The ‘Hadith’ Debate

Muslims believe that the religion of Islam includes the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. They insist that Verses in the Quran endorse the sayings and teachings of the Prophet. ’Nor does he speak of [his own] desire’ (53:3). ‘Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow; for him who hopes for [the meeting with] Allah and the Latter Day, and remembers Allah much’ (33:21). I do believe in the Revelations of the Quran and in the perfect example of the Prophet. However, I do not believe that everything the Prophet said and did was inspired by the Almighty.

We know from the Noble Quran that our beloved Prophet made mistakes; are we to conclude that God made these mistakes? ‘O Prophet! Why do you forbid [for yourself] that which Allah has allowed to you; seeking to please your wives? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ (66:1). ‘Of him you are neglectful and divert your attention to another’ ‘Nay, [do not do like this]; indeed it [this Quran] is an admonition’ (80:10/11). If everything the Prophet said was a divine revelation; why did God admonish the Prophet and show him the correct way?

The Quran is emphatic that there is only Allah’s Sunnah; not the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. ‘[This was our] Sunnah with the Messengers We sent before you, and you will not find any alteration in Our Sunnah’ (17:77). ‘So no change will you find in Allah’s Sunnah, and no turning off will you find in Allah’s Sunnah’ (35:43). ‘That has been Allah’s Sunnah with those who passed away before. And you will find no change in Allah’s Sunnah’ (48:23). Would our beloved Prophet base his life on teachings and practices not consistent with the Noble Quran?

The Quran is the only authoritative and sufficient collection of all that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. ‘Certainly, We have brought them a Book [the Quran] which We have explained in detail with knowledge – a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe’ (7:52). ‘Allah has sent down the best Al Hadith, a Book [the Quran], its parts resembling each other [and] oft-repeated’ (39:23). ‘These are the Ayat of Allah, which We recite to you (O Muhammad) with truth. Then in which Hadith after Allah and His Ayat will they believe?’ (45:6). ‘And recite what has been revealed to you [O Muhammad] of the book of your Lord. None can change His Words, and none will you find as a refuge other than Him’ (18:27). ‘Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr [the Quran] and surely, We will guard it’ (15:9).

If Muslims believe it their duty to follow the ‘good example’ of Prophet Muhammad; shouldn’t they consider the ‘excellent example’ of Prophet Abraham? ‘Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim and those with him’ (60:4). ‘Certainly, there has been in them an excellent example for you to follow; for those who look forward to [the Meeting with] Allah and the Latter Day’ (60:6). In fact, it’s just not Prophet Abraham but also ‘those with him’ who make for an ‘excellent example’. What’s implicit is that even when ordinary ‘Muslims’ adhere to God’s Commandments, they are considered an ‘excellent example’.

We strive in the path of Allah and we endeavour to emulate the ‘Muslim’ qualities of our beloved Prophet; not mimic him.

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The only ‘Authentic Hadith’

I often hear Muslims categorically state that we have to embrace the Noble Quran and Hadith in order to follow the Sunnah. They say that it is ‘Kufr’ to separate the revelations that Prophet Muhammad recited from his sayings and teachings. They insist that even when he was in conversation with the companions, the laity or the Ahl Al-Bait; God was speaking through him. I would like to remind these Muslims that our Prophet sought guidance from what was revealed to him by the Almighty. Whenever he felt the great burden of responsibility and was distraught, he would turn to the verses of the Quran for solace. ‘And we have sent down to you the Book as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves’ (16:89). ‘We have explained in detail in this Quran for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude but man is in most things, contentious’ (18:54). ‘We have neglected nothing in the Book’ (6:38).

At a more personal level, I do believe in the Noble Quran and in the perfect example of our Prophet. The Noble Quran is the touchstone, an intellectual measure by which we confirm the veracity of Hadith. ‘Say: if the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof even if they helped one another’ (16:88). As the Quran was being revealed, the Prophet would commit it to memory and then recite it to his companions. During these recitations the companions would memorize the Revelations; scribes would record the same in writing. The scribes would then read what they had written back to the Prophet; he would in-turn correct their mistakes. With each new Ayah that was revealed, the Prophet would dictate its placement within the Quranic order. This effectual process of validation was resolutely adhered to during the period the Prophet received the Revelations. ‘We have without doubt sent down the message, and We will assuredly guard it’ (15:9).

‘This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion’ (5:3). Does what the Prophet say in the passing after the revelation of this verse, still be considered ‘Divine’; and for how long. The question is that if the sayings and teachings of the Prophet are ‘Divine’ then why can’t we recite them during Namaz. Why did the companions not feel the need to compile these traditions during the lifetime of the Prophet or soon after? Even when many of the companions were killed in the Wars of Apostasy at the time of Caliph Abu Bakr, the concern was primarily with collating the Quran. From what I have researched to-date, I unequivocally believe that the Noble Quran is the only ‘Authentic Hadith’ – ‘He has taught man that which he knew not’ (96:5).