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ইক্বরার উদ্দেশ্য হলো কুরআনের বাণীর উত্তরোত্তর সমৃদ্ধ অনুধাবনের জন্য টেকসই ভিত্তি প্রস্তুত করা এবং জীবন ও সমাজের প্রায়োগিকতার জন্য প্রয়োজনীয় জ্ঞানভিত্তিক ফ্রেমওয়ার্ক বা কাঠামো নির্মাণ।

প্রকাশিত বইসমূহ

21 Strong Points & Problems on Hadith by Dr Joshua Little

On January 28, 2022, Dr. Javad Hashmi interviewed Oxford Scholar Dr. Joshua Little on his YouTube channel, The Impactful Scholar. In the interview, Dr. Little presented 21 reasons historians are skeptical of Hadith. In the interview, Dr. Little mentioned that all these points will be in his upcoming book, but below are the 21 points that were made with some of my own personal commentaries.

Quran Talk Blog enumerated the points which I am quoting here:

1. PRIOR PROBABILITY

It is a general consensus among historians that people of all faith have been known to falsely attribute works. This has been the case for historical material from pagans, Jews, and Christians. Therefore, one should not assume that the material from Islam should be any different. Historians must assume that people are dishonest and then try to prove their honesty. Since historically, the situations were the same for other religious groups, it would be naive to think that Muslims are different in this regard. For perspective, the people of the faith at that time were not a single monolith. There were numerous factions, tribes, theological understandings, competing theories, skirmishes, battles, and even civil wars. All this creates an environment where individuals will have strong incentives to fabricate sources to strengthen their stance. Additionally, at the time, there was no rigorous scholarship and institutions for collecting and transmitting material or a consistent approach for validating its authenticity. All this opens the opportunity for much sloppy work to enter the Hadith corpus.

2. LATENESS OF THE SOURCES

Most Hadith literature compiled into collections first occurred in the 8th century. Some of the earliest writing that historians are aware of comes from Ibn Ishaq (Kitab al-Maghazi), who died around the year 767 CE, nearly 135 years after the death of the prophet. But historians don’t even have his direct material, but instead only references to his material in the 9th century by his student and their students. The earliest written compilation of Hadith was the Muwatta by Imam Malik which was written ~150 years after the death of Muhammad. So the source material is quite distant from the actual source, and time causes errors, distortions, fabrications, contamination, and interpolation.

3. FULL OF CONTRADICTIONS

The Hadith corpus is full of contradictions. As Dr. Hashmi stated, for every Hadith, there is an equivalently valid opposite Hadith. Even the simplest facts are inconsistent. For example, how old was the prophet when he died, and how many years did he live in Mecca and Medina? Reports from just Bukhari and Muslim state that he was 60, 63, or 65. Some of these conflicting ages are also attributed to the same individual. This also carries to the ages of Abu Bakr and Uthman, which state that they all died when they were 63 years old, which was not the case. Other contradictions are regarding which was the first or last revelations of the Quran. If the Hadith that are deemed “authentic (sahih)” fails on these most basic facts, how reliable should they be considered for all the multitude of other topics they cover.

At the 1hr and 1min mark of the interview, Dr. Javad Hashmi says that he has done extensive research on the exegetical Hadith that attempts to contextualize the verses of the Quran (Asbab al-Nuzul) and has concluded that these Hadith are all pure speculation.

“It is not uncommon for Ibn ‘Abbas hadiths to present three or even four contradictory interpretations of the same verse.”

– Herbert Berg

4. PROPAGANDISTIC REPORTS

Many of the Hadith are political propaganda of its time. This is on par with trying to understand history by listening by means of political ad campaigns. Each claim tries to justify why one person or group was closer and more beloved to the prophet than another. Some examples are that ‘Aisha was the best believer among the women, that she was Muhammad’s favorite wife, that Ali was to Muhammad, as Aaron was to Moses, that the Caliph must be from the Quraish, that it is justified to kill certain groups for their belief.

“I am not suggesting that hadith critics like al-Bukhari or Ibn Hanbal were forerunners of the Historical Critical Method. As generations of Western scholars have demonstrated, even the revered Sahihayn are replete with anachronistic reports that grew out of political, legal, and sectarian feuds of the first two centuries of Islam.”

– Jonathan Brown (How We Know Early Hadith Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find)

5. HISTORICAL ANACHRONISMS

Prophecies specified in Hadith can be lumped into two groupings, either precise or ambiguous. It just happens that the prophecies that were very precise in nature discuss events that occurred before the 9th century, just as Hadith criticism became more prevalent and methods for detecting clear fabrications became established. So just as the populace became more suspicious and scrutinizing of the Hadith, the prophetic Hadith also became more open to interpretation and less precise. This indicates that, most likely, the very detailed prophecies in the Hadith literature were created post-facto from the event it foretold. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense why precise prophecies after the time of Hadith criticism would all of a sudden just stop.

6. SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

Many Hadith make supernatural claims attributed to the prophet. Some examples are the following:

  • He split the moon in half
  • From his finger, a fountain of water flowed for over a thousand people to perform ablution
  • His food would glorify God when he ate
  • Trees walked and shaded him while he relieved himself
  • A tree wept loudly because he stopped using it during his sermons
  • Trees and stones talked to the prophet
  • That he was able to stop the sun
  • He was able to command the rain
  • He was able to pray for the manifestation of food and water for the masses

The historical reason to be doubtful of these claims is because they are supernatural, but as a believer who does believe in miracles, a simple reason to doubt these claims is because it contradicts what is clearly stated in the Quran, that Muhammad did not receive any physical miracles. Muhammad’s miracle was the Quran alone.

[10:20] They say, “How come no miracle came down to him from his Lord?” Say, “The future belongs to GOD; so wait, and I am waiting along with you.”

(٢٠) وَيَقُولُونَ لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّهِ فَانْتَظِرُوا إِنِّي مَعَكُمْ مِنَ الْمُنْتَظِرِينَ

[13:7] Those who disbelieved say, “If only a miracle could come down to him from his Lord (we will then believe).” You are simply a warner—every community receives a guiding teacher.

(٧) وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُنْذِرٌ وَلِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ

[13:27] Those who disbelieve would say, “If only a miracle could come down to him from his Lord (we would believe).” Say, “GOD sends astray whomever He wills, and guides to Him only those who obey.”

(٢٧) وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ قُلْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَنْ أَنَابَ

[29:50] They said, “If only miracles could come down to him from his Lord!” Say, “All miracles come only from GOD; I am no more than a manifest warner.”

[29:51] Is it not enough of a miracle* that we sent down to you this book, being recited to them? This is indeed a mercy and a reminder for people who believe.

(٥٠) وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ قُلْ إِنَّمَا الْآيَاتُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَإِنَّمَا أَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ
(٥١) أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِهِمْ أَنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَرَحْمَةً وَذِكْرَىٰ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ

[17:59] What stopped us from sending the miracles is that the previous generations have rejected them. For example, we showed Thamûd the camel, a profound (miracle), but they transgressed against it. We sent the miracles only to instill reverence.

(٥٩) وَمَا مَنَعَنَا أَنْ نُرْسِلَ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا أَنْ كَذَّبَ بِهَا الْأَوَّلُونَ وَآتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا تَخْوِيفًا

Additionally, for someone who accepts the Quran as the word of God, if a miracle is specified in the Quran, it should be reason enough to believe it but to believe a miracle that is not specified in the Quran would require much more proof. For instance, if Muhammad split the moon in half or caused the sun to momentarily cease, then we would expect there to be additional accounts regarding this in the historical record outside of Hadith, but no such account has ever been produced. Secondly, if miracles occurred as frequently as specified in the Hadith literature, then one would expect there to have been many more testimonies of the event instead of the limited number of testimonies that exists in the Hadith corpus.

7. REPORTS OF MASS FABRICATION

It is well established that there was a fabrication crisis of epic proportions, predominately during the Ummayad rule. It was such a large problem that to counter the claim of the unreliability of Hadith the entire field of Hadith Sciences had to be formed. As a personal note, any field that inserts “science” into its name is typically far from an actual science.

“Verily, you can barely find anyone [before me] scrutinizing these Hadith [whose investigation was comparable to] my investigation, nor [anyone] whose search [for Hadith was comparable to] my search. I have examined it [i.e., Hadith in general] and discovered that not [even] a third thereof is sound.”

“I do not know of anyone who scrutinized Hadith [whose investigation was] comparable to my investigation. I discovered that three quarters thereof are false.” – Su’bah b. al-Hajjaj (d. 777 CE)

“A heretic (rajul min ‘ahl al-‘aha’) who had repented of his [false] doctrines spoke to me – he said: ‘Examine carefully from whom you have taken these Hadith, for verily, whenever we reasoned our way to a doctrine, we would turn it into a hadith.’” – Abd Allah b. Lahi’ah (d. 789-791)

“I have not seen the pious (ma ra’aytu al-salihin), in any regard (fi-say’), [being] more dishonest than they [are] in regards to Hadith (‘akdab min-hum fi al-hadit).” – Yahya b. Sa’id al-Qattan (d. 813)

It is even documented that Bukhari himself went through 600,000 Hadith, of which he considered only less than 1% as reliable enough to be deemed authentic (sahih). The introduction of Sahih Muslim mentions large compilations of Hadith deemed unreliable and how Hadith should not be accepted by certain prolific narrators because they were found unreliable. So since Hadith are swimming in a sea of fabrications, this makes the entire corpus suspect.

8. LATE ISNĀDS

The requirements for utilizing a chain of transmitters (isnad) as a determining factor to the credibility of Hadith didn’t arise until during the Second Fitna as a reaction to the rebellion of al-Mukhtar (685-687 CE) in Kufa. This practice did not become commonplace till the mid-8th century. By this time, there were many competing interests, much contention, in-fighting, and overall less unity and more arguing factions looking for support for their understandings. This pressure for authenticity pushed a lot of transmitters to create isnad’s post-facto to increase the perceived validity of their narration.

“They did not use to ask for the Isnad, but when the fitnah occurred, they said: ’Name for us your tradents (al-rijal),’ then [whoever] was considered al-sunnah, their hadith would be taken, and [whoever] was considered ahl al-bida’ (the innovators), their hadith would not be taken.” – Ibn Sirin (d. 729 CE)

“Studies have shown that the custom of asking one’s teachers about their informants arose at the end of the 1st century Hijra, and then slowly spread in the course of the 2nd century H. In Mecca, asking about an isnad didn’t begin until the start of the 2nd century, in Iraq even later.” – Motzki, Reconstruction, 73

9. THE EARLY USAGE OF THE WORD “SUNNA” DIFFERS FROM THE CLASSICAL USAGE

The Quran should be the de facto standard for the religion, so one would expect that there would be consistency in how words are used in the Quran and the Hadith, yet many core terminology, as understood in the Hadith corpus, is different than how it is used in the Quran. This means that this terminology was a creation after the revelation of the Quran. Therefore, if we see these terms used in the Hadith corpus in these new ways, there is a strong indication that the narration should be dated to a later time period.

Some simple examples are the words: Sunnah ( سُنَّة ), Hadith ( حَدِيث ), Athar ( أَثَر ), Ayat ( آيَة ), and Khalifa ( خَلِيفَة ).

For instance, in the framework of Hadith, Sunnah means the way of life and legal precedent of the prophet Muhammad. While in the Quran, it is in reference to God’s system or precedents, and usually in reference specifically to the system of God, not a human being.

[33:62] This is GOD’s eternal system, and you will find that GOD’s system is unchangeable.

سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا

[33:38] The prophet is not committing an error by doing anything that is made lawful by GOD. Such is GOD’s system (sunnata) since the early generations. GOD’s command is a sacred duty.

مَا كَانَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ اللَّهُ لَهُ سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ قَدَرًا مَقْدُورًا

[48:23] Such is GOD’s system throughout history, and you will find that GOD’s system is unchangeable.

سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا

[35:43] They resorted to arrogance on earth, and evil scheming, and the evil schemes only backfire on those who scheme them. Should they then expect anything but the fate of those who did the same things in the past? You will find that GOD’s system is never changeable; you will find that GOD’s system is immutable.

اسْتِكْبَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَكْرَ السَّيِّئِ وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ فَهَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا سُنَّتَ الْأَوَّلِينَ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَحْوِيلًا

[40:85] Their belief then could not help them in the least, once they saw our retribution. Such is GOD’s system that has been established to deal with His creatures; the disbelievers are always doomed.

فَلَمْ يَكُ يَنْفَعُهُمْ إِيمَانُهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَوْا بَأْسَنَا سُنَّتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ فِي عِبَادِهِ وَخَسِرَ هُنَالِكَ الْكَافِرُونَ

The term Hadith ( حَدِيث ) is used in its general sense in the Quran as narrations, but this term is meant to refer specifically to the narrations of the prophet. Such that during the revelation of the Quran, the people were not calling the corpus of what the prophet said Hadith ( حَدِيث ), which shows that the Hadith that used this terminology in this way most likely would be a later construct of the time.

Athar ( أَثَر ), which in the Hadith corpus means traditions, in the Quran, typically is in reference to footprints, impressions, or traces.

Ayat ( آيَة ), which is predominately used to reference signs or miracles in the Quran, is used in reference to verses of the Quran.

Khalifa ( خَلِيفَة ) in the Quran is used as a successor or inheritor, but in the Hadith literature is used as a ruler of the Muslim umma rather than the word Imam ( إِمَامًا ).

10. RAPID NUMERICAL GROWTH IN HADITH

For the first 150 years after the death of Muhammad, Hadith were deliberately not openly written, let alone compiled in books. In a previous article, we discussed how this practice was frowned upon by the prophet and the companions but later became part of the religious literature in the 9th century.

Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: Do not write anything about me. And whoever wrote about me other than the Quran then he should erase it. And narrate about me, for there is no harm in it and he who attributed any falsehood to me; and Hammam said: I think he also said: ” deliberately” – he should in fact find his abode in the Hell-Fire.

حَدَّثَنَا هَدَّابُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ الأَزْدِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا هَمَّامٌ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ لاَ تَكْتُبُوا عَنِّي وَمَنْ كَتَبَ عَنِّي غَيْرَ الْقُرْآنِ فَلْيَمْحُهُ وَحَدِّثُوا عَنِّي وَلاَ حَرَجَ وَمَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ – قَالَ هَمَّامٌ أَحْسِبُهُ قَالَ – مُتَعَمِّدًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 3004
https://sunnah.com/muslim:3004

Additionally, there are many Hadith that state that some of the supposed most cited narrators of Hadith actually only had a very small number of Hadith directly attributed to them.

For example, Ibn Umar is considered the second most prolific narrator of Hadith after Abu Hurayra, yet in the following Hadith, we see that this seems contradictory.

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah bin Abu Safar said: “I heard Ash-Sha’bi saying: ‘I sat with Ibn ‘Umar for a year and I did not hear him narrate anything from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)”

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ نُمَيْرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو النَّضْرِ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ أَبِي السَّفَرِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ الشَّعْبِيَّ، يَقُولُ جَالَسْتُ ابْنَ عُمَرَ سَنَةً فَمَا سَمِعْتُهُ يُحَدِّثُ، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ شَيْئًا ‏.‏

Sunan Ibn Majah 26
https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:26

“I never heard Jabir (meaning ibn Zayd) say ’the messenger of God said,’ yet the young men around here are saying ’the Messenger of God said’ twenty times an hour; and I never knew of Jabir having narrated from the messenger of God more than fifteen or sixteen hadith, or thereabouts.” – Fasawi, ed. al-‘Umari, Ma’rifah, II, p. 15

Historian Patricia Crone states the following regarding Ibn Abbass, who was another major source attributed to a great number of Hadith.

Bukhari [d.870] is said to have examined a total of 600,000 traditions attributed to the Prophet; he preserved some 7000 (including repetitions), or in other words dismissed some 593,000 as inauthentic. If Ibn Hanbal [d.855] examined a similar number of traditions, he must have rejected about 570,000, his collection containing some 30,000 (again including repetitions). Of Ibn Hanbal’s traditions 1,710 (including repetitions) are transmitted by the companion Ibn Abbas [d.687]. Yet less than fifty years earlier one scholar had estimated that Ibn Abbas had only heard nine traditions from the Prophet, while another thought that the correct figure might be ten. If Ibn Abbas had heard ten traditions from the Prophet in the years around 800, but over a thousand by about 850 CE, how many had he heard in 700 or 632? Even if we accept that ten of Ibn Abbas’ traditions are authentic, how do we identify them in the pool of 1,710? – Patricia Crone – Crone, P., Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law, p.33

This trend shows that as time went on, more and more Hadith were being created. If the Hadith were coming from legitimate earlier sources, we would expect that this would be reversed, with more Hadith being cited on earlier dates and less Hadith being cited on later dates.

11. ABSENCE OF HADITH IN EARLY SOURCES

“Hadith are largely or even completely absent in the earliest Islamic epistles and other such compositions, which have been variously dated from the beginning to the middle of the 8th Century CE (on the basis of their archaic or otherwise non-anachronistic content); and even when Hadith begin to be cited in such works (from around the middle of the 8th Century CE onward), Prophetical Hadith in particular are largely or even completely absent.” – Crone and Hinds

12. RETROJECTING OR RAISING OF HADITH

The Hadith corpus is riddled with the identical Hadith narrated to a follower (tabi’un), companion (ṣaḥābah), and prophet. So we see a progression of a Hadith being a general narration among later generations to slowly being repurposed to associate the narration to the prophet until it eventually becomes labeled as a prophetic Hadith. As sated in the interview, “All of this is consistent with a general process of progressive retroaction over the course of the 2nd and 3rd Islamic Centuries, as religious authority increasingly shifted from later to earlier figures.” This is consistent in that as the criticism and scrutiny of Hadith increased, the propagators of Hadith began to fill in the chain to take the narration back to the prophet.

Some individuals claim that the earlier propagators of a given narration didn’t initially feel the need to cite Prophetic versions and precedents. But this is a tough pill to swallow because it is hard to accept the idea that thousands — tens of thousands — of reports were recorded for no reason, unmentioned, but in a parallel secret universe were also the Prophetic Hadiths that were not attributed until a later date? As if they were hidden in a basement somewhere and later on discovered, “Oh, this Hadith that we were attributing to a person who lived generations after the prophet was actually from the prophet the whole time.” Not only that but this was discovered right when Hadith criticism became more prevalent. These Hadith aren’t being cited in earlier sources, they aren’t being used in ritual, then suddenly, they start appearing en masse. In short, it doesn’t make sense.

It is not like they couldn’t have had access to the prophetic Hadith, had they existed, as the people who narrated this Hadith for compilations were the same people all along. Did they just forget when they first narrated the Hadith? This also shows that historically it was not about citing the prophet because if that held as much merit, they would have cited him from the start. This reinforces a number of the previous points mentioned that not until a later date in history did individuals start to put more weight on the word of the prophet and retroactively tweaked the Hadiths to accommodate this new innovation.

13. PECULIAR PATTERNS INCONSISTENT WITH GENUINE HISTORY

One of the peculiarities one notices when reading a compliation of Hadith, is the obscure nature of some of these traditions that it contains. For instance:

Narrated Maimuna: The Prophet (ﷺ) ate (a piece of) mutton from the shoulder region and then prayed without repeating the ablution.

وَحَدَّثَنَا أَصْبَغُ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي عَمْرٌو، عَنْ بُكَيْرٍ، عَنْ كُرَيْبٍ، عَنْ مَيْمُونَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَكَلَ عِنْدَهَا كَتِفًا، ثُمَّ صَلَّى وَلَمْ يَتَوَضَّأْ‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 210
https://sunnah.com/bukhari:210

In isolation, one has to ask who was the chain of individuals who had the epiphany to retain this miscellaneous piece of information. That a companion of the prophet and the other members of the chain of transmission all felt compelled that this was an important piece of information to retain and ensure that future generations were aware that the prophet ate a shoulder of mutton without repeating the ablution before prayer.

To think that Bukhari traveled potentially hundreds of miles to meet the individual who had the honor of retaining this single sentence regarding the action of the prophet. Notice that it has no context, no other piece of information but just this one statement. It is very strange, to say the least. But, if one understands that at the time of the compilation of Bukhari, one question that was debated was whether eating meat broke one’s ablution, then it becomes apparent why this obscure piece of information would be beneficial in this debate. What other motivation is there for retaining this fragment of information without the tedious legal discussion formulated hundreds of years later.

And this isn’t a one-off instance, many Hadith in isolation make absolutely no sense as to why they would be retained, circulated, and attributed, but become obvious when it is understood that these random topics were points of debate and contention among the Muslims during the compilation of this literature. Other legal topics, that have fragmentary Hadith that do not make sense in isolation, are the topics of marriage, etiquette, dietary prohibitions, and numerous other topics.

The fact that much hadith does not make any sense in isolation but only makes sense in later debates or topics of jurisprudence is not what one would expect if the source was authentic and not fabricated at a later date when perfectly aligning with the legal debate raging at the time. Without the motivation for the legal discussion, there is no logical reason someone would pay any special attention to such obscure details, let alone feel the urge to make sure others were aware of this one fact.

Interestingly it doesn’t end there because, for each Hadith that argues one side of a debate, there are also Hadith that state the opposite. So on these obscure topics, there isn’t just a single Hadith, but also fragments of opposing Hadith as well. A good example of this is regarding the proper etiquette for relieving oneself, should one sit or stand, or is one allowed to face the direction of the Qibla or not.

Another oddity that seems very suspect in the compilation of Hadith is that a disproportionate amount of Hadith marked as “authentic” (sahih) often rely on individual narrators who lived long life spans (mu’ammarun), including a number of centenarians. It could be argued that since these individuals lived longer, it only makes sense that they would narrate more Hadith, but another reason is that including more who lived longer lives will also create a shorter chain of transmitters (isnads) and therefore be given the illusion of being more reliable.

Evidence for this motivation is that these longer-living narrators appear to be more prolific from Hadith originating in Kufa. The reason for this is that in these areas, the companions of the prophet who resided there died relatively soon after the prophet, e.g., Ibn Masoud, Ibrahim al-Nakhail, Ali, and his family. Therefore they needed to find clever ways to shorten their isnads. Otherwise, their Hadith would not be considered as sound. So it makes no sense as a product of genuine historical transmission as if there were more longer-living (mu’ammarun) in Kufah but makes perfect sense as a reflection of the specific Kufan needs to compensate for the creation of straightforward and especially short islands.

The historian G. H. A. Juynboll wrote an article on this subject entitled “The Role of Mu’ammarun,” which covers the extremely long-lived people who are inserted into chains to close gaps in Hadith transmission. In short, are we to believe that Hadith transmitters just happened to coincide with many people who lived for 100+ years? Or is it more likely that individuals who wanted to provide more validity to the Hadith they support inserted these individuals into their chains to close the gaps and shorten their isnads?

14. HADITHS CONTRADICT EARLIER SOURCES

Many Hadith contradict earlier Islamic and non-Islamic literary sources and even some proto-Islamic and pre-Islamic archaeological remains. The most obvious indication of this is the rampant contradiction between the Hadith to the Quran. The Quran shows that all the battles the prophet partook in were defensive measures, as the Quran promotes the non-aggression principle. Yet, the Hadith depicts the prophet and the believers as waging numerous acts of aggression.

Another example that conflicts with non-Islamic accounts is the depiction of the religion of the Arabs at the time of the prophet. The historical accounts and archeological records show that, for the most part, they were monotheistic in faith and not the flaming statue worshipers as depicted in the Hadith. This is also consistent with the depiction in the Quran. We see numerous accounts that, from a surface level, the Arabs of that time did believe in God. They did view themselves as monotheistic, but the Quran is calling out that their actual belief is that of idol worshipers who gave power to entities aside from God despite what they said with their lips.

[29:61] If you ask them, “Who created the heavens and the earth, and put the sun and the moon in your service,” they will say, “GOD.” Why then did they deviate?

(٦١) وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ فَأَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ

[29:63] If you ask them, “Who sends down from the sky water, to revive dead land,” they will say, “GOD.” Say, “Praise GOD.” Most of them do not understand.

(٦٣) وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ نَزَّلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوْتِهَا لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

[31:25] If you ask them, “Who created the heavens and the earth,” they will say, “GOD.” Say, “Praise be to GOD.” Yet, most of them do not know.

(٢٥) وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Additionally, Muhammad himself is not even found in much of the religious literature except for his four mentions in the Quran until the reign of Abd al-Malik (d. 705 CE) in the inscription at the Dome of the Rock, which he constructed in Jerusalem during the Second Fitna (691-692 CE). This shows that for much of the early history after the prophet’s death, his sayings and actions were not a major emphasis of the religion or utilized to settle religious disputes.

15. ORALITY MEANS LESS PRECISION IN TRANSMISSION

Oftentimes upholders of Hadith boast about the superior memory of the people in the past. They claim that the people at the time of the prophet and the next couple of generations did not require things to be written because of their superhuman ability to memorize what they heard. Historically such claims have been proven to be false. The field of oral studies has disproven the traditional idea that oral transmission in traditional societies is highly reliable.

Experiments have shown that the reason oral cultures perceive they have better recollection is that they do not have a written control on which to base their recollection against. Memory studies show how poor an average person’s memory truly is and how memory is not meant to “record’ what happened in the past but rather it constructs and reconstructs an event based on the individual’s understanding at the time or recall. In other words, memory is about meaning-making and meaning-construction and is highly malleable. This is why eyewitness testimony has been proven in study after study to be highly unreliable and susceptible to contamination.

Historians have shown that even the so-called mass-transmitted, mutawātir (متواتر) Hadith are not reliable. Muslims intuitively understand this, when it comes to Christianity and claims about Jesus’s resurrection, but think that early Muslims were somehow different. Some people point this to the memorization of the Quran, but this is not an accurate comparison because there was always a written Quran in conjunction with the oral recitation that served as a control to the oral recitation. Therefore, oral memory works when there is systematic control via scholarship, writings, institutions, and checks and balances. This was not the case for the Hadith corpus.

By its nature, oral transmission always maintains a level of fluidity where synonyms are used and things are omitted or altered. An example of this is the 5,734 Hadith that Abu Hurairah supposedly narrated from the prophet despite only being with him for no more than a couple years, in a limited capacity at that. Some individuals push back on this argument and claim Abu Hurayra echoed what he heard other companions state. If that is the case, then since he does not specify that he did not hear it directly from the prophet, he is firstly bearing false witness. Secondly, it shows that the Hadith is missing crucial information about the true chain of transmitters.

Another example of this can be seen in the various Hadith regarding the believer’s testimony of faith, the Tashahhud ( تَشَهُّد ). Despite the Hadith stating that this was taught to companions by the prophet as if it was the verses of the Quran, there are various narrations stating this proclamation, each different from the other.

This fluidity in oral transmission also becomes particularly problematic because traditionalists consider Hadith to be divine revelation, wahi ( وَحْي ), and therefore a source of religious decree. This is at odds with the requirements of laws that need to be concrete. Laws have to be very specific, where the specific words, punctuation, and grammar can be analyzed and dissected. But a law that is fluid is simply, at best, a guideline and cannot be considered a decree. It cannot be used as law because there is no certainty to the exact words that were stated, not to mention the exact context by which it was conducted.

But there is another major factor that can impact the reliability of oral tradition, which is that much of our memory is influenced by our current environment. After the prophet’s death, the Muslims experienced a rapidly changing environment, mass migration, civil wars, famines, fights, and, eventually, vast wealth. All these factors have a major impact on memory and how individuals recall how events transpired or what specifically was stated at a time in the distant past. This is because the people’s needs and interests were rapidly changing, which impacted how they perceived past events. Historians are well aware that when oral societies go through such rapid change, it has severe impacts on their recollection of their history, and it would be naive to think that Muslim society is any different than the number of other societies that have gone through the same thing.

16. EXTREME VARIATION, RAPID MUTATION

Oftentimes people equate Hadith as an elaborate game of telephone, and many traditionalists object to this comparison, but Dr. Little, during this portion, says that in actuality, such comparisons are not far off. This is because Hadith contain extreme variations of the same events. For example, the infamous Hadith of the prophet prohibiting something for himself just to please his wives, as stated in verse one of Sura 66: Prohibition, Al-Tahreem ( الـتحريم ). According to Hadith literature, this is either regarding the prophet forbidding honey or sexual intercourse with one of his wives.

In addition, we have the supposed sermon given at what is known as The Farewell Pilgrimage, Ḥijjatu Al-Wadāʿ ( حِجَّة ٱلْوَدَاع ), in the Islamic year 10 AH, following the Conquest of Mecca. Not only do the various narrations vary, but a very crucial statement is completely up for debate. Pending on whose compilation one accepts the prophet made one of three possible statements:

“I left for you what if you hold up to, you will never be misguided, the book of God.”
Sahih Muslim 1218a
Al-Jahiz in the Kitāb al-Bayān wa-al-Tabyīn
Musnad of Imam Ahmad (hadith no.19774)
Mishkat al-Masabih 2555
Sunan Abi Dawud 1905

“I left for you what if you hold up to, you will never be misguided, the book of God and my Family, the people of the house.”

Jamiat-Tirmidhi 3786 “I left for you what if you hold up to, you will never be misguided, the book of God and my Sunnah.” Ibn Ishaq, as quoted in Ibn Hisham’s Sirah an-Nabawiyah “I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey (your leaders) even if it be an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) slave, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my Sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs.” Jami at-Tirmidhi 2676
Sunan Ibn Majah 42
Sunan Abi Dawud 4607
Riyad as-Salihin 157

This may seem trivial to outsiders, but to any adherent of the religion, which statement the prophet actually said, if any, has major ramifications in the entire understanding of the religion. Regarding the claim of “my Sunnah” or “the rightly-guided caliphs,” this also touches on point #9, where this word in the Quran is never used to refer to the actions of the prophet, so would be anachronistic that this is something he actually stated. Funny enough, in the narration from Abi Dawud 4607 and the other narrations that mention the rightly guided caliphs, the Hadith states that the prophet said:

“And avoid matters of Hadith, for every Hadith is an innovation, and every innovation is a misguidance.”

وَإِيَّاكُمْ وَمُحْدَثَاتِ الأُمُورِ فَإِنَّ كُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ ‏

17. ARTIFICIAL LITERARY STRUCTURES

Many Hadith about the prophet follow traditional themes or formulas in literature. These archetypes and narratives are more indicative of storytelling than history. Hadith regarding the debate between Moses and Adam blaming each other for their people going astray. Hadith about Moses having his clothes stolen by a rock or his fight with the angel of death, or the prophet wrestling with Satan. Or the numerous Hadith about the miracles of the prophet e.g., endless amounts of food and water for the masses, the fact that he did not need food or drink because God fed him, or that he could see behind his head.

18. PRODUCT OF POPULAR STORYTELLING

If these are stories, then there is no reason to think they are truthful.

19. EXEGESIS PRETENDING TO BE HISTORY

The Hadith, claim to be historical reports but are actually treated as if they are exegesis, critical explanations or interpretations of the Quran. The typical argument is that the Quran is the law, and the Sunnah is the application of the law, so they treat the Hadith as exegesis in disguise. So individuals are trying to match a certain narrative with some understanding of the religion. The irony is that there are Hadith where the prophet says he should not be viewed in such ways as he is only human and prone to shortcomings.

‘Abdullah (b. Mas’ud) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) led us five (rak’ahs in prayer). We said: Messenger of Allah, has the prayer been extended? He said: What is the matter? They said: You have said five (rak’ahs). He (the Holy Prophet) said: Verily, I am a human being like you. I remember as you remember and I forget just as you forget. He then performed two prostrations as (compensation of) forgetfulness.

وَحَدَّثَنَاهُ عَوْنُ بْنُ سَلاَّمٍ الْكُوفِيُّ، أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ النَّهْشَلِيُّ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ الأَسْوَدِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ صَلَّى بِنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَمْسًا فَقُلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَزِيدَ فِي الصَّلاَةِ قَالَ ‏”‏ وَمَا ذَاكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا صَلَّيْتَ خَمْسًا ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ أَذْكُرُ كَمَا تَذْكُرُونَ وَأَنْسَى كَمَا تَنْسَوْنَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ سَجَدَ سَجْدَتَىِ السَّهْوِ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 572k
https://sunnah.com/muslim:572k
See also: https://sunnah.com/muslim:572l

Rafi’ b. Khadij reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) came to Medina, and the people had been grafting the trees. He said: What are you doing? They said: We are grafting them, whereupon he said: It may perhaps be good for you if you do not do that, so they abandoned this practice (and the date-palms) began to yield less fruit. They made a mention of it (to the Holy Prophet), whereupon he said: I am only a human being, so when I command you about a thing pertaining to religion, do accept it, and when I command you about a thing out of my personal opinion, then I am only a human being. ‘Ikrima reported that he said something like this.

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الرُّومِيِّ الْيَمَامِيُّ، وَعَبَّاسُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَظِيمِ الْعَنْبَرِيُّ، وَأَحْمَدُ بْنُ، جَعْفَرٍ الْمَعْقِرِيُّ قَالُوا حَدَّثَنَا النَّضْرُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عِكْرِمَةُ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ عَمَّارٍ – حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو النَّجَاشِيِّ، حَدَّثَنِي رَافِعُ بْنُ خَدِيجٍ، قَالَ قَدِمَ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْمَدِينَةَ وَهُمْ يَأْبُرُونَ النَّخْلَ يَقُولُونَ يُلَقِّحُونَ النَّخْلَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا كُنَّا نَصْنَعُهُ قَالَ ‏”‏ لَعَلَّكُمْ لَوْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا كَانَ خَيْرًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَتَرَكُوهُ فَنَفَضَتْ أَوْ فَنَقَصَتْ – قَالَ – فَذَكَرُوا ذَلِكَ لَهُ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ إِذَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِشَىْءٍ مِنْ دِينِكُمْ فَخُذُوا بِهِ وَإِذَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِشَىْءٍ مِنْ رَأْىٍ فَإِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ عِكْرِمَةُ أَوْ نَحْوَ هَذَا ‏.‏ قَالَ الْمَعْقِرِيُّ فَنَفَضَتْ ‏.‏ وَلَمْ يَشُكَّ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 2362
https://sunnah.com/muslim:2362

Narrated Um Salama: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “I am only a human being, and you people (opponents) come to me with your cases; and it may be that one of you can present his case eloquently in a more convincing way than the other, and I give my verdict according to what I hear. So if ever I judge (by error) and give the right of a brother to his other (brother) then he (the latter) should not take it, for I am giving him only a piece of Fire.”

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مَسْلَمَةَ، عَنْ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ زَيْنَبَ ابْنَةِ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ، وَإِنَّكُمْ تَخْتَصِمُونَ إِلَىَّ، وَلَعَلَّ بَعْضَكُمْ أَنْ يَكُونَ أَلْحَنَ بِحُجَّتِهِ مِنْ بَعْضٍ فَأَقْضِي نَحْوَ مَا أَسْمَعُ، فَمَنْ قَضَيْتُ لَهُ بِحَقِّ أَخِيهِ شَيْئًا فَلاَ يَأْخُذْهُ، فَإِنَّمَا أَقْطَعُ لَهُ قِطْعَةً مِنَ النَّارِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 7169
https://sunnah.com/bukhari:7169

Additionally, even the Hadith that are meant to be straight tafsir ( تفسير ), and not extrapolations, contain numerous contradictions. Open the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, which is riddled with conflicting hadith attempting to explain the meaning of words and verses, sometimes from the same supposed transmitter. As we reviewed in a previous article with Ibn Kathir’s understanding of the meaning of Nun ( نون ) in Sura 68 verse 1. The example that Dr. Little cited in the interview was from Sura 74, verses 50 and 51, and the conflicting narrations to what is the meaning of the word “qaswaratin” ( قَسْوَرَةٍ ). Pending on the Hadith, it can mean a lion, wolf, hunters, group of men, archers, or human voices. As if that isn’t problematic enough, most of these narrations are attributed to the same person Ibn Abbas who claimed all these different definitions came from the prophet himself.

[74:50] Running like zebras.
[74:51] Who are fleeing from the lion!

(٥٠) كَأَنَّهُمْ حُمُرٌ مُسْتَنْفِرَةٌ
(٥١) فَرَّتْ مِنْ قَسْوَرَةٍ

So rather than thinking the prophet had no clue and had or no problem changing his mind about what this meant, a more likely scenario is that some people looked at the verse, then came up with an understanding and fabricated a Hadith to support their understanding. So again, this points to the likeliness that much of the Hadith was created post facto later and did not originate from the prophet himself.

20. QURANIC AMNESIA: DISCONTINUITY BETWEEN QURANIC MILIEU

As touched on before, there is a recurring theme of the Hadith conflicting with the Quran. Dr. Little describes this as Quranic amnesia, where there is a discontinuity between the verses of the Quran and the grander implications compared to what is described in the Hadith literature. The example that he cited is the blatant disconnect between the Hadith understanding of Sura 112, Absoluteness, Al-Ikhlaas ( الإخلاص), and the connection with the rebuttal this serves to the Nicene Creed and the Trinity Doctrine. The Hadith literature is completely silent in regard to this connection.

[112:0] In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
[112:1] Proclaim, “He is the One and only GOD.
[112:2] “The Absolute GOD.
[112:3] “Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten.
[112:4] “None equals Him.”

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
قُل هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

21. NO EFFECTIVE, CONSISTENT METHOD

There is no effective method for determining strong and weak Hadith. The reasoning as to why a Hadith was accepted or rejected by the compilers was completely arbitrary if the sole objective was historical accuracy. This is because compilers made personal judgments regarding their stance on a topic and who they collect from, let alone what portion of the Hadith they choose to retain. Bukhari was infamous for cherry-picking portions of narrations. Hadith collectors would reject narrations if it went against their understanding which was impacted heavily by their local traditional biases.

Additionally, the metric they applied by their own standard was the person’s supposed level of piety. This is problematic on multiple fronts. Firstly, how difficult is it to determine the piety of people in one’s own community. For instance, consider that among the prophet, there were hypocrites that he was not aware of.

[9:101] Among the Arabs around you, there are hypocrites. Also, among the city dwellers, there are those who are accustomed to hypocrisy. You do not know them, but we know them. We will double the retribution for them, then they end up committed to a terrible retribution.

وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ سَنُعَذِّبُهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ

Secondly, if that isn’t difficult enough, imagine trying to determine the piety of someone who lived over one hundred to two hundred years ago.

Using corroborating evidence would only work after creating a rigorous process by credible institutions and would not work for determining credibility before these were established and abided by. This is why for the most part, after the 9th century, we have fairly good historical records, but prior to that, we have a hodgepodge of conflicting narratives. So the horse has already left the barn, and not much can be done to salvage these accounts after the fact.

SUMMARY

In conclusion, Dr. Little summarizes that the Hadith serves one primary function for historians, in that they provide a glimpse of miscellaneous topics that the people during the compilation were discussing. Aside from that, all Hadith should be presumed to be unreliable until proven otherwise, and based on the 21 points already mentioned, it is hard to presume how that could be possible.

Another Video by Dr. Joshua Little

Islamic Origin Blog by Johsua Little

ট্যাগ / কী-ওয়ার্ড:

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