Theological and Historical Tests of the Authority and Authenticity of the Hadith

[This article is an adapted version of Chapter 10 of the author’s book Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, 2014]

The vast majority of Muslims revere the Hadith as the second essential source of religious law and guidance after the Quran. Any question, therefore, about its authority, authenticity, or reliability is likely to come as a great shock to them. Yet this question is of pivotal importance and needs to be settled dispassionately and decisively once and for all.

Many modern scholars portray Islam in a good light by tapping its “best traditions.” The issue, however, is not really about choosing between good and bad traditions; the issue is really about whether we can still afford to continue with traditions that may often misguide us.

The Hadith is generally considered as the main vehicle through which the Prophetic sunnah – the example of the Prophet embodied in his statements, actions, and overt or tacit approvals or disapprovals – has been conveyed. However, considering a stark lack of historicity of the Prophetic accounts as well as the absence of their theological basis (as we will see below), the sunnah justification of the Hadith would appear to be a mere wishful thinking.

The authority of the Hadith rests on the question of whether it enjoys an unquestioned position as a source of religious law and guidance, which depends on whether the Prophetic teachings contained in the Hadith are really from God. The authenticity of the Hadith, on the other hand, relates to whether the alleged Prophetic reports contained in it are really genuine. It raises questions about the reliability of the historical chains of communication (isnad) through which Hadith have been transmitted as well as about the veracity of the reports communicated (matn), which in turn depend on the trustworthiness of each narrator in the chain in character and memory.

“The two issues are in some ways interdependent. Unless a Hadith is considered authentic, it will have no authority. However, if Hadith were not seen as authoritative, the question of authenticity would be moot.”

THEOLOGICAL TEST OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE HADITH

The Quran enjoys indisputable authority among Muslims. However, that is not the case with the Hadith. Even Muslim scholars and general believers who believe in the Hadith recognize that there could be problems with the Hadith because of flawed transmission (isnad) and text (matn) of the Hadith. Two stark facts make their reliability suspect: the selection of tiny fractions by various compilers out of mountainous piles of circulating alleged Prophetic reports and their compilation hundreds of years after the Prophet’s death. This is an authenticity issue that we take up later. We first deal with the authority issue.

Theologically, the authority of the Hadith rests on two key considerations: (1) Whether the Hadith is also divinely inspired like the Quran and (2) whether the Quran itself sanctions another scripture. Let us examine these considerations.

Is the Hadith Divinely Inspired?

It was al-Shafii (d. 204 AH/820 CE) who first elevated the Hadith to the status of divine revelation, amid widespread opposition to the Hadith during his time. In fact, al-Shafii’s work was a direct response to a group who rejected all Prophetic reports. He argued that the Prophetic Sunnah was preserved in the form of the Hadith as a second form of divine revelation (called wahy ghayr matlu or non-recited revelation, as opposed to wahy matlu or recited revelation, which is the Quran). Shafii’s argument goes like this:

[O]bedience to the Prophet is required of believers and […] obedience to the Prophet requires the acceptance of all Prophetic reports that come from a trustworthy source, because such reports are the only means of access to the Prophetic Sunna. As the repository of the Prophet’s Sunna, the Hadith constitute a form of divine revelation that is complementary to the Qur’an and necessary for the implementation of the divine commands contained in it.

This line of argument can be easily rebutted on the following grounds:

1. There has always been a tendency on the part of some people to oppose or distort the Prophetic revelations. The Quran itself is a testament to the fact that even during the Prophet’s lifetime, there were people who used to distort the words of God and claim that those were divine revelation (2:78-79, 3:78). It’s probably not unnatural to assume that such tendencies accelerated after the death of the Prophet.
2. If the Hadith were a second kind of divine revelation, it inevitably raises the question why neither the Prophet nor his immediate followers took any effective measures to record and preserve it in the same way as the Quran. On the contrary, there is more credence to reports that they rather strongly discouraged the recording, collection, and dissemination of Prophetic reports other than the texts of the Quran.
3. A pertinent point is that the Quran itself affirms that the Prophetic sayings are nothing but what is embodied in the revealed message of the Quran:

69:40-43 It is the SAYING of an Honoured Messenger. It is not the saying of a poet; little ye believe. Nor is it the saying of a soothsayer; little ye heed. It is a Message revealed from the Lord of the Universe.

Some might contend that this verse does not point to the Quranic message only. But this assertion is invalid because the Quran always points to its own message that it calls on its readers to follow.
4. The point that the Quran itself fully embodies divine revelation is further corroborated by the verse that says that for religious purposes the Prophet said nothing out of his own desire (53:3).
5. Al-Shafii further argued that the Hadith represents the hikmah or wisdom mentioned in the Quran along with the Book in some verses. The Indian-Pakistani scholar Ghulam Ahmad Parwez effectively dismissed this argument by saying that “hikmah or wisdom” is meant in a general sense and cannot be characterized as specifically meaning the Prophet’s Hadith. The Quran vividly speaks of hikmah in a general sense in 2:269. This contention has support also in the fact that all prophets essentially undergo spiritual transformation and they all bring to humankind wisdom and insight into religion and spirituality. Their revealed book is the main vehicle of such wisdom. But apart from that it is also true that their followers and associates during their lifetime did have an extra advantage to have some access to such wisdom. Note also that the verse (62:2) refers specifically to the inhabitants of Mecca, who were in clear error, to whom the Prophet came. That the expression “the Book and the hikmah” used in the Quran need not specifically mean the Prophet’s Hadith is supported by the fact that the same expression is found to have been used also in the case of other prophets, Jesus, the house of Abraham and John (3:48, 79, 81; 5:110, 4:54; 19:12). Also note that God characterizes the Quran itself as a Book of wisdom (10:1; 31:2; 36:2; 43:4). So it cannot be held with certainty that the expression “hikmah” at 62:2 and other verses unequivocally refers to the Prophet’s Hadith. Rather all these verses reinforce the idea that “wisdom” refers to general “spiritual or religious knowledge and insight” that prophets are usually endowed with, and those who came in close association with such persons benefited the most from such wisdom. But this does not necessarily lend support to any Hadith hypothesis.
6. A further point that undercuts the divine status claim for the Hadith is the fact that the compilations of Bukhari and his ilk came more than two centuries after the Prophet’s death? The inevitable problems emanating from this long time gap are dealt with later while examining the Hadith’s authenticity question.

Does the Quran Sanction Another Scripture?

The basic argument used in defense of the Hadith is that the Quran urges us to obey God and obey the Prophet. Several of the Quran verses used to support their claim are as follows:

3:31-32 Say (O Muhammad): ‘If ye do love God, then follow me; God will love you and forgive your faults, and God is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ Say: ‘Obey God and the Messenger; but if they turn away, then verily God loves not those who disbelieve.’ (See also 4:13, 59, 64, 5:92, 8:20, 24:54, and 33:71)
4:80 He who obeys the Messenger indeed obeys God.
59:7 Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it and whatever he forbids you, refrain from it.
33:21 Indeed in the Messenger of God ye have an excellent example for him who looks unto God and the Final Day, and remembers God much.

However, from these and similar Quran verses, it is not possible to conclude with certainty that they point to the need for accepting the Hadith as a separate source of religious law and guidance. The verse 59:7, in particular, has been used partially out of context; the full verse shows that the above statement relates to the distribution of war booties and has nothing to do with the acceptance of the Hadith. The early opponents of the Hadith such as Ahl al-Kalam and Mutazilites as well as their modern counterparts such as Ghulam Ahmad Parwez, Rashad Khalifa, Edip Yuksel and others have effectively argued that obedience to the Prophet or of his example should not be viewed as separate from following the Quran. The Hadith supporters have interpreted following God as following the Quran and following the Prophet as following the Hadith. However, the verses (3:31-32; 33:21) noted above clearly imply that we should love and follow the Prophet as a way of loving and following God. That these verses do not point to the need for following the Hadith becomes more evident when we consider other verses of the Quran, which emphasize the need for following the Quran alone.”

In fact the Quran itself uses the term “Hadith” in a number of places and warns believers not to believe in any Hadith other than the Quran (45:6, 31:6, 39:23, 6:114). The Quran declares,

45:6 Such are the revelations (ayats) of Allah, which We recount to you in truth, then in what Hadith will they believe after Allah and His revelations (see also 7:185 and 77:50)?

We can see the import of this message also in another verse: “Shall I seek other than God as a source of law and judgment when He is the One who has sent down the Book to you in detail?” (6:114). Also, “What is wrong with you? How do you judge? Do you have another book which you study?” (68:35-36). The verse 39:23 refers to the Quran itself as Ahsanul Hadith (the best Hadith). These verses decisively rule out the need for another book, the Hadith.”

The key requirement for following the Messenger is to follow the very message he has brought and delivered to us, i.e., the Quran, which characterizes itself as an explanation of everything (16:89), easy, straightforward (44:58, 54:17, 22, 32, 40, 39:28), and detailed, self-explained (39:27, 12:111, 6:114). In fact, the Quran refers to the Sayings of the Messenger as the revelation (69:40-43).

The Prophet himself emphasized, “I follow naught except what is revealed to me” (6:50; 46:9) and God advised him and us to do the same (6:155; 45:6; see also 7:3). Also, he was asked to admonish his people only with the Quran (50:45). [Also, as we have noted above, other verses caution us against believing in anything other than God’s revelation (7:185, 45:6, 6:114, 68:35-36).] So if we just follow the Quran, we really follow him as well. And it is also noteworthy that the Prophet used to recite the Quran to people around him (62:2; 75:16-19). He did not need to explain it to them, as he was barred from doing that; the burden of explanation was on God Himself (75:18-19). […] Note also that the Prophet was specifically urged by God to judge only by the Quran, and not follow any personal desires (6:114; 4:105; 5:48-49). And the Quran also unequivocally proclaims that those who do not judge by what has been revealed from God are disbelievers (kafirs) (5:44), wrongdoers (jalims) (5:45), or rebellious (fasiqs) (5:49). This clearly means that the Quran alone should be used as the basis of religious law in Islam.

Also importantly, God proclaims in the Quran that the Prophet’s sole duty was to deliver this Book to humankind (5:67, 92, 99; 13:40; etc.): “But if ye turn away, then know that Our Messenger’s duty is only to deliver (the Message)” (5:92). Apparently because Muslims have been giving a lot of importance to other spurious teachings rather than to the Quran, the Prophet is going to lament to God on the Day of Judgment that his people have treated the Quran as a forsaken thing (25:30).

Is Not the Quran Sufficient and Easy Enough to Follow?

Like the Jews who took to the Talmud besides the Torah, the Muslims have come to take recourse to the Hadith in much the same way. But does the Quran warrant it, especially since it unequivocally claims that it is fully sufficient and easy to follow as religious guidance?

16:89 And We have revealed unto you (O Muhammad) the Book explaining everything, a guidance and a mercy and good news for those who have surrendered (to God, i.e., who have become Muslims).
54:17 And We have indeed made the Quran easy to learn; then is there any that will learn? (See also 6:114; 54:22, 32, 40.)

“The Quran is comprehensive; and all the requirements for belief and practice in religion are contained in it. It is a fully sufficient guidance for humankind.

17:9 Surely this Quran guides to that which is most right and gives good news to those who believe and do good work that theirs will be a great reward.

Thus if God says He has made the Quran easy enough to learn or understand, it is incomprehensible why our ulama should dispute it. On the other hand, it is also true that the Quran is a Book of wisdom, and that how far one succeeds in deciphering the wisdom of the Quran depends on one’s capacity to understand, which, in turn, is a function of one’s level of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. What turns out to be the real beauty of the Quran is that as one gets wiser and wiser, one can find and extract deeper and deeper meanings from the Quranic message. […] there are some verses in the Quran, which are allegorical and not easily comprehended by all. Only those who are grounded well in knowledge, i.e., spiritually advanced, understand them. The fact that there are some verses in the Quran, which are not understood or well understood by some readers, does not warrant them to take recourse to the Hadith. Is there any evidence that the Hadith has made clearer those verses of the Quran, which are not easy to understand? Rather on the contrary, the available evidence suggests that the Hadith has made confusion more confounded.

Indeed, the Quran has been revealed with so much clarity and elaboration and, in many cases, with repetitions of the same verses, that it hardly needs any explanation from an external source. To become a good and wise Muslim, one does not need any other document, just as Muslims during the two centuries after the Prophet’s death did not need any.

What we need to realize is that whatever has not been categorically mentioned in the Quran concerning anything should not be regarded as essential elements of Islam. Whatever religious practices God wants us to follow are adequately and lucidly described and explained in the Quran. Even minute details of admonitions have not been left untouched.

Do All of the Prophet’s Personal Living Ways Matter for US?

All of the Prophet’s personal ways of living may not carry religious significance for other contexts – for example, what he did with his beard or hair, how he cleaned his teeth, what dress he put on, how he slept, what particular foods except the forbidden ones he liked and ate, and so on. Indeed trying to follow everything that the Prophet did without trying to explore and understand their underlying reasons has no real meaning for us. Blind imitation of a person or of the past is “taqlid,” which has been dismissed by many Islamic scholars as inappropriate. It is like idolizing a person like a god. Such idolizing is what God has strictly forbidden us (3:79-80). Indeed the Quran does not want us to follow everything the Prophet did, since he also made mistakes (9:43; 80:1-10; 33:37; 66:1), which he, of course, corrected. Furthermore, when particular physical and socioeconomic environments differ, human needs and things that suit them best also differ. Even human body needs, and accordingly food needs, differ from person to person, and from time to time as well as in different health conditions for the same person. The same food may not suit everybody; many are found to be allergic to specific foods (e.g., even normal milk that contains lactose is unsuitable to those who are not lactose-tolerant). The Quran itself recognizes the diversity of nations and tribes (49:13; 2:60). For every one of us God has established a law and an open way; if God had willed He could have made us one nation, but He will try us in what He has given us (5:48). Thus even if the Hadith could succeed in giving us the real Prophet, it still would not have validated the need to follow him in every bit of detail. So an attempt to sanctify everything the Prophet did or said as sunnah for us cannot be considered as relevant or appropriate. As Kassim Ahmad remarks:

It is unreasonable and unthinkable that God would ask the Muslims to follow the prophet’s personal mode of behavior, because a person’s mode of behavior is determined by many different factors, such as customs, his education, personal upbringing and personal inclinations. The prophet’s mode of eating, of dress and indeed of general behavior cannot be different from that of other Arabs, including Jews and Christians, of that time, except regarding matters which Islam prohibited. If the Prophet had been born a Malay, he would have dressed and eaten like a Malay. This is a cultural and a personal trait which has nothing to do with one’s religion.

From whatever point of view one likes to consider, the need for the Hadith has no legitimate basis. The Quran does not validate its authority as a source of religious law and guidance.

HISTORICAL TEST OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE HADITH

If the Hadith has no authority, as seen above, the issue of whether it has authenticity becomes irrelevant or redundant. Still one might like to know if the alleged Prophetic reports have credibility from a historical point of view. A number of factors that dent their authenticity are as follows:

1. The reported prohibition of the Prophet himself on Hadith writing, and honoring of the same position by his immediate followers;
2. The long time gap between the Quran and the Hadith, and the accompanying lack of proper records of the deeds and sayings of the Prophet;
3. Flawed oral transmission due to weakness of the human sources including their imperfect memories;
4. The influence of the ruling regimes, of people with wealth and power of the time, and of the disputing theologians on Hadith collection, recording, selection, and compilation; and finally
5. The weakness of the criteria used to judge authenticity of individual Hadith texts.

The Positions of the Prophet and his Companions on Hadith Writing

A first key question relates to whether the Prophet himself approved of the recording and dissemination of such reports, aside from what were already conveyed through the revealed Quran. We have seen above that the Quran itself states that the Prophet followed only the Quran and that he was authorized only to deliver it and advise with it. As such he could not approve of another Scripture besides the Quran.

Kassim Ahmad notes: “Notwithstanding the conflicting versions of Hadith that say otherwise, historical facts […] prove beyond any shadow of doubt that there were no Hadith collections existing at the time of the Prophet’s death. History also proves that the early caliphs prevented the recording and dissemination of Hadith.”

The ulama take it for granted that the Prophet gave his blessing to the collection and writing of his Hadith. Mazhar Kazi reports that in his farewell address the Prophet declared, “Convey to others even if it is a single verse from me.” This is taken as a go-ahead for Hadith dissemination. However, the statement here more meaningfully appears rather to point to the revealed Quranic verses, not his own words, since he was the messenger of God’s message and mercy for the whole universe (68:52; 21:107) and his message, which was nothing but the Quran, needed to be conveyed to all humankind.

Aisha Musa notes that three collections of Hadith contain a report narrated seven times, with only minor variations in textual content, by Abu Sa’id Khudri refer to “a direct command from the Prophet prohibiting his followers from writing down anything on his authority other than the Qur’an and ordering those who had done so to erase what they had written.” One such report finds place in Sahih Muslim (Book 042, Chapter 17, Number 7147). There are similar other Hadith reports, e.g., one from Abu Dawud, and another from Taqyid by al-Baghdadi confirming the Prophet’s prohibition on Hadith writing, and direction for erasure of any Hadith. Musa also notes that al-Baghdadi’s reports on the authority of Abu Sa’id Khudri, Abu Huraira, Zayd ibn Thabit, and others confirm the Prophet’s objections to writing. In one report, Abu Huraira quotes the Prophet as saying, addressing some companions who were writing Hadith, “Is it a book other than the Book of God that you want? The two communities before you went astray only because they wrote some books for themselves along with the Book of God.” Evidently, the Prophet was aware of the dangers of writing down his traditions beside the words of God. There are, however, also other reports that temper this position of the Prophet, saying that the Prophet later permitted Hadith transmission and writing.

Whatever historical reports we seem to have about the position of the Khulafai-Rashidun (the Righteous Caliphs) on the Hadith suggest that they also discouraged its compilation. According to one report, the first Caliph Abu Bakr burned his own notes of Hadith (said to be some 500), after being very uneasy about these notes. “According to Jayrajpuri, because the Companions (of the Prophet) so often disagreed with one another Abu Bakr forbade the collection of Hadith.” Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab is well known and well documented for his strong opposition to the transmission and recording of the Hadith. He is reported to have cancelled his initial plan to compile Hadith, apprehending its possible adverse impact in the form of neglect of the Book of God – the Quran. During his caliphate, “the problem of Hadith forgery was so serious that he prohibited Hadith transmission altogether.” Umar reportedly also arranged for burning of all available Hadith. The position of Uthman and Ali also appears to have been lack of any overt effort to collect any Hadith for dissemination purposes.

Hazy or conflicting historical reports about the early period of Islam notwithstanding, the fact remains that there were no written records of Hadith during the lifetime of the Prophet as well as during the rule of the four Caliphs. This is despite the fact that “several documents of the Prophet, such as the Medina Charter or Constitution, his treaties and letters, had been written on his orders.” This amply proves the point that if the Prophet had wished, he could have made arrangements for recording of his Hadith as a separate religious document, just as he did in the case of the Quran. The stark fact is that he did not wish such recording, and his discouragement of Hadith recording was honored by the four Caliphs and remained in force apparently for some thirty years after the Prophet’s death, but was ignored later. According to one report, a Hadith in Abu Dawud, the Ummayad ruler Muawiya wanted a Hadith to be written in the presence of one of the Prophet’s most noted scribes Zayd ibn Thabit, but when Zayd reminded him of the Prophet’s prohibition on Hadith writing, he (Muawiya) erased it.

As Iqbal notes in his celebrated work The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, even Abu Hanifah, regarded as “one of the greatest exponents of Muhammedan Law in Sunni Islam […] made practically no use of […] traditions,” even though there were collections available at that time made by other people no less than thirty years before his death. Nor did he collect any Hadith for his use, unlike his peers Malik and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Thus, according to Iqbal, “if modern Liberalism considers it safer not to make any indiscriminate use of them [traditions] as a source of law, it will be only following [the example of Abu Hanifah].” “In reaction to a situation [where huge numbers of forged Hadith reports were in circulation] that was virtually out of control, Abu Hanifah approached Hadith with the assumption that very few could be proved sahih [authentic].”

The Long Time Gap and The Lack of Proper Records

The long time lapse with which the Hadith surfaced after the Prophet’s death raises questions of its reliability that can never be satisfactorily resolved. Muslim and non-Muslim historians and scholars all point out that there were no written records of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds during the first century after his death, and not much Hadith writing – and not any Hadith book that gained respectability later on by the Muslim community at large – during the long two centuries after the Prophet’s death. The Hadiths that gained acceptance as sahih or authentic such as those collected and compiled by Bukhari (d. 256 AH/870 CE), Muslim (d. 261/875), Abu Dawud (d. 275/888), Tirmidhi (d. 279/892), Ibn Majah (d. 273/886) and Nasa’i (d. 303/915) – all came more than two hundred years after the Prophet’s death. The compilations accepted by the Shiites came even later. They were all based on oral transmission from generation to generation through chains of transmitters (isnads) numbering seven to even one hundred in the chain. Even written records of the past traditions were not good enough. As the historian MacDonald notes that one danger in written records “was evidently real … the unhappy character of the Arabic script, especially when written without diacritical points, often made it hard if not practically impossible, to understand such short, contextless texts as the traditions.” “There was fierce opposition to the written records of traditions for a long time also on the theological ground that this would lead to too much honoring of the traditions and neglect of the Quran, a fear that was justified to a certain extent by the event.”

The big question is: Why did the compilations come after such an inordinately long lapse of historical time after the Prophet’s death? Kassim Ahmad legitimately asks: “Why was the official compilation not made earlier, especially during the time of the righteous caliphs when the first reporters, i.e., the eye witnesses, were still alive and could be examined?” Because of the long time lag one can hardly be sure that the accounts are genuinely those of the Prophet Muhammad. How can one be so certain that the chain of narrators through the oral transmission has been successful in transmitting the same message ad verbatim from generation to generation, when even in the same generation, or say, even in the same year or month or day, people are often found unable to exactly reproduce one’s utterances?

The scholars of Hadith (the muhaddithun), “no matter how dedicated, were simply too distant from the time of the Prophet and forgery had become too rampant for authentic Hadith to be recovered.” Some anecdotes of the muhaddithun suggest that they could not prevent forged Hadith from being circulated even in their own names. It is also worth noting that there were enemies of Islam and pseudo-Muslims who wanted to sabotage the propagation of true Islam by attributing false statements or reports either to God, or to His Prophet, right from the Prophet’s lifetime. Evidence that there were such people who directed their efforts to diverting attention from the mainstream Islam and to causing dissension and divisions in the Muslim ummah even during the Prophet’s lifetime is provided by the Quran itself:

9:106-7 And there are those who put up a mosque by way of mischief and disbelief, and in order to cause dissension among the believers, and as an outpost for those who fought against God and His messenger before. They will indeed swear: ‘Our intention is nothing but good’; but God beareth witness that they are certainly liars. Never stand there (to pray). A mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety is more worthy of your standing therein, wherein are men who love to purify themselves. God loveth those who purify themselves.

Here it refers to some people who put up a mosque to cause dissension among Muslims. Such people were evidently not well-meaning Muslims. Thus, forgers had been active even during the Prophet’s lifetime. Forgery had been rampant during the caliphate of the Prophet’s immediate successors, and it “only increased under the Umayyads , who considered Hadith a means of propping up their rule and actively circulated traditions against Ali, and in favor of Muawiya. The Abbasids followed the same pattern, circulating Prophetic Hadith, which predicted the reign of each successive ruler. Moreover, religious and ethnic conflicts further contributed to the forgery of Hadith.”

Flawed Oral Transmission Due to Human Sources

Since the Hadith was preserved and transmitted primarily orally, both by default and design, the transmission process was as good as the human sources involved in the process. The oral transmission was preferred to written records by the Hadith scholars, because written records to be credible required direct attestation by living transmitters of Hadith who could vouch for their credibility. The question is: Was this transmission process reliable enough to give assurance that what we get as words or reports of deeds of the Prophet are genuinely those of the Prophet?

Also note that Hadith reports originating from all narrators do not command the same credibility. Hadith reports that are reported to have originated from two of the companions of the Prophet, Anas b. Malik and Abu Huraira are especially suspect. Anas lived long (about hundred years), because of which it was convenient for Hadith forgers to list him as an originator. “Aisha criticized Anas for transmitting traditions although he was only a child during the life of the Prophet.” Aisha was reported to have criticized also Abu Huraira and Ibn Abbas joined her in this criticism. Abu Huraira was originator of a very large number of Hadith texts (more than 5000), even though he converted to Islam in less than three years before the Prophet’s death. According to some reports, the second Caliph “Umar called Abu Huraira a liar,” and reprimanded him for his questionable conduct. During Muawiya’s rule, he reportedly lived in his palace in Syria. His memory was poor, but the Bukhari compilation provides reference to his poor memory being miraculously cured by the Prophet (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 3, #119, also repeated at Vol. 4, Book 56, #841, also repeated by another narrator with a somewhat different text at Vol. 1, Book 3, #120), a claim that might not be true. And legitimately, a question also arises: how sure can one be that the later transmitters (who are known as rawis, some of whom were tabiun, i.e., companions of the companions of the Prophet, or tabi-tabiun, i.e., companions of the tabiun) in the isnad attributed Hadith texts to the original companion of the Prophet accurately without any mistake, even with full good intentions? Any mistake made by anyone of the narrators of any Hadith in the isnad involved would necessarily make its transmission flawed and its accurate attribution to the Prophet difficult.

There are even some Hadith texts in Bukhari that suggest that even the Prophet used to forget things (Sahih Bukhari, VOL. 1, BOOK 5, #274, ALSO VOL. 1, BOOK 8, #394)! Surely the less reliable human agents involved in Hadith transmission were more likely to forget and make mistakes. The authenticity of Hadith breaks down on this count alone. It definitely relies on too many unproven assumptions.

The Influence of Power Struggles and Theological Rivalries on Hadith Writing

The Umayyad and Abbasid rulers actively promoted Hadith writing. According to a historical tradition, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (d. 742 CE) was the first individual to record (in writing) the Hadith, but under duress – under orders from Caliph Hisham, “who became the first traditionist [sic] to violate the Prophet’s prohibition on recording Hadith in writing. Al-Zuhri is reported to have said: ‘We disapproved of recording knowledge until these rulers forced us to do so. After that we saw no reason to forbid Muslims to do so.’”

About the power struggles and theological rivalries that led to forging of Hadith in circulation, MacDonald notes:

[T]he Umayyads, who reigned from AH 41 to AH 132, for reasons of state, […] encouraged and spread—also freely forged and encouraged others to forge—such traditions as were favorable to their plans and to their rule generally. This was necessary if they were to carry the body of the people with them. But they regarded themselves as kings and not as the heads of the Muslim people. This same device has been used after them by all the contending factions of Islam. Each party has sought sanction for its views by representing them in traditions from the Prophet, and the thing has gone so far that on almost every disputed point there are absolutely conflicting prophetic utterances in circulation. It has even been held, and with some justification, that the entire body of normative tradition at present in existence was forged for a purpose.

One example of Hadith fabrication given by Goldziher is that by Ummayad caliph Abd al-Malik also known as Malik b. Anas who was an important collector of Hadith is as follows:

When the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik wished to stop the pilgrimages to Mecca because he was worried lest his rival ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr should force the Syrians journeying to the holy places in Hijaz to pay him homage, he had recourse to the expedient of the doctrine of the vicarious hajj to the Qubbat al-Sakhra in Jerusalem. He decreed that obligatory circumambulation (tawaf) could take place at the sacred place in Jerusalem with the same validity as that around the Ka’ba ordained in Islamic law. The pious theologian al-Zuhri was given the task of justifying this politically motivated reform of religious life by making up and spreading a saying traced back to the Prophet, according to which there are three mosques to which people may take pilgrimages: those in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. […] An addition which, apparently, belonged to its original form but was later neglected by leveling orthodoxy in this and related sayings: ‘and a prayer in the Bayt al-Maqdis of Jerusalem is better than a thousand prayers in other holy places,’ i.e. even Mecca or Medina. Later, too, ‘Abd al-Malik is quoted when the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is to be equated with that to Mecca.

Contemporary Muslim scholar Jeffrey Lang cites another example of a politically motivated Hadith. The following Hadith report in Sahih Bukhari, “which so succinctly exonerates the first three Caliphs [after the Prophet’s death] in the precise order of their reigns, certainly sounds like it was invented to refute their detractors.”

On the authority of Abu Musa: the Prophet entered a garden and bade me guard its gate. Then a man came and asked leave to enter. And [the Prophet] said: Let him enter, and announce to him [that he will gain] Paradise. – And lo, it was Abu Bakr. Thereafter another man came and asked leave to enter. And [the Prophet] said: Let him enter, and announce to him [that he will gain] Paradise. – And lo, it was ‘Umar. Thereafter another man came and asked leave to enter. And [the Prophet] remained silent for a while; then he said: Let him enter, and announce to him [that he will gain] Paradise after a calamity that is to befall him. – And lo, it was ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan. (Similar texts in Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 57, # 42, 44)

Lang provides two examples of Hadith fabrication in the area of theological disputes. One point of contention is that “[…] the legitimacy of ijma (consensus) as a source of Islamic Law was much debated during Imam al Shafi’i’s time, who defends it in his Risala, Yet al Shafi’i, a leader in the Hadith party, was apparently unaware of the famous statement of the Prophet, “my community will never agree on an error” (al Tirmidhi), which establishes its validity. Another point of contention among al Shafi’i’s colleagues is whether prophetic sunnahs on issues unmentioned in the Qur’an are binding. This time, however, al Shafi’i is able to call upon a made-to-order Hadith:

Narrated Abu Rafi: The Prophet said: ‘Let me not find any one of you reclining in his couch and saying when a command reaches him, “I do not know. We shall follow [only] what we find in the Book of God.” (Abu Dawud)

Lang also cites the example of the stoning of married adulterers introduced by the Hadith, but which conflicts with the Quran, and which did not go unchallenged in early Islam. He further notes:

There are numerous examples like these in the tradition literature of seemingly made-to-order Hadiths that provide unequivocal proof for the correctness of various juridical stances that were taken in long-standing legal debates. If these traditions are genuine, it is surprising that these debates persisted so long – often into the late second and third Islamic centuries – and that these extremely convenient traditions are not cited in earlier works that discuss the topics they address.

The rijal and other Hadith related literature describe […] motivations behind Hadith fabrication. Political, sectarian, partisan, prejudicial, and self-aggrandizing aims were frequently behind Hadith deception. Most often Hadiths were manufactured and manipulated to lend prophetic authority to customs, opinions, doctrines, or party planks that were unconnected to his [the Prophet’s] teachings and behaviors.

About questionable Hadith authentication, contemporary Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan comments as follows:

By the ninth century, when the Islamic law was being fashioned, there were so many false Hadith circulating through the community that Muslim legal scholars somewhat whimsically classified them into two categories: lies told for material gain and lies told for theological advantage. In the ninth and tenth centuries, a concerted effort was made to sift through the massive accumulation in order to separate the reliable from the rest. Nevertheless, for hundreds of years, anyone who had the power and wealth necessary to influence public opinion on a particular issue – and who wanted to justify about, say, the role of women in society – had only to refer to a Hadith which he had heard from someone, who had heard it from someone else, who had heard from a Companion, who had heard it from the Prophet.

Thus according to Aslan, one basic reason behind the distorted Prophetic traditions was that those who took upon themselves the task of projecting Islam – “men who were, coincidentally, among the most powerful and wealthy members of the ummah – were not nearly as concerned with the accuracy of their reports or the objectivity of their exegesis as they were in regaining the financial and social dominance that the Prophet’s reforms had taken from them.”

The Novel Criteria Used to Judge the Authenticity of the Hadith

The Hadith believers boast of certain criteria that were used by the compilers to screen out fake Hadith and select authentic Hadith. These criteria are euphemistically labeled as “the science of the Hadith” (ilm al-Hadith) or the science of accepting and rejecting narrations (ilm al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil). However, on close scrutiny, these criteria are not fool-proof to establish undisputed authenticity of Hadith accounts, as evidenced by the inclusion in so-called sahih Hadiths of numerous texts that are “vulgar, absurd, theologically objectionable, or morally repugnant.” These criteria, as an anonymous writer remarks, are:

[A] system of guidelines which numerous scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have clearly shown to be seriously inadequate – if not a complete farce, as these standards are broken on numerous occasions in even the ‘best’ collections of Hadith. This of course makes the authenticity of the Hadith dubious at best – a situation with serious ramifications for the Islamic SHARIA and the religion of Islam as a whole [when, of course, understood in terms of the Quran and the Hadith together].

The criteria relate to the isnad and matn. However good such criteria might look on paper prima facie, they are inherently grossly inadequate for the following reasons:

1. The subjective nature of judgments by individual Hadith compilers about the character of the numerous narrators involved;
2. The multiplicity of isnad narrators involved spanning several generations and possible problems associated with isnads;
3. Possibility of human error committed by narrators involved due to communication, human memory, or other problems;
4. The sheer vast number of matn texts involved;
5. Observed biases of the compilers in their choice of narrators and choice of texts; and
6. Flaws in the criteria themselves.

The basic question that needs to be judged first is that it is the compiler like Bukhari, Muslim, etc., who is judging the character and qualifications of the narrators, and whose judgment could easily go wrong. It is beyond anybody’s comprehension how it was possible for one to ascertain with full accuracy that a narrator had not lied or not made any unintentional mistake in stating things, even if he was known to be pious or virtuous by some traditional standards. As Jayrajpuri aptly notes, “Honesty and dishonesty are internal qualities which cannot be known with any certainty by observers. As a result, ilm al-rijal [the knowledge of men] is only an approximate qiyasi [science], and one can never be absolutely certain that one’s judgment about a transmitter is correct.” Also, according to Sayyid Ahmad Khan, judging the character of contemporary people is difficult enough; accurately judging that of the transmitters of earlier generations must have been very hard indeed, if not totally impossible, especially when the transmitters involved were so numerous and the period covered was so large. As contemporary Muslim scholar Jeffrey Lang aptly notes, “All things considered, it seems that a major drawback of classical Hadith studies is that judgments on the veracity of one set of data – the Hadith reports – are based on a second set of data – the rijal reports – that we have no compelling reason to believe is more reliable than the first, quite the opposite.”

The criteria of classical Hadith judgment are subject also to criticism that there was always the possibility of forging of the isnad, and such forging, according to some reports, took place on just as large a scale as the forging of contents. For forgers, there was always a great incentive to attribute reports to most trustworthy authorities. It appears that isnad tampering occurred in various ways: isnad invention and theft and, most frequently, isnad manipulation, which involved “’tampering with isnads in order to make them appear more reliable than they are in reality.’ It consisted either of interpolating the name of a trustworthy transmitter or eliminating the name or names of discreditable transmitters from the isnad, or both of these.” This practice of what is called tadlis was widespread; and it consisted of ihala (transfer) of traditions from a dubious to a reliable isnad, wasl or tawsil (connecting) of missing links in the isnad by interpolating some names of authorities, and raf (raising) a tradition to the level of a more prestigious authority, mostly the Prophet, by supplying the necessary links.” As Jeffrey Lang points out, “we know from rijal and other Hadith related literature that besides matn fabrication, isnad theft, invention, and tampering had also occurred on an enormous scale, so that the focal point of Hadith evaluation had also suffered from extensive corruption. Yet if the main evidence of Hadith criticism had often been manipulated, then we have every right to wonder how well suited was isnad criticism to detecting corrupted chains of transmission.” Lang further notes, “Another weak point of classical isnad appraisal is that systematic rijal criticism upon which it depends did not commence until around 130 AH/747 CE, nearly a century after the origins of the isnad system. Hence we find ourselves in a serious predicament: the assessment of the reliability of Hadith reports is based on information that is in nature less reliable than the material we are supposed to judge. This is all the more disconcerting since we have every reason to believe that tadlis (isnad tampering) occurred on as massive a scale as matn fabrication.”

And how could one be fully certain that the narrator fully remembered what he had heard from another narrator, that any of the narrators involved in the chain had not made even the slightest mistake in communication, and that there was absolutely no communication gap between the narrator who narrated a certain story and the narrator who heard the story? There was almost always the possibility for human error, even assuming that the narrators had all the good qualifications and good intentions? As we know from the experience of extensive scientific experimentation carried out in the field of modern information science, it is a proven fact that we find most people not able to exactly reproduce statements made by others – sayings change swiftly from one set of ears to another set. We also know that the compilers had biases in their choice of narrators and both the compilers and the narrators had biases in their choice of Hadith texts, motivated by political and theological grounds. One critic cites that a Hadith originating from Abdullah bin Umar was rejected by Bukhari, although the basically same Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira was accepted, and although many other Hadith texts from Abdullah bin Umar were accepted by Bukhari. In a nutshell, there were too many unknowns and uncertainties as well as biases involved in the selection process of so-called authentic Hadith, which it could not be humanly possible to resolve fully satisfactorily by people like Bukhari. Kassim Ahmad notes:

However accurate the methodology of the isnad, the scholars first started talking about it and started writing it down only about 150 – 200 years after the deaths of the very last tabi`i tabi`in. This means that when the research to establish the isnad got started, none of the Companions, the succeeding generation, or the generation coming after them [was] available to provide any kind of guidance, confirmation or rebuttal. Therefore, the authenticity of the statements cannot be vouched for at all.

It is not our intention to say that Bukhari, Muslim and others were fabricators. However, even students of elementary psychology or communication will testify that a simple message of, say, 15 words will get distorted after passing through only about five messengers. (Our readers are welcome to try out this experiment). Keep in mind that the Hadith contains thousands of detailed and complex narrations – everything from ablution to jurisprudence. These narrations passed through hundreds of narrators who were spread out over thousands of miles of desert, and spanned over two to three hundred years of history. All this at a time when news traveled at the speed of a camel gait, recorded on pieces of leather or bone or scrolls in a land that had neither paper nor the abundance of scribes to write anything down!

Kassim Ahmad continues, “It stands to reason that the Hadith writers depended on much story-telling to fill in the blanks. Many `authentic’ narrators whom the Hadith writers allude to in their chains of isnad were wholly fabricated names.” It was “preposterous and impossible” for Bukhari to have meticulously considered over six hundred thousand Hadith texts to pick his authentic 7,275 Hadith texts in his lifetime in an age when the camel journey was the only available means to cover long desert distances.

Some of the matn criteria that were used are flawed or weak on grounds as follows:

1. The criterion that a text should not be inconsistent with other texts of Hadith is weak, as even if a text is not inconsistent with other Hadith texts, all such texts could be simultaneously wrong. Also, this criterion is found violated by Hadith texts included in the so-called sahih category that are either self-conflicting or conflicting with one another.
2. Texts prescribing heavy punishments for minor sins or exceptionally large rewards for small virtues were rejected. But this involved the value judgments of the Hadith compilers about what constituted «too heavy» or «too large». There are serious instances of violation of this criterion – One glaring example is Hadith-prescribed punishment for apostasy by killing, though the Quran allows full religious freedom.
3. Texts referring to actions that should have been commonly known and practiced by others but were not known and practiced were rejected. This criterion is flawed; it does not guarantee the veracity of the text about the Prophet.
4. Most importantly, the criterion such as that the Hadith texts should not be contrary to the Quran, reason, or logic has been flagrantly flouted in numerous cases. Many scholars have demonstrated that numerous Hadith texts do in fact contradict the Quran or do not stand to reason or logic or scientific truths.

As Hadith critics have pointed out, the Hadith scholars were mostly concerned with the isnad criteria and in the process they neglected the matn criteria. Otherwise, how could they compile traditions that were clearly absurd or simply unacceptable from the point of view of the Quran? Khaled Abou El Fadl points out:

[T]he methodologies of the field [of ‘ilal al-matn, i.e., the field within the science of Hadith related to the defects of Prophetic reports] were elusive, and the judgment reached was fairly subjective. Furthermore, most of the efforts of past scholars of Hadith were directed at authenticating the isnad of Hadith. Matn analysis remained undeveloped and under-utilized. Even more, the science of Hadith did not correlate the authenticity of Hadith with its theological and social ramifications. The scholars of Hadith did not demand a higher standard of authenticity for a Hadith that could have sweeping theological and social ramifications. Additionally, […] Hadith scholars did not engage in historical evaluation of Hadith or examine its logical coherence or social impact. Consequently, Hadith scholars often accepted the authenticity of Hadith with problematic theological and social implications.

Thus the so-called criteria used to authenticate Hadiths are inherently flawed and simply inadequate to the massive task. They rather mask or camouflage the real character of the Hadith and thus mislead unwitting Muslims.

What the Quran Really Tells About God

WHAT THE QURAN REALLY TELLS ABOUT GOD

Published on World Religion News 19 APR 2018    BY ABDUR RAB, AUTHOR

A THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT IS ACTUALLY SAID IN THE QURAN [The lead author discusses their new book Toward A Quranic Understanding of the Divine: Perspectives from Three Thinkersthat has been jointly authored by him, Farouk A. Peru and Siraj Islam and sponsored and published by Muslims for Progressive Values.]

This may seem rather very strange but it’s true that the God of the Quran significantly differs from what traditional Muslims believe in.

God appears vividly different in the Quran than in traditional Islam in four distinct ways: (1) As a Force immanent in the very process of evolution rather than being conceived of as a creator literally; (2) as One working in accordance with His own natural laws rather than behaving capriciously; (3) as One Who does not directly determine our affairs and seal our fate but allows us free will, responsibility and freedom of action; and (4) as One Who possesses more attributes than a limited number of 99. These points get reflected in the following discussion.

The book’s primary premise is that the very act of seeking and striving to know God and to know how we should serve Him constitutes in itself a spiritual pursuit for humanity. Our book states that prophets and saints went exactly through such spiritual pursuits. By achieving spiritual transformation, they have become our role models.

The book then looks at the question how God exists. “As the precise methodology of science covers only the observable thingsof the temporal world, science doesn’t discuss God and therefore doesn’t attempt to prove or disprove His existence. Rather, it is philosophy that promotes the discussion.” (Cf., p. 30)The book briefly reviews the existing philosophical arguments that purport to prove God’s existence and concludes that none of these explanations provides us a fully satisfactory proof of God’s existence. We think, however, that we can experience His presence through religious/spiritual experience. If we spiritually evolve we might be able to reach a point where we could feel like meeting with God – a point of liqaullahas in the Quran. This kind of religious experience is an indirect proof of God. But everybody is not in a position to achieve such an experience.

The book presents the Quranic idea of God in the following seven propositions.

First, even though all scriptures, including the Quran, present God as the creator, the book notes, “this creation idea should be taken figuratively because God does not really create in the strictly literal sense. His creation of the universe should be understood in the same sense as can be applied to other texts in the Quran that speak of God doing various things such as the following: He giveslife and death (2:258); He feeds us (6:14); He sends winds, clouds and rain, and thereby brings forth fruits of all kinds (7:57). We know that these things happen when the forces or laws of nature and humanity and other agents of God are in action in the universe.” (Cf., p. 21) Furthermore, the Quran accepts evolution by explicitly stating that the universe and everything in it have been created in six ayyumsor stages (32:4).

Thus in the wisdom of the Quran rather than going by its literal accounts, we conceive of God as immanentin the universe – manifest in the laws of nature as well as in many actions of His free agents, including human beings.He resides in us and works through us, as He works through nature. He has been immanent in the very unleashing of the evolutionary forces that have brought the universe and us into existence. But this does not lend itself to a pantheistic interpretation, which simply means that everything is divine. “The ideas that God is manifest in all creation and the laws of nature and that He transcends everything are nevertheless compatible with what has come to be known as panentheism.” (Cf., 26)

Second, the Quran’s central and distinctive idea is that God is one and unique, and absolute. This monotheism sets Islam apart from some of the existing major religions. The book notes that this conception of God generates important implications about Him and lessons for humankind. One important implication is that He is most powerful and that He is independent. Since He is most powerful, He alone commands our full allegiance or submission, or worship or service. Another implication is that as His servants, we all are equal before Him. As the Quran declares, all children of Adam – all men and women – deserve the same dignity (17:70).

The idea that God is independent has one important implication for us. It implies that whatever we do, we do for ourselves only, not for God really. This is reinforced by a Quran verse that says, “And whoever strives, strives only for his or her own soul (nafs)” (29:6). This means that whatever we do, we should do spontaneously and conscionably, rather than in seeking to please God or looking for what He wants from us. God is, of course, not unmindful of what we do (2:74) and He is pleased with His servants automatically when they do things conscionably (3:15, 9:21, 72).

“Ironically, however, Muslims generally consider the Quran-prescribed actions and rituals as ends in themselvesto please God rather than as means to an end. This attitudinal characteristic regrettably explains why Muslims do not seem to be so much concerned with the outcomes of what they actually do in real life as they are with their daily religious rituals, often resulting in a disconnect between what they do outside of their religious functions. This disconnect largely explains why they often engage in acts of deceit, bigotry, intolerance, and sometimes even violent extremism, not only against other communities, but even against fellow Muslims.” (Cf., pp. 35-36)

Third, “[a]s the Supreme Being, God also epitomizes in Himself the perfection of all conceivable qualities that are worthy of emulation. This is because less than perfect beings have no legitimate basis to command our worship and emulation. It thus makes a lot of sense for us to take Him as our best ideal to follow. The Quran itself declares that God is always on the right Path – sirat im-mustaqeem(11.56).” (Cf., p. 37) He possesses all beautiful names or qualities – asmaulhusna(59:24).

Fourth, the Quranic God does not predestine our fate. Predestination is a misconceived idea that denies human freedom and the relevance of human effort and human responsibility. The Quran, on the other hand, emphatically declares that there is nothing for humanity except with effort – Laisa lil insani illa ma saa’(53:39). Indeed God cannot make us accountable for our actions unless he has accorded us free will and freedom of action. Having said that we also concede that hereditary and environmental factors play some role in shaping human destiny.

Fifth, God does not will or act willy-nilly. He is not capricious. What He wills or acts is in perfect accord with His own given sunnahor laws, which are nothing but the laws of nature. The Quran states that God’s sunnahor ways of dealing with things never change (35:43, 17:77, 30:30, 46:19). He never violates the laws of nature. Just think about it. Even scientists do not know why such laws exist. But one thing is clear. Such laws are a great blessing to humanity. It’s precisely because of such laws that we know what works and what does not work for us. Without them, all scientific inquiry and all progress would have come to a standstill.

Sixth, God does not directly will or determine our affairs. This follows from the pivotal Quranic statement that God does not change our condition until we change our nafsor soul (13:11). God is a co-worker with us when we work. He helps those who help themselves.

That God does not directly will or determine our affairs is also evident from various other Quran verses. One of them says that God rebukes those who skirt their responsibility to feed the poor, giving a pretext that if God willed He could have fed them (36:47). Another verse says that God never does any injustice to us; rather we do injustice to ourselves (3:117). Also, “God says that if He willed He could have guided all of us (6:149), that if He willed He could have made humankind one nation (5:48), and that if He willed all would have believed (10:99).” (Cf., p. 55) All this points to God not directly interfering in our affairs.

Seventh and finally, we closely look at the numerous attributes of God as mentioned in the Quran. Our research shows that His names or attributes are well over 99 as traditionally believed. In the traditional list, such glaring attributes of God are missing as Rab or Rabb(The Sustainer, The Cherisher 1:2, 6:45,164) and Nasir(The Helper 2:120, 3:150, 4:45, 8:40, etc.).The attribute Rabappears in the very first chapter of the Quran, which is recited in everyday Muslim prayer, and appears in the Quran 978 times. We think that such attributes not only help us understand and clarify the nature of God, but they spell out a philosophy of who can really be divine and they are very much an integral part of the guidance the Quran provides us. The divine attributes shed light on how we should mold our own character.

As we peruse the divine attributes, “[one] thing that vividly strikes us is that God symbolizes everything that is good, true, just, wise, beautiful, kind, and compassionate. He represents the highest Ideal that we must endeavor to follow, emulate, and serve. If we all sincerely serve God, taking Him as our only Ideal, we would be able to transform this grief-stricken, messy, and troubled world into an earthly paradise.” (Cf., p. 85)

An additional excerpt from the book:

“Furthermore and most importantly, God represents the Universal Ideal that all humans need to emulate. Despite all the progress made by science and the material amenities of modern life we’re enjoying, we’re living in a grossly inequitable and dangerous world. Humanity has lost trust in humanity. Nations are all suspicious of one another. The arms race, accumulating arsenals, and on the top of everything, the atom bomb, have set humanity on a path to a perilous tipping point. What is going to save us from this grim prospect except firing up of the nobler human values that the prophets of religion and spirituality have brought us?” (Cf., p. 7)

RESOURCES

Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding
http://quranonly.com

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The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.

TAGS:Farouk A. Peru, God, Islam, Muslim, Qur’an, religion

FEATURED CONTRIBUTOR ABDUR RAB AUTHOR

Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired economist and public policy analyst. He is the author of Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding”, the third   succeeding two earlier acclaimed editions. He has co-authored the new book “Toward A Quranic Understanding of the Divine… .” His numerous articles on Islamic topics can be read on his website http://quranonly.com/.

To see the original article, check this link: https://www.worldreligionnews.com/featured-contributors/islamic-news-featured-contributors/quran-really-tells-god

Our New Book – A Brief Preview

Our New Book – A Brief Preview

By Abdur Rab*

 

The following is a brief preview of our new book Toward A Quranic Understanding of the Divine: Perspectives from Three Thinkers. It’s been jointly authored by myself and two of my friends Farouk A. Peru and Siraj Islam. This is the very first book that has been sponsored and published by Muslims for Progressive Values.

Our new book provides a view of God in light of the Quran that departs significantly from the traditionally conceived notions of God. It’s not an intrinsically original notion, but still should sound fresh to many readers.

Admittedly, we do not fully know God. The Quran itself states that no human vision comprehends Him (6:103). Yet we can draw a fair idea of God from the Quran. I’ll present this idea in the form of some propositions.

But before that, let me introduce our book by asking why we should really seek to know God and serve Him. The book postulates that the very act of seeking and striving to know God and to know how we should serve Him constitutes in itself a spiritual pursuit for humanity. Our book states that prophets and saints went exactly through such spiritual pursuits. By achieving spiritual transformation, they have become our role models.

In the book, we then ask the question how God exists. Science generally considers God redundant; but it has failed to disprove His existence. There are some philosophical arguments that purport to prove God’s existence. However, none of the existing philosophical explanations has succeeded in giving us a fully satisfactory proof of God’s existence. But this should not dissuade us from believing in God.

We do not see God, but as our book notes, we still can experience His presence. If we spiritually evolve we might be able to reach a point where we could feel like meeting with God… a point of liqaullah as in the Quran. This kind of religious experience is an indirect proof of God. But everybody is not in a position to replicate such experience.

Now let me present our idea of God in the following propositions.

First, we postulate that God is immanent or manifest in the universe. He resides in us and works through us, as He works through nature. He has been immanent in the very unleashing of evolutionary forces that have brought the universe and us into existence. But this does not point to simplistic pantheism, which means that everything is divine. The ideas that God is manifest in all creation and the laws of nature and that He transcends everything are nevertheless compatible with what has come to be known as panentheism.

Second, God is one and unique, and absolute. This tawhid or unity of God has important implications such as that He is most powerful and that He is independent. Since He is most powerful, He alone commands our full allegiance or submission, or worship or service. Another implication is that as His servants, we all are equal before Him. As the Quran declares, all children of Adam – all men and women – deserve the same dignity (17:70).

The idea that God is independent has one important implication for us. It implies that whatever we do, we do for ourselves only, not for God really. This is reinforced by a Quranic verse that says, “And whoever strives, strives only for his or her own soul (nafs)” (29:6). This means that whatever we do, we should do spontaneously and conscionably, rather than in seeking to please God or looking for what He wants from us. God is, of course, not unmindful of what we do (2:74) and pleased with His servants automatically when they do things conscionably (3:15, 9:21, 72).

Ironically, however, Muslims generally consider the Quran-prescribed actions and rituals as ends in themselves to please God rather than as means to an end. This attitudinal characteristic regrettably explains why Muslims do not seem to be so much concerned with the outcomes of what they actually do in real life as they are with their daily religious rituals. This often results in a disconnect between what they do inside and outside of their religious activities. This disconnect largely explains why they often engage in acts of deceit, bigotry, intolerance, and sometimes even violent extremism, not only against other communities, but even against fellow Muslims.

Third, as the Supreme Being, God also epitomizes in Himself the perfection of all conceivable qualities that are worthy of emulation. This is because less than perfect beings have no legitimate basis to command our worship and emulation. It thus makes a lot of sense for us to take Him as our best ideal to follow. The Quran itself declares that God is always on the right Path – sirat im-mustaqeem (11.56) and that He possesses all beautiful names or qualities – asmaulhusna (59:24).

Fourth, the Quranic God does not predestine our fate. Predestination is a misconceived idea that denies human freedom and the relevance of human effort and human responsibility. The Quran, on the other hand, emphatically declares that there is nothing for humanity except with effort – Laisa lil insani illa ma saa’ (53:39). Indeed God cannot make us accountable for our actions unless he has accorded us free will and freedom of action. Having said that we also concede that hereditary and environmental factors play some role in shaping human destiny.

Fifth, God does not will or act willy-nilly. He is not capricious. What He wills or acts is in perfect accord with His given sunnah or laws, which are nothing but the laws of nature. The Quran states that God’s sunnah never changes. He never violates the laws of nature.

Sixth, God does not directly will or determine our affairs. This follows from the pivotal Quranic statement that God does not change our condition until we change our nafs or soul (13:11). God is a co-worker with us when we work. He helps those who help themselves.

That God does not will our affairs is also evident from various other Quranic verses. One of them says that God rebukes those who skirt their responsibility to feed the poor, giving a pretext that if God willed He could have fed them (36:47). Another verse says that God never does any injustice to us; rather we do injustice to ourselves (3:117). Also, God says that if He willed He could have guided all of us (6:149), that if He willed He could have made humankind one nation (5:48), and that if He willed all would have believed (10:99). The import of all these verses is that God does not directly will or determine our affairs.

Finally, we closely look at the numerous attributes of God as mentioned in the Quran. In traditional Islam, we’re told that God has 99 names. But our research shows that His names or attributes are well over 99. We think that such attributes not only help us understand and clarify the nature of God, but they spell out a philosophy of who can really be divine and they are very much an integral part of the guidance the Quran gives us. The divine attributes shed light on how we should mold our own character. As we peruse the divine attributes, one thing that vividly strikes us is that God symbolizes everything that is good, true, just, wise, beautiful, kind, and compassionate. He represents the highest Ideal that we must endeavor to follow, emulate, and serve. If we all sincerely serve God, taking Him as our only Ideal, we would be able to transform this grief-stricken, messy, and troubled world into an earthly paradise.

___________________________________________

*Abdur Rab is also the author of Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding. His numerous articles on Islamic topics can be read on http://quranonly.com/.

Synchronicity: Coincident Phenomena We Should Observe and Welcome

“Synchronicity” is an unfamiliar yet interesting concept that owes to a twentieth-century Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who defines it as “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”[1] Such events are not causally related, but yet meaningfully connected and explain events that lie outside the boundaries of scientific inquiry. Amid a skeptical scientific world, Jung found a Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli to support his idea, which is why part of Pauli’s work provides an example of synchronicity that is referred to as the Pauli Effect.

Synchronicity is observed to take place in our day-to-day lives and dates back to time immemorial. Synchronicity’s significance is evident from the fact that it illustrates an aspect of humanity’s spiritual living. It is a Divine form in which events in human life are communicated, giving advance signals of what is going to happen. It thus plays some role in guiding humankind. Synchronicity comes into our awareness by way of dreams, visions, revelations, or intuitive feelings.

Jung himself has sought to use the concept to justify the paranormal. He thought that without this theory it was impossible “to explain ESP, or the fact of meaningful coincidence, as a phenomenon of energy.”

A well-cited example of synchronicity that Jung provides is a dream narrated by one of his woman patients while he was trying to treat her. She dreamed the night before that someone had given her a golden scarab (a costly piece of jewelry). At the time of therapy, Jung saw a golden insect tapping on the window; he opened the window and the insect, “whose gold-green color most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab,” flew into the room.

Another of Jung’s dreams was about the death of his wife’s cousin. He dreamed about this at 3 a.m., which was exactly the time the death of his wife’s cousin occurred. In his lifetime, he had many such prophetic dreams.

Such coincident phenomena are found to occur in the lives of many of us. One good example I could recount here is a dream of my wife. One night she dreamed that our youngest daughter had fallen from a roof. The next morning she saw a girl of the neighboring house falling from the roof of their house. Our eldest daughter once dreamed that she was walking through an entrance and saw beggars lined up against a wall. Later she visited a holy shrine and saw the same scene and was amazed. I have also had similar experiences. After I had submitted my Ph.D. dissertation and appeared at an examination, I saw in a dream that a nice, gentle breeze blew over me and I felt exceptionally good. That signaled a momentous moment in my life when I successfully fulfilled all the requirements for my Ph. D. degree.

Scriptural anecdotes also provide interesting examples of synchronicity. A well-known example provided by the Quran is a dream of the Prophet Joseph during his young age. He saw in his dream that eleven stars and the sun and the moon prostrate before him (12:4). In his later life, when he became the treasurer of the Egyptian government, he had a family reunion when all members of his family fell down prostrating before him (12:100), thus fulfilling his earlier dream. Joseph was a good interpreter of dreams (12:37). The Quran recounts two men’s dreams that were interpreted by him (12:36, 41). Dreams like these illustrate that they are couched in symbolic or metaphorical forms, which is the usual Divine language.

The Quran provides another good example of synchronicity. It states that God sent Moses’ mother a message (wahy) that she put her infant child into a chest and throw it over a river (20:39). That way the infant was saved from Pharaoh’s brutal hands (At that time, Pharaoh gave a direction that all male infants in the kingdom be killed); in fact, he fell into their hands but they liked him and could not kill him. Moses was thus raised in his enemy’s family.

Most people may not notice or carefully observe such coincident events when they occur. That may, in part, be because it is difficult to interpret dreams, which most often appear in metaphors. It may also be because many such events may not actually have any significance as examples of synchronicity. When, however, synchronicities of significance do occur in our lives, we should carefully observe them and welcome them as part and parcel of our spiritual living.

[1] Jung also used other terms to define synchronicity: “acausal connecting principle,” “meaningful coincidence”, and “acausal parallelism.” He thought that the principle of synchronicity gave conclusive evidence for his other two concepts, namely, “archetypes” and “the collective unconscious.”

The Quran Does Not Oppress Women, Sharia-Based Islam Does

The Quran Does Not Oppress Women, Sharia-Based Islam Does

[Published on World Religion News on 24 March 2016.
Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/the-quran-does-not-oppress-women-sharia-based-islam-does]

THE MISTREATMENT OF ISLAMIC WOMEN SHOULD BE BLAMED ON SHARIA LAW, NOT THE QURAN

The campaign theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is a pledge for accelerating gender parity. This requires action on all fronts, including efforts that create greater awareness of existing untenable faith-or-culture-based gender inequities and appropriate reforms to address them. This article is an attempt to highlight the ways Sharia-based Islam oppresses women.

Like many Muslims, Patheos-MuslimahinProgress blogger Nancy Qualis-Shehata would contend that Islam does not oppress women. However, the key question is: What Islam does she refer to? Certainly this is not the Islam that Muslims generally practice. She errs on three counts. First, she unquestioningly places the husband as the head of a family and as the maintainer and protector of his wife, ignoring the contextual nature of the Quran and its essentially egalitarian worldview. Second, she defends unequal inheritance distribution between descendants of different gender, again ignoring the context-specific nature of the relevant Quranic passages and giving precedence to the male patriarchal position. Third, she blames the oppression of women in Muslim countries on cultural practices and not on Sharia-based practiced Islam.

The Sharia Law that governs traditional Islam is rooted in the legal opinions established by a group of Muslim jurists during about 150 to 250 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and is a varied sort according to different schools of thought. The majority – some 65 percent – of Muslims are Sunnis and they generally follow Hanafi and Shafii laws. There are more than six thousand Sharia laws in each of the Hanafi and Shafii Law books. Another point we need to note is that this Law draws on the Quran in a miniscule way that is rigid and non-contextual. Its main source is the Hadith literature, which is overtly and overwhelmingly biased against women. This trickles down to a widespread perception, especially in the non-Muslim world, that Islam is misogynistic and it oppresses women. This is terribly at odds with the compassionate and egalitarian teachings of the Quran.

Saudi Arabia typically and rigidly applies the Sunni Sharia Law, and has vigorously promoted its brand of Wahhabi Islam throughout the Muslim world. This ideology treats women in a particularly demeaning manner. In recent days, the problems the Saudi women face in traveling and driving independently without male escorts have received media attention. But there are other serious Sharia-related human rights violations against women that are endemic throughout much of the Muslim World. Below we provide a checklist of such violations, drawing, in part, on an earlier published article of ours.

THE SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN OCCURS IN AREAS OF FAMILY MATTERS AND IN OTHER BROADER AREAS AND INCLUDES IN THE FORMER AREA

  • Disqualifying women to serve as guardians in conducting marriages and considering a woman’s witness for a marriage as half of that of a man
  • Sanctifying child marriage
  • Unconditionally allowing polygyny up to four wives at a time
  • Giving unilateral and instantaneous divorce rights to husbands and imposing difficulties on wives to exercise their divorce rights
  • Distorting remarriage provisions victimizing divorced wives
  • Providing for little or no financial support to divorced wives
  • Allowing believers to have sexual relation with war captives or slave girls
  • Using child custody rights favoring husbands
  • Using inheritance laws favoring male descendants

THE SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN IN THE OTHER AREAS INCLUDES

  • Applying the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery, which often goes against women as the offense gets much more easily detected in the case of women;
  • Barring Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, while allowing Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women;
  • Exempting parents from murder charges for killing their children and condoning honor killings;
  • Giving unequal authority to women to testify and denying women’s testimony in hudud cases such as adultery, apostasy, murder, theft, injury, defamation, and drinking cases;
  • Disqualifying women to lead the Muslim ummah and to head the government; and
  • Allowing a rapist to get indemnified by offering the raped woman an amount equivalent to just the marriage dowry, in case his rape is condoned for some reason.

SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN THROUGH FAMILY LAWS

For conducting marriage services, Sharia not only disqualifies women to serve as guardians, but in requiring two witnesses for marriage, it also considers a woman’s witness as half of that of a man. The latter provision is made apparently keeping in view the Quranic provision for witnesses in the context-specific case of financial transactions. However, this discrimination against women is no longer justified in the modern age when women are almost as educated and qualified as men.

Sharia sanctifies child marriage. This it does by taking recourse to an alleged Hadith that the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated this marriage when she was nine. However, citing historical evidence, Ridhwan ibn Muhammad Saleem of West London School of Islamic Studies provides a well-documented refutation of the above assertion about Aisha’s age at her marriage and suggests that Ayesha was over fifteen when her marriage with the Prophet was consummated. Other scholars such as T. O. Shanavas also explode the 6-9 year myth. The Quran advises marriage when the couple attains maturity to be able to provide sound judgment and consent for marriage (4:5-6). Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 by the United Nations, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, unless adulthood is set at a younger age by a particular country’s laws. The Convention calls for review by countries of ages set lower than 18.

Sharia allows polygyny up to four wives at a time without any restrictions. However, the Quran, on the other hand, has talked about and permitted polygyny only in the context of orphan girls (4:3-6, 127), while talking about providing justice to them, and permits polygyny subject to certain clear restrictions. The two basic restrictions are financial capability of the husband to support more than one wife and his ability to do justice to more than one wife. The Quran requires one to postpone marriage until one is financially solvent (24:33). The Quran cautions against multiple marriages, saying that however much one wishes, one is hardly able to do justice to multiple wives (4:129).

Sharia grants virtually unilateral power of divorce to the husband. It requires the wife seeking divorce to go to a court and take her husband’s consent. These restrictions often prove tyrannical to an aggrieved wife, who has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of his refusal to divorce. These Sharia provisions flagrantly violate the Quran’s directions that a wife has rights over her husband similar to those of her husband over her (2:228), that a wife should not be compelled to stay with her husband against her will (33:28, 4:19), and to her hurt (2:231), and that a husband needs to treat his wife in a compassionate manner (2:228, 229, 231, 65:2).

Worse still, Sharia entitles a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously by uttering the word “talaq – I divorce you” three times and, importantly that also, without requiring any witness. The divorce is considered valid even if the husband may utter this in a fit of rage or when drunk and does not really mean it. However, these Sharia provisions are in complete defiance of the Quran’s clear directions on divorce. The Quran requires two witnesses (65:2) and a well-defined waiting period for divorce to be effective (2:228, 229, 231, 65:1, 4). In fact, the Quran even wants husbands who want to dissociate from their wives to wait four months to give them a chance to see if they would like to change their mind during this period (2:226).

Sharia stipulates that once the divorce becomes irrevocable (after the waiting period), the divorced wife cannot go back to, or remarry, her husband unless and until she marries another person and until that husband divorces her. This despicable halala or hilla system is prevalent in Bangladesh, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world, where the Sharia Law is rigidly enforced. However, as shown vividly by us in a short film and an article, this despicable halala system is counter to the very spirit of the Quran’s clear directions and egalitarian message on the subject. The Quran urges believers to create no obstacles in the way of the divorced wife remarrying her husband (2:232), if the couple so wants. The halala system exacts a terrible human cost in terms of enormous suffering inflicted on the couple willing to reunite and has resulted in destroying many Muslim families.

Under Sharia Law, wives divorced instantaneously get nothing for livelihood from their husbands, while those divorced normally get only three months’ provision from their husbands after divorce. Then husbands are absolved of their duty to see where they go and how they live. The Quran, on the other hand, urges husbands not to take back anything that has been given to them (2:229) and to retain or release them in kindness, and not to hurt them (2:231).

A perplexing aspect of the Sharia Law is that it allows believers to have sexual relation with war captives or slave girls, which Sharia labels as “those that believers’ right hands possess.” Wahhabi ideologue Zakir Naik gives a similar interpretation of this Quranic passage as does Abul Ala Mawdudi. This view, however, blatantly ignores the Quranic directions that the believers should either demand ransom for freeing war captives or they should be released with generosity (47:4). It does not befit a human being to enslave another human being. The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly and strongly encourages manumission (90:12-13) and the marrying of freed slaves (4:25), and which forbids them to compel slave girls to prostitution without marriage (24:33). In 5:5, the Quran also vividly encourages us to seek chastity, not lewdness.

Sharia displays a patriarchal bias in dealing with child custody rights. It allows mothers custody of her children generally up to the age of nine for sons and seven for daughters. A mother is deprived of her child custody rights, if she does not pray or when she takes a mahram husband (i.e., a husband who is not lawful according to Sharia). The Quran allows separated or divorced couples to decide about child custody by mutual consultation, and it makes the husband squarely responsible for bearing the financial costs of children under mother’s custodial care, if he has financial capability (65:6-7).

In the area of inheritance, as discussed more elaborately in another article of ours, Sharia rigidly applies, in most cases, the provision that the male heir should receive twice as much as the female counterpart, ignoring the spirit of the exceptions that the Quran itself makes about this rule and ignoring the socioeconomic background in which this rule was made in the first place in the seventh-century Arabia, when women were totally dependent on their husbands for financial and other support. As argued by many modern Islamic and feminist scholars, the socioeconomic conditions for women have vastly changed in the modern context, when women are almost equally participating in contributing to the family income and welfare. Furthermore, the human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), to which most Muslim countries are also signatories, also oblige them to move toward removing all forms of discrimination against women, including in the inheritance case.

SHARIA RULES IN OTHER AREAS OPPRESSING WOMEN

Although the Quran does not prescribe it, Sharia applies the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery. Although this punishment is equally applicable to both men and women, it often goes against women since the offence gets much more easily detected in the case of women.

Sharia permits Muslim men to have marital relationship with women of the Ahle al-Kitab (the people of the Book traditionally interpreted as Christians and Jews), but does not extend the same option to Muslim women to wed non-Muslim men. This it does by narrowly interpreting the Quran’s verse 5:5, which is addressed to men. However, as Professor Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University rightly contends, this Quranic verse, like other verses, is addressed to men simply because of the custom of the time. The Quran’s direction applies equally to both men and women.

This Sharia restriction on women often leads to honor killings of Muslim women by their parents, when their daughters seek to marry non-Muslim men. Sharia condones honor killings, as there is a Sharia provision that parents are not liable for punishment for murders of their children. Also, Sharia allows the family of the victim to pardon the killer in exchange for blood money, or even nothing – Sharia allows only boys to receive the blood money, not girls. Note also that the family often pardons the killer, who is the member of the same family, as it does not want to lose another additional member of the same family.

Note also that Sharia applies its narrow interpretation even to the marriage of a Muslim woman with a Muslim man and considers their marriage dissolved when he is declared an apostate. This was applied to the Cairo University professor Nasr Abu Zayd, when the Egyptian clergy declared him an apostate, which led the couple to seek exile abroad and leave the country.

Sharia does not recognize testimonies from women in hudud cases such as adultery, apostasy, murder, theft, injury, defamation, and drinking cases, not even along with a male witness. Nor are women judges considered eligible for conducting hudud cases under Sharia. This is a gross discrimination against women in ensuring justice in society.

Under Sharia, it is forbidden for women to lead the ummah or to head a government. This despite the Quran’s mention of rule by the Queen of Sheba (23:27) and rule by many Muslim women in different Muslim countries.

If for some reason the crime of rape by a male person is condoned, the rapist is required under Sharia to give as compensation to the raped woman an amount that is equivalent to just the marriage dowry. This is a punishment that flagrantly dehumanizes women.

Conclusion

Sharia-based traditional Islam routinely and ruthlessly oppresses women in numerous ways. Sharia not simply violates the Quran’s compassionate and egalitarian message, but is also incompatible with the very norms of human decency and human rights.

Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and the author of Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier acclaimed editions. His articles on select Islamic topics have appeared on World Religion News, Aslan Media, and Oped News, and include one presented to a conference at Princeton University. His website is: http://quranonly.com. Follow Abdur Rab at twitter.

Hasan Mahmud is a Member of the Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and the author of Sharia Ki Bole, Amra Ki Kori (in Bangla) being translated into English as How Sharia-Ism Hijacked Islam forthcoming and three movie-dramas (the making of a fourth one is in progress that highlight the problems with the Sharia Law. His website is: http://hasanmahmud.com/.

“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” [Noble Quran 2:228]

For more, see http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/the-quran-does-not-oppress-women-sharia-based-islam-does

 

 

 

7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity With Muslims Isn’t Right

7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity

With Muslims Isn’t Right

By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud

[Published on World Religion News, 20 January 2016. Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/7-reasons-why-wearing-the-hijab-to-express-solidarity-with-muslims-isnt-right]

FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS ABDUR RAB AND HASAN MAHMUD GIVE SEVEN REASONS NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN WORLD HIJAB DAY.

Ruth Graham’s recent Atlantic article highlights the point that “it was her theology – not her hijab – that got her [Professor Larycia Hawkins] in trouble with the evangelical college.” Her only offense was that, as a Christian, she believes that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, as Pope Francis says, and that she stands in solidarity with her Muslim neighbors.

Like Hanna Yusuf and Nusrat Qadir, many Muslim women do not feel they’re oppressed when they wear the hijab. But the real problem is that many of them are deluded to believe that they wear it because Islam so demands.

World Hijab Day is a hideous political agenda. It’s a day when Muslim women – even non-Muslim women – are asked to wear the hijab in solidarity with the hijab-wearing Muslim women. As Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa demonstrate in their recent Washington Post article, the hijab has no basis in Islam and that it’s a well-funded political ploy of conservative Muslims “to dominate modern Muslim societies.”

We, as committed Muslims liberated from the roots of a conservative Bangladeshi religious background, believe in freedom of religion or culture and in universally recognized human rights. We’ve no problem whatsoever with the hijab if it simply and purely represents the personal choice of the wearer. However, we’re strongly opposed to wearing it as an act of solidarity for Muslim women. Here’s why.

First and foremost, wearing the hijab as an act of solidarity for Muslim women is tantamount to siding with Muslims who disingenuously promote this dress as a religious requirement – even as a political agenda. Neither the Quran nor the Hadith mandates the hijab as an essential Islamic dress. The hijab now usually refers to the headscarf, but is sometimes used in an inclusive sense also to include the niqab or burqa (full-body veil with eyes uncovered or covered).

The Quran requires women to guard their modesty, covering their private parts and bosoms, and not to display their beauty except what is ordinarily apparent and not to strike their feet so as to reveal their hidden beauty except to some specified close relatives (24:31). Here the expression “what is ordinarily apparent” is usually taken to mean the face, hands, and feet. It can also mean the head or hair. Note another directive of the Quran:

33:59 O Prophet, advise your wives, your daughters, and the women of believers to draw their outer garments (jalabib) over themselves. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not troubled.

This verse asks women to wear outer garments (jalabib; sing., jilbab) so that they are recognized and not troubled. This implies that the dress needs to be dignified and decent-looking so that it is more likely to inspire respect rather than undue gestures on the part of onlookers. Ironically, however, conservative Muslims misinterpret this verse to mean that the hair, the face, and the eyes also need to be covered by the jilbab.

The Quran urges both men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty (24:30-31). The veil supporters seem to ignore the implication of these verses: If women needed to cover their faces and hair, then this verse would have become irrelevant. Verse 24:31 asks Muslim women to draw their khemar over their neck, which does not mean the hijab that traditional women wear. In fact, the Quran nowhere mentions the hijab as clothing, but mentions it as a curtain or barrier that was applied solely to the Prophet’s wives to keep a safe and dignified distance from the believers who came to his house that was also used as a mosque. The believers were asked to communicate to his wives behind a hijab (33:53).

The Hadith provides conflicting messages about whether a full-face veil is required for women. Only some Hadith from Bukhari, Abou Dawd, and Muslim are cited below.

  1. When the verse on the veil [33:57] had been revealed, women started covering their faces (Bukhari, Vol. 6, #282), but before all others except the Prophet (Ibid, Vol. 5, #32).
  2. When Companion al-Fadl was staring at the beautiful face of a woman, the Prophet moved his face away, but did not ask the woman to cover her face (Ibid, Vol. 8, #247).
  3. The Prophet said that when women grow in age, they should not display anything except their face and hands (Abou Dawd, #4092.
  4. If a man wants to marry a woman, he can see her face in secret (Ibid, #2077).
  5. The full-face veil was applicable only for the Prophet’s wives (Bukhari, Vol. 1, #148, Vol 6, #10 and #313, Vol. 8, 257; Muslim, Book 26, #5397).

Second, requiring Muslim women to dress in some specified way, as John L. Esposito notes in one of his books, is often seen as a reflection of men controlling women – “a symbol of women’s inferior status.” Many Muslim scholars also do not consider the veil to be an essential Islamic dress. As the Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who titles her article as “As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values,” reports, the famous Egyptian jurist, judge, and feminist reformer Qasim Amin, who wrote a trailblazer book The Liberation of Women (in Arabic) in 1899, “critiqued and repudiated the veil.” She also notes in the same article, “The Moroccan academic [late] Fatima Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil (1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975).”

These Muslim scholars and others such as (late) Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, Qassim al-Ghamidi and Tariq Ramadan have declared the niqab or burqa as not required by Islam. Even the conservative scholar Zakir Naik persuasively argues that the face veil is not obligatory for Muslim women. Strikingly, Pakistan’s conservative religious consultative body, the Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan (CII) also rules that women are not required to cover their faces, hands, or feet under Islamic Sharia law.

Third, historically, as the noted scholar of comparative religion Reza Aslan notes in one of his books (p.66), “The veil [in the sense of a clothing cover] was neither compulsory nor widely adopted until generations after Muhammad’s death, when a large body of male scriptural and legal scholars began using their religious and political authority to regain the dominance they had lost in society as a result of the Prophet’s egalitarian reforms.” The Quran forbids the Prophet Muhammad, at some point, to consider marrying any woman even though her beauty was pleasing to him (33:52). This makes it clear that women at that time could display at least their faces and hair.

Also, in the 1940s to 1960s, women in the eastern Mediterranean Arab countries, led by Egypt, did not dress in the traditional veils worn by their mothers and grandmothers. Then as Harvard divinity professor Leila Ahmed finds, to her surprise, as recounted in her 2011 book, the veils made a comeback in all forms and styles since late twentieth century – a development that has significantly to do with Saudi Arabia’s aggressive promotion of its ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam.

Fourth, even though the veil is widely viewed as a symbol of modesty and an invitation to men to treat women respectfully rather than as sex objects, it is no sure protection against sexual harassment. As Ro Waseem cites in a New Statesman article, according to a study done in Egypt in 2008, 72.5 percent of the victims surveyed reported being sexually harassed when they were, in fact, wearing the hijab. A recent Guardian report by a Tehran Bureau correspondent shows that the hijab has made sexual harassment rather worse in Iran. Still another report by an American Muslim woman says, “my most dangerous travel experiences of unwanted advances occurred in the most conservative Muslim societies that observe the strictest dress codes, even though I was covered.” All this evidence strongly suggests that the veil does not necessarily serve its avowed purpose.

In fact, the strict dress code has done little to curb clandestine sexual crimes. A study aired in a Saudi TV channel reveals a startling finding: some 23 percent of Saudi children are victims of incest by their own relatives and some 46 percent of youths in Riyadh are homosexuals, a crime in Saudi Arabia. In addition, in this modern tech world, adult males and females can easily engage online in illicit sexual activity over Skype.

Fifth, in today’s world, while many Muslim women wear the veil, many more do not do so. This cannot be taken as proof that those who do not wear it are any less religious and righteous than their hijab-wearing counterparts. The Turkish women had long rejected the hijab and other veils as backward-looking in a secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk. The ban on the full-face niqab and burqa still stays, but that on headscarves was subsequently lifted, except for the judiciary, military and police. The Iranian women use headscarves, not full-face veils. Syria has instituted the full-face niqab ban from universities since July 2010 as part of its secular tradition. Of late, even the Saudi authority has embraced some veil reform. In 2013, it inducted women members to its supreme consultative body, the unelected, 150-member, previously male-only Shura Council, allowing them to wear the veil keeping both the face and the hands uncovered (as in the photo at the top). In landmark municipal elections toward the end of last year, women have been allowed, for the first time, to vote and contest, where women are seen with veils without the face cover. Also, importantly, Muslim women performing hajj or umrah are not required to wear full-face veils.

Sixth, there is a growing recognition that full-face veils may pose a grave security threat. As reported by BBC in June last year, Nigerian Boko Haram militants used face veils to kill more than 20 people in Chad. Daniel Pipes cites many examples where full-face veils (niqabs or burqas) were used to camouflage identity while committing crimes, which include jewelry thefts in London, Canada, and India and bank robberies in London, Philadelphia, and Bosnia. During the 2007 seize of the pro-Taliban Red Mosque, one of its leaders Maulana Abdul Aziz was caught while trying to flee in the guise of a burqa-clad woman. The Muslim extremist perpetrators of 2005 London bombings wore veils as facemasks.

After France and Belgium have banned the full-face veil – France mostly in keeping with its secular tradition and Belgium for security reasons – a growing number of African countries are instituting the face veil ban for security concern. The countries include Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Niger, and Gabon. The latest African country to just join this club is Senegal. In addition, there are quite a few cities in some countries that ban the face veil in their particular areas.

Finally and importantly, the Quran’s directive to us to guard our modesty applies equally to both men and women (24:30-31). Its emphasis is on libas-ut-taqwa (clothing of moral uprightness) (7:26). Guarding modesty requires believers to maintain purity of attitude in mind, and decency of behavior with persons of the opposite sex. This is obviously more important than using a veil (burqa or hijab), which is not always found to be a good reflector of one’s decency of behavior with others. Surely, the hijab or any of its other variants does not qualify to be labeled as an essential Islamic dress, and there is hardly any valid reason for one to feel obliged to stand in solidarity with those who don this dress.

Asra Q. Nomani asks instead: Do not wear a headscarf in “solidarity” with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with “honor.” Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.

Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and author, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier acclaimed editions. His articles on select Islamic topics have appeared on World Religion News, Aslan Media, and Oped News, and include one presented to a conference at Princeton University. Follow Abdur Rab at Twitter. His website is: http://quranonly.com/.
Hasan Mahmud is a Member, Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and author, Sharia Ki Bole, Amra Ki Kori (in Bangla) being translated into English as How Sharia-Ism Hijacked Islam forthcoming and three movie-dramas (the making of a fourth one is in progress) that highlight the problems with the Sharia Law. His website is: http://hasanmahmud.com/.

Read more at World Religion News: “7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity With Muslims Isn’t Right” http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=22920

 

Why the Sharia Law Is So Dangerous for Our World

Why the Sharia Law Is So Dangerous for Our World
By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud

[Appears on World Religion News, October 8, 2015; Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/why-the-sharia-law-is-so-dangerous-for-our-world]

Human oppression is part of the human legacy. Sadly, it’s often the State that acquiesces in, or even willfully partners with, such oppression. And all too often, such oppression is legitimized in the name of God, especially in faith-based states such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan.

Almost everyday, the world is witnessing overt acts of violent extremism being committed by extremist groups in various parts of the world – acts that take the forms of suicide bombing, killing, arson, and plunder. Such acts as well as those that are often being perpetrated coldly without being much noticed by the world under the umbrella of some faith laws insidiously inflict enormous human suffering and destroy untold human lives.

Such faith laws are those of so-called Islamic Sharia (Aka Shariah, Shari’a), a term used to mean “a noble path according to Islam.” Although many of its legal provisions are quite well meaning for society, many others are found to be seriously problematic and dangerous for our world.

Indeed, the Sharia Law is what has driven the self-styled Islamic State – IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh – to commit horrific atrocities and abuses of basic human rights. In taking over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, the IS terrorists have brutally carried out public beheadings of foreign hostages and displaced and killed untold numbers of Christians and Yazidis. Their victims also include large numbers of Muslims who they consider to be apostates or who have resisted or refused to acknowledge their view of Islam. The IS members also carry out suicide bombings and other terrorist operations in other countries. Their recent operations have claimed many lives at a tourist beach resort in Tunisia and include the killing and injuring of even Muslim worshippers in mosques in Kuwait, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Nigerian Boko Haram, the Somalian al-Shabaab, and other splinter groups are also committing horrendous crimes against humanity in various countries.

Sharia’s draconian and most ridiculous laws that grab media headlines relate to laws about jihad, blasphemy and apostasy, and laws that put the adulterer and the adulteress to death by stoning, punish the thief by cutting his or her limbs, and punish religious and political dissent by physical lashes and imprisonment. However, these laws are an affront to human conscience as well as to universally recognized human rights. And importantly, these laws completely violate clear directives of the Quran.

Sharia jihad laws are in complete defiance of the clear directions of the Quran as follows:

2:256     There is no room for compulsion and coercion in religion.

2:190     Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not initiate aggression, for God does not love aggression.

In Islam, human persecution and terror (fitna) is strongly denounced (2:191, 217) and human life is held to be the most sacrosanct (5:32).

5:32   If any kills a person – unless for murder and mischief in the earth – it is as though he has killed the whole of humankind, and if any saves a person, it is as though he has saved the whole of humankind.

The Sharia law that Muslims can wage jihad against non-Muslims until they pay zijiya (a poll tax) has been dismissed as untenable in the modern context by Muslim scholars such as Khalid Abou El Fadl who contend that it was only a historically understood system of tax on alien groups; it is not a theologically mandated valid tax on non-Muslims.

Blasphemy and apostasy laws are being applied in various countries, most commonly in the Middle East and North Africa. Other regions using such laws include, most notably, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Malaysia. As Alastair Lichten reports, “The blasphemy law is routinely used to persecute [Christians and] members of the Ahmadiyya Community – a Muslim sect considered to be apostates by many Muslims.” The apostasy or blasphemy conviction also incites widespread vigilante violence, which has led to the killing of many people in Pakistan. Bangladesh, which uses secular laws, has also seen in recent months brutal murders of several independent thinkers and bloggers by fundamentalist groups. Sharia blasphemy and apostasy laws not only offend human conscience and human rights, but they also flagrantly violate the Quran’s call for religious freedom and freedom of thought and speech as follows.

18:29    The Truth (has now come) from your Lord; let, then, him who wills believe (in it), and let him who wills reject (it).

10:99   If your Lord willed, all on earth would have believed. Will you then compel humankind to believe against their will?

73:10     Bear with them what they say, and leave them in a dignified manner.

The Sharia-prescribed stoning to death punishment for adultery is not what the Quran dictates. The Quran prescribes a maximum of one hundred lashes, and that also after four witnesses confirm the criminal offense (24:2). The Quran also allows the convicts to be left alone if they repent and mend their conduct (4:15). The Quran also enjoins marriages of adulterous men with adulterous women (24:3,26). If stoning to death is an applicable punishment for adultery, then the question that arises is how can they get married after death? Modern Muslim scholars also consider another punishment brutal – that of cutting off the hands of the thief according to a traditional interpretation of a Quran verse (5:38). As suggested by contemporary Muslim scholar Edip Yuksel, a humane yet sufficiently humiliating punishment would be limb marking rather than limb cutting.

There are still many other Sharia laws that are not responsible for overt killings and persecution of human beings, but are responsible for hidden killings and persecution. These laws relate to problematic family laws such as child marriage, permission of unrestricted polygyny, use of war captives and slave girls as sex slaves, unfair child custody rights, instant and unilateral divorce of wives by husbands, distorted provisions for remarriage of divorced wives, inadequate support for divorced wives, and unequal inheritance of surviving family members.

Taking recourse to a widely cited Hadith that the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated this marriage when she was nine, Sharia sanctifies child marriage. However, citing historical evidence, Ridhwan ibn Muhammad Saleem of West London School of Islamic Studies provides a well-documented refutation of the above assertion about Aisha’s age at her marriage and suggests that Ayesha was over fifteen when her marriage with the Prophet was consummated. Other scholars such as T. O. Shanavas also explode the 6-9 year myth. The Quran advises marriage when the couples attain maturity to be able to provide sound judgment and consent for marriage (4:5-6). Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 by the United Nations, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, unless adulthood is set at a younger age by a particular country’s laws. The Convention calls for review by countries of ages set lower than 18.

Sharia allows polygyny up to four wives without any restrictions. However, the Quran, on the other hand, has talked about and permitted polygyny only in the context of orphan girls, while talking about providing justice to them, and permits it subject to financial capability of the husband to support more than one wife and his ability to do justice to more than one wife. The Quran in fact discourages one to take multiple wives cautioning that however much one tries, it is extremely difficult to do justice to more than one wife: You will not be able to do justice between (your) wives, however much you wish (4:129). The Quran requires one to postpone marriage until one is financially solvent (24:33).

4:3   If ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to more than one wife), then just one, or that you rightfully have. This will be more appropriate, that ye will not do injustice.

Another perplexing aspect of the Sharia Law is that it allows believers to have sexual relation with war captives or slave girls, which Sharia labels as “those that believers’ right hands possess.” Abul Ala Mawdudi gives a similar interpretation of this Quranic passage. Wahhabi ideologue Zakir Naik also supports this view. This view, however, blatantly ignores the Quranic directions that the believers should either demand ransom for freeing war captives or they should be released with generosity (47:4). The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly encourages manumission (90:12-13) and the marrying of freed slaves (4:25), and which forbids them to compel slave girls to prostitution without marriage (24:33). In 5:5, the Quran also vividly encourages us to seek chastity, not lewdness.

Sharia grants virtually unilateral power of divorce to the husband. It requires the wife seeking divorce to go to a court and take her husband’s consent. These restrictions often prove too forbidding and tyrannical to an aggrieved wife, as she has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of her husband’s refusal to divorce. These Sharia provisions are in direct conflict with the Quran’s directions that a wife should not be compelled to stay with her husband against her will (33:28, 4:19), and to her hurt (2:231), that a wife has rights similar to her husband (2:228), and that a husband needs to treat his wife in a compassionate manner (2:228, 229, 231, 65:2).

Worse still, Sharia entitles a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously by uttering the word “talaq – I divorce you” three times and, importantly that also, without requiring any witness. The divorce is considered valid even if the husband may utter this in a fit of rage or when drunk and does not really mean it. However, these Sharia provisions flagrantly violate the Quran’s clear directions on divorce. The Quran requires two witnesses (65:2) and a well defined (about three-month) waiting period for divorce to be effective (2:228, 229, 231, 65:1, 4). In fact, the Quran even wants husbands who want to dissociate from their wives to wait four months to give them a chance to see if they would like to change their mind during this period (2:226).

The Sharia Law stipulates that once the divorce becomes irrevocable (after the waiting period), the divorced wife cannot go back to, or remarry, her husband unless and until she marries another person and until that husband divorces her. This halala or hilla system is prevalent in Bangladesh, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world, where the Sharia Law is rigidly enforced. However, as shown vividly by us in a short film and an article, this despicable halala or hilla system is counter to the very spirit of the Quran’s unambiguous directions and egalitarian message on the subject. The Quran urges believers to create no obstacles in the way of the divorced wife remarrying her husband (2:232), if the couple so wants. The halala system exacts a terrible human cost in terms of enormous suffering inflicted on the couple willing to reunite and has resulted in destroying many Muslim families.

Under the Sharia Law, wives divorced instantaneously get nothing for livelihood from their husbands, while those divorced normally get only three months’ provision from their husbands after divorce. The Quran, on the other hand, urges husbands not to take back anything that has been given to them (2:229) and to retain or release them in kindness, and not to hurt them (2:231).

Sharia displays a patriarchal bias in dealing with child custody rights. It allows mothers custody of her children generally up to the age of nine for sons and seven for daughters (Shafii Law allows the child to remain in mother’s custody until the child is able to choose between the two parents). A mother is deprived of her child custody rights if she does not pray or when she takes a mahram husband (i.e., a husband who is not lawful according to Sharia). The Quran allows separated or divorced couples to decide about child custody by mutual consultation, and it makes the husband squarely responsible for bearing the financial costs of children under mother’s custodial care, if he has financial capability (65:6-7). A dangerous aspect of the Sharia Law is that the divorced wife is barred from taking her children anywhere without the permission of their father. The cruelty of this aspect becomes evident when one observes the plight of many divorced Iranian immigrant mothers in Canada.

In the area of inheritance, as discussed more elaborately by us in our earlier article, Sharia rigidly applies, in most cases, the provision that the male heir should receive twice as much as the female counterpart, ignoring the spirit of the exceptions that the Quran itself grants about this rule and ignoring the socioeconomic background in which this rule was made in the first place in the seventh-century Arabia, when women were totally dependent on their husbands for financial and other support. As argued by many modern Islamic and feminist scholars, the socioeconomic condition for women has vastly changed in the modern context, when women are almost equally participating in contributing to the family income and welfare. Furthermore, the human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), to which all Muslim countries are also signatories, also oblige them to move toward removing all forms of discrimination against women, including in the inheritance case.

Other Sharia provisions
include:

  • Non-acceptance of testimonies from women in hudud, adultery and drinking cases;
  • Ineligibility of women to serve as judges in hudud cases;
  • Ineligibility of women to lead the umma or to head a government;
  • Allowing a mass murderer to go unpunished if he or she repents;
  • Allowing a rapist to get indemnified by offering the raped woman an amount equivalent to marriage dowry, in case if his rape is condoned for some reason;
  • Non-acceptance of circumstantial evidence in hudud

All this despite numerous Quranic directives to us to uphold justice (4:58, 2:188, 4:135, 5:8).

4:135     O you who believe! Be firm in justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it is against your own selves, or your parents and kinsfolk, whether rich or poor.

On top of all this, Sharia is an institution for a dangerous political mission. Its mission is to create an Islamic State in the world that applies only its laws and imposes its religious injunctions on all Muslim citizens. This is, however, authoritarianism that is tyrannical and, most pertinently, also antithetical to the Quran’s directions for religious freedom and democratic principles.

Conclusion

In sum, many aspects of the Sharia Law are ridiculous and brutal by any conceivable standards. It violates the core teachings of Islam as well as the internationally accepted human rights. Furthermore, it is a nefarious tool for political and religious domination. It is precisely because of such concerns that this Law is so dangerous for our world.

Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and author, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier acclaimed editions. His articles on select Islamic topics have appeared on World Religion News, Aslan Media, and Oped News, and include one presented to a conference at Princeton University. Follow Abdur Rab at Twitter. His website is: http://quranonly.com/.
Hasan Mahmud is a Member, Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and author, Sharia Ki Bole, Amra Ki Kori (in Bangla) being translated into English as How Sharia-Ism Hijacked Islam forthcoming and three movie-dramas (the making of a fourth one is in progress) that highlight the problems with the Sharia Law. His website is: http://hasanmahmud.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Did the Recent Facebook Hadith Debate Go?

How Did the Recent Facebook Hadith Debate Go?
By Abdur Rab and Farouk A. Peru

Novel and first of its kind, this was a debate between the Quranists and the Hadith believers (Hadithists) organized by the Facebook Liberal Muslims United (LMU) group (Fareed Firani was the Convenor) on August 8, 2015. For this the LMU group deserves our commendation. The Hadithist team was represented by Zeeshan Khan (Captain), Muhammad Zubair Khan, and Sheikh Rehan bin Umer, and the Quranist team by Jasmina Richards (Captain), Farouk A. Peru, and Abdur Rab. The moderators were ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy (Chairman), ‪Barbara Brown Knoll, Anatul Fateh, and ‪Addie Roose. Four Hadiths were selected for the event – two chosen by each of the competing teams. The debate was scheduled to close on the same day. But it remained unfinished and extended to another day on August 15, 2015. On that day, however, without any prior notice, the Hadithists team mysteriously absconded. The Chairman and moderators of the debate declared a walkover win for the Quranists. The Chairman asked the Quranists to present their closing statement, which they did. With this, the debate came to an abrupt, unceremonious end. Interested readers may read the proceedings of the debate here. As the Quranists’ movement has been gaining ground in recent decades, the responses the Quranists offered in this debate should be of particular interest to the readers. Here we reproduce the relevant parts of the debate.

The debate got off to a poor start with some procedural matter and wrangling over the size of the opening statement that the Hadithist team could use as the selected proposing team. Though the statement was much too long compared to what is usually permitted under the Chatham House Rules being followed, Mr. Zeeshan Khan was allowed to post his at least 15-page opening statement, which he did in 15 parts (His statement can be read on the debate link as given above). Then he asked us to respond to the questions he raised in the statement. But the Chairman ruled that we were not required to respond to the opening statement according to the Chatham House Rules. His points were though touched off and responded to, in part, in our opening statement and, more fully, in our closing statement, which will be posted here at the end.

This was the opening statement, with slight editing, that was presented by our team captain Ms. Jasmina Richards, following the one by Mr. Zeeshan Khan:

“Chair, I’m probably going to be hauled over the coals as I was given an opening statement by my team, which I have chosen to dump and instead just speak straight from my heart. The heart is after all where our sincerity lies, and the subject under discussion here today, is near and dear to all of us so requires sincerity. No calculated manipulated words designed to woo the crowd but rather cold hard logical facts.

“I’m 53 years old and until 2 years ago, when I crazily decided to join the Facebook community, I hadn’t heard the word kaffir, at least not being used in the context I am today experiencing. My only exposure to this word was in apartheid South Africa, where I grew up, and heard the blacks being addressed as kaffir (pronounced kaf-fur) and my Dad cautioning me against using this word, telling me it is a derogatory term and means “non-believer” and since I didn’t have insight into the person’s heart, I have no right to call him kaffir. Now it appears everyone who doesn’t brush their teeth the way the Prophet did, or use the bathroom the way the Prophet did or heaven forbid, follow the sexual escapades the way the Prophet did, is branded a kaffir.

“While growing up, the word sunnah for me, denoted the additional prayers I could choose to make or not to make with each of my Fard prayers.  Or my father showing me a miswak and explaining to me that in the time of my beloved Prophet there wasn’t toothpaste and toothbrushes so that is what the Prophet used.  So any secondary sources were used to garner insight into the history behind my religion.

“It is only when I joined the Facebook community that I came to learn that I couldn’t be a good pious Muslim without knowing, accepting and following hadith, since hadith is required to understand Quran. Now I was faced with a major problem, according to these people, I had wasted 51 years of my life believing I was being a good Muslim by following Quran, now I’m being told I had it all wrong, there is another more important set of books without which I cannot follow Quran. But that’s not what Allah tells me. Allah tells me his book is complete; there is no better hadith than Quran.

“Wait, they say I cannot learn how to pray, without hadith but I’ve prayed all my life and have never opened the book on prayer written by Bukhari. Here is how I learned, as a little girl of around 3-4 year old I would kneel in front of mom while she was in Ruku and ask her if I could help find whatever she was looking for. Then when she went into Sujood I would straddle her back and she would gently lift me and put me down as she came back into Kiyaam. Finally as I grew I started to mimic her actions, till eventually she explained to me that this was her way of connecting with her creator and so it was from her I learnt to pray.

“Chair, my respected opponents will try and convince us today that the Islam I and many others like me, practice is not Islam, that myself and many like myself who follow only what Allah ordains in Quran, are kaffir, they will further argue that Allah instructs us in Quran to obey the messenger. They are quite right, here are some of the verses:

Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware (of evil): if ye do turn back, know ye that it is Our Messenger’s duty to proclaim (the Message) in the clearest manner. (5: 92).

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination (4: 59).

Say: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance (24: 54).

And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, Allâh shall admit him in the Gardens underneath which rivers flow (4:13).

And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has won a great success (33:71).

And we sent no messenger, but that he should be obeyed by the leave of Allâh (4:64).

“Chair, note how every one of these verses first says obey Allah, then “and his messenger.” It is quite obvious that the instruction is to obey the messenger with regards to the message he brings which ultimately is the Quran. This intention of the instruction to obey the messenger is made even more glaringly obvious when Allah says, “And we sent no messenger, but that he should be obeyed by the leave of Allah.” It would be a major catastrophic fruit salad if we tried to obey ALL the messengers by following their dress code, bathroom habits, hygiene habits and sexual habits.

“It is my contention that our beloved Prophet was sent to a 7th century group of people, who had very specific needs relevant to their times. Our Prophet took the guidance given to him via Quran and practically implemented practices to accommodate those needs. To try and fit those practices into a 21st century is ludicrous, to say the least.

“Instead what we should be doing is trying to understand how the guidance of the Quran can be implemented in today’s society.

“I am Muslim and I follow the Quran.

“Thank You.”

At this point, the Chairman asked Mr. Zeeshan Khan to move his motion. Instead, ignoring the Chairman’s ruling on opening statements, he questioned our opening statement and asked, “How can one perform Salat, Fast, Hajj from Quran only?” One of us, Farouk A. Peru, pointed out to the Chairman that Mr. Zeeshan Khan was unnecessarily wasting time, questing our opening statement. Abdur Rab pointed out that he should move his motion only with one of their chosen Hadiths. After insisting on his question for some more time, Mr. Zeeshan Khan then moved his first Hadith motion as follows:

“The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, “Cleanliness is half of faith and Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scale, and Subhan Allah [Glory be to Allah] and Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fill up what is between the heavens and the earth, and prayer is a light, and charity is proof [of one’s faith] and patience is a brightness and the Qur’an is a proof on your behalf or against you.”

Source: Muslim no. 223 – [Sahih]

“Mr. Chairman, As our friends, the Hadith rejecters, will always propagate a notion that Hadith contradicts Quran’s clear teaching, therefore [it] must be banned, so, I would dare to ask my opponents to show us a verse of Quran to which above Hadith contradicts. Thanks.”

With the Chairman’s permission, Abdur Rab then provided the substantive refutation of this Hadith thus:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The following is my response to this hadith in the light of the Quran.

“First and foremost, a hadith need not directly contradict the Quran in order for it to be false. It can be a non sequitur.

“This hadith is a typical hodgepodge of fragmentary pieces of advice found in the hadith literature as a whole. But this sort of advice often misses the wholesome advice of the Quran. Some specific points are noted as follows.

  1. It speaks of cleanliness as one half of faith itself as if the other half is faith in God and all the things the Quran talks about. But this is an absurd assertion.
  2. It says God’s praise and glorification fill up what is between the heavens and the earth. But it fails to note that all living beings, including birds, praise and glorify God and all knows its salat (24:41).
  3. Salat is translated as prayer and shown as a light or nur. But the Quran uses the term “nur” for God Himself and for the Quran itself. By emphasizing salat as a nur, the hadith diverts Muslims’ attention to a ritual as the only virtuous thing for Muslims to perform. But salat is not explained. The Quran says all living beings know and perform salat (24:41). God says all living beings prostrate before God (13:15). Do we then know how all living beings perform salat and prostrate before God? The conventional salat traditional Muslims understand and perform has some inherent problems: such as recitation per se, utterances that are inconsistent with the very spirit of prayer, and it’s delinking from human behavior and actions.
  4. Again to say that charity is proof of one’s faith is to overemphasize its importance. We know that faith consists in belief in God and all things God talks about. Why just restrict it to charity? The conventional understanding in Hadith-based traditional Islam is that zakat is 2.5% of one’s assets or income. However, the Quran has a broader meaning of zakat and sadaqa.
  5. What does the hadith mean by saying patience is a brightness? The Quran asks believers to seek help through patience and salat: “O ye who believe! Seek help through perseverance and prayer (salat). Verily God is with the perseverant. (2:153, see also 2:45-46 and 3:26). So the Quran’s message on this is clear and wholesome. The hadith adds no meaningful message.
  6. And again saying that the Quran is a proof for or against you is practically saying nothing. What does this really mean? Proof of what? Is the Quran going to testify in favor of us or against us? Isn’t it a bizarre claim?

With the Chair’s permission, Mr. Zeeshan Khan then presented his response thus:

“I found it very interesting to know of a Hadith rejecter that Hadith does not have to clearly contradict Quran. This issue is, we have a disagreement over an important issue which involves religion. The only way to reach a conclusion is ask the book of Allah and if our opponents believe that it (Hadith) does not have to contradict Quran then question arises, why one would reject Hadith?

“Respected brother also leveled allegations of hadith being fake and irrelevant and in his own words, “typical hodgepodge of fragmentary pieces of advice” needs more discussion, which involve if hadith/sunna is an authority which was somehow ignored. Respondent is clearly playing with words and trying to give them meaning which suits his opinion.

“By no means this Hadith contradicts Quran, in fact it further explains the importance of cleanliness and other rituals which were repeatedly discussed in Quran. Here r few of verses which encourage same idea as being propagated in hadith.

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al Baqarah 2:222)

“Do not stand [for prayer] within it – ever. A mosque founded on righteousness from the first day is more worthy for you to stand in. Within it are men who love to purify themselves; and Allaah loves those who purify themselves.” [Quran 9: 108]

“O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of Janaabah (major impurity), then purify yourselves.” [Quran 5: 6]

“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allaah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.”” [Quran 2: 222]

“None touch it except the purified.” [Quran 79: 56]

“So remember Me; I will remember you.” [Quran 2:152]

“Whoever fears Allah, Allaah will find a way out for him (from every difficulty) and He will provide for him from sources that he could never have imagined.” [Quran 65:2]

“For Muslim men and Muslim women, and believing men and believing women, and obedient men and obedient women, and truthful men and truthful women, and patient men and patient women, and men with humility and women with humility, and for men who give charity and women who give charity, and men who fast and women who fast, and chaste men and chaste women, and for men who remember God much and women who remember God much,- for them, God has prepared forgiveness and great reward.” [Quran 33:35]

“Those who believe, and whose hearts find reassurance in the remembrance of God, will undoubtedly have their hearts assured by the remembrance of God.” [Al-Ra’d 28]

“This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who have Taqwa; who believe in the unseen, and who establish Salah, and spend out of what we have provided for them.” (Surah Baqarah 2: 2-3)

“The believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin good and forbid evil, and they establish Salah, and give Zakah, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them, and surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Surah Tawba 9: 71)

“Truly, those who believe and do righteous deeds, and perform Salah, and give Zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Baqarah 2:277)

“I would again request to show us A verse which nullifies this hadith.

“Brother also spoke about NUR and criticized this word to be taken for Salat. I ask my brother, doesn’t prayer show us a way? Way to Allah? Way can only be clear when there is enough LIGHT to recognize truth from falsehood and Salat is that light which helps one to differentiate good from bad.”

The Chair then asked us to respond with our supplementary response. Farouk A. Peru then came with his response as follows:

“With respect to Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s point “If the Hadith does not have to contradict Quran then question arises, why one would reject Hadith?”, my response is: “Unfortunately my esteemed colleague fails to understand the ‘burden of proof’ is on HIS PARTY, the Sunnis. It is they who need to show that the Prophet actually uttered through words. Mere not contradicting the spirit of the Quran does not validate a hadith.

“Zeeshan Khan said, “Brother also spoke about NUR and criticized this word to be taken for Salat. I ask my brother, doesn’t prayers show u a way? way to Allah? Way can only be clear when there is enough LIGHT to recognize truth from falsehood and Salat is that light which helps one to differentiate good from bad.” My response to this point is: “Again, this is not the point. The point is that the precise language of the Quran, spoken by a divine author does not need a human to supplement its concepts. It calls Allah himself as noor (24/35) thus outlaying its metaphysics. Calling ‘salat’ as noor simply skews that perfect metaphysics. This Hadith is suitable as hyperbole for folkloric Islam. It cannot be used to explain the Quran.”

The Chair then asked Mr. Zeeshan Khan to respond to our supplementary response. He then gave the following response:

With respect to our first point, my response is: “Our opponents are forgetting a fact that its Hadith rejecters who have challenged the authority which is unanimously accepted by ummah and that too for more than 1400 years. Therefore onus is on them to bring forth the evidence from Quran to discredit Hadith/Sunna.

“With respect to our second point, my response is: Indeed Quran speaks about Allah being NUR but my friend has not understood the verse properly. Namaz or Salat is from Allah and for Allah.”

With this, the debate was adjourned until London time 4 pm, August 15, 2015. When the debate resumed on the second day, our team was present, and we (represented by Jasmina Richards) moved our motion on our first chosen Hadith thus:

“It is the contention of this house, that Sahih Muslim hadith 21a contradicts Quran 2:256, 10:99; 50:45; 88:21-22, wherein Allah instructs no force is warranted in matters of faith, and that each individual apply choice to join or not to join any faith.”

“SAHIH MUSLIM 21a – It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said: “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.”

The Chair, however, decided in collaboration with all the moderators, that in the absence of the Hadithist team, the debate could not be continued. As noted at the beginning, the Chair then declared that we won the debate by a walkover and asked us to present our closing statement. Abdur Rab then submitted the closing statement as follows:

“Mr. ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy. My submission is in two parts as follows.

“Part !: Mr. Chairman, Thank you. Thank you for having conducted this debate with efficiency and sagacity.

“I’m honored and privileged to submit this closing statement. Through this closing statement, I also wish to thank our respected friend Zeeshan Khan and his colleagues for having participated in this peaceful debate or dialogue, which, I think is a great step forward for Muslims in their search for a common ground, and which is always preferable to militant confrontation. I thank them for not declaring us heretics (apostates or murtads), worthy of killing.

“Mr. Chairman, I begin by briefly touching on Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s opening statement, even though we do not need to respond to it. We do think though – and our sympathizers also expect – that his main points or assertions should not go unaddressed and unchallenged.

“He has made the point that Muslims have accepted the authority of the Hadith as part of their guidance for more than 1400 years. He has not acknowledged the fact there has been strong and widespread opposition to the Hadith right from the early days of Islam, and even since the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself. The Quran itself refers to people who used to distort the words of God and claim that those were God’s revelation (2:78-79, 3:78). So it is not surprising, therefore, that there would be people coming later who would bring fabricated, spurious teachings and attribute them to our dear Prophet.

“I am grateful to Professor Aisha Musa for personally helping me prepare this statement. Her landmark work “Hadith as Scripture: Discussions on the Authority of Prophetic Traditions in Islam,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, explores the earliest extant discussions on the authority of the Hadith in Islam and compares them with contemporary debates. She vividly shows that Muslim scholar al-Shafii (d. 204 AH/820 CE) himself noted and acknowledged in his “Kitab Jima al-Ilm” and “Risala” that there was much opposition to the Hadith during his time, which he struggled to deal with. Even predating al-Shafii, such opposition is found in a text that Muslim tradition holds to be a letter from the Kharijite Abd Allah Ibn Ibad to the Caliph Abd al-Malik in 76 AH/695 CE. Its importance as a challenge to the authority of the Hadith remains undented. A key passage of this letter criticizes the Kufans for taking “Hadiths” for their religion abandoning the Quran. “They believed in a book which was not from God, written by the hands of men; they then attributed it to the Messenger of God.” (Cf., Musa, p. 38.)

“Both al-Shafii and Ibn Qutayba (d. 276 AH) refer to the opponents of the Hadith as Ahl al-Kalam and indicate that the objection to Prophetic reports was widespread. Al-Shafi’i states that so many people presented so many arguments to him that he could not exactly remember who said what. Ibn Qutayba makes it clear in his introduction that the opponents of the Hadith had written books containing scathing criticisms of the proponents of the Hadith. Unfortunately, these books have been lost to humanity. (Cf., Musa, p. 21)

“Professor Musa also mentions another important work dealing with Hadith controversies in early Islam: “Taqyid al-Ilm” by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d. 463 AH/1071 CE). This work importantly shows that the Prophet both disapproved Hadith writing and approved Hadith writing, but subject to the important proviso that it agreed with the Quran. It also mentions Caliph Umar as a central figure who opposed the use of the Hadith as a competing source of religious guidance and refers to him as saying that following more than one source of religious guidance is what brought the people who received previous scriptures to ruin (Cf., Musa, p. 74). Al-Baghdadi’s book also contains reports of other prominent companions that show the same concern. Ibn Masud in particular chastises a man who brought him a Hadith book, citing the opening verses of Surah Yusuf, 12:1-3, where the Quran is referred to as the book from where one learns wisdom. (Ibid, p. 74). Other sources such as “al-Tabaqat al-Kubra” of Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sa’d (d. 230 AH/845 CE) and “Musannaf” of ‘Abd al-Razzak al-Sanani (d. 211 AH/827 CE) also report Umar’s opposition to the use of Hadith and his destruction of collections of them (Musa, pp. 21-28).

“Mr. Chairman, I recount these early accounts to demonstrate that the challenge to the acceptance of the Hadith as a parallel source of Islam was much more pronounced in early Islam than ever thought. This challenge has continued throughout history. Mutazilites, who represented one of the earliest rationalist Muslim theological schools, and are the later Ahl al-Kalam, also viewed the transmission of the Prophetic sunnah as not sufficiently reliable. The Hadith, according to them, was mere “guesswork and conjecture [… and] the Quran was complete and perfect, and did not require the Hadith or any other book to supplement or complement it.” At one time in history, the Mutazilites were a dominant group. The trend of opposition to the Hadith reemerged in the late nineteenth century in the Indian sub-continent as part of a reformist program in Islam. In Egypt also, the anti-Hadith movement was touched off by the turn of the twentieth century by an article by Muhammad Taufiq Sidqi titled ‘al-Islam huwa ul-Qur’an Wahdahu’ (‘Islam is the Qur’an Alone’ that appeared in the Egyptian journal al-Manar.” Then in the Indo-Pak sub-continent a number of prominent Muslim scholars emerged in the twentieth century to lead a vigorous anti-Hadith movement, which spread worldwide and is continuing in a more vocal way today. This demonstrates the significance of the contemporary Quran-Only movement as a real and growing force in Islam.

“Musa’s research also demonstrates that opposition to the Hadith as an authoritative scriptural source of law and guidance has not been influenced by Western, orientalist ideas about Islam, but is very much an Islamic development from within – “an inherently Muslim response to inherently Muslim concerns” (Musa, pp. 1, 3). This fact also refutes Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s allegation that modern Hadith criticism is an outgrowth of Orientalists’ writings. Modern Hadith criticism and rejection essentially reflects the same concerns of the Hadith critics of early Islam.

“Mr. Chairman, ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy. Here is the second part. A second major observation of Zeeshan Khan is that the Hadith is a second kind of Divine revelation. But this is not a new observation. It is al-Shafii who first elevated the status of Hadith to the status of Divine revelation. Our respected friend takes great pains to prove with the Quran that the Hadith is a kind of wahy ghayr matlu (unrecited revelation), while the Quran is wahy matlu (recited revelation). However, this claim must be unfounded, since it raises the very pertinent question that if this second kind were Divine revelation then why the Prophet himself or his close companions did not take any measures to record and preserve this second kind or the Hadith, as he did in the case of the Quran. Why the compilations of Bukhari and his ilk came more than two centuries after the Prophet’s death and why the Sunnis have collections different from the Shias?

“In fact the Quran itself uses the term “Hadith” in a number of places and warns believers not to believe in any Hadith other than the Quran (45:6, 31:6, 39:23, 6:114). The Quran declares, “Such are the revelations (ayats) of Allah, which We recount to you in truth, then in what Hadith will they believe after Allah and His revelations (45:6, see also 7:185 and 77:50)? We can see the import of this message also in another verse: “Shall I seek other than God as a source of law and judgment when He is the One who has sent down the Book to you in detail?” (6:114).

“Also, “What is wrong with you? How do you judge? Do you have another book which you study?” (68:35-36). The verse 39:23 refers to the Quran itself as Ahsanul Hadith (the best Hadith). These verses decisively rule out the need for another book, the Hadith.

“Our respected friend also uses the much cited Quranic verse “Obey Allah, obey the Messenger” to argue his defense of the Hadith. He also throws a challenge to us if we can show whether the Quran tells us to follow the Quran alone. However, modern Hadith rejecters like us, like our predecessors, have effectively demonstrated that the key requirement for following the Messenger is to follow the very message he has brought and delivered to us, i.e., the Quran, which characterizes itself as an explanation of everything (16:89), easy, straightforward (44:58, 54:17, 22, 32, 40, 39:28), and detailed, self-explained (39:27, 12:111, 6:114). In fact, the Quran refers to the Sayings of the Messenger as the revelation (69:40-43).

“The Prophet himself emphasized, “I follow naught except what is revealed to me” (6:50; 46:9) and God advised him and us to do the same (6:155; 45:6; see also 7:3). Also, he was asked to admonish his people only with the Quran (50:45). [Also, as we have noted above, other verses caution us against believing in anything other than God’s revelation (7:185, 45:6, 6:114, 68:35-36).] So if we just follow the Quran, we really follow him as well. And it is also noteworthy that the Prophet used to recite the Quran to people around him (62:2; 75:16-19). He did not need to explain it to them, as he was barred from doing that; the burden of explanation was on God Himself (75:18-19). […] Note also that the Prophet was specifically urged by God to judge only by the Quran, and not follow any personal desires (6:114; 4:105; 5:48-49). And the Quran also unequivocally proclaims that those who do not judge by what has been revealed from God are disbelievers (kafirs) (5:44), wrongdoers (jalims) (5:45), or rebellious (fasiqs) (5:49). This clearly means that the Quran alone should be used as the basis of religious law in Islam.” (Excerpted from my book “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Undestanding,” pp. 211-212.)

“The case for following our Prophet as an example should be like following all prophets as examples. The Quran specifically refers to Abraham as an example to follow (60:4-6), a model (16:120) and one whose millat (ways) God asked Muhammad (and indirectly us) to follow (16:123). So, please tell us how should we follow Abraham? Following his Hadith?

“Two key arguments of the early Hadith rejecters are that (1) the Quran itself is an explanation of everything (16:89) and that (2) wisdom mentioned along with the Quran is found in the Quran itself – in its rulings. We find echoes of such arguments in also contemporary discussions of the opponents of the Hadith.

“Finally, we need to say something about the contradictory, blasphemous, and absurd reports falsely attributed to our Prophet. We may ask our respected friend whether he would like to share and like his wife to share their private life with us. We shudder to think how Muslims believe that the Prophet’s illustrious wives, whom the Quran itself describes as mothers to believers, narrated the outrageous accounts of their private lives with the Prophet. And how does the Hadith portray the Prophet as a sex maniac going to all his nine wives at the same night and that he possessed the power of 30 men? The Hadith not only insults our Prophet and his wives, but also goes to the other extreme by declaring him as a Semi-God, without whom this universe would not have come into existence, and who is the only prophet who will intercede on behalf of the believers, even though the Quran declares him as a man like us and urges us not to differentiate between the prophets.

“Mr. Chairman, the Hadith also corrupts our deen in numerous other ways. The four Hadiths we have discussed last Saturday and today are just a miniscule sample of reports that distort the message contained in the Quran. It’s not possible here to recount all the problems with the Hadith. So-called science and methodology of the Hadith our friend has referred to is just a big joke. My book shows a long list of areas where the Hadith corrupts our deen. It has helped Muslims divide into sects and madhhabs, despite God’s clear directive against it (3:103, 105). It provides misguidance in religious practices such as salat, fasting, and hajj; demonizes women; encourages intolerance, violence and terror; perpetuates archaic, cruel punishments (punishments such as stoning the adulterer and the adulteress to death and harsh punishments up to death for blasphemy and apostasy); justifies slavery and slavery-like practices; justifies sex with war captives without marriage; justifies child marriage and perpetuates other unfair family laws, including barring the divorced wife to remarry her husband unless and until she marries another person and that person divorces her; throttles freedom of religion and speech; and discourages independent, rational thinking, scientific inquiry, and modernity. It’s the Hadith that has held us back over 1400 years. Isn’t it a prophecy of our Prophet come true that our ummah has forsaken the Quran (25:30)? Isn’t now the time to reject the Hadith and return to and rally around the Quran alone?

“Born and raised as an orthodox Sunni Muslim, I’ve changed and become a Quranist, not due to any influence from the Orientalists. Why can’t you, my friend?

“I will end here, Mr. Chairman, without boring our readers further. Thank you, thank my colleagues Jasmina Richards and Farouk A. Peru, thank the moderators and organizers of this debate, especially Fareed Firani, and thank all readers. May Allah bless us and guide us all!”

After this Chairman, Mr. Sanmuga Thavamoorthy, thanked Abdur Rab for “an eloquent closing statement indeed.” Moderator Ms. Addie Roose remarked, “The professionalism displayed is remarkable. It does show that Muslims can discuss without animosity, rancor and ill feelings.” Moderator Ms. Barbara Brown Knoll said, “Sorry to those waiting for some interesting debate today.” Moderator Mr. Anatul Fateh commented, “The comments so far posted were thought-provoking. I am sorry only that the debate now closes without more of the same.” At this point, the Chairman thanked all concerned and declared the debate closed.

Concluding Remarks

We, the Quranists, welcomed this wonderful opportunity to confront our Hadith-following friends in a friendly encounter – more so because this is precisely the way Muslims should go to settle their in-house differences, not by resorting to any violent methods. The debate, we believe, went fairly well on the first day. However, we were terribly disappointed when our opponents chose not to turn up on the second day without any prior notice. Courtesy demanded an apology from them for not turning up. But why should they care? Do we really qualify as Muslims to be treated well by them? What a pity!

Abdur Rab, Ph.D. (Harvard), is a retired public policy analyst and author, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier editions.

Farouk A. Peru is a Ph.D. Candidate in theology and religion (King’s College, London). A Quranist Muslim who sees hadiths as a reflection of Arab culture of the time.

 

The Message

The Message

Just imagine you’re in a wilderness, not knowing where to go;
Just imagine a Message descends on you from nowhere;
You do not know wherefrom it came, you do not know who it came through.
Grab it, engage with it, and study it;
Maybe you’ll benefit.

Just see if it stands on its own,
Just see if it makes sense to you,
Brings Hope in a state of Hopelessness,
And brings Light in a state of Darkness.

It’s come through one pure of heart capable of receiving it (50:37),
Who’s on the straight path (36:4, 43:43),
Of great moral character (68:4),
Endowed with love (19:96), a light-giving Lamp (33:46),
A Mercy of the Universe (9:61, 21:107),
A Messenger of God (36:3, 33:40), a receiver of Divine wahy (42:52),
And a faithful assimilator & deliverer of the Divine writ (5:67, 13:40).

This Message is a Book full of wisdom (10:1),
Straightforward and easy to learn (39:28, 44:58),
Most comprehensive (16:89; 39:27; 12:111; 10:37; 6:114),
Most profound and cogent (5:15), encourages rational approach (2:44, 76),
Requires the reader to ponder its verses with understanding (38:29).

This is the Truth (2:2, 18:29, 41:42) from One Who is True (4:87, 122),
Who represents Truth by Himself (18:44, 24:25).
It’s come to guide people to peace & straight path (5:16, 17:9, 6:126),
A Guiding Light for humankind (42:52),
A Furqan (Criterion) to distinguish right from wrong (25:1),
And a Universal Message to prevail (9:33, 38:87, 48:28).

It’s come to civilize us and make us wise (62:2).
An amazing Message; the more you ponder, the more you learn!
No exaggeration! No superfluousness! No incoherence!
A real Beauty, a real Wonder!
I’m struck with awe and wonder!

(The references are from the Quran)

 

 

How the Sharia Law Particularly Victimizes Women

How the Sharia Law Particularly Victimizes Women
                                                          By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud 

Introduction

There are a few general things to note about the Sharia Law. First, this Law overwhelmingly influences traditional Islam as practiced by most Muslims. Second, contrary to popular perception, the Sharia Law is not really Divine Law. Its origin is traceable to a body of normative principles historically understood and developed by a group of Muslim jurists during the 8th-10th centuries, i.e., about 150 to 250 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. There is, however, no unified body of the Sharia Law, as different schools of jurisprudence have applied different interpretations. The vast majority – some eighty percent – of Muslims are Sunnis and they generally follow Hanafi and Shafii laws. There are more than six thousand Sharia laws in each of the Hanafi and Shafii Law books. In this paper, we will concern ourselves with these laws as they relate to the treatment of women. Third, the Sharia Law draws on the Quran only in small part, and that also in a rigid, out-of-date way. Its main source, among a total of more than eleven, is the Hadith literature, which, ironically, is overtly and overwhelmingly biased against women. It is due to the application of the Sharia Law that there is a widespread perception, especially in the non-Muslim world, that Islam promotes misogyny. However, as we will see below, the Sharia Law is a gulf apart from the core teachings of Islam as professed by the Quran.

Sharia (Aka Shariah, Shari’a) literally means “a moral path.” However, as Professor Abdullahi An-Naim of Emory University rightly observes, “two factors account for much of the confusion about the role of Sharia in the modern context: a lack of appreciation of the critical role of human agency in the conception and development of Sharia and a grossly exaggerated sense of the application of Sharia as a comprehensive, self-contained and immutable normative system in the pre-colonial period.” The Sharia Law is a largely man-made phenomenon that came to light in the Middle Age. The laws are made through FIQH, which literally means “Human Understanding.” Hence, as Professor An-Naim further notes, “the first several generations of Muslims could not have known and applied Shari’a as it came to be accepted by the majority of Muslims for the last one thousand years.”

Saudi Arabia is perhaps the closest country example where the Sunni Sharia Law is most rigidly applied and where women are particularly discriminated against. Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily apply the Hanbali Law. Hanbali is the most conservative of the four Sunni schools and the forerunner of the Wahhabi-Salafi movement. The Saudi authorities have vigorously promoted this brand of Islam throughout the world. Eminent Islamic Law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA has provided, in one of his books, a vivid description of how the Wahhabi ideology has caused a great distortion in Islam. This ideology treats women in a particularly degrading manner. In recent days, the problems the Saudi women face in moving and driving freely and independently without male escorts have received media spotlight. But there are other serious Sharia-related human rights violations against women that are endemic throughout the Muslim World. Below we provide a checklist of such violations.

HOW THE SHARIA LAW PARTICULARLY VICTIMIZES WOMEN

The Sharia Law severely discriminates against women mainly due to its predominant reliance on the Hadith. Though there are some passages in the Hadith, which display respect for women, these are overwhelmingly overshadowed by other texts that portray women in a particularly bad light. Some examples of such texts are that the Prophet saw that women constituted the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Bukhhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, #124), that women are more deficient than men in intelligence and religion (ibid, Vol. 1, Book 6, #301), that women represent a bad omen (ibid, volume 7, book 62, #31) and an affliction more harmful than anything else for men (ibid, volume 7, book 62, #33), and that women are ungrateful to their husbands (ibid, Vol. 7, Book 62, #125; Vol. 1, Book 2, #28). Similar texts are also in other Hadith books, including Muslim, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i. In one of his books, Abou El Fadl cites several Hadith texts reported in Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Nasai, Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, and Ibn Hibban that make God’s grace for a wife contingent on the husband’s pleasure and thus make wives virtually slaves to their husbands. Such texts are unreliable and problematic against the moral teachings of the Quran, according to which, men and women equally qualify for God’s grace, and according to which, the conception of the marital relationship presupposes mutual love, compassion, and cooperation. Below we provide a checklist of Sharia rules that discriminate against women.

Sharia Rules in Family Matters 

  1. Sharia considers women disqualified to serve as guardians to conduct marriages. Only men are qualified to perform this service.
  1. Sharia requires as witnesses for marriage two males or one male and two females in lieu of one man. This provision is made keeping in view the Quranic provision for witnesses in the context-specific case of financial transactions. However, this discrimination against women is no longer justified in the modern age when women are almost as educated and qualified as men.
  1. Child marriage is sanctified under Sharia, presuming that the Prophet Muhammad married Ayesha when she was a six-year old child. However, modern scholars contest this assertion about Ayesha’s age when the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage with her took place. Also, child marriage is not consistent with the Quran’s advice in dealing with orphans, which mandates that marriage require sound, responsible judgment on the part of both the bride and the bridegroom (4:5-6). This Quranic direction effectively precludes child marriage. The Sharia adherents use the Quran’s verse 65:4 to justify child marriage, since this verse talks about the waiting period of a divorced wife who may not be having menstruation. However, this verse does not necessarily mean a pre-puberty child. As modern medical science shows, there may be various reasons, medical or genetic, other than pregnancy that can explain amenorrhea (i.e., a delay or stoppage of menstrual period) in adult women. So amenorrhea cannot be cited as a definitive case for child marriage. Furthermore, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 by the United Nations (in force with effect from September 2, 1990), a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, unless adulthood is set at a younger age by a particular country’s laws. The Convention calls for review by countries of ages set lower than 18.
  2. Sharia provides virtually unilateral power of divorce to the husband. It provides only very limited power of divorce to a wife who is required generally to go to a court to seek divorce. Furthermore, Sharia requires explicit consent of the husband for the divorce. Such restrictions on a wife intending to divorce her husband – go to a court and take the husband’s consent – prove too forbidding for an aggrieved wife. The husband is often reluctant to divorce his wife. This is tyrannical to the wife, as she has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of his continuing refusal to divorce. These Sharia provisions are in direct conflict with the Quran’s directions that a wife should not be compelled to stay with her husband against her will (33:28, 4:19), and to her hurt (2:231), that a wife has rights similar to her husband (2:228), and that a husband needs to treat his wife in a compassionate manner (2:228, 229, 231, 65:2).
  3. Worse still, Sharia entitles a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously by uttering the word “talaq – I divorce you” three times and without requiring any witness. The divorce is considered valid even if the husband may utter this in a fit of rage or when drunk and does not really mean it. However, these Sharia provisions flagrantly violate the Quran’s clear directions on divorce. The Quran requires two witnesses (65:2) and a well-defined waiting period for divorce to be effective (2:228, 229, 231, 65:1, 4). In fact, the Quran even wants husbands who want to dissociate from their wives to wait four months to give them a chance to see if they would like to change their mind during this period (2:226).
  1. The Sharia Law stipulates that once the divorce of a wife becomes effective at the end of the iddat period, the divorce becomes irrevocable and the divorced wife cannot go back to her husband, or remarry him, unless and until the divorced wife marries another person and until that husband divorces her. Sharia makes physical intimacy a condition for this marriage, even though the Quran allows a husband to divorce his wife before touching her – see 33:49. The requirement of marriage of a divorced wife with another person as a condition for her to think of returning to her husband after her new husband divorces her is a notoriously despicable practice called halala or hilla and is prevalent in parts of the Muslim world. This condition is drawn on an untenable inference from a Quranic verse, but which is counter to the very worldview and egalitarian spirit of the Quran’s message. This condition stems from a misreading of the Quran verses 2:230 and 232 and some relevant Hadith texts. However, verse 232 urges believers to create no obstacles in the way of the divorced wife remarrying her husband, if the couple so wants. As elaborately explained by us elsewhere in an article and in a drama-video, the halala system not only misses and violates the Quran’s clear directions and egalitarian message on this, but it also exacts a terrible human cost in terms of enormous suffering inflicted on the couple willing to reunite.
  1. Under Sharia Law, wives divorced instantaneously get nothing for livelihood from their husbands, while those divorced normally get only three months’ provision from their husbands after divorce. Then husbands are absolved of their duty to see where they go and how they live. This does not appeal to humanity. The Quran, on the other hand, urges husbands not to take back anything that has been given to them (2:229) and to retain or release them in kindness, and not to hurt them (2:231).
  2. A dangerous aspect of the Sharia Law is that divorced wife is barred from taking her children anywhere without the permission of their father. The cruelty of this aspect becomes evident when one observes the plight of many divorced Iranian immigrant mothers in Canada.
  1. One particularly inhuman Sharia rule is that the husband’s financial support to his wife is contingent on complete obedience from her. If, however, a wife turns out to be disobedient to her husband for some reason, she forfeits all of her husband’s financial support.
  2. Sharia displays a patriarchal bias in dealing with child custody rights. It allows mothers custody of her children generally up to the age of seven for sons and nine for daughters. There is, however, no uniformity about the ages of sons and daughters, up to which child custodial rules should apply. Also, a mother is deprived of her child custody rights if she does not pray and when she takes a mahram husband, even though the condition of “praying” does not apply to her husband. The Quran allows separated or divorced couples to decide about child custody by mutual consultation, and it makes the husband squarely responsible for bearing the financial costs of children under mother’s custodial care, if he has financial capability (65:6-7).
  3. In the area of inheritance, as discussed more elaborately by us in our earlier article, Sharia rigidly applies, in most cases, the provision that the male heir should receive twice as much as the female counterpart, ignoring the spirit of the exceptions that the Quran makes about this rule and ignoring the socioeconomic background in which this rule was made in the seventh-century Arabia, when women were totally dependent on their husbands for financial and other support. As argued by many modern Islamic and feminist scholars, the socioeconomic condition for women has vastly changed in the modern context, when women are almost equally participating in contributing to the family income and welfare. Furthermore, the human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), to which all Muslim countries are also signatories, also oblige them to move toward removing all forms of discrimination against women, including in the inheritance case.

Sharia Rules in Other Areas Affecting Women

  1. Sharia prescribes for married persons the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery. Ibn Majah Hadith suggests in Vol. 3, #1944 that the Quran did have a verse prescribing the stoning punishment, but it did not get included in the Quran because the parchment that contained that verse was eaten by a goat. This story sounds ludicrous against the Quran’s claim that God Himself took the burden of guarding it from any corruption (15:9) and that He made it a book of complete guidance for humankind (16:89, 5:3). The Quran prescribes a maximum of one hundred lashes, and that also after four witnesses confirm the criminal offense (24:2). The Quran also allows the convicts to be left alone if they repent and mend their conduct (4:15). Although the Sharia stoning punishment is equally applicable to both men and women, it often goes against women since the offence is much more easily detected in the case of women, either with a DNA test or when the women involved become pregnant (The Pakistan court did not accept the DNA test). The Quran also enjoins marriages of adulterous men with adulterous women (24:3,26). If stoning to death is an applicable punishment for adultery, then the question that arises is how can they get married after death?
  1. Sharia permits Muslim men to have marital relationship with women of the Ahle al-Kitab (the people of the Book traditionally interpreted as Christians and Jews), but does not extend the same option to Muslim women to wed non-Muslim men. This it does by narrowly interpreting the Quran’s verse 5:5, which is addressed to men. However, as Professor Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University rightly contends, this Quranic verse, like other verses, is addressed to men simply because of the custom of the time. The Quran’s direction applies equally to both men and women. The Sharia restriction on women often leads to honor killings of Muslim women by their parents, when their daughters seek to marry non-Muslim men. Sharia condones honor killings, as there is a Sharia provision that parents are not liable for punishment for murders of their children. Note also that Sharia applies its narrow interpretation even to the marriage of a Muslim woman with a Muslim man and considers their marriage dissolved when he is declared an apostate. This was applied to the Cairo University professor Nasr Abu Zayd, which led the couple to seek exile abroad and leave the country.
  2. Sharia does not recognize testimonies from women in hudud and adultery cases, including in drinking cases, not even along with a male witness. This is a gross discrimination against women in ensuring justice in society.
  3. Shari’a: the Islamic Law by Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi mentions that if there is a son of the murder victim of a family, then only he, not any daughter of the victim, can claim blood-money.
  4. Sharia considers the marriage of a non-Muslim man with a non-Muslim woman dissolved the moment she becomes a war captive to Muslims. This consequently allows a Muslim man to possess her and have sexual relation with her without marriage. This Sharia provision literally legitimizes the raping of female war captives. The Indian promoter of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology Dr. Zakir Naik also supports such a view by his strange interpretation of the Quran’s expression “those your right hand posseses” in 4:24, even though he also mentions that the Quran encourages freeing of slaves and marrying them. The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly encourages freeing of slaves (90:12-13) and marrying them (4:25) and forbids them to compel them to prostitution without marriage (24:33).
  5. Under the Sharia Law, women judges are not eligible for conducting hudud This Sharia rule is ostensibly based on a Hadith that says that women are more deficient in intelligence (that implies also judgment) and religion. The Quran nowhere suggests that women are inferior to men.
  6. Under Sharia, it is forbidden for women to lead the umma or to head a government, this despite the Quran’s mention of rule by the Queen of Sheba (23:27) and rule by many Muslim women in different Muslim countries.

Conclusion

The Sharia Law makes a travesty of true Islam by ruthlessly discriminating against women in numerous ways. This is not only against the very spirit of the Quran’s message about how we should treat women; it also belies the noble example of what we know in the Quran itself about how our Prophet treated them. Such Sharia rules are also incompatible with the very norms of human decency, etiquette, and human rights that are enshrined in various United Nations declarations. Because of its brutal features particularly affecting women, Sharia has made itself deeply misogynic. It cannot really be applied to any modern, civilized society.