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«│ The Qur’an as a Criterion for Hadith-Text Examination Israr Ahmad Khan Department of Qur’an and Sunnah Studies International Islamic ...»

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│ The Qur’an as a Criterion for

Hadith-Text Examination

Israr Ahmad Khan

Department of Qur’an and Sunnah Studies

International Islamic University Malaysia



Muslims rightly believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah (sayings and doings of the Last

Prophet) are the most fundamental sources of Islamic thought, life, and civilization.

Yet, they are not equal in terms of authenticity. The Qur’an is fully reliable without an

iota of doubt. But Hadith literature contains both reliable and unreliable reports on the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) sayings and doings. In order to check authenticity of Hadith and Sunnah as recorded in sources Muslim scholars have developed some criteria, which basically serve the purpose of authentication of chain of reporters (sanad). As for the text of reports, no serious efforts have been made by Hadith scholars. The Qur’an must be considered as a criterion to check the position of text of Hadith reports. If there is an uncompromising conflict between Hadith-text and the Qur’an, Haith report must be rejected as fabricated and unreliable even though its chain of reporters appears ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE | 281 authentic. In this article ten Hadiths have been selected from al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s famous works of Hadith for text checking using the Qur’an as criterion. The selected Hadith in this article are: (1) lies attribute to Prophet Ibrahim, (2) predetermination of human destiny, (3) Irrelevance of Man’s deeds for entry into Paradise, (4) coercion in conversion to Islam, (5) Moses’ power to delay his death, (6) Moses’ condemnation of Adam’s error, (7) time involved in the creation of the universe, (8) Transfer of Muslims’ sins to Jews and Christians, (9) Eve as the root cause for women’s infidelity, and (10) women as source of bad omen. The author sees the texts of these Hadith as in sheer conflict with one or the other statement of the Qur’an hence he suggest that these Hadith are unreliable. The objective of this research is not to discredit the contribution of great Muslim scholars; it is rather to investigate further into the authenticity of Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) sayings and doings as compiled and recorded by Hadith scholars.

Keywords The Qur’an, Sunnah, Hadith, Chain of Reporters, Hadith-Text Introduction Hadith examination is a very serious as well as delicate discipline under Hadith Studies. Its origin may be traced back to the chaotic situation consequent upon the assassination of the third Muslim Caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan. During that period many sections of the Muslim society exploited the opportunity to promote their respective agenda, political, sectarian, spiritual, commercial, and material. In order to fully benefit from the situation they fabricated traditions in the name of the Prophet (s.a.w.). One may see that hundreds of thousands of traditions were concocted and attributed to the Prophet (s.a.w.). The currency of the fabricated traditions in the Muslim societies prompted Muslim scholars to rise to the occasion. They played their role in identifying the genuine traditions from the whole lot of traditions. To check the authenticity of traditions in the name of the Prophet (s.a.w.), several criteria were developed. These criteria were to mainly authenticate the chain of narrators, and not the text of reports. The most famous and widely acclaimed collections of traditions 282 | I P C S S that are considered authentic collections include Mu’atta’ of Malik ibn Anas (d.179 A.H.), Sahih of Muhammad ibn Islama‘il al-Bukhari (d.256 A.H.), Sahih of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Qushayri (d.261 A.H.), Sunan of Abu Da’ud (d.275 A.H.), Sunan of Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Tirmidhi (d.279 A.H.), and Sunan of Ahmad ibn Shu‘ayb alNasa’i (d.303 A.H.). These and other compilations of Hadith represent the authentication of Hadith only through the authentication the chain of narrators. No Hadith collections were ever compiled on the basis of authentication of both chain of narrators and text of reports. Some Muslim scholars like Abu ×anifah (d.150 A.H.), alShafi‘i (d.204 A.H.), Ibn al-Jawzi (d.597 A.H.), Ibn Qayyim (d.751 A.H.) suggested Hadith-text examination by applying certain universally established criteria. One such criterion as suggested is the Qur’an. Muslim scholars are almost unanimous over the position of the Qur’an vis-a-vis Hadith. According to them, in a situation of uncompromising conflict between a tradition recorded in the name of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the Qur’an, the tradition will be rejected as unacceptable. Unfortunately, despite Muslim scholars’ wish of Hadith-text authentication through the Qur’an, no serious step could be taken towards that effect. The present article represents a humble attempt to apply the Qur’an as a criterion to check the validity of some traditions recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim in their works of Hadith.

Understanding the Position of the Qur’an vis-a-vis Hadith

–  –  –

‘A’ishah’s Approach The Prophet’s wife ‘A’ishah was repository of knowledge. She was consulted time and again by the people concerning the Qur’anic revelations, statements of the Prophet (s.a.w.), practices of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and Islamic law. She served as a teacher to the knowledgeable as well as the students, young and old, senior Companions and junior ones, women and men. She was approached for getting one or the other problem resolved not only after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) demise but also during the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) own time. Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari observes the position of ‘A’ishah among the

Companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in these words:

Whenever we faced a problem concerning Prophetic tradition, we approached ‘A’ishah and we found the academic solution with her.1 Her approach to Hadith vis-a-vis the Qur’an will be found crystal clear from the examples quoted below.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) once said: “One, who was called to account (on the Day of Judgment), was punished”.2 ‘A’ishah (d.57 A.H.) found it contrary to a Qur’anic statement (84:7-8: “As for him whose record shall be placed in his right hand, he will in time be called to account with an easy accounting”). She shared her concern with the Prophet (s.a.w.) who satisfied her by saying: That is the easy reckoning; but he who was questioned is bound to be doomed”.3 Here in this account ‘A’ishah’s concern shows that Hadith should not contradict the Qur’an. After the demise of the Prophet (s.a.w.), she commanded the respect of the Muslims not only as the mother of believers but also as a repository of knowledge.

People used to contact her for understanding something or the other, particularly the matters related to the Prophet’s utterances.

She was asked this question: Is Ibn ‘Umar’s report—“the Prophet (s.a.w.) said:

“They (the dead) hear what I say”—true? She, then, denied the authenticity of this report, presented what the Prophet really said (“They know what I say is true”), and in the end recited two ayat: 1) “Verily, you cannot make the dead hear” (27:80), and 2) “You cannot make those hear who are in graves” (35:22).4 By quoting the Qur’an she ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE | 285 wanted to make it clear that the Prophet (s.a.w.) cannot say anything against the Qur’an.

When ‘Umar was wounded seriously, Suhayb started crying. Upon this, ‘Umar said:

“Why are you crying for me? I heard the Prophet (s.a.w.) saying: Verily the dead is punished due to some of the cries its people make on it”. After the death of ‘Umar, this tradition was brought to the notice of ‘A’ishah. She said: The Prophet (s.a.w.) did not say that, but what he said in this regard was this: “Verily, Allah increases the torment of the non-believer due to the cries of his relatives for him”. She further said: The

Qur’an should be enough for you in this matter. It says:

And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden.

(6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38).5 ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have viewed that the Prophet (s.a.w.) saw Allah twice. When this was brought to ‘A’ishah, she forthrightly rejected the opinion and

recited a verse from the Qur’an:

No human vision can encompass him, whereas He encompasses all human visions: for He alone is unfathomable, all aware.

(6:103).6 Abu Hurayrah’s report of a Prophetic tradition was quoted to ‘A’ishah: “Evil portents

are in the woman, the animal, and the residence”. She immediately corrected it saying:

“The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: the people of the ignorance period used to say that the evil omens are in the woman, the animal, and the residence”. She, then, quoted a Qur’anic

verse to further confirm her stand:

No calamity can ever befall the earth and neither your own selves, unless it be in Our decree before We bring it into being.

(57:22).7 286 | I P C S S

–  –  –

‘Umar’s Stand ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (d.23 A.H.) once immediately rejected a statement attributed to the Prophet by Fatimah bint Qays, a female Companion, as unacceptable on the ground that it was against the Qur’an. Fatimah claimed that after she had been divorced three times by her husband, the Prophet (s.a.w.) judged that she had no right to alimony and lodging.9 ‘Umar’s rejection of this Hadith was based on a Qur’anic statement (65:1 “Do not expel them i.e. divorcees from their homes; and neither shall they leave unless they become openly guilty of immoral act”).10 ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas’ Attitude

–  –  –

Abu Hanifah’s Remark Nu‘man ibn Thabit Abu Hanifah (d.150 A.H.) remarked in his treatise, “Al-‘Alim wa al-Muta‘allim” (The Knowledgeable and the Student) that it must be believed in that the Prophet (s.a.w.) never said anything unjust and never uttered and did anything against the Qur’an. He was of the view that any tradition in the name of the Prophet (s.a.w.) which was in clash with the Qur’an was to be rejected as false. He clarified that his rejection of a tradition was not the rejection of the Prophet’s statement but that of one or the other narrator’s lie attributed to the Prophet (s.a.w.).12

Al-Shafi‘i’s Observation

Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i (d.204 A.H.) observed in his masterpiece, al-Umm that if a Hadith was in contrast with the Qur’an, it could not be from the Prophet (s.a.w.), even though it was narrated by authentic narrators. For that matter he quoted a

Hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.):

Hadith will, indeed, spread far and wide in my name;

whatever thereof is in conformity with the Qur’an is genuinely mine; and whatever thereof clashes with the Qur’an is certainly not from me.13

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyy’s Comment

In response to a tradition attributed to the Prophet (s.a.w.)—“the life of the world is seven thousand years and we are in the seventh millennium”—Muhammad ibn Abu

Bakr ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyy (d.751 A.H.) read a verse from the Qur’an:

They ask you about the Final Hour—when will be its appointed time? Say: the knowledge thereof rests with my Lord alone; none but He can reveal as to when it will occur.

Heavy were its burden through the heaven and the earth.

Only all of a sudden will it come to you”. They ask you as if you were eager in search thereof: Say: The knowledge thereof 288 | I P C S S

–  –  –

Relevant Examples Certain examples are being given here below in which the texts of Ahadith will be checked against the Qur’an.

1-Lies Attributed to Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh)

–  –  –

If the Hadith mentioned above is considered authentic, Qur’anic statement proves meaningless. If the sanctity of the Qur’an is maintained, the above tradition will have to be classified as unreliable. Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d.852 A.H.), one of the highly recognized commentators of al-Bukhari’s Hadith work, Sahih, seems to be inclined towards maintaining the authenticity of the tradition in view. He quotes Ibn ‘Aqil (d.513 A.H.) as having said that the situation faced by Ibrahim forced him to resort to making false statements, which according to him was quite logical. 18 Al-Qazi Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi (d.543 A.H.) approves this Hadith by saying that the position of Ibrahim (pbuh) as a prophet and friend of Allah required him to be openly with truth but he was allowed concession and he accepted it, and resorted to speak lies. 19 Al-Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.) tries to justify the Hadith by using the same argument as Ibn al-‘Arabi developed.20 Ibn al-Jawzi (d.597 A.H.) rejects the allegation of speaking lies to Ibrahim (pbuh) as unfounded. He says that what are attributed to Ibrahim (pbuh) as lies are not lies but equivocations (ma‘aareez). In order to prove his point he advances several examples from Islamic history itself.21 Yet, he remains short of declaring the Hadith as unacceptable.

Al-Alusi (d.1270 A.H.) does not find any problem in the authenticity of the report.

He says that the mention of lies attributed to Ibrahim (pbuh) is metaphorical (majaaz), and not in its actual sense.22 Metaphorical application of the word “lie” may not generally be considered a problem, but to use it for a prophet is certainly undesirable.

Moreover it is not imaginable that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) applied the word “kadhib” (lie) even metaphorically for the Prophet for whom the Qur’an uses the most honorable title “Siddique” (the most truthful).

Amin Ahsan Islahi (d.1997 C.E.) also seems to justify the authenticity of the Hadith.

He says that the word “kadhib” has three connotations, lie, mistake, and double entendre; in the Hadith this word has been used in the sense of double entendre. He further argues that the word “kadhib” was used by Arab poets in that sense hence there may not be any problem in the report.23 Even though the Arab poets and orators used the word “kadhib” in the sense of double entendre, it is hard to imagine that the Prophet (s.a.w.) used a word which had the potential to mislead the people, particularly when the Qur’an takes a very clear stand about the position of the great prophet, Ibrahim (pbuh).

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