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Offline Reader Questions

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Using Ahadith as Historical Records
« on: February 05, 2015, 04:09:48 PM »
Dear brother Joseph Islam, 

Hope everything is well with you.

I would like to know one thing from you.  It is true hadiths has nothing to do with Islam as a source. However, what is your opinion about using them as historical records? The Quran instructs us to travel through the earth and to learn from other people who lived before. So understanding people and history is needed to appreciate all facts.  Can you tell me short notes on the historical records or writing we should rely.  As you know Abu Lahab is mentioned in the Quran and my question is which source we should rely if we want to know who is Abu Lahab.  I am aware, even understanding who is Abu Lahab is not material as such for guidance.  How do you view the whole issue. Do you have any writing on this or can you throw some light on this point.

Many thanks

Kind regards

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Using Ahadith as Historical Records
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2015, 04:12:43 PM »
As-salamu alaykum

The Quran is the sole source for 'religious' guidance as decreed by God for believers. Everything else, including ahadith is 'secondary'. These secondary sources are not 'sources of law / religious authority'. They are reports of fallible human beings and interpretations of a particular people. They may have some vestiges of truth in them or they may be wholly false.

As long as historical records can be kept in their proper context and understood for what they really are (a snapshot of the understanding / socio-political makeup of a particular period in which they were written), then these records can be very useful indeed for many reasons.

They can provide us an 'idea' for example, as to how the Muslims of a particular period understood and practiced their religion. They can also offer us great insights and for those religiously inclined, to provide avenues to extract any pearls of wisdom or best practices that can be readily deduced from them. That does not mean however, that these sources become an 'authority' by virtue of such scrutiny. They are merely sources of men and not Divine sources.

As for your example, of course the Quran does instruct believers to travel in the land, but this has a context. That is, to see how mighty nations have been destroyed. How they once thrived, how they exist no more confirming that nations have appointed terms (a Quranic statement) and that they have also suffered from the wrath of God.

"Say, travel in the land and see what has been the end of the guilty" (27.69)

A lot of this is based on 'observance'. This is not however, a cue to sanction every historical report written by each and every fallible human being.

As far as your comment regarding Abu Lahab, yes, he was an entity known to the primary audience of the Quran. But if wisdom from other verses is taken as applied to us today generally, then his complete identity is irrelevant for our guidance today.

"Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do"

In another verse, the Quran even goes further by implying that even the crimes of a bygone people bear no relevance to us today.

"Say: You will not be asked of our crimes, nor shall we be asked of what you do."

In general, you can see my perspectives on this matter in the posts below which I trust will provide further elucidations.

I hope this is of some help, God willing


[1] How I Engage with the Sunnah and Wider Islamic Secondary Sources Such as the Ahadith Corpus
[2] Does the Quran Sanction the Enterprise of Historical Reporting?
[3] Unscathed or Tainted Reports? - Authentic or Salvaged History
[4] Is Hearsay Unquranic?
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell