By Bassam Zawadi
1) Why don’t we have any record of early Muslims completely rejecting hadith?
The hadith rejecter might argue back by saying “we don’t blindly follow people; you are committing the appeal to tradition fallacy”.
However, you answer back that Allah says in the Quran…
The vanguard (of Islam)- the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds,- well- pleased is God with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.
In this verse, Allah is saying that the Muhajirin (those who migrated from Mecca to Medina) and the Ansar (the people of Medina) and those righteous people that came after them have been promised heaven.
Now, how can Allah promise heaven to these people when they are the very same ones who transmitted the hadith to us? As a matter of fact they are the same people that passed the Qur’an down to us. The Quran is passed on to us by “Mutawattir” narrations. Mutawattir narrations are narrations that have been transmitted by so many people that it would be impossible for all of the transmitters to fabricate such a narration. However, we have an enormous amount of Mutawattir hadith. We have a list of Mutawatir hadith http://hadith.al-islam.com/bayan/Index.asp?Lang=ENG&Type=3 that teach things that are not taught in the Quran. How can you reject their authenticity with no objective evidence?
If we are expected to believe that ALL the Muslims could have corrupted Islam by introducing the Hadith then to maintain consistency we must also conclude that it was very likely for them to have corrupted the Qur’an as well. The Hadith rejecter will respond back by saying that Allah promised to preserve the Qur’an (Surah 15:9) but not the hadith. However, this is circular reasoning. The Hadith rejecter is basically saying “The only evidence that the Qur’an is preserved is that the Qur’an says so.” No objective person will take such an answer seriously.
The hadith rejecter might also respond back by saying that there were early sects such as the Mu’tazilites that rejected hadith. However, the Mu’tazilites did not reject all hadith, they only rejected AHAD hadith. So the argument still stands that there were no early Muslims that practiced this corrupted understanding of Islam taught by the Quranites.
If we want to go to heaven we have to be like those people whom God promised heaven to in Surah 9, verse 100 and they sure were not hadith rejecters.
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat says…
Since the companions of the Prophet played a decisive part in the transmission of the Sunnah and Hadith, it seems fitting to examine what the Qur’an has to say about their role. In this connection the most relevant Qur’anic passages are those where the companions or the Muslims generally are described as the best community or witnesses over humanity:
You are the best community raised for humanity; you enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in God (3:110).
Thus We have appointed you a community of the middle (wasat) that you may be witnesses over (‘ala) humanity and the Messenger may be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you (O Prophet) used to turn to except (a means) to distinguish him who follows the Messenger from him who turns back from his heels, and this was surely hard except for those whom God has guided aright. God was not going to make your faith fruitless. For, most surely God is affectionate and merciful to humanity (2:143). And strive in the way of God as is his due. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship, the religion of your father Abraham. He has named you Muslims before and in this (Qur’an) that the Messenger may be a witness (shahid) over you and you may be witnesses over humanity. So establish regular prayer and practice regular charity and hold fast by God. He is your protecting friend, and what a protector and what a helper (22:78). O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness (shahid) and a bringer of good tidings and a warner (33:45).
The word wasat can mean “best” or “just and balanced”. The two meanings are connected by the fact that “best” is where various elements come together in a balanced way. The word shahid, in addition to the usual sense of “witness in a court of law”, has two other related senses in the Qur’an:
Someone who sees what is going on around him in his society and points toward what is just and right by speech, action, and shining example. The ultimate degree to which this role can be performed is to give one’s life, if necessary. This is why a person killed in the way of truth and righteousness is also called shahid.
Someone who on the day of judgment will be brought forward by God to establish his judgment, especially his judgment against the wrong-doers.
The first role can qualify and lead a person to the second role. Thus the Messenger is a witness in both senses:
O Prophet! Truly We have sent you a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner, as one inviting to God with his permission and as a light-giving torch (33:45-46). We have truly sent you as a witness, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner. That you (O human beings) may believe in God and his Messenger and may aid him and revere him, and celebrate his praise morning and evening (48:8-9).
In these verses the Prophet is a witness in this world, bearing testimony to truth, justice and righteousness. This naturally leads him to be a witness in the second sense, mentioned in the following verses:
One day We shall raise from every people a witness against them from among themselves and We shall bring you (O Prophet) as a witness against these (your people): and We have sent down to you the book explaining all things, a guide, mercy, and glad tidings to those who commit (16:89; see also 4:41).
The two senses of the term “witness” are also applied in the Qur’an to the Prophet Jesus. Thus in 5:117 Jesus defends himself on the day of judgment with the words:
I did not say to them except what you commanded me, that serve God my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness over them so long as I was with them, but when you caused me to die, you were the watcher over them, and you are witness of all things”.
Here Jesus is a witness during his life in this world in the sense that he watched over his followers and kept them, or tried to keep them, on the right path by his teaching and example. In the following verse, if it refers to him as is generally understood, Jesus is a witness in the hereafter (in the second sense):
And there is none of the people of the book but must believe in him before his death; and on the day of judgment he will be a witness against them (4:159).
A witness in the hereafter is probably understood to be a witness against. But this is not necessarily the case for witness in the first sense. This is clear because the Prophets Muhammad and Jesus were witnesses over the community of believers but not witnesses against them.
The suhabah are not explicitly described as witnesses in the hereafter, although there is nothing in the Qur’an that excludes the possibility. Their witness is primarily understood in the Qur’an in the first sense. Some commentators, e.g. Ibn Kathir have taken shahid in the second sense and understood 33:45 to mean that the Prophet and the Muslims would act as witnesses in the day of judgment against other nations who rejected their prophets. This interpretation is supported by a number of ahadith from books like Ahmad and Hakim not known for their reliability. If, however, we read the verse with our mind free from the Hadith, as we must before we have firmly established the reliability of the ahadith used, then it becomes clear that in 33:45 the “witness” refers to a role in this world and not the hereafter.
It is probable that the community entrusted with the role of witnesses in 2:143 and 22:78 is first and foremost that of the companions (suhabah) of the Prophet, since in 22:68 Abraham is described as “your father”, a description that is applicable properly to the companions among the Muslims. Thus the progression of Islam in history is divided into two momentous stages. In the first stage the Prophet prepares a community of followers consisting primarily of his own people in the Arabian Peninsula. During this stage he is a witness over the community of his followers. In the second stage the companions take the Islamic message to a large part of the then know world and Islam is forever established as a world religion. In this stage the companions are the witnesses over humanity.
But what about the ages after the companions? In these ages Muslims generally are meant to perform the role of witnesses. For the Qur`an commands all believers:
O believers! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, surely God is well-acquainted with all that you do (4:135). O believers! Stand out firmly for God as witnesses to justice and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Act equitably, that is nearer to righteousness, and be mindful of God. Surely God is aware of what you do (5:8).
The companions continued the mission of the Prophet by transmitting the Qur’an. They also passed on to other Muslims whatever living memories they had of his words and actions (Hadith), as and when the occasion arose. In transmitting the Hadith the companions followed the normal way of the times in which they lived, for, as we argued earlier it was God’s plan to leave the transmission of the Hadith to normal human processes. The companions did not produce comprehensive compilations of Hadith. Only when the time of the companions passed did a more systematic writing of the Hadith started. This was very usual in earlier times. The disciples of a teacher learnt from the teacher but did not write down what he said or did in comprehensive documents. Once the age of living witnesses was over, the writing started. This is the normal human process of transmission to which preservation of the Hadith was entrusted by God. (Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, The Sacred Hadith Project, Chapter 3: How Far The Hadith Is Binding, Source)
http://www.islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=285 (what the early Muslims said about following the Sunnah)
2) How do you know how to pray using the Quran alone?
The Quranites will answer back by saying that prayer has been sanctioned before and that the Prophets that came before the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to pray. They say that this also applies to Abraham and that the method of prayer has been passed down unto the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
This weak argument can be refuted in many different ways.
First, challenge them to show you only one verse from the Qu’ran that says that the method of prayer was passed down from Abraham (peace be upon him) to Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Secondly, challenge them to prove from the Qu’ran alone that the way the Prophets before the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed is the same way as we pray today. Just because prayer was sanctioned for them, that doesn’t mean it was the same method of prayer.
Thirdly, expose their inconsistencies and hypocrisy. They criticize Bukhari for collecting narrations 200 years after the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) death but have no problem accepting methods of prayer being passed down from Abraham to the last Prophet while there is a time span of more than a thousand years between them! They claim that Allah did not promise to preserve the hadith, so challenge them back and ask them to show you where Allah promised to preserve the method of prayer passed down from Abraham to Muhammad (peace be upon them both).
Fourthly, the Quran condemns the method of prayer that was present in Mecca before Allah revealed the method of prayer to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
Their prayer at the House (of God) is nothing but whistling and clapping of hands: (Its only answer can be), “Taste ye the penalty because ye blasphemed.”
So if the method of prayer was passed down, then surely people would have been practicing it.
Fifthly, God says in the Qur’an…
(During war and emergency) if you (are in a state of) fear, then (perform the ‘salat’) standing up, (walking), or on horseback. Then, as soon as you have peace, remember Allah in the manner He has taught you which you (previously) did not know.
God is telling the people to make remembrance (dhikr) of Him the way He taught them which they did not know before. Salat (Prayer) is a form of remembrance:
Indeed, I am the One _ Allah! There is no god except Me! So obey Me and establish the ‘salat’ (prayers) to remember (li dhikr) Me.
So we are to pray to Allah the way He taught us. But note that Allah says in the end of Surah 2:239 that this way was not known to the Muslims at that time. If the tradition of prayer was passed down from Abraham’s time then the Muslims would have known how to perform it. However, Allah is saying here that they did not know. So surely they must have been taught, but by whom? Well the verse says that Allah had taught them, but how did Allah teach them? Did He teach them in the Qur’an? I say that He didn’t in the Qur’an and I challenge anyone to use the Qur’an alone to show me how it teaches us to pray the way Muslims pray today.
Don’t show me verses where the Qur’an says that we should bow down and prostrate. No, show me where the Quran says WHEN we should prostrate and bow down (the order) and what we should say in each position. It is impossible and no one can show us this. We can only conclude that the method of prayer that we implement today as Muslims came from another source besides the Qur’an and that is the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah taught us how to pray by using the Prophet (peace be upon him) to show us. The Qur’an says that Allah revealed the Quran to us, but then in another verse it says that the Holy Spirit (Gabriel) sent the Qur’an down to us. Is this a contradiction? No, it’s God sending us the Qur’an down but through the agency of the Angel Gabriel. Similarly it is Allah teaching us how to pray, but through the agency of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
You can also challenge the Quranites to show where the Qur’an says how many raka’s we must pray for each prayer. They won’t be able to do so. Some will desperately reply back that the numbers of raka’ts are not important. These kind of silly replies are not even worth responding back to. It’s obvious that you have trapped them.
3) How do you know how much Zakah to pay using the Quran alone?
Every single Muslim since the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) time has agreed that Zakah is 2.5% of one’s annual income. Where did they get this information from? If the Quranite replies back by saying “Well I don’t know that’s not my concern. I only follow Qur’an, not men” then tell him that he is not being objective. Because if certain people deceived ALL the Muslims on issues like this then they could have deceived them by corrupting the Qur’an. So they are not being objective.
4) The Quran says that men can beat their wives. But we know according to the hadith that this is meant to be a light beating that inflicts a spiritual punishment and not a harmful physical punishment. What is to stop a man from misinterpreting the Quran and beating his wife severely?
The Hadith rejecter might answer back by saying that it is obvious that this verse is speaking about a light beating or he may say that the Qur’an orders in other verses that we must treat our wives well.
However, such an answer is insufficient because a certain individual’s logic could tell him that the Qur’an teaches that it is a general principle to be good to your wife. However there is an exception to that general rule and that exception is if she behaves in a disrespectful way to her husband. What is to stop a person from thinking like this?
Some may even argue back that beating a wife in this verse could be referring to a strong beating if it is necessary. This is where the interpretation by Quran-Only Muslims could become dangerous. This is where they can misunderstand verses and implement them and it could have horrible consequences.
5) It says in the Quran to shorten the prayer when you travel. How long do you have to travel in order to be eligible to have this privilege? How short do you have to cut the prayer?
Some Quranites may reply back by saying that we should not ask too many questions regarding these details. They might even reply back by comparing you to the Jews that kept asking Moses unnecessary questions after they were told to sacrifice a cow to God.
However, that analogy would be false because the request to sacrifice a cow was specific and clear. “Sacrifice a cow”, full stop. Everyone knows what a cow means. God didn’t say sacrifice a special cow and then they asked what special meant. No, a cow is a cow. It only has one meaning.
But here we are told to shorten the prayer. We don’t know by how much we should reduce it. Does this mean that I can shorten my prayer to a mere five seconds? Also, travel could mean different things to different people. Traveling could mean a 30 km distance for someone and it could mean 50 km to someone else. Who is correct? Which standard should we follow?
6) The Qur’an says to cut the hand of the thief. Does the word ‘cut’ in the verse mean to cut off or to cut in the sense of making a mark, or could it be metaphorical and mean cutting off the resources of the thief?
I once received a ridiculous reply from an individual who said that all the interpretations could be correct! Indeed, what a desperate response. If the person you are arguing with was objective and truth-seeking he would clearly see how difficult his position would be.
7) The prophecies of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came true from the hadith, thus proving that there are divine revelations sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) other than the Quran. How do you explain this?
Some argue that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not know the unseen; therefore we cannot appeal to these hadith that prophesy the future. They argue their case by quoting verses from the Qur’an such as Surah 7:188 and Surah 46:9. However, no one has ever argued that the Prophet knew these things by HIMSELF. The verses quoted prove that the Prophet (peace be upon him) could not have known the unseen on his own, but that does not mean that God cannot inform him:
“At length, when they see (with their own eyes) that which they are promised,- then will they know who it is that is weakest in (his) helper and least important in point of numbers. Say: ‘I know not whether the (Punishment) which ye are promised is near, or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term. He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Mysteries,- Except an apostle whom He has chosen: and then He makes a band of watchers march before him and behind him, That He may know that they have (truly) brought and delivered the Messages of their Lord: and He surrounds (all the mysteries) that are with them, and takes account of every single thing.’
8) The Qur’an says that we must obey Allah and the Messenger (Surah 3:31-32,132; Surah 4:13-14, 59, 61, 64, 69, 80; Surah 24:56). There are two separate commands here. One is to obey Allah and the other is to obey the Prophet. In order to obey someone, he would need to issue a command. So if we want to obey Allah we have to do so by reading the commands of Allah in the Quran and adhering to them. If we want to obey the Prophet then we have to do so by reading the commands of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the authentic hadith and adhere to them. Or is there another way?
Some hadith rejecters claim that the command to obey the Prophet (peace be upon him) was only in regard to his contemporaries. However, there is no evidence for these claims. The Quran is supposed to benefit all of mankind. How do we benefit from this command especially since there are several verses regarding it?
Some other hadith rejecters claim that “obeying the Messenger” means to obey the message that he came with. So basically to “obey the messenger” means to follow the Qur’an. However, this is a weak argument because the Qur’an clearly separates obeying the Qur’an and the Messenger:
When it is said to them: “Come to what God hath revealed, and to the Apostle“: Thou seest the Hypocrites avert their faces from thee in disgust.
Notice that it is said to the disbelievers to come to what God has revealed (Qur’an) AND to the Messenger. So people are to come to two different things for guidance, not only one.
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat talks about the issue of obeying the Messenger and refutes “Quranite” arguments regarding it in detail…
Now there are three ways to understand the injunction to obey the messenger:
The injunction pertains to the position of the Prophet as the head of the community and is similar to the injunction to obey the ul al-amr.
This interpretation is often given by the Qur’an-only Muslims. But let us see if this makes sense. First of all, we have seen considerable evidence above that the Qur’an views the prophetic role of the Messenger as more than just a deliveryman for the Qur’an, so that he headed the Muslim community not just as any leader but also as a prophet. Second of all, even the verses under consideration, especially 4;59 do not support the position of the Qur’an-only sect. Verse 4:59 first says “Obey God” and then says “obey his Messenger and those of you who are in charge of your affair (ul al-`amr)”. The way in the second statement the messenger and ul al-amr are put together might suggest that the messenger is like the other ul al-amr in the matter of obedience except that he is the overall head of the community and a chief among them while others are in charge of various local and more specialized tasks. But subsequently the verse says: “But if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to God and his messenger”. Now in this statement the messenger is moved apart from those in charge of your affairs. His mention has moved with that of God. If the messenger were like other ul al-amr, then there should be a possibility of a dispute between him and some of the other Muslims and we should expect the verse to instruct that all disputes be referred to God, that is, to the ongoing Qur’anic revelation. The fact that the disputes are to be referred to God and the Messenger means that the obedience to the Messenger is of a type different from that to the ul al-amr.
That the Prophet is not just another Muslim leader when he was not delivering the Qur’an is shown also by 4:65, where it is a condition of faith that those who call themselves believers make the Prophet a judge in their disputes and then feel no hesitation in their hearts to accept his decision. This is something not true of other ul al-amr. One can accept the decisions of all other Muslim leaders grudgingly or altogether dispute their decisions, but not so in the case of the Prophet. There are yet more passages in the Qur’an that set the Prophet apart from other Muslim leaders or ul al-amr. Thus in 24:63 the Qur’an tells the believers not to make the calling by the Prophet like calling by one of them of another. In 48:10 the Qur’an says: Surely, those who swear allegiance to you (O Prophet) do but swear allegiance to God. The hand of God is above their hands. Therefore whoever breaks (his pledge), he breaks it to the injury of his own should and whoever fulfils what he has covenanted with God, he will grant him a great reward (48:10). In 4:80 we read: He who obeys the Messenger obeys God and he who turns away, (he will reap the consequences of his choice, for). We have not made you (O Prophet) a warder over them. Another verse tells the believers: do not put yourselves forward in the presence of God and his messenger … lift not your voices above the voice of the Prophet nor shout when speaking to him as you shout one to another, lest your deeds come to nothing while you perceive it not (49:2). Even more, the Qur’an says that the Prophet is to be preferred by the believers over themselves and his wives are like their mothers (33:6) who are not to be married to any other man after him (33:53). Can all these things, or even most of them be said of any other Muslim leader? The Qur’an-only Muslims point to 33:43 where God and the angels are said to bless (salla) believers just as they are said to bless (salla) the Prophet (33:56) and conclude from this that there is no real difference between the Prophet and other believers. But the fact that in some matters the Qur’an speaks about the Prophet and the other believers in a similar way does not mean that the Prophet is like the believers. The verses mentioned above, which are ignored by the Qur’an-only Muslims, clearly show otherwise.
We may thus justifiably conclude that the obedience to the messenger cannot be considered as obedience to him as simply a leader and head of the community. This leads us to the consideration of another possibility.
The injunction to obey the Prophet pertains to his role as the messenger of God but since his role is that of the deliveryman the obedience to him is obedience to what he delivers the Qur’an. In other words, the obedience to the messenger is the obedience to the Qur’an;
This is another interpretation favored by the Qur’an-only sect. But this too should be excluded. We have presented above considerable evidence from the Qur’an to show that the messenger cannot be regarded simply as the deliveryman. Moreover, the obedience to the messenger is often mentioned along with obedience to God. If obedience to the messenger is the obedience to the Qur’an, then what is the obedience to God? One may take obedience to God as a much wider concept, so that it is not exhausted by obedience to the Qur’an. Thus if in a particular matter it somehow becomes clear to us (through ilham and nur mentioned earlier) that a certain course of action is the right one, then we are duty bound to follow that course of action even if it is not clearly indicated in the Qur’an. In that case, it would be possible to take obedience to the messenger as obedience to the Qur’an. That is, the meaning would be: obey God in whatever guidance he shows you through whatever means but also obey the revelation sent down on the messenger (Qur’an). Such an interpretation, however, will not support the contention of the Qur’an-only sect. For, the moment it is admitted that the believers may be guided by some God-given resources within them apart from the Qur’an they would have to admit that the Prophet could also provide some guidance by God-given resources within him apart from the Qur’an and his resources are much more trustworthy than those of the rest of us.
Thus in the verses under consideration, the obedience to the messenger is neither obedience to him as a mere leader of the community nor is it simply obedience to the Qur’an. It must be interpreted in the remaining, third, sense:
(Conclusion). The injunction to obey the Prophet pertains to the position of the Prophet as the messenger of God and means that at least some part of his Sunnah should be obeyed.
In order now to proceed beyond the above very valuable conclusion we need to raise the question whether obedience to the messenger, even in the third sense above, was only meant for the time of the Prophet or whether it is meant for all the generations of Muslims. In view of the Qur’anic belief that the Prophet Muhammad was the seal of the prophets, any Qur’anic injunction is binding for believers till the day of judgment unless it is abrogated or circumstances change in such a way that it ceases to fulfill the very purpose for which it was given in the first place or it is in some other clear way seen to be of temporary validity. Consequently, the injunction to obey the messenger is binding till the Day of Judgment, for, there is nothing in the Qur’an which suggests that the injunction was temporary. Indeed, this injunction occurs in the middle of the injunction to obey God and the injunction to obey ul al-amr. Since the first injunction (obey God) as well as the third injunction (to obey ul al-amr, when they assume power according to the Qur’anic teachings) are clearly eternal, it is natural to understand the second injunction (obey the Messenger) as eternal also. It may be objected here that since God and the ul al-amr are always with us while the Prophet is not, hence the injunction to obey them is eternal while the injunction to obey the Prophet was applicable only during his lifetime. This objection assumes that for a person to be obeyed he should be present to give orders. This assumption, however, is not valid. For how can we obey God and refer our disputes to him? To be sure, unlike the Messenger, God is present with us always but we cannot hear or see him; hence we can obey him primarily by obeying the Qur’an which has come down to us from centuries ago. In a similar fashion, although, we can see and hear the Prophet no more we can still obey him by obeying his Sunnah that has come down to us from centuries ago. Further support for the eternal validity of the injunction to obey the messenger is provided by the following verse:
Establish regular prayer and establish regular charity and obey the messenger that you may find mercy (24:56).
Here the injunction to obey the messenger comes alongside the injunctions to establish prayer and charity. These last two injunctions are clearly eternal and it will be completely arbitrary if we singled out the third one as of temporary validity.
An extra-Qur’anic argument of the Qur’an-only Muslims is that parts of the authentic Hadith do not have any applications now. For example, the Madinah Charter, although based on eternal principles confirmed by the teachings of the Qur’an, has no longer any validity. But this argument is shallow because regard for circumstances is necessary even in the application of the Qur’an and some Qur’anic injunctions are no longer generally applicable. For example, the Qur’an enjoins the Muslims to be prepared for defending themselves against aggression and in this connection mentions horses. The underlying principle is eternal, but the form given to it by the mention of horses is no longer generally applicable. Similarly the Qur’an enjoins fasting from dawn to dusk, but one needs to use ijtihad as to what to do in areas of the globe where the time interval between dawn and dusk can be several days or weeks or months. That in the use of the Hadith we have to similarly take into account the changing circumstances is therefore not an argument that it cannot be binding like the Qur’an till the judgment day.
In their search for arguments to support their view the Qur’an-only Muslims have come up with some other arguments. Thus they say that the verses where obedience to God is coupled with obedience to the messenger are explained by other verses where obedience is made due only to God. In this connection they quote verses such as these:
Say, “I exhort you to do only one thing: that you get up (taqumu) for God in pairs or as individuals, then reflect. Your comrade is not suffering from madness; he is only a warner unto you in the face of terrible doom” (34:46). Turn (anibu) to your Lord and commit (aslimu) to him before the retribution comes to you … (39:54).
In these verses there is no mention of the Messenger and so, according the Qur’an-only Muslims, only obedience to God, that is, obedience to the Qur’an, is required. But these verses do not really talk about obedience (ta’ah). In any case, if there are verses where only the obedience to God is mentioned, there are others where only the obedience to the Messenger is mentioned. We have already quoted the following verse:
Establish regular prayer and establish regular charity and obey the Messenger that you may find mercy (24:56; see also 58;13).
Another argument of the Qur’an-only Muslims is based on verses where the Prophet is asked to judge on the basis of what God has sent down or of his book etc. For example:
So judge between them by what God has sent down … (5:48)
Those who judge not by what God has sent down are the disbelievers (5:44)
The argument is that the Prophet in his capacity of the Messenger governed, when he was not making time-bound decisions, only on the basis of the Qur’an. But judging by the Qur’an does not exclude judging by some thing else such as the ilham, nur and hikmah that the Prophet was favored with. These verses only demand that the judgment should be completely consistent with the Qur’an. They do not demand that the judgment cannot be extra-Qur’anic. That there could be extra-Qur’anic judgments of the Prophet that should be obeyed is shown by many of the verses discussed above. It is further supported by the following verse:
And when it is said to them, Come unto what God has sent down and unto the Messenger, you (O Prophet) see the hypocrites turn from you in aversion (4:61).
Here coming to the Prophet means coming to him for guidance and judgment, as is indicated by the previous verse which talks of “coming for judgment (like going to court)” (yatahakamu). And since coming unto the Messenger is mentioned apart from coming unto what God has sent down, it is natural to understand that the judgment of the Messenger was, though consistent with the Qur’an, was not entirely limited to a simple application of it.
Thus at least some part of the Sunnah is binding in some way till the day of judgment. Now we need to ask more precisely what part of the Sunnah is binding and in what way. In this connection the verses about obeying and following the Prophet and looking towards his uswah hasanah imply that it is a collective obligation for the ummah to determine the authentic ahadith of all sort and look at all of them and then seek guidance from them. This guidance may be in the form of recommendations or suggestions or they may be in the form of orders. When guidance in Hadith is in the form of orders it is obligatory for every Muslim to whom it reaches to obey it. In other words to be engaged in the sacred Hadith project is a collective obligation of the ummah and to obey what is found to be regulatory Hadith is an obligation on every Muslim. (Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, The Sacred Hadith Project, Chapter 3: How Far The Hadith Is Binding, Source)
Mufti Taqi Usmani clarifies the same issue…
The Obedience of the Prophet as Distinct from the Obedience of a Ruler
From the above conclusions, which are based purely on the verses of the Holy Qur’ân, another possibility, often overemphasized by some quarters while opposing the authority of the sunnah, is completely ruled out. It is sometimes said that the Holy Qur’ân, when it ordains the obedience of the Holy Prophet , means his obedience in the capacity of a ruler or a head of the state, and not in the capacity of a prophet. Since the Holy Prophet was also a ruler of the Muslims, they were ordered to “obey” and “follow” him. But after he passed away, his personal obedience is no more necessary. Now, whoever takes over the rule shall stand for the Holy Prophet in the matter of obedience, and the Muslims should follow him.
This fallacy is based on the misconception that the Holy Prophet was ordered to be obeyed in his capacity of a ruler, and not in the capacity of a prophet or messenger.
But the verses already quoted leave no room for this misconception. The reasons are as under:
(1) Wherever the Holy Qur’ân has directed toward the “obedience of the Holy Prophet” it has always referred to the “obedience of the Messenger” and not to the obedience of the “ruler”, nor to the obedience of “Muhammad” in his private capacity. It clearly indicates that he must be obeyed on account of his being a messenger.
When I say, to someone, “obey your father,” it means that his being father is the basic cause of his being obeyed. If I say, “obey your teacher,” it is evident that his being teacher is the cause of his obedience being due. Nobody can reasonably interpret these sentences conversely. So, when Allâh Almighty says, “Obey the Messenger,” how can it be reasonable to say that his messengership is not the cause of his obedience?
(2) At one occasion, at least, the Holy Qur’ân has removed even the remotest possibility of this wrong interpretation, when it said:
O those who believe, obey Allâh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.(4:59)
Here, the obedience of the messenger has been separated and distinguished from that of the ruling authorities, which means that the “messenger” and “those in authority” both are to be obeyed in their different capacities.
It is important to note that in the case of the Holy Prophet both the capacities were combined in him. He was a Messenger as well as a ruler. Therefore, if the Holy Qur’ân intended to restrict the obedience of the Holy Prophet to his lifetime only, it could easily be said, “Obey Muhammad.” But by avoiding this expression, the Holy Qur’ân explicitly differentiated between his two capacities, and mentioned each of them separately to remove even the slightest apprehension of this misconception, and thus left no room for confusing one capacity with the other.
Moreover, there is another point to note in this verse. The word “Messenger” used here is in singular, while the phrase “those in authority,” is in plural. This is to signify that the Holy Prophet is the last messenger after whom no prophet will come. So, his obedience as a prophet shall always be confined to himself alone. Nobody can share with him in this obedience in future. On the other hand, the ruling authorities shall be in a large number, coming one after the other. This kind of obedience is not restricted to the ruler present at the time of revelation; it, rather, extends to all the ruling authorities coming after him.
(3) It has been established earlier that the obedience of the Holy Prophet was based on the “unrecited revelation” he used to receive from Allâh. That is why the Holy Qur’ân has held it to be the “obedience of Allâh” Himself. On the other hand, no ruler or head of state can claim to receive any revelation of any kind.
It is for this reason that a ruler can enjoy an administrative authority over his subjects, but he cannot lay down the rules of Sharî’ah. His orders are purely administrative orders, which are to be obeyed by the citizens in that capacity alone. He cannot override any rule of Sharî’ah enshrined in the Holy Qur’ân and the sunnah, nor can his orders be regarded as imperatives for all times to come, as those of Sharî’ah, because they are not based on any revelation from Allâh. They are effective only in a sphere where the Sharî’ah has not given any definite rule, and left the matter on the discretion of a ruler.
The case of the Holy Prophet is totally different. He, as a messenger, receives revelation from Allâh, recited and unrecited both. His prophetic orders, therefore, are not just administrative orders based on his personal perception. They are based on the revelation, or, at least, are confirmed by it. Let me now explain both situations:
The orders of the Holy Prophet are sometimes based on the revelation in the sense that the revelation “recited or unrecited” is their original source. But for this revelation, he would not deliver such orders. There can be no doubt in their divine nature. Hence they form part of the Sharî’ah.
In some cases, however, the origin of the orders is not a revelation. They are based originally on the Holy Prophet’s own analysis of the affairs. But they are confirmed by a revelation later on. This confirmation again is of two kinds: sometimes it occurs in explicit terms, whereby the decision of the Holy Prophet is upheld by a revelation, and sometimes it happens to be an implied confirmation. If Allâh Almighty does not object to a certain act of the Holy Prophet, it necessarily implies that the act has been confirmed by Him.
The reason is obvious. A prophet of Allâh, being a spokesman of His pleasure, remains under a constant divine supervision. If he says something or does something, which is not in complete consonance with Allâh’s pleasure, he is always warned about it. In a number of verses, the Holy Qur’ân has expressed Allâh’s disapproval of some acts done or intended by the Holy Prophet. Thus, no act of the Holy Prophet has ever gone unchecked.
In this perspective, if the Holy Prophet does some thing or issues an order, and no revelation, recited or unrecited, comes to disapprove of the same, it necessarily implies that the act or order has been approved by Allâh Almighty, because if the converse were true, the revelation would never remain silent; it would certainly come to correct the error, as it came in certain cases where disapproval was conveyed in direct terms to the Holy Prophet.
Thus, whatever he says or does in his capacity of a messenger, and no revelation comes to the contrary, it is deemed to be an implied confirmation of his saying or act.
It is, therefore, true to say that all his orders and acts are either based on the revelation, or confirmed by it, explicitly or implicitly.
No such authority can be attributed to any ruler after him, because the revelation after him came to an end. This is why the Holy Qur’ân highlights the obedience of the messenger as distinct from that of the ruling authorities.
On these three major grounds, there is no room for the misconception that the “obedience of the Messenger” emphasized by the Holy Qur’ân means the “obedience of the ruling authority.” In fact, his obedience is necessary for the sole reaason that he is a prophet, and his orders and acts reflect the pleasure of Allâh. Hence the Sunnah which is nothing but a record of his sayings and acts, enjoys a binding authority on all Muslims who believe in Allâh and His Holy Book. (Taqi Usmani, The Authority of Sunnah, Chapter 1: Sunnah: The Second Source of Islamic Law, Source)
9) It says in the Qu’ran (Surah 33:21) that we have the Messenger as a good example to follow. How would we know his example without the traditions to turn to?
One response from Quranites is that the same thing is said in Surah 60:4 regarding Abraham. So does that mean we should have Abrahamic hadith?
Dr Ahmad Shaf’aat says…
The Qur’an declares:
Verily in the messenger of God you have goodly example (uswah hasanah) – for anyone who looks unto God and the last day, and remembers God much (33:21)
In connection with this verse the main question is: Does the example of the Prophet include the conduct of the Prophet in all situations as preserved in the authentic Hadith or only some particular conduct defined by the context of the verse?
The Qur’an-only sect is understandably inclined to limit the reference, entirely or primarily to some conduct defined by the context of the verse. Since the verse is put in the middle of comments about the battle of al-Ahzab, also known as battle of khandaq (trench), it is said that the example of the Prophet mentioned is the particular conduct of the Prophet during that battle. But even if this is granted, this verse does not support the Qur’an-only position, at least not in its strict form. For the statement that the Prophet provided a good example in the battle begs the question, what was the conduct of the Prophet during the battle? And this question cannot be answered without looking at the Hadith, since the Qur’an does not say anything about it. The first audience of the Qur’an must have known how the Prophet behaved in the battle and they would have immediately understood what the Qur’an was talking about. But the later readers of the Qur’an such as ourselves need to turn to the traditions about the Prophet to determine relevant details of the Prophet’s conduct and follow his example in fulfillment of the Qur’anic verse. Without knowledge of such details this verse can hardly be practiced. One can assume that the conduct of the Prophet was one of courage and faith in God, but in the absence of any concrete detail the allusion to the Prophet’s conduct can hardly inspire any one and consequently the mention of the uswah hasanah becomes almost meaningless. Imagine that you opened a book mentioning that Umar provided a goodly example in the battle of Khaybar but said nothing about what exactly `Umar did. Even if you assume that `Umar behaved with courage, wisdom etc, this statement will remain unexplained unless we are told or we know from another source the details of what `Umar did in the battle. Without some such elaboration the statement would be an interesting curiosity but of no moral or ethical or spiritual value.
Thus even if we restrict uswah hasanah to a very specific example of the Prophet’s conduct the verse conflicts with the Qur’an-only position. For, it requires knowing from the Hadith the details of that specific example. Here we have an illustration of the fact that although the Qur’an explains everything and it expounds itself, its proper or fuller understanding, like that of any other text in human language, depends to some extent on its external context, which in part is provided by the Hadith.
However, it is more reasonable not to restrict uswah hasanah to any one example. This point is supported by the Qur’anic reference to the uswah hasanah of Abraham and those with him:
A good example or pattern (uswah hasanah) was set for you by Abraham and those with him when they said to their people, “We disown you and what you serve besides God. We reject you, and there has arisen between us and you enmity and opposition until you believe in God alone…There is indeed a goodly example (uswah hasanah) in them for anyone who looks towards God and the last day. But if anyone turns away, God is self-sufficient, worthy of praise (60:4-6).
Notice that in the above passage a specific example is mentioned in case of the Prophet Abraham. But in 33:21 the statement about the uswah hasanah of the Prophet Muhammad is left quite general. If in 33:21 the reference was meant only to some specific example, then, as in 60:4-6, we should expect at least some allusion to that specific example. That the reference is left general suggests strongly that it is meant to be general.
It should also be noted that the Qur’anic verses often rise above their context and give ideas that are of more general application than the context may suggest. It is thus quite possible that from the particular example of the Prophet in the battle of the trench the Qur’an has formulated the general principle that the Prophet provides a good example in all spiritual, moral or religious matters. This is supported by the verse: You (O Prophet) are indeed endowed with a great character (68:4). In view of this statement, it seems inconceivable that the Prophet provided the believers with only one example to be followed.
Thus the most natural and probable interpretation of the verse is that it is pointing to the example of the Prophet generally and encouraging believers to follow it. This clearly requires making some use of the authentic Hadith in our religious practice.
FOLLOWING THE PROPHET
In some verses the Qur’an tells people to follow the messenger. For example,
Say, If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive you your sins. God is forgiving, merciful (3:31). And: Follow him haply you may find the way (to truth and salvation) (7:158).
If in 33:21 one limits the uswah hasanah to a specific example, then it is impossible to limit “following the Prophet” in the above verses in that way. In these verses “following the Prophet” must clearly be understood in a general way. The Qur’an-only Muslims would say that since the ways of the Prophet were in strict conformity with the teachings of the Qur’an, following the Prophet means simply following the Qur’an. But then we should expect to read, “If you love God, follow the book that he has sent down through me”. Why tell the believers that they should follow the Prophet if what is intended is that they should read the Qur’an and follow it.
The above verses about uswah hasanah and about following the Prophet naturally raise the questions, What does it mean to follow the Prophet? Is it necessary to follow each and every one of his actions? Also, should we simply copy his actions or do we sometimes look at them and apply them in some way using our own judgments? In regard to such questions we need to distinguish between religious obligation and religious desirability. How far the Hadith is obligatory is the subject of the next chapter. Here we discuss how far following the Hadith is religiously desirable.
It is clearly desirable to follow the regulatory and teaching Hadith. The circumstantial Sunnah such as eating the way he ate, wearing clothes like he wore, using the means of transport that he used is a different matter. The verse about the uswah hasanah connects the following of the uswah hasanah with looking towards God and the last day and remembering God much and one of the verses about following the Prophet starts with the words: “If you love God … “. This means that the Prophet provides an example only for our spiritual and moral development — for us to get near God, develop a relationship of love and devotion with Him and to achieve success in the hereafter. But can eating, clothing or traveling in the way the Prophet used to eat, clothe, or travel be helpful to achieve this purpose? Of course, when the Prophet teaches us certain etiquettes regarding food, clothing, transport etc. it is desirable to follow him, for in that case we are dealing with teaching Sunnah. It may be said that following the Prophet even when it is not a matter of etiquettes is an expression of our love for him and it is this love that is helpful in our spiritual development. This has some truth in it and if a Muslim chose to express his love for the Prophet by following him in all ways possible, including the circumstantial Hadith, then this is fine. But such personal choice should not be considered as the ideal and there should be no pretension that it reflects higher level of piety. There are many ways to express our love for the Prophet and it is for God alone to evaluate it.
An overwhelming majority of Muslims have accepted that the uswah hasanah consists of regulatory and teaching Hadith and not the circumstantial hadith. Only a very small minority seems to insist that one should follow even the circumstantial Hadith. And of course on the other extreme there is the small minority of the Qur’an-only sect which wishes to do away with all Hadith.
In some matters it would be completely disastrous for Muslims to follow the circumstantial Hadith. Thus the Prophet had to engage in some warfare using weapons such as swords, spears, arrows and shields. Today, with the development of modern weapons, the Muslims obviously cannot fight with the type of weapons used by the Prophet. (Of course, if at some point a world order is established in which Muslims can pursue their legitimate interests without the use of warfare then warfare would have to be completely avoided.) Such examples show that no matter how strict a position we take in regard to following Hadith, the use of some judgment and reason on our part is unavoidable. (Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, The Sacred Hadith Project, Chapter 2: The Message and the Messenger, Source)
10) We have different forms of reciting the Qur’an, which means that certain letters are taken away from the word or pronounced differently. Through authentic hadith, we know that these were accepted forms of reading approved by the Prophet (peace be upon him). But without hadith, how would we know this? Using the Qur’an alone, if I see that there are different forms of recitation then I would think that there is more than one Qur’an and I wouldn’t know which one is correct.
11) In Surah 2:221, God forbids us to marry polytheist women. Yet in Surah 5:5, God says that we can marry the believing women and the chaste women from the People of the Book. This is a clear differentiation between believing women and People of the Book. You can’t have a believing person today from the People of the Book who is not a Muslim. So if God were talking about the believing women from the People of the Book then He wouldn’t have differentiated the “believing women” phrase from them. Furthermore, the believing people from the People of the Book were the ones who truly followed the teachings of Jesus and Moses, which are lost today. So by using the Quran alone, how do I know which verse was revealed first? Did Surah 2:221 come first and then God sent down Surah 5:5 making an exception or did God send down Surah 5:5 first and then send Surah 2:221 by completely prohibiting us from marrying the women from the People of the Book?
12) Surah 24, verse 31 says “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof” What exactly is this part that “appears thereof”?
Some will try to argue back by saying that “what appear thereof” is referring to seductive parts of a women’s body. However, some men may be seduced by a woman’s fingernails and face. Does this mean that she must cover them as well? This is subjective. Where is the objective standard to follow regarding such a law?
13) If the Quran is so easy to understand on our own, then why did Allah have some Muslims staying behind in Madinah in order to become very well versed in religion, while the others go out to the battlefield so that they can then come back to be taught (Surah 9:122)?
Indeed, if we can all just simply read the Qur’an and be equal in knowledge and understanding then what is the point of having people specialize in it in order to teach us? Why would this require so much time? Some Quranites might argue back that people could specialize in Qur’an more than others, yet this does not justify that there are other sources besides the Qur’an to refer to. They would also argue that if one reads the Qur’an on his own then that would be enough because it is easy to understand and that those who specialize in it are only gaining extra knowledge that is not significant. However, this is not the impression given by the verse:
It is not possible for the believers to go forth all together. Why, then, does not a party from every section of them go forth that they may become well-versed in religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may guard against evil.
Here we see that one purpose that the party of Muslims that stayed behind in order to master the religion was to make sure that they warn their people and help them guard against evil. This would not be necessary if anyone could just read the Qur’an on their own. No, there must be more details (e.g. detailed issues of prayer, zakah, fasting etc.) that must be communicated to the Muslims in order to ensure that they practice their religion properly and this is not to be found in the Qur’an. For if it was, then anyone can have the time to refer to it and this would not require specialization, for any lay man would then be able to accomplish this task.
14) Allah says in the Qur’an (Surah 75:19) that the Qur’an will be recited. But then in the verse right after (verse 20) it is also said that the Qur’an will be explained. If the Qur’an is self-explanatory then the only thing that needs to be done is reciting it out. However, in verse 19 the function of reciting is done and then in the verse right after, the function of explaining is done. Clearly these are two different tasks, which mean that reading the Qur’an alone would not give you the full explanation required. It has to be explained through some other source. What is that other source?