Why the contemporary Ahl Sunnah reject Hadeeth?
I can see the depressing situation of Muslim ''Academics'' globally on social media, ''Islamic'' Centres and mosques, where they are obsessed with insulting the laymen and researchers. The most common insult in our time is about rejecting ''the word of the Prophet (PBUH)''. The very same academics, if you analyse, will not think twice when rejecting Quranic verses publicly. I have personally contacted a few of them, advising them to stop labelling the Muslims and oppressing them over the issue of narrations which they themselves, are not familiar with. Upon realisation that the advice is being met on deaf ears, I decided to take the liberty of writing this article for the benefit of them and others thereof.
However, I want to clarify the academic approach, which I adhere to (the classical Hanafi/Maturidi schools of thought) are exempted from the points made in this article. This is because in the classical Hanafi way, we have clear and precise principles, which establish the validity and existence of 'authentic' and 'weak' narrations, that are applicable until our day and age. My advice to the reader of this article, before making any rash judgements, is to please refer to my book "Hanafi Principles of Testing Hadith" and familiarise yourself with the principles applied by the Classical Hanafi's that are used to distinguish the 'sahih' (authentic) narrations, from the 'da'ef' (weak) ones. Alternatively, you can join and study these principles in-depth at our Maturidi College at www.maturidi.co.uk (be noted there is another organisation called 'Maturidi Institute', which is not related to me in any way!)
In today's day and age, it is quite common to find a Mus'haf of the Qur'an in every Muslim household. Alongside the Qur'an, another set of volumes one can find on the same shelf, usually given similar or if not the equal level of infallibility by Modern day Muslims are the 'Collection of Hadiths', primarily Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. For Muslims, the promise from God is enough to know that he will indeed protect the Qur'an from any errors and changes over time. The Qur'an has been unchanged and preserved letter for letter globally since it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in over 1400 years ago. Ironically, we Muslims apply the same thought on the books of ahadith and are under the misconception that they hold the similar level of protection throughout history. Shockingly, not only are these books problematic to authenticate but moreover, there is doubt upon the authors name we add on the front-page of the book. For example, the Sahih al-Bukhari we have in our households and on our shelves today, is unfortunately not the same Bukhari text, that was initially written by Imam Bukhari (ra), but rather by the student of his students (grand students and that too is questionable). Proof of this is that some of the hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari have Imam Bukhari (ra) himself, in the chain of narrators as the 'third narrator' in the chain.
As Muslim academics, we are displaying double standards, especially when we converse with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. For example, we hasten to point fingers at the Christian scriptures such as the 'King James Version' (KJV), which has gone through numerous major changes but they still call it the 'King James Version.' We get excited when listening to our comparative religious Scholars like Shaykh Ahmed Deedat (db) and the likes of, when they say, "How can you still attribute the KJV to King James, even though it has been revised from his version several times." However, we fail to see or acknowledge that we may have the same scenario or issue with some of the books of ahadith that we so proudly hold and quote.
Based on the recent comments of Muslim "Scholars'', I have finally decided to release this piece of my research. What I am about to say, may not be easy to digest for Muslims and Scholars, however I deem it necessary to mention these points, as so we do not fall into the act of "double standards" and 'academic ignorance'. Several years ago, I felt the need to spread my knowledge through books for the lovers of knowledge (my book 'Hanafi Principles Of Testing Hadith; which was written and translated by myself, thereafter typed and edited by my students), through delivering lectures internationally, and writing articles on my page (https://shaykhatabekshukurov.com/). I cover a variety of different topics, which include; Hanafi Mustalah-ul-Hadith, Islamic perspective of the beard, rebellion in Islam, apostasy in Islam, matters regarding the Isha prayer, suicide bombing & martyrdom in Islam, permissibility of mortgages in Islam, the myth of black magic on the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Al-Masih ad-Dajjal from a Hanafi perspective and many more. With every matter I teach, discuss or narrate, I persistently present numerous adequate and authentic evidence from the Qur'an, Sunnah and authentic classical books of famous scholars. For majority of my research and struggle, in return, I mostly receive insults, personal debunks, and derogatory labels, both publicly and privately in different forums. Guaranteed, none of these disappointments me but in actuality, it brands me of a strong nature in the eyes of the public and academics. For the reason that, I only receive insults every time I present academic proofs. It confirms that my arguments are either extremely difficult to refute or non-refutable. What is more humorous is that these same people insult me for something, which God Himself praises highly in the Qur'an. That is making use of our God-given intellect! God says, "Only people of intellect are those who are guided!" (Qur'an - 2:269). People of hell say, "If we would listen or use the intellect than we would not be of the people of hell!" (Qur'an - 67:10). Furthermore, God says, "We have revealed the Qur'an in Arabic in order that you may use your intellect!" (Qur'an - 43:3).
Before proceeding, I would like to clarify that none of the 'Islamic Schools of Thought' or 'Groups/Sects' existing claim that 'the word of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is rejected or useless.' Intentionally rejecting the words and rulings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) deteriorates to misguidance! And in some circumstances disbelief. Therefore, the slogan, "Rejecter of the word of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)" is only applicable on non-Muslims.
It is almost painfully self-evident that in our modern age we do not have the company of an Imam of hadith. For example, we have:
- Imam Bukhari (Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muhadith in the 9th century) who died in 870 AD.
- and his student Imam Muslim (Muslim Ibn al-Hajjaj, Muhadith in the 9th century) who died in 875 AD.
- Imam Ahmad (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Muhadith in the 8th century) who died in 855 AD.
- and his student Imam Abu Dawood (Abu Dawood, Muhadith in the 8th century) who died in 889 AD.
- Similarly, Imam Tirmidhi (al-Tirmidhi, Muhadith of 9th century), who died in 892 AD.
- Imam Ibn Majah (Muhadith of 9th century), who died in 889 AD.
- Imam al-Nasa'i (Muhadith of 9th century) who died in 915 AD.
All of the above and the remainder of the great Muhadditheen passed away over thousands of years ago. We can regurgitate the same for the remainder authors of Hadith collections, such as Naisapuri, Malik, Ibn Hibban, Darami, Bayhaqi, Daraqutni and their likes. Henceforth, I can say, no one can say that, "I have heard this specific hadith from the author of this particular collection of hadith directly!"
As a result, the question arises, that how does one distinguish between an authentic hadith and a fabrication? This question, no doubt arises in many minds of those who study the books of ahadith. My answer is that if any person in our time can claim certain statements as ahadith, based on what is written in the books, then in that case, we are all obliged to have the prerequisites of studying and understanding these books, which apparently are 'collections of words' of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Keeping this in mind, I will clarify the following matters in this article or those to come:
- What experts of hadith say regarding books, which are claimed as collections of the words of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
- What happens if one rejects a hadith, which can be found in one of these printed books or manuscripts?
- What if one finds a book where it says that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said such and such? Do we deem it one hundred percent infallible and the word of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?
- Finally, does everyone need to accept or take a hadith, which can be found in a book?
When receiving a hadith, it can only be done so in two methods: either from the narrator directly or indirectly.
The direct narrations can only be received using one of these two methods:
- Verbally from the narrator. As a result, that you actually hear the narrator transmitting the hadith with your own ears.
- Non-verbally. In other words, that you did not hear him (the narrator) narrating although he may give you permission (ijazah) to narrate it, he may write you a letter including the hadith in it, or he may hand you his book of the narrations.
Likewise, the indirect way can only be received using one of these two methods:
- Finding the book, which is written by the narrator himself.
- Finding the book, which is written by someone else, or it is not clear if it is by the author himself or by someone else.
Obviously, in our modern age no one has met the authors of the hadith books directly, so we do not necessarily need to delve into this category of receiving the narrations directly any further. However, we are aware that there are chains (isnaads) to different hadith books today; nevertheless, we need to acknowledge and be aware that there are multiple problems within these chains (isnaads).
To summarise the major problems of these contemporary chains which are still being passed on through generations are as follows:
- The chains are full of unknown narrators. In terms of not knowing the narrator's biography. We are only aware of their names and a veiled description. Within the science of hadith we classify these narrators as 'Raawi al Majhool' (unknown narrators) and according to Hadith Principles (please refer to my 'Hanafi Principles of Testing Hadith' book p60), many narrators would fall under this category.
- The narrators in each chain are weak.
- Majority of the chains (if not all) are 'Munqatt'e' (disconnected). (refer to p96 of my Hanafi Principles of Testing Hadith book)
- Majority of the chains are transmitted through 'ijazah' (permission) upon multiple places within the chain. However, some of these ijazahs are invalid according to 'Mustalah-ul-Hadith' (Hadith Principles).
- Upon many occasions, the condition of 'Dhabt' (strong memory) is not applied on the narrators of these chains, and 'Dhabt' (the narrator having a strong memory during receiving and transmitting the narration) is one of the essential conditions of authenticity. (Refer to p76 of Hanafi Principles book, for an in-depth explanation and conditions of Dhabt).
From here, we understand that one cannot authenticate a hadith, regardless whether one has a chain to one of the hadith collections, or even if the chain is the shortest in the world today. Using this analysis one can conclude that unfortunately there is no authentic hadith in our time, which is transmitted directly from the narrators.
Now another question may arise; so do we have any authentic hadith, which is narrated through the indirect method? This topic will be discussed further on, in the forthcoming chapter.
Wijadah and its academic validity
Most commonly, in our time we have something called 'Wijadah'. Wijadah in the Arabic language literally means 'to find.' This is a methodology, where one has to find the original manuscript, which was written by the author himself. For example, imagine I find the manuscript of 'Sahih al-Bukhari', which was written by Imam Bukhari (ra) himself, this would be the first step of the process of Wijadah. Wijadah or the authenticating of an original manuscript requires the following conditions:
- One must be familiar with the handwriting style of the author.
- One must have the original manuscript, which was written by the author himself.
Based on the above two conditions, even if I did find a manuscript of Imam Bukhari (ra), the question arises that how do I determine whether or not it is actually written by Imam Bukhari (ra) himself? Unless I cannot determine with a hundred percent certainty, then, unfortunately, I fail to meet either of the conditions of Wijadah.
Wijadah is still valid, for example, if I find a manuscript of Sahih al-Bukhari, which is written by someone who was classified as an authentic narrator and I recognise his handwriting style, with the condition that it is compared to the original authentic manuscript of the book. Based on these conditions, even the oldest copy of 'Sahih al-Bukhari', which is assumingly written by Abu Zaid Al-Marwari (d 981 AD) would not be categorised under the conditions of 'wijadah' because no one knows his handwriting style (ie how it appeared). In other words, finding a book, which has the name of 'Abu Zaid Al-Marwari', does not prove that it is a handwritten copy completed by him.
The other question that arises is, is 'Wijadah' on hadith an authentic method of transmission? In another word, if someone finds a copy of Sahih Bukhari which is written by Imam Bukhari himself (or at least by one of his students as explained above) is it permissible for him to narrate this copy of Sahih Bukhari? Unfortunately, the simple answer is, NO! It is not permissible to narrate the hadith through wijadah. Below are all the evidence opposing the permission to narrate by wijadah:
Hanafi School of Thought:
Bazdawi (d 482 AD) and Bukhari (d 1330 AD) from ''Kashf al-Asrar'';
Maliki School of Thought:
Abyari (d1221 ad);
According to Al-Abyari, Wijadah does not even reach to the level of being a 'single chain narration'!
Shafei School of Thought:
Imam Haramain (d 1085 AD);
Imam Ghazali (d 1111 AD);
Imam Ghazali is saying; "If some righteous narrator gives you an authenticated copy of Sahih Bukhari, It is not permissible for you to narrate a hadeeth which you find in it"!
Ibn Katheer (d 1373 AD);
Hanbali School of Thought:
Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi (d 1223 AD)
Ibn Qudamah is saying; "If the righteous narrator says 'this is a copy of Sahih Bukhari' it is not permitted to narrate the book"!.
Saifuddin Al-Amidi (d 1233 AD)
Al-Amidi is saying; "If someone finds the handwriting of the Sheikh where he says "I heard this hadeeth from Fulan" it is not permitted to narrate it"!
Ibn Salah (d 1245 AD);
Ibn Hajar (d 1449 AD);
All the above evidences from different Schools of Thought certify that receiving hadith through 'wijadah' is not a valid methodology. It is a weak concept and is rejected by many of the leading Imams of the Schools of Thought. I am aware that some scholars of Islam such as Sheikh Ahmad Shakir (d 1958 AD) say that 'wijadah' is compulsory to be acted upon. He has provided evidence that if we do not act upon the wijadah methodology then there will be 'no such thing as acting upon hadith in our time today.'
However, in academia this stance would be deemed as emotional rather than an academical approach to Hadith sciences. Additionally, the mass evidences from different Schools of Thought opposing the acceptance of wijadah hold more weight. If we go with the same way of thinking then why Muslim ''scholars'' have a problem with our Christian brothers who receive all of their Gospels through the same method of Wijadah. Or is it, 'when it comes to you or your religion it is permissible, but for others, it is not!?'
Conclusion and challenge
Consequently, based on all the above evidences and proofs, I say none of the books, which we address as the 'Collection of Hadith' today, are considered as ''authentically received'' in our time! Even if the book is named, 'As-Sahih al-Hadith' (The Authentic Collection of Hadith), I say it is not authentic in our time!
The contemporary Scholars works, such as Shaykh Ahmad Kashmiri, Shaykh Abdulhayy Lakhnawi, Shaykh Mubarakpuri, Shaykh Al-Albani and many others was mainly just 'testing' the chain between the author of 'Collection of Hadith' and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, the chain between the author and us is not authentic regardless!
Contemporary published 'Hadith Collections' are based on manuscripts, which are written by 'unknown people'. This is why the hadith does not even reach the level of valid 'wijadah', which is weak nevertheless (for it being disconnected). Even if the manuscript just has a 'sign' that claims it is written by some famous scholar cannot be accepted as authentic/connected. This is because no one can verify if it is in actuality written by him or someone else, for the reason that no one recognises the handwriting of that scholar. Furthermore, the fabrication in order to damage the religions is well known and mentioned in Quran.
This demonstrates, the total bankruptcy of the 'scholars' who insult other scholars and students of knowledge for rejecting ''authentic'' hadith. If they had studied the books of 'Mustalah' using their 'intellect', which they always use for cursing, they would understand my reasoning and valid points I have made in this article.
Besides, now I want to challenge these 'Scholars! Ulema! And Shuyuk ul-Hadith' and those who want to accept it. The challenge is: "I am willing to give £10,000 in cash to anybody who will bring a single authentic copy, of any of the collection of hadith books! Be it the copy of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Muwatta, Musnad Ahmad or any other collection of hadith!"
My challenge is valid until I will release my next article related to the same very topic which will be followed by another article where I will give some tips of Hanafi-Maturidi way in contrast to the way of Muhadditheen from the four schools of Ahl Sunnah.
Good luck to everyone!