Responses to Akbarally Meherally's site

Wisdom of Expounding Hadith as "a re-narrated report" (on the  Internet)


In this era of communications by cyber space the texts from the various collections of Ahadith (singular, Hadith), comprising of varying classifications do appear on the Internet.

I believe that these collections, especially the collection maintained by the USC Muslim Students Association are an incredible resource for Muslims as well as for Christian students of Islam. We are very fortunate to live in an era when so much information is readily available for us to read and study, and the USC MSA should be commended, and thanked, for the excellent job that they have done on their website.

A non Muslim writer would enter into dialogue with a Muslim student quoting the translated text from any published Hadith that meets his/her fancy.

Muslims do the same! I have talked to many Muslims in college who quote Hadith on an ad hoc basis! I DO NOT believe that the Ahadith are completely accurate, nor do I believe that they were written anywhere near the time of Muhammad. However, these traditions, however flawed, are among the few historical sources of the early history of Islam. Mr. Meherally appears to be following a popular new trend among Muslims [which I have noticed on campus] of claiming that they believe in only the Qur'an and completely ignore the Ahadith. This is an extremely difficult position for a Muslim to maintain because the traditions are a crucial portion of the Sunnah which helps explain the context and meaning of the "revelations" in the Qur'an and provides the foundation for the Muslim legal system.

The writer having quoted the published "identification number" and the "name of the compiler" of a Hadith, he/she could  easily assert his/her point of view or press an agenda, irrespective of the fact that the isnad (credential) of the identified Hadith happens to be non authoritative or the chain of its transmission is broken and does not reach the Prophet. Majority of the Internet surfers have little or no background knowledge of the historical facts behind the compilation of the corpus of Ahadith or who were these narrators and/or the compilers. 

First of all, I always quote the name of the compiler, list the number, and provide a link to the Hadith Database, so that readers can study the tradition for themselves in order to determine if I am quoting it in context. The fact of the matter is that this debate is about beliefs, and what we believe will determine our eternal destiny.

Second, the problem with this argument is : how do we know that any "chain" of transmission is authentic? In fact, it is difficult, in spite of the Muslim "science" of Hadith to know which traditions are strong or weak! If someone wanted to "make up" a tradition, what would prevent them from also "making up" a chain of narration?

Often the revealed verses of the Qur'an and the reported versions of the Ahadith are quoted on the Internet, concurrently or simultaneously. The Internet surfers have to be educated that these two distinguishably separate "texts" have their own independent qualifications and characteristics. In view of these frequent quotes it is now essential and imperative that the correct terminologies rather than the generalized terms are used by the Muslim writers, specially while quoting a Hadith or while responding a quoted Hadith.

I agree, people must realize that the Qur'an and traditions are different. However, the Qur'an cannot stand by itself, we need the Ahadith to get the complete picture of what is being said in the Qur'an. For example, how could we explain Suras 113 and 114 without the traditions? The fact of the matter is that the Qur'an, by itself, is incomplete both in terms of giving a full context of the "revelations" or for providing legal prescriptions for the followers of Islam.

To declare "Hadith" as; "the literal or precise verbatim of the factual sayings, deeds or approvals of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him)", would be technically inaccurate and in some instances fundamentally wrong. The readers will have a better idea of what this article is trying to convey, once they have read and understood the List of Hadith Classifications that is printed below.

What is a Hadith?

The word "Hadith" literally means; "a saying", "a report", "an account". Within the Islamic circle and literature, the term Hadith is used to identify a text that is related to a "re-narrated" saying or account of deeds or approval by the Prophet. However, if one was to review the physical process involved in the collection and compilation of these texts one has but to admit the fact that these "reported" texts have gone through a process of several "re-narrated" verbal transmissions involving a chain of narrators going through three or more generations. Some of these narrators were reliable and unfailing in their verbal reports whereas others were not. Often, a narrator being "a man of faith" cannot utter a lie was the criteria used. But, there was a lapse of nearly two centuries from the year of the passing away of the Prophet to the dates in which these compilations did happen, and memories of human beings do slip in the course of time.

It is interesting to note that Bukhari wrote a book about the narrators (Zuafa-us-sagher). What is even more interesting is that Bukhari's book condemns several narrators including: Ata bin abi Maimoona, Ayyub bin Aiz, Ismail bin Aban, Zubair bin Muhammad, At-Tayyimi, Saeed bin Urwa, Abdullah bin Abi Labeed, Abdul Malik bin Ameen, Abdul waris bin Saeed, Ata bin As-Saib bin Yazeed, and Khamsan bin Minhal as unreliable. However, the Hadith-collection of Bukhari in the its modern form actually includes many traditions narrated by these very individuals! Obviously, these traditions, which Bukhari rejected, were inserted in his book following his death.

Important Note: One has to bear in mind that the "pre-recorded" verses of the Revealed Texts (the Qur'an) were compiled and a definitive canon was established by a formal Commission appointed by the third Caliph Uthman ibn 'Affan and headed by a better known scribe Zayd ibn Thabit, within twenty three years of the passing away of the Prophet. And, there were a few of the close companions and scribes alive who had memorized these verses, having chanted portions these revealed verses in their daily prayers and at other religious rituals.

Is the Qur'an which we have today really the "definitive canon" of Uthman? If you believe that it is, please read A `Perfect' Qur'an OR "So it was made to appear to them"? - you will be surprised!

It is an undisputed fact that the compilers of the Ahadith did reject a large majority of narrations (the figure runs in hundreds of thousands) as being invented, fabricated, faulty or too weak to be recorded. Some of these invented versions were manufactured to justify and propagate a particular school of thought or promote sectarian beliefs. Others were produced using the name of the Prophet to instill and indoctrinate strict piety among the Believers or to raise the status of the Messenger of Allah to a lofty standard. One may argue that this wholesale rejection demonstrates that the early compilers like Bukhari (d. 256/870), Muslim (d. 261/875), Tirmidhi (d. 279/892), Abu Dawud d. 261/875), Nasai (d. 303/915) and Ibn Majah (d. 273/886) had very strict standards and the dubious or unreliable reports were weeded out. Another may argue that the probability of bypassing the scrutiny goes higher as the percentage of such a rejection goes higher. The later rationale gets a valid support from the fact that the compiled and published Ahadith are being "Classified" into various categories, by the scholars who have spent years studying the Science of Ahadith, based upon the validity and authenticity of the narrated texts. It is also noticed on the Internet that a particular narration classified by one writer under a certain category or class is strongly disputed by another.

In spite of the Muslim "science" of classifying Hadith, it is very difficult to know which traditions are strong or weak and there has been wide disagreement among Muslim scholars which pre-dates the Internet! For example, Bukhari collected over 600,000 reports, but kept only 7,397 as true! To make matters even more confusing, there are contradictions among the "accepted" Hadiths (ikhtilaf al-hadith). There are many "approved" Hadiths which record conflicting accounts of the same event!

Need for the CAUTION

The above list tells us that each and every "published" Hadith that is identified and enumerated cannot be justly labeled "authoritative or sound". Also, the possibility of a "weak" or "faulty" Hadith falling under the wrong criteria and/or regarded as "sound" by a compiler, cannot be ruled out with certainty and cent per cent surety. Hence, the use of incorrect terminology to justify our egoistic attitude or a resentment to observe the needed caution may end up putting the Credibility of the Messenger of Allah and/or the Integrity of Islam, on the line.

The "soundness" of the traditions is very disturbing. After all, we need the traditions to interpret the Qur'an and to define the Sunnah, therefore, if we cannot trust the traditions, the entire argument presented by Islam collapses.

I wish to ask a simple question: Is there a re-narrated report (Hadith) that is compiled by one of the two compilers whose dedicated, devoted and untiring efforts in the compilation of the narrated reports have earned them the unique status, which speak of the penalty for "attributing any falsehood to the Prophet"?

If so, the need for the observance of the "caution" is to be felt the most, by those who have complete confidence in such a corpus of collection.

I am not sure of the point of this question. I am not questioning the sincerity of the compilers, however, most of these traditions were complied long after the death Muhammad. However, the problem is that we need the traditions to understand the context of the "revelations" in the Qur'an. The traditions are also crucial in Islam as a foundation of the legal and ethical system. In the end, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the Islamic argument, the weak link is the authenticity of the traditions.

Finally, there are many non Muslim Scholars on Internet who have studied the Qur'an and the Ahadith with the primary motive of shaking the foundations of our Muslim Brothers and Sisters, specially the younger generation. When these "Scholars" have a hard time finding facts from the Revealed Verses of the Qur'an that cannot be rebutted, they simply turn to the next document in line, the Collection of Ahadith.

My primary motive for studying the Qur'an and the Hadith was to search for the truth and, quit honestly, I did not find the truth in either. My goal is not to "shake the foundations" of any person - it is to critically examine questions of faith, which are of eternal importance.

Allah alone knows the Truth behind every "re-narrated report".

I agree.

Andrew Vargo

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