Meeting the Quranic Challenge

How Muhammad’s Sunna Trumps Allah’s Book

Sam Shamoun

According to Sunni Muslims (as well as the Shiites) Muhammad’s Sunna is an essential and important source of revelation since the Quran is incomplete without it.

Moreover, there are certain reports where Muhammad is alleged to have said that Allah gave him the Quran and something similar (in fact equal) to it:

In his Hadeeth, Muhammad, Allah’s Prophet, explained Ayat 75:16-29, by saying, …

"I was given the Quran and its equal with it (i.e., the Sunnah)" (A Sahih Hadeeth; Al-Hadeethu ‘Hujjatun bi-Nafsihi [21]).

29. [Albani, Muhammad Nasir ad-Deen. Al-Hadeethu ‘Hujjatun bi-Nafsihi fi-l-A‘hkami wa-l-‘Aqa-id (The Hadeeth is Proof Itself in Matters of Law and Creed) (Pg. 26-27)…] (Introduction to: Muhammad The Prophet of Mercy – Muhammad’s Role in Islam, by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], p. 34)

Narrated Al-Miqdam ibn Ma'dikarib:

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Beware! I have been given the Qur'an and something like it, yet the time is coming when a man replete on his couch will say: Keep to the Qur'an; what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited. Beware! The domestic ass, beasts of prey with fangs, a find belonging to confederate, unless its owner does not want it, are not permissible to you If anyone comes to some people, they must entertain him, but if they do not, he has a right to mulct them to an amount equivalent to his entertainment. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 40, Number 4587)

The purpose of this current discussion is to examine these narratives in light of what the Quran says concerning itself and how the above statements falsify the Muslim scripture’s repeated assertion that no one is capable of producing something similar to it.

What the Quran really Says about the Hadith

The first major problem with the statements of these specific reports is that the Muslim scripture claims to be the best and only hadith:

… Which Hadith, beside this, do they believe in? S. 7:185 Khalifa

These are GOD's revelations that we recite to you truthfully. In which Hadith other than GOD and His revelations do they believe? S. 45:6 Khalifa

Which Hadith, other than this, do they uphold? S. 77:50 Khalifa

Among the people, there are those who uphold baseless Hadith, and thus divert others from the path of GOD without knowledge, and take it in vain. These have incurred a shameful retribution. S. 31:6 Khalifa

GOD has revealed herein the best Hadith; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways (to Heaven and Hell). The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe therefrom, then their skins and their hearts soften up for GOD's message. Such is GOD's guidance; He bestows it upon whoever wills (to be guided). As for those sent astray by GOD, nothing can guide them. S. 39:23 Khalifa

Therefore, let Me deal with those who reject this Hadith; we will lead them on whence they never perceive. S. 68:44 Khalifa

The hadith itself agrees that the Quran is the best hadith:

Jabir b. Abdullah said: When Allah's Messenger (may peace he upon him) delivered the sermon, his eyes became red, his voice rose, and his anger increased so that he was like one giving a warning against the enemy and saying: "The enemy has made a morning attack on you and in the evening too." He would also say: "The last Hour and I have been sent like these two." And he would join his forefinger and middle finger; and would further say: "The best of the speech (khaira-l-hadithi) is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is error." He would further say: "I am more dear to a Muslim even than his self; and he who left behind property that is for his family and he who dies under debt or leaves children (in helplessness) the responsibility (of paying his debt and bringing up his children) lies on me." (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1885)

The Quran further challenges the unbelievers to produce a hadith like it!

Let them produce a Hadith like this (mithlihi), if they are truthful. S. 52:34 Khalifa

A feat which it says cannot be done:

And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah of the like thereof (min mithlihi), and call your witness beside Allah if ye are truthful. And if ye do it not - and ye can never do it - then guard yourselves against the Fire prepared for disbelievers, whose fuel is of men and stones. S. 2:23-24

Or say they: He hath invented it? Say: Then bring a surah like unto it (mithlihi), and call (for help) on all ye can besides Allah, if ye are truthful. S. 10:38 Pickthall

Or they say: He hath invented it. Say: Then bring ten surahs, the like thereof (mithlihi), invented, and call on everyone ye can beside Allah, if ye are truthful! S. 11:13

Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this (bi-mithlihi) Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof (bi-mithlihi) though they were helpers one of another. S. 17:88 Pickthall

It is rather interesting that in the hadiths themselves, such as the one above from Abu Dawud, the Arabic word that Muhammad reportedly used to describe his Sunna is mithl, i.e. Muhammad’s Sunna is like (mithl) the Quran. We will have more to say about this later on in our discussion.

The Quran on the real Sunna

The other major problem with this assertion is that the Quran never explicitly mentions any Sunna of Muhammad but only the Sunna of Allah:

(Such was Our) Sunna (Sunnata) in the case of those whom We sent before thee (to mankind), and thou wilt not find for Our Sunna (li-sunnatina) aught of power to change. S. 17:77

That was the Sunna of Allah (Sunnata Allahi) in the case of those who passed away of old; thou wilt not find for the Sunna of Allah (li-sunnati Allahi) aught of power to change. S. 33:62

behaving proudly in the land and in planning evil; and the evil plans shall not beset any save the authors of it. Then should they wait for aught except the sunna of the former people? For you shall not find any alteration in the sunna of Allah (li-sunnati Allahi); and you shall not find any change in the sunna of Allah (li-sunnati Allahi). S. 35:43

The Quran – the only inspiration given to Muhammad

The third major problem with this position is that Muhammad is expressly told to follow and judge only by the inspiration which he received, and what he received was the Book or the Quran:

Lo! We reveal unto thee the Scripture with the truth, that thou mayst judge between mankind by that which Allah showeth thee. And be not thou a pleader for the treacherous; S. 4:105

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee… So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee… S. 5:48-49

Say: ‘I do not say to you, "I possess the treasuries of God"; I know not the Unseen. And I say not to you, "I am an angel"; I only follow what is revealed to me.’ Say: ‘Are the blind and the seeing man equal? Will you not reflect?’ S. 6:50

And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Quran other than this, or change it. Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it of my accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! if I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day. S. 10:15

And here is the explanation of both Q. 6:50 and 10:15 by the renowned Sunni exegetes, the two Jalals:

(Say) O Muhammad, to the people of Mecca: (I say not unto you (that) I possess) the keys to (the treasures of Allah): vegetations, fruits, rain or punishment, (nor that I have knowledge of the Unseen) when punishment is inflicted; (and I say not unto you: Lo! I am an angel) from heaven. (I follow) I do and say (only that which is inspired in me) only that which I am commanded with in the Qur'an. (Say) O Muhammad: (Are the blind man and the seer equal?) Are the believer and disbeliever equal in acts of obedience and reward? (Will ye not then take thought) about the similes of the Qur'an? This verse was revealed about Abu Jahl and his companions al-Nadr Ibn al-Harith and 'Uyaynah, and then it was revealed about the clients. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)


(And when Our clear revelations) detailing commands and prohibitions (are recited unto them) are recited by you unto the scoffers: al-Walid Ibn al-Mughirah and his host (they who look not for the meeting with Us) those who do not fear resurrection after death while at the same time scoff (say: Bring) O Muhammad (a Lecture other than this, or change it) putting the verses of mercy in the place of the verses of chastisement and the verses of chastisement in place of the verses of mercy. (Say) to them, O Muhammad: (It is not for me) it is not permissible for me (to change it of my own accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me) I do not say or do except that which is revealed to me in the Qur'an. (Lo! If I disobey my Lord) by changing the revelation (I fear) I know (the retribution of an awful Day) a severe Day. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The Quran goes on to says:

(It is) a Scripture that is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) - so let there be no heaviness in thy heart therefrom - that thou mayst warn thereby, and (it is) a Reminder unto believers. (Saying): Follow that which is sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow no protecting friends beside Him. Little do ye recollect! S. 7:2-3

Say (O Muhammad): What thing is of most weight in testimony? Say: Allah is Witness between me and you. And this Qur'an hath been inspired in me, that I may warn therewith you and whomsoever it may reach… S. 6:19

In fact, Muhammad’s sole duty is to convey this inspired message clearly, and it is up to Allah to provide its explanation within the Muslim scripture itself:

The duty of the messenger IS ONLY TO CONVEY (the message). Allah knoweth what ye proclaim and what ye hide. Say: The evil and the good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee. So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O men of understanding, that ye may succeed. O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made known unto you, would trouble you; but if ye ask of them when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made known unto you. Allah pardoneth this, for Allah is Forgiving, Clement. A folk before you asked (for such disclosures) and then disbelieved therein. S. 5:99-101

But if they turn away, thy duty is ONLY to preach the clear Message. S. 16:82 Y. Ali

Say: Obey Allah and obey the messenger. But if ye turn away, then (it is) for him (to do) only that wherewith he hath been charged, and for you (to do) only that wherewith ye have been charged. If ye obey him, ye will go aright. But the messenger hath NO OTHER CHARGE than to convey (the message) plainly. S. 24:54

Move not thy tongue with it to hasten it; Ours it is to gather it, and to recite it. So, when We recite it, follow thou its recitation. Then Ours it is to explain it. S. 75:16-19; cf. 5:92; 16:35; 29:18; 42:48; 64:12

The foregoing examples show rather plainly that it wasn't Muhammad’s duty to explain the Quran by his Sunna; rather, his function was to recite the explanations that Allah would send down as part of the Quran itself.(1)

The Quran – A Fully Detailed Scripture

This, perhaps, explains why the Quran goes out if its way to say that it is a fully detailed book, and doesn’t need anything else to explain it, being its own and best tafsir (commentary):

And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation (waahsana tafseeran) (thereof). S. 25:33 Y. Ali

And He it is Who hath set for you the stars that ye may guide your course by them amid the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who have knowledge. S. 6:97

Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is Who hath revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou (O Muhammad) of the waverers. Perfected is the Word of thy Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words. He is the Hearer, the Knower. S. 6:114-115

Certainly, We have brought to them a Book (the Qur'an) which We have explained in detail with knowledge, - a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe. S. 7:52 Hilali-Khan

But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge. S. 9:11

This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than God; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds. S. 10:37 Y. Ali

In their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding. It is no invented story but a confirmation of the existing (Scripture) and a detailed explanation of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for folk who believe. S. 12:111

One day We shall raise from all Peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves: and We shall bring thee as a witness against these (thy people): and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims. S. 16:89 Y. Ali

And verily We have displayed for mankind in this Qur'an all manner of similitudes, but man is more than anything contentious. S. 18:54 – cf. 5:15; 7:174; 10:5; 11:1; 13:2; 17:12; 26:195; 30:28

Pay careful attention to the fact that none of these passages claim that the Quran is incomplete and requires Muhammad’s Sunna to fill in the details. The references sourced here emphatically proclaim that the Quran is fully detailed and is its own interpretation, which means that there is absolutely no need for another source to explain it. To argue otherwise basically means that the Quran is wrong since it is incomplete and does in fact require something else to make plain the message of a Scripture which is supposed to be fully detailed and clear!

Muhammad – the uninspired and fallible interpreter

To further justify the centrality and necessity of Muhammad’s Sunna, Muslim polemicists and scholars argue that their prophet always spoke by inspiration. Thus, since he was always inspired this therefore establishes the reason why Muslims need to preserve and consult his teachings and mannerisms. As one dawagandist puts it:

{Wa-ma yantiqu ‘ani-l-huwa, in huwa illa wa’hyum yu’ha (He, Muhammad, does not speak of his own desire, it is only a revelation revealed)} (53:3-4)

Prophet Muhammad did not only speak, or ‘Nataqa (in the present tense: Yantiqu)’ the Quran, he also spoke the Sunnah. Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Aas used to write everything the Prophet said, meaning, his Hadeeth or religious statements. Muslims from the tribe of Quraish –the Prophet’s tribe– criticized Abdullah for doing this, claiming that sometimes the Prophet might say things in anger. Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr asked the Prophet about it, and he said, while pointing to his mouth …

"Rather, write! For by He (Allah) in Whose Hand is my soul, nothing save the Truth comes out of it." (A Sahih Hadeeth; Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud [3646]) (Muhammad’s Role in Islam, p. 35)

The problem with this position is that the hadith literature itself disproves the notion that Muhammad always spoke or acted by inspiration.

For instance, Muhammad would curse people out of his sinful rage and asked that Allah would bless anyone whom he cursed in his unrighteous anger:


A'isha reported that two persons visited Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and both of them talked about a thing, of which I am not aware, but that annoyed him and he invoked curse upon both of them and hurled malediction, and when they went out I said: Allah's Messenger, the good would reach everyone but it would not reach these two. He said: Why so? I said: Because you have invoked curse and hurled malediction upon both of them. He said: Don't you know that I have made condition with my Lord saying thus: O Allah, I am a human being and that for a Muslim upon whom I invoke curse or hurl malediction make it a source of purity and reward? (Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6285)

This hadith has been reported on the authority of A'mash with the same chain of transmitters and the hadith transmitted on the authority of 'Isa (the words are): "He had a private meeting with them and hurled malediction upon them and cursed them and sent them out." (Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6286)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: O Allah, I make a covenant with Thee against which Thou wouldst never go. I am a human being and thus for a Muslim whom I give any harm or whom I scold or upon whom I invoke curse or whom I beat, make this a source of blessing, purification and nearness to Thee on the Day of Resurrection. (Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6290)

Salim, the freed slave of Nasriyyin, said: I heard Abu Huraira as saying that he heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: O Allah, Muhammad is a human being. I lose my temper just as human beings lose temper, and I have held a covenant with Thee which Thou wouldst not break: For a believer whom I give any trouble or invoke curse or beat, make that an expiation (of his sins and a source of) his nearness to Thee on the Day of Resurrection. (Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6293)

Anas b. Malik reported that there was an orphan girl with Umm Sulaim (who was the mother of Anas). Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) saw that orphan girl and said: O, it is you; you have grown young. May you not advance in years! That slave-girl returned to Umm Sulaim weeping. Umm Sulaim said: O daughter, what is the matter with you? She said: Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) has invoked curse upon me that I should not grow in age and thus I would never grow in age, or she said, in my (length) of life. Umm Sulaim went out wrapping her head-dress hurriedly until she met Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). He said to her: Umm Sulaim, what is the matter with you? She said: Allah's Apostle, you invoked curse upon my orphan girl. He said: Umm Sulaim, what is that? She said: She (the orphan girl) states you have cursed her saying that she might not grow in age or grow in life. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) smiled and then said: Umm Sulaim, don't you know that I have made this term with my Lord. And the term with my Lord is that I said to Him: I am a human being and I am pleased just as a human being is pleased and I lose temper just as a human being loses temper, so for any person from amongst my Ummah whom I curse and he in no way deserves it, let that, O Lord, be made a source of purification and purity and nearness to (Allah) on the Day of Resurrection. (Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6297)

Muhammad also warned people about his human frailties and forgetfulness:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas'ud:
The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) offered prayer. The version of the narrator Ibrahim goes: I do not know whether he increased or decreased (the rak'ahs of prayer).
When he gave the salutation, he was asked: Has something new happened in the prayer, Apostle of Allah? He said: What is it? They said: You prayed so many and so many (rak'ahs). He then relented his foot and faced the Qiblah and made two prostrations. He then gave the salutation. When he turned away (finished the prayer), he turned his face to us and said: Had anything new happened in prayer, I would have informed you. I am only a human being and I forget just as you do; so when I forget, remind me, and when any of you is in doubt about his prayer he should aim at what is correct, and complete his prayer in that respect, then give the salutation and afterwards made two prostrations. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 3, Number 1015)

In fact, Muhammad was so human and fallible that he even gave bad agricultural advice that led to a rather embarrassing situation:

Rafi' b. Khadij reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) came to Medina and the people had been grafting the trees. He said: What are you doing? They said: We are grafting them, whereupon he said: It may perhaps be good for you if you do not do that, so they abandoned this practice (and the date-palms) began to yield less fruit. They made a mention of it (to the Holy Prophet), whereupon he said: I am a human being, so when I command you about a thing pertaining to religion, do accept it, and when I command you about a thing out of my personal opinion, keep it in mind that I am a human being. 'Ikrima reported that he said something like this. (Sahih Muslim, Book 030, Number 5831)

As if this weren’t embarrassing enough, Muhammad further violated his own teachings and ended up committing idolatry because of it! Muhammad forbade his followers from swearing by their fathers since he deemed this to be an idolatrous act:

2094. It was narrated from Salim bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar, from his father, from ‘Umar, that the Messenger of Allah heard him swearing by his father. The Messenger of Allah said: "Allah forbids you from making oaths by your forefathers." ‘Umar said: "I never took an oath by them (i.e., my forefathers) myself nor narrating, such words from anyone else." (Sahih)


It is impermissible to swear by anyone other than Allah, regardless of whether it is a father, grandfather, shaikh, saint, religious leader, highly virtuous person or a Prophet. As some people take an oath by ‘Ali or by five pure personalities, it is all prohibited.

2095. It was narrated from ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Samurah that the Messenger of Allah said: "Do not take oaths by idols nor by your forefathers." (Sahih)


Taking an oath by an idol is, in fact, an oath by a person because of his importance or honor, due to which that person’s state was made. Thus this type of oath is also taken by saints and virtuous peoples; and taking an oath by other than Allah is prohibited. (Sunan Ibn Majah - Compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Yazeed Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini, From Hadith No. 1783 to 2718, Ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA) [Darussalam Publications and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], Volume 3, Chapter 2. Prohibition Of Making An Oath By Other Than Allah, pp. 201-202)

And yet he goes and does the very thing that he condemned!

Chapter 4: The Prohibition Of Withholding While Alive, Only To Squander Upon One’s Death

2706. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: "A man came to the Prophet and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me, which of the people has most right to my companionship?’ He said: ‘Yes, BY YOUR FATHER, you will certainly be told.’ He said: ‘Your mother.’ He said, ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your mother.’ He said: ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your mother.’ He said: ‘Then who?’ He said: ‘Then your father.’ He said: ‘Tell me, O Messenger of Allah, about my wealth – how should I give in charity?’ He said: ‘Yes, BY ALLAH, you will certainly be told…’" (Sahih)


c. An oath can only be taken by the Name of Allah. It is not legal to take an oath over other than Allah’s Name, as in authentic Ahadith it has been made clear. The Prophet said: "Verily! Allah forbids you to swear by your fathers. If one has to take an oath he should swear by Allah or keep quite [sic]." (Sahih Al-Bukhari: 6108.) In this Hadith the oath taken by the father is either before the time when it was prohibited, or just part of Arabian culture, as a habitual custom. It was common in Arabia that during conversation some additional words or phrases without any particular intention were added. (Ibid., pp. 553-554; capital and underline emphasis ours)

For more on Muhammad’s slip into idolatry we suggest reading the following articles: 1, 2

The foregoing conclusively proves that Muhammad wasn’t always inspired (in fact he wasn’t inspired at all, at least not by the true God), and did speak out of ignorance which resulted in his making major mistakes and committing heinous sins. With this in mind, how can a Muslim know for sure that Muhammad wasn’t in error when he interpreted the Quran or when he acted a certain way seeing that his/her prophet wasn’t always speaking or acting in accord with the directives of his deity?

The Sunni Dilemma

The situation gets worse for the Sunni Muslims. According to Muslim authorities Muhammad expressly forbade anyone from writing down his hadiths. The reason why he supposedly did this was to insure that his words would not get mixed in or confused with the Quran:

We must make a clear distinction between the Qur'an and the Sunnah. As for the Qur'an, the Prophet ordered his Companions to immediately write down the verses that were being revealed to him. On the other hand, he deemed it sufficient for his Companions to preserve his Sunnah in their memories, not because his sayings were from him and had nothing to do with his Prophethood; to the contrary, he spoke not from his own desires, but from divine revelation that was being inspired to him. The reason why he ordered his Companions to write down the Qur'an is because it was revealed to him in an exact wording through Jibreel. As for his sayings, the meanings they indicated were inspired from Allah, but the wording with which they were expressed was from the Prophet. And so in distinguishing between the Qur'an and his sayings – by recording one and not the other – the Prophet was taking a necessary precaution to prevent the Qur'an, which he was receiving from Jibreel, from getting mixed up with his own speech. (Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad As-Sallabee, The Noble Life of the Prophet, translated by Faisal Shafeeq [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: October 2005], Volume 1, pp. 138-139; capital emphasis ours)

Another reference states that:

The holy Qur’an had been collected and written during the government of Abu Bakr al-Seddiq (11-13 of Hejira), but the Prophet’s traditions were only kept orally within hearts. No one dared to record in written form the sayings of the Messenger, as a response to a tradition (Hadith) cited by Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri, in which the Prophet said: Do write nothing but the holy Qur’an; and who has written from me anything should have it erased.

He seemed apparently to be fearful of any mixture between the divine revelation and the Messenger’s traditions. It was clear that this order was intended to serve the purpose of keeping the holy Qur’an as a heavenly divine revelation, far from being amalgamated with any human speech; even the speech of the Prophet himself, though his deeds and acts as a whole were revealed by Allah…

When Omar Ibn Al-Khattab became the Muslims’ Caliph (13-23 of Hejira), some companions called upon him for issuing an order of writing the tradition. He asked Allah to guide him to do this action for a month, but he was not inspired to fulfill this task. Some 76 years later, Omar Ibn Abdul-Aziz took the power (99-101 of Hegira), and was successfully qualified to accomplish the collection and writing of the Messenger’s traditions after asking Allah for the proper guidance, in this case several times for about 40 days. He allowed for Abu Bakr Ibn Mohammad Ibn Omar Ibn Hazm to record them in written form. He wrote what he had kept in a book, from which several copies were sent to the different Islamic regions. Abu Bakr, during this time, was Medina’s judge and governor. He died in 120H.

Mohammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shehab Al-Zuhri was ordered also by Omar Ibn Abdul-Aziz to compose another book of tradition.

In this way, a collection of the Prophet’s traditions (Hadith) began to appear, with no methodologically specific arrangement or classification. The traditions were randomly gathered… (Ibn Hesham, The Prophet’s Biography, translated by Mohammad Mahdi Al-Sharif [Dar Al-Kotob Al-ilmiyah, Beirut-Lebanon, 2006 2nd edition], Introduction, pp. 4-5)

Here is a final quote:

Secondly, the Prophet was keen to write down the text of the Qur’an immediately after he received it from God. To ensure the distinction between his own words and the word of God, he warned people not to write down his own prophetic utterances so that they would not be mixed in with God’s words. Muhammad even commanded people to erase anything they had written of his own sayings that was not part of the Qur’an. (Dr. Muhammad Abu Laylah, The Qur’an and the Gospels – A Comparative Study [Al-Falah Foundation for Translation, Publication & Distribution, Third edition, 2005], p. 55; source)

According to the hadith literature itself Muhammad was adamantly set against anyone writing down his words. The following are rough translations of narratives taken from the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. All bold and italic emphasis will be ours.

Abu Said al-Khudri said, Ishaq ibn Isa told me that Abdul Rahman ibn Zaid told us that his father said about Ata ibn Yasar who said that Abu Hurayrah said:

We were sitting down writing what we heard from the prophet. He entered the room and asked us: What are you writing? We said: We are writing what we hear from you. He said: Another book next to the book of Allah? We said: It is what we hear from you. He said: Then write the book of Allah, uphold the book of Allah, no other books but the book of Allah, uphold the book of Allah. Abu Hurayrah said: So we collected all that we wrote and burnt it. Then we asked the prophet: Can we talk about you? He said: Yes you can and feel no shame of it, and whoever lies about me deliberately his seat in hell will be secured. Abu Hurayrah said: Can we talk about Bani Israel? He said: Yes you can and feel no shame of it... (Musnad Ahmad, Number 10611)

Ismail told us that Hammam ibn Yahya narrated from Zaid ibn Aslam who narrated from Yasar who stated that Abi Saeed said: The messenger of Allah said, "Do not write anything I say but the Quran and whoever writes anything but the Quran should delete it." (Musnad Ahmad, Number 10713)

Shu’aib told us that Hammam said that Zaid ibn Aslam narrated from Ibn Yassar who stated that Abi Saeed said: The messenger of Allah said, "Do not write anything I say except the Quran and whoever writes anything but the Quran should delete it." (Musnad Ahmad, Number 10715)

Yazid told us that Hammam ibn Yahya narrated from Zaid ibn Aslam who narrated from Yassar who said that Abi Saeed stated: The messenger of Allah said, "Do not write anything I say except the Quran and whoever writes anything but the Quran should delete it." (Musnad Ahmad, Number 10781)

Abu Ubayda told us that Hammam ibn Yahya narrated from Zaid ibn Aslam who narrated from Yassar who stated that Abi Saeed said: The messenger of Allah said, "Do not write anything I say except the Quran and whoever writes anything [besides it] should delete it." (Musnad Ahmad, Number 10966)


Affan told us that Hammam told us that Zaid ibn Aslam narrated from Ibn Yassar who stated that Abi Saeed said: The messenger of Allah said do not write anything I say but the Quran and whoever writes anything but the Quran should delete it. (Musnad Ahmad, Number 11160)

When a man was found recording Muhammad’s narrations Zaid, one of the scribes who used to write down the Quran, told him to erase them:

Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit:
Al-Muttalib ibn Abdullah ibn Hantab said: Zayd ibn Thabit entered upon Mu'awiyah and asked him about a tradition. He ordered a man to write it. Zayd said: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) ordered us not to write any of his traditions. So he erased it. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3640)

In fact, according to another narrative the official recording of hadiths first took place during the caliphate of Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (c. 717-720 AD):

Narrated Abu Huraira:

I said: "O Allah's Apostle! Who will be the luckiest person, who will gain your intercession on the Day of Resurrection?" Allah's Apostle said: O Abu Huraira! I have thought that none will ask me about it before you as I know your longing for the (learning of) Hadiths. The luckiest person who will have my intercession on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who said sincerely from the bottom of his heart, "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah."

And 'Umar bin 'Abdul 'Aziz wrote to Abu Bakr bin Hazm, Look for the knowledge of Hadith and get it written, as I am afraid that religious knowledge will vanish and the religious learned men will pass away (die). Do not accept anything save the Hadiths of the Prophet. Circulate knowledge and teach the ignorant, for knowledge does not vanish except when it is kept secretly (to oneself). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 98)

Here is where the Sunni Muslims face a number of problems. In the first place, although there are many reports that say that Muhammad expressly censured the writing of his statements there are other narratives which contradict this by claiming that he did allow his followers to record them:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:
I used to write everything which I heard from the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). I intended (by it) to memorise it. The Quraysh prohibited me saying: Do you write everything that you hear from him while the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) is a human being: he speaks in anger and pleasure? So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). He signalled with his finger to him mouth and said: Write, by Him in Whose hand my soul lies, only right comes out from it. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3639)

The following report implies that there were certain companions who started recording Muhammad’s words during his lifetime:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
There is none among the companions of the Prophet who has narrated more Hadiths than I except 'Abdallah bin Amr (bin Al-'As) who used to write them and I never did the same. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 113)

We, therefore, have a huge contradiction within the hadith literature.

The second major problem is the assertion that the reason why Muhammad didn’t allow the recording of his traditions is because of his fear that the people would confuse them with the Quran. How could anyone confuse Muhammad’s words with the Quran when the latter is supposed to be unmatchable? Since Sunnis believe that the words Muhammad spoke when he wasn’t reciting the Quran were not dictated to him, but were merely inspired in the sense that the ideas were from Allah but the words that he used to express them were his very own, how then could anyone confuse the two together?

In other words, wouldn’t the words of the Quran be of superior quality and eloquence to Muhammad’s statements since the former were divinely dictated to him which he then recited?

Moreover, doesn’t Muhammad’s fears show that his statements were equal to the Quran? Is this why certain reports claim that Muhammad was given something similar to or like (mithli) the Quran? But if they are equal to the words of the Muslim scripture then doesn’t this meet the challenge of the Quran to produce something like it? If so wouldn’t this falsify the Quran’s claims that it is inimitable? After all, how can human speech no matter how inspired be equal to Allah’s words which are dictated through a human agent?

Let the reader keep this point in mind. Muhammad’s Sunna wasn’t dictated by Allah but was relayed through Muhammad’s own words and modes of expression. It, therefore, cannot have the same level of eloquence and authority of the Quran which is supposed to be the very speech of Allah which was dictated word for word. And yet the hadith literature makes the bold assertion that Muhammad’s Sunna is exactly like or equal to the Muslim scripture!

What this basically implies is that Muhammad’s Sunna trumps the Quran and falsifies the latter’s claim of being unmatchable and fully detailed, that it is the best hadith there is, since Muhammad’s hadiths are just as good and equal to the Muslim scripture.

To top it off, Muhammad’s statements haven’t come down to us entirely intact, but have been intermingled with the words of the narrators who often times forgot or summarized what they heard. Thus, the statements of uninspired, fallible humans have the same level of authority as the Quran, being its equal!

Further Reading


(1) It is rather interesting to find the following Muslim using an example which actually proves that the Quran is its own best explanation, and therefore doesn’t require Muhammad’s Sunna:

Thirty-Eighth: The Sunnah includes the Quran’s practical Bayan (meaning), the same that Allah promised to teach His Prophet so he could teach it to others.

Allah said…

{And We have also sent down to you (O, Muhammad) the Dhikr (Qur’an), that you may Tubayyina (give the Bayyan; explain clearly) to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought} (16:44).

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, Prophet Muhammad’s close associate and companion, said…

"When Ayat [6:82], {It is those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and to confuse not their Belief with Dhulm (literally means, ‘wrong’), for them (only) there is security and they are the guided} was revealed, it was very hard on the companions of the Prophet, who said, ‘Who among us has not confused his belief with wrong?’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘It is not what you think. Rather, it is as Luqman said to his son, {O, My Son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily, joining others in worship with Allah is a great Dhulm (wrong; iniquity) indeed.}’" (Bukhari [6424] and Muslim [178])

The Prophet’s companions took the word, Dhulm, literally, to mean every type of wrongdoing. However, the Prophet of Allah gave them the correct Bayan of Ayah 6:82 by referring them to Ayah 31:13. Ayah 31:13 indicates that the Dhulm mentioned in Ayah 6:82 pertains to Shirk, joining others in worship besides Allah, not every type of wrongdoing. (Abualrub, Muhammad’s Role in Islam, pp. 54-55; underline emphasis ours)

Notice that, instead of providing his own exegesis of the verse in question, Muhammad sources a passage from the Quran to explain it! It is amazing how this dawagandist doesn’t see the problem he has caused for himself since this report basically undermines his entire case. Instead of proving that Muslims need the Sunna of their prophet, Muhammad’s quote from the Islamic scripture shows that all you need is the Quran since the explanation and answer will be found there, not elsewhere.

The Miracle of the Qur'an
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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