Hadith are used as tools to understand the Qur’an. Whether or not they should be used at all is up for debate and has been a subject of great controversy. It’s been noticed here that I rarely use hadith–the reason is not because I am a Quranist, (though I emphasize with them) but rather because (1) hadith can be found for and against pretty much anything, (2) what use are hadith on a particular topic when the Qur’an answers my question entirely for that subject? will I look to a mortal man for answers, however perfect of a man he was–the name of whom other men have probably used to tell lies–when God has satisfied me? and (3) I am very, very, very
picky about hadith. I’m choosier than most scholars are when it comes to hadith. (That implied that I am among them; I’m not a scholar, just to be clear.) And so, I will
use hadith, but only in very specific circumstances. While even very “Orthodox” (I hate to use sectarian adjectives) Muslims will acknowledge that most hadith are complete fabrications, a good number of them will assert that previous scholars, through centuries of work, have disposed of the ones that are fabrications.
This is bullshit.
The Prophet is recorded, in his own hadith, to have forbidden Muslims from recording his hadith. Muhammad (P), while a diamond among plainer stones, was still a human being, subject to sway on anger and other passions. Nothing was to be written down except for the Qur’an itself, and very few things outside of that were to be passed down at all. For example, how to pray the 5 daily prayers is an obvious exception, and the Prophet clearly taught this to the first converts with the expectation that they would teach it to their children. I once criticized an imam for saying that music is haraam, and pointed out that if God wanted to make something forbidden for us, God would have said so. The Qur’an doesn’t say that music is haraam, but it definitely says that we should not make forbidden things that are permissible. The Qur’an is perfect on its own, I said. We have little need anything else. He replied by asking me what was meant to be a rhetorical question: where in the Qur’an does it tell us how to pray?
Um. What just happened?
“That doesn’t have anything to do with what’s permissible or forbidden,” I answered. “That has to do with detailing a specific command. Prayer is already made mandatory, and the Prophet taught us how. He meant for that to be passed down, but he made clear orders that he wanted nothing else to be recorded of him in fear that his words would be held to equal or higher importance against the word of God. And look, now they are. God said that in the Qur’an nothing has been omitted! Chapter 6, verse 38! Do you dare contradict the Word of God?” I glared at him. (I would have ranted on, but we were in a classroom, and he was the instructor, and I didn’t want to steal his lesson.)
In fact, very early in Islam, after the Qur’an had been written down, Caliph Omar expressed a wish to record the sayings of the Prophet, but he refrained for that exact reason: that they would be lifted to a degree of undeserving–and blasphemous–importance. Hadith is another example of tradition being changed after the death of the Prophet–hadith inspired sects, several are anti-woman (both of these things contradict the Qur’an itself), and most were made up in the spur of political conflicts. There are hadith that warn against hadith:
The Prophet said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.” [Sahih Bukhari – Book 03: Hadith 108]
But we don’t need that hadith to tell us this, because the Qur’an itself warns against hadith:
But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge (or meaning), to mislead (believers) from the Path of God (Qur’an 31:6)
We have permitted the enemies of every prophet human and jinn devils to inspire in each other fancy words, in order to deceive. Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and their fabrications. (Qur’an 6:112)
Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? (Qur’an 6:114)
Isn’t it so convenient that the Qur’an is completely egalitarian and yet suddenly, after the Prophet dies, there are all these hadith–supposed sayings of the passed Prophet–that are blatantly sexist, as narrated by powerful men? How very interesting.
As I mentioned already, the Prophet prohibited the written recording of hadith, and so did the caliphs who ruled after his death. I would go as far as to suggest that the Islamic Golden Age was a result of these prohibitions. Once hadith (again most of which were fabrication–events out of date, legal practices that did not exist at the time which the Prophet was alive) were raised to a status by which they were as heavily relied upon as the Qur’an, women were oppressed, sects were forged, and there was economic loss and social turmoil–and down went everything.
So, yeah, I’m really choosy when it comes to hadith. I will shamelessly pick and choose.
If anyone is interested, here are my personal standards:
- Does it forbid something that the Qur’an does not forbid? This is a clear contradiction of verse 10:59 of the Qur’an. Throw it out.
- Is it anti-woman? This is a clear contradiction of the egalitarianism in the Qur’an and was falsely attributed to the Prophet. Throw it out.
- Does it refer to a legal tradition during the Prophet’s life of which there is no evidence? Someone probably pulled it out of his ass. Throw it out.
- Is it narrated by some random dude who says something like “Prostitutes will go to Hell” yet has no right to dictate who does or does not go to Hell, and could not possibly know this information because he isn’t God? Throw it out.
- Does it extend something that is a grave sin–like murder, the parameters of which are very clearly and strictly outlined the Qur’an–to what the Qur’an has not made permissible (i.e. killing apostates or stoning adulterers when the Qur’an says over and over do not kill unless it is in self-defense)? Throw it out.
- Does it say something absurd, like “men who die get 72 virgins” or something, in astoundingly detailed sexual description that–again–no one alive could possibly know unless it was mentioned in the Qur’an? (In the Qur’an companions of explicitly both sexes are said to reside in Paradise [well yes, I would hope I had friends there] for all who enter–both men and women–not just matrys, and a number isn’t specified.) Laugh at it. Inappropriately wonder if the guy responsible for it was sexually deprived. Then throw it out.
Hadith are useful when they are tell us how to understand the Qur’an, not contradict it, or when they give us more information about a specific obligation that is already mentioned in the Qur’an, such as prayer. For example, since the Qur’an is written in classical Arabic, hadith can be used to verify vocabulary and how words should be translated. We know that the verse famously “permitting” husbands to “beat” their wives in fact was not permitting husbands to beat their wives
, and translators simply chose the literal definition of the word despite the fact that when that same exact root in an even closer form was used in other parts of the Qur’an they translated it using the more abstract, figurative meaning. Chauvinistic deception at its best! And we know how to translate that verse because, other than it being totally obvious when put in context, there are these hadith:
The Prophet said with repulsion: “How does any one of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then crawl to bed beside her?” [Al-Bukhari vol. 8, Hadith 68]
The Prophet said: “Do not strike the female servants of God!” [Abu Dawud]
Female servant of God, bitches. Hands off.
I’ll leave you with some hadith:
“It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.” [Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1011]
“A dying child was once placed in the lap of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Tears flowed from the Prophet’s eyes. When he was questioned about crying for the child, the Prophet said: “(Tears are a form of) mercy that God has lodged in the hearts of God’s servants, and God is merciful only to those of God’s servants who are merciful (to others).” [Bukhari, Volume 2 Hadith 373]
Narrated Abu Huraira: God’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “When God completed the creation, God wrote in God’s Book which is with God on God’s Throne, “My Mercy overpowers My Anger.” [Bukhari, Volume 4 Book 54 Number 416]
Narrated Abu Huraira (Radi-Allahu ‘anhu): The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for God’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.” [Bukhari, Volume 7 Number 265]
‘Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakra: Abu Bakra wrote to his son who was in Sijistan: ‘Do not judge between two persons when you are angry, for I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying, “A judge should not judge between two persons while he is in an angry mood.” [Bukhari, Book 9 Volume 89 Hadith 272]
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to excellence and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshipping in the mornings, the nights.” [Bukhari, Volume 1 Book 2 Number 38]
Narrated ‘Abdullah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The cases which will be decided first (on the Day of Resurrection) will be the cases of blood-shedding.” [Bukhari, Volume 8 Book 76 Number 540]
(Seriously, don’t kill people.)
Abu Huraira reported God’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: An ant had bitten a Prophet (one amongst the earlier Prophets) and he ordered that the colony of the ants should be burnt. And God revealed to him [reproaching him]:”Because of an ant’s bite you have burnt a community from amongst the communities which sings My glory!?” [Muslim, Book 26 Hadith 5567]
Narrated ‘Aisha: God’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “No calamity befalls a soul but that God expiates some sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.” [Bukhari, Volume 7 Book 70 No. 544] (Basically, for any hardship you face some sins are being erased.)
Abu Huraira reported that a person said: God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment? The Prophet said: Your mother! The person asked: Then who? The Prophet said again: Your mother! The person asked: But then who? The Prophet replied a third time: Your mother! The person asked: Then who? Finally, the Prophet said: Then, your father.” [Muslim, Book 32, Number 6181] (Mothers are important. 3xs more important than fathers, in fact, according to this.)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reported that the devil said to God: “I shall continue to lead Thy servants astray as long as their spirits are in their bodies.” And God replied: “(Then) I shall continue to pardon them as long as they ask for My forgiveness.” [Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 742]