Bananas

Syed Iqbal Zaheer

 scienceof hadithsTo allege that the Hadith works were produced 200 years after the Prophet, in an age of easy access to Islamic literature, with at least 25,000 Arabic books old and new, running into hundreds of thousands of pages, available in print, as well as in electronic format, with the mere click of a mouse, is a tragedy greater than that of the fall of Islamic Khilafah, writes SYED IQBAL ZAHEER

Our organization often conducts written tests for girls vying to join our educational and training programs. Results show that quite a few do not know when was it that the first Qur’anic revelation came, or, the place where it came. A test showed that they did not know where Prophet Muhammad was born. In one smart case, we received the answer that he was born in Madinah. In an unconnected event, it was reported that college students sitting in a Tablighee Halaqah did not know the name of “our Prophet.” They only knew him as, “Hamaare Nabiyy (our Prophet), except one who answered that his name was “salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.” Across the borders, in a written test, a student answered that the Prophet took birth in Makkah-Madinah!

The devils in the seas and their human offspring in the lands broke their wrists patting each other on the backs over the success of their experiment. Through denial of the Hadith, they can help bring up a new generation of Muslims, completely ignorant of Islam: duds.

Does the Qur’an say anywhere that it was revealed to a person called Muhammad? Does it give the date of Muhammad’s birth? Does it say whether he was an infant like Jesus Christ, or a teenager, or older, when the Qur’an was revealed to him? Does it say he migrated from Makkah to Madinah? Was he a pure Arab, or a migrant?

It mentions that battles took place, but did Muhammad participate in them? Is he the one who lies buried in Madinah, or was it another Muhammad?

Five daily Prayers? What five daily prayers? Where is it stated in the Qur’an? Does it mention Ruku`, Sujud or Tashahhud?

Zakah?What Zakah? Where does it say in the Qur’an that two and a half percent is due over a certain saving? Is it a once in a life-time affair, or an income tax over monthly earnings?

Hajj? Who says it should be performed during the 12th month of Lunar calendar? It says (2: 197), “Pilgrimage is (done) in known months.” But, can they be known from the Qur’an? Does the Qur’an say it should be performed in Makkah alone? Why not Jerusalem? Or Banaras? Are Muslims not free to choose when the Qur’an did not specify when and where Hajj is to be performed? Mina and Muzdalifah? What Mina and what Muzdalifah? Isn’t the Qur’an enough for guidance? Wouldn’t it name the places and times to visit, if it was necessary for human guidance?

Without these and thousands of other essential details, the purpose of Qur’anic revelation can be defeated with a single stroke: denial of Hadith.

The rejecters of Hadith realize quite well that they cannot fight a thousand year war against the Qur’an. They have seen how 14 Crusades could not defeat Islam and Muslims. They would rather go for small doses of a poison that mutates the faith of the believers, like the mutation of bees near Fukushima nuclear plant, and, promises to ultimately demolish whole of the edifice of Islamic faith. That little poison is: deny the Hadith and ask: “Is not the Qur’an enough for guidance?” An innocent question, painted in a sinister hue.

A rejecter of Hadith writes:

“It has been documented in Muslim, Ahmed and other sources of hadith that the prophet Muhammad has prohibited the writing of his hadith. All the hadith collections we have today, and which are regarded by the hadith scholars as authentic (Sahih), were written two centuries after the death of the Prophet, for two centuries there was no authorized documentation of the hadith in accordance with the prohibition left by the Prophet. Out of theSahih collections we have today, the first to be written was that of Imam Bukhari who was born in the year 194 after Hijra (870 AD). It is also important to note that the authors of the other six hadith collections, like Muslim and Abu Dawood, were all born after Imam Bukhari.”

The first question that arises is: The rejecters of Hadith claim that ahadith were fabricated 200 years after Prophet. If that is so, then, how can they argue with any Hadith? Are they not basing their argument on a fabricated statement?

It can be asked, “On what basis 250,000 are untrustworthy, but this one, prohibiting the writing of Hadith, is trustworthy?” If there is a basis, then, are there other ahadith that pass similar test?

They allege that the Prophet prohibited writing of Hadith. But it does not occur to these people that there is something odd in the fact that a Hadith collector like Ahmad records a hadith which says that the Prophet forbid writing of Hadith, and yet the same collector goes on to collect 30,000 ahadith! Can anyone be so owlish not to ask himself this question and conduct an inquiry? Can anyone be so low on conscience that this unanswerable question does not prevent him from making an issue of it?

As regards the hadith to this effect being in the Sahih of Muslim, if a person is dishonest, but stupid at the same time, he doesn’t take much his time to expose his dishonesty. In this case, he does it by quoting a report, which, when read in full, actually encourages propagation and dissemination of the Hadith. Or may be he is too ignorant to have read it in a Hadith collection, and, since he is going to target the ignorant, had no option but to steal it from another man’s writing, who could have stolen it from another … ad infinitum – so that he doesn’t know details of original theft. He says that the Prophet forbade writing of Hadith, citing Muslim and Ahmad. But the full version of his citation says,

“Do not write from me. Whoever wrote from me (anything) apart from the Qur’an may erase it. However, narrate from me; there is no harm; (but remember), whoever fastened an intentional lie upon me, may make his resting place in the Fire.”

It may be noted at the start, that among hundreds of thousands of ahadith, this is the only one that reports the Prophet’s prohibition to write. (There are two other reports that also speak of the Prophet’s prohibition, but both are weak).

So, the hadith is allowing freedom to narrate. Now, narrations can be of two kinds: written and oral. The Prophet discouraged written and recommended oral. Reasons should be obvious to someone exposed to history.

  1. The Prophet did not wish to prohibit narration of Hadith. Had he meant it, he would have said, “And do not narrate from me verbally, either.” But rather, he instructed that he be reported exactly as he said. That the Traditionists decided to write (while some did not), that is not the issue. The issue is narration of Hadith, and it is permissible. Full stop.
  2. The Prophet did not wish to weaken memory power of the Companions. Writing down his ahadith, instead of knowing them by heart, would certainly have weakened this faculty.
  3. Few Arabs of those times were literate. The Prophet had initiated the art of reading and writing. But it would be some time before they would master the art to some degree. He did not want the immature to mess up with his ahadith.
  4. Because there was no exchange of written materials, there could not have been consensus over how exactly the alphabets were to be inscribed. May be, somebody’s “raa” was another’s “daal.”
  5. In the earlier stage at Madinah, it was feared that if everyone was allowed to write down ahadith, they could mix up the Prophet’s words with Allah’s words. When the Qur’an was firmly established, and thousands knew it by heart, he allowed his ahadith to be written, as reported by ahadith to this effect.
  6. There was no pressing need to document the Hadith because Arabs of those times were good at memory. They knew pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic poetry by heart. Hadith was, and is, easy to memorize. In modern times too when dependence on written material is great, there are many scholars who know thousands of ahadith by heart. There are plenty of people even now who will, if you quote a hadith, tell you impromptu whether it is Sahih or Da`eef.

If there is a single report that the Prophet did not allow his ahadith written, then, there are multiple reports that he allowed them written. By what standards of honesty and intellectual integrity, can the multiple reports be ignored? By what standards of honesty can it be ignored that the Prophet himself dictated religious instructions to be sent across to distant people?

These points the Companions understood, accordingly, many kept writing Hadith to make their private collections, despite the prohibition of the Prophet – if one would like to think it that way. But is it right to make this conclusion? The scholars explain that it is not right to make such a conclusion. It is hard to believe that despite the Prophet’s prohibition many Companions, including Abu Bakr, `Ali ibn abi Talib, Abu Hurayrah, `Abdullah b. `Amr, Anas b. Malik, and several others continued to make their own collections? Were they disobeying the Prophet even the while he was among them? If that is unthinkable, then, perhaps, as the scholars say, the hadith in question needs to be understood within the ‘context of time’ to arrive at an accurate meaning.

As for the preference for memory over written material, many Companions, those who followed them, and many throughout the history of Muslim scholarship remained of the belief that it is not the best thing to write down, but rather, the Hadith should be put to memory. Qatadah, Ibrahim, Mujahid, Sha`bi, Ibn Sirin, for example, did not give their full approval to Hadith being written. Late in the first century, Zuhri remarked, “We did not wish to write down knowledge. But our rulers insisted on documentation.”

But, it was not the Prophetic statement discouraging writing down of Hadith that influenced those who preferred narration from memory. It was their belief that the knowledge which depended on pen and paper was poor quality knowledge.

To proceed further with the Munkir al-Hadith quoted above, he alleges that “the ahadith were documented 200 years after the Prophet.”

The idea that ‘Hadith was documented 200 hundred years after the Prophet,’ is the leaf of a tree of doubts planted by some Jews and Christians such as, Schacht, Goldziher, Margoliouth and others, which their siblings are chewing now. Their intentions were as impure as their minds were mischievous. As later research by a few Christian scholars has shown, they were not ignorant of the truth, but assumed ignorance. With the passage of time they were exposed by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and put in place among those whose scholarship was reduced to shame.

Therefore, if someone were to browse through any book ever written on Islam, perhaps he will not find a sentence as revolting as this.

Hadith documentation started right during the life of the Prophet, some ordered by no less than himself. When he delivered a sermon at Makkah regarding the consecration of the city of Makkah, a Yemeni called Abu Shah stood up and said, “Let them write it down for me, Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet ordered, “Write it down for Abu Shah.” The report is in Bukhari.

This hadith has to be given preference over the one which prohibits writing of Hadith because this one was two years before the Prophet’s death, while that of Muslim belonged to an earlier stage of Islam at Madinah.

A Sahih report of Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud and several others, with some variations in words, says that Abu Rashid went to `Abdullah b. `Amr and asked him to narrate some ahadith to him. `Abdullah brought out some documents and said, “This is what the Prophet dictated to me,” and then went on to narrate from the document.

This report is not surprising because Abu Hurayrah used to say that no one could know better than him except in reporting Hadith than `Abdullah b. `Amr because “he used to write down the Prophet’s ahadith, while I did not.” (Abu Hurayrah began to write only after the death of the Prophet).

A Sahih report of Abu Da’ud says that `Umar ibn al-Khattab wasn’t too sure of the blood wit to be paid in a certain case of murder until Dahhak b. Sufyan informed him that the Prophet had written to him about the blood money involving so and so.

`Ali ibn abi Talib is known to have a small wad inscribed with some ahadith which he had stored in his sheath. Many of his followers were curious about its content – suspecting that perhaps the Prophet had dictated to `Ali that he had the right to succeed him as the Khalifah. They kept suspecting the contents of `Ali’s collection until on one occasion he pulled it out and showed them that there was nothing of the “wasiyyah” they were suspecting.

There are many reports which say that the Prophet himself got his ahadith dictated to several of the Companions. For example, when he sent Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yemen, he gave him a written tract containing details of Zakah and Sadaqat.

As regards Companions who wrote down Hadith during the Prophet’s life, their number runs into dozens. In his doctoral thesis presented to the Cambridge University, Dr. A`zami has traced the names of 52 Companions who wrote the Hadith(Dirasat fi al-Hadith al-Nabawi). Of these, collections of some became better known than others such as that of Sa`d b. `Ubadah, `Abdullah ibn abi Awfa, Samurah b. Jundub, Abu Rafe` (the Prophet’s freed slave), Abu Hurayrah, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, Jabir b. `Abdullah and `Abdullah b. `Amr b. al-As. The latter had named his collection, “Sahifah al-Sadiqah.” (Bustan al-Muhaddithin, Shah `Abd al-`Aziz).

That the Prophet allowed his words to be written down is well documented. `Abdullah ibn `Amr reports (as in Abu Da’ud) that the Quraysh told him not to write down everything he heard from the Prophet, because, after all, the Prophet was human and could be in anger. He promptly inquired the Prophet who told him, “Write. By Him in whose Hands is my life, nothing will come out of this – pointing to his mouth – but the truth.”

By the next generation, the numbers is in hundreds, and by the third generation, tens of thousands. Zuhri, for instance, the leading scholar of the second generation produced on the order of `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz (d. 101 H), such a big bulk of ahadith, that following Walid’s murder, the collection, found safely preserved in Walid’s personal library, had to be transported on several beasts of burden.

Perhaps if the rejecters of Hadith still allege that Hadith was documented only after 200 years, it is because they rely on the ignorance of the masses. A great majority today, know next to nothing about Hadith. A few who know a little better, know only about the existence of six major works, the Sihah Sittah (without having ever seen them). Majority of these works were compiled 200 years after the Prophet.

But a great many people are unaware that not only Companions and their Followers made Hadith compendiums, but some specialized in it. For instance, Ibn abi Dhi’b, who was born in 80 H, had made his collection (also named Muwatta’ like that of Imam Malik), and, was, according to Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, superior to Imam Malik in certain disciplines of knowledge. Imam Malik’s Muwatta’ which was produced perhaps by 130 H, is such a popularly read large collection that no bookstore in the Arab world is any time without it. Produced more than a century before Bukhari, some scholars have considered it a collection superior to that of Bukhari.

A surviving text of the time of the Tabe`iyyun is that of Hammam b. Munabbih, a student of Abu Hurayrah. This hand-written collection, found in a Syrian library by Dr. Hameedullah, is known as Sahifah Hammam b. Munabbih, whose contents match with those of Bukhari, Muslim and others.

To allege that the Hadith works were produced 200 years after the Prophet, in an age of easy access to Islamic literature, with at least 25,000 Arabic books old and new, running into hundreds of thousands of pages, available in print, as well as in electronic format, with the mere click of a mouse, is a tragedy greater than that of the fall of Islamic Khilafah.

But perhaps we also know how the Devil plays with the ignoramus. They will ask, “Where are the original compilations of the Companions, if they truly collected any?” This is similar to some people of the non-English world asking, “Alright. Let us assume that Shakespeare was truly the author of the works attributed to him, but, where are his originals? After all, he appeared a mere 450 years ago! Why is it that out of his 40 plays, not a single hand-written manuscript has been found! Could those be right who believe that perhaps Shakespeare was not the real author of works attributed to him?” The answer is obvious: there is never any absence of bananas in any society who raise comic questions of this kind.[1]


[1] Source: Young Muslim Digest, Editorial, September 2012

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