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The Approach Towards Hadeeth and Sunnah
« on: August 11, 2012, 10:43:01 AM »
Dear Joseph,

The following is something that has been on my mind for some time.

I think our discussions and mutual understanding has matured to the point where we feel comfortable when we disagree and of course happy when we agree, as we inshallah help each other on our journeys to our Lord.

In an earlier email you had mentioned to me the following....

"With regards traditions, I will say this humbly again. I do not reject traditions outright but seek to understand them through the lens of the Quran. I have always done this and this approach is clear in what I write. I feel this is the approach believers should take."
I am happy that you don't reject the traditions outright like many of the Qur'an only Muslims do.

And I fully respect your efforts to understand them through the lens of the Qur'an.  This is an approach I also feel is the best approach to take.... and I appreciate your regular assistance in sharing your mashallah insightful, articulate, and easy to read brief articles.

I just think though that if you don't reject the traditions outright, then the coherent approach would be to follow them when they don't contradict any explicit or implicit text in the Qur'an and when they don't violate the spirit of the Qur'an.

So, I feel that if one were to not follow any ahadeeth at all, then that is tantamount to rejecting them outright.

And likewise I feel that if one were not to follow any sunnah (such as for example the sunnah of the canonical form of the salat...not the details which differ among madhaahib but just the form approved by the consensus such as saying fatiha and another surah or portion of Qur'an in the first rakat), then that would be tantamount of rejecting the sunnah outright.

I say this with only good will and strong friendship.

Offline Joseph Islam

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    • The Quran and its Message
Re: The Approach Towards Hadeeth and Sunnah
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2012, 10:52:20 AM »
As-salamu alaykum

I am not sure if you are aware of my wider discourses, but you may have sensed certain undertones from my articles where I have often been troubled and frustrated by what I feel are unwarranted assertions and criticisms of many of those that claim to follow the Quran.

However, no Islamic secondary source can introduce anything in the name of God ordained 'religion' or add to what is already completed by the Quran.

Yes, many secondary sources may impart wisdom as seen from the eyes of the compilers from a certain slice of history (often centuries removed from source), but whether the Prophet actually said the things that are attributed to him can never be proven. Such beliefs are simply a matter of faith and not evidence or Quranic warrant. This is a fact we have to accept. Some secondary source narratives are so arguably patently false as it would be inconceivable that a Prophet of God could contradict the spirit of the Quranic discourse so evidently. They are simply a product of a sectarian milieu in which they found flux and became canonised.

However, the Quran provides no authority for any other source to be used in the name of Divine Judgment and His ordained religion.

So when I say I don't ‘reject them’, I don't mean it in the sense that I do not reject them as a necessary part of religion. I mean I don't reject them outright in the sense that they have no veracity or any wider value whatsoever.

As I state on my website:

However, it is also unreasonable to suggest complete corruption of the Islamic secondary sources. Classical scholars should be fully appreciated in the endeavours they have made to pass on their efforts to succeeding generations of Muslims. However, it is also a mistake to consider them as 'authorities' in such a way that their works become the source of guidance themselves and beyond reproach. Classical or modern works should always be understood, appreciated and critically evaluated in the light of the Quran.
 A befitting statement is noted by a modern scholar which is worthwhile reproducing as an excerpt.

"It would, therefore, be improper to ignore or underestimate the significance of the Ahadith literature as a historical source even if its authenticity may appeal doubtful. The modern Occidentalists are of the opinion that in spite of the fact that Apocrypha are of doubtful authenticity, we can still peep through them into the social life and behaviour of their fabricators, hence their significance as a source of history should not be denied. Similarly, even such portions of the hadith material as have been declared fake, unauthentic and of doubtful nature, contain most valuable hints regarding one or the other aspect of the early Islamic society"    [1]
[1] SINGH. N.K, Encyclopaedia Historiography of the Muslim World, Global Vision Publishing House, First Edition 2003, Page 319


Let us take the example of prayer. The Quran does not define form or utterance. However, it provides multifaceted guidance of what would be classed as 'monotheistic prayer'. Wudu, qibla, direction, garments, purposes, prostrations etc are all components of a monotheistic prayer prescribed by the Quran. Now the question is, does the current practice of prayer today 'satisfy' the guidance and requirements of the Quran or contradict it?

I assert that it satisfies it in the main.

Therefore, I am satisfied to 'bow down with those that bow' (whichever sect) when met with a prayer tradition. This is no different from the instructions to Mary when she met a prayer tradition as did the Jews of Arabia.

002.043 (Part)
"... and bow down your heads (Arabic: ir'ka'u) with those who bow down (Arabic: raki'een) (in worship)"
"O Mary! Be obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow down (Arabic: wa-ir'ka'i) with those who bow down (Arabic: raki'een)"
However it is incorrect to assert that because the Quran does not define the current practice of prayer with all its rakats etc, that is why we need secondary sources to teach us.  Rather, what should be understood is that the Quran does not prescribe the rakats as practiced today, but today's practice of rakats do not contravene any of the Quran's guidance, so they can be followed without any requirement to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as part of a prayer congregation. I hope that makes this point clear.

Here is how I have elucidated my perspective on Islamic secondary sources.

The terms 'Islamic secondary source(s)' or 'secondary sources' are often used throughout my articles. This term has been utilised to denote all manner of literature within Islamic thought which constitutes 'Ilm-e-Rijaal' (Knowledge of men) and resides outside the actual text of the Quran (i.e. anything that is not scripture) and which are used to make theological inferences and judgments.
These include canonised Ahadith reports, the Maghazi genre, Prophetic biographies, Islamic jurisprudence, consensus, opinions of Muslim jurists, analogical deductions, 'Ra'y' (independent reasoning), Muslim practices and all manner of sources which are not part of the Quranic text or used solely to understand its language.

"Say: "Shall I seek for judge other than God? - when He is the One who has sent to you the Book, explained in detail (Arabic: Mufassalan)." They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it has been sent down from your Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt"

The protection of the 'dhikr' (reminder) is assured by the Quran (15:9). This implies both the 'words' of the Quran and an appropriate ability to discern its 'meanings'. Otherwise, the 'dhikr' would be meaningless.

Therefore any source, including classical lexicons, works of grammarians, dictionaries or indeed, any Islamic secondary source as defined above which is used to understand the classical Arabic language is implicitly ratified by the Quran. (15:9)
The Prophet was tasked with a responsibility to convey the message of the Quran in Arabic to his people. His people had a responsibility en masse to pass the message to mankind (22:78) both in Arabic and to convey its meaning to those who did not understand the language.

In my entire work, I have never used an Islamic secondary source (as defined in my article) as proof for a religious judgment in the name of God. I also believe the Quran has no intention to obliterate traditions, but it merely wants you to discern from it in light of the Quran's guidance. So yes, Islamic secondary sources remain subservient to the Quran and need to be understood from its lens.

I hope that serves to completely clarify my perspective.

'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell