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Debate: QURANist versus HADITHist

There has been a heated debate between Hadithist—those who believe that majority of ahadith (sayings of the Prophet [pbuh]) are authentic—and Quranist (or Quraniyoon)—those who reject all ahadith and follow the Holly Quran alone. Although this debate dates back centuries ago, this short article will highlight the main arguments of these two opposing camps.

Hadithist position
Hadithist believe that the two main sources of Islam are the Holly Quran and the ahadith (sayings of the Prophet [pbuh]). Hadithist argue that the majority of ahadith in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are authentic and second only to Quran. When hadithist examine ahadith, they employ two principles: first, they check the chain of narrations; and second, they examine the content of the hadith. Hadithist believe that as long as the chain of narrations of the hadith is reliable, we should accept it. That means if the chain of narrations is reliable, then there is no need to examine the content of the hadith, even if the hadith defies logic. This position has been the norm for the majority of Muslims for centuries. Therefore, it does not require further elaboration since it’s the norm.

Quranist position
Quranist reject all ahadith and accept the Holly Quran alone. They believe that the Quran is clear and complete and can be fully understood without referencing the ahadith. Although there are many different reasons as to why Quranist reject all ahadith, it will suffice to mention few.

First bjection: Follow the Quran Alone
Quranist argue that the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh) command Muslims to follow the Quran alone. Allah (SW) says: “These are God’s revelations [Quran] that We recite to you truthfully. In which hadith other than God and His revelations [Quran] do they believe?” (Quran, 45:6). There are other verses that clearly tell Muslims to follow the Quran alone, such as verse 7:185; 39:23; 77:50; 68:37, etc. Quranist argue that these countless verses clearly indicate that we should follow the Quran alone and should not follow any ahadith. In addition, the Prophet (pbuh) also informed all Muslims to follow the Quran alone. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Do not write anything from me; whoever has written anything from me other than the Quran, let him erase it” (Sahih Muslim, Book 42, Number 7147). Here, Quranist use a hadith to discredit all other ahadith. Quranist contend if Allah told Muslims to follow the Quran alone and the Prophet told his disciples (sahaba) to not write anything from him other than the Quran, why did Bukhari write ahadith? This is their first objection to ahadith. But since Muslims ignore Allah’s and the Prophet’s (pbuh) command and wrote ahadith anyway, Quranist examine the ahadith that Muslims have collected.

Second objection: Problems of Collecting Ahadith
Quranist argue that the first and most authentic ahadith collection is that of imam Bukhari, called Sahih Bukhari. Imam Bukhari compiled these ahadith about 200 (two hundred) years after the Prophet’s (pbuh) death. Bukhari collected 600,000 (six hundred thousand) ahadith and rejected 592,725 (five hundred ninety-two thousand, seven hundred twenty-five) ahadith due to a lack of authentic chain of narrations and/or soundness. Therefore, imam Bukhari only accepted 7,275 (seven thousand, two hundred seventy-five) ahadith as authentic. This means that imam Bukhari rejected 98.8% of ahadith that he collected and accepted only 1.2%.

Why did he reject 98.8% of ahadith? Because all of these ahadith that Bukhari rejected were fabrications. That is, they were not the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). These ahadith were fabricated by men for political, social, economic, cultural reasons, etc. And imam Bukhari was correct to reject all of them. But this raises the following questions: how can we know if the remaining 1.2% of ahadith that Bukhari endorsed is authentic? Is it possible that Bukhari failed to notice other fabricated ahadith? If Bukhari rejected 98.8% of ahadith that he collected, can we—Quranist—also reject any hadith that we deem inauthentic? Due to these questions, Quranist were incited to examine the remaining 1.2% of the ahadith that Bukhari endorsed or considered to be authentic.

Third objection: Unreliability of Bukhari and Muslim Collection
After Quranist examined Sahih Bukhari, they have realized that Sahih Bukhari’s 1.2% collection still contains inauthentic (da’eef) ahadith. For instance, Sheikh al-Albani rejected some of the ahadith that Imam Bukhari considered to be authentic. In other words, al-Albani found inauthentic ahadith in Sahih Bukhari. Why did Sheikh al-Albani reject some of Bukhari’s authentic ahadith? Quranist assert that this shows that even the remaining 1.2% of ahadith that Bukhari considered authentic, are indeed inauthentic. Bukhari considered authentic, but al-Albani considered inauthentic. This also shows that majority of the ahadith are unreliable and should be rejected altogether.

By the way, who is Bukhari, or Muslim, or al-Albani? Where did they get the authority to endorse or reject any ahadith? Are we obligated to accept what Bukhari, Muslim, or al-Albani said? No. Muslims are not obligated to follow Bukhari or Muslim, or any claims made by any Muslim cleric, except what Allah and his Prophet (pbuh) said. You can reject any claim made by any sheikh, mufti, mad-hab, or Muslim scholar if it is not explicitly stated in the Quran. You can also reject any interpretation of the Quran if it fails to satisfy you intellectually, historically, scientifically, etc. Quranist do not stop here. They continue to examine ahadith.

So far, Quranist have examined the remaining less than 1.2% ahadith that al-Albani considered to be authentic.

Fourth objection: Ahadith Contradict Quran and Science
After Quranist examined the remaining ahadith that Sheikh al-Albani endorsed, they have encountered other problematic ahadith.  Quranist assert that some of the remaining ahadith that Sheikh al-Albani endorsed are also problematic. These ahadith are contradictory to the teachings of the Quran and science. The following examples will suffice their argument:
•    there are some ahadith stating that adulterers should be stoned to death (Sahih Bukhari 83:37) contradicting the following verse from the Quran: “. . . flog the male and the female adulterers and fornicators on one hundred times” (Qur’an 24:2). Some Muslim clerics claim that this verse talks about unmarried people whereas the hadith talks about married people. But where do they get this interpretation from? The Quran did not differentiate between “married” or “unmarried” people. It is some clerics’ misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Quran.
•    other ahadith state: “Whoever changes his religion kill him” (al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 3017) contradicting the following verse from the Quran: “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve” (Quran, 18/29). Allah explicitly states in the Quran that people have the freedom to believe or not to believe. But the aforesaid hadith obviously contradicts this verse. Any hadith that contradicts the Quran should be rejected and discarded without hesitation.
•    some other ahadith show the sexist Arab culture at the time: “If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her, she will enter paradise” (ibn Majah and Tirmidhi). This fabricated hadith contradicts the following verse from the Quran: “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” (49:13). Allah does not differentiate between women and men. The criteria for admission to heaven are belief in God plus righteousness. Obedience to the husband is not a criterion anywhere in the Qur’an.
•    still other ahadith are contrary to science: the evil eye, demon possession and black magic are not mentioned anywhere in the Quran. Not only that, these superstitions have no bases in Islam or science and there is no concrete evidence of their existence in the real world. If evil eye, magic and demon possession exist, we would have seen hospital units such as “Evil Eye Unit,” “Magic Unit,” or “Jinn Possession unit.” Or we would have seen doctors specializing evil-eye-ology, magic-ology, jinn-ology. We would have also seen university departments such as “Department of Evil Eye,” “Department of Magic,” “Department of Jinn-possession,” etc. Or we would have seen universities degrees such as, PhD in Magic-ology, or MA in Evil-eye-ology, etc. Or we would have seen medications specifically made by this phenomenon. None exists anywhere in the world. What does that tell you? It is obvious that these ahadith are fabrications attributed to our beloved Prophet (pbuh).

The Middle Ground: Synthesis
Fortunately, there is a middle ground—or synthesis—between the aforesaid two extremes. The middle ground—composed of many Muslim “scholars”—argues that both hadithist and Quranist are wrong. The hadithist are wrong to argue that all ahadith in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are authentic. This is not true. We agree that there are many ahadith that are either weak, inauthentic, or fabricated in Bukhari as well as in Muslim. Therefore, hadithist should distinguish between those different ahadith. The Quranist are also wrong to reject all ahadith. There are many ahadith that are authentic and reliable. So, Quranist should not assume that since some ahadith are inauthentic, all other ahadith are also inauthentic. The best way to approach Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim (and any ahadith) is to sift through all ahadith in order to distinguish between the authentic and the inauthentic ahadith. As the following question: do the hadith in question contradict the Quran, science, or real life? If it does, it is probably inauthentic. Remember, the Holy Quran (not its interpretation) coincides with real life. The Holly Quran doesn’t contradict science, reason, and rationality. So, the ahadith should also coincide with real life.


Mohamed Hassan