We bring to you a short series on some of the basics of the sciences of hadith, in order to increase our appreciation and understanding of this great field. So, perhaps next time, we may be a bit less casual in dismissing hadith as “optional”. The article begins after a short introduction. We are grateful to Umm Reem, who will be graduating this year with a Bachelors in Islamic Studies from AOU, for bringing this reminder to us
Introduction: The Muslim blogosphere is a haven for all sorts of strange opinions, many of which have no foundations in the texts or the sciences of Islam. Recently, there has been a spate of anti-hadith, anti-Sunnah rhetoric; an attempt to persuade lay-Muslims to flee from ahadith and “stick to the Qurʾān” by saying that Hadith is not revelation. What this simplistic message fails to comprehend is that sticking to the Qurʾān IN FACT forces a Muslim to “stick to the hadith” as well!
The recent decision by Turkey to perform “a fundamental review of hadith” has been celebrated by some bloggers, while others have done the same, but in a more muted way, as this sister notes in her post: “I'm sure this will cause a bit of a stir amongst the wahabis and salafis but as for the mainstream Muslims, it will really depend on exactly what they are doing”. So, “wahabis” and “salafis”, separate from the mainstream (tell that to all these Sunni Shayookh), are apparently the only ones concerned about this Turkish “review”, which by the way is occuring under the watchful eye of a Jesuit priest. I bet all traditionalists (anyone who sticks to the Qurʾān, Sunnah and our scholarly heritage = real mainstream) would take great umbrage to this sort of qualification. In fact, there are many scholars, especially among the deobandi hanafis, who dislike that even weak hadith (daeef, not batil) be rejected, let alone the authentic ones! So much for this new “mainstream”.
Some bloggers have outlined ahadith that they didn't quite appreciate, and then in the process attacked the very concept of it. There have been commentators who have actually insulted Abu Hurayrah, rd, as being misogynist, while others have just questioned his existence or his truthfulness. I would link to the posts and these derogatory comments (directed to a Sahaba!), but instead I would like to remind readers of my previous post, the conclusion of which goes over how to isolate these untrained “reformers”. If someone suggests that they operate under the realm of “hadith are not revelation”, then flee, because this view leads down to a very dangerous path (check out the Submitters, Parvezis, and other flavors as the ultimate destination).
So, I ask all these new-age intellectuals and “reformers”: has our Ummah been so bereft of knowledge that its scholars could not do justice to the sciences of hadith, and that we need Jesuit priests to help us “complete the task”? What does this say about Bukhāri, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Malik, and in contemporary times Albani, etc.; all Imams of the sciences of ahadith, yet they somehow missed knowledge only available in 21st century? I can say, with great surety, that most of these new-age “reformers” have not studied a single scholarly text on ahadith or understand the basics of this science, let alone its fine details. Because if they did, they would appreciate the enormity of this knowledge, and the greatness of the scholars who preserved and disseminated it.
Authority of Sunnah: Hadith=Revelation by Umm Reem
Imagine you are sitting in pre-cal class and you are told to evaluate an expression: 18+18-16*6 / 3. With a little quick math, you come up with 40, but it doesn't match up with the correct answer. You ask your professor and he tells you to go back to your basics!
'Logically' there is nothing wrong with first adding, then subtracting, next multiplying and finally dividing. You go in sequence, one by one, because it seems 'reasonable'. But guess what? It doesn't lead you to the 'correct' answer! So are you going to tell your professor that since your way is more 'logical' you are going to invent a new method or are you going to play by the rules and solve the problem using the conventional 'method' laid out?
Similarly, before getting into a heated discussion on certain ahadeeth such as:
'women being a fitnah', 'women and black dogs mentioned in the same hadeeth', or 'more women being in the Hellfire', let me humbly ask the readers to let us step back and study the 'system' or 'method' in which our religion has been laid out by first understanding 'textual evidence' in its proper context.
To do this, I am going to divide this post into three parts, followed by an example:
A. Sunnah is Revelation
B. Unquestioned Status of the Companions
C. Limitations of Our Minds
Example- Women: Are they harmful “Fitnah”?!
A common misconception these days is the vociferous opinion that ahadeeth are not revelation, but merely statements of the Prophet, sallAllahu alayhi wasalam, and therefore can be overruled by intellect. Not only does this opinion not hold any water, but it reflects a complete lack of Islamic knowledge!
My intention here is not to discuss the complete sciences of ahadeeth and methodology of preservation, and for more information on these topics, one should read:
- Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature by M.M.Azami
- An Introduction to Sciences of Hadeeth by Suhaib Hasan
Let us, very briefly, examine some of the numerous proofs that confirm authentic ahadeeth are in fact a form of 'revelation' from Allāh azzawjal.
Firstly, let us remember that obedience to the Prophet, sallAllahu alayhi wasalam, is binding upon us by Allāh's order. There are more than 60 verses in the Qurʾān asking us to obey Allāh AND the Messenger.
“And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)” (59:7)
“O you who believe, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger…”(4:59)
Logically, if the Qurʾān was the only legislation then 'Obey Allāh…' would have been sufficient command since the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam was conveying the Qurʾān to humanity anyways. However, to emphasize 'AND obey the Messenger…' in more than sixty different places in the Qurʾān indicates that, in addition to the Qurʾān, there is also something else we need to obey, and that is 'whatever the Prophet gives you…' i.e. his statements, better known as ahadeeth.
It is also very clear from the Qurʾān that the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam never spoke from his own opinions or logic as Allāh azzawjal states,
“Nor does he speak from (his own) inclination.” (53:3)
Hence, if he never spoke out of his own desires (concerning the religious matters) then all of the ahadeeth dealing with 'permissions' and 'prohibitions' must have had a source which were not from his own self!
Revelation Other Than the Qurʾān:
There are references in the Qurʾān indicating that certain commands were given to the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam, making it binding upon Muslims to obey; however, they never became a part of the Qurʾān. In other words, the Qurʾān is referring to a 'revelation' from Allāh that is not entirely found in the Qurʾān, thereby demonstrating a source of revelation apart from the Qurʾān.
Muslims used to pray facing Jerusalem until the command was abrogated by a verse in Surah Baqarah which changed the direction of the Qiblah to the Ka'aba. However, the original command to face Jerusalem while praying is nowhere to be found in the Qurʾān, yet facing Jerusalem was an obligatory part of prayer. Some of the disbelievers during that time criticized the change in the Qiblah, so Allāh azzawjal responded by sending down:
“And We did not appoint the Qiblah on which you were earlier but that We might know the people who follow the Messenger as distinct from those who turn back on their heels.” (2:143)
In this verse, Allāh azzawjal attributed the previous command of facing Jerusalem to Himself although that order is not found in the Qurʾān. The order of facing Jerusalem during prayer was given to Muslims by the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam with no references to any verse of the Qurʾān. Still, this order was later mentioned by Allāh as His OWN order:
“We did not appoint…” instead of the words: “The Prophet did not appoint…”
This verse clearly proves  that:
a. The Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam used to receive some revelation apart from the Qurʾān.
b. These revelations were from Allāh, as Allāh azzawjal clearly attributed such command to Himself.
c. The orders based on such revelation were as compulsory on the Muslims as the other orders in the Qurʾān.
Ponder over this: Before the verses were revealed assigning the direction of the Qiblah to the Ka'bah, none of the companions 'questioned' the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam about the obligation of facing Jerusalem by asking, 'Where does it say so in the Qurʾān?' Ipso facto, they understood the meaning of 'Obey the Messenger…'.
Another example of a command which was given by the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam but never mentioned in the Qurʾān was the prohibition of sexual intercourse during the nights of Ramadan. If someone were to take a nap after iftaar and then wake up at night, he would lose the opportunity of sleeping with his wife for the rest of the night even though his fast was over. This rule was prescribed by the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam and was not mentioned in the Qurʾān.
However, some Muslims couldn't keep up with this rule and Allāh azzawjal replaced it with ease:
“It is made lawful for you, in the nights of fasts, to have intercourse with your women…Allāh knows that you used to deceive yourselves; so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So, now you can have sexual intimacy with them…” (2:187)
This verse proves, as mentioned by Taqi Usmani  :
a. Having intercourse during the nights of Ramadan was not lawful before.
b. Those who had intercourse during the nights of Ramadan, before this verse was revealed, were admonished and their act was described as 'deceiving themselves'.
c. 'so He accepted your repentance and forgave you', clearly shows that breaking the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam's rule was a sin, since 'repenting' and 'forgiving' only occur after a person commits a sin.
It is substantiated that the previous prohibition of intercourse during Ramadan nights was a law, binding upon all Muslims to obey, yet it was not a command in the Qurʾān, rather it was legislation instructed by the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam.
Suffice is to say that these examples, and many more, clearly prove that there is a separate revelation, apart from the Qurʾān, which is found in the commands given by Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam, as a law giver, in the form of ahadeeth.
Want MORE Proof?
In a number of verses, Allāh azzawjal mentioned that He has revealed more than the 'Book':
“Allāh has revealed to you the Book and the Hikmah…” (4:113)
In another verse Allāh azzawjal describes the duties of the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam:
“…who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow and teaches them the Book and the Hikmah…” (3:164)
a. There was more revealed to the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam than the Book, and this is referred to as the Hikmah. This doesn't need anymore explanation as it is in the exact words of Allāh azzawjal (4:113).
b. The Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam's duties included more than just teaching humanity the Qurʾān (referred to in the verse as 'Book'). The Qurʾān says he sallAllahu alayhi wasalam also taught them Hikmah, and the only other way by which he taught mankind anything was through his ahadeeth. This equates the Hikmah with the Sunnah of the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalam.
Think about it:
We hear that Allāh azzawjal promised to preserve the Qurʾān alone. He said:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Dhikr and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15: 9)
Firstly, Allāh azzawjal didn't say 'Kitaab' or 'Qurʾān' here; rather, He said 'dhikr' which doesn't restrict the meaning to Qurʾān alone. In fact, 'dhikr' has been used in the Qurʾān for different meanings, like in this verse:
“We have revealed to you the (dhikr) Reminder that you may explain to mankind that which has been revealed for them” (Nahl: 44).
Here 'dhikr' clearly refers to the 'explanation of the Qurʾān', because if 'dhikr' was exclusive to 'Qurʾān' alone, then this verse would mean 'Qurʾān' has been revealed to explain Qurʾān?!!
Secondly, if Qurʾān was the only form of revelation, then don't you think a more precise word would have been used like 'Kitaab', 'Qurʾān', or 'Furqan', restricting the promise of preservation for the Qurʾān alone?
What could be the wisdom behind using the word 'dhikr'? Was it because the Qurʾān is not the only form of revelation, rather ahadeeth are also from the 'revelation', and that's why 'dhikr' is preserved and not just 'Qurʾān'! ('dkhir' being both Qurʾān and ahadeeth)
Islam is logical but not based on logic and Islam is reasonable but not based on reason. In addition to all the proofs above, let me give a 'logical' example why ahadeeth preservation is a 'necessity', in addition to being the 'revelation'. In order to preserve the Qurʾān, it is understood that Allāh azzawjal will preserve the Arabic language. However, nowhere in the Qurʾān does Allāh promise to preserve the Arabic language. Similarly, without the 'explanation' (hikmah/dhikr/ahadeeth), the 'Book' cannot be understood properly and ipso facto ahadeeth are preserved!
I would like to mention that the information above was a short summary. There are numerous examples and references in the Qurʾān (and in the ahadeeth) on this subject, and to get a better understanding, I highly recommend these books:
- The Authority and Importance of the Sunnah by Jamal Zarabozo
- The Authority of Sunnah by Justice Muḥammad Taqi Usmani
- Usmani, Taqi: The Authority of Sunnah. Pg. 25
- Usmani, Taqi: The Authority of Sunnah, pg. 27