the how-to information is provided and it is a terrible mistake for any recipient to ignore that.
(Recently some hadith rejecters have realized the difficulty of their position on salah. But they have made a claim that is even more ludicrous, namely that the Qur'an gives details on how to offer salah. "A careful reading of the Koran reveals that we are to get our Salaah from the Masjid-el Haraam [the continuous practice at Mecca since the time of Abraham]," says one proponent, "specifically the 'place of Abraham (moqaam e Ibraheem).'" Let us leave aside all the practical questions about such a fluid answer. Whose Salah? When? Are we to follow anyone and everyone we find praying at Muqame Ibrahim? How are those offering salah there are to determine proper way of offering Salah? How do you resolve their differences? In his enthusiasm in proposing this innovative solution, this proponent even forgot that the Qur'an says the following about the salah of mushrikeen at the Masjid-el Haraam: "Their prayer at the House of Allah is nothing but whistling and clapping of hands. (Its only answer can be), 'Taste the chastisement because you blasphemed.'" [Al-Anfal 8:35] )
The Reliability of Resources
To accept one and reject the other source on the basis of reliability (statement #2) also defies reason, unless we received the Qur'an directly from Allah. But we have received both Qur'an and Hadith through the same channels. Same people transmitted this as the Word of Allah, that as the word of the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi was sallam. Even the verse claiming that Qur'an will be protected came to us through the same people. Through what logic can anyone declare that the channels are reliable for Qur'an and unreliable for Hadith? On the contrary the Quranic promise of protection must apply to Hadith as well for there is no point in protecting the words but not the meanings of the Qur'an.
Protection of Qur'an
To say that Allah promised to protect only Qur'an but not Islam (#6) is being as ridiculous as one can get. Let's ignore the obvious question regarding the point of this Heavenly act. The question is if Islam has been corrupted and its true teachings have been lost, how can anyone claim to be its follower? Moreover, Qur'an says "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost" [A'al-e-Imran, 3:85]. How are we to follow the religion acceptable to Allah if it was not to be protected?
Were Ahadith Written Down for the First Time in the Third Century of Hijra?
The above proves that ahadith must have been protected. Were they? The very existence of a huge library of hadith -- the only one of its kind among the religions of the world -- answers the question in the affirmative. To dismiss all that as later day fabrication (#1A, #2) requires lots of guts -- and equal parts ignorance. Were ahadith written down for the first time in the third century of Hijra? Not at all. Actually hadith recording and collection started at the time of the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Abd-Allah ibn Amr ibn al-'As, Radi-Allahu unhu, sought and was given the permission to write everything he heard from the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa Sallam, who said: "By the One in Whose Hands is my life! Whatever proceeds from here [pointing to his mouth] is the truth." He produced Sahifa Sadiqa, which contained more than six thousand ahadith. Anas ibn Malik, Radi-Allahu unhu, who spent ten years in Prophet's household, not only recorded the ahadith but also presented them to the Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and got corrections. Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu unhu, had many volumes of his collections and even produced smaller compilations for his students. Prominent Hadith scholar Dr. Mustafa Azami has shown in his doctoral thesis that in the first century of Hijra many hundred booklets of hadith were in circulation. By the end of the second century, "by the most conservative estimate there were many thousands."
Of course most of these books do not exist today. They were simply absorbed into the encyclopedic collections that emerged in the third century. One manuscript from the first century was discovered in this century and published by Dr. Hamidullah. It is Sahifa Hammam ibn Munabbah, who was a disciple of Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu unhu. It contains 138 ahadith. Muhaddithin knew that the ahadith of this Sahifa had been absorbed into Musnad Ahmed and Muslim collections, which have been published continuously since their third century debut. After the discovery of the original manuscript it was naturally compared with the ahadith in Muslim and Musnad Ahmed that were thought to have come from that Sahifa. And what did they find? There was not an iota of difference between the two. Similarly Mussanaf of Abd al-Razzaq is extant and has been published. As has been Mu'ammar ibn Rashid's al-Jami. These recently discovered original manuscripts bear out the Sihah Sitta. The recent appearance of these original manuscripts should bring the most skeptical into the fold of believers.
Saheeh and the Gospels
Regarding comparison of Saheeh with Gospels (#2), let's listen to Dr. Hamidullah. "The compilation of the Gospels, their preservation and transmission from one generation to the other, has not taken place in the way which governed the books of Hadith... We do not know who wrote them, who translated them, and who transmitted them. How were they transferred from the original Aramaic to Greek? Did the scribes make arrangements for a faithful reproduction of the original? The four Gospels are mentioned, for the first time, three hundred years after Christ. Should we rely on such an unauthentic book in preference to that of Bukhari who prefaces every statement of two lines with three to nine references?"
The Comments of Dr. Maurice Bucaille
Dr. Maurice Bucaille earned the admiration of many Muslims because of his study of some scientific phenomena mentioned in the Qur'an and his testimony based on that study that Qur'an must be the Book of Allah. However he is not a hadith scholar and it is unfair to drag him into this discussion. His account of history of hadith compilation contains many errors, for example the claim that the first gathering of hadith was performed roughly forty years after Hijra or that no instructions were given regarding hadith collection. He questions about a dozen or so entries in Bukhari that he thinks deal with scientific matters. Even if all that criticism were valid, would it be sufficient ground to throw away the 9082 total entries (2602 unique ahadith) in Bukhari? He himself does not think so, for he writes: "The truth of hadith, from a religious point of view, is beyond question."
The Hadith Regarding the Sun
But even his criticism is of questionable value. Consider the hadith about the sun: "At sunset the sun prostrates itself underneath the Throne and takes permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then a time will come when it will be about to prostrate itself... it will seek permission to go on its course... it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the West." His criticism: "This implies the notion of a course the sun runs in relation to the Earth." Bucaille fails to understand the real message of this hadith. It was not meant to teach astronomy. Its clear message is that sun is a slave of Allah, moving always through His Will. The hadith brings out that message very powerfully so that even the most illiterate Bedouin would understand it fully. Moreover Bucaille should know better than to criticize the implied notion of sun's rotation around earth. Even today the astronomers, when calculating the time of sunrise and sunset, use a mathematical model in which the sun revolves around the earth. If that is acceptable for scientific work as it makes calculations easier, why is it questionable, when it makes communication easier?
Also there are other ahadith which clearly demonstrate a scientific fact beyond the knowledge of the times but Bucaille has failed to take notice. For example the hadith about solar eclipse: "The sun and moon are two signs of Allah. They are not eclipsed on account of anyone's death or on account of anyone's birth." (Muslim, hadith #1966]. The eclipse had coincided with the death of Prophet's son. A false prophet would have tried to exploit the occasion. A fabricated hadith would require scientific knowledge that did not exist then.
The munkareen-e-hadith think that their beliefs are built on solid rock. Well, it is as solid as wax: The religion based on this idea can be fitted into any mold. For some hadith rejecters that was the motivation. For everyone, that is the inevitable result. But the good news is that their arguments are the same way. On the surface they appear to be solid. But faced with the light of truth, they melt away like wax.
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