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See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

Read: Background to the Project

List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3‎ — completed, 28th June 2013


August 27th, 2011

Issue 12

Issue 12 [@13:05] Robert Spencer: “Now the Hadiths are absolutely necessary to make any sense of the Quran because Allah addresses Muhammad in the Quran and they talk of incidence in Muhammad’s life but they don’t fill in the narrative details. So you have to go to the Hadith, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad in order to understand what is being said in the Quran and why. The Hadith are many many volumes of the traditions of the the Prophet. Various Muslim scholars beginning in the 8th century which is SOME CONSIDERABLE TIME AFTER THE LIFE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD WHO DIED IN 632 [A.D.], they started to collect these traditions and to try through various means to winnow out authentic ones from the inauthentic. From an Islamic stand point if something that Muhammad said or did is recorded in one of those books, then it has AUTHORITY SECOND ONLY TO THE QURAN. And in those books there is a great deal that illuminates what the Quran says and how it is applicable to Muslims in the present.” [emphasis added]
 
Rebuttal 12: This rebuttal also includes part of Issue 11. Robert Spencer touches upon various aspects of Hadith principles that needs a breakdown.
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Issue 12a: According to Robert Spencer – “Now the Hadith are absolutely necessary to make any sense of the Quran…”
 
Rebuttal 12a: This is where the opponents of Islam get it totally wrong. HADITH ARE NOT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO MAKE ANY SENSE OF THE QURAN. Factually, explanations from Hadith cover only part of the Quran. Quran stands on its own and does not need any human crutches of any sort to make its message clear. This is based upon some of the features of Quran:
 
1. Quran is not in an archaic or fossilized language. It was revealed and written in a language and dialect that is as current now as then at the time of its revelation:

12:2. Surely We have revealed it — an Arabic Quran — that you may understand.

2. Unlike Bible, Quran is not obscure in any of its issues (including but not limited to life after death):

10:37. And this Quran is not such as could be forged by those besides Allah, but it is a verification of what is before it and a clear explanation of the Book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of the worlds.

17:89. And certainly We have made clear for people in this Quran every kind of description…

18:54. And certainly We have made distinct in this Quran for mankind every kind of description…

3. Unlike previous Scriptures whose arrangement and explanations are human efforts, Quran’s arrangement and self-explanations are Divine:

75:17. Surely on Us rests the collecting of it and the reciting of it.
75:18. So when We recite it, follow its recitation.
75:19. Again on Us rests the explaining of it.

4. The Message in Quran is based upon inter-linked facts, arguments, laws and morals that expound themselves:

41:3. (It is) a Book, the verses of which are detailed and clear in exposition. It is beautifully inter linked, (and it is in a language that) makes the meanings eloquently clear. It is very useful for a people who have knowledge.[Nooruddin]

5. The Message is free from any doubt.

2:2. This Book, in which there is no doubt…

6. Quran is free from any inconsistencies.

4:82. Will they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy.

Question to Robert Spencer – Can yours or any of the Scriptures other than Quran match the above attributes in their entirety?
 
Hadiths which are sayings or actions attributed to Prophet Muhammad were human efforts to preserve his life, his actions and his sayings. All for a good reason:

33:21. Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.

Muhammad Ali explains the rationale for above verse in its footnote:

This verse states that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the best exemplar and the highest model of virtue for the faithful under all circumstances. He was a general, soldier, lawmaker, judge, husband and father. He punished tyrants for wrongs they had inflicted on innocent persons, forgave his persecuting enemies after overcoming them, and overlooked the faults of his followers. Hence he was an excellent exemplar and a perfect model in all walks of life, and he not only gave practical rules of guidance, but gave by his life a practical illustration of all those rules.

Hadith do have a role to explain Quran, provided they are not in conflict with the message of Quran. In the latter case, one can make a simple argument that either it is not the saying of the Prophet Muhammad or its collection is not fully contextualized to when and why it was uttered. This general rule applies not only to Hadith, but to any commentary of Quran by anyone whether in history or even in our own times. This standard to reject a Hadith is simply based upon the guidelines of Quran, according to which the actual sayings and actions of Muhammad are in congruence with the Message of the Quran:

6:50. I do not say to you, I have with me the treasures of Allah, nor do I know the unseen, nor do I say to you that I am an angel; I follow only what is revealed to me. Say: Are the blind and the seeing alike? Do you not then reflect?
 
7:203. And when you do not bring them a sign, they say: Why do you not demand it? Say: I follow only what is revealed to me from my Lord. These are clear proofs from your Lord and a
guidance and a mercy for a people who believe.
 
46:9. Say: I am not the first of the messengers, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you. I follow only what is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner.

Therefore, any perceived actions or utterances attributed to Prophet Muhammad, if contradictory to Quran, are to be rejected as an error of a human effort to preserve them as Hadith, either by the narrator, transmitter or recorder.
 
Holy Quran – Muhammad Ali, edited by Zahid Aziz [all the above quoted verses, unless indicated otherwise]
Holy Quran – Nooruddin
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Issue 12b: Robert Spencer – “…because Allah addresses Muhammad in the Quran and they talk of incidence in Muhammad’s life but they don’t fill in the narrative details. So you have to go to the Hadith, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad in order to understand what is being said in the Quran and why…”
 
Rebuttal 12b: Here, Robert Spencer is caught in tradition of his own Scriptures which might make wonderful bedtime stories and fantastic lore that induce sleep, but Quran is none of that. Its intended audience are:

13:03. Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who think[Muhammad Asad, emphasis added]

The narratives and historical facts in Quran are only to the extent that they deliver a moral lesson with proofs from history, science, physical phenomenon etc. and emphasize moral laws that govern all such events and their outcomes of past, present and future. Sorry, you will not find Aesop’s fables in Quran. For that you will have to go to the lores of the yore. Purpose of Quran is summarized as:

The aim of the Qur’ân is to spiritualize our souls. It makes numerous statements based on historical facts, but it is not a book of history. It draws attention to different stages of the creation of the universe (7:54; 14:33; 21:28-33; 71:15-18), origin of life from water (21:30; 24:45), and of the human being (71:14; 32:7; 39:7; 40:67), but it is not a treatise on the evolution of life. It makes several references to the laws governing the wonderful system that revives the dry earth through rain (7:57), and maintains the supply of sweet and salt water in rivers and oceans (25:54; 35:12), but it is not a manual of Meteorology, Hydraulics or Ecology. It says: ‘We create a human being from an extract of clay; then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository; Then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, thereafter We evolve him into another being’ (23:12-14), yet it is not a work on Obstetrics. Several of its verses contain references to the achievements in material sciences, activities in the field of trade, space research and weaponries such as: He has let the two bodies of water flow freely; they will (one day) join together. (At present) a barrier stands between them. They cannot encroach one upon the other. Pearls and corals come out of both (these seas). And to Him belong the ships raised aloft in the sea like mountain peaks (55:19-24 – a hint on the construction of Suez and Panama Canals and the huge ships crossing them). It reads further: O body of JINN (- fiery natured) and (ordinary) the people! If you have the power and capacity to go beyond the confines of the heavens and the earth, then do go. But you will not be able to go unless you have the necessary and unusual power. Flames of fire, smoke and molten copper will be let loose upon you and you will not be able to defend yourselves (55:33), and yet the Qur’ân is not a book about material sciences, rockets, missiles or sputniks. It says that when Pharaoh Meneptah was drowning and as death overtook him, he was told: ‘So, on this day We will preserve you in your body (only) that you may be a sign (to learn a lesson from) for the coming generations’ (10:92). The Bible makes no mention of this, nor does any book of history, but still, the Qur’ân is not concerned with Egyptology or Archaeology. Its purpose is not to teach History, Nature, Philosophy, any other Science or Art but, as previously stated, to spiritualize our souls. It states, discusses or cites a thing only to the extent relevant to its aim and object and leaves out details as it returns to its central theme and its invitation. When the Qur’ân is studied in this light, no doubt is left that the whole Scripture is a closely reasoned argument and there is continuity of subject throughout the Book. [Introduction – The Holy Quran, Nooruddin, pg 48-a – 49-a]

References:
Holy Quran – Muhammad Asad
Holy Quran – Nooruddin
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Issue 12c: Robert Spencer – “…The Hadith are many many volumes of the traditions of the the Prophet. Various Muslim scholars beginning in the 8th century which is SOME CONSIDERABLE TIME AFTER THE LIFE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD WHO DIED IN 632 [A.D.], they started to collect these traditions and to try through various means to winnow out authentic ones from the inauthentic.”
 
Rebuttal 12c: As a rule, a person who holds double standards cannot be consistent in his arguments. For a keen observer, Robert Spencer gives himself away in above statement. He admits, though wrongly, that Hadiths were collected “SOME CONSIDERABLE TIME AFTER THE LIFE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD WHO DIED IN 632 [A.D.],” so naturally then the Muslims had to struggle to “try through various means to winnow out authentic ones from the inauthentic.” What he is telling us is that in his opinion there is potential weakness of the Hadith collection effort, if nothing else, the time lapse of centuries. On superficiality, he has a possible argument here. Now keeping this in mind, and reflect back to Issues 1, 7 and 8 where Robert Spencer and others purely rely on accounts of Ibn-Ishaq to paint a violent and cut-throat picture of Muhammad and Islam in Islamic history. This exposes their double standard. On the one hand they criticize and ridicule the lapse of time between the Prophet’s death and the commencement of Hadith collection efforts. But on the other hand, when it suits their purpose, they rely wholly and solely on Ibn-Ishaq who belongs to the same time period. Not for a second do they pause as they promote Ibn-Ishaq as authentic while intentionally ignoring the fact that he is from the same time period that of Hadith collectors that Robert Spencer seems to ridicule. Robert Spencer completely disregards the stark contrast between the meticulous efforts of the authentic Hadith collectors and the street corner story telling fantastic tales spun by the Ibn-Ishaq mostly for paid audience. Once again for the record, Ibn-Ishaq belonged to a family of story-tellers by trade. Quran admonishes such double standards:

83:1. Woe be to those who make a default in any of their duties and give short measure.
83:2. When they receive measure from other people they receive in full (not allowing the least shortage and loss),
83:3. But when they give by measure to others or weigh to them they give them less (than what is due).
83:4. Do not such people realize that they will be raised (to life again),
83:5. To face (and hear the Judgment of) that Great Day? [Noourddin]

Even if not double standards, the only other explanation for their logical fallacy in their arguments is their intellectual incompetence, which instantly crumbles in face of a casual glance, let alone a scholarly debate.
 
Facts about Hadith collection are different from what Robert Spencer glossed over. Hadith collection started from time of Prophet Muhammad and continued through fifth century Hijrah. Meticulous standards were observed by Hadith collectors for authenticity of Hadiths, including chain of narrations. It is interesting to note the standards that were employed to reject a Hadith by these collectors:

– If it was opposed to the recognized historical facts.
– If the reporter was a Shiah and the tradition was of the nature of accusation against the Companions, or if the reporter was a Khariji and the report was of the nature of an accusation against a member of the Prophet’s family. If, however, such a report was corroborated by independent testimony, it was accepted.
– If it was of such a nature that to know it and act upon it was incumbent upon all, and it was reported by a single man.
– If the time and the circumstances of its narration contained evidence of its forgery.
– If it was against reason or against the plain teachings of Islam.
– If it mentioned of an incident which, had it happened, would have been known to and reported by large numbers, while as a matter of fact that incident was not reported by any one except the particular reporter.
– If its subject-matter or words were unsound or incorrect; for instance the words were not in accordance with Arabic idiom, or the subject-matter was unbecoming the Prophet’s dignity.
– If it contained threatening of heavy punishment for ordinary sins, or promises of mighty reward for slight good deeds.
– If it spoke of the reward of prophets and messengers to the doer of good.
– If the narrator confessed that he fabricated the report. [Religion of Islam, pg. 64-65]

Hadith collectors are on the record to not to accept a Hadith from anyone if such a person was of doubtful character – inline with injunction of Quran:

49:6. O you who believe, if an unrighteous person brings you news, look carefully into it, in case you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you did.[Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz]

The topic of Hadith is fully dealt by Muhammad Ali in his book “Religion of Islam” [pg 44-71] under following sub-headings:
– Sunnah and Hadith
– Transmission of Tradition in Prophet’s lifetime
– Writing of Tradition in Prophet’s lifetime
– Why Traditions are not general written
– Memory could be trusted for preservation of knowledge
– Collections of Traditions: First Stage
– Collections of Traditions: Second Stage
– Collections of Traditions: Third Stage
– Collections of Traditions: Fourth Stage
– Collections of Traditions: Fifth Stage
– Bukhari
– Method of counting different reports
– Reports in Biographies and Commentaries
– Story-tellers
– European criticism of Traditions
– Canons of criticism of Traditions as accepted by Muslims
– Quran as the greatest judge for judging Traditions
– How fat did the collectors apply these tests?
– Different classes of Traditions
 
References:
Religion of Islam – Muhammad Ali
Holy Quran – Muhammad Ali, edited by Zahid Aziz
Holy Quran – Nooruddin
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Issue 12d: Robert Spencer continues – “…From an Islamic stand point if something that Muhammad said or did is recorded in one of those books, then it has AUTHORITY SECOND ONLY TO THE QURAN. And in those books there is a great deal that illuminates what the Quran says and how it is applicable to Muslims in the present.”
 
Issue 11: Serge Trifkovic – “…the SECOND IMPORTANT body for Islamic jurisprudence and for Islamic polity is the tradition of the Prophet, the Hadith.”
 
Rebuttal 12d: Above are implied factual statements i.e. QURAN IS THE PRIMARY SOURCE IN ISLAM FOR ITS DOCTRINE AND AUTHORITY, which need no rebuttal.
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