In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.
There are three sources of the religion of Islam, and these, in order of relative importance, are:
 The Holy Qur’an, the literal preserved Word of Allah Ta’aala.
 The Sunnah, i.e. practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.
 The Ahadith, which are the reported sayings and doings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.
[Note: Beginners to Islam and young Muslims may not find the rest of this article easy to grasp.]
The Primary Source of Islam is the Holy Qur’an, which is believed by all true Muslims to be a (100%) Perfect Book which has nothing of doubt within it, and that it is a guidance for the righteous [Qur’an 2:2], and the literal (revealed) Word of Allah Himself.
Muslims also refer to the Hadith compilations, because they are deemed to be a source of the Sunnah or Way of the Messenger of Allaah s.a., though sunni scholars generally refer to Sunnah and Ahadith as though they are one and the same, even though these are actually two separate things.
“Sunnah, (Arabic: “habitual practice”) also spelled Sunna, the body of traditional social and legal custom and practice of the Islamic community. (the Sunnah was passed down from the first generation onto the subsequent generations by their example and practices such as the mode of prayer and fasting, without any book of compiled ahadith being available at the time).
Along with the Qurʾān (the holy book of Islam) and Hadith (recorded sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), it is a major source of Sharīʿah, or Islamic law.” (the ahadith are the lesser source, which should only be accepted conditionally, as the reports, compiled 2-3 centuries after Muhammad s.a., are uncertain, their evaluation based on fallible human conjecture, as discussed further below.)
Is there any Muslim who considers ahadith literature, even those books labelled as ‘sahih’, i.e. authentic or genuine, to be 100% accurate and reliable? The Ahlul-Hadith exaggerate the memory of the people of those times, apparently forgetting that even Messengers are humans who suffer from lapses of memory like other humans do.
The Holy Qur’an tells us to refer any matter of dispute to Allah and His Messenger s.a. [4:59-61]. In an apparent dispute between a verse and a hadith, the Qur’an tells us that we should follow that which is Ahsan, i.e. best [39:55] and also that the Qur’an itself is Ahsanul Hadith, the Best Narration [39:22], and that the final decision is from Allah [42:10]. Also, we are told that that which is 100% true (haqq, i.e. the Qur’an) is above that which is uncertain, or based on conjecture (dhann/zann, i.e. the hadith literature) [10:36]. Hence, we should judge according to the yardstick of the Holy Qur’an, which is the only exhortation (zikr/thikr) that has been guaranteed preservation so that we may be exhorted by it [15:9], and was both written down as well as memorised within the very lifetime of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.
This makes the Qur’an far more reliable as a record of the actual beliefs that Muhammad s.a. conveyed to his followers at the time and for those in the future, and more reliable as a source of actual events which occurred at the time of the Prophet s.a., as even non-Muslim scholars agree, rather than verbal reports recorded 2-3 centuries later. The reality is that the only truly ‘sahih’ (i.e. authentic or genuine) Book is the Noble Qur’an, and it is best for Muslims to drop the use of the ‘incorrect label’ of ‘sahih’ for books of hadith, as it leads to confusion in the minds of those unfamiliar with the uncertain reality of hadith evaluation.
The label of ‘sahih’ may have been given by the authors and others on the basis of their fallible human assumptions at the time, but it has become evident that their assumptions were mistaken. The label ‘sahih’ was not based on certain divine revelation that we should be obliged to consider them to be truly ‘sahih’ to be Muslims. The Qur’an emphatically instructs that we speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, whether we are in a court of law where we are required to take an oath, or not. This is also why calling adopted sons as one’s own sons was categorically forbidden, viz:
[33:4] Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his breast; nor has He made those of your wives, from whom you keep away by calling them mothers, your (real) mothers, nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons. That is (merely) a word of your mouths; but Allah speaks the truth, and He guides to the (right) path.
[33:5] Call them by (the names of) their fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. But if you know not their fathers, then they are your brothers in faith and your friends. And there is no blame on you in any mistake you may unintentionally make in this (matter), but (what matters is) that which your hearts intend. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.
False labelling of products is a crime in many nations, as it is deceptive and leads to confusion and erroneous decision-making. Those who have a misplaced faith in false ahadith and act upon them in preference to the Noble Qur’an may have the false label of muslim, but they are not so in truth. Those who blindly follow such false ahadith are not the true sons of Islam, but they become wicked deviant sons of falsehood merely having a superficial label of Muslim, e.g. ISIS. Please note that Islam does not forbid adoption per se; rather, Islam encourages it. What is prohibited is the ‘false labelling’ of an adopted son as a real/genetic son.
The so-called ‘Sihah Sittah’ Ahadith & Sira Literature:
This dual transmission that happened in the case of the Holy Qur’an, did not happen with regards to even the so-called ‘sihah sittah’ i.e. six authentic books of hadith, which were compiled two to three centuries after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad s.a., let alone the other categories of ahadith literature. They were all incorrectly labelled as ‘sahih’ a further two centuries after compilation as follows:
• Sahih Bukhari by Imam Bukhari (D. 256 A.H.),
• Sahih Muslim by Muslim ibn Al Hujjaj (D. 261 A.H.),
• Sunan Al-Sughra by Al-Nasa’i (D. 302 A.H.)
• Sunan Abu Dawood by Abu Dawood (D. 274 A.H.)
• Jami Al-Tirmidhi by Al-Tirmidhi (D. 278 A.H.)
• Sunan ibn Majah by Ibn Majah (D. 273 A.H.)
Some scholars prefer to refer to them as the ‘kutub as sittah’ (the six books), criticising the incorrect label of ‘sihah’ as ‘a lenient generalisation’:
Dr. Jonathan A.C. Brown states: “Surprisingly. al-Bukhäri’s and Muslim’s decision to compile books limited only to hadiths they deemed authentic was initially rejected by many ahl al-hadith scholars. … (they) criticized the compilation of the Sahihayn. A famous hadith scholar from Rayy in Iran, Abü Zur’a al-Räzi (d 264/878), said of the two authors, ‘These are people who wanted prominence before their time, so they did something of which they could boast; they wrote books the likes of which none had written before to gain for themselves precedence.’
[Source: Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, p. 38]
Bukhari’s work was included in the ‘sihah al sittah’, along with the others, by a zahiri (said to be associated with the ahlul hadith) scholar two century thereafter. It is related:
“Once Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaihe) saw the Beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa sallam) in his dream. Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaihe) saw that he was driving away few flies that were hovering around the blessed beard of the Beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa sallam). The learned Islamic scholars of the time interpreted this dream and said that in future Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaihe) would identify and discard inaccurate Hadith and dedicate his life to the compilation of authentic Hadith.“
Unfortunately, we find a controversial dream about a fly within the collection of Bukhari, viz:
“Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said “If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink) and take it out, for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.” (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/59/126)
Dr. Jonathan Brown writes: “… Like the Hadith of the Fly, this report was clearly scientifically impossible. Sidqi died of typhus in 1920, at the age of only thirty-nine. Writing about his late classmate, Abu Rayya recalled how he had been called a kafir, an infidel, for doubting a Hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari. … Ninth-century Mutazila scholars had dismissed the Hadith of the Fly as absurd because it seemed rationally impossible for both a disease and its cure to coexist on the same object. … Whereas Hadiths like that of the Fly collapsed Sidqi’s and Abu Rayya’s faith in the reliability of the Hadith corpus as a whole, they had posed little threat to medieval Sunnis. These classical scholars had dismissed the Mutazila’s objection to the Hadith of the Fly as the byproduct of their heretical empowerment of human reason over a submission to revealed text and divine knowledge.” [Misquoting Muhammad, p. 70]
As one can observe, the classical ahlul-hadith scholars had incorrectly claimed that the ahadith misleadingly labelled as ‘sahih’ after their compilation from word of mouth reports ‘whispered’ from person to person, and more than likely going through some distortion in wording, were ‘revealed text and divine knowledge’. Unfortunately, rather than “driving away few flies that were hovering around the blessed beard of the Beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa sallam)”, Bukhari ended up creating a controversy about the wisdom of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.
This makes me reflect over the verse in the Qur’an which mentions a fly, viz:
[22:73] O men, a similitude is set forth, so listen to it. Surely, those on whom you call instead of Allah cannot create (even) a fly, though they combine together for the purpose. And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they cannot recover it therefrom. Weak indeed are (both) the seeker and the sought.
Without grasping firmly onto the Holy Qur’an as the only ‘sahih’ Book for a monotheist believer in Islam, such ‘flies’ shall continue to remain in the religious diet of the Muslims. And the false hadith about the fly is not the only problematic one for those who accept the incorrect label of ‘sahih’. There are other controversial ahadith which create problems for sensible people merely due to the misleading label of ‘sahih’ given to it a zahiri scholar and promoted especially by the ahlu-hadith scholars, who are eager to declare anyone who rejects anything within Bukhari as kafir, such as an instruction to drink camel urine for it’s supposed health benefits. This is opposed to reason or ‘common sense’, and is also contradictory to the verse of the Qur’an which instructs consuming that which is halaal and tayyab [23:51], and urine is a waste product discarded from the body.
There is also a hadith which states that ‘if anything foolish is attributed to me, do not accept it’ . As the hadith about camel urine adds nothing to our knowledge of Islam, what is the need to accept it, and try to waste time and money doing futile research to try to prove the authenticity of a patently false hadith? If the hadith books had been labelled as ‘uncertain reports attributed to the Prophet s.a.’, or something along those lines, there would have been far less issues over the centuries, with muslim scholars spending their time contemplating on the supposed wisdom of consuming urine, instead of addressing the issues needing reform in their time.
It is often claimed that Bukhari offered istikhaara before including a hadith in his compilation, viz:
“As for piety, Imam Al-Bukhari never wrote any Hadith in this book without performing two rakah salat of guidance from Allah and when he was sure of its authenticity, only then he wrote it in the book.”
It is also claimed that he had a ‘super-memory’:
However, asking Allah for guidance, if indeed it happened, as there is no evidence given for this claim, so it cannot be verified, and may even have been fabricated so as to make reluctant muslims incline to accepting his work, but if we were to accept the claim as true, it would only go so far as to establish his personal sincerity, not infallibility, nor his having received divine guidance in the matter under consideration. So, it is best not to make any assumptions in this regard. And it is our Lord Allah alone who is beyond error and forgetfulness, viz:
[19:64] ‘And we (angels) do not come down save by the command of thy Lord. To Him belongs all that is before us and all that is behind us and all that is between; and thy Lord is not forgetful.’
[20:52] He (Moses a.s.) said, ‘The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (recorded) in a Book. My Lord neither errs nor forgets.’
So, we can derive from this that our Lord does not err or forget, but humans both err and do forget, and the Prophet s.a. was told:
[41:6] Say, `I am only a human/mortal like you. It is revealed to me that your god is One God; so go ye straight to HIM without deviating, and ask forgiveness of HIM.’ And woe to the idolaters
There are also several ahadith about the forgetfulness of the Prophet s.a. and his companions r.a. If the Prophet s.a. had a ‘super-memory’, and Aisha r.a. had ‘super-intelligence’ as well, and the Companions r.a. also had such a ‘super-human memory’, as it is claimed the ‘jaahil’ (ignorant pre-Islamic polytheist) Arabs did as well, and subsequent Muslim generations too, why aren’t we informed about their miraculous powers in the Qur’an, and how and why have the Arabs lost their ‘super-human memories’ in our time?
The one incident that muslims are perhaps more likely to remember about the memory of the Prophet s.a. is his reported forgetfulness about the precise day of ‘laylatul-qadr’ within the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadhan, which is mentioned in two ahadith. Now, how can we simply swallow the information that Bukhari had an ‘inhuman memory’? It sounds like an attempt to place complete trust in everything he related or compiled, whereas the memory of those people included within the chain of narrators are just as important in a case where there is a chain of ‘human whispers’ extending to over 200 years. (It is interesting to note for comparison that the shi’a compilations took place in the 4th-5th centuries after Hijra.) There is no valid reason to simply accept the claim that their memories were any better than that of the average person. Yet it is claimed that:
“It is said that Bukhari retained in his memory one million Ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him Peace)with all the details of their sources and reporters.”
“Imam Bukhari’s memory was considered to be inhuman, for as soon as the praying of a hadith would finish Bukhari would repeat it orally.”
I’m not sure what is meant by ‘the praying of a hadith’ here, but the claim of ‘inhuman’ memory is noteworthy.
What is missing from details of the life of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim is information on their study and/or knowledge of the Word of Allah, the Noble Qur’an. No source or site that I have read so far mentions anything about this. It is no wonder that they included ahadith in their compilations that violated Qur’anic verses, and were apparently not aware of this fact, such that they labelled their compilations as ‘sahih’. Others might wish to question their motives. And Allah knows best. Here is another ahlul-hadith site which fails to mention anything about Bukhari studying the Qur’an, something which apparently, or even, evidently, holds no value in their eyes:
Please also note that “many of the criteria of early traditionists, e.g. al-Bukhari, were deduced by later scholars from a careful study of which reporters or isnads were accepted and rejected by them.” [An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, by Suhaib Hasan]
The case of the sira literature is even more uncertain than the hadith literature though they were compiled a few decades before the ahadith, because there was apparently little or no attempt at verification involved in their compilation. The Muslim community included hypocrites and others weak in faith, and every narrator cannot be trusted as being truthful, as many/most people tend to utter lies, or even possessing an accurate enough memory to be conveying the true facts.
Unfortunately, Muslim scholars appear to have exaggerated the memories of the chain of narrators in those times, as there are those who exaggerate the intelligence of Aisha r.a. when they wish to uphold the dubious narrations in Bukhari etc. about the young age of Aisha r.a. at the time of marriage. The reality is that the ahadith were passed down through a chain of ‘human whispers’ by word of mouth (I prefer to call it ‘human’ as it highlights human error, while referring to it as ‘chinese whispers’ can be deemed racist and cause offence).
They also suggest that due to the hot climate of Arabia, children used to mature much sooner than nowadays. Whilst exceptions may have occurred, as they do happen in any normal distribution curve, they stretch this notion of theirs beyond acceptable limits, for the sake of adhering to dogmas which they have been spoon-fed for a long time, and have become a part and parcel of their way of thinking, one of them being the near 100% authenticity of Bukhari. The fact is that the man-made label of ‘sahih’ with regards to a collection or compilation of ahadith is based on the conjecture or assumptions of one person, and humans are liable to err.
The description or label of ‘sahih’ (meaning authentic or genuine) on specific ahadith itself tells us that there are at least some ahadith which are not considered to be authentic and reliable. Some are deemed to be forgeries, others considered to be ‘weak’ on the basis of knowledge about the chain of narrators (isnad). The label of ‘sahih’ on a book or books is misleading, giving the impression that all the contents/ahadith of a so-called ‘sahih book’ are authentic.
This can be described as ‘false labelling’, which is a criminal offence in some countries. As removing the label ‘sahih’ may well be opposed especially by the ahlul-hadith, perhaps a warning label can be applied to it just as the law requires a warning on the label of cigarette packets, that ‘smoking kills’, or ‘smoking causes cancer’. ‘Fake news’ can be very dangerous and can/does lead to hate, acts of violence and even the murder of innocent persons. Hence the Qur’an advises:
[49:6] O ye who believe! if an unrighteous person brings you any news, ascertain (the correctness of the report) fully, lest you harm a people in ignorance, and then become repentant for what you have done.
Blindly accepting ahadith and acting upon them does lead to criminal acts of violence, rape and murder. This is also the case with criminal misinterpretation of verses of the Qur’an. A case can be made for state level action against such literature, just as hate speech or speech inciting to violence is a criminal act against which the state should take appropriate action. It does however need to be cautious and properly investigated, so that the right of religious belief is not trampled upon in so doing. The pretence and denial by some scholars that such literature inspires people to perpetrate acts of terrorism is completely unacceptable, and they should not be allowed to keep their designation as ‘religious leaders’ if they continue to remain irresponsible, careless and complacent in this regard.
Research shows that the label ‘Al-Sihah al-Sittah‘ (the six authentic [books of hadith]) was first applied by the zahiri scholar Ibn al-Qaisarani in the 5th century after Hijra. The members of the Ahlul-Hadith movement are said to identify with the zahiri school. Muslims who have religious knowledge would generally accept ahadith if they feel certain conditions are met. The primary condition is that of compatibility with the Holy Qur’an. If a hadith fails to comply with a single one out of the over 6236 (plus 113 of the Basmala) verses of the Holy Qur’an, it is laid aside until it is understood or interpreted in such a way as to be rendered compatible with each and every verses of the Holy Qur’an.
However, a study of the information on Bukhari shows that though it is claimed that he memorised 1 milllion ahadith with the names of narrators, yet we are not told that he studied the Qur’an under any scholar of the Qur’an, or even pondered over it himself. How then could he have evaluated ahadith for conformity with the Qur’an, when he did not have sufficient knowledge of it? It is perhaps no wonder that his label of ‘sahih’ is mainly referring to the chain of narrators (isnad) rather than the content (matn) of the hadith.
The Holy Qur’an has the status of Al-Furqaan, i.e. the Discriminator/Criterion between right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Moreover, the Holy Qur’an [3:7] itself instructs us that to believe in and apply each and every (relevant) verse of the Holy Qur’an before formulating an interpretation, is the proper method used by those well-grounded in knowledge, because the Book contains clear and decisive verses as well as verses which are allegorical and susceptible to different interpretations.
An Insightful Dream:
Here is a relevant dream of the Promised Messiah a.s.:
“Last night I saw in a dream a tree laden with beautiful delicious fruits and that some people were trying to train a creeper onto the tree. As the creeper spread on the tree, it damaged its fruits and the tree was losing its beauty and becoming unattractive. Some of its fruits had been ruined and others were likely to be lost also. My heart was greatly moved and troubled by this and I asked a good and holy man who was standing near: What tree is this and what kind of creeper has such a nice tree in its grip? He made the answer: This tree is the Qur’an, the Word of God, and this creeper means the ahadith and commentaries which are opposed to the Qur’an or are held to be opposed to it. The largeness of their number has the tree in its grip and is damaging it. Then I woke up.” (Source: Review on the debate between Batalvi and Chakralvi p. 5 footnote).
Whilst it is true that the Promised Messiah a.s. had included a reference to adhering to ahadith of the Prophet s.a. in the ten conditions of bai’at for anyone wishing to join his Community, these conditions were written down in 1889, and it is not mentioned anywhere that they are revealed. The Promised Messiah a.s. changed some of his views over the course of about 2 decades, on the basis of divine revelation as well as study, reflection and research by him a.s. and his Companions r.a.
He a.s. mentioned the subbordinate status and conditional acceptance of ahadith as well as their being uncertain in his later writings. I am going even further than this position by referring to the label of ‘sahih’ as false, for reasons explained in this and other articles, with the above dream lending a large degree of support to my reasoning. True dreams are a type of revelation, and ought to be given precedence over non-revealed views and interpretations.
[45.6] These are the verses of Allah which We rehearse unto thee with truth. In what hadith, then, after rejecting that of Allah and His verses will they believe?
[68.44] Then leave me alone with such as reject this hadith. By degrees shall We punish them from directions they perceive not.
[25:30] And the Messenger will say, ‘O my Lord, my people indeed treated this Qur’an as a discarded thing.’
The Holy Prophet s.a. is reported to have said: “My sayings do not abrogate the word of Allah, but the word of Allah can abrogate my sayings” (Mishkat: Volume 1: Chapter 6).
A good book to read on the subject of evaluating hadith literature is: Misquoting Muhammad, by Professor Jonathan A C Brown (I am not a sunni myself, and don’t necessarily agree with everything written in the book. However, my ancestors were sunnis, as I believe is the case with the majority of current Ahmadi Muslims.)
One can also consult chapter one of the following book on the ‘Early Sources of Sirat and Islamic History’ by Mirza Bashir Ahmad r.a. (Though I am a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I don’t necessarily agree with every view or argument put forward within the three volumes):
The following excerpt is taken from the link below, and gives some criteria for hadith evaluation:
“… a few words concerning the application of certain principles accepted by Islamic scholars throughout the ages would not be out of place. These principles help to resolve controversies concerning the apparent contradiction between the Holy Quran and hadith (tradition) on the one hand and some traditions vis-à-vis other traditions.
The Word of God stands supreme. This is followed by the actual practices of the Holy Prophet of Islam s.a. This is known as sunnah. This is followed by hadith, the words reported to be those of the Holy Prophet s.a. If the authenticity of the words of the Holy Prophet s.a. is established unquestionably, the words concerned are words put into the mouth of the Holy Prophets s.a. by God Almighty. Where there is no apparent contradiction between the word of the Holy Prophet s.a. and the Quran, the tradition may be accepted as authentic.
There are no two opinions regarding the accepted fact that whenever any so-called tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet of Islam s.a. contradicts any clear injunction of the Holy Quran, such a tradition is rejected as false and is not accepted as the word of the Holy Prophet s.a. If such a tradition does not glaringly violate any injunction of the Holy Quran and there is room for compromise, then ideally an attempt should be made to search for a suitable compromise before the final rejection of the tradition.
In attempting to reconcile a tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet s.a. with the Holy Quran, it must always be borne in mind that the clear teachings of the Holy Quran are not to be compromised for the sake of a so-called tradition, but a genuine attempt is to be made to find an explanation of the tradition. Therefore in all cases of doubt, the tradition is put to the anvil of the Holy Quran and judged accordingly.
If there is no contradiction between the Holy Quran and hadith, then their mutual merit of credibility would be determined according to the reliability of the sources and the chain of narrators.
Such a tradition will also be compared with other authentic and widely accepted traditions to make sure that the tradition does not conflict with other traditions.
Lastly, another reliable method of investigating the credibility of a tradition is to study its internal evidence critically. If the contents of the tradition clash with the image of the Holy Prophet of Islam which has emerged from a study of his conduct and bearing throughout his life, then such a tradition would be rejected as a false attribution to the Holy Prophet s.a. or as being against the principles of logic and common sense. I would generally tend to consider the above criteria as useful, but would question:
 that the authenticity of a hadith can be established ‘unquestionably’ (there remains uncertainty, as these criteria are applied by fallible humans centuries after the events), or
 that the reported words are the exact same as those put into the mouth of the Holy Prophet s.a. by Allah Almighty.”
Such an expression of the utmost degree of certainty in the accurate transmission of the prophetic wording appears to be more subjective than objective, apparently declaring a love for acting on the reported words of the Prophet s.a. transmitted to us. The book is quoting what muslim scholars have agreed on over the centuries, and these scholars were sunnis on whom the ahlul-hadith among them had much influence.
[On a more critical note about the book ‘Murder in the name of Allah’, the author starts off by stating that ‘religion drips with blood’ and mentions the murder of one son of Adam a.s. by the other, but does not mention the righteous pacifism which the Qur’an [5:27-28] teaches in this regard. He also refers to [9:29] as used by maududi sahib, but offers no satisfactory explanation of why maududi sahib was wrong to use the verse in the way he did!]
It is accepted by hadith scholars that in most if not all cases, we are far more likely to have been conveyed the ‘sense’ of what the Prophet s.a. would have stated, rather than his own precise wording. Thus, the default position should be that one maintains a healthy scepticism about a hadith until it has passed all possible checks to ensure it is compatible with every verse of the Qur’an. The Promised Messiah a.s. stated that we accept the Qur’an unconditionally, and only accept a hadith on conditions, due to the uncertainty surrounding them. To accept a hadith even if it contradicts the Qur’an, or if the meaning of a verse of the Qur’an has to be twisted or distorted in order to accept a doubtful but incorrectly labelled ‘sahih’ hadith, is the actual act of kufr, and not a rejection of it, even if one has erred in rejecting it. It is best to err on the side of caution rather than accept falsehood and ending up perpetrating injustices for centuries in the future against a vulnerable section of the community:
[49:6] O ye who believe! if an unrighteous person brings you any news, ascertain the correctness of the report fully, lest you harm a people in ignorance, and then become repentant for what you have done.
It is written in Ahmadiyya literature that AbuBakr r.a. had burnt ahadith in his time, and I have seen the claim made on a website that the other Khulafaa-Raashideen r.a. also burnt ahadith in their time. Here are two such references:
“Abu Bakar r.a. brought a collection of ahadith and then he made a bonfire of them all.” (Tudween e Hadith, page 285-88)
“During the caliphate of Umar r.a., the ahadith were in abundance. He made sure by putting the people under oath that whatever hadith the people had in their possession ought to be brought before him. As ordered, the public submitted whatever they possessed. He then ordered to make a public bonfire of those hadiths.” (Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad, vol.5, page 141)
It is claimed that the Prophet s.a. forbade writing anything other than the Qur’an, though there are arguments offered to try to explain this instruction. Moreover, I have heard it said that paper became available to Muslim in ~90 AH, and Umar bin Abdul Aziz r.h. (d. 101 AH) instructed writing down ahadith in his ~3 year tenure as an Umayyad Caliph, and that it was some time after this that sira literature etc. began to be written. It also needs to be explained as to what the ahadith material was that was burnt if paper only became available in ~90AH. In any case, I need to verify these claims by finding accurate and reliable sources, InshaAllaah.
Understanding the Qur’an & its Supreme Status:
The Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a. is reported to have stated:
فَضْلُ كَلَامِ اللَّهِ عَلَى سَائِرِ الْكَلَامِ كَفَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَى خَلْقِهِ
[نن الترمذي كتاب فضائل القرآن باب ما جاء كيف كانت قراءة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم 2926 المحدث الترمذي خلاصة حكم المحدث حسن غريب في سنن الترمذي]
i.e. “The superiority of the Words of Allah over all other words is like the superiority of Allah over His creation.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2926]
Even if the Holy Qur’an did not clearly state [3:7] that there are literal as well as non-literal verses, we would still have to keep in mind that even in ordinary every day language, the use of non-literal expressions in the form of metaphors, similes, idioms, parables, is common in every language of the world. One has to use one’s mental faculties to decide whether a statement is literal or non-literal even if the statement itself does not include words to this effect. Examples of this can be found in Sura Yusuf, in which the dreams are mentioned without clearly stating that these are dreams.
Those who heard the dreams, whether Jacob a.s., or Joseph a.s., or the ‘chiefs’, all appear to have understood that what they ‘saw’ could not be a real life occurrence, for otherwise, the known laws of nature would be broken, hence they realised it was a dream that was being related to them. Thus, an easy way of distinguishing between a literal and non-literal statement is that if taking it in it’s full literal sense contradicts an established fact, whether in the work of God or the Word of God, it should be interpreted in a non-literal sense. Likewise, if an apparent miracle cannot be understood naturally within the framework of our knowledge of the laws of nature, then it will be considered a supernatural phenomenon (a ‘miracle’), or it will have to be acknowledged that we have incomplete knowledge of the matter under consideration. Thus, one needs to use one’s reason and logic when trying to understand the Qur’an as well as the Hadith literature.
From my observation so far, a lot of the differences between Muslims and Christians, and among Muslims and Christians, are due to differences in interpretation. The verse [3:7] which indicates the misinterpretation of allegorical verses without reference to the clear and decisive verses is in a Sura which deals mainly with Christian doctrines, thereby suggesting that Christians deviated from the right path at least partly due to misinterpretations, if not mainly due to this. May Allah guide us to the right path and the correct interpretation of scriptural and non-scriptural sources such as ahadith, Ameen.
Whereas revelation itself is certain, interpretations may be erroneous, as the Promised Messiah a.s. stated about his own writings; so we aren’t obliged to accept anything in his writings which is contrary to Qur’an and established Sunnah, or otherwise not ‘maroof’, or according to firm reasoning which does not violate the Qur’an and established Sunnah, and the same applies to the writings and discourses of the Rightly-Guided Khulafaa r.a. Thus I feel it is justified to accept compliant parts of the extra-Qur’anic sources, whilst rejecting non-compliant parts, a position which would become kufr (i.e. disbelief) were we to do so with the Qur’an.
Subbordinate Status of the Promised Messiah a.s.
The Promised Messiah a.s. mentioned the Qur’an, then the Sunnah, and then the Ahadith (which are only to be accepted on conditions), as they are based on conjecture [10:36]) as the ‘Sources of Islam’, and did not even include himself in the list, let alone the Khulafaa or Scholars, all of whom are to remain subbordinate to the Qur’an. Someone might argue that the Promised Messiah/Mahdi a.s. is referred to as ‘hakm adl’, i.e. a just judge/arbiter. However, this designation is in a hadith, and does not give him any authority over the Word of Allah, which remains ‘THE Imam’ having ultimate authority as hakam or qaadi (judge) over human beings:
[6:114] “Shall I seek for judge other than Allah, when He it is Who has sent down to you the Book, clearly explained? And those to whom We gave the Book know that it has been sent down from thy Lord with truth; so be thou not of those who doubt.”
Imam ash-Shaafi’ee (d. 204 A.H.) is reported to have written: “Allaah has refused to allow perfection to any work except His Book” (as-Sakhaawi, p. 34; cited in ‘An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan’, by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, p. 16)
The Promised Messiah a.s. says in connection with the possibility of error in his writings:
“In the Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah I had mistakenly interpreted tawaffa as meaning ‘full reward’, which some of the maulavis cite as a criticism against me. They are not justified in this as I confess that I was mistaken in this. But there is no mistake in the revelation. I am a human being and am subject to human frailties such as mistake and forgetfulness like other human beings, though I know that God does not leave me under the influence of a mistake. I do not, however, claim that I cannot be mistaken in an interpretation. Divine revelation is free from mistake but man’s words are not free from the possibility of mistake, because forgetfulness and mistake are essential human characteristics.” [Ayyamus-Sulah, p. 41, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 14, pp. 271–272. See also Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah, vol. 5, p. 73 footnote, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 21, p. 93 footnote]
The Promised Messiah a.s. did feel that Allah would not leave him under the influence of a mistake, but there is no recorded divine revelation to this effect, so it was just an assumption on his part, the basis of which we are not informed. Khalifa II r.a. had reiterated, in his book ‘Dawatul-Amir’ [p. 417], the recorded erroneous view of the Promised Messiah a.s. that adulterers/fornicators should be stoned [Jang-e-Muqaddas, Ruhani Khazain Vol 6, p. 252]. However, Khalifa II r.a. later changed this view and adopted the view of flogging for zina as per the Holy Qur’an [24:2].
Thus, the Qur’an will remain hakam over the Promised Messiah a.s. and also his Khulafaa Raashideen r.a. (as well as the non-Raashidoon ones!), just as it was hakam over the Prophet Muhammad s.a., during his lifetime, as well as what is attributed to him in ahadith compiled 2-3 centuries or more after him. There area few places in which the Qur’an appears to correct the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a. in one way or another [e.g. 9:80,84], and even though Ahmadis have a different understanding of some of those verses, it is not a part of Ahmadiyya or sunni doctrine that Prophets are infallible. The Holy Qur’an should be regarded as al-Furqaan over everything else, because a Prophet did not, and will not, know everything, an attribute reserved for Allah s.w.t. alone [33:40].
The Promised Messiah a.s. writes:
Those who honour the Qur’an will be honoured in heaven [Kishti-e-Nuh/Noah’s Ark].
“The ways of true and perfect salvation have been opened by the Quran and all else is its reflection. Therefore, study the Quran with deep contemplation and hold it very dear. Love it more than anything else. God has said to me: ‘Al-Khairu Kulluhu fil Qur’an‘, meaning, all good is contained in the Quran. This is the truth. Pity those who favour anything besides it. The fountainhead of all your prosperity and salvation lies in the Quran. There is no religious need of yours which is not fulfilled by it. On the Day of Judgement, the Quran will confirm or deny your faith. There is no other book beneath heaven besides the Quran, which can directly guide you. God has been most beneficent towards you in that He has bestowed upon you a book like the Quran. I tell you truly that if the book which has been recited to you was recited to the Christians, they would not have perished. If this favour and guidance which has been bestowed upon you had been granted to the Jews in place of the Torah, some of their sects would not have denied the Day of Judgement. Therefore, appreciate this favour that has been bestowed upon you. It is a most precious favour; it is a great wealth. If the Quran had not been revealed, the whole world would have been nothing more than a filthy half-formed lump of flesh. The Qur’an is a book, in contrast with which, all other guidance amounts to nothing.” [Kishti-e-Nuh/Noah’s Ark]
I am aware that some/many ahmadi scholars, as well as non-scholars, try to explain away the error in the statement of the Promised Messiah a.s. by claiming that he was referring to extreme cases of zina, such as those engaging in promoting prostitution, citing ‘Tiryaq al-Qulub, pp.49-50’ [Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol.15, pp.237-238].
However, if this is what he meant, why did Khalifa II r.a. not mention this when he referred to it? The straight-forward word would be to say that the Promised Messiah a.s. appears to have erred in making a statement from memory and/or his previous sunni views.
There is no ‘clear’ command from Allah in the Qur’an to stone adulterers, so weak, stretched and/or dishonest interpretations do not change the words such that they constitute a clear command. As he was a human being, why should we suggest that his writings contain no errors, given that perfection without any type of doubt [2:2] or any errors [4:82] is reserved only for the Word of the All-Knowing Allah Himself, this being the proper Islamic Monotheist stance to adopt? If someone has better arguments to explain the apparent error than the ones I have seen presented by ahmadi scholars so far, I will be willing to reconsider my view on it. They do not quote any statement of his against the predominant sunni and shi’a misconception, possibly because it was not an issue that was disputed in his time, nor was it going to make any practical difference to any muslim state, none of which had, or have, as of yet, accepted Ahmadi views on Islamic law. I understand that stoning was argued against by both Ahmadi groups after the time of the Promised Messiah a.s., and both advocated flogging, in line with the principles left behind by the Promised Messiah a.s., to uphold the Qur’an. In the meantime, I’ll be acting on the following verse:
[9:31] “They have taken their learned men and their monks for lords beside Allah. And (so have they taken) the Messiah, son of Mary. And they were not commanded but to worship the One God. There is no God but He. Too Holy is He for what they associate (with Him)!”
[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance.
[20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.