Anybody who knows even the most basic things about Islam is no stranger to the epic schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims. When it comes to Hadith collections it’s no different. There are the Sunni books and then there are the Shia books too. So what does a Universalist like me make of that or if neither a Sunni nor a Shia, or a Sushi Muslim maybe? First, I must tell you what I think of the Quran.
We have given them a scripture that is fully detailed, with knowledge, guidance, and mercy for the people who believe. (Quran 7:52)
I believe that the Quran is a complete book free from errors and contradictions. All verses are valid in their proper and respective contexts and I do not believe in the false doctrine of abrogation within verses of the Quran. This is something I get from my Zaidi influence, a school of thought that does not believe in naskh as it’s called in Arabic, along with the Quranists, Ahmadiyya and Mut’azili groups.
This is a book whose verses have been perfected. (Quran 11:1)
The Quran does not need any secondary sources. It stands perfectly on its own. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be the Word of God. Everything has already been made clear.
We did not leave anything out of this book. (Quran 6:38)
It’s mainstream today that Muslims believe that later verses of the Quran abrogate the earlier ones, and some even go to say that the Sunnah (Hadith) abrogates the Quran! The Quran supersedes the previous ones (Torah and Gospel) but confirms their core message, in other words it would abrogate the Bible, but it does not abrogate itself! When you look at all verses in proper context, this is pretty obvious. It’s common sense.
The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. (Quran 6:115)
It’s clear from the above verse that God is saying that nothing will abrogate or supersede the Quran because it is the final revelation. It sure as hell doesn’t cancel itself out!
Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. (Quran 5:48)
While the doctrine of abrogation isn’t new, for example the Gospel supersedes the Torah for Christians, when read in their proper and respective context, the Old Testament doesn’t cancel itself out over time to the Jews nor does the New Testament cancel itself out over time to the Christians. Most Muslim believe that the text of the Quran is unchanging, eternal and uncreated. Why, then, would it contain abrogation at all? If all the text is eternal, then some verses have been abrogated from eternity past by other verses. In a book of divine perfection, why would one verse simultaneously have been spoken along with another one that undoes it? Abrogation is fraud. It’s an insult to God’s perfection.
This too, is a blessed Book which We have sent down – follow it and be conscious of your Lord, so that you may receive mercy – lest you say, ‘Books were sent to two communities before us: we were not aware of what they studied’, or ‘if only the Book had been sent down to us, we would have been better guided than them.’ Now your Lord has brought you clear evidence, guidance, and mercy. Who could be more wrong then someone who rejects Allah’s Revelations and turns away from them? We shall repay those who turn away from our verses with a painful punishment. (Quran 6:155-157)
Some Muslims will accuse others who want to reform Islam of abrogating verses because they believe that practices such as slavery or polygamy which are clearly allowed in scripture but they fail to understand that interpretation is different from abrogation. Interpretation seeks to find the meaning behind a verse in either a historical or contemporary context while abrogation seeks to annul that verse. The two are very separate issues independent of each other. Interpretation can be done with or without factoring in the doctrine of abrogation. Personally, I think that everything has a proper and legitimate context hence no need to cancel one thing out for another because everything already has it’s own place.
We did not send before you any messenger, nor a prophet, without having the devil interfere in his wishes. God then nullifies what the devil has done. God perfects His revelations. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.
Now that we’re clear that the Quran is the infallible word of God and it doesn’t erroneously abrogate itself, let’s talk about the Hadith books. As a Universalist (someone who wants to embrace all of Islam and not just be confined to one sect or ideology), I believe that all Hadith books have some merit, both Sunni and Shia and otherwise but only if they are the spirit of the Quran and have a reliable chain of transmission and interpretation, which is why I generally accept Shia narrations more than Sunni narrations despite my respect for both. With that said, these narrations are only secondary to the Quran, do not replace, abrogate or supersede in any way the Quran but most importantly the Hadith is not infallible in Zaidi doctrine. It was put together by humans as a tradition of a Holy Prophet and was actually put together hundreds of years after his death.
Many passages from the Hadith contradict not only each other, but also the Quran. Each passage from the Hadith is graded differently meaning that they are not equally authentic (some aren’t at all!) like the entire Quran is 100% authentic. Now I’m not saying that all Hadith books are fraud because I’ve obviously quoted them many times of this blog! But I only quote the ones that have support from the Quran. Take for example mercy and forgiveness. They are central throughout the Quran and passages from any Hadith book that follow in with these principles would be considered right and authentic. However, many passages in those same Hadith books relate to stuff with zero support from the Quran creating doubt where they fit in with Islam considering that the Hadith is only secondary, and there are other passages which contradict the Quran completely which renders them invalid.
Will they not ponder the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah, they would have found many inconsistencies in it. (Quran 4:82)
The Quran is complete and fully detailed by itself. It stands alone. It doesn’t need any Hadith books to complete it. It doesn’t need any secondary, fallible and often weak sources to complete it. There are many beautiful and valid passages in all of the Hadith books but they should only enhance your Islamic faith, not supersede it. Saying that Islam is incomplete without the Hadith is an insult to God’s perfection and promise that His final revelation is complete since it is mentioned that nothing was left out of the book. Islam detests blind faith and calls us to use our ijtihad, or common sense and reasoning, also called logic and intelligence. The Quran was spoken to Muhammad directly from God through the angel Gabriel. The Hadith books on the other hand were not, they were compiled much later through secondary sources, so it’s crucially important to apply reasoning to what fits in with the Quran and what doesn’t.
And so those who were given knowledge may know that It (i.e. the Quran) is the truth from your Lord and [therefore] believe in it, and their hearts humbly submit to it. And indeed is Allah the Guide of those who have believed to a straight path. (Quran 22:54)
Reason is of utmost importance to the Muslim faith and I find it to be a tragedy that many sects try to suppress their followers from using their own independent thinking the way God has commanded us to do and that many schools of thought get rid of critical thinking completely and only follow literal interpretations of everything without giving it any second thought. The Hadith is definitely an important part of the Muslim life, but it’s only secondary and Islam is just fine without it before it came to be known as what it is today. While I’m not one of the Quran Only Muslims who outright reject the Hadith, also known as Quranists, I can’t say that the Hadith is equal to the Quran. This is what is thought in the Zaidi school, which is my primary influence when it comes to such matters:
Regarding the ahadith (reported sayings) of the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) their authenticity is to be judged by comparing them with the principals laid down in the Holy Qur’an, and any reported sayings of the Prophet which contradict with the Qur’an in any way are invalid.
Tradition isn’t bad, but the revelation of the Quran should come before it and you should rely on your ijtihad to process it in accordance to your own beliefs within your sect of the Muslim religion. As for me, if the Quran confirms parts of the Hadith, it’s valid to me, but if passages from the Hadith aren’t supported by the Quran to come degree they aren’t supported by me either. And yes, the Quran does mention the five prayers that is confirmed by the Hadith for those who still believe that it’s of equal authority to the Quran, among many other things. On the other hand, yes the ways to properly pray found in the Hadith books do fit in with the Quranic theme of these prayers.
Modern science proves that the oldest Quran found to date could easily have been written while Muhammad was alive which confirms the longstanding belief that it indeed was put together during his lifetime. While he could neither read nor write, the Prophet was there dictating every word. Nothing was left out of this glorious book. He included all that needed to be put into it and the rest of the Hadith books weren’t part of that. Only God truly knows best, but I’m confident in saying that He’s told us what He wanted us to know in the Quran.
O you who believe, do not prohibit good things that are made lawful by God, and do not aggress; God dislikes the aggressors. (Quran 5:87)
While Islam as we know it now comes from many sources (the Scriptures, the books of the law, etc.), we should make sure that these practices fit in with what has been revealed in the one supreme source: the Quran.