CRITICISM OF THE HADITH
CRITICISM OF THE HADITH
These are God's revelations that we recite for you with the truth. In which hadith besides the revelations of God, do they believe?
It is a recorded historical fact, as we have seen in the last chapter, that at the time of the Prophet's death in the 11th year of the Hijra (632 AD), the whole of the Quran, which had been revealed to the Prophet, had been carefully written down and arranged in an order as directed by the Prophet himself. This historical testimony supports the Divine assertion of the Quran's arrangement under Divine direction.
On the other hand, there exists no hadith collection that Muhammad himself authenticated. In fact, he was reported to prohibit the writing down of any hadith. Even among the religious scholars there is much controversy over what is termed the mutawattir hadith, or multiple-source reports. Some say that there are seven of these, some say only one while others say none at all. If the hadith scholars cannot agree on the number of the very few multiple-source reports, how could they impose the 6,000-odd so-called authentic hadiths of Bukhari on the Sunnite Muslim community? We also know that the Shi'ite Muslim community have their own hadith collections.
As we have seen in Chapter III, the so-called authentic hadith collections came into being after much editing by the likes of Bukhari and Muslim only about 250 years after the Prophet's death. The `authentic' or `genuine' (sahih) label attached to the collected and edited works of these six collectors is a subjective classification based on certain criteria, which may not be agreed to by other scholars. This is the source of the hitherto endless debate on the authenticity of the hadith.
What is not realized by the general Muslim community now is that all these hadith reporters and scholars in their own day had their critics who are now conveniently forgotten. In some cases, a particular scholar's opinion or writing came to dominate the Muslim mind because those writings received support from the caliph or whatever authority existing at that time. A good example is the action of Caliph Harun Al-Rashid who wanted to ban the writings of all Muslim scholars except the book Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas. The caliph insisted on making Al-Muwatta as the standard text by which to formulate the Shari`a or Islamic law. Fortunately, it was through the insistence of Imam Malik himself that such a course of action was denied, hence allowing debate and fruitful discussion to continue in the caliph's realm. Imam Malik felt compelled to speak up because he understood that, after all, his writings could be mistaken. The human intellect is eminently fallible.
Compared to all these weaknesses which beset the hadith, the Quran is completely vouchsafed for its authenticity by no less an authority than God Himself.
The majority follows only conjecture, and conjecture is no substitute for the truth. God is fully aware of everything they do. But the Quran can never be invented by other than God. It confirms all previous scriptures, and consummates them. There is absolutely no doubt that it comes from the Lord of the Universe.
Criticism of the Hadith Has Always Existed
Criticism of the hadith, even the rejection of the hadith theory advocated by Imam Shafi`i, is not something new. Criticism of it existed from the earliest times. At the time of Imam Shafi`i, the Mu`tazilite rationalist school, one of the earliest Muslim theological schools, advanced two very sound arguments to refute the hadith theory. They stated that the hadith was merely guesswork and conjecture, and that the Quran was complete and perfect, and did not require the hadith or any other book to supplement or complement it.
However, as we mentioned earlier, the hadith/sunna school mustered significant social and political support for its teachings. The Mu`tazilite school was therefore subjugated and the sunna school became dominant. It is not within the province of this book to delve much deeper into this interesting controversy; it suffices to say that much remains to be understood from the causes and effects of this controversy alone.
Closer to our time, namely towards the end of the nineteenth century, the reform movement spearheaded by Jamaluddin Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh sought to curb the emphasis on taqlid, or blind conformity to the opinions of early Imams. However, little effort was made to address the problems of the hadith itself. These two renowned scholars only went so far as to further tighten the criteria for accepting the hadith. At the same time, they still accept the hadith as a principal source of law on par with the Quran.
Other schools of thought did arise in Egypt, India and Indonesia, seeking to question and even repudiate the hadith. Although detailed information about them is rather scarce, in Egypt Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi (d. 1920) and Mahmud Abu Rayya, whose book on the hadith was published in Cairo in 1958, questioned the reliability of the hadith. In India, the ahlul-Quran group led by Ghulam Ahmad Parvez arose during the 1930's to take Muslims back to the Quran. It is most probable that similar movements have sprung up in other Muslim societies throughout Islamic history. Therefore, it is important for us to keep in mind that criticism of the hadith has always been extant since the day the hadith was written down.
The Underlying Weakness of the Hadith:
Conjecture and Guesswork
Lately it has become a novelty for some writers to allude to historical evidence to prove the existence of written hadith records from the time of the Prophet. These writers claim that various sahifah or personal diaries of various Companions have been found. Unfortunately for these writers, such writings do not exist at all. Perhaps the impetus for this sahifah theory was sparked by the reference to the records of Hammam ibn Munabih (d. 101 or 102 Hijrah), a pupil of Abu Huraira. Hammam ibn Munabih is reported to have recorded 140 alleged sayings of the Prophet from Abu Hurairah. But we do not have conclusive evidence for the existence of these personal diaries. The scholars have differing opinions on this subject. Therefore, to vouch for the existence of a complete set of sahifah writings can only be an intellectual flight of fancy.
It is also pertinent to note that the collecting, collating and editing of the hadith into the six dominant books that we have today has never been conclusively witnessed or vouched for. To make matters even more complicated for the hadith writers, there is a recorded hadith of the Prophet which claims that the Prophet himself had expressly forbidden the writing down of any hadith! According to Muslim and ibn Hanbal:
Abi Said al Khudri reported that the Prophet said, "Do not write down anything from me except the Quran. Whoever writes down anything other than the Quran must erase it."
The hadith writers come up with the retort that the Prophet said what he said in order to prevent his followers from confusing the Quran, which was still being revealed at that time, with the hadith. Hence, his prohibition. It was later repealed, they argued, when the danger of mixing the Quran with the hadith no longer existed.
But this appears to be a rather lame excuse to justify the writing of the hadith. Even after the Prophet's death and even very much after the Quran had been carefully bound into its present form, the true followers of the Prophet still refused to write down anything of the so-called hadith. This is clear from another report of Ibn Hanbal:
"Zayd ibn Thabit (the Prophet's personal aide and scribe) was visiting the house of Mu`awiya and was narrating to the Caliph a story about the Prophet. The Caliph, who became much impressed with the story, immediately asked his scribe to record the story. Zayd then cautioned the Caliph, `The holy prophet has forbidden us from writing down anything from his hadith.' "
There is also the story regarding the first caliph Abu Bakr who could not lay his head down to sleep upon finding out that there were some written records of the Prophet's sayings in the house of his daughter Aisha, who was the Prophet's wife. Not until he had personally burnt the written records was he able to sleep peacefully again. The second caliph Omar ibn Khattab also refused to allow anyone to compile the hadith for fear that the people may take to them and discard the Quran.
This is just another proof to deny the authority of the hadith. Not only that, but since the hadith writers can show us other hadiths that does allow for the writing down of the hadith, it only goes further to show that the hadith even contradict one another. To attribute all these conflicting and preposterous hadiths to the Prophet and also to equate these hadiths with the Quran is only being presumptuous and belittling the mission of the Prophet.
It would have been impossible for the Prophet to equate any of his own sayings with the Quran. It would also be quite illogical for him to want his people to follow a set of writings which he never authorized and whose authenticity would later give rise to so much confusion and hardship for the Muslims. We must also remember that the Quran itself, although revealed fully to the Prophet, was never fully compiled into one book during the Prophet's own lifetime. It would only be bound into one complete book under the caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar. So if this was the case for the Quran, can the case for the hadith be stronger? Definitely not. The hadiths were never written down in the presence of the Prophet and neither was the Prophet present to supervise the `transmission' of any of his sayings. That is why the hadiths differ so much. That is why we have the split in Islam into the Sunnite and the Shi'ite sects, and among the Sunnites into the Shafi`i, the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Hanbali major and numerous other minor schools. They all quote their own hadith to color their particular shade of ideology.
Another illuminating example that must be quoted is the hadith that records the Prophet's last sermon during his final pilgrimage. This hadith has two chains of reporters: one as reported by Jabir ibn Abdullah (which itself has two versions) and another as reported by Malik ibn Anas.
First let us quote the two different versions attributed to Jabir ibn Abdullah:
(a) Jabir ibn Abdullah reported during his farewell sermon the Prophet said, " ... and I have left with you one thing; if you hold on to it firmly, you will never stray, i.e. God's Scripture. You will be asked about me. So what will you say?" They said, "We will vouchsafe that you have truthfully and completely delivered the message and brought the remainder." (Muslim) (Emphasis added)
(b) Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that the Prophet said in his farewell sermon during his final pilgrimage, "And I have left among you one thing; if you hold on to it firmly, you will never stray – God's Scripture and whatever you have gained from questioning me (hadith) (Muslim) (Emphasis added)
Surely Jabir ibn Abdullah could have narrated only one of the above versions. Version (b) with its extra wording is an obvious addition to the original.
The second (or actually the third) record of this same event is attributed to Anas ibn Malik (a companion) who concedes that it is only a weak hadith. It says:
I have left you two things, so long as you hold tightly to them both, you will never stray – Allah's Holy Quran and the Sunnah of His Messenger (Muwatta) (Emphasis added)
It is interesting to note that this hadith is classified as a `weak' hadith by the hadith writers themselves. To further highlight this incongruity, Ibn Ishaq, another early chronicler, reports,
Al-Zuhri informed me from Anas ibn Malik: "While Abu Bakr was receiving allegiance from the followers the day after the Prophet had died, Omar stood up and spoke to the people, `O People! God has left you His Scripture, with which He guided His Messenger.' "
It is quite evident that the Prophet instructed us to hold on to the Quran only. This is consonant with the later testimony and conduct of the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar regarding the hadith. The allegation that the Prophet also made reference to the hadith in his Farewell Sermon can only be a falsification of the truth. This falsification might likely have crept in after the death of Omar, at the earliest, because we are aware that Caliph Omar ibn Khattab was a strict man and a stickler for correct behavior.
However, it is the Quran itself that gives us the final say regarding the hadith. In Chapter II we have referred to the usage of the words `hadith' and `sunna' in the Quran. We have seen that not even in one of these references in the Quran is there any indication for the existence of the prophetic hadith or tradition. The word `hadith' in all its forms is used thirty-six times in the Quran, eleven of which refer to the Quran, while none refers to what has later been termed the hadith or sunna. When we ponder on those verses containing the word `hadith' in the Quran, we shall notice a subtle criticism of the so-called hadith:
These are God's revelations that we recite for you with the truth. In which hadith besides the revelations of God, do they believe?
God sent down the best hadith, a scripture that is consistent, repeating.
It is a revelation from the Lord of the Universe. Are you then evading this hadith?
The first verse quoted above clearly forbids us from accepting anything other than the Quran as a source of guidance and criterion for measuring things religious. The second makes reference to the Quran as being the best hadith. The third chides us for resorting to sources that wish to replace the Quran.
To further clarify any doubts that we might have about the supremacy of the Quran compared to the distorted and fabricated recordings of the hadith, God uses an ingenious technique to impress upon us that the Quran and only the Quran is our source of guidance. This must be part of God's promise to permanently protect His teachings, i.e. the Quran. We refer in particular to verse 31:6 of the Quran:
Some people uphold vain hadith in order to divert others from the path of God without knowledge, and to create a mockery out of it. These have deserved humiliating retribution.
In verse 39:23 God refers to the Quran as ahsan'al- hadith or `the best hadith'. In 31:6 He refers to the fabricators of false teachings as upholding `vain hadith' (lahw'al-hadith) to divert the people from the path of God. These people, needless to say, are to be condemned. Therefore, God uses the word `hadith' in two contradictory contexts to impress upon us the basic difference between His teachings and the teachings of those who deny Him.
It is clear now that most of the hadith attributed to the Prophet are, in fact, nothing but vain talk (lahw'al-hadith) which only serve to "divert others from the path of God without knowledge."
Weaknesses in the Methodology of
Chain-Reporters or `Isnad'
The hadith writers are fond of saying that the collection and collating of the hadith was undertaken with much care and accuracy, especially by Bukhari and Muslim – two of the hadith writers held in the highest regard by their own followers. Bukhari and Muslim are supposed to have used strict and meticulous techniques to criticize and evaluate the sources of their hadith prior to writing them down.
The hadith writers founded a whole new branch of learning called Ilm al-Jarh wa al-Ta'dil (the science of accepting and rejecting narrations) whereby the narrators are examined for their honesty and integrity. Although we must appreciate and praise them for the labor they had put into the task, we cannot turn a blind eye to the basic weakness of their methodology.
We note that the majority of the hadith only appeared during the time of the tabi`in, i.e. successors to the Companions, and the time of the tabi` tabi`in (successors to the successors of the Companions). Who were the tabi`in and the tabi` tabi`in? The tabi`in were the generations that succeeded the Companions of the Prophet. This is two and a half to four generations or 70 to 120 years thereabouts after the Prophet. The tabi` tabi`in were those people who succeeded the aforementioned group, that is, four and a half to six generations or around 130 to 190 years after the Prophet. That means the majority of the hadith arose around a hundred to two hundred years after the Prophet.
However accurate the methodology of the isnad, the scholars first started talking about it and started writing it down only about 150 - 200 years after the deaths of the very last tabi`i tabi`in. This means that when the research to establish the isnad got started, none of the Companions, the succeeding generation or the generation coming after them were available to provide any kind of guidance, confirmation or rebuttal. Therefore, the authenticity of the statements cannot be vouched for at all.
It is not our intention to say that Bukhari, Muslim and others were fabricators. However, even students of elementary psychology or communication will testify that a simple message of, say, 15 words will get distorted after passing through only about five messengers. (Our readers are welcome to try out this experiment). Keep in mind that the hadith contains thousands of detailed and complex narrations — everything from ablution to jurisprudence. These narrations passed through hundreds of narrators who were spread out over thousands of miles of desert, and spanned over two to three hundred years of history. All this at a time when news traveled at the speed of a camel gait, recorded on pieces of leather or bone or scrolls in a land that had neither paper nor the abundance of scribes to write anything down!
Even today in this modern day and age of the twentieth century, there have been major historical events, which although well documented, still elicit much controversy. We cite, for example, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — an event that is surrounded by much mystery. We also have the controversy surrounding the exact causes of the First World War. In our own country, there is much debate as to the true story behind Mahsuri and Hang Tuah. In every family there are always conflicting stories or versions of stories to explain certain events that happen within families.
Therefore, it is not likely that the various hadith writers could have been accurate, however much they wanted to, in checking the authenticity of the hadith which they wrote down. A camel journey from Mecca to Damascus might take a month or two. In fact, any journey by camel between the major populated areas of the Arabian deserts took much time. It makes it highly unlikely that the hadith writers checked out all the thousands of details personally. Otherwise, they must have spent a large part of their lives sitting on the backs of very fast-moving camels. History has recorded who these hadith writers were, where they lived and how much travelling they undertook. As for the camels, a camel's gait remains much the same then as it is now.
It stands to reason that the hadith writers depended on much story-telling to fill in the blanks. Many `authentic' narrators whom the hadith writers allude to in their chains of isnad were wholly fabricated names. To overcome this type of logical criticism, the hadith writers came up with an ingenious device to actually pull the wool over our eyes. They came up with the concept of ta`dil of the Companions. This concept states that the Companions of the Prophet are wholly protected from committing any error whenever they recall or narrate the sayings of the Prophet!
Although this concept is preposterous and defies all logic, we must note that Muslims were not the first to make such blatant claims. In fact, the hadith writers have taken a page from the Christian books. Although Jesus did not write anything down, the disciples and followers wrote down the various books of the Bible. To lend credence to their work, these Bible writers were also deemed to have been "inspired" and without fault whenever they undertook to record `the Word of God'. In fact, there are even parts of the Bible that appeared to one of the Bible writers in a dream while he was asleep!
Let us examine two examples of isnad for hadith compiled by the famous Bukhari.
Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad
1. Omar ibn Khattab 1. Aisha
2. Al Qanmah ibn Waqqas al-Laithi 2. Urwah ibn Al-Zubayr
3. Ibni Ibrahim at Taimi 3. Ibni Shihab
4. Yahya ibn Said al Ansari 4. Uqail
5. Sufyan 5. Al-Baith
6. Abdullah ibn Az Zubair 6. Yahya ibn Bukhair
As we have mentioned earlier, these isnad were recorded at least 150 years after the last tabi` tabi`in had died. Therefore, what real proofs are there to show that Omar ibn Khattab or Aisha were the real sources of this particular isnad ? The proofs simply do not exist. The only things made available to us are strongly-held opinions and neat concepts like the ta`dil of the Companions.
But what does God Almighty have to say about all these? We quote:
Additionally we have appointed for every prophet enemies from among the human devils and the jinn devils, who invent and narrate to each other fancy words in order to deceive. Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and their inventions. This is God's will so that the minds of those who do not really believe in the Hereafter may listen thereto, and accept it, and to have them commit what they are supposed to commit. Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He revealed to you this book fully detailed? Even those who received previous scripture recognize that it came down from your Lord, truthfully. Therefore, you shall not harbor any doubt. The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His Words. He is the Hearer, the Knower. If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They only follow conjecture, and they only guess.
The majority follows only conjecture, and conjecture is no substitute for the truth. God is fully aware of everything they do. But the Quran can never be invented by anything other than God. It confirms all previous scripture, and consummates them. There is absolutely no doubt that it comes from the Lord of the Universe.
In the verses above, God warns us that many `religious' books written by men are merely guesswork and conjecture. Can anyone deny that the hadith books are also religious books written by mere mortals?
But the hadith writers are still insistent. According to some, at least Bukhari's hadith is infallible. Why? Because Bukhari is reported to have sifted through more than 600,000 hadiths and had picked only 7,275 to be included in his `authentic' collection. This fact is put forward to impress upon the reader that Bukhari was meticulous and thorough in his life's work. Bukhari merely took 1.25% of all the hadiths he came across as authentic. But a simple calculation will show that these figures are preposterous and impossible to be achieved by Bukhari or any other human being.
If, on the average, a hadith consists of three simple sentences (in truth many hadiths run into paragraphs), then Bukhari would have had to collect, read, investigate, evaluate and record over 1.8 million sentences over a period of 40 years. This is the equivalent of researching (which include the long camel journeys to and fro across the desert) and attesting to the authenticity of over 300 books, each equivalent to the thickness and complexity of a Quran, over a period of 40 years! Compare this to the 6346 verses only of the one Quran which God in His all encompassing mercy gave to the Prophet over a period of 23 years!
According to another source, Ibn Hanbal reported that there were over 7 million `authentic' hadiths. If this were true, then working for 23 years at a pace of 18 hours a day, seven days a week, the Prophet would have had to produce one hadith every 77 seconds! There would definitely have been no time left at all for the Prophet to have done anything like living his life and carrying out his mission as a Prophet!
It is evident that to rely on the isnad alone to vouch for the hadith is wholly unacceptable. It would be more correct to evaluate a hadith based on its content and logic of the content. Any hadith whose isnad is satisfactory (to the hadith writers) but whose content does not satisfy logic must be rejected as unacceptable. If we use this simple method, we will most probably discover that the majority of the hadith in the six collections cannot be accepted anymore.
The weakness of the hadith can be analyzed from three aspects. Firstly, its contradiction with the Quran. Such hadith is automatically rejected. Secondly, its contradiction with history, scientific facts or common sense. Such hadith must also be rejected. Thirdly, its self-contradiction. With such hadith, it is possible that one of them may be true and acceptable.
The Coherence Theory of the Hadith
Again in anticipation of criticism, the hadith writers came up with other neat tricks to safeguard their position. Imam Shafi`i postulated the theory of the coherence of the hadith. By this fantastic theory, Shafi`i held that the hadith could never contradict the Quran, or another hadith. If any contradictions were found to exist, these were merely outward appearances but not real contradictions. These rather simple tricks of word-play were set up to cover the obvious discrepancies and contradictions that exist in the hadith. But whether this theory can really save the hadith is another matter. We will see that this theory only condemns the hadith further.
To prove his point that the hadith can never contradict the Quran or itself, Shafi`i provides the following convoluted explanation. He takes the Prophet not only as a Divine messenger but as a Divine spokesman whose every word and action is divinely inspired. The Prophet must be obeyed absolutely in every single way because it is only the Prophet who has the necessary knowledge to explain those matters that are discussed in rather general terms in the Quran. In this way, there can be no conflict between the sunna and the Quran. Contradictions may sometimes be seen between one sunna and another due to certain peculiar circumstances which gave rise to such sunna, or due to incomplete reporting of the sunna, but in reality the contradictions do not exist. Note the following dialogue between Shafi`i and a questioner where this confusing and contradicting theory is explained:
He (i.e. the questioner) asked: Would it be possible for the sunna to contradict the Book [of God]?
[Shafi`i] replied: Impossible! For God, glorified be His praise, imposed on men the obligation [of obedience to the law] through two avenues – the origin of both is in His Book – His Book and the sunna: [The latter is binding by virtue of] the duty of obedience laid down in the Book that it should be followed. So it was not permissible for the Apostle to allow the sunna to be abrogated [by the Book], without the Apostle himself] providing another sunna to abrogate it. The abrogating sunna is known because it is the later one, while most of the abrogating [communications] of the Book can be known only by [indications provided in] the sunna of the Apostle.
Shafi`i does not provide any hard evidence or good examples to prove this coherence theory. What he attempts to explain is what the hadith scholars allege to be the function of the sunna to explain and detail the general rules mentioned in the Quran. We have already discussed this in detail in Chapter II. However, let us discuss Shafi`i's handling of a clear-cut case, the punishment for adultery, where the hadith clearly contradicts the Quran.
On the subject of adultery, the Quran clearly lays down the punishment as follows:
The adulteress and the adulterer, you shall whip each one of them one hundred lashes, and do not be swayed by pity from carrying out God's law, if you truly believe in God and the Last Day. And let a group of believers witness their punishment.
On the other hand, the hadith holds the following:
Omar reported that God had sent His messenger Muhammad and revealed the Scripture to him. Among the verses revealed by Almighty God is the commandment to stone (the adulterers) until death. The Prophet stoned (the adulterers) until death and likewise we also stoned (the adulterers) until death. Stoning until death in the Scripture is truly prescribed for husbands and wives who commit adultery, if they are found guilty, or become pregnant, or confess their sins.
Shafi`i explains this contradiction as follows:
The sunna of the Apostle specified that the penalty of scourging with a hundred stripes for [fornication on the part of the] free unmarried couple was confirmed, but that it was abrogated concerning the married; and that the penalty of stoning for [adultery on the part of the] free married couple was confirmed.
This is an extremely interesting interpretation. Not only does the sunna punishment clearly contradict the punishment in the Quran, but it is also given the power to confirm or overrule the Quran! But surprisingly, in other places, Shafi`i does not allow the sunna to contradict the Quran or vice versa. He only allows the Quran to abrogate the Quran and the sunna to abrogate the sunna. It is obvious that the coherence theory of the hadith is confusing and unacceptable.
The greatest weakness of the hadith is its contradiction with the Word of God, i.e. the Quran. We quote here just a few of the samples:
1. The Rise of Imam Mahdi towards the Last Days
The hadith about the coming of the Mahdi to save mankind from the tribulations of the Dajjal or Anti-Christ towards the end of the world is not consistent with the teachings of the Quran. God commands us to strive in God's cause and to command good and to forbid evil every second of our lives. These hadith instead advocate a passive response and surrender to `fate' and await the Mahdi's arrival to save us.
The belief in the Mahdi arose from the Jewish belief in the coming of a savior. Actually this savior, as foretold in their scripture, was Prophet Muhammad whom they rejected when he arose among the Arabs. It is also consonant with the Christian belief about the Second Coming of Christ. The Shi`ites, when they lost political power to the Umayyads, similarly created their own myth about the return of the 12th Imam. He was believed to have disappeared, and will return towards the Last Days as the Mahdi who would rule the world with justice.
2. The Miracles of Prophet Muhammad
There are quite a few hadiths that quote many miracles performed by the Prophet. The Quran tells us clearly that the Prophet did not perform any miracles. The only miracle given to the Prophet was the Quran itself, as witness the verse:
"They said, `How come no miracles were sent to him from his Lord?' Say, `Miracles come only from God, and I am no more than a warner'. Is it not enough of a miracle that we sent down to you this scripture, which is being recited to them? Indeed, it is a mercy and a message for those who believe."
3. The Prophet's Intercession
Many other hadiths give the power of intercession to the Prophet. But there are many verses of the Quran that clearly testify that no one can intercede on anyone's behalf. Verse 2:254 states:
"O you who believe, you shall give to charity from our provisions to you, before a day comes wherein there will be no trade, no favoritism and no intercession. It is the disbelievers who choose wickedness."
No intercession is allowed. Even if it is allowed, it can only be with God's permission, i.e. in accordance with God's will only. In this case, intercession cannot be limited just to Prophet Muhammad; it can be from anyone whom God allows. To insist that only Prophet Muhammad can intercede is to discriminate among God's prophets, as well as to restrict God's omnipotence in making decisions.
4. Punishment for Apostasy
The hadith prescribes the death penalty for apostasy. "If anyone leaves his religion, then kill him." (Bukhari and Abu Daud) The Quran, on the other hand, makes no provision for the killing of apostates. Verse 5:54 states:
"O you who believe, if any of you reverts from his religion, then God will bring people whom He loves as they love Him, and humble themselves towards the believers, while being stern towards the disbelievers; and strive in the cause of God; and never worry about any blamer who might blame them. Such is God's grace that He bestows upon whomever He wills. God is bounteous, omniscient."
Verse 2:256 affirms complete freedom of religious belief:
"There shall be no compulsion in religion ..."
On the contrary, the Quran informs us that the leaders of misbelief practiced murder or stoning to death of those who believed in God, as witness this verse: ".... If they find out about you, they would stone you, or force you back into their religion..." This refers to the story of the monotheistic youths, the seven sleepers of Ephesus, who took refuge in a cave from the persecution of Christians who had deviated from the monotheistic teachings of Christ around the time of the promulgation of the Nicene Creed in 325 AD. In this respect, it is most interesting to note that the Old Testament punishment for apostasy is also death.
5. Reward of Paradise by Just Uttering the Attestation of Faith
A number of hadith promise Paradise to anyone who utters the kalimah shahada or attestation of faith before death. This hadith seeks to annul all of God's teachings that only sound faith and good works will get one to Heaven. Just by mentioning a few words is not going to cause one to gain an entry into Heaven, just as forgetting or not mentioning these words does not mean that Heaven is forbidden. Death can sometimes approach us suddenly without any warning. The example of the drowning Pharaoh uttering the shahada and rejected by God from His Paradise in the Quran shows that faith must be nurtured by good works before it can take root in any individual. This hadith is self-abrogating.
6. Encouraging Passivity
We have already quoted several hadiths that advocate passivity and withdrawal from active participation in society. This is clearly in contradiction not only with the Quran but with the whole purpose of Islam. Surely if the Prophet had chosen to be passive, none of us would be Muslims today!
7. Punishment for Adultery
We have already discussed this.
8. The Command to Pray
We have already dealt with this subject in detail.
9. The Prophet's Prophecies
Many hadiths tell us about the Prophet's own prophecies regarding the future. This contradicts the Quran's assertion that the Prophet does not know the future. Verse 7:188 states:
"Say (O Muhammad), `I possess no power to either benefit or harm myself. Only what God wills takes place. Had I known the future, I would have increased my wealth, and no harm would have afflicted me. I am no more than a warner and preacher for those who believe.' "
Verses 72:25-27 inform us thus:
"Say, `I have no idea how soon or how far is that which is promised to you. Only God is the knower of the future; He lets no one else acquire such knowledge. Only the messengers that He chooses may be given certain information concerning the past or the future.'"
The sixth pillar of faith, drawn from the hadith, teaches fatalism among Muslims. This must be one of the chief causes of Muslim decline in the last thousand years. This hadith is annulled by the Quran in two verses, which states:
"Anyone who disbelieves in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers and the Last Day has indeed strayed far away."
"Wherever you may be, death will catch up with you, even if you are in formidable castles. When something good happens to them, they say, `This is from God,' and when something bad happens to them, they say, `This is because of you.' Say, `All things come from God.' What is wrong with these people that they can hardly understand any preaching? Whatever good that happens to you is from God. Whatever bad that happens to you is a consequence of your own work..."
Self-Contradiction of Hadith
As we have said, the hadith reflects the views and opinions of various factions and groups, many with vested interests, existing in society then. It is to be expected, therefore, that many of them contradict one another. We list a few here:
1. Hadith on the Recording of Hadith
There exist `authentic' hadiths which forbid as well as allow the writing down of hadith besides the Quran. One that forbids the writing down of hadith reads as follows: "Abi Said al Khudri reported that the Prophet said, `Do not write down anything from me except the Quran. Whoever writes anything other than the Quran must erase it.' " (Bukhari and Ibn Hanbal). An opposite hadith is the following: "Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Prophet said, `Deliver from me even one sentence ... Whoever betrays me intentionally let him prepare to burn in Hell.'" (Bukhari)
M. Hamidullah claims that the prohibition was made due to certain circumstances, but that it was later revoked. This is a very weak argument, as we have indicated earlier.
2. The Farewell Sermon
We have already discussed this.
3. Punishment for Adultery
We have shown earlier how the hadith on this matter contradicts the Quran. The earlier hadith that we quoted wrongfully sets down the death penalty (by stoning) for adultery. Compare that with the following hadith:
"Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that the Messenger of God said, `You have rights over your wives, such that they should not bed with anyone else. If they transgress in this matter, you may beat them without causing any injury.' " (Bukhari and Muslim).
It should be noted that this hadith makes adultery a light matter. It should also be noted that stoning to death for adultery was a punishment stipulated in the Old Testament.
4. Striving in the Cause of God
While some hadith advocate passivity, there are others that call for striving in the way of God.
5. The Status of the Prophets
There are some hadith which correctly obey the Quran and forbid discriminating between the Prophets. Yet there are hadith which seek to glorify the Prophet Muhammad over other prophets.
6. On the Quran
Some hadith explicitly require us to refer to the hadith besides the Quran. But once again, there are other hadiths which warn us of going astray if we were to seek guidance from other than the Quran.
There are many more hadiths that contradict one another. We have quoted just a few for our readers. Surely if we delve deeper into this area of hadith research, we can discover even more contradictions. Perhaps this book will serve to stimulate further thought in this area.
Hadith Contradicting Science, History and Logic
Finally, we must test the hadith for their congruence with scientific facts, historical facts and simple common sense. God tells us in the Quran that His signs are manifest in the physical universe that surrounds us. Verses 10:5-6 inform us:
"God is the One Who made the sun luminescent, and the moon a light, and He designed its phases to provide you with a timing device. God did not create all this in vain. He explains the revelations for people who know. The alternation of the night and day, and of the things that God created in the heavens and the earth, provide signs for the righteous."
Therefore, the physical world is full of God's signs. The natural laws of physics, biology, chemistry and everything else are merely a manifestation of the system put into Nature by God Almighty. Whenever our scientists `invent' something new, it is not an invention, instead it is merely uncovering or coming to grips with a system that has already been put there. Therefore, scientific observation and scientific knowledge can only confirm what God has placed in Nature, the Unwritten Book of God. This is what the Quran, the Written Book of God, already tells us. Established scientific facts are, therefore, in complete consonance with the Quran. Any fact that cannot be scientifically established cannot be consonant with the Quran.
The same is true for recorded history. Anything that really happened in history can never contradict the Quran. Therefore, if any `historical fact' contradicts any Quranic teachings, that `fact' cannot be true. It must have been fabricated. The same applies also for simple logic and common sense. Logic and common sense can never contradict the Quran.
In these respects, the hadith again fails miserably. An eminent French physician and member of the French Academy of Sciences, Dr. Maurice Bucaille, a Muslim who has made a deep study of the contents of the Quran and the hadith, has stated:
"The difference is in fact quite staggering between the accuracy of the data contained in the Quran, when compared with modern scientific knowledge, and the highly questionable character of certain statements in the hadith on subjects whose tenor is essentially scientific... In view of the fact that only a limited number of hadith may be considered to express the Prophet's thought with certainty, the others must contain the thoughts of men of his times, in particular with regard to the subjects referred to here. When these dubious or inauthentic hadith are compared to the text of the Quran, we can measure the extent to which they differ. This comparison highlights ... the striking difference between the writings of this period, which are riddled with scientifically inaccurate statements, and the Quran, the Book of Written Revelation, that is free from errors of this kind."
We can provide numerous examples of the hadith contradicting scientific facts, historical facts and simple logic. Some of them are as follows:
1. The Movement of the Sun
A hadith records the following,
"Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of God said that when the sun wishes to set, it travels until it prostrates itself below the Divine Throne. It requests for permission and is granted. It prostrates but its supplication is not accepted and it will request for permission but is not granted. It will then be commanded to return to whence it came. So it will rise at the place where it sets ..." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Apart from the fact of its contradiction with what we know from science, the reader should note what the Quran says on this matter. Verses 36:38-40 inform us:
"The sun runs in a specific orbit. Such is the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. And we designed the moon to appear in stages until it reverts to a thin curve. The sun never catches up with the moon, nor does the night prematurely overtake the day. Each floats in its own orbit."
Not only is the hadith above ignorant of the Quran, but it also places the earth in the center with the sun orbiting around it, when the truth is much to the contrary.
2. The Command to Pray
We have seen that the Divine command to pray, as with other religious rituals, was first given to Prophet Abraham and his followers, and this ritual prayer was handed down from generation to generation until Prophet Muhammad. This is testified both by the Quran and by history.
3. Discrimination Against Women
A hadith quotes Abu Sayeed al Khudri as reporting that a woman came to the Prophet and complained that her husband had forced her to break her fast in order to have sexual intercourse with him. To this the Prophet is alleged to have replied, "A woman cannot fast without her husband's permission." (Abu Daud and Ibn Majah)
This hadith tries very hard to cast a terrible slur on the Prophet's good name. Such an attribute is clearly against the chivalrous and good-natured character of the Prophet. Moreover, it is also contrary to the Quranic teachings concerning the method of fasting and how to interact with our wives and other human beings around us.
4. Discouraging Sport
A hadith quotes Oqabah ibn A'mer as reporting that the Prophet allegedly said, "All types of sport is forbidden for men except archery, horse riding and playing with their wives." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja and Abu Daud).
While God insists that we use our minds to think, some hadith falsely allege that humans can never think. "Jundub reported that the Messenger of God said, `Whoever interprets the Quran using his own intellect, even if the interpretation is correct, he is committing a grievous sin.' " (Tirmidhi and Abu Daud)
As the Quran says so very precisely and accurately, many of the hadith contained in the six `authentic' books of hadith are nothing but "vain talk in order to divert others from the path of God without knowledge, and to create a mockery of it."
The hadith/sunna, therefore, can never be referred to as an infallible source of guidance, as the Quran is. This is not to say that we have to burn all the hadith books. They are useful social and historical records, reflecting people and events of their times. However, we cannot agree with the anxiety of the late Pakistani scholar, Professor Fazlur Rahman, who said that if we were to neglect the hadith, then the historical basis for the existence of the Quranic teachings would be destroyed. This argument has often been repeated and stressed by the hadith party on behalf of the hadith, but it really has no basis. The historical proofs for the Quran and for Prophet Muhammad who brought it to mankind is the Quran itself, the existence of the Muslim community throughout history and the existence of many historical records. The Quran, without the hadith, is not in the least affected. So is Prophet Muhammad. On the contrary, the Prophet will emerge in a much better light without the fabrications of many so-called hadith/sunna that had been attributed to him.
As historical records, the hadith is useful. However, as historical records go, they cannot be fully accepted as true until they are criticized and evaluated by scientific, historical and divine, i.e. Quranic, criticism.