Reasons for Opposition to Hadith


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reasons for Opposition to Hadith

The word "hadith" is the name of an infinitive meaning "to explain, inform, the thing explained/informed about, news, and words." The word was taken from this broad dictionary meaning and began to be used for some special news. Thus, in time this particular meaning developed which relates to news about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This news includes everything about the Prophet such as his words, actions, states, etc. When "hadith" is mentioned, this is the primary meaning understood. Sometimes in order to make the term clearer, it is used together with the word "exalted." Together with this, undoubtedly after the meaning of the word was established, it continued to be used with its dictionary meanings. For this reason, it is important to separate the usage of its dictionary and particular meanings especially during the early periods. I will use the word "hadith" in its particular meaning. Coming to opposition to hadiths, this implies that hadiths are fully or partially works of a later period, in other words falsified, (objections to their inherent soundness) or that, together with being authentic words and acts of the Prophet, they are not considered to be a religious reference for one reason or another (objections to their religious value).

Objections To The Inherent Soundness of Hadiths:

According to the first view, hadiths cannot be a source for the history of Islam's early period. Of course, for those with this view, hadiths cannot be accepted as a reliable source for those who consider them to be a reference for religion.

There were those who even voiced this view during the age of narration:

In his book Jimau'l-ilm, Imam Shafii mentions those who reject all traditions and special traditions related by one person. It can be understood that the point of their objection is their doubt regarding the inherent soundness of the narration.

In the work Ta'wil, Ibn Qutayba attempts to respond to claims made by some who rejected some hadiths they thought conflicted with the Quran and other hadiths and the mind and experience.

In his rebuttal written to Bishr al-Marisi, Osman ad-Darimi mentioned some who attempted to reject some hadiths because they were not written down during the Age of Happiness or the period of the First Four Caliphs (the author tried to answer this objection by explaining through examples that hadiths began to be written down beginning in the Age of Happiness) or because some people put them with ill intention in books of hadith that were written later on.

During recent centuries this view has become more widespread and brought to the agenda again with new reasons.

Until the 19th century it was believed in the West that most traditions were authentic. Dutch scholar Dozy (1820-1889) estimated that half of the traditions actually belonged to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Later an opposite view became dominant and it was said that most of the hadiths were products of periods after the Prophet. Goldziher indicates that it is difficult to accept Dozy's view. According to him, most traditions are the product of later periods. Caetani fully supports Goldziher. D. S. Margoliouth claims that the Prophet left no sunnah or tradition except for the Quran.

Brockelman states that most traditions appeared two centuries after the advent of Islam and that for this reason it is necessary to avoid using them as a significant source for the Prophet's beliefs.

Fazlur Rahman states: "During the early periods a great part of the traditions belong to later generations rather than the Prophet because the number of prophetical hadiths is small. Actually, most of the fiqhi and even moral hadiths we have from the second century are not from the Prophet; to the contrary, they extend back to the Sahaba, the Tabii and the third generation. However, later on after the hadith movement, traditions were attributed to their most natural source, the personality of the Prophet, due to reasons necessitated by the purpose they wanted to realize."

It is seen that some writers concentrated on special topics. In this respect, H. Lammens concentrated on the Prophet's life and J. Schacht tried to establish how hadiths related to jurisprudence were falsified later on.

Two of the most important reasons for the claim today that all or a majority of the hadiths are unauthentic are, in my opinion, the matters of the traditional critical method of hadith and hadith content being seen as related to cultural events seen in subsequent centuries.

The criticism of traditions, particularly among hadith scholars, is based on the reporters of the hadiths and partially on the examination of the narrated texts. When relevant books are examined, it can be seen that written proofs were given a lot of weight. Here there are two claims: that the proofs are not authentic and falsified and that usually criticism of the proofs sufficed for hadith criticism and that it was insufficient.

The claim that the hadith proofs are falsified can be refuted before anything else by the path of "the journey to find hadiths" which began during the period of the Sahaba and which almost everyone connected with hadith learning subscribes to. There would have been no sense in traveling from city to city under the conditions of that time to falsify a report or to get a falsified report. It can not be found acceptable that the thousands of people who participated in these journeys would not be aware of the falsification of proofs.

Before going into detail regarding the highly controversial issue of the insufficiency of proof criticism, it would be appropriate to mention two points on this matter: The difficulty produced by the inclusion of matters like faith, worship and the unseen in addition to matters of the intellect in the hadith texts which include explanations on every subject (why hadith scholars rather than jurisprudence scholars can explain why they use this method) and the fact that there are usually problems with the proof of every hadith where there is doubt about the text (in this situation the indication of the condition of the proof has been seen as sufficient). Consequently, what is more important in my opinion is rather than the issue as to whether or not criticism of the proof was made most of the time, but the matter of whether or not the criticism of the proof was made carefully. Again, I should state that I do not want to say that criticism of the proof is sufficient for criticism of a hadith.

Here I want to emphasize the second reason. It is understood that I. Goldziher primarily used this reason before. He states that hadiths are not acceptable as documents for the history of early Islam, that there are traces of trends dominant in subsequent times, and that most of them should be accepted as a result of Islam's religious, historical and social development during the first two centuries. He appears to conclude that the similarity between hadiths and later historical developments/ events makes the hadiths false.

Objections Directed Towards the Religious Value of Hadiths

It can be seen that during the first century of Islamic history while the Companions were still alive some people did not grasp the place of hadiths/sunnah in religion. We understand from one of Aisha's answers that these were the Khawarij sect. It is related that the Khawarij did not accept the sunnah/hadiths which bring a judgment in addition to the Quran.

There are those who share this view in our time. Just as there are those who accept well known acts of sunnah, there are those who completely reject the sunnah and only accept the Quran. It appears that this type of view found the opportunity for dissemination mainly in the Indo-Pakistan region.

Some reasons for opposition to hadiths in our time resemble reasons given in the first centuries of Islam. There are also some new reasons presented, and two of them stand out. They are that hadiths were not written during the Age of Happiness and that the hadiths address the people of that time.

عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه قَالَ:
قَبَّلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْحَسَنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ وَعِنْدَهُ الأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ التَّمِيمِيُّ جَالِسًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ الأَقْرَعُ إِنَّ لِي عَشَرَةً مِنَ الْوَلَدِ مَا قَبَّلْتُ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا‏.‏ فَنَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ ‏"‏‏
God's Messenger kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (his grandchild) while Al-Aqra' bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said, "I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them", God's Messenger cast a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 18)

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