|Arnold Yasin Mol
|Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:55 pm Post subject: THE IMPLICATIONS OF HADITH FOR ISLAM by M.A.Malek
|THE IMPLICATIONS OF HADITH FOR ISLAM
10.1 The meaning of Hadith and Sunnah
According to the Qur'an, hadith means 'story', 'news', 'report' or 'narration' and it is used in the Qur'an a number of times in these senses. In practice, the word hadith, to most people calling themselves Muslim, means the reported sayings and practices of the Prophet. The operative word here is 'reported'. The Hadith literature was collected by word of mouth, about 250 years after the death of the Prophet. The Hadiths – as the Hadith literature is commonly called – can be classified roughly in four categories:
1. What the Prophet said.
2. What the Prophet did.
3. What the Prophet silently approved of, in others.
4. Hadiths which give descriptions of what the Prophet was like.
On the question of sunnah:
Sunnah according to the Hadith means the laws that have been derived from the Hadith literature based on the reported teachings and practices of the Prophet. In total contrast, according to the Qur'an Sunnah means the 'The Law and Practice of Allah which is immutable or unchangeable.' (48:23) "Wa lun tajida li sunnat illah tabdila". A few other verses in which the word Sunnah appears are given below.
(33:62) [...]never will you find any change in Allah's way [sunnah]!
35:43) [...]no change will you ever find in Allah's way [sunnah]; yes no deviation will you ever find in Allah's way [sunnah]
This contradiction between the Qur'an and the Hadith regarding the question of sunnah can be resolved easily if we understand the position of the Prophet vis-à-vis the Qur'an.
The Qur'an is 'the Word of Allah' which was uttered by the Prophet as it was conveyed by him to the world under the inspiration of the Revelation. Thus, in effect, the Qur'an is the 'utterance' or 'the sayings of the Prophet' in a way which nothing else can claim to be. Given this, any attempt to distinguish between the two (i.e. between the word of Allah and the sayings of the Prophet) is impossible. It is impossible, since the Qur'an is, by common consent, both. It, the Qur'an, is the point where they (the Word of Allah and the utterance of the Prophet) beyond doubt, converge. From this understanding, and on this basis, we are equipped to receive the only logically sustainable explanation of the call in the Qur'an 'to follow the Prophet'. That is, we are being asked to follow that which the Prophet is giving us, i.e. the Qur'an and the teachings it conveys. We must understand that 'to follow the Prophet', as stated in the Qur'an is an imperative to follow what was inspired in him through revelation. This exhortation has no connection whatever with the sayings and practices (the Hadiths) which were attributed to Muhammad by people some 250 years later, and primarily collected by word of mouth.
The Hadiths frequently contradict the Qur'an, and that in itself is proof enough that they have nothing to do with the Prophet. In addition – and to the surprise of many Muslims who use the term frequently and unthinkingly – the only sunnah that is mentioned in the Qur'an is Allah's sunnah, and we are told that it never changes. Allah's sunnah – or way – is fixed and encompasses His Laws and Practices which apply to all His creation. Such is Allah's sunnah.
10.2 Historical background of Hadiths1
To understand the background to the development of Hadith literature one must sift through the history of Islam from about 250 years after the time of our Prophet for it is towards the end of this period that the Hadith literature was produced. The problem is that there are many conflicting historical accounts about what was happening at that time. The picture one gets is more of Muslim political history than the real history of Islam. From the sheer mass of contradictory stories one must assume that the real history of Islam for that period is lost. The thing one may say for certain however is that during the time of the Prophet and his companions the policy was not to write down hadiths (i.e. hearsay accounts of what the Prophet said and did). The Qur'an was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet but 'the Hadith' was never written down and any attempt to do so was addressed by those who knew the Prophet, fought alongside him, and upheld his honour. There are two reasons for this. The first is that such human scribblings would have found their way into and thus corrupted the Qur'anic scriptures. The second is that people would have concentrated on 'the Hadith' – i.e. what the Prophet said – and therefore ignored the Qur'an. Hence, the Prophet and his companions who ruled for about thirty years after him, made sure that nothing was written down as far as the Prophet's sayings and practices were concerned. The surprising thing is that even after the companions (i.e. after Hazrat Ali's period, which was about 41 Hijra) hadiths as such were not written down. In fact, during the first century of the Prophet's era no hadiths were written down whatsoever. Stories circulated by word of mouth but they were never written down because the view was well known that the Prophet and the companions did not want anything of the kind to be done, and so there was a very strong feeling against the writing of any sort of 'Hadith' literature.
Looking at the written hadiths, the first well-known collection that appeared was by Malik Ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.). This was during the first part of the second century of the Prophet's era. He collected hadiths mainly for legal purposes as he was only interested in the application of Hadith in law. His work is known as the Muwatta. He makes references to two small collections but these were more or less at the beginning of the second century and there is no trace of them except for his reference.
The next important collection is by Hanbal in the third century. There is a gap between his writings and those of Malik's, during which there was a tremendous number of hadiths in circulation, not in writing, only by word of mouth, among which there had accrued many clearly false ones. So the question arose: how to distinguish the good hadiths from the bad? Ahmed bin Hanbal resolved this to his own satisfaction by apparently tracing each hadith right up to the source (i.e. right up to the period when the Prophet was alive) and each hadith accordingly was called a Masnad (i.e. a Tradition which is traceable). His writings are known as the Masnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal. He collected about 30,000 hadiths but they are not arranged in any proper order.
The next important collection was in the third century, by Bukhari, who died in 257 A.H. He collected 7275 hadiths out of some 600,000 which he is supposed to have gathered. His collection is also known as Sahih Hadith i.e. Correct Hadith. He was the first to arrange hadiths in chapters, and the chapters were divided according to the subject matter. His work contains material on historical, ethical, theological, legal and various other aspects. A contemporary of Bukhari was Muslim who died in 261 A.H. He collected 4348 hadiths out of some 300,000. His hadiths are not arranged in the same way as Bukhari's. His intention was to purify the hadiths that were available, in other words he put stress more on the purity rather than collecting a large quantity of hadiths. His collections are also known as Sahih Hadith. It must be stressed that many Muslims regard these two Hadiths (Bukhari and Muslim) so highly that in a case of contradiction with the Qur'an the Hadith overrides the Qur'an in their judgement. There are four other collections which were written more-or-less towards the end of the third century Hijra and these are by Abu Daud (d. 275), Ibn Maja (d. 303), Al-Tirmidi (d. 279), and Al-Nasai (d. 303). They deal almost entirely with legal traditions (i.e. with what is permitted and what is forbidden); and so do not give information on religious or theological subjects. These six collections together are known as Sahih Satta or the six correct hadiths, of which Bukhari and Muslim are regarded as most important, the other four occupying second place.
The Hadith collection went through a selection procedure in which the following conditions were used for the acceptance of a hadith.
1. Continuity of the chain (Isnad) of transmitters. The chain of transmitters had to be unbroken in order for a hadith to be acceptable.
2. The integrity of the transmitters. The integrity of transmitters was established in terms of their outward observance of Islam.
3. Soundness of memory of the transmitters. It had to be verified through the biographical sciences of Hadith that each transmitter had a sound memory.
4. Conformity of the hadith with other hadith. It was important that the hadith conform with similar hadiths on the same topic.
5. The absence of defects in the hadith. A defect is defined as a hidden defect in the hadith which can only be detected after thorough investigation.
Considering the five points in turn one can see a glaring omission i.e. there is no mention of the rejection of a hadith on the basis of its contradiction with the Qur'an. Effectively, it means that the Hadith can override the Qur'an, or in other words the Hadith is more important than the Qur'an.
Let me now examine the above five criteria. In the first case, Bukhari is supposed to have travelled widely to establish the names of the various persons in the chain, right up to the Prophet's time. If a hadith was to be good then the chain of transmitters had to be unbroken and one had to be able to find all the links. But how did the links come about when no hadiths were committed to writing during the first century!
A lot of research has been done on the Hadiths, especially by Western historians (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 given 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 a hadith's authenticity – has the tremendous flaws in it.
How, then, can we go on giving credence to something that was not written down and yet which, some 250 years after the fact, Bukhari supposedly managed to trace back to its source (i.e. the Prophet) by establishing all the links in a chain which cannot possibly have been genuinely reconstructed!
The second and the third 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. But even this unnecessary inconvenience was not a problem for Bukhari who found an explanation:
Narated Abu Huraira: I said, "O Allah'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.
Most ingenious, I'm sure you will agree!
The fourth criterion is overall agreement within 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 hadith on any subject will not need to go far before he finds a distinct failing on even this count.
The Islamic clergy expends great energy trying to account for these inconsistencies and contradictions. Their answers to your 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 seem to be contradictions in the Hadith to you because you are not learned. They – the clergy – are learned. Therefore, they do not see 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.
It should be noted that we have been discussing the sahih, or so-called authentic Hadith. There are other grades of hadith which are viewed with varying degrees of suspicion even by those who accept the 'sahih'. We do not trouble ourselves with them here for obvious reasons.
It is interesting to note that practically no Hadiths were written down during the reign of the Ummayads. Their rule lasted from 41 A.H. to 132 A.H. and they had embraced Islam after the Prophet conquered Mecca. The Abbasids who are descended from the Prophet's uncle came to power after the Ummayads. Their rule lasted up to 656 A.H. and it was under their regime that the Hadiths were written and the various schools of law established. It was the Abbasids who encouraged the writing of Hadiths – especially those which were favourable to their plans and rule.
10.3. Ways the Hadith contradicts the Qur'an2
One can quote several hundred hadiths which not only contradict the Qur'an but also clearly do damage to the Prophet's good name. From Bukhari there is a selection below of some typical hadiths on various topics in order to give an overall impression of what we mean. The Qur'anic verses are given alongside so that the reader can judge for himself whether or not the Hadiths contradict the Qur'anic verses as is claimed here.
The first item selected is on stoning for adultery or fornication. The Qura'nic law on this is absolutely clear. The Qur'an makes no distinction between adultery and fornication. The Arabic word for adultery or fornication is zina. Adultery, according to the English dictionary, is sex outside marriage, whereas fornication is when the persons concerned are not married. English law, thus, makes a distinction between the two. Qur'anic law does not. The Qur'an actually makes this law very clear. The punishment for proven cases is 100 lashes. Also, in the case of married people, four witnesses are required before the case can be adjudged proven. This clause is often misused, because the fact remains that it would be almost impossible to find four witnesses unless, for example, someone in power, for personal reasons, bribed people to stand as witnesses. Finally, in order not to punish the innocent, the Qur'anic law gives the opportunity to the man or the woman to deny the crime in the name of Allah. That is, they have to take an oath in the name of Allah that they are not guilty. In such a case, the court must leave the punishment to Allah. Our human courts cannot punish them. The Qur'an is very clear on this. And yet we find the so-called Islamic states stoning people to death on the strength of a ruling drawn from what the Hadith has to say, and not judging cases according to the Qur'anic law. They bury the woman up to the neck and then kill her by stoning her on her head. The man is buried up to the waist and then stoned. It is a barbarous practice and the West gives it a lot of publicity to denigrate Islam. Sadly, Bukhari has a large number of hadiths to support this act and the ruling shows the Prophet in a very bad light. Unfortunately, most of us do not know what the Qur'an has to say on this matter. Here is a straightforward case where the Qur'anic law is absolutely clear. And yet we ignore the Qur'an completely and accept the Hadith unquestioningly.
Why are we not, then, following the Qur'an? 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 Qur'an, explores this question. He gives the following explanation: the Arabs defeated the Persians completely in war but the Persians were far more advanced in knowledge and writing than the Arabs. Therefore, they used their superiority in writing to corrupt Islam from the inside. Obviously, true Islam cannot be corrupted because the Qur'an is there, and as long as we follow the Qur'an there is no problem. But how to make people deviate from the Qur'an? The answer: by creating another, additional body of writing, which ascribes un-Qur'anic acts to the Prophet, and then persuading people that following this body of writing amounts to a Muslim life.
We find this approach has been most effective. In fact, we see that once the name of the Prophet is invoked we just accept as the truth whatever is said and follow it blindly. So where is our support for the claim of conspiracy? The circumstantial evidence – either not known or simply ignored by the mass of Muslims – is compelling. If we take the writers of the six main collections of hadith: Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Maja, Al-Tirmidi, and Al-Nasai they all have one vital feature in common. They were all born within the Persian Empire.
In addition to these, we should mention the well-known historian Tabari who died in 311A.H., a period very close to when the Hadith were written. Tabari wrote 30 volumes of tafsir (commentary) on the Qur'an, 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 Qur'an, too, is drawn through the prism of the hadiths. Thus, all his books derive their credentials from the Qur'an, but they are not based on the Qur'an. 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 Prophet's utterances. Tabari's work has become one of the main reference works used by Muslims who use it without ever questioning its authenticity.
Below are listed some important issues, with the relevant Qur'anic verses, to show how the Hadiths clearly contradict the Qur'an.
Selection no. 1: punishment for adultery
The punishment of stoning to death for adultery has its origin in the Old Testament. This law has been copied by all the six collectors of hadith who stress their claims that the Prophet practiced it. To counter this argument, we will first look at what the Qur'an has to say, followed by its contradiction in Bukhari.
The Quranic verses:
(24: 2) The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.
(24:5-9) Those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them with eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony – they indeed are evil-doers. Save those who afterward repent and make amends (For such) lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. As for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves: let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies, (swearing) by Allah that he is of those who speak the truth; And a fifth, invoking the curse of Allah on him if he is of those who lie. And it shall avert punishment from her if she bear witness before Allah four times that the thing he saith is indeed false. And a fifth time that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he speaketh the truth.
Bukhari (ref: 8.816) Narrated Ibn Abbas:
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 Allah 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 Allah's messenger carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him."
Bukhari (Ref: 3.885) Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani:
A Bedouin came to Allah's messenger and said, "O Allah's Messenger! I ask you by Allah to judge my case according to Allah's Laws". His opponent, who was more learned than he, said, "Yes, judge between us according to Allah's Laws, and allow me to speak." Allah'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." Allah's Messenger said, "By Him in whose hands my soul is, I shall judge between you according to Allah's 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. Allah's Messenger ordered that she be stoned to death.
Both of these hadiths disregard the Qur'anic verses altogether. The verses I quoted from the Qur'an show how in the eyes of true Islamic Law the treatment given to women is absolutely equal to that for men. The Qur'anic judgement also makes it possible for the innocent to escape punishment despite the contrary testimony of others.
Selection no. 2
The following hadiths are some of the examples of the extremely adverse comments supposedly made by the Prophet against women. They totally contradict his character, as well as the spirit of the Qur'an.
Bukhari (ref: 1.301) narrated AbuSa 'id Al-Kudri:
Once, Allah's Messenger went out of the Musalla (to offer prayer) of Id-al-Adha. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Messenger?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you." The women asked, "O Allah's Messenger! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during the menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion."
Bukhari (7.030) narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
Allah's Apostle said, "Evil omen is in the woman, the house and the horse."
One can quote many verses from the Qur'an to refute the above statements. Examples are: 2:223; 4:19; 16:97; 33:35 and 48:5,6. The Qur'an does not denigrate women in any way, but the Hadith literature contains woman-degrading hadiths which portray the woman as naturally crooked and beyond reform, more evil than man, of lower intelligence, and a hindrance to prayers – grouped together with dogs and asses – (ref: Bukhari 1.490, Muslim 1032, 1034, Abu Daud 703).
Selection no. 3
To approach women during their menses, for sexual purposes, is forbidden in the Qur'an. It is impossible to imagine that the Prophet was unaware of this injunction in the Qur'an and yet Bukhari, it appears, has been able to unearth the most intimate private affairs of the Prophet. He claims the authority of Hazrat Aisha in order to make it look authentic.
Bukhari (ref: 1.298); narrated Aisha:
The Prophet and I used to take a bath from a single pot while we were junub [the unclean state after sexual intercourse]. During the menses, he used to order me to put on an izar (dress worn below the waist) and used to fondle me. While in itikaf (see note below) he used to bring his head near me and I would wash it while I used to be in periods (menses).
Note: itikaf is seclusion in a mosque for the purpose of worshipping Allah.
Bukhari (Ref: 1.299) Narrated Abdur Rahman bin Al-Aswad:
Aisha said: "Whenever Allah's Messenger wanted to fondle anyone during her periods (menses), he used to order her to put on an izar and start fondling her." Aisha added "None of you could control his sexual desires as the Prophet."
Contrast this with specific Qur'anic injunction:
(2:222) They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say: It is a vulnerable condition, so let women alone at such times and go not unto them till they are cleansed. And when they have purified themselves, then go unto them as Allah hath enjoined upon you.
Selection No. 4
Here are a few typical examples of hadiths which show aspects of character ascribed to the Prophet that are totally irrational. These also strengthen the above-mentioned conspiracy theory, as all the irrefutable historical evidence on the Prophet's nature contradict the spirit of such narrations.
Bukhari (ref: 7.590), narrated Anas:
The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet ordered them to proceed along with his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as medicine). So they proceded along with the shepherd i.e. the camels, and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. When the news reached the Prophet (pbuh) he sent some people in their pursuit. When they were brought, he cut their hands and feet and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron.
Bukhari (ref: 7.252/253/254) narrated Um Salama and Um Atiyya:
A woman was bereaved of her husband and her relatives worried about her eyes (which were diseased). They came to Allah's Messenger and asked him to allow them to treat her eyes with kohl (antimony eye powder), but he said, "[...]nay, she cannot use kohl till four months and ten days have elapsed."
Bukhari (Ref: 9.130) Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Messenger used to visit Um Haram bint Milhan and she was the wife of Ubada bin As-Samit. One day the Prophet visited her and she provided him with food and started looking for lice in his head. Then Allah's Messenger slept and afterwards woke up smiling[...]
It is difficult to imagine anyone capable of such rank treachery and stupidity that depicted in the first two hadiths – let alone ascribe such a cruel nature to our Prophet! It is difficult, also, to imagine a situation where someone else's wife would be looking for lice on the Prophet's head on one if his supposed regular trips to see her, particularly as the Qur'an enjoins believing men and women to lower their gaze and be modest, an injunction which would seem to preclude such a suggestive intimacy.
Selection no. 5
One of the commonest beliefs is that Hadith (particularly Vol. 6 of Bukhari – which give various information on when and under what circumstances parts of the Qur'an were supposed to have been revealed) is essential in order to understand the Qur'an. This is misleading on many grounds.
Firstly, the number of verses covered by Bukhari are insignificant compared to the total number of Qur'anic verses. Therefore, if this assertion were correct, how then would we understand and follow the other verses not explained by Bukhari? Secondly, the explanations put forward are generally absurd. An incident or a story is narrated around an occurrence which – Bukhari would have it – resulted in the selected Qur'anic verse being revealed. In most cases the incident or story is absurd and one often gets the impression that the revelation of verses was a haphazard affair, owing more to mere accident and whim, than to the Will of Allah. The following Qur'anic verses and their hadith 'explanation' illustrate this point.
(11:114) Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! Good deeds annul ill deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.
Bukhari (ref: 6.209), narrated Ibn Masud:
A man kissed a woman and then came to Allah's Messenger and told him that. So this Divine Inspiration was revealed to the Prophet:
(11:114) And offer prayers perfectly at the two ends of the day, and in some hours of the night. Verily the good deeds remove the evil deeds (small sins). This is reminder for the mindful.
The man said, "Is this information for me only?" The Prophet said, "It is for all those of my followers who encounter a similar situation."
Bukhari (Ref: 6.203) Narrated Muhammad bin 'Abbad bin Ja'far that he heard Ibn 'Abbas reciting from the Qur'an:
(11:5) "No doubt! They fold up their breasts."
and asked him about its explanation. He said "Some people used to hide themselves while answering the call of nature in an open space lest they be exposed to the sky, and also when they had sexual relations with their wives in an open space lest they be exposed to the sky, so the above revelation was sent down regarding them."
Selection no. 6
Islam, from the very beginning directed people to cultivate science. The application of this precept brought with it the prodigious strides in science during the great era of Islamic civilisation, from which the West, too, benefited hugely – although its literature almost entirely ignores the fact. Today, thanks to scientific knowledge, great progress has been made in the interpretation of many previously misunderstood verses in the Qur'an. Verse 36 of Sura 38 is a prime example.
The Qur'an gives an end to the sun's evolution and a destination place. Modern astronomy has been able to locate it exactly and has called it the Solar Apex. The verse translated by Dr Bucaille is as follows:3
(36:38) The Sun runs its course to a settled place. This is the decree of the Almighty, the Full of Knowledge.
Note that the words 'settled place' is the translation of the Arabic mustaqarr.
Contrast this with the supposedly reported interpretation of the verse by the Prophet as quoted by Bukhari.
Bukhari (ref: 4.421), narrated Abu Dhar:
The Prophet asked me at sunset, "Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?" I replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better."
He said, "It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates itself underneath the Throne, and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course, but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west. And that is the interpretation of the statement of Allah."
(36:38) And the sun runs its fixed course for a term (decreed). That is the Decree of (Allah) the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.
Clearly, such an interpretation is laughable given even a rudimentary knowledge of the movements of the sun and earth. Such unscientific assertions are nowhere to be found in the Qur'an. However, they liberally pepper the Hadith literature.
Selection no. 7
There could be no evidence greater than the Qur'an to show that the companions of the Prophet were men of firm belief in Allah and men of most exalted position, whose characters were above reproach. In support of this I quote the following verses from the Qur'an. The reader will note that the hadiths which follow the verses directly contradict the Qur'an.
(48:29) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.
(8:63) And he has put affection between their hearts. If you had spent all that is on the earth, you could not have produced that affection, but Allah has done it, as His Power and Wisdom are boundless.
Now let us see what Hadith tells about the companions of the Prophet. There are several hadiths which describe a conflict between Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Ali, one of which is as follows.
Bukhari (ref 5: 546), narrated Aisha:
Hazrat Fatima (daughter of Prophet and wife of Hazrat Ali) remained alive for 6 months after the death of the Prophet. When she died Hazrat Ali quietly buried her during the night time and did not inform Hazrat Abu Bakr about her death. As long as Hazrat Fatima lived, Hazrat Ali was greatly respected, but after her death Hazrat Ali felt a change in the behaviour of the people around him. Then he resolved to accept succession to the Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr. Thus, he sent a message to Hazrat Abu Bakr, asking him to come to see him personally but not accompanied by Hazrat Omar. Hazrat Omar, on the other hand, apprehended danger and did not like that Hazrat Abu Bakr should go alone. However, Hazrat Abu Bakr was bent upon meeting Hazrat Ali and thus he went to see him without company. In the above meeting Hazrat Ali said, "We realise your personal superiority and all that Allah has bestowed upon you. We are not jealous of the greatness which Allah has given you. But we do feel that that being near relatives of the Rasool, we are rightful successors to Khil'afat and our right has been usurped by tyranny and oppression."
Selection no. 8
Here we look at the question of intercession. To believe that anyone can intercede on our behalf or have our sins forgiven or our wishes fulfilled, implies belief that Allah has partners. This is polytheism. The Qur'an proclaims that "All intercession belongs to Allah" (39:44), and that there will be "no intercession on the Day of Judgement" (2:254). Examples of verses which corroborate this are as follows: 2:48; 2:123; 6:51,70,94; 7:53; 21:100; 30:13; 36:23; 40:18; 43:86; 74:48.
The Qur'an acknowledges that in spite of the categorical statements that there will be no intercession on the Day of Judgement, as given in the verses above, our human weakness will prompt us to seek the help of living or dead saints and prophets, to intercede on behalf of our loved ones. The Qur'anic verses 2:255, 10:3, 19:87, 20:109, 21:28 and 34:23 throw some light on this. The implication of these verses is that intercession will only be effective in cases already approved by Allah i.e. for those whose own "beliefs and good deeds" are to receive benefit and reward from Allah anyway. Note also the section of verse 40:18 which specifically says "no intimate friend nor intercessor will the wrong-doers have, who could be listened to". When reading translations of some of the verses one must be careful of relying on the translations which misinterpret the verses to mean that intercession will be of no value except by those to whom (i.e. the Prophet) Allah has granted permission and whose word (of intercession) is acceptable to Allah. For example, Yusuf Ali comments in his note (no. 2634) to verse 20:109 as follows:
Cf. ii 255 in the verse of the Throne. Here man is in the accusative case governed by tanfa'u, and it is better to construe it as I have done. That is, intercession will benefit no one except those for whom God has granted permission, and whose word (of repentance) is true and sincere, and therefore acceptable to God. Others construe: no intercession will avail, except by those whom God has granted permission, and whose word (of intercession) is acceptable to God.4
Taking further important examples from the Qur'an we learn that Abraham, Allah's beloved servant, could not intercede on behalf of his father (9:114). Noah could not intercede on behalf of his son (11:46). Muhammad could not intercede on behalf of his uncle (111:1-3), or others (9:80). The Qur'an also asserts in verses 7:188 and 46:9 that the Prophet possesses no power to benefit or harm anyone.
(7:188) Say: For myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth. Had I knowledge of the unseen, I should have abundance of wealth, and adversity would not touch me. I am but a warner, and a bearer of good tidings unto folk who believe.
(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 is there, therefore, to make one think that a prophet or a saint will be able to intercede on our behalf? They will, rather, disown us than intercede on our behalf:
(35:14) If ye pray unto them they hear not your prayer, and if they heard they could not grant it to you. On the Day of Resurrection they will disown association with you. None can inform you like Him Who is aware.
Similarly, the verse 25:30 says that Muhammad's plea to Allah on the Day of Judgement will be: "O my Sustainer! Mine own people make this Qur'an of no account"-- meaning that we, the people, took no guidance from the Qur'an.
In contrast, the Hadith literature has succeeded in duping many people into accepting the concept of intercession. Bukhari and Muslim state categorically that the Prophet has been given the right of intercession. (Note the following hadiths: Bukhari: 1.098, 1.331, 5.224, 6.242, 8.563, 8.571; Muslim: 0389, 0747, 2071, 2516).
Bukhari (ref: 1.098), narrated Abu Huraira:
I said: "O Allah's Apostle! Who will be the luckiest person, who will gain your intercession on the Day of Resurrection?" Allah's Apostle said: "O Abu Huraira! I have thought that none would ask me about it before you as I know your longing for the (learning of) hadiths. The luckiest person who will have my intercession on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who said sincerely from the bottom of his heart "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah."
Bukhari (ref: 1.331), narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me:
1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey.
2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform tayammum, therefore, any one of my followers can pray wherever the time of prayer is due.
3. The booty has been made halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for any one else before me.
4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).
5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.
Bukhari (ref: 5:224), narrated Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri:
I heard the Prophet when somebody mentioned his uncle (i.e. Abu Talib), saying, "Perhaps my intercession will be helpful to him on the Day of Resurrection so that he may be put in a shallow fire rea
Taken from the online book:
Study of the Quran
By M.A.Malek, I highly recommend this book for reading.
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