By A Taha, London, United Kingdom
14 December 2015
Debate on the Hadith is historically ancient; it has now become one of the current war of words on the World Wide Web. Hadith is the documentation of Prophet Mohammad statements, acts and traditions.
A search on the internet brings about a host of web sites belonging to two distinct camps of Muslim intellectuals; the “Traditional Muslims” who take the position that the Quran can only be understood with Hadith and the “Quranic Muslims” who take the position that the Quran stands alone. The Quranic Muslims point to Ayahs in the Quran which they believe supports their view that all necessary instruction can be found within the Quran, without reference to Hadith.
This Debate is passionate and the stakes are high. The way of life of the followers of one camp can be drastically different from the way of life of those who follow the other camp. According to Pew Research projections, number of Muslims in the world is expected to increase from 23% in 2010 to 30% by 2050.
In 2011, the world’s population grew to 7 billion (7,000 million people) and is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. Decades from now, Christians and Muslims may account for two-thirds of the global population—suggesting that not all societies are becoming more secular.
The vast majority of the remainder third of the world population Hindus, Buddhists, and other religions also believe in God. Debate on the Hadith is of direct concern to Muslims, but it is also of interest to those who believe in God and make up the vast majority of the 7,000 million humans currently living on Planet Earth.
The two sides of the Debate
On this side of the debate is a group of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from the main stream of sects. In 2009, Pew Research Center estimated global Muslim population is made of two prime sects, namely Sunni (87-90%) and Shia (10-13%) and thus 1-3% of other sects.
Within these two prime sects, there are several sub-sects in terms of Islamic jurisprudence. In 2005, an Islamic convention, called Amman Message (it was held in Jordan who brought 200 Muslim scholars from over 50 countries together), announced “Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafia and Hanbali), the two Shia schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Jaafari and Zaydi) and the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim”. According to the above 2005 Amman Message conference, the said 8 sects; 5 Sunni (including Thahiri), 2 Shia and 1 Ibadi cover some 97% of all living Muslims.
On the other side of the debate is a group of Muslim scholars and intellectuals who were from the main stream of sects but withdrew from it.
Therefore, they are a minority in terms of numbers but vocal. They are not a new group. The Arabic term “ahl lam” appears in books by Al-Shafii (767-820/ 150-204 AH) and Ibn Qutayba (828-885/ 213-276 AH) in reference to groups including those who were against the proponents of Hadith. The Arabic phrase “al-kalam” means “the speech” and the “ahl Al-kalam” may be in reference to those who took the position of being proponents of only “the speech” (al-kalam) of God, the Quran, thus opposing the proponents of the words or stories (al-hadith) of the Prophet. This would mark the origin of the potential historical predecessors of those on this side of the debate, called mutazila , ahl al-kalam and khwarij ,to the same Islamic era as that of the sects’ inception over 1,200 years ago.
The group on this side of the debate believes Hadith has divided Muslims into sects and that Muslims were a single nation (Umma) during the Prophet’s time and up to some two centuries after his death.
Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi (1881-1920) of Egypt wrote “what is obligatory for man does not go beyond God’s Book. … If anything other than the Quran had been necessary for religion the Prophet would have commanded its registration in writing, and God would have guaranteed its preservation.”
The term “Hadith” has been used in the Quran 23 times. Some Traditional Muslims consider the following three categories are the most notable usages.
It has been used in the Quran to mean (a) The Quran itself in Ayah [68.44, see “Citations from the Quran” at the bottom of this Article], (b) A historical story as in the story of Moses [20.9] and (c) A general conversation when the Prophet confided to one of his wives [66.3]. The word “Hadith” is also used in the Quran in other Ayahs, such as [7.185, 31.6, 39.23, 45.6, 52.34, and 77.50].
The term “Hadith” has also been used in the prophetic traditions according to all of its linguistic meanings. Among the hadith scholars the term “Hadith” means whatever is transmitted from the Prophet of his actions, sayings, tacit approvals, or physical characteristics.
Typical literal translation of the Arabic word “Hadith” to English is “an utterance”, but in the Islamic world it has become a reference to that body of literature which deals with Prophet Muhammad. It reports what he said and did. It includes his words, deeds, what he was like or was thought of by his contemporaries, before or after he was commissioned as a Prophet. It includes his resolve to do things, as well as what received his tacit approval. That is, what took place in his presence, or was brought to his notice, when he did not make a comment, allowing his silence to accord them approval. In short, anything that involves the Prophet, directly or indirectly, is Hadith.
The six Hadith books
Various reports indicate a number of Hadith books had appeared during the first century AH after the Prophet death and that these books were increased to at least forty Hadith books during the second century AH. But, one of the most serious efforts in that era was some 200 years after the Prophet’s death and that was the book by Ahmed Ibn Hanbal (164AH-241AH) entitled “Al-Musnad” which contained 30,000-40,000 hadiths.
Ahmed Ibn Hanbal’s book arrived after the book by Malik Ibn Anas (93AH-179AH) entitled “Al-Muwattaa” which had about 500 hadiths. Shortly afterwards the famous six books of hadiths appeared: (1) Sahih Bukhari (194 AH-256 AH), (2) Sahih Moslem (204 AH-261 AH), (3) Sunan Abu Daoud (202 AH-275 AH), (4) Sunan Al-Termithi (209AH –279 AH), (5) Sunan Al-Nesai (214 AH-303 AH), and (6) Sunan Ibn Majah (209AH-273AH). All of the six scholars are contemporaries. Most of them knew each other personally; for example Al-Termithi was Al- Bukhari student. The above six books are used by many scholars these days, most of whom consider the first one, Sahih Al-Bukhari, as the most authentic.
Al-Bukhari collected about 600,000 hadiths; but accepted only 7,275, about half of which were repeats, and thus considered some 593,000 to be un-proven (according his own criteria), that is almost 99% of what he collected. Likewise, each of the above collectors also set his own criteria to filter his own collection; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal discarded 94% of his collection and Moslem discarded 99% of his. The Quranic Muslims claim that despite such rigorous filtering, a significant percentage of the filtered Hadiths listed in above books, including Sahih Al-Bukhari, are “unacceptable” because they present contradictions with the Quran or contain insults to Prophet Mohammad, Muslims and women. Some are deemed illogical and or contradict other listed Hadiths even in the same book.
Number of authentic Hadiths
About 12,000 Hadiths have been reported by the prime 11 collectors (Malik bin Anas, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Al-Bukari, Moslem, Abu Dawud, Al-Termithi, Al-Nasai, Ibn Majah, Al Shawkani, Al-Daequtni, and A-Tabarani).
The 12,000 number is not the grand total of all Hadiths in the books of above mentioned collectors, because of repetitions within each book and repetitions in-between books. For example; there are 14,145 Hadiths in the following four books alone: Al-Muwtta by Malik Ibn Anas (732), Sunan Al Soghra by Abu Abdel Rahman Al-Nasai (5,352), Sunan Abu Dawud (4,326), and Al-Termithi (3,735).
Many scholars, including some of the authors of above six Hadith books, seem to have agreed that the total number of “authentic” Hadiths is in the order of 4,000-4,400. In other words, about a third of the reported 12,000, being an average of 4,200 Hadiths, is considered by scholars to be authentic and the remaining two-thirds, about 7,800 Hadiths not so. Scholars then graded each of the Hadiths in the two-thirds at several levels of reliability ranging from “mildly weak” down to outright “fabrication”. One of the overall grading systems is as flows: A Hadith can be categorized with regards to its authenticity into 5 types, 1) Sahih (authentic), 2) Hasan (sound), 3) Dha’eef (weak), 4) Dha’eef Jiddan (very weak), and 5) Mawdhoo (fabricated).
General theme of the Debate
Most of the Traditional Muslim scholars take the position that Hadiths were primarily based on revelation from God and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second only to the Quran [53.34].
The preservation of the Quran was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Was that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording. God protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of the Quran to the Prophet himself [16.44]. Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of the Quran, he or she must consider what the Prophet said or did regarding it. The Prophet ‘s judgments were all based on revelation and must be considered a primary source of principles by which judgments are carried out in an Islamic State. Hadiths are essential for the smooth running of the law courts in an Islamic State. Also, the daily life of the Prophet as recorded in hadith represents an ideal code of good conduct [33.21].
Most of Quranic Muslim scholars object to what they consider a rigidly held notion by Traditional Muslims that, while God is in charge of maintaining Quran “wordings”, its essential “meanings” must be protected, by Hadith books, from change (through manipulations emanating from human desires).
They insist this notion must not be acceptable to true believers in God. They argue all Muslims are aware of the fact that God has taken the responsibility of protecting the Quran in the well-known Ayah [15.9]. But, one must not overlook the fact that God has also taken the responsibility of the Quran “collection”, “recitation” and “explanation” as He says in Ayahs [75.17-19]. Also, God calls upon mankind to reflect on the Quran and take note, by them, that if it had been from any other than God, they would have found within it much contradiction [4.82]. They indicate whilst there are no contradictions in the Quran, there are contradictions in the Hadith books, because these are a type of historical records written by humans and historical books are inherently not reliable.
Therefore, fixing the “meanings” of the Quran to 1,200 years old historical Hadith books is regarded as illogical by Quranic Muslim scholars. For example, over the centuries, some Ayahs have been “explained” simplistically, in various historical “Tafsir” books, due to absence of recent scientific knowledge. Modern colorations of those same Ayahs with many recent scientific discoveries are now demonstrably more plausible and meaningful than previous historical explanations, such as Human embryonic development, mountains and other discoveries in the Universe.
One of the poignant arguments on this side of the debate is regarding a young man, 28 years old Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Ṣakhr ad-Dawsī al-Azdī (603-681 AD), nick-named “Abu Hurairah”, who came from Yemen and lived in the Prophet’s neighbourhood in Medina for 20-30 months prior to the Prophet’s death in 632 AD. The six books of Hadith reported some 5,700 Hadiths, of which over 1,000 Hadiths are listed in Sahih Al-Bukhari’s book alone, all narrated by this specific man.
These 5,700 Hadiths from Abu Hurairah are almost half of all of the Hadiths reported in all of prime Hadith books (about 12,000). The consequence of this is that virtually half of the Sharia law and legal Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) in the Islamic world has been based on Hadiths narrated to this specific man.
Prophet ban on Hadith documentation
Most of Traditional Muslims acknowledge that the Prophet has banned writing Hadith in his life time (citing a hadith by Abi Sa’eed Al Khudary in Sahih Al-Bukhari). But, they also say this is because it was feared that confusion between the Quran and the Hadith might occur if they were both written simultaneously.
Traditional Muslim scholars claim there are historical accounts regarding the existence at the time of the Prophet of written scripts of Hadith by companions, such as Abu Hurairah, Abdullâh ibn Amr, Anas bin Malik, Ali bin Abi Talib, Jaber ibn Abullah and Abdullah ibn Abbas (Prophet cousin), Abu Bakr, Abu Musa Al-Ashari, Zayd bin Thabit, and several others possessed their personal collections of Hadith. They also claim Ibn Abbas wrote many books, mostly containing Hadith and that Bara’ bin Azib used to dictate Hadith.
This side of the debate stipulates the notion that a group of companions and followers regarded it as disliked (Arabic: Makrooh) to write down the Hadith and they regarded it as liked (Arabic: Mustahabb) to learn it from them by heart, as they had learned it. But, they insist that when people were no longer able to strive so hard (in memorizing) and the scholars feared that knowledge might be lost, they compiled it in books.
Quranic Muslims say the responsibility of “collecting” the Quran is that of God Himself because He says so in [75.17] and that this responsibility is beyond mortal humans. They strongly argue the collection of the Quran must not and could not possibly be associated or confused with the responsibilities of human activities. Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi (1881-1920) said “no mortal soul could ever produce anything like the Quran. Confusion is impossible between Quranic verse and anything else”.
Quranic Muslims indicate there are many hadiths narrated to companions confirming the Prophet’s ban on recording hadith and recall many examples in: (1) Al-Bakhari book narrated to Abi Sa’eed Al Khudary, (2) Ahmad bin Hanbal book narrated to Zayed Ibn Thabet (the Prophet’s closest revelation writer) and another hadith narrated to Abdullah Ibn Omar, (3) Ibn Al Salah book narrated to Abu Hurairah, (4) Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi book (Taq-yeed Al –Alm) narrated to Abu Saeed Al-Khudry and another hadith to Abu Hurairah, and (5) The final sermon in the farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet, which was witnessed by thousands of Muslims, there is this sentence “I left for you what if you hold up to, you will never be misguided, the Book of God “. This sentence was recorded in three notable Hadith books by; Muslim 15/19, nu 1218; Ibn Majah 25/84 and Abu Dawud 11/56.
At the same time, Quranic Muslims acknowledge the fact that Hadith books also contain other hadiths claiming the Prophet has ordered the recording of Hadith and thus conclude the Hadith literature does not have a sure and solid historical foundation. They use these very discrepancies to indicate Hadith stands on no sound ground to claim authenticity and authority, and as such it loses significance as reliable guidance. Ghulam Ahmed Pervez (1903-1985) wrote “No steps were taken by the Prophet or by his immediate followers to preserve the integrity of Hadith”.
Guided Khalifas ban on Hadith documentation
Most scholars of Traditional Muslims do not deny the four guided Khalifas after the Prophet’s death have maintained the ban on Hadith recording. But, they also say the second guided Khalifa Umar was not against the relating of Traditions; he was only against collecting them into book form. They insist reliance upon “oral” transmission of Hadith continued through the times of guided Khalifas (Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, and Ali) and continued afterwards through the times of the first seven consecutive Ummayad rulers (Mou’awyya, his son Yazeed, Abdullah Ibn Az’Zubayr, Marwan Ibn Al Hakam, Abdulma’lik Ibn Marwan, Al Waleed Ibn Abdulma’lik, and Sulayman Ibn Abdulma’lik).
They point out the Prophet’s companions themselves were living models of his practice and treasure-houses of his sayings and that the Arabs had strong memories such that they would easily memorize hundreds of lines of their poetry. Many of them knew by heart detailed pedigrees of not only themselves, but also of their horses and camels. Of the Prophet’s companions, Aisha (his wife) and Abu Hurairah lived up to between 50 and 60 AH, Abdullah bin Abbas and Abdullah bin Umar to around 70 AH, Abu Said Khudri to between 70 and 80 AH and Anas bin Malik to 90 AH. Traditional Muslim scholars use this status to say that in the second half of the first century of Hijrah it was still possible to hear a great store of Hadith from those who had seen or heard them directly from the Prophet himself and that these companions and others spread over huge areas (to Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Khorasan) and were surrounded by eager pupils both Arab and non-Arab, thirsting to hear about the Prophet from those who had seen and lived with him. Traditional Muslims on this side of the debate recall various historical records to indicate that some of these pupils, who are known as the “Followers of the Companions” (in Arabic: Tabeen), became renowned for their learning, reporting and understanding of Hadith and point out that among the Followers who wrote books of Hadith in the first century AH were Hasan Al-Basri (21-110 AH), the associate of the companions Imran bin Hussain and Anas bin Malik in Basra, and also Muhammad al-Baqir (56-114 AH). They claim most of the Followers lived up to dates between 90 AH and 120 AH which is around the time when Hadith collections in books started to appear.
Traditional Muslims indicate the 8th Ummayad ruler Omar Ibn Abdulaziz (died 99 AH) formally ordered mayor of Medina, Abu Bakr Ibn Amro, to gather the Hadith and Al Bukhari reported this command from Omar Ibn Abdulaziz as being the first official order to collect the Hadith
Quranic Muslims insist the core issue in this matter is that there is no verifiable evidence that the Prophet himself has given his directive to document Hadith. They point to other historical accounts, including several in the Hadith books themselves, that some of the companions have had their own private collections of Hadith but opted to destroy them, including Abu Bakr, and that Omar Ibn Al-Khattab insisted on destroying the Hadiths collected by his son Abdullah. They claim Umer restrained four of the Prophet’s companions because of their insistence on telling Hadiths, these were Ibn Masoud, Abu Al-Dardaa, Abu Masoud Al-Anssary and Abu Tharr Al-Ghaffary .
Many scholars on the Quranic Muslims side claim the fabrication of hadith was a result of political and social tensions and dissensions erupting immediately after the death of the Prophet and were carried into modern times. Here is how biographer Muhammad Haykal (1888-1956) explains the phenomenon after the Prophet’s death “the Muslims differed, and they fabricated thousands of hadiths and reports to support their various causes. From the day Abu Lu’lu’ah, the servant of al Mughirah, killed Umar ibn al Khattab and Uthman ibn Affan assumed the caliphate, the old pre-Islamic enmity of Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah reappeared. When, upon the murder of Uthman, civil war broke out between the Muslims, Aisha fought against Ali and Ali’s supporters consolidated themselves into a party, the fabrication of ahadith spread to the point where Ali ibn Abu Talib himself had to reject the practice and warn against it. He reportedly said “We have no book and no writing to read to you except the Quran and this sheet which I have received from the Prophet of God in which he specified the duties prescribed by charity.” Apparently, this exhortation did not stop the hadith narrators from fabricating their stories either in support of a cause they advocated, or of a virtue or practice to which they exhorted the Muslims and which they thought would have more appeal if vested with prophetic authority”. (Haykal, lxxxiii).
They also point to a report in the book “Sunan Al-Daramy “that Ali Ibn Abu Talib, the fourth Khalifa in one of his speeches said, “I urge all those who have writing taken from the messenger of God to go home and erase it. The people before you were annihilated because they followed the Hadiths of their scholars and left the book of their Lord”. Quranic Muslims say by the time 8th Ummayad ruler Omar Ibn Abdulaziz came to power, the fabricated Hadiths were widespread and the people looked for more Hadiths instead of keeping their focus on the Quran and that this situation prompted him to issue an order to permit the “formal” writing of Hadiths hoping that he would put an end to the situation he was facing at the time. But, they point out, in his ruling he disregarded the Prophet’s ban that was in effect for decades during his predecessor’s time. This led to floods of Hadith books upon which much of the law practices in courts and acts of worship have subsequently become based.
Traditional Muslims claim Al-Bukhari’s acceptance of about 7,000 out of 600,000 (he discarded about 99%) is indicative of the levels of scrutiny he applied. Furthermore they claim this is one reason for the large number of repetitions. They cite the famous Hadith reported by Umar “actions are judged by intentions” as being related from 700 different authorities. They say in the terminology of “Hadith Science”, these are counted as 700 Hadiths. They also claim criticism and scrutiny of Hadith was practiced from the very beginning, even in the time of the companions and their followers, and that there had always been a central core of unquestionable true Hadiths with the earnest, sincere and pious scholars.
At the same time, Traditional Muslims point to three sources of inventing, distorting and fabricating Hadiths during the latter part of guided Khulafas era, (1) Appearance of Kharijis and the dynastic clashes of Banu Umayyah, Banu Al-Abbas and Banu Hashim, and particularly after the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Husaain and his family at Karbala. Some partisans had recourse to distorting or inventing Hadith to justify their claims, (2) the emergence of public preachers and story-tellers with questionable aims and objectives. (3) Human weaknesses such as forgetting, confusing, exaggerating, ascribing statements of the Companions to the Prophet himself and so on. Traditional Muslims insist the immense research by the renowned Hadith scholars exposed the input from these three sources and enormous efforts were put by them to identify, classify and filter-out fraudulent Hadiths. They say not every narrator commanded equal respect; Hadith collectors prided on certain chain of narrators. For instance, a chain of narrators consisting of “Malik, he from Nafi , he from Ibn Umar” was considered to be of the highest class, regardless of the text it contained.
Quranic Muslims believe accepting Hadiths on the bases of chain of narrators quality regardless of the text it contained is, by definition, a major source of corruption. They take the positon that the sources of weaknesses has to be acknowledged, and how could they be not so whilst they are integral to the being of mankind. Scholars have claimed that up to 99% of Hadiths that were in circulation, some 200 years after the Prophet’s death, have been filtered out by the six Hadith books. Yet, according to Quranic Muslim scholars, a substantial number of Hadiths remain to this day in these books. They regard them as being highly questionable and likely to have served various human and political agendas during those events of 1,200 years ago. Quranic Muslim scholars persistently remind Muslims the Quran was, is and will always be the best source.
Here is an example of seven Hadiths many of Quranic Muslim scholars find questionable or unacceptable
- Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” And Sa`id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven). The Quranic Muslims consider this Hadith an insult to the Prophet. This 30-men strength claim is not a hadith attributed to the Prophet but hearsay or gossip which has inexplicably found its way into Sahih Al- Bukari’s book.
- “Evil omen is in three things: The horse, the woman and the house.” The Quranic Muslims say this hadith is illogical because it is, in effect, a call for mankind to abandon women and houses. It is not likely to be a call by a messenger of God.
- “The Khawarij are the dogs of Hell” . The Quranic Muslims argue that, historically, the Khwarij (a group of Muslims sect) emerged at the first Islamic civil war (fitna) having serious disagreement with other Muslims at the time of 4th guided Khalifa Ali ibn Abi Talib (in 657 AD). The Prophet died in 632 AD, some 25 years before the Khawarij appearance. They argue this hadith has the mark of political motivation at the time of historical inception of sectarianism among Muslims.
- “Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay; and were it not for Eve; no woman would ever betray her husband.” Hadiths of this kind are not a rarity and must be questioned.
- “A people who make a woman their ruler will never be successful.” What about queen of Yemen who successfully became a Muslim with Prophet Suleiman [27.44]?
- The Prophet said “I looked at Paradise and found poor people forming the majority of its inhabitants; and I looked at Hell and saw that the majority of its inhabitants were women.” This hadith is a source of fear for the wealthy and women.
- “Fatima bint Qais reported: My husband divorced me with three pronouncements and Allah’s Messenger made no provision for lodging and maintenance allowance”. This ruling is not compatible with the Quran Ayahs [2.231, 2.233, and 65.1] that forbid expulsion of divorced women from their homes and requires provision of expenses to them particularly to those who are still breast feeding infants.
Ghulam Ahmad Parvez (1903 -1985), the scholar from pre-Independence India and later Pakistan, expressed three concerns (1) The Quran contains no ruling saying that hadith must be followed. The word “hikma” in Ayah [2.129] could have been meant in the general sense of “wisdom”, (2) Ayah [59.7] “Whatever the messenger gives you, take; whatever he forbids you, give over” referred to the distribution of loot after battle, and (3) Hadith reports occasionally contradict the Quran; for example the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes in the Quran but stoning in the hadith [27.28]. Also, Kassim Ahmad (born 1933), of Malaysia, wrote two books titled “Hadith: Answers to Critics” and “Hadith: A Re-evaluation “, through it he presented three questions, (1) Did the Prophet bring one or two books?, (2) Why did the hadith take 250-350 years to be compiled, and (3) why do Sunnis have different collections from Shiites?
Are there Specific roles for Hadith to understand Islam?
Some Traditional Muslims advocate three basic propositions, (1) Hadith serves to define the details of general injections in the Quran, (2) The Quran and Hadith are not placed against each other to be mutually exclusive, and (3) The Hadith is the Quran’s indispensable complementary companion. Others refer to classical hadith specialists, such as the author of famous commentary book titled “Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari “ Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (1372-1449) who says that the intended meaning of hadith in religious tradition is something attributed to Muhammad but not found in the Quran. On the other hand, Quranic Muslims do not accept these propositions and argue that although the claim, by Traditional Muslims, that the hadith contains many details that are not to be found in the Quran is quite true, the absence of these details from the Quran is not because the Quran is not fully detailed, but because these details were never decreed by God. They insist the Quran contains all the details that are sanctioned by God and for which Muslims will be held accountable to. Some of the specific detailed differences between Traditional Muslims and Quranic Muslims are outlined below;
While the Quran gives the general commandment to pray the obligatory prayers, the details of when and how to perform them are only obtained in the Hadith. Each of the Hadith six books listed numerous Hadiths on Prayer; see for example the 112 Hadiths in the “Ablution” book and the 171 Hadiths in the “Prayers” book both of which in Sahih Al-Bukhari. Additionally, there are 873 Hadiths in 15 books on rites related to the obligatory prayers and to other prayers in Sahih Al-Bukhari.
In general, Traditional Muslims pray five obligatory prayers per day, optional prayers such as those prayed by the Prophet (sunnah and nafl salat) may be offered. Sunni Muslims touch their heads directly to the floor (in contrast to Shias) in prostration and fold their arms while standing in prayer. Menstruating women should not pray.
Quranic Muslim scholars advocating the ablution for Salah as well as Salah characteristics, numbers and times should all be as directed by the Quran. The Quran gives three positions to be observed during the Salah: Standing, Bowing and Prostrating. The Salah starts in the standing position. The Ayahs [2.238, 3.39, and 4.102] indicate the standing position. Ayah [4.102] in particular indicates that the Salah starts in the standing position and ends with prostration. Submission to God should be declared physically and symbolically by first bowing down and prostrating [22.26, 48.29]. The greater majority of Quranic Ayah speaks of bowing and prostrating in that order. Quran Ayahs [17.46, 20.14, 29:45] together indicate that the words of the Salah must be from the Quran alone. Quran also provide indication on specific Quranic phrases are to be spoken during the Salah [2.185, 3.18, 16.98, 17.111, 56.74, 87.1, and 50.40]. The Salah’s mentioned by name in the Quran are three: Fajr, at dawn [24.58], Isha, at night [24.58] and Wausta, at the middle [2.238]. The traditional five Salah’s include two not mentioned in the Quran, being the result of manipulations of certain words in [24.58, 103.1].
Some of the Quranic Muslims indicate the Quran describes the practice of three mandatory ritual prayers, and one optional during the night and that the Quran provides all details of Salah, including the number of daily rak’ahs, which, they say, is always two, except in case of danger, where it can be reduced to one instead and remind Muslims that God is the one who teaches Salâh [2:239].
This side of the debate claims there are several innovations, through fabricated Hadiths, in the Salah of Traditional Muslims that are not called for in the Quran, such as (1) Ignoring the four simple Quranic steps for ablution [5.6] and following a non Quranic ablution (9 or 10 steps), (2) Imposing two extra non-Quranic prayers in the day (Zohar and Maghreb), (3) Imposing specific number of Rakes’ (Bowings) for the prayers, and (4) Deterring believers from praying during some hours of the day.
In general, Quranic Muslims fall into a few categories (a) those who combine the five prayers into three prayers (b) those who pray five times a day like Sunnis (c) those who pray two times a day (dawn and dusk to include the times of night closest to these) because the Quran only mentions two prayers by name, and (d) fringe groups who redefine the Arabic term used for prayer (Salah) as something other than prayer. Menstruating women can pray according to many Quranic Muslims.
Zakat (Islamic tax and charity)
God orders Muslims to give Zakat in the Quran, but the many details of which have been prescribed in the Hadith. Each of the Hadith six books listed numerous Hadiths on Zakat; see for example the 117 Hadiths in the Obligatory Charity Tax (Zakat) book in Sahih Al-Bukhari.
In general, Traditional Muslims provide 2.5% of their wealth in a prescribed manner with formulas based on Hadith
The Quranic Muslims take the position that the 2.5% rate, which is followed by Muslims around the world, is not found in the Quran. The Quran defines the Zakat payment from ‘Al-AFW’ [2.219], which is what a person is able to give away without incurring any great hardship [17.26-29]. This amount will differ from person to another depending on each person income. The payment of the Zakat is a “fard” (obligation) on all believers who receive an income. It must be distributed according to [17.26] and must be paid as soon as the income is received.
Some Quranic Muslims consider the Zakat to be paid is as per following principles (1) On the surplus [2:219], (2) A surplus needs to be carefully set aside [7:199], (3) The Zakat is a specific rate [70:24, 51:19, 6:141], (4) It is a rate of 20%, (5) It has to be paid on the day of harvest [6:141], and (6) The believers need to pay the Zakat bearing in mind that God recommends an order of preference: Both parents, The close relatives, The orphans, The needy, stranded travellers, or travellers in difficulty. In general, some Quranic Muslims give the “excess” that they have according to what the Quran state.
Some Traditional Muslims believe jihad can be understood as an offensive “holy war” against non-Muslims
Some Quranic Muslims scholars believe jihad is defensive warfare. Others believe it is to strive in the cause of God, live one’s life in the cause of God.
Some Sunni and Shia scholars believe that slavery is permissible if the slaves are non-Muslim and they are treated kindly.
Quranic Muslims believe that slavery is never permissible and that it should be immediately abolished where it exists. They believe that the abolition of slavery where it exists is not a mere suggestion (as some Sunni and Shia believe), but a divine imperative. They believe the master-slave relationship is a form of polytheism and violates Islam’s strict monotheism.
A brief summary of comparison on some other issues is as follows;
Some Traditional Muslims point out the Arabic word corresponding to “cut” the hand of thief in Ayah [5.38] have several meanings; (1) cu- off or to-cut in the sense of making a mark or a wound (2) it could be metaphorical (3) cutting off the resources of the thief, or (4) severing his hand, and hence only Hadith is authorised to tell the type of robbery that justifies the cutting. Some Quranic Muslims take the position that all the above interpretations could be correct. In a court of law, the Judge must consider the full evidence and look in each case separately and carefully. For example, a gang of armed robbers who seek to live a life of luxury and idleness is different from a poor hungry person who steals a small amount of food to eat. There are several questionable Hadiths calling for cutting the hand of a person who steals an egg.
Many Traditional scholars believe that there a few certain Ayahs in the Quran that abrogate certain other Ayahs in the Quran. Quranic Muslim scholars disagree, and they point to Ayahs that say that the Quran can’t be abrogated. Several publications examined the arguments between scholars on this matter.
Some Traditional scholars believe that married adulterers should be stoned to death. Quranic Muslims believe that Ayah [24.2] prescribes a punishment of 100 lashes for adultery.
Some Traditional scholars emphasize covering of all body including the face in public whereas some scholars exclude the face from hijab. Quranic Muslims position is that a person should dress modestly as stated in Ayahs [24:30–31]; hijabs or beards are not necessary. They also question the headscarf worn by Muslim women, saying that “the hair is not part of the aura”.
Traditional Muslims generally consider marriages between a Muslim man and a Christian or Jewish woman acceptable but discouraged, and completely forbid Muslim women to marry Christian or Jewish men; others consider marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims, regardless of gender, totally unacceptable. Quranic Muslims give both Muslim men and women the right to marry Christian, Jewish or others, as long as they are believers [60.10] and are not idol worshipers [2:221].
Some Traditional scholars have argued against evolution. Modern Quranic Muslims scholars have argued in favour of evolution, many researchers studied Evolution and the Quran concept of it.
God commands to obey the Prophet
Traditional Muslims stipulate the Quran confirms the Prophet was sent to explain to people what is sent to them [3.164, 4.59, 4.65, 7.157, 16.44, and 24.51]. Therefore, rejection of Hadith is rejection of the Quran. The injunction to follow the guidance of the Prophet, which is embodied in the Hadith, is in the following Ayahs [3.32, 3.132, 4.80, 8.1, 8.20, 8.46, 24.54. 24.56, 24.63, 47.33, 53.3-4, 59.7].
Quranic Muslims do not recognize such confirmation. Take for example Ayah [59.7], they explain it is clear that the portion “take what the messenger gives you and abstain from what he forbids you” is referring to the booty of war recovered which the messenger will distribute to those in need. Quranic Muslims claim some Traditional scholars take this portion of the Ayah and quote it, out of context, in an attempt to allege that the messenger has forbidden more things not found in the Quran. Quranic Muslims also point out that God cautions believers in [3.178] with regard to these sorts who take portions of God’s Ayahs, then deliberately hide or twist their meanings for vain gains. One of the concluding arguments by Quranic Muslims is embedded in the answer to this question: How can the Quran claim to be complete and detailed and yet, it refers to a source outside of itself? They say the answer for this entire issue is found in the Quran itself [4.80]: “Whoever obeys the messenger has obeyed God; and whoever turns away, We have not sent you as a guardian over them “which the Traditionalists often refers to it, without careful thought. In this Ayah [4.80], we are told in no uncertain terms that whoever has “obeyed the messenger” has automatically met the requirement of “obeying God” (i.e. the two commands are one in the same). The Quran was never revealed to us by God directly, but was done through His inspiration to His messenger. There is no external text to be sought; no Hadiths…There is only the words that the messenger delivered while being inspired by God. There is only one element which was delivered by God through His messenger. Is that one element the Quran? Or is that one element the Hadith? The answer could not be clearer than those in Ayahs [6.19, 10.5] wherein God confirms the messenger delivered the Quran and nothing but the Quran. Thus, they reiterate their call to remain true to the commands of God by obeying His messenger in that which he delivered, and not be like those who turned away and will be denied by the messenger himself on the day of days: “And the messenger said: ‘My Lord, my people have deserted this Quran.’” [25.30].
Practical Case Study: Hajj
Traditional Muslims maintain that God orders Muslims who are able to perform Hajj to do so, God indicates in the Quran the fundamental rites for Hajj and Hadiths explain how to do these rites and provide specific details throughout the Hajj days.
They say each of the Hadith six books listed numerous Hadiths on Hajj and Umrah; for example, in Sahih Al-Bukhari, there are 258 Hadiths in Hajj book, 3 Hadiths in Umrah book, 14 Hadiths in Pilgrims Prevented from Completing the Pilgrimage book and 45 Hadiths in Penalty of Hunting while on Pilgrimage book .
In line with Traditional Muslim scholars stipulations Hajj is permitted to occur once a year and is done over a period of five to six days in Makkah starting on the 8th day of Dhu Al Hija month of the Islamic Hijra calendar in accordance with the Hajj rites as briefly listed below;
First Day (8th)
- Intention and Talbiya (Perform Ihram at Miqat).
- Perform Tawaf Al-Qudum (circumvolution of the Kaaba ); 7 tours around Kaaba and perform Sai, 7 repeat walks, between the hills of Safa and Marwa (420 m covered walkway). Then drink Zamzam water, leave Haram and arrive in Mina, 4 km away from Makkah.
- Three Items: (1), (4) and (7).
- Four Items: (1), (4), (7), and (8).
- Five Items: (1), (4), (7), (8) and (10).
Three essential items [(1), (4) and (7)] are agreed upon by the majority of scholars and schools of thought. The differences are on whether item 8 or item 8 together with item 10 should be also included as part of the “essential” (Fard or Rukn) activities. Other than “essential” (Fard or Rukn) activities, the scholars graded the remaining activities at different levels ranging from “duty” to “desirable”. Traditional Muslims argue this elaborate establishment of Hajj rites is not possible without Hadith.
This side of the debate insist that God stresses in the Quran that the only purpose of Hajj is to commemorate the name of God. Therefore, every hour and day of the Hajj should be spent in commemorating the name of God alone [22.27-28. 2.203, 2.198, 2.200, 6.162].
They say the Quran provides detailed information with regards to Hajj rituals [2:125; 2:158; 2:189; 2:196-203; 3:96-97; 22:26-37; 48:27], as listed below;
- Ihram (Abstentions) Hunting is prohibited during Hajj [5.1-2, 5.95]. All warfare is prohibited in the Hurrum months except for self-defence [2.217]. Sexual intercourse, misconduct and arguments are not permitted during Hajj [2.107]. Cutting of the hair is not permitted during Hajj and may only be done after the offering has reached its destination [2.196].
- Visit Kaaba [22.29].
- Sai (between Safa and Marwa) [2.158].
- Day of Arafat [2.198].
- Hadi (animal offering) [5.97, 22.36-37].
- Convenient offering [2.196], for those who progress from Umrah to Hajj (money, clothes or food and so on).
Quranic Muslims claim rituals other than those above are not required by the Quran or violate the Quran, such as;
Times of Hajj:
Some Quranic Muslims argue that among the biggest differences between Quranic Muslims state and Traditional Muslims state come in the form of the state’s authority over the masses. It is this, they argue, more than anything else that separates the Quran from the Hadiths (and the Sunnah). Some Quranic Muslims allege the Traditional Muslims brought, through “fabricated” Hadiths, the divine authority from God to Prophet, then Prophet to Caliph (companions), then consequently to rulers of dynasties (Umayyads, Abbasids and Ottomanies) and now that authority is seemingly in the hands of a number of contemporary leaders and politicians of the states that make the current Islamic world today. Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) took the extreme position that “the leaders of these so-called Muslim states had to be viewed as apostates; there rule, even if legitimated by corrupt Muslim scholars, was illegitimate.”
It would seem to be highly constructive if a new Islamic convention, similar to that above mentioned “2005 Amman Message in Jordan” is sponsored by the political rulers to bridge some of the wide gaps of this critical debate. A new convention that would bring representatives of both parties of this debate around the table would responsibly bring the debate from cyber space to real space. It would be of great logistical and economic benefits to the government of Saudi Arabia and the Muslims world at large if such convention agrees on the following practical twin points of dispute on Hajj, namely
- Hajj Times: Allowing Muslims to do Hajj over four months in every year , including current Traditional Hajj during the first ten days of Dhu Al-Hija (which is one of these four Hajj months), will solve major problems. This would instantly allow the Saudi government to approve the 20 million visa applications currently being declined every year for Hajj. These visas are understandably declined yearly simply because there is not enough physical space for more than 3 million people to stand together at the same time on mount Arafat, and the same situation at and around Kaaba. The spiritual and economic gains will be enormous.
- Devil Stoning: Cancellation of symbolic devil stoning alone would cut Hajj duration by 50%, from about 6 days down to 3 days, with the bonus of avoiding deadly stampedes.
According to Quranic Muslim scholars in this debate both of the above rites are not based on the Quran but only on Hadith, as is the case of the rite of kissing the Black Stone of Kaaba. Furthermore, they point out that these Hadiths, on these specific issues, are not in the form of confirmed reliable statements by the Prophet himself that give explicit instructions to do these rites. Instead they comprise notes, observations and reports by other people. In September 2015, the British international magazine “The Economist” reported “In recent years the (Saudi Arabia) kingdom has modified several sites, which has altered the rituals themselves… The faithful need not kiss the black stone on its eastern corner, as is traditionally required, but can point to it instead”.
This decision was obviously taken after it became evident that kissing the stone was impossible due to extreme crowding. The above two points could likewise be positively addressed for the benefit of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world.
Citations from the Quran
A total of about 130 Quran Ayahs have been cited in this Article. Each of the cited Ayahs is preceded by a numerical code within two brackets; for example: [4.3] refers to Ayah Number 3 in Surah number 4. Ideally, the readers who know Arabic would refer directly to the original Quran in Arabic. [[Quran translations]] to other languages have always been difficult, even though many attempts have already been made. Recently (1982-84), a Quran Complex was established by the Saudi Arabian government, named after King Fahd. This Quran Complex outlines Quran translation difficulties into English, and considers all translations to be translations to the “meanings” or “interpretations” of the Quran. This Quranic Complex denotes own Quran translations as “Translations of the Meanings of the Quran”. There are several well-known Quran translations to English which can be found on the internet or published in the form of books such as the following 10 translations by;
- Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan, 2008
- Quran Complex which was established in 1982-84 by the Saudi Arabia government, named after King Fahd.
- Dr. Mohammad Ghali (born in 1920) who was a Professor of Linguistics and Islamic Studies, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
- Mohammad Muhsin Khan (born in 1927). He is a contemporary author of Pashtun origin who completed this translation with Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali.
- M H Shakir: There is controversy on the real identity of the translator who may be Egyptian judge Muhammad Habib Shakir (1866-1939) or likely Mohammedali Habib Shakir the son of Habib Esmail of The House of Habib in Pakistan.
- Yusuf Ali (1872-1953) who was a British-Indian Islamic scholar. He died in London and is buried in England at the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood, Surrey (near Woking), not far from the burial place of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1875 –1936) who was a Western Islamic scholar (a convert from Christianity) also noted for his translation of the Qur’an (1930) from Arabic to English, see below
- Muhammad Pickthall (1875-1936); he was a Western; a convert from Christianity.
- Sahih International; in 1989 three American converts to Islam joined together to form “Saheeh International” and published their translation in 1997.
- Dr. Rashad Khalifa (1935-1990) who promoted a strict monotheism and was a prominent Quranist. His translation is considered as simple with clear presentation and ease of use. But, he is also known for his controversial research claiming the Quran is mathematically and statistically coded to number 19. Some Quranic Muslims criticised Rashad Khalifa as grossly misinterpreted the sign of number 19 in the Quran: He came to the point of seeing number 19 everywhere and believing that every aspect of the Quran was coded with it. Muhammad Asad (1900–1992) who was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveller, linguist, diplomat and Islamic scholar .
- Muhammad Asad (1900–1992) who was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveller, linguist, diplomat and Islamic scholar,