Refuting Taj Hargey- hadith and McCarthyism
By Indigo Jo on April 14, 2009 10:59 PM | 4 Comments | No TrackBacks
Taj Hargey had a lengthy whinge printed in The Times last Friday, in which he complained of having been "victimised, like other forward-looking Muslims, by a campaign of classic McCarthyism":
Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the lives of
countless Americans during the 1950s when he and his committee smeared innocent
people as communists, the Muslim hierarchy in
A little bit of background on Hargey: he is somebody hardly
anyone had heard of until 2005, when he appeared on the Panorama programme, A
Question of Leadership, in which John Ware alleged that the community was led
by reactionaries who fostered hostility to outsiders. Hargey was introduced as
someone who had set up an institution to promote "progressive, inclusive
Islam", a term which set alarm bells ringing as it was similar to schemes
which had already run their course in
He has no real record of service to the Muslim community, unless you count MECO, which is his own vehicle and which is taken very seriously by the non-Muslim media, despite its insignificant following. His complaint about "McCarthyism" is laughable, because it is only in the Muslim community's press that he does not get an airing, and that is because he is not trusted and in any case, that press has a very limited reach. Only the Muslim News, a freesheet available in some Muslim bookshops (which have been diminishing because of rising London rents and online competition) and Emel, a glossy "Muslim lifestyle" magazine aimed at middle-class women, have published consistently; Q-News seems to have given up the ghost and Islamica has disappeared in the last couple of weeks. Hargey, meanwhile, gets on Panorama and coverage in national broadsheets; his victory over the Muslim Weekly was covered in three of the four broadsheets (the Independent, Times and Telegraph). McCarthyism drove people out of mainstream media.
Over the past few year or so, I've gained the impression
that Hargey is an outright hadeeth denier, which is someone who claims that the
hadeeths are either so unreliable that they should all be dismissed, or that it
is shirk (idolatry or polytheism) to obey or honour other than God, including a
prophet whose only function, they allege, is to deliver a sacred text, or both.
Last November, MECO hosted a lecture by Edip Yuksel, a noted hadith denier
based in the
We need a reformation that saves Islam from foreign-inspired zealots. That reformation is already under way, with Muslims going back to the pristine teaching of the transcendent Koran, not taking on trust the hadith (a compilation of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad recorded some 250 years after his death by non-Arabs) or the corpus of medieval man-made Sharia (religious law). But because this reformation is still in its infancy, the reactionary clergy and its supporters is doing everything to strangle it.
Most if not all the thorny problems of faith that British Muslims face today - whether it is apostasy, blasphemy, jihad, women's oppression, homosexuality, religious intolerance or the democratic deficit in and outside the community - can be traced either to fabricated hadith or the masculine-biased Sharia.
Although the Koran repeatedly declares that God's revelation is conclusive and sufficient guidance for Muslims and that there is no need for any supplementary legal authority in Islam, the traditional Muslim clergy defies this explicit divine assurance. They falsely convince their flock that they cannot be true believers without the hadith. They falsely assert that this source of Islam is at the heart of being a real Muslim. Most Muslims have been told that the hadith are the sacred authentic words of the Prophet, but the plethora of fictitious and forged hadith proves otherwise.
Granted, there may be some useful guidance in the thousands upon thousands of hadith but they need to pass a rigorous double test. First, they cannot contradict the Koran and, second, they must not defy reason and logic. Unfortunately, most Muslims have been programmed to regard hadith as sacrosanct teachings that cannot be challenged. This holds all Muslims hostage to the antiquated prejudices or distortions of the narrators and recorders of the prophetic traditions.
There are many Islamic problems with all this, but let us address the obvious factual errors first: jihad, the objection in Islam to homosexuality and some of what he calls "women's oppression" are in fact partly based on the Qur'an. It is not for the first time that I have come across someone claiming "it's not in the Qur'an", so as to dismiss hadith-based parts of Islamic law, when in fact what they are talking about is indeed in the Qur'an. It is also not true that the problems of "jihad", where the term is used to mean terrorism, is to be blamed on "fabricated hadith" or the Shari'ah. A substantial body of scholarship rejects suicide bombings, a tactic borrowed from the atheist Tamil Tigers, and most scholars actually condemn terrorism against civilian populations.
The notion that Islamic teaching should be wholly or almost entirely based on the Qur'an is a completely ahistorical one, as the Companions certainly did not refuse any instruction from the Prophet (sall' Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) just because it did not appear in the Qur'an. Doubtless he is expecting his audience to think the Qur'an to be like the Bible, a collection of stories mostly of declared human authorship, which it is not. The Companions learned how to practise Islam from the Prophet (sall' Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and transmitted this knowledge to the next generation, who relayed it to the next, and so on. A substantial part of the hadeeth are mutawatir, meaning that they have more than one independent chain of narrators; they were repeated among groups of people - male and female, in those days - who were only two or three degrees separated from the Prophet (sall' Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam).
It is untrue, even if it is relevant, that the collections
were made by non-Arabs. While many of them did originate from cities in
However, the validity of these hadeeth collections has no relevance to the validity of the Shari'ah, because it is not based on them. The four major imams lived and worked before any of those collections were made; in fact, with the exception of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, they were dying around the time the major hadeeth-collecting imams were being born. They lived at a time when there were many people around, known as taabi'een, who actually knew the Companions and the first of them (Abu Hanifa) actually knew some of them himself. They were certainly not working from unreliable hadeeth several generations removed from the Prophet (sall' Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) but from a community of people with very close personal connections to him. I accept that it would be a matter of huge difficulty to reconstruct the Shari'ah now, even though we have the Qur'an and the hadeeth collections, but that is not what the imams did. They did not need to.
Hargey's contention that hadeeths must not contradict the Qur'an to be deemed authentic is not accepted in Islam; authentic hadeeth are considered to be a revelation in themselves, because they are the words of a prophet (sall' Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam). The words are treated differently, as they are not a sacred text in the same way as the Qur'an is, so a Muslim is permitted to touch volumes of Imam Bukhari's collection without being in a state of ritual purity, but the meanings are deemed to have the weight of revelation (wahy), and as such may qualify or even abrogate a ruling contained in a verse in the Qur'an.
When Hargey attacks specific groups within Islam, he concentrates on the Wahhabis and the Tablighi Jama'at, as if these were the only groups which use hadeeth and accept the Shari'ah, when in fact every other traditional Islamic group, including the Bareilawis and the other Sufi-based groups, do as well:
Although Muslims have their own specific territorial
cultural traditions, there is no such thing as an Islamic culture. Therefore
the modern trend among British Muslims blindly to emulate Arab ethnic dress or
grow beards or for women to wear the Wahhabi-sanctioned niqab or face masks has
nothing to do with the Koran but everything to do with the primitive tribal
mores and sexist practices of
The relentless importation of Wahhabi-influenced theology
and tradition into the body politic of the Muslim community is mainly the
result of two factors. First, the Saudis control
Second, with their petrodollars the Saudis can afford to
export the most horrendous brand of Islam around the globe. Here in
The fact is that niqaab, of one form or another, has existed
among Muslims since the earliest days of Islam; there are clear records of female
Companions covering their faces, and it is not limited to Wahhabis; the
Tablighi Jamaat are not Wahhabis, and in fact the gulf between them and the
Wahhabi/Salafi movement has grown enormously in the past ten years as both have
admitted that there is more similarity between the Deobandis (the movement out
of which the TJ emerged) and Bareilawis, and other traditional Sufi Muslims,
than between Deobandis and Wahhabis. Niqaab was common for Muslim women,
particularly in urban areas, until the arrival of the western colonisers. As
for the Deobandis, they are different from some other Muslims only in style,
and in a small number of peripheral legal and doctrinal issues. They actually
have good relations with non-Wahhabi scholars outside
Hargey presses one button after another to raise sympathy
for his "cause" among his non-Muslim audience, labelling his
opponents as foreign fanatics and calling for a "British Islam" free
of their supposedly "nefarious" influence. Why on earth we should let
any "British Islam" be based on the demands of a South African
interloper who advocates rejecting most if not all of the hadeeth - ideas
associated mostly with a Pakistani thinker (Ghulam Ahmad Perveiz) and an
Egyptian one, based in the
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Edip Yuksel | April 15, 2009 6:09 AM | Reply
Taj Hargey is a brave Muslim scholar, a rational monotheist, a progressive activist who have decided to use his reasoning faculty (aql) in understanding of Islam. He does not follow the crowd or this or that so-called alim blindly. He follows the methodology set by the Quran in verse 17:36.
Hadith and Sunna are satanic innovations that has nothing to do with the teaching of the last prophet Muhammad who delivered the Quran alone and invited people to serve God alone.
I invite all readers of this article to read my refutation of hadith/sunna based religion, which is summarized in my book MANIFESTO for ISLAMIC REFORM (some backward people tend to distort it as "reform in islam" which is just the opposite what we promote).
The book is available in electronic form too at:
I challenge the author of this article to respond to my arguments, especially the TABLE that compares Hadith/Sunna/Sect based religion to Quranic Islam.
I also would like to recommend Quran: a Reformist Translation those who would like to read a translation of the Quran free of polytheistic distortions of those who turned God's system to a religion of God + Muhammad + Sahaba + Early sect emams + Later emams + Great ulama + small ulama.
The book is available at www.brainbowpress.com and www.amazon.com and also electronically available at www.quranix.com
ajsuhail | April 15, 2009 7:57 AM | Reply
A good rejoinder though I am surprised that you say that an authentic Hadith can abrogate a Quranic verse. Any proof for that assertion?
Indigo Jo replied to this comment | April 15, 2009 11:40 AM | Reply
@ajsuhail: see Abdul-Hakim Murad, Understanding the Four Madhhabs, footnote 20. I should revise it by saying it abrogates the ruling in a Qur'anic ayat, rather than the verse itself.
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