SOURCE, REASON AND EFFECTS OF HADITH
SOURCE, REASON AND EFFECTS OF HADITH
God created the heavens and the earth based on Truth.
Everything has its reason for being and, in turn, has its consequences. Nothing that happens is without its cause and, in turn, without its effect. This is a divine natural law, stated in the verse we quote above, and acknowledged by all mankind. This law applies equally to the hadith phenomenon. We shall show that the so-called Prophetic traditions did not originate from the Prophet. They grew from the politico-religious conflicts that arose in the Muslim society then, during the first and second centuries. It constituted a new teaching altogether, seriously deviating from the Quran that Prophet Muhammad brought to them. It was done against his will, but skillfully attributed to him.
According to the Traditionists, Prophet Muhammad left two legacies to his followers: a divine scripture and his sunna. We shall show later that this hadith is a fabrication. As a matter of fact, history has fully shown that at the time of the Prophet's death, only the completed written Quran, duly arranged into chapters by the Prophet, existed as his only legacy. It was not yet compiled into book form, but complete writings of it on parchments and other writing materials were kept in the Prophet's house and other houses of the Prophet's scribes. The Prophet also taught many Companions to memorize the Quran following the chapter arrangements he himself had made.
During the second caliph Abu Bakr's administration, Abu Bakr himself ordered the Prophet's secretary, Zaid ibn Thabit, to compile the Quran into book form, taking care that all its contents were corroborated by two or more witnesses. When the third caliph, Uthman, prepared his official version of the Quran for dissemination throughout the length and breadth of Islam, he based it on this version. Thus, the Quran fully satisfies the requirements of a well-corroborated text.
The Quran itself proclaimed the completion of Islam and of Muhammad's mission eighty-one or eighty-two days before Muhammad's death with the following famous verse:
Today I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor to you and I have chosen Islam as a religion for you.
The Beginnings of Hadith
Although some traditions may have existed during the time of the Prophet, thus giving rise to his prohibition, their number doubled and tripled only several decades after his death. At the time of their compilations, stretching over a period of two to four centuries after his death, they existed in hundreds of thousands. The compilations were made against Muhammad's expressed order, but the Traditionists argued that this prohibition was conditional to his desire to avoid mixing traditions with the Quran. When this condition no longer existed, the prohibition was lifted. However, a historical report exists stating that thirty years after the Prophet's death, the prohibition was still on, showing that it had never been lifted.
As we have seen, what came to be regarded by the Sunnites as the `Six Authentic Books' compiled by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Maja, Tirmidhi and al-Nasa`i, and the four Shi'ite compilations by al-Kulaini, Ibn Babuwayh, al-Murtada and Ja`afar Muhammad al-Tusi did not exist at the time of the Prophet's death, as the Quran did, but were made between 210 and 410 years later. Why were the compilations not made earlier? Does not this fact alone show that the hadith was a new development, not sanctioned by the Prophet?
Several modern hadith scholars claim that they possess new evidence to prove that the hadith were written down at the time of the Prophet. They were memorized and handed down from generation to generation until the second and third Islamic centuries when the official compilations were made. The still unanswered question, even if we were to accept the claim, is this: "Why was the official compilation not made earlier, especially during the time of the righteous caliphs when the first reporters, i.e., the eye witnesses, were still alive and could be examined?" When we remember that there was an alleged statement by the Prophet, made at his final Pilgrimage Oration and heard by tens of thousands, exhorting his followers to hold on to the Quran and his sunna, it is most unreasonable not to expect the great early caliphs to order the writing down and compiling of the Prophet's sayings. That none of them did so could only mean that the Prophet never made the statement, and that it was a later invention attributed to him.
The answer given by the Traditionists that the hadith was not written down during the time of the Prophet to avoid confusing them with the Quran is not satisfactory. Not only did it contradict their own claim that the hadith were already being recorded during the lifetime of the Prophet; several documents of the Prophet, such as the Medina Charter, his treaties and letters, had been written on his orders. The hadith too could similarly be written down by indicating that they were hadith, and not the Quran. However, this constraint no longer apply when the Quran was completed, written down and compiled into a book, and the fear of mixing the Quran with the hadith was no longer a valid concern. Yet the hadith was not immediately compiled. The only conceivable reason why they were not compiled was precisely the Prophet's standing order prohibiting it. It is apparent that later generations ignored this order.
We also have later historical sources which say that the Caliph Abu Bakr burnt his notes of hadith (said to be 500 in all) for fear that they might be false, and that Caliph Omar ibn Khattab cancelled his plan to compile the hadith because he did not want to divert the attention of the Muslims from the Quran to the hadith. It is quite possible that these statements said to have been made by the first two caliphs are false, having been fabricated by upholders of the hadith in order to prove that hadith had already been written down at this early stage, but were not compiled by Abu Bakr and Omar not because of the Prophet's prohibition (which they must know), but because of other reasons.
Due to the fact that early historical writings about Muhammad and the early Muslim society were not done until a hundred or a hundred and fifty years after the Prophet's death, such as the works of Ibn Ishaq (d. 150) and Ibn Sa`d (d. 168), it is impossible to obtain documentary evidence (apart from the Quran, of course) on the precise position of the hadith/sunna between the time of the Prophet's death and the time of these works. However, Ibn Sa`d, an early major historian, showed that the first three caliphs did not use the hadith at all. In any case, it is interesting to note, as we have seen in Chapter II, that the phrases `the prophet's hadith' or the `the prophet's sunna' are never used in the Quran. This shows that these concepts did not exist in Arab society at the time of the Prophet. On the other hand, the phrases `tribal sunna' or `the sunna of the people' to mean `customs' were in vogue. It is this concept of sunna that was later transformed to mean the Prophet's practice.
Basing ourselves on the Quran, we learn that a community did not break up into sects after the coming of divine revelation to them except due to jealousy and to vested interests. When jealousy and considerations of vested interests overcame them, divisions occurred and sects emerged:
He has decreed for you the same religion decreed for Noah, and what is revealed herein, and what was decreed for Abraham, Moses and Jesus. `You shall uphold the one religion, and do not be divided.' It is simply too difficult for the idol worshipers to accept what you advocate. God is the one who brings towards Him whomever He wills; He guides towards Himself those who submit. They became divided after knowledge had come to them due to sheer jealousy. If it were not for a predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Even those who inherited the scripture continued to harbor doubts. You shall preach and uphold this scripture as commanded and do not follow their wishes.
You shall hold fast to the rope of God, all together, and do not be divided. Be appreciative of God's favors upon you; you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace, you become brethren. God thus explains His revelations for you that you may be guided. Let there be a community among you who preach goodness, advocate righteousness and forbid evil. These are the winners. Do not be like those who became divided and disputed among themselves, despite the profound revelations that had come to them.
The above verses explain two things. Firstly, the divine revelations brought by Muhammad and other messengers, although true and beneficial, were hard to accept by the idol worshipers. They accepted them for a while and then lapsed into their former condition. Secondly, they reverted to their former condition because of jealousy towards one another and because of their love of material things. In short, human propensity for materialism and jealousy for one another made it difficult for them to follow the teachings of the prophet-messengers, including prophet Muhammad. These are the factors that cause division into sects and factions after the teachings had come to them.
We shall see that many hadith began to emerge and multiply at the same time as the emergence of divisions in the early Muslim community in three civil wars, beginning under Ali's rule right up to the end Mu`awiya rule. The relations between these two phenomena were direct: power struggles giving rise to divisions led to the fabrication of hadith to support each contending group, and the fabrications of hadith further deepened divisions. It is clear that the division originated in the power struggle to fill the post of caliph to succeed the Prophet, but hadith were fabricated to use the name of the Prophet to bolster politico-religious sectarianism.
A study of original sources, such as Ibn Sa`d (d. 230/845), Malik Ibn Anas (d. 179/795), Tayalisi (d. 203/818), Humaydi (d.219/834) and Ibn Hanbal (d. 241/855) will show that all `four guided caliphs' made use of very little sunna in their administrations. The very term "the Prophet's sunna" was never used by the Prophet himself and did not emerge until the sixth and seventh decades after the Prophet in the administration of Omar Abdul Aziz (d. 720), and was first used by him. But later sources, such as Ibn Qayyim (d.691/1292), had connected the names of the great caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar ibn Khattab with the practice of following the sunna. It is clear that the `authentication' of the sunna was carried out by the Traditionists to ward off opposition to the hadith by using the names of these two great authorities.
The development of the hadith, it seems, began in the form of stories about the Prophet, told by professional story-tellers, as praises for Ali and Abu Bakr and as guidance in matters permitted and prohibited. These were later given the form of hadith.
Compositions in the form of eulogies for Ali and Abu Bakr which came into being after the Prophet's death reflected the first political conflict between supporters of Ali (the Shi`ites) and those of Abu Bakr (the Bakriyya). Ibn Abi'l-Hadid (d. 655/1257), commentator of the compilation of famous sayings attributed to Ali Abi Talib, Nahj al-Balaghah, admitted that it was the Shi'ite party who began to create hadith eulogies. He said,
... Know that the origins of fabrications in fada'il traditions were due to the Shi'ite, for they forged in the first instance traditions concerning their leader. Enmity towards their adversaries drove them to this fabrication ... When the Bakriyya saw what the Shi'ite had done, they fabricated for their own master traditions to counter the former ... When the Shi'ite saw what the Bakriyya had done, they increased their efforts ...
The same writer further wrote regarding hadith forgeries sponsored by caliph Mu`awiya to oppose Ali. According to him:
Then Mu`awiya wrote to his governors saying: "Hadith about Uthman has increased and spread in every city, town and region. When this letter from me reaches you, summon the people to relate the merits of the Companions and the first caliphs. And do not let any Muslim relate anything about Ali without bringing something contradicting this about the Companions. This I like better and it pleases me more, it invalidates Abu Turab's claims and those of his Shi'ite in a more definitive way and it is for them more difficult to bear than the virtues and the merits of Uthman."
Mu`awiya's letters were read out to the people. And many forged reports concerning the merits of the Companions, in which there was no [grain of] truth, were related. The people went out of their way in relating reports in this vein until they spoke thereof in glowing terms from the pulpits. The teachers in the schools were instructed to teach their young pupils a vast quantity of these until they related them just as they studied the Quran and they taught these to their daughters, wives and servants. God knows how long they persisted in this.
It is abundantly clear from the above evidence that one of the sources of hadith forgery at the early stage was the political rivalry between the supporters of Ali and those of Abu Bakr, which continued unabated until Uthman's administration and then to the enmity and conflict between the Shi`ites and the Umayyad. This and other sources were pointed out by a modern Arab historian, Dr. Ahmad Amin, in his book The Dawn of Islam. According to him, five factors were responsible for the fabrication of hadith. These are political conflicts between various factions, differences of opinions regarding matters of theology and jurisprudence, materialistic ambitions among certain religious scholars, the desire to promote good and forbid evil by fabricating hadith to encourage and to discourage (tarhib wa-targhib), as well as to provide a medium for transmitting good teachings from non-Islamic sources.
Although most of these hadith forgeries can no longer be found in the classical compilations, anyone who studies the hadith carefully and objectively can still observe the characteristics mentioned above. Hadith eulogies for the Companions in the Mishkat-ul-Masabih compilation still portrayed political conflicts between the Shi'ite faction and the followers of Abu Bakr and shows that the hadith was fabricated by the factions to support their respective sides. Note the following hadith:
Anas reported that the Prophet ascended Uhud with Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman. It trembled with them and so he struck it with his foot and said: "Be firm, O Uhud, and verily on you there are a prophet, a truthful man and two martyrs." (Bukhari)
Zerre-b-Hubaish reported that Ali said:
"By One who splits seeds and creates breath, the illiterate prophet gave me a covenant: `Nobody except a believer will love me, and nobody except a hypocrite will hate me.' " (Muslim)
The above traditions have been picked out at random from many others as examples to show the characteristic partiality of hadith. The obvious omission of Ali in the first hadith points to its fabrication by his detractors: there was no other reason why Ali was not in that company. The second one takes the opposite side, having the Prophet affirm Ali's faith and condemn those who maligned him.
We shall be taking a lot of time if we are to give examples of each type of hadith fabrication. It is not necessary. We shall be satisfied with quotations from a few hadith scholars, namely Ahmad Amin, Fazlur Rahman, Goldziher and M.M. Azami.
(a) Ibn 'Adli stated, "At the time when a forger of hadith by the name of Abdul Karim ibn Abu al-'Auja was taken to the place of hanging, he said, `I have forged four thousand hadith for you whereby I prohibited and permitted.'"
(b) In the same book the author further noted, "Muslim reported from Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Said al-Qattan, and from his father, who said, `I have never seen good people telling more lies in any matter than when they do with the hadith.' Muslim explained these words: `The lies were not intentional.' Some people who forged false hadith were motivated by good intentions, i.e. they sincerely believed that all that they had heard were true. In their hearts there was no desire to lie, and they repeated what they had heard. Then other people picked up from them because they were deceived by their outward show of truth."
(c) That opposing political parties tried to influence public opinion through the medium of the hadith and used the names of great authorities of Tradition is a fact no one conversant with the early history of Islam may deny.
(d) ... Every stream and counter-stream of thought in Islam has found its expression in the form of a hadith, and there is no difference in this respect between the various contrasting opinions in whatever field. What we learn about political parties holds true too for differences regarding religious law, dogmatic points of difference etc. Every ra'y (opinion) or hawa (personal desire), every sunna and bid`a (innovation) has sought and found expression in the hadith.
(e) ... Most likely the first fabrication of traditions began in the political circles, citing and discrediting the parties concerned. In the well-known work of al-Shaukani concerning spurious and similar tradition we find 42 spurious traditions about the Prophet, 38 spurious traditions about the first three caliphs, 96 spurious traditions about Ali and his wife Fatima [and] 14 spurious traditions about Mu`awiya. Therefore, it looks as if the spurious traditions began to originate for political purposes at and about the period of the war between Ali and Mu`awiya, and continued later on as a counter-attack on the Umayyad dynasty ...
From the time of Mu`awiya's rule (661-680) until the end of the second century Hijrah when the hadith were officially compiled, the fabrication of hadith was done on a wide scale. Not only did the hadith become the medium of stories and instrument for various political factions and theological sects to support their sectarian positions, but, as Maurice Bucaille said,
In view of the fact that only a limited number of hadiths may be considered to express the Prophet's thoughts with certainty, the others must contain the thoughts of the men of his time.
In order to stop the continued fabrication of the hadith and contain further divisions of Muslim society at that time, there arose a movement to fix the sources of law in Islam and to standardize the hadith. This is the main social determinant which gave rise to the major jurisprudential figure in Islam in the person of Shafi`i. He laid down the bases of Islamic classical jurisprudence with his theory that the sources of Islamic law were the Quran, the Hadith, Ijma' or consensus of religious scholars, and Qiyas or analogy.
The Compilation of Hadith
It was about this time that the hadith throughout the length and breadth of Islam were collected, sifted and written down. What were later called the `Six Authentic Hadith Books' of the Sunnites finally came into being. These are the compilations of Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Maja, Abu Daud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa'i. The Shi'ites had their own four collections of hadith, compiled each by al-Kulaini, Ibn Babuwayh and two by Ja'afar Muhammad al-Tusi. These compilations were made within a period between 220 and 400 years after the death of the Prophet.
With the victory and general acceptance of Shafi`i's jurisprudential theory where the hadith was given a position of almost equal importance with the Quran (the formula is "second primary source"), the use of creative thought or ijtihad for all practical purposes was abolished. This came to be known later as `the closing of the door of ijtihad' and the beginning of the regime of taqlid or blind imitation of the great masters, a period beginning from about the fourteenth century till the end of the nineteenth or beginning of the twentieth centuries AD.
It can be seen from the above account that the conflict between the trend favoring creative thought an the trend favoring sunna (in both senses of the people's tradition and the prophet's practice) in early Muslim community was won by the sunna party. If Shafi`i's aim was to combine and harmonize these two trends and thereby to contain the process of disunity in Muslim society, it was obvious that he failed. Disunity continued to prevail in theology and law. By institutionalizing the hadith to achieve what he termed as consensus, he with one stroke killed creative thought in Muslim society. Fazlur Rahman rightly observed:
It is clear that al-Shafi`i notion of Ijma' was radically different from that of the early schools. His idea of Ijma' was that of a formal and a total one: he demanded an agreement which left no room for disagreement ... But the notion if Ijma' exhibited by the early schools was very different. For them, Ijma' was not an imposed or manufactured static fact but an ongoing democratic process; it was not a formal state but an informal natural growth which at each step tolerates and, indeed, demands fresh and new thought and therefore must live not only with but also upon a certain amount of disagreement. We must exercise Ijtihad, they contended, and progressively the area of agreement would widen; the remaining questions must be turned over to fresh Ijtihad or Qiyas so that a new Ijma' could be arrived at. But it is precisely the living organic relationship between Ijtihad and Ijma' that was severed in the successful formulation of al-Shafi`i. The place of the living Sunna-Ijtihad-Ijma' he gives to Prophetic Sunna which, for him, does not serve as a general directive but as something absolutely literal and specific and whose only vehicle is the transmission of the Hadith ...
Thus, by reversing the natural order, Ijtihad-Ijma' into Ijma'-Ijtihad, their organic relationship was severed. Ijma', instead of being a process and something forward-looking — coming at the end of a free Ijtihad — came to be something static and backward-looking. It is that which, instead of having to be accomplished, is already accomplished in the past. Al-Shafi`i's genius provided a mechanism that gave stability to our medieval socio-religious fabric but at the cost, in the long run, of creativity and originality.
The process of substituting ijtihad with the hadith was a complex process, which took two centuries to complete. The social and historical factors causing it are still not clear to us. There is no doubt that anti-Islamic forces from the nations conquered by the Muslim Arabs, especially the Persians and the Jews, had infiltrated the various groups and played their subversive role to divert the early Muslims from the true teachings of the Prophet, i.e. the Quran, to other teachings in order to destroy them from within.
However, looking at the matter from our modern perspective, we cannot help but being amazed as to why the conservative and indeed reactionary forces were able to defeat the dynamic and progressive forces, despite the constant prodding of the Quran for human creative role and the freedom of a community to administer its affairs.
The Effects of the Hadith
One of the most important aspects, neglected so far in any study of the hadith, is their collective impact and effects on Muslim society. We have seen that the fabrication of hadith took place because of the politico-religious divisions which later resulted in the emergence of sects and legal schools. We have also seen that the hadith became the instrument to channel views, prejudices, customs and superstitions current in society then. Most of these views and ideas were nothing but superstitions and customs rejected by Islam.
It is logical for us to assume that Prophet Muhammad would not have said or done anything contrary to the teachings of the Quran. We make this assumption because he was very conversant with the teachings of the Quran that he himself had brought from God. As a messenger of God, he would not have acted contrary to those teachings. This assumption is most reasonable and consistent with his high moral character. Therefore, the greatest weakness of most hadith, deemed to be `authentic' by classical criticism, is that they contradict the Quran. They are therefore false and could not have originated from him, but were falsely attributed to him. They actually originated from the various factions and groups who, due to reasons which we have stated, put into the hadith all manner of superstitions and customs current in society then.
The Quran tells us that God in His mercy has always sent His guidance to mankind through His messengers. He guides mankind with His revelations to the path of salvation, in this world and in the Hereafter. These prophet-messengers began with Adam in the remote Primitive Age, through Abraham at the beginning of the Ancient Age to the last prophet Muhammad at the dawn of the Scientific Age. Deviations from these divine revelations and away from the path of salvation, which is Islam (this is the meaning of the profound verse that the true religion with God is Islam), spells doom and destruction for the deviating society. The Quran tells us of the destruction of several ancient societies and civilizations as a consequence of their deviations. In the modern age (`modern' here is taken to mean the birth of the scientific method beginning with the rise of Muhammad), we have seen the destruction of the early Muslim empire and civilization and the destruction of several Eastern medieval states and European empires. Because this historical law operates objectively for all nations and civilizations, the decline and fall of Muslim society must inevitably be connected with the historical deviation from divine teachings that they had committed. We shall examine briefly the role of hadith in this historical deviation.
One of the first major consequences of the hadith is the division of early Muslim community into two major sects, the Sunnites and the Shi'ites. The Sunni sect splits into four major legal schools, and the Shi'ite has several of its own, each with its own political and theological beliefs. Without doubt, this division had its ground in the still strong Arab feeling of tribalism of the period of ignorance. Although Muhammad succeeded in breaking Arab tribalism and uniting them, this tribal spirit did not die with Muhammad. When he passed away, the resurrected tribalism led to the power struggle for the position of caliph. Because of the very strong Quranic prohibition against making factions in religion and the fact that they were unable to use the Quran to support factional interests, the competing parties had to recourse to the hadith — a convenient and clever way out. The Shi'ite faction that wanted Ali to be the caliph after the prophet's death fabricated hadith to support their contention. They claimed that the prophet had stated before his death:
Whoever recognized me as their master, Ali too is their master.
This forged hadith was then countered with another forged hadith by the opposing Bakriyya group. This then was how forged hadith came into being — to support political factions.
Now, let us assume for a moment that the hadith did not exist (in line with the Prophet's wishes that nothing should be written down from him except the Quran). This did not automatically mean that the split between the supporters of Abu Bakr and the supporters of Ali would not have existed. As the split was politically motivated, it would have happened anyway. But now, without the hadith, the Bakriyya and the Shi'ites would have had only the Quran for their guidance. In that case, how would they have solved their problems?
God answers this question for us:
They respond to their Lord, and observe the salat prayers. Their affairs are decided by consultation among them, and from our provisions to them they donate.
Without the hadith they would have had to read the Quran. Thus, they would have had to read the verse just quoted above. And they would have had to come to a consensus among them, because they were all Muslims, submitters to God, "those who respond to their Lord and observe the salat prayers." But such things never happened because they had more than enough hadith which they could pull out of their hats and use it to stab each other. Even if the Sunnites and the Shi'ites could not be reconciled, even if they had resorted to killing each other (which they did), they still would not have had more evil thoughts to provoke them had there not existed any hadith. They would have been forced to refer to the Quran. Therefore, sooner or later, they are bound to have solved their differences.
But unfortunately, history has merely repeated itself. The devils had laid their plan well. The Muslims listened to anything and everything except the Quran. The result is that they fell into the pits, and they are still there today!
Beside factionalism between the Sunnites and the Shi'ites, the Sunnites themselves are divided into different madhabs or schools of thought. They broke up into many schools of thought because of the differences of opinion between their founders. At the beginning of the establishment of these schools, over 16 of them came to exist, but today only the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafi`i and Hanbali schools predominate. There exist major differences between the four dominant schools as well, due largely to the differences between Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik, the respective founders of the Hanafi and Maliki schools, which subsequently influenced the Hanbali and Shafi`i schools.
Imam Abu Hanifa (d.767) pioneered the use of creative thinking or ijtihad to settle his affairs. He lived in Damascus, far away from the Hijaz and thus out of regular contact with any descendants of the Prophet or his companions. Hence, he had little opportunity to listen to any hadith or sayings of the Prophet. (These four theologian-jurists imams all existed before the writing of the official hadith). He settled disputes by referring to the Quran and by exercising his reason.
Imam Malik (d. 795) on the other hand lived in Medina. Throughout his life, he never traveled outside Medina except once to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Unlike Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik had the luxury of meeting with many descendants of the Prophet and his Companions. Therefore, he could refer to many hadith to solve his problems. Thus, while Abu Hanifa advocated creative thinking or ijtihad, Imam Malik advocated ijma' or referring to the hadith.
To compound this problem, the rulers at that time depended very much on these scholars to advise them. More often than not, the opinions of a particular scholar who was eminent under a particular ruler became the established rule in that territory.
Instead of being testimony to the dynamism of the Quran which allowed such diverse opinions to exist and thus serve as a catalyst for Muslims to continuously exercise their intellect, these differences of opinion gave birth to the rise of the likes of Imam Shafi`i (d. 820) who found it difficult to handle the freedom of thought and opinion that is allowed by the Quran. Imam Shafi`i came to view differences of opinion as a problem. To solve this problem he came up with his neat little idea to freeze everything as it were. In other words, Shafi`i came to the view that all opinions existing at that time would be acceptable, but nothing more than that – no new thinking could be allowed. The status quo would be set in stone with no possibility of new participants. Thus the idea of ijma' first and ijtihad later was crystallized and given an official authority.
Conformity became the norm. This was followed by the passivity and blind obedience that had to be fostered to maintain this conformity. The conformity and the passivity soon fused together to breed the pessimism and the fatalism which is a natural result of dead intellect. This came to be the character of the majority of Muslims until today.
On the other hand, the Europeans, who were overawed by the success of the Arabs in the earlier part of Muslim history, realized the importance of inquiry and free thought. The Europeans have progressed ever since because they never closed their doors to free thinking. The example that the Europeans copied was an excellent example of a Muslim people unimpeded by any false teachings. The early Muslims strove hard and achieved the success here on earth, precisely as God wanted them to achieve. By doing so, they earned the credits to give them an honored place in the Hereafter.
As for the hadith writers, God tells them:
Shall we treat the Muslims like the guilty? What is wrong with you? How do you judge? Do you have another book that you apply? One that gives you anything you want?
The Muslims developed the hadith that gave them everything they wanted. In fact, the hadith would envelop the whole of Muslim behavior right from prescribing the "correct" methods of sleeping to eating, dressing, etc. The Muslims under the ulama, therefore, effectively killed themselves off. For some ulama looking for easy followers, the hadith became a most effective tool to achieve that end. For other ulama with no proper objectives in sight, the hadith became an end in itself.
(c) Pessimism and Political Opportunism
Among the many myths that have also found their way into the hadith is the belief in the Mahdi. The Mahdi is expected to arise towards the Last Days and is expected to save all the Muslims from their cruel oppressors. The Quran tells us to continuously strive to do good deeds and to make strong efforts to improve ourselves. The Muslims are commanded to encourage the good and to oppose evil. All this means continuous hard work in the path of God to achieve good objectives.
God does not change the condition of any people, unless they change themselves.
Therefore, encouraging the Muslims to hang their hopes on something called the Mahdi is actually a subtle attempt to make defeatists and pessimists out of them. The suffocating belief in fate: to make the Muslims submissive to other than God and to wait for someone else to come along to save them. The truth is that no one will help us unless we help ourselves first.
This pessimism, however, is further ensconced in another equally debilitating hadith about the attestation of faith or the kalimah shahada. This fabricated hadith says that just by reciting the kalimah shahada at the time of death, one can be forgiven by God and make it to Paradise. Such hadith was a necessary precursor to the pessimism and the passive lethargy that was imposed upon Muslims. For how else could the people be made to resign themselves to such docility? The promise of a savior, the promise of Heaven, the "keys" to Heaven etc. were necessary tools to maintain the people's subservience to the hadith and to the people who propagated such hadiths.
These are just two of the very many fabricated hadith that can be quoted. Not only that; these fabricated hadith, unlike other fabricated hadith, sought to freeze the dynamic thinking encouraged by the Quran. These hadith sought to make vegetables of the people and hence make them totally subservient to the hadith proponents. The result is that the Muslims lost everything that they had striven so hard to achieve.
We also list here a few hadith that are attributed to the Prophet by way of Hudhayfa, a Companion of the Prophet. They are set in a context of the civil conflict engulfing the supporters of Abu Bakr and Ali. These hadith seek to impose a certain will on the people so that the people may serve as useful tools for the vested interests behind these hadith. We begin with a hadith which most cruelly attributes the qualities of a soothsayer to the Prophet.
The messenger of God took a stand to address us in which he did not omit to mention anything that will occur in that place of his up to the occurrence of the Last Hour. Whoso got it to memory remembered it and whoso did not remember it forgot it. These companions of mine learnt it, and there will occur something therefrom which I forgot. When it is shown to me, I remember it, just as a man remembers the face of a man when he remains absent from him, but when afterwards he sees him, he recognizes him. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The people used to ask the Messenger of God of virtues, and I used to ask him of evils, fearing lest they might overtake me. I asked, "O Messenger of God! Certainly we were in ignorance and corruption. Then God brought this good for us. Will there be corruption after this good?" "Yes," he replied. I asked, "Will there be good after this corruption?" "Yes," he replied. I asked, "Will there be good after that corruption?" "Yes," he replied. "There will be darkness therein." I asked, "What is darkness?" He said, "A people who will introduce ways other than my ways and will give guidance other than my guidance. So you will recognize some of them and reject some." I asked, "Will there be corruption after that good?" "Yes," he replied. "There will be those who will invite towards the doors of Hell. Whoso will respond to them will be thrown therein." I asked, "O Messenger of God, give us their description." He said, "They will be our people, and they will speak with our tongues." I asked, "What do you enjoin me if I reached that time?" He replied, "You shall stick to the united body of Muslims and their leader." I asked, "If they have no united body and no leader?" He said, "Then keep aloof entirely from those parties though you should have to cleave to the root of a tree till death overtakes you ..." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The messenger of God said, "There will soon appear calamities in which one's sitting will be better than one's standing, and one's standing will be better than one's walking, and one's walking will be better than one's running..." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The messenger of God said, "... Keep to your house and hold your tongue, and take what you recognize and give up what you do not know, and mind your own business and give up the affairs of the public." (Tirmidhi)
The hadith concerning the Mahdi and the attestation faith and the hadith concerning the Last Days quoted above all advocate a passive, pessimistic and submissive community. It is totally contrary to the Islamic spirit of striving for the good in the name of God and in the way of God. Why did the ulama advocate such defeatist hadith? Fazlur Rahman says that these hadith reflect the ulama's thinking and their objectives with regard to the factionalism and the civil war that was going on between the Muslim factions. To them the hadith appeared as very handy tool to neutralize the dissenting and damaging effects of the Khawarij and the Mu`tazilites camps. By this simple means of creating hadith and attributing it the Prophet, the orthodox Ahl'ul-Sunna wa'l-Jamaah hoped to save the community from its internecine warfare.
Although these false hadiths were advocated to serve as a bridge to link up all the warring factions in peace and harmony, it became evident soon enough that these false hadith standing on their false foundations would collapse. How could the advocating of pessimism and passivity guarantee peace and harmony, unity and justice? Obviously the orthodox scholars were very short sighted. And on top of everything, all these false teachings were clearly against the teachings of the Quran. It would become all too clear how easily the corrupted and cruel rulers, the foreign invaders and the colonialists would overwhelm a docile and almost indolent Muslim populace. The Muslims had been perfectly molded into its submissive and servile form through the indoctrination of all these false hadith. This was the cause of their fall.
As we have stated, the passive political philosophy advocated by these hadith were completely against the spirit of the Quran which advocated exactly the opposite philosophy upon all Muslims. God enjoins believers in the Quran to get fully involved in community affairs, to consistently advocate good and to oppose evil.
Therefore, did the Quran not pose a serious problem for the hadith writers then? Any careful reading of the Quran and any serious discussion would definitely point out the errors of the hadith. So, how did the ulama handle this potential threat to their hadith? Very simple. They sought to cut off all intellectual discussion and inquiry in Islam. They came up with the not-too-original but effective idea that only the ulama, the priestly class, would be allowed to handle all matters pertaining to the religion.
They would teach people that they were the inheritors of the Prophet's mission. Despite the fact that Islam never allowed any priesthood, the ulama would go on to successfully set up not only a priestly class but a whole hierarchy of priests. Much like the Brahmins of Hinduism, they would seek to impose this hierarchy upon the Muslim masses and deny the masses any access to a true understanding of the religion without first being screened by them. Unfortunately, these ulama have been most successful to this day. Once again, to sustain their position and to nick any buds of dissent that might decide to bloom, the ulama resorted to their good old panacea for all their ills — the hadith! Consider these:
The ulama are the heirs to the Prophet. (Abu Daud and Tirmidhi)
Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet said, "Whoever seeks to interpret the Quran using his own intellect, he should also prepare to burn in the hell fire." (Tirmidhi)
The following must remain a jewel among all the false hadith:
Jundub reported that the Prophet said, "Whosoever interprets the Quran, and his interpretation is correct, that person has committed a sin." (Tirmidhi and Abu Daud)
It should not come as a surprise to us that after a thousand years of adhering to the false teachings of such hadith, the Muslims' condition has progressively worsened as we have shown in Chapter I. If the present Islamic movement for reform and regeneration aims to achieve its objectives, it absolutely must face up to the reality of the corrupting influence of the hadith and other false teachings arising from it, and return to the divine Quran. There is no evading the issue. There is no shortcut to the truth except through the destruction of falsehood.