10.4 Usefulness of Hadith literature
The two points quite often raised in support of the Hadiths are:
(1) The Qur’an specifically says in a number of verses to ‘follow the Prophet’ and hence the rejection of the Hadiths will make it impossible to do so.
(2) How is one to pray, as the Qur’an does not give any details of the prayers?
The second question will be answered in section 11.2
The answer for the first question is quite clear: ‘Follow the Prophet’ means, as we have already established, to ‘follow what came out of the Prophet’s mouth’, and this was, of course, the Qur’an. The Qur’an makes this point very clear in Sura 69, verses 40 to 48:
(69:40-48) That this is verily the saying of an honoured Messenger; it is not the saying of a poet: Little is ye believe! Nor is it the saying of a soothsayer: little is it that ye remember! It is a revelation (Allah’s words), from the Lord of the Worlds. And if he had invented false sayings concerning Us, We assuredly had taken him by the right hand and then severed his life-artery, and not one of you could have held Us off from him. But verily this is a Message for those who ward off evil.
This shows that Allah’s request for us to “follow the Prophet” directs us to follow the Qur’an and practise the teachings of the Qur’an. The Hadiths attributed to the Prophet are highly questionable, as discussed before, and therefore do not merit entry into any sensible discussion on following the Prophet, in any case.
We must also remember that the Prophet is warned in the Qur’an that he will be punished if he says anything against the Qur’an (see verse above and 10:15 given later in this section). And yet the Hadiths, as discussed before, are full of contradictions against the Qur’an and, therefore, according to the Qur’an, the Prophet could not possibly have uttered them. Therefore, following the Hadiths would in reality imply ‘to disobey the Prophet instead of obeying him’. Allah clearly instructs the Prophet to ‘Follow what is inspired in him (i.e. the Qur’an)‘. And this is shown clearly in the following verses:
(10:15) And when our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Lecture other than this, or change it Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it of my own accord, I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! If I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day.
(6:50) Say (O Muhammad, to the disbelievers): I say not unto you (that) I possess the treasures of Allah, nor that I have knowledge of the Unseen; and I say not unto you: Lo! I am an angel. I follow only that which is inspired in me. Say: Are the blind man and the seer equal? Will ye not then take thought?
(6:106) Follow that which is inspired in thee from thy Lord; there is no god save Him; and turn away from the idolaters.
(7:203) And when thou bringest not a verse for them they say: Why hast thou not chosen it? Say: I follow only that which is inspired in me from my Lord. This (Qur’an) is insight from your Lord, and a guidance and mercy for people that believe.
(10:109) And (O Muhammed) follow that which is inspired in thee, and forbear until Allah give judgement. And He is the best of judges.
(33:2) And follow that which is inspired in thee from thy Lord. Lo! Allah is aware of what ye do.
(46:9) Say: I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner.
What Allah inspires through any prophet is His revelation. For Prophet Muhammad this revelation is undoubtedly contained in the Qur’an. The verses above do not support the following of further interpolations, or hearsay utterances (even if genuine) in any way.
The following verses are used often in support of the Hadiths. Let us examine:
(3:32) Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance)
(4:80) Whoso obeyeth the messenger, obeyeth Allah, and whoso turneth away: We have not sent thee as a warder over them.
One must look at these verses in context. They refer to the period when the Prophet was alive and the question of obedience to him was also obedience to Allah, because the Prophet was delivering Allah’s message to the people. In fact, Allah asks us in sura 4:49 to “obey also those who are in authority“.
The Prophet is now no longer alive and so we cannot obey him directly as people obeyed him when he was alive. But by following the Qur’an we in effect obey Allah, as well as the Prophet, because the Qur’an as a revelation came out of the Prophet’s mouth. Nothing of the sort can be claimed for the Hadiths which are ascribed to him by people (of the most dubious intentions) who collected them and attributed them to him some 250 years later.
It must also be fully understood, that during the lifetime of the Prophet, Muhammad was both the religious and the political leader of the growing Muslim community. As such, he was within his rights to formulate subsidiary laws within the permanent principles laid down by the Qur’an, just as any true Islamic State would be able to do in order to make the laws reflect the relevant period. Our main weakness is that in order to show our reverence and obedience to the Prophet we blindly follow anything that has been quoted as his sayings and practices, without checking against the Qur’an. Unfortunately, our so-called political and religious leaders have taken full advantage of this weakness by fabricating suitable hadiths to keep their own control and influence over us.
We must remember that the Qur’an was revealed as a final revelation because the previous revelations were corrupted by human interference. If we now say in one breath that we cannot accept the previous revelations because they have been corrupted by human interference, how can we then say, in the same breath, that the Hadiths are acceptable even though they are the results of human endeavour and, without doubt, many of which contradict the Qur’an? The Hadiths can never be classed as a revelation. They are simply a collection of ‘reported’ sayings and practices of the Prophet in which there is unquestionably some truth. Their importance however is no more than any book of doubtful historical origin, and should be regarded as such. To esteem such books equal with the Qur’an and to take their teachings as ‘the sunnah of the Prophet’ is to falsify and debase the true meaning of Islam. The Qur’an is the only book of revelation which has remained intact, and only by following its teachings can we establish Allah’s Deen and bring about peace and unity for mankind.
- Development of Muslim Theology Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory by Duncan B. Macdonald. Published by Premier Book House 4/5 Katchery Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Summary of p. 87-117.
- Sahih Al-Bukhari – Volumes 1 to 9, Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. Published by Kitab Bhaban, New Delhi, India. All hadiths are taken from Bukhari except a few taken from others (Muslim, and Abu Daud).
- The Bible The Qur’an and Science, by Dr. Maurice Bucaille. Publisher Seghers, 6 Place Saint-Sulpice 75006 Paris. p. 172.
- The Holy Qur’an, by Yusuf Ali. Published by Dar Al Arabia, Beirut, Lebanon, P.O. Box 6089. Note 2634. p. 813.