Open main menu

WikiIslam β

Critical Analysis: The Need for Hadith?

Quran-only theology has many issues:

Islam: A Critical Analysis
By: S.T.
Ch.1: Burden Of Proof
Ch.2: Judaism and Islam
Ch.3: Imperfect Text
Ch.4: Qur'anic Grammar
Ch.5: What Others Say
Ch.6: Hypocrisy in Islam
Ch.7: Hell
Ch.8: Violence in Islam
Ch.9: Logical Fallacies
Ch.10: Women in Islam
Ch.11: Muhammad’s Wives
Ch.12: Inheritance Laws
Ch.13: Qur'anic Ethics
Ch.14: Existence of Allah
Ch.15: What is Prophecy?
Ch.16: Unclear Qur'an
Ch.17: The Need for Hadith?
Ch.18: Miscellaneous
Ch.19: Numerical Patterns in the Qur'an
Ch.20: Summary
Ch.20: Quotations
Ch.22: Further Reading

1. Some Muslims believe in a Quran-only approach, as if the Quran is clear and comprehensive enough to stand on its own. For example, the laws of inheritance[1] and theft[2] cannot stand on its own.

2. Islam is a political religion. It discusses war, and criminal penalties. Since many Muslim countries follow Hadith, the Quranic laws become misinterpreted so the political Quranic laws end up hurting society.

3. If you mistrust Muslims with respect to the Hadith, then they are the ones that preserved the Quran. So how do you know the Quran is really preserved?

4. It raises the question of why Allah presented a "clear and comprehensive" Quran, if the majority of its followers are misinterpreting it.

The Problems with Accepting Hadith

However, accepting the Hadith presents certain theological issues:

According to Ibn Warraq, page 66 of “Why I am not a Muslim”, he writes:

Muslim biographies. The prophet Muhammad died in A.D. 632. The earliest material on his life that we possess was written by Ibn Ishaq in A.D. 750, in other words, a hundred twenty years after Muhammad’s death. The question of authenticity becomes even more critical, because the original form of Ibn Ishaq's work is lost and is only available in parts in a later recension by Ibn Hisham who died in A.D. 834, two hundred years after the death of the Prophet.

Ibn Ishaq lived around 180 years after Muhammad was born. A person that is 180 may have great-great-great-great-great grandchildren. Most people are extremely ignorant about even their great-great grandparents. Today’s news is inaccurate enough, so it is hard to assume that such oral traditions were fully preserved. But even if they were, many Hadith are unethical, contradictory or irrational. It also raises the question of why earlier sources do not exist.

The Quran claims to be complete and clear and that its text is preserved. People wrote the Hadith, it contains disagreements and errors. Why do we need a fallible book to explain a perfect book? Can the Hadith which contain mistakes be from Allah?

[18.54] And certainly We have explained in this Quran every kind of example, and man is most of all given to contention.

[16.89] And on the day when We will raise up in every people a witness against them from among themselves, and bring you as a witness against these-- and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who submit.

[12.111] In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a narrative which could be forged, but a verification of what is before it and a distinct explanation of all things and a guide and a mercy to a people who believe.

[1] writes:

The advocates of hadith are fond of saying that the hadith explains the Quran without which, they say the Quran cannot be understood. In other words without hadith they will have to reject the Quran or at least ignore it. The scholars also say that the hadith they call "Sahih Bukhary" is the best hadith.

It can be easily proved that the hadith does not in any way explain the Quran and that the "Sahih Bukhari" is not worth the papers it is printed on. For evidence please refer to, and check all references of "Sahih Al-Bukhary" by Dr. Muhammed Muhsin Khan, Islamic University, Medina Al-Munawwara. Publisher "Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, which is the Nine volume encyclopedia. Vol. 6 of "Sahih Al-Bukhary" is devoted to the explanation of the Quran (Tafsir). The other eight volumes prescribe things like drinking camels urine to cure fevers (vol 7, hadith no 590), burning people first and then their houses if they do not go the mosque on time, (vol.1, hadith no.626), dreaming of undressing women (vol 9, hadith no.139 and 140), using shoes to garland camels (Vol 2, hadith no 763), and other such non-sense. But let us focus on vol. 6: the explanation of the Quran by Imam Bukhary. Although the Quran has 114 suras or chapters, Bukhari does not explain all the verses in all the suras. Sura 2, Al Baqarah has 286 verses, but Bukhari only provides hadith for about 50 verses. This is slightly over 20% of Al Baqarah. Bukhari has left the Ulamma groping the dark over the remaining 80%. … The greatest surprise of all is that 28 suras of the Quran are NOT "explained" at all. The sura numbers are as follows; 23, 27, 29, 35, 51, 57, 58, 64, 67, 69, 70, 73, 76, 81, 82, 86, 88, 89, 90, 94, 100, 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, and 109. Bukhari explains this away as follows "no hadith were mentioned here."

According to the scholars only the Prophet is supposed to be the source of the hadith. The hadith is supposed to explain the Quran. The BIG question is,"Who went on unauthorized holiday for 28 WHOLE SURAS of the Quran ?!!!

How can we know whether a particular Hadith is true? Some Muslims rely on the chain of transmission. But that begs the question of whether the chain of transmission was accurately recorded.

Many Muslims will reject any Hadith that goes against the Quran. However, there are multiple ways to interpret a Quranic verse and multiple ways to interpret a particular Hadith. This begs the question of whether to reject a Hadith which can be interpreted in a way that would contradict an interpretation of the Quran.

Some Hadith contradict other Hadith, and Hadith sometimes contradict the Quran. The Hadith is based on hearsay evidence. Generally, there is no way to prove that what is recorded in a Hadith actually took place. It arguably assumes that certain individuals have infallible memories which can be futile to prove.

To accept some (or all) Hadith one must rely on the accurate transmission, that the one transmitting the episode did not misinterpret or take out of context what s/he directly or indirectly witnessed. We must trust that the reader of the Hadith did not misinterpret it and can correctly extrapolate it to other cases. In the same way that the Quran is unclear, one can expect that the Hadith are unclear. Further, since Muhammad was the last prophet (33:40), the compilers of Hadith were not prophets, so why should they be delivering God’s message?

Putting Faith in Religious Leaders

Some religious leaders were involved in criminal or unethical behaviors. It is hard to theologically justify why one should have complete faith in a human. In addition to putting faith in the Biblical prophets and Muhammad, Muslims also put much faith in the human compilers of the Hadith but it is not possible to prove the Hadith to be accurate.

[2] writes:

Let us take a close look at the parameters of Al-Bukhari's claims. He claims to have been tutored by more than one thousand teachers, to have collected, examined and classified six hundred thousand 'aHadeeth of which he memorized more than one hundred thousand. We are not told that he had any assistants or helpers. Now, if we allow one single hour to process each Hadeeth he would have had to work non-stop for about seventy years. Since the work involved is time consuming and arduous, because each Hadeeth would have had to be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad through a long transmission chain each link of which must be closely examined to determine if the reporter partook of strong drink, and for such attributes as integrity, moral rectitude, astuteness, truthfulness, mental alertness, and, not least, soundness of memory; one would imagine that it would take considerably more than one single hour to process each Hadeeth. Add to that the fact that each chain might consist of as many as six or seven individuals of successive generations all but one of whom are dead, and one can readily see the magnitude of this daunting task.

In the 7th century there was no printing press, electricity, cars, TV and Internet so people had a very narrow world view. Muslims refer to this period as the age of ignorance. 7th century Arabs believed in all kinds of false pagan myths. But some 7th century people believed in Muhammad, while others did not. The personal view of 7th century Arabs is likely to be distorted as we do not have 1st hand accounts of what they sincerely believed and why. Yet the Hadith and the transmission of the Quran are dependent on such people.

Should one believe that the views of Muhammad or of a religious authority represent the view of God?