I am clear on the difference of the Sunnah and Hadith and you have taken a great approach in the explanation of it. You are providing valuable Islamic knowledge and I hope you will keep up the great work. If you have time, please clarify some of my confusion,
How do we know that the Prophet (pbuh) discouraged his companions from writing down his actions and sayings? Is there evidence to it? Does the Quran mention to discourage of the writing of hadith. Is there any evidence to it in the Quran? Would you provide from the Quran that provides any references to the word “hadith” itself?
How do we know that the Quran was recorded and written during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh) and later compiled into the current form of Holy Book that we know of it today? Would it not be possible that during the compilation in the current form, there could have been unintentional errors recorded in the Quran (the current form)? Since prior revelation had become corrupt and distorted then how are we sure and evident that the Sunnah and the Quran are undistorted from generation to generation?
How should one verify and agree with a hadith (if it is authentic or not) in the light of Quran and/or Sunnah. Can you please give an example (any hadith) to illustrate?
Please provide evidence and clarify further that how can the hadith’s content be lost from generation to generation and not the Sunnah. People are still prone to make mistakes and errors in practical actions from generation to generation as well as writing and recording those narratives. I have seen your respond to this question but I am still unclear.
In a nutshell, I am having difficulties understanding Islam. One scholar says one thing while another interprets it differently. Is Islam a complicated religion to understand and comprehend? I was born to Islam and I practice it. I have developed a keen interest in understanding Islam but was having somewhat difficulties. I am in no means questioning the authenticity of the Quran, the beliefs and practices and its contents but when I started studying Islam, these questions come to mind and I start wondering and think of its truthfulness. Is this a natural feeling? Can you give me pointers that will help me avoid confusion? I really apologize for throwing so many questions at you but would appreciate your response.
Please help. Thank you.
Answers to your questions follow:
1. We do not hold that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had forbidden the companions from recording his acts and sayings as a principle. However, a point worth considering in this regard is that he did not encourage and exhort the companions upon recording his sayings. Nevertheless, some of the narratives report him forbidding the companion from writing any thing other than the Qur’an1. We believe it was only to avoid confusions regarding the divine guidance in the form of the Holy Qur’an. On the other hand he made sure that the practices to be instituted as the Sunnah were taught to the entire generation of the companions.
2. The Qur’an also does not mention such a prohibition. However it does not require the believers to record these either. The word hadith has been used in the Holy Qur’an in its literal meaning. The word began to be used as the term much later when the scholars employed themselves in collecting the oral traditions circulating in different circles of the society.
3 & 4. We believe that the Holy Qur’an was written and compiled in the present order by the Holy Prophet under the direct guidance of the Almighty himself. The Holy Qur’an itself testifies to the fact. The Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
لاَ تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ (القيامة 75: 16 – 19)
[O Prophet!] do not move your tongue swiftly to acquire this [Qur’an]. Verily, upon Us is its collection and recital. So when We have recited it, follow this recital [of Ours]. Then upon Us is to explain it [wherever need be]. (75:16-19)
The verse communicates that:
Revelation of the Holy Qur’an would be completed in due course gradually,
it would be compiled under the direct guidance of the Almighty,
and reading (sounds) of the text would also be taught by the Almighty to be followed later.
This promised final recitation was done during the last year of the life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) when he recited the whole of the Holy Qur’an before the Archangel Gabriel.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was bound to convey the basic components of the religion to the entire Muslim generation. Therefore, it was his duty to propagate the Holy Qur’an in the Muslim community. We pay no heed to any information found in individual reports that contradicts this Qur’anic information, as the Holy Qur’an is the most authentic source of knowledge.
The very fact that the Holy Prophet compiled the Holy Qur’an under the direct supervision of the Almighty removes any probability of error in its compilation, intentional or unintentional. The basic difference between the previous revelations and the Holy Qur’an is that it is the word of God reported verbatim. The previous revelations, as obvious by their very content, are mostly inspired by the Almighty and the words were that of the apostles. Moreover these were not meant to serve as guidance for all the ages to come. They did not remain in their original form and translations in other languages could not retain the true message. But the case of the Holy Qur’an is different. We have it verbatim with us unaltered as it was arranged by the Almighty through His Prophet (pbuh). Its preservations and dissemination was fulfilled through the Holy Prophet (pbuh) by the will of God. It was not left only with few people rather it was handed over to the entire Muslim community and the whole generation of the companions of the Holy Prophet received it and passed it on to the next with their consensus. Same is the case with the Sunan instituted as the part of the religion. These were also disseminated and spread into the entire generation with the same care. These were not left on the choice of some individuals who could have decided not to pass it on to others or could have lost or forgot them. One does not need to turn to scholars and books of hadith and fiqh to get knowledge of these sources.
5. Scholars who have studied the Holy Qur’an can tell that a certain narrative ascribed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) contradicts the Holy Qur’an. However, in some cases there can be difference of opinion among different scholars for different persons usually have different paradigms and background knowledge and may come to a different conclusion. I am sure that if I told you that a certain Hadith mentions that there were only three obligatory prayers for Muslims but a certain caliph increased the number to five, you would simply reject it against the information supplied to you by a more authentic source, i.e., the whole Muslim community.
6. Narratives were never received by the entire generation of the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Therefore it did not attain the status of tawatur and consensus of the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). A study of the available traditions and history of Muslim scholarship would reveal that even the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) would differ upon his sayings. The reason being that an individual irrespective of how excellent memory and perfect understanding could have misunderstood the actual implication of a saying or may not have communicated his knowledge to the next properly. We can say that the Sunan being practical in nature, well defined and not dependent upon the understanding of individuals are not subject to misunderstanding.
7. You will not find any difference of opinion among the scholars on the basic components of the religion. The difference occurs only in details and explanations where we are left with alternatives to chose from. For reason of this difference of opinion please refer to one of our previous questions, titled “How to Judge between Scholars“.
Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
September 15, 2003
- Many books of Hadith like Muslim, Ibne Habban, Ahmad Bin Hambal, sunan Al-Kubra and Darmiy contain a tradition where the Prophet [pbuh] has been reported to have said: Do not write anything from me except for the Holy Qur’an. Whoever has written anything except for the Holy Qur’an should erase it. [↩]