Among the majority of people there are those who uphold profane hadith, and thus
mislead many from the path of God without knowledge, and make themselves
doomed to failure. These have incurred a shameful retribution. [Verse 31:6]
Besides believing in the Quran, the traditions also require Muslims to believe in other supplementary works called the ‘hadith’. The word hadith in this context meansnarration. These hadith traditionally relate only to the deeds and utterances attributed to the messenger Muhammad; his speech, a report or an account of his deeds and words.
It is important to emphasise that the Quran uses this word 28 times without ever attributing it to the messenger, but warns against ‘profane hadith’ as noted in verse 31:6.
The hadith of the traditionalists are divided into two groups. The first is ‘Hadith Qudsi’. These are considered as ‘sacred hadith’ – additional revelations from God, apart from the Quran. The second group is ‘Hadith Sharif’ or ‘Noble Hadith’ and are attributed to the messenger Muhammad himself. Few people realise, however, that the most binding precedents, rituals, rites, laws and customs were originated not by God Almighty, nor Muhammad but instead by imams such as Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Daud, Nasa’ai and IbnMaja who assembled the numerous books of hadith literature.
There are also the small collection of Forty Hadith of Nawawi considered by hadith advocates to be of the greatest importance and the essential minimum education for a Sunni. The Bukhari and Muslim collections were compiled about two centuries after Muhammad and their authenticity ‘proved’ by the criterion of ‘isnad’ – the chain that details the reporters supporting a hadith. This method was based on the assumption that it was unthinkable for God-fearing men to lie about matters which they held sacred. The Shias call hadith by another name: ‘Khabar’, which means news. For them the authenticity of a hadith is guaranteed not by isnad, which begins with the companions of Muhammad (known as the sahaba), but its authority comes through Ali, the messenger Muhammad’s son-in-law, and the Imams of Shiaism. The Shia collections which were made during the Buyid period are considerably larger than the Sunni ones and contain references to the Imams not found in the Sunni collections.
Following on from isnad, the chain of transmitters, the advocates of hadith of later times added another standard by which hadiths could be measured. This standard was a judgment of verisimilitude in the eyes of a growing community who were deeply religious but uneducated. As a result of this, there grew up a corpus of hadith which were clearly impossible historically and yet were repeatedly quoted and rarely questioned. They had an ‘authenticity of spirit’ about them and therefore were not challenged. This consensus of silence was in fact an acceptance, even though the hadith could not be traced back to the messenger. To the informed mind this may appear as a major incongruity which reflects little credit on Islam’s intellectual integrity. To question these hadith would call into question the faith of believers, yet this is exactly what the Quran does.
Scholars have often conceded that some hadiths have been invented in order to justify some legal opinion or school of thought. This is undoubtedly true and even the early compilers rejected large numbers of hadith as fabricated. The hadiths range from the ones which are patently, or pointlessly false, to the ones which blatantly contradict the Quran, despite clear statements in the Quran that nothing can abrogate God’s word. There are also polemical hadiths which were invented as propaganda to support one or another party in dynastic and political struggles, and other hadiths which have nothing objectionable in their content, but which the messenger could not have uttered for historical reasons. A hadith may be true in the sense that it is a narrative wholly consistent with the message of Islam, but to ascribe it as a ‘quotation’ of the messenger Muhammad, simply to add authority is a gross blasphemy. The messenger may well have manifested all the values given in the Quran by act, thought, speech or gesture, but it is inconceivable that all the possibilities should be discoverable in the received canon of hadith.
Much research has been carried out on the hadiths, especially by orientalists, in an attempt to recover history from the hadiths. They almost unanimously find that one can recover some history of the second and the third century but almost nothing of the first. The logical conclusion of these findings is that the ‘links’ which spread over the eight generations succeeding the death of Muhammad were concocted. Therefore, the so-called ‘science of isnad’ – the touchstone of hadith authenticity – has some tremendous flaws in it.
How then can we go on giving credence to something that was not written down and yet which some 200 years after the fact, a man called Bukhari supposedly managed to trace back to its source (i.e. the messenger) by establishing all the links in a chain which cannot possibly have been genuinely reconstructed?
The other criteria to which Bukhari decided to subject his work sought to establish that the transmitters were honest persons in terms of their outward observance of Islam, and that each had a sound memory. This he did by apparently collecting the biography of each of the transmitters. How he managed to do this without written records, bridging a gap of about eight generations, and simultaneously establishing not only biographical data but also a compelling analysis of the mental faculties of his subjects defies belief.
An example is called for: in a large number of hadiths Abu Huraira is taken as the last link in the chain of narration. He was not – even according to Bukhari’s extraordinary method of compilation – assigned a good memory, however, even this unnecessary inconvenience was not a problem for Bukhari who found an explanation:
Bukhari (Hadith no. 4:841): Narrated Abu Huraira: I said, ‘’O God’s Apostle! I hear many narrations from you but I forget them.’’ He said, ‘’Spread your covering sheet.’’ I spread my sheet and he moved both his hands as if scooping something and emptied it in the sheet and said, ‘’Wrap it.’’ I wrapped it round my body, and since then I have never forgotten a single hadith.
A most ingenious explanation, indeed.
Another criterion of Bukhari is the overall agreement within the hadith as a whole. It means that any one hadith should comply with similar hadiths which give the same sort of story and that this should be seen as a basis for accepting it as authentic. In modern parlance, it means that the various stories should ‘hang together’, that one account should not conflict with another, and if there is no conflict, we should assume that the story is, therefore, true. The intelligent and attentive reader who takes the time to read a moderate number of even so-called ‘sahih’ or authentic hadiths on any subject will not need to go far before he finds a distinct failing on even this count.
The traditional clergy expends great energy trying to account for these inconsistencies and contradictions. Their answers to common-sense observations may involve various choices of words, yet the thrust can broadly be summarised thus: in order to understand the hadith you have to be very learned. There seems to be contradictions in the hadith to you because you are not learned. They – the clergy – are learned. Therefore, they do not see these contradictions. When you are learned like them, you too will not see contradictions. Until you are as learned as they you cannot contend with them on this (or any) subject. The fact that you fail to perceive any of this only testifies to your own ignorance.
Such is their convoluted logic. It should be noted that these are the sahih or authentic hadith. There are other grades of hadith which are viewed with varying degrees of suspicion even by those who accept the sahih versions. One can find many hadiths which not only contradict the Quran but also clearly do damage to the Messenger’s good name.
Stoning for adultery or fornication. The Quranic law on this is absolutely clear. The Quran makes no distinction between adultery and fornication. The Arabic word for adultery or fornication is zina. In English law adultery is specifically ‘sex between a man and a woman where one or both are married but not to each other.’ In English law, sex outside marriage where neither of the parties is married is not adultery. Also, in this law, if a married person has sex with an unmarried person, only the married person has committed adultery. The English law does, therefore, make the distinction between adultery and fornication, but Quranic law does not. The Quran actually makes this law very clear: the punishment for proven zina (sex outside marriage or between a man and a woman where either or both parties are unmarried) is 100 lashes. Also, four witnesses who can testify to the relationship are required before the case can be judged proven.
This does not mean that it must have been witnessed by four people at the same time, but rather four people must be able to testify that the accused has committed an act of sexual immorality, and in this case zina.
Also the Quran dictates that in order to avoid punishing the innocent, if a husband accuses his wife without witnesses, he is required to take an oath four times to confirm his accusation and the fifth oath to invoke God’s condemnation if he is lying. But significantly, the woman too may take advantage of the same procedure and deny the claim to avoid any punishment. Furthermore, where the accuser has failed to produce four witnesses, he is to be punished with 80 lashes. In such a case, the courts cannot punish women but those who commit perjury face justice. The Quran’s decrees are clearly just, yet we find the so-called ‘Islamic states’ stoning people to death on the strength of a ruling drawn from what the Bukhari hadith has to say, and not judging cases according to the Quranic law. See verse: 24:2-9.
The hadiths rule that the woman should be buried up to her neck and then killed by stoning her on her head. The man is to be buried up to the waist and then stoned. It is a barbaric practice and the media takes this opportunity to denigrate Islam when in fact the act is not at all Islamic. Sadly, Bukhari has a large number of hadiths to support this act and the ruling shows the messenger in a very poor light. Unfortunately, most people do not know what the Quran has to say on this matter. Here a straightforward case where the Quranic law is absolutely clear, yet the Quran is completely ignored and the hadith accepted unquestioningly.
Like many doctrines found in the hadith, the punishment of stoning to death for adultery has its origin in the Old Testament. This law has been copied by all six collectors of hadiths who stress their claims that the messenger practiced it. Large portions of the canon of hadith literature is derived not only from Biblical law (the Old and New Testaments) but also from the Mishnah and the Gemarah; the oral and written traditions of the Talmud. Here are the two hadith from SahihBukhari:
Bukhari (No. 8.816) : Umar said, ‘’I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, ‘We do not find the verse of rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,’ and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that God has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal intercourse if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession.’’ Sufyan added, ‘’I have memorised this narration in this way’’. Umar added ‘’Surely God’s messenger carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him.’’
Bukhari (No. 3.885): A Bedouin came to God’s messenger and said, ‘’O God’s Messenger! I ask you by God to judge my case according to God’s Laws’’. His opponent, who was more learned than he, said ‘’Yes, judge between us according to God’s Laws, and allow me to speak.’’ God’s Messenger said, ‘’ Speak.’’ He said, ‘’my son was working as a labourer for this man and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that it was obligatory that my son should be stoned to death, so in lieu of that I ransomed my son by paying one hundred sheep and a slave-girl. Then I asked the religious scholars about it. They informed me that my son must be lashed one hundred times, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this (man) must be stoned to death.’’ God’s Messenger said, ‘’By Him in whose hands my soul is, I shall judge between you according to God’ Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to be returned to you, your son is to receive a hundred lashes and be exiled for one year. You, Unais go to the wife of this man and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death’’ Unais went to the woman next morning and she confessed. God’s Messenger ordered that she be stoned to death.
Both of these hadiths disregard the Quranic verses. The verses from the Quran show how in the eyes of true Islamic law the treatment given to women is absolute justice and equal for both for men and women.
Why are people not following the Quran? In fact, when one reads these hadiths, one gets the feeling that there must have been some kind of concerted plan at work. Dr. Abdul Wadud, in his book ‘Conspiracies against the Quran’, explores this question. He gives the following explanation: the Arabs defeated the Persians in war but the Persians were far more advanced in political intrigue than the Arabs. Therefore, they used their superiority in an attempt to corrupt Islam from the inside. The Deen-Islam cannot be corrupted because the Quran is there, and as long as people follow the Quran there is no problem. But the question was, how to make people deviate from the Quran? The answer: by creating another, additional body of writing and ascribing it to the messenger, and then persuading people that this is ordained by Muhammad as supplementary explanation to the Quran.
This approach has been most effective. In fact, we see that once the name of Muhammad is invoked people accept anything as the truth and follow it blindly, and the fact that it may be in total conflict with God’s decree in the Quran seems to be of no consequence. As the saying goes; once in a while everyone gets knocked down by the truth; but most people get up, dust themselves and walk on as if nothing had ever happened.
At this stage it is also important to mention the well-known historian Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Jareer at-Tabari who died in 933 C.E. during a period very close to when the hadith were written and completed. Tabari wrote 30 volumes of Tareekh-e-Tafsir (historical commentary) on the Quran, based on the hadith. Later on he wrote a history of Islam in 13 volumes based on his tafsir derived from the same hadith. Therefore, his tafsir rests on hadith, as does his history. The Quran, too, is seen through the window of these hadith. Thus, all his books supposedly derive their credentials from the Quran, even though they are not based on the Quran. They are based on the hadith – a spurious, later body of work.
Today, no-one dares challenge Tabari in any of his views, since that would amount to challenging the hadith which, in the minds of the simple Muslims, have been accepted as factual accounts of the messenger’s utterances. Tabari’s work has become one of the main reference works used by Muslims who use it without ever questioning its authenticity.
Here is an another important issue to show how the hadiths clearly contradict the Quran. This example from Sahih Bukhari (Book of Nikah) is the reocurring accusation that the messenger was a paedophile, as he supposedly married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated this marriage when she was nine years old. Some hadith also accuse him of sexual depravity because he had more than one wife.
None of this is true and the Quran clearly emphasises his exemplary character, while the fabricated hadiths sadly confirm these contemptible assertions.
Such fabricated narratives are difficult, if not impossible to defend and no intelligent person would stoop to do so. Hadith advocates however, rather than reject this profane hadith, do defend it. Even the celebrated medical doctor turned televangelist preacher, Dr. ZakirNaik, agrees with the hadith that Aisha was nine years old at the time of consummation, but he contends nine year old girls at that time were menstruating and mature enough to have sexual intercourse.
It is true that even younger girls have been known to become pregnant, however, these are exceptions,and to shamelessly say that a 6 year old child is able to consent to marriage and three years later is fit, both physically and mentally to bear children is a gross indecency, irrespective of culture or time. The idea that 9 year old girls are sexually prime is perverted and cannot be supported by anyone who believes in Quranic values. The Muslim population around the world is mainly illiterate and ignorant, so when someone of Dr. Naik’s ilk speaks with apparent knowledge, he is readily believed. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
The Quran was revealed by God as a guidance to take people out of ignorance and to not keep people immersed in depravity. The real reason the traditionalists defend such hadith is that to reject them would mean to reject the very foundation on which their beliefs rests. This verse is explicit in describing the situation:
When they are told, “Follow God’s guidance as revealed in this book,” they say, “We follow only what we found our parents doing.” What if their parents are not aware of this and are not guided? The example of such people is that of a parrot who repeats what it hears without understanding. Deaf, dumb and blind; they do not comprehend. [Verse 2:170-171]
In the days when there were no birth records and people hardly knew the year they were born, who would know Aisha’s date of birth 200 years after the event when the hadith were compiled? The most reasonable explanation is that Aisha was much older than it says in the spurious hadith. It is no secret that the hadith are contradictory and often wrong in even simple matters, and this is most likely the explanation. Muhammad, the messenger, would never have done anything that conflicted with the Quran, especially marrying a pre-pubescent child.
The Quran only condones marriage between physically and mentally mature and consenting adults. Muhammad would never have strayed from Quranic guidance and it must be remembered that while he did marry more than once, he was married to the same one woman for most of his life, and it is only in the latter years, for political alliances, that he married more than one woman.
These are only three of many well known hadiths quoted here, and there are volumes more. You only have to read a few in the collection and it becomes clear that the hadith are much like the stories in the Bible; a mixture of anecdotes, parables, myths and indecencies.
Much has been wrongly attributed to the messenger and by using the ‘hadith’ to add weight to their personal interpretations, and satisfy their own vain desires and lusts, the advocates of hadith have defiled Islam. By using Muhammad’s name, the ‘Muslims’ have transformed his purpose and diverted the people into following many false traditions and customs, instead of studying and applying the teachings of the Quran. Had God wanted to give Muhammad’s quotes any importance He would not have said don’t linger around Muhammad waiting for a hadith. See verse 33:53.
In conclusion here is a hadith that demolishes all hadith attributed to the good messenger: “Do not write down anything I say except the Quran. Whoever has written something other than the Quran let him destroy it.” Ahmed ibnHanbal, Vol 1, page 171 & Sahih Muslim, Book 42, No. 7147.
A hadith that says don’t write down hadith? Proof, if further proof is needed, that these hadith fabrications are as contradicting and confusing as they are unreliable.
Dr. ZakirNaik: Aisha married at young age: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf6mfM3_02U
Follow Bukhari, even if it means that you end up looking like a clown, says TV evangelist Dr. ZakirNaik as he equates not following Bukhari’s hadith of wearing your trouser hem high with committing shirk, i.e. treachery. See video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCyMko6Zmik
Shaykh HassanFarhan al Maliki: priority to the Quran or hadith? See also the following videos: