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Criticism of Hadith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



History of Hadith — ...


Criticism of Hadith — ...


Ilm ar-Rijal — ..

Narrators of hadith — ...




Isnad — chain of narrators

Matn — hadith text

Riwayah — narration


technical terms

Musnad — supported

Mursal — hurried

Ahaad — single narrator

Munqati — broken

muttasil — uninterrupted isnad


Gharib — strange/rare

Shadhdh — irregular

Munkar — denounced/rejected

Mudraj — interpolated

Da'if jiddan — very weak



Regarding authenticity

Mutawatir — agreed upon


Sahih — authentic

Hasan — fair

Da'if — weak


Mawdo — fabricated


Mudtarib — shaky



Sharh — comments


Hadith collection


Since the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, there has been considerable controversy and criticism over his alleged oral traditions, the Hadith.


While many early Muslims, ostensibly including Muhammad, forbade followers from recording the "sayings" of the prophet, the caliph Umar II is believed to have encouraged the collection and codification of the sayings into formal collections of Hadith approximately 200 years later.[1] However, some scholars have pointed out that of the six major sets of Hadith, all were collected by Persians, rather than Arabs who had direct lineage and knowledge of the prophet's life.[2]


It has been suggested three major sources of corruption are political conflicts, sectarian prejudice and the desire to translate the underlying meaning, rather than the verbatim words, of the original quotes.[3]


Critics within Islam have leaned on the Quran Alone doctrine, which draws from the ayah "Nothing have we omitted from the Book",[4] which they believe means that all necessary instruction can be found within the Quran, without resorting to the Hadith. They claim that strict adherence to the Hadith has led to people straying from the original purpose of God's revelation to Muhammad, adherence to the Quran alone.[5]


Contents [hide]

1 Early prohibitions against Hadith

2 Alleged frequency of false Hadith

3 Alleged contradictions in Hadith

4 Theories on the consequence of Hadith

5 Modern Islamic sects that reject the Hadith

6 See also

7 References



Early prohibitions against Hadith

"Do not write anything from me except the Qur'an. Whoever wrote must destroy it."


Muhammad is alleged to have forbidden his followers from writing down anything he said, with the exception of the revelation of the Quran which he received from the angel Jibril.[7][8]


After Muhammad's death, Omar was quoted as stating that he had desired to write down a collection of the prophet's sayings, but refrained for fear of the Muslims choosing to abandon the teachings of the Quran in favour of the Hadith.[9]


Early in Islamic history there was a school of thought that adhered to the view that the Hadith were incompatible with Islam, but it receded in importance after coming under criticism by al-Shafi'i. For 300 years following the Prophet's death, there remained a portion of Muslims who "mocked and derided" the system of Hadith as narrating the proper means of living.[10]



 Alleged frequency of false Hadith

One of the most prominent people to quote the prophet was Abu Huraira, who was recorded as stating that he feared to begin phrases with "God's Messenger spoke thus..." lest Omar would strike him.[11][12] Other notable companions of the prophet, including Ali and Aisha, accused Abu Huraira of fabricating false Hadith.[13][14] One example held up about the "untrustworthiness" of some Hadith, is that Ibn Umar accused Abu Huraira of adding a clause exempting those with "cultivated land" from needing to kill all dogs, for his own personal benefit, to a saying of Muhammad.[10] Ibn Qutaiba claimed that many fabricated Hadith were borne of Jewish and Christian mythology.[10]


When Muhammad al-Bukhari began collecting Hadith in the 9th century, he said that he had collected more than 600,000 different "sayings of the prophet", of which only 1.2% could be reasonably verified.[15]


To counter the claims of inaccuracy, many Muslims rely on a Hadith which suggests that the Sahaba had "super-human" abilities to memorise narrations word-for-word.[15] Nevertheless, thousands of Hadith have been removed from circulating collections after being deemed suspect by scholars.[10]


John Esposito notes that "Modern Western scholarship has seriously questioned the historicity and authenticity of the hadith", maintaining that "the bulk of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad were actually written much later." He mentions Joseph Schacht as one scholar who argues this, claiming that Schacht "found no evidence of legal traditions before 722," from which Schacht concluded that "the Sunna of the Prophet is not the words and deeds of the Prophet, but apocryphal material" dating from later.[16] Other scholars, such as Wilferd Madelung, have argued that "wholesale rejection as late fiction is unjustified".[17]


The scholar Al-Shafi'i ruled that "only the Koran can abrogate the Koran, and only a Sunna can abrogate a Sunna".[18] But when scholars ran into trouble seeking to have Hadith overrule aspects of the Quran, they "probably" invented the category of al-Tilawa bidun al-hukm, meaning the doctrine that there had originally been a Quranic verse which supported the Hadith - and could thus overrule the troublesome Quranic invocation - even though it no longer survived.[18]


Mainstream Muslims do not deny the existence of false Hadith, but believe that through the scholars' work, these Hadith have been largely eliminated from the traditions.[19] Nevertheless, some critics claim that even if a Hadith was truly spoken by the prophet, it has no importance compared to that of the Quran, and certainly cannot abrogate the word of God.[20]



 Alleged contradictions in Hadith

While the Quran forbids invoking names other than that of God while in a house of worship,[21] the Hadith have taught Muslims to always praise Muhammad and Ibrahim in their prayers.[22]

While the Quran says that adultery must be punished with whipping,[23] the Hadith has abrogated this and said instead that married adulterers should be stoned to death.[22]

A Hadith recorded by Bukhari and Abu Daoud suggests that drawing blood violates one's fast, while another Hadith recorded by the same scholars suggests Muhammad had his blood drawn while fasting.[24]

Hanbal recorded a Hadith where the Prophet forbid the people to face towards the Qibla while relieving themselves, while Bukhari recorded the opposite, that Muhammad had his own toilet point towards the Qiblah in order to discourage superstition.[24]

Ibn Kutayba wrote a book dealing solely with contradictory Hadith, such as one in which Muhammad kissed his wives while fasting, and one in which he answered a query by stating that kissing one's wife violated a fast.[24]

Although Bukhari records a Hadith where Muhammad urinated while standing, Sunneni Nesei stated that "if someone says to you that the Prophet urinated standing, do not believe him".[24]

Abu Daoud recorded two Hadith, one in which the speaker says he saw the Prophet standing and drinking water "like you and me", and another in which he forbids drinking water while standing upright.[24]

Hadith states that Muhammad had forbidden people to perform marriages, or seek spouses, while performing the Hajj. Yet he is believed to have married Maymuna bint al-Harith while performing the pilgrimage himself.[24]

While Tahzibut Tazhib records that Muhammad ordered his followers to cover their calves as they were a part of their genitals, Hanbal recorded that Omar and Muhammad were both reclining with their calves uncovered when Abu Bakr requested entrance to their domicile, and was granted access and that they did not cover themselves.[24]


 Theories on the consequence of Hadith

"So far from the Quran alone being the sole rule of faith and practice to Muslims, there is not one single sect amongst them whose faith and practice are based on it alone".

—Edward Sell, 1880[25]

Some Muslims have suggested that the original prohibition against Hadith led to the Golden Age of Islam, as the Quran was able to stand up to critical thinking and questioning; and Muslims were thus schooled to be inquisitive and seek answers to every quandry. They posit that the increased reliance on Hadith, which were allegedly illogical and required the suspension of disbelief, led to the eventual downfall of scholastic pursuits in the religion.[15]


To demonstrate the willingness of the "ordinary, ignorant Muslim", the 9th-century poet Kulthum al-Attabi gathered a crowd in a mosque and told them that the Prophet had decreed that any person who could "touch the end of his nose with the top of his tongue can be certain that he will never feel the flames of hell", and watched as the majority of the crowd immediately began sticking out their own tongues in attempts to touch their noses.[10]


Some scholars have suggested that traditional Islam, which derives more of its content from the Hadith and Sunnah than from the Quran, is similar to Roman Catholicism's abrogation of the early church in Christianity. In 1878, Cyrus Hamlin wrote that "Tradition, rather than the Quran, has formed both law and religion for the Moslems".[26] In the early 20th century, a book was written in defence of the Hadith stating "Anyone who denies the role of Abu Hurayra denies half of the canonical law, for half of the hadiths on which judgments were based had their origin in Abu Hurayra".[27]


Recently, the Pakistani judiciary has played down the importance of the Hadith compared to the Quran in its court rulings, pointing to theological reasons.[3]


 Modern Islamic sects that reject the Hadith

There have been Muslims who deny the authority of the hadith completely or almost completely (manifestations of which have sometimes been termed the Quran-only movement).


The modern Quran-alone movement reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, but is now in decline.[3]


The Submitters movement today holds to a Quran-only view,[28] although they are considered heretical by more traditionalist Muslims.[29]



 See also

United Submitters International

Tolu-e-Islam, Pakistani sect that denies the authority, not the authenticity, of the Hadith



1. Jewish Virtual Library, Hadith

2. Wadud, Sayed Abdul. "Conspiracies Against the Qur'an". p. 53

3. a b c Brown, Daniel W. "Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought", 1999. p. 113 & 134

4. Quran, Chapter 6. The Cattle: 38

5.Donmez, Amber C. "The Difference Between Quran-Based Islam and Hadith-Based Islam"

6.Sahih Ahmed, Volume I, page 171.

7.a b Sahih Muslim, Zuhd, 72

8.Ibn Hanbal, "The messenger of God ordered us never to write anything of his Hadith."

9.Jami' Al-Bayan 1/67, "I wanted to write the Sun'an, and I remembered a people who were before you, they wrote other books to follow and abandoned the book of God. And I will never, I swear, replace God's book with anything'"

10 .  a b c d e Guillaume, Alfred. "Traditions of Islam", 1924. Chapter IV: Criticism of Hadith by Muslims"

11Muslim, Sahihi Muslim , Abu Hurayra said: “We could not utter ‘God’s Messenger spoke thus’, before Omar died.”

12Az Zahabi – Tazkiratul-Huffaz, “If I transmitted these hadiths during the lifetime of Omar, he would surely strike me,” said Abu Hurayra.

13Zahabi, Siyeru Alemin Nubela , When Aisha said to Abu Hurayra ”You are reporting false hadiths you never heard from the Prophet,” he had retorted impudently: “I see that mirror and kohl have kept you aloof from the Prophet.”

14Ibn Abul Hadid, Sherhu Nahjul Belagha , Ali said: “The person who ascribed the greatest number of lies to God’s Messenger is Abu Hurayra.”

15a b c al-Shaiban, Layth., The History of Hadith

16Esposito, John (1998). Islam: The Straight Path. Oxford University Press. p. 67. ISBN 0-19-511234-2. 

17Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. p. xi. ISBN 0-521-64696-0. 

18a b Vikor, Knut S. "Between God and the Sultan". p. 47

19Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. "Shi'ism", 1988. p. 35.

20Musa, Aisha. Hadith: The Question of Authenticity

21Quran, 72:18

22a b, Why do Muslims lose?

23Quran, 24:1-2

24a b c d e f g, Contradictory Hadiths

25Sell, Rev. Edward. "The Faith of Islam", 1880.

26Hamlin, Cyrus. "Among the Turks", 1878. p. 82

27Iþýk, Hüseyin Hilmi. "Saadeti Ebediye-Tam Ýlmihal"

28"Quran". Welcome to Submission. Retrieved on 2006-07-04. 

29Dr. Khalid Alvi. "Indispensability of Hadith". Retrieved on 2006-07-04. 



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