A critical evaluation with argument and counter-Argument
There are some general remarks that might be useful at this juncture. The methodology applied by the researchers of Hadeeth is inherently flawed since it is based exclusively on hearsay and cannot possibly be verified. To claim that Hadeeth has been transmitted intact is to claim the same type of immunity from error as the Roman Catholic Church claims for its cardinals in the election of a pope. It claims that the papal election is guided by the Holy Ghost and therefore guaranteed against error.
The advocates of Hadeeth cannot plead the protection of any such divine entity, they simply assert, and expect us to believe, that the individuals transmitting the 'Hadeeth saheeh' are infallible. They obviously never thought this assertion through. It means, in effect, that the reporting individual never made a single mistake in his or her entire life. He or she never committed a sin or an indiscretion, never lied, never misunderstood, never misheard, never forgot and could not be deluded. A single lapse in any of these areas - and of course many others - would undermine that individual's credibility with the concomitant weakening of his Hadeeth. The Qur'an - not to mention numerous 'aHadeeth - tells us that no human being is infallible, thus at chapter 2, Al-Baqarah, verse 286, in part, we are to beseech "...'Our Lord, do not condemn us if we forget or err...'..." Why would God command us to beseech Him in this manner if we are not subject to lapses of memory and error?
It is equally obvious that our venerable scholars were not aware of the historical facts about their reporters, or, worse yet, they purposely elected to ignore them.
In addition, the 'matn' or substance of the Hadeeth should have been carefully scrutinized. There are many 'aHadeeth saheehah' that are plain nonsense such as trees running around, animals talking to, and chunks of meat warning the Prophet that they are poisoned and should not be eaten and many more that purport contact with the dead. Others predict future events and still others praise or favor some dictator or usurper, who acceded long after the Prophet died, and enjoin support for his policies, their evil notwithstanding, or curse his opponents. Yet others sanction schools of jurisprudence and praise their founders by name such as Abu-Hanifah An-Nu'maan. Needless to say that contradictions abound in the 'saheeh' books of Hadeeth. Anyone who claims that Hadeeth is divinely inspired should read chapter 4, An-Nisa', verse 82 which asks "Why do they not study the Qur'an carefully? If It were from other than God, they would have found many contradictions in It." Contradictions are the hallmark of works that are not of divine origin.
The self serving nature of many if not most of the 'aHadeeth clearly indicates to anyone who reads them even casually that they were fabricated to serve a specific purpose and were given weight by false attribution to the Prophet. Thus the Bani-Umayya had a vested interest in spreading fabricated 'aHadeeth praising them. Praise purportedly from the Prophet himself would indeed lend the usurpers' regime the respectability and legitimacy it so sorely lacks. The opposition to the Umayya, the Shi'atu-Ali, - Ali Ibn Abi-Talib's supporter's - had an equal interest in fabricating 'aHadeeth casting aspersions on their perceived enemies such as Abu-Bakr, Umar Ibnil-Khattab, Uthman Ibn-'Affan and 'A'isha, the Prophet's wife, and advancing Ali's albeit legitimate claim. Many of these fabrications found their way into l-Bukhari, Muslim and the others.
Of course, the Banul-'Abbas were great fabricators of 'aHadeeth to legitimize their savage rebellion against, and their massacre of, the Bani-Umayya and their wresting of power in a blood bath of proportions unprecedented in the history of Islam.
There were, undoubtedly, other interests illicit and otherwise which did not hesitate to fabricate 'aHadeeth to further their particular causes. We find 'aHadeeth advancing Greek mythology, thus Ibn-Katheer, in his exegesis of chapter 68, Al-Qalam, refers to the universe being supported on the horns of a great bull which stands on a giant rock the size of 'the heavens and the earth' which in turn rests on the back of a great fish swimming in an enormous ocean.
There are numerous 'aHadeeth supposedly transmitted through Abu-Hurayra that are of Jewish origin. Many of the Jews who embraced Islam brought their old religion and its beliefs into Islam with them. This was done by injecting fabricated 'aHadeeth, such as the one in Al-Bukhari that has God creating Adam in His own image, into the body of Islamic religious beliefs. Christian beliefs were also incorporated; variations of most of Christ's miracles were reproduced with Muhammad as the protagonist. That in the face of two verses in the Qur'an the first of which tells us that the age of miracles is over, and the second specifically denies Muhammad any miracles. The first of these verses is chapter 17, Bani Isra'eel, verse 59, which states "What caused Us to refrain from sending the miracles is that the earlier generations rejected them as false. We showed Thaamoud the she-camel, an eye-opening miracle, but they transgressed against it. We only send miracles to instill awe." This verse states that the age of miracles came to an end before the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad and that there are no miracles relating to the revelation itself. Thus God did not provide Muhammad with any miracles to support his claim of prophet-hood, all the arguments presented in the Qur'an were of an intellectual nature because the miraculous evidence itself is essentially intellectual and was to be revealed at a later time as chapter 10, Yunus, verse 20 emphatically states "They say: 'If only a sign was sent down to him from his Lord?' Say, 'The future belongs to God; so wait. I too will wait along with you!'" This verse supports the contention that the miracle authenticating the Qur'an and its claims and vindicating Muhammad, may peace be upon him, was to come later.
In spite of the clear verses presented above and which our venerable scholars must, or at least should, have known well, it appears that anyone wishing to give currency to any idea, no matter how hair-brained, could do so by merely adding it to the phrase 'The Prophet said...' It is said that there were Hadeeth mints coining 'aHadeeth of every kind and for every purpose. Many of these fabrications found their way, unexpurgated, into the 'saheeh' books and have thus been accepted and given credence, without due regard to the nature of their content, thereby nullifying any value such books might otherwise have had, apart, of course, from giving Islam the appearance of a savage, primitive religion destined for the garbage heap of history.
At the beginning of this article we stated that the advocates of Hadeeth were only partially right in their analogy of the constitution.
The Qur'an is undoubtedly a constitution, but unlike any other ever, It was authored by God Himself and God makes no errors; His constitution does not need legislative intervention to work properly. God gets it right first time, every time! There are certain areas where the Qur'an is clear and lays down succinct rules such as the laws in respect of inheritance and divorce and religious matters such as the prohibitions and instructions for the fast and the ritual wash. These are matters which are clear cut and are not subject to clarification and are, above all, endowed with the degree of detail that makes their application acceptable at God.
Thus in 'wudu'' we are told, merely, to wash our faces. That is all there is to it. God will accept any way we normally wash our faces as being valid. Had He wanted us to wash our faces in a certain way He would have told us so. God is neither short of words nor does He shy from the truth. The 'Sunna' has carefully prescribed and codified the exact manner of carrying out the ablution, twenty seven separate acts in a given order, as opposed to the four simple acts prescribed by God at 5(Al-Ma'ida):6. Most so-called Muslims are not even aware that the ablution is detailed in the Qur'an; they all know, however, that their ablution comes from Muhammad through Al-Bukhari. It has become the greatest single source of their religion and has superseded the Qur'an as the referee of disputes in matters of religion. It is said that Imam Abdur-Rahman Ibn Umar Al-Auza'ee (d. 157 A.H.), a respected member of the community of 'righteous predecessors' claimed that the Qur'an is in greater need of the 'sunna' than the 'sunna' is of the Qur'an. Need we say more?
The Qur'an has left many areas without detail and has omitted mention of certain other areas altogether. These are not, as the proponents of Hadeeth seem to think, oversights or shortcomings to be filled in by the Prophet through the rules laid down in his 'aHadeeth and his 'sunna' so posterity might properly practice its religion.
In fact these omissions are deliberate and are a mercy from God. God has left them for us to set down and review from time to time as obtaining conditions change. They are left deliberately flexible and are not meant to be fixed for all time by the 'sunna', as has actually happened, with the inevitable results manifest everywhere in the Islamic world. We are using rules that might have been good for the Seventh Century A.D. at the end of the Twentieth. Does it surprise anyone that we are backward? No-one with a God-given brain should wonder why!
God, for example, lays down the principles of right government at chapter 42, Ash-Shura, verse 38, which reads, in part, "Those who respond to their Lord and observe their prayers and conduct their affairs by mutual consultation..." 'Mutual consultation' means democracy, but God did not go into detail because He, in His Omniscience, knows that the mechanisms required for democratic government in the Seventh Century are very different indeed from those required today although the principle is the same. God left the detail to be filled in, and changed, by each generation as conditions may dictate, provided always that the principle of 'mutual consultation' laid down by God in the Qur'an is observed.
Thus the ruler who will be democratically elected and the laws that will be promulgated after due consultation are far more likely to be voluntarily obeyed and respected than those that are imposed by a dictator. The dictator may elicit obedience from his subjects by force, but he can never elicit respect which is a vital element for stability. Real social and political stability, a sine qua non for progress, is engendered only by the consent of the governed to their government, never by coercion.
That, of course, is the real intent of chapter 4, An-Nissa', verse 59, "O you who believe, obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you..." Obeying those in authority is much more likely to be realized if we respect them and support their government because we put them in power of our own free will.
What has actually happened as a result of the application of the 'sunna'? The 'aHadeeth have legitimized the dictatorships of the usurpers and made sinners of those opposing their despicable behavior, and gave permanence to this state of affairs and eventually destroyed the very fabric of society. Dictatorship and oppression were taken for granted and no longer questioned by an oppressed, impoverished and ignorant populace. The land was opened to military defeats which, where at all possible, were touted as 'great victories' by the armies of professional liars all dictators depend on. Ali Ibn Abi-Talib was, for all practical purposes, the last democratically elected leader in the fractured history of this so-called Islamic nation.
Two more logical counter-arguments
The logic of the proponents of Hadeeth is seriously compromised when they insist upon the absolute acceptance of Hadeeth and 'sunna' as the residual wisdom of the Prophet and upon the divinely sanctioned necessity of following them.
First, their own 'saheeh' books tell us that the Prophet himself banned the recording of Hadeeth and the ban remained in effect for about a century. There are no recorded 'aHadeeth during that period because the two generations following the Prophet honored the ban having obviously understood well the reasons for it and steadfastly refused to write down the 'aHadeeth they had in their memories. This ban alone proves that the Prophet himself could not have considered his own sayings and acts as being on a par with the Qur'an or even as a source of legislation and thus to be obeyed. If he had, he would certainly not have imposed the ban. The Prophet, peace be upon him, understood his role perfectly clearly as the conveyor of the Qur'an, not its expounder or as a legislator for all posterity.
Apart from the argument presented above, there is another indication of the faulty thinking of the advocates of Hadeeth. Hadeeth takes two forms, 'al-Hadeeth al mutawwatir', roughly translated as possessing 'common currency'. These 'aHadeeth were reported by many of the companions of the Prophet and were thus so well known that they needed no verification as to their chain of transmission. "Pray in the same manner as you have seen me pray" is such a Hadeeth. Its subject matter is most commonly in the 'ibadaat', or matters of religious practice, and there is relatively little controversy surrounding them.
The other form of Hadeeth, 'al-Hadeeth al ahaad', roughly translated as 'singular', constitutes the bulk of the contents of the books of Hadeeth. This type of Hadeeth was, allegedly, spoken to a single individual, usually without corroboration, and transmitted down the chain by only one individual reporter, hence the importance they place on the vetting of the transmission chain.
Once again, the very classification itself proves that these 'aHadeeth were not meant to be a source of legislation. Had they been, the Prophet would not have made them to individuals; he would have uttered them in a public forum for all to know, or, at the very least, he would have instructed the recipient to broadcast the substance. There is absolutely no record of the Prophet ever telling anyone to do any such thing. Law kept secret is injustice.
Where the Qur'an is concerned, the Prophet broadcast it widely, in the mosque, in public gatherings and instructed the recipients to memorize the revelation, write it down and pass it on to others. The Qur'an was recorded by the authority of the Prophet and compiled, immediately after his death, by the authority of the elected successor of his temporal powers, Abu-Bakr, his closest friend and confidant; that is by the authority of the state. The 'aHadeeth as well as the 'sunna' were not compiled on any such authority. They are the unauthorized efforts of individuals who took it upon themselves to compile what they imagined, in spite of the Prophet's ban, to be of importance for the correct practice of their religion.
The Hadeeth and the 'sunna' were quickly adopted by the religious establishment as their stock-in-trade and the means to gain power and influence. It was thus imperative that the 'sunna' be given an illusory air of religious importance. This, the religious establishment obligingly provided. There is a Hadeeth - undoubtedly invented by the religious establishment - that has the Prophet, proclaiming, after his sole pilgrimage and towards the end of his life, "I have left with you two things to which, if you adhere, you shall never go astray after me; the Book of God and my 'sunna'!" Here we find the perfect self serving fabrication; the Prophet, no less, placing the 'sunna' on a par, for all practical purposes, with the Qur'an and enjoining us to follow both. The Prophet, peace be upon him, never uttered such a blasphemy; he banned the recording of anything - and that includes the so-called 'sunna' - from him but the Qur'an, so how could he have enjoined them to follow the 'sunna'? It is interesting that the 'Shi'a' have the same Hadeeth, but in place of the word 'sunna' it reads ''Itrati', 'my family'.
Whom are we to believe? Neither!
Common sense says that he must have said "the Book of God" only. Later events support this supposition because when Abu Bakr compiled the Qur'an he made no attempt to collect the 'sunna.' Instead, he honored the ban as did his successors Umar, Uthman and Ali. Despite its obvious lack of authenticity, this Hadeeth has greatly influenced the demeanor of the undiscerning, which is to say the overwhelming majority of the so-called Muslims.
Had that particular Hadeeth been true, then Abu-Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Aly would be guilty of, at least, negligence or dereliction of duty, if not treason, for failing to compile a very important source of religious guidance; a source deriving its importance from the very words of the Prophet himself. None of them even attempted to compile the 'sunna' which must have been all there when the Prophet passed away. Ergo, that Hadeeth must be false and was probably fabricated in response to a prior 'Shi'a' fabrication.
Unlike the Qur'an which was revealed by God and compiled by the authority of the state and under its supervision, the 'sunna' has nothing to back it but our self appointed 'pious predecessors' and, of course, our own gullibility and incredible lack of discernment.
There is now a full-fledged 'church' within Islam, "Sunni" as well as "Shi'a", something, it is to emphasized, that has no basis in the Qur'an. This establishment set up a monopoly on all religious matters and proceeded to encroach upon matters social and political with the inevitable evil consequences evident everywhere in the so-called Islamic world today.
They did not distinguish between matters of worship, legal matters and social relations; they confounded all three and promoted themselves as the guardians of nation's morals, the promulgators and interpreters of its laws and the protectors of its religion. This, of course, suited the despot - who quickly saw the benefit of an alliance with them - perfectly since that way he did not have to deal with a recalcitrant opposition. The religious establishment simply declared them, on the authority of some Hadeeth or other, infidels thereby permitting the despot to liquidate them with impunity under the guise of preventing a 'fitna', schism.
Ironically, Hadeeth and 'sunna' could have played a very important role in Islamic civilization, namely in the development of jurisprudence and the administration of justice through the courts. This role would have been derived from the functions of the Prophet, may peace be upon him, as a temporal ruler, more specifically as a judge. Had the collectors of Hadeeth been more circumspect, they would have concentrated on gleaning and recording the Prophet's juridical pronouncements and his legal judgments as well as those of the men he appointed as judges.
Had Al-Bukhari, Muslim and the other Hadeeth compilers done that they would have rendered an immense service to later generations. Their efforts would have established a body of laws, civil as well as criminal, firmly based on the Qur'an which would have, in turn, underpinned the rule of law and emphasized its supremacy forcing, thereby, the ruler to think carefully before defying or attempting to subvert a well defined body of case law established by the Prophet and hallowed by time.
There were very few 'aHadeeth transmitted through the closest companions of the Prophet, may peace be upon him. Umar, for example has fewer than twenty and all of them relate to juridical matters. He must have been thinking along the lines described above because he is said to have prevented people, with threats of exile and the whip, according to Abu Hurayra, from relating 'aHadeeth of the Prophet except those with judicial content.
Such would have been the legacy of Muhammad; instead, our erudite scholars have left us, in spite of their claims to science, with a motley of rules, sayings, regulations and traditions, some reasonable, while most are irrational, irrelevant, absurd or useless, covering the entire gamut of religion, society and politics. The civil law is in disarray, the criminal law undeveloped, primitive and totally unsuited to the needs of a modern state.
The scholars' disagreements over the interpretation of the 'sunna' were endless and sometimes virulent to the point where the more cynical among the Muslims said with undisguised relief 'there is mercy in their disagreements'. These were literally out of control, so some wise ruler, maybe just to stem the deluge, prohibited further 'ijtihad', roughly translated as the interpretation of religious law. The existing body of law was ossified and restricted to the religious establishment further cementing and confirming their monopoly of it and pre-empting the emergence of a legislative body which would have codified and coordinated the civil law and contributed to the development of the criminal law.
Any new idea or view was regarded as an innovation, and, sure enough, there is a Hadeeth that says: "Every innovation is a straying and every straying is in Hell". Development, social, legal and political was brought to a standstill. The result has, inevitably, been the destruction of the once vibrant Islamic civilization, the break-up, degradation and relegation of the so-called Muslim world to corruption, backwardness, poverty, disease, injustice, defeat and occupation and, worst of all, the total and utter confusion of the so-called Muslims as to their religion by diverting them from the light of the Qur'an and offering them an alternative religion that bears no relationship, however remote, to the one God Himself chose and perfected for His servants.
Chapter 45, Al-Jathiyah, verse 6 sums it all up in the most elegant terms: "These are the revelations of God that We recite to you in truth. In which sayings (Hadeeth) other than God and His revelations do they believe?"
Why did the 'sunna' come to be? The Qur'an, as always, provides the truthful answer.
At the time of his expulsion from the 'Sublime Society' (al mala' il a'la) for refusing to obey God's direct order to all the angels to prostrate before Adam once God had fashioned him and blown into him of His Spirit, Iblees the rejected, the nemesis of mankind, challenged God and vowed by God's majesty that he would lead Adam and all his descendants, except those of God's servants who absolutely devote their worship to Him alone, astray.
Iblees' methods are very subtle. He has no control over mankind, but he will manipulate those who will listen to him. He whispers into their ears his idolatrous suggestions and adorns them to beguile the unwary, the lazy, the careless and those who will not take God's warnings seriously.
His sole objective is to get us to disobey God while thinking that we are pleasing Him, especially in matters of religious practice. He uses specious logic, distorts meanings and takes things out of their proper context to build a logical-sounding argument on a partial truth. Thus for example, in the matter of the ritual wash, 'wudu'', he would suggest something along the following lines: "God commanded that we carry out four actions; well we are carrying out the four actions; we are simply adding more. How can there be anything wrong with increasing upon a good thing? Cleanliness is next to Godliness! If it were wrong to do more, do you think that the Prophet, may peace be upon him, would have done more? And did God not command us to obey the Prophet and follow his most excellent example? You are simply doing what the Prophet did! Now, what could be more pleasing to God than your following the example of His beloved Messenger, the master of His emissaries who was sent as a mercy unto all mankind?"
The argument sounds very much rightly guided, but it has very subtly set the bait for the unwary to swallow hook, line and sinker. The unwary, once they have accepted this argument, are on their way down a very slippery slope indeed.
What Iblees hides from us is that although the Prophet may have carried out the ablution in the way described in the 'sunna' he certainly had no intention of imposing it upon us since it was merely the way he normally washed his face, normally washed his arms, normally wiped his head and normally washed his feet. It was simply his peculiar way of doing these things, and since it was his way of normally performing these actions it was in perfect conformity with the commandment in the Qur'an, at chapter 5, Al-Ma'idah, verse 6, in part, to "...wash your faces and your arms to the elbows and wipe your heads and wash your feet to the ankles". God did not ordain any specific way for us to follow in washing our faces, arms and feet; we are thus to merely do these things in the ordinary way we normally do them.
Once Iblees has misled us with the partial truth, he goes on to develop the false argument by taking the order to obey the Messenger and follow his example out of their proper context and implying that they mean emulating the way he physically deported himself in the discharge of his everyday functions and living needs, his likes and his dislikes. His example is, of course, in the steadfastness and devotion he exhibited in the worship of God, not in the way he washed his face.
The unwary will accept the specious argument and miss the point altogether. God gives us simple orders to test our willingness to obey only Him. The ablution has absolutely nothing to do with cleanliness; had it been concerned with cleanliness, God would have ordered us to bath before prayer or, at least, wash our underarms. In performing the ablution as prescribed by God we are displaying our willingness to obey God unquestioningly and our acceptance of Him as the sole source of religious guidance and our rejection of idol-worship, which, it will be remembered, is defined at chapter 42, Ash-Shura, verse 21, in part, "Or do they have partners who decree for them matters of religion not sanctioned by God?..." Accepting any matter of religion not specifically sanctioned by God is idol-worship. The 'sunna' and its sources, the 'aHadeeth, are precisely that; matters of religion not sanctioned by God.
It should now be amply clear that accepting Iblees' argument leads to at least three results all of which are disastrous and any one of which will put one on a collision course with Hell while causing one to believe that one has done good. The first result is that one will have unwittingly followed Iblees, in the face of God's express warnings and a solemn undertaking. The second is that one will have willfully disobeyed God's direct commands, and the third is that one will have accepted a matter of religion not specifically sanctioned by God. Satan will have beguiled us into following him while making us believe firmly that we are obeying God and His Messenger. He will have won and we shall have bought Hell at the highest possible price, our souls.
Satan led the Christians to worship Jesus, God's messenger to them. With those who claim to be Muslims, he was far more subtle; he fooled them into worshipping the Messenger without even being aware of it. In order to do this he introduced them to the 'sunna', his perfect weapon, honey laced with poison. Satan's subtlety knows no bounds and is matched only by our own gullibility and lack of discernment.
There is a Hadeeth that has the Prophet predicting that the day will come when people will question his 'aHadeeth and deny his 'sunna'. This Hadeeth was, no doubt, fabricated to pre-empt arguments such as presented here. The advocates of Hadeeth will certainly point to it and say, "The Prophet, may the most honorable peace be upon him, warned us about people like you and your smooth- tongued arguments based on the Qur'an." Maybe they never heard chapter 46, Al-Ahqaaf, verse 9 which commands " Say, 'I am not an innovation among the messengers. I do not know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow what is revealed to me. I am but a profound warner'".
It seems they also do not know chapter 7, Al-A'raaf, verse 188 which commands "Say, 'I have no power to benefit or harm myself. What happens to me is only what God wills and if I knew the future I would have taken only the good things and evil would not afflict me. I am only a warner and a bringer of good news to a community who believe.'"
In fulfillment of his defiance of God and his promise to mislead the descendants of Adam and skulk around them to attack them on every front, Satan gave the Muslims an alternate religion, far removed from the path God sanctioned for His servants, to deceive them and lead them astray.
God supports our accusation of Iblees and his idolatrous plans for us; thus at chapter 6, Al-An'aam, verses 112 and 113 we read "(112) Thus have We made for every prophet an enemy - devils, human and jinn - they inspire one another with flowery words in order to deceive. And had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and what they fabricate. (113) So that the minds of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shall hearken to it and accept it and thereby earn what they shall earn."