Hadiths (Muhammad's Sayings): History, Uses, How They Were Compiled

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The hadiths are reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds recorded by his followers. Supplementary guides of faith began to emerge after the death of Muhammad as it became clear that the Qur’an did not provide specific guidance for many of the questions and issues faced by Muslims. In their quest for additional guidance, Muslims looked to the life, the habits, and the sayings of Muhammad in certain situations. There thus arose the practice of compiling, recording, and classifying the “tradition” (hadith) of or relating to the Prophet. [Source: Charles F. Gallagher, “International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences”, 1960s, Encyclopedia.com]

The Hadith are an authenticated record of sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest companions recorded by his followers. As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Qur’an and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia. The words, acts, and decisions of Muhammad and his companions— collectively called the sunna — are viewed as precedents for Islamic social and legal customs and as models to be emulated by later generations. The Hadith also includes the sira, biographies of the Muhammad, and tafsir and tawil, Qur’anic commentary and explanation.

There are literally tens of thousands of hadiths, some of which contradict others. They are divided into six revered collections, or sahib , meaning “sound." The authenticity of some hadiths is still a matter of debate. Those who told the stories, and recorded them, were not always reliable. In the early centuries after Muhammad's death religious schools went through them, evaluated them, evaluated their sources and decided which ones fit the moral vision of God and deserved emphasis. The hadiths form the basis of the Sunnah, or "the Way of the Prophet," Muhammad's life example.

There are 170,000 known narrations of the prophet's sayings. They are supposed to record Muhammad's words and deeds as a guide to daily life and a key to some of the mysteries the Qur’an. Many of the these anecdotes came out of specific historical contexts that occurred much later. Mehmet Gormez, a theology professor at the University of Ankara, told Newsweek, sometimes the scholars who produced the Hadiths confused “universal values of Islam with geographical, cultural and religious values of their time and place. Every Hadith narration has...a context."

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline islamonline.net ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding ispu.org; Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline

Qur’an (Quran, Koran) and Hadith: Quran translation in English alahazrat.net ; Quran in Easy English, Urdu, Arabic and 70 other languages qurango.com ; Quran.com quran.com ; Al-Quran.info al-quran.info; Quranic Arabic Corpus, shows syntax and morphology for each word corpus.quran.com ; Word for Word English Translation – emuslim.com emuslim.com/Quran ; Digitised Qurans in the Cambridge University Digital Library cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk ; Sunnah.com sunnah.com ; Hadith – search by keyword and by narrator ahadith.co.uk

Hadith and Sunnah

Tilings of a Hadith on a Wall
Many of the precepts for appropriate behavior are specified in the Qur’an. Other spiritual and ethical guidelines are found in the hadiths, an authenticated record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad and his earliest companions. Devout Muslims regard their words, acts, and decisions — called collectively the sunna — as models to be emulated by later generations. Because of its normative character, the sunna is revered along with the Qur’an as a primary source of seriat (in Arabic, sharia ), or Islamic law. [Source: Library of Congress]

Sunnah are the examples of Muhammad. They are the practices and examples drawn from the Prophet Muhammad's life. Along with the Hadiths they are the most important texts in Islam after the Qur’an. They must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures their authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria are disregarded.

One translation of the sunnah is the “customary way of doing.” The term generally refers to short narratives relating specific acts and sayings of Muhammad that express the ideal of behavior for pious, orthodox Muslim. They have been collected through a chain of hearsay. .[Source: Charles F. Gallagher, “International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences”, 1960s, Encyclopedia.com]

According to the BBC: “In addition to the Qur'an, the other sacred sources are the Sunnah, the practise and examples of the Prophet Muhammad's life, and the Hadith, reports of what the prophet Muhammad said or approved. Both the Hadith and Sunnah must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures its authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria will be disregarded. See Bukhari Below [Source: BBC, July 14, 2011 |::|]

History of the Hadith

The Hadith are based on memories of people who knew Muhammad that were either written down or passed down from one generation to another. The ones that were passed on orally often given more weight. These were collected and incorporated into biographies about Muhammad from written between the mid-8th to the 10th centuries.

It is said the first hadiths were initially written down by Muhammad's followers. Before that Muhammad forbade his followers from writing down what he said because he was afraid they might get distracted from the true Qurʾan. He later allowed them to record what he said after many people had memorized the Qurʾan. [Source: Encyclopedia.com]

The hadiths that were collected often varied from place to place and time to time. Sometimes, local customs, beliefs and traditions influenced their content. Other times, polemicists presented religious principals and ideas and selectively used hadiths to back their arguments.

Bukhari and Compilers of the Hadiths

Gharib al-Hadith page 19
In the 9th century, scholars did a thorough investigation of the hadiths and their history and sources and weeded out ones of dubious origin and compiled reliable ones into texts accepted by the Islamic community as a whole. In many cases the reliable ones were picked on the basis of the worthiness of the chains of witnesses that passed down each hadith. Many of the hadiths emerged by consensus from a community of scholars after considerable discussion and rely heavily on analogies known as “ ijima” and “qiryas” .

The two of most widely accepted collections of hadiths were gathered by ibn Ismaʾil Bukhari (810–870) and Muslim bin Hajjaj (817-75) With the hadiths taking on some authority there were used as the basis for much of Muslim law. Il Bukhar was the most famous compiler of hadiths. He collected some 600,000 sayings of the Prophet but was able to confirm the authenticity of only about 2,600. [Source: Encyclopedia.com]

There are a number of stories about Il Bukhar. According to the BBC: Once Imam Bukhari travelled several hundred miles on horseback to acquire a Hadith. When he arrived, he saw the man that knew the Hadith deceiving his donkey into thinking there was grain in a sack in order to induce him to move forward. Imam Bukhari promptly left without approaching the man because he was not willing to allow any individual with a questionable personality to join a chain of narration or contribute knowledge that would define the practice of the religion. [Source: BBC, July 14, 2011 |::|]

Use of the Hadiths

Muslims turn to the hadiths for guidance in matters ranging from law to personal behavior and advise of how to practice Islam in daily life. While the Qurʾan is written in a poetic, literary style, with emphasis on repeated sounds and other poetic devices both to inspire the reader and to make memorization easier, the hadiths are written in a simpler, more everyday style. One example is "Learning is a duty on every Muslim, male and female." [Source: Encyclopedia.com]

The Hadith provides the basis for much of Islamic law. It contains many laws and rules based on interpretations of the Qur’an. Much of Islamic thought is found in the Hadith partly because the Hadith has traditionally been understood to be a text open to "interpretation. argument and rigorous intellectual inquiry."

Some hadiths with historical contexts are erroneously used to justify modern prohibtions. One that forbids women from traveling alone is used to deny women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Gormez said, “This is clearly not a religious injunction but related to security in a specific time and place. In the Qur’an Muhammad laments the days when women could travel alone from Yemen to Mecca."

Muslim View of the Hadiths

According to the “Encyclopaedia Judaica”: The prophetic tradition (hadith) has developed out of the conviction that a pious Muslim should emulate the Prophet in whatever he did, recall whatever he said, and even keep a record of things which gained his tacit approval. This attitude is based on the firm conviction that Muhammad possessed a perfect personality and should be treated with utmost respect. Any action which is judged incompatible with this basic idea is rejected with great severity. Therefore, one of the most meritorious actions which a Muslim can do is to revive a custom of the Prophet (sunna) which for some reason fell into disuse. The customs of the Prophet were recorded in the hadith which has become a major part of Muslim religious literature, a major source of Muslim law and an important vehicle through which later generations could influence the development of Islam. The desire to emulate the Prophet brought about a tremendous proliferation of the hadith, which soon became an extensive branch of Muslim religious literature. [Source: Haïm Z’ew Hirschberg, “Encyclopaedia Judaica”, 2000, Encyclopedia.com]

According to the traditional Muslim view, a considerable part of the hadith, which has a reliable chain of transmitters and thus can pass the traditional test of authenticity, was actually pronounced by the Prophet and has therefore a normative value second only to the Qur’an itself. Modern scholarship, on the other hand, maintains that the authenticity of this material is unverifiable: since we have no extant books of hadith from the lifetime of the Prophet, there is no reliable method which can establish whether a certain saying was pronounced by the Prophet, or originated in a later period and was attributed to the Prophet in order to prove a point of law or an idea in the religious thought of a Muslim group. In some cases it is possible to discern the religious tendency or political interest embedded in a tradition; but in the countless traditions of general ethical content lacking a point of historical reference this is frequently impossible.

In the brilliant formulation of Goldziher, whose study of the hadith, written in the late 19th century, is still an indispensable masterpiece, "the hadith will not serve as a document for the history of the infancy of Islam, but rather as a reflection of the tendencies which appeared in the community during the maturer stages of its development. It contains invaluable evidence for the evolution of Islam during the years when it was forming itself into an organized whole from powerful mutually opposed forces. This makes the proper appreciation and study of the hadith so important for the understanding of Islam in the evolution of which the most notable phases are accompanied by successive stages in the creation of the hadith".

Hadiths as a Source of Islamic Law

Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr. wrote: “The sunnah of the Prophet was broader than the Quran, but Muslims had to avoid certain pitfalls in order to use it as a source for the Shari'ah. How could they be sure that an act had been committed or enjoined by the Prophet? There had to be a hadith (which literally means "news"), that said he had done it or said it. The hadith had to be validated by a chain of reporters, an isnad. The recorder of the hadith would have to start by saying who had reported to him this news, and who had told his informant, and who had told him, and so on back to the person who had witnessed the action or saying in question. The isnad served the function of a source footnote in a term paper; it authenticated the information by linking it to an established authority. Since the hadiths were not written down until more than a century had gone by, the isnads were needed to weed out those falsely attributed to Muhammad. What if the isnad, too, were fabrications? [Source: Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., “A Concise History of the Middle East,” Chapter. 8: Islamic Civilization, 1979, Internet Islamic History Sourcebook, sourcebooks.fordham.edu /~]

Hadith books

Faraz Rabbani wrote for the BBC: “The Prophet's role was expounded in the Qur'an, "We have revealed the Remembrance [Qur'an] to you that you may explain to people that which was revealed for them." (16:44) This explanation was through the Prophet's words, actions, and example. Following the guidance and the example of the Prophet was made obligatory, "O you who believe, obey God and obey the Messenger," (4: 59) and, "Verily, in the Messenger of God you have a beautiful example for those who seek God and the Last Day, and remember God much." The Prophet himself instructed, "I have left two things with you which if you hold on to, you shall not be misguided: the Book of God and my example." [Reported by Hakim and Malik] [Source: Faraz Rabbani, BBC, September 3, 2009 |::|]

Goldsmith said: “To weed out hadiths with false isnads, the early ulama became quite expert on the lives of the Prophet, his family, and his companions. If it could be proved that one link in the chain of transmitters was weak because the person in question was a liar or could not have known the previous transmitter, then the hadith was suspect. After a century of dedicated labor by many scholars, there emerged several authoritative collections of hadiths, six for Sunni Muslims and several others for the Shi'i sects. They are still being used by Muslims today. /~\

Hadith on Fasting

Hadith on fasting, collected by al-Bukhari (d. 870): Volume 1, Book 2, Number 50: Narrated Abu Jamra: “I used to sit with Ibn 'Abbas and he made me sit on his sitting place. He requested me to stay with him in order that he might give me a share from his property. So I stayed with him for two months. Once he told (me) that when the delegation of the tribe of 'Abdul Qais came to the Prophet, the Prophet asked them, "Who are the people (i.e. you)? (Or) who are the delegate?" They replied, "We are from the tribe of Rabi'a." Then the Prophet said to them, "Welcome! O people (or O delegation of 'Abdul Qais)! Neither will you have disgrace nor will you regret." They said, "O Allah's Apostle! We cannot come to you except in the sacred month and there is the infidel tribe of Mudar intervening between you and us. So please order us to do something good (religious deeds) so that we may inform our people whom we have left behind (at home), and that we may enter Paradise (by acting on them)." Then they asked about drinks (what is legal and what is illegal). The Prophet ordered them to do four things and forbade them from four things. He ordered them to believe in Allah Alone and asked them, "Do you know what is meant by believing in Allah Alone?" They replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." Thereupon the Prophet said, "It means:
To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle.
To offer prayers perfectly
To pay the Zakat (obligatory charity)
To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.
And to pay Al-Khumus (one fifth of the booty to be given in Allah's Cause). [Source: Hadith on fasting, collected by al-Bukhari (d. 870 CE), http://www.juniata.edu/~tuten/fasting.html, the Hadith Database at USC]

Ramadan fasting rules

“Then he forbade them four things, namely, Hantam, Dubba,' Naqir Ann Muzaffat or Muqaiyar; (These were the names of pots in which Alcoholic drinks were prepared) (The Prophet mentioned the container of wine and he meant the wine itself). The Prophet further said (to them): "Memorize them (these instructions) and convey them to the people whom you have left behind."

Volume 2, Book 21, Number 242: Narrated Anas bin Malik: “Sometimes Allah's Apostle would not fast (for so many days) that we thought that he would not fast that month and he sometimes used to fast (for so many days) that we thought he would not leave fasting through-out that month and (as regards his prayer and sleep at night), if you wanted to see him praying at night, you could see him praying and if you wanted to see him sleeping, you could see him sleeping.

Volume 2, Book 23, Number 480: Narrated Abu Huraira: A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said, "Tell me of such a deed as will make me enter Paradise, if I do it." The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Worship Allah, and worship none along with Him, offer the (five) prescribed compulsory prayers perfectly, pay the compulsory Zakat, and fast the month of Ramadan." The Bedouin said, "By Him, in Whose Hands my life is, I will not do more than this." When he (the Bedouin) left, the Prophet said, "Whoever likes to see a man of Paradise, then he may look at this man."

Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118: Narrated Abu Huraira: “Allah's Apostle said, "Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting." The Prophet added, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times."

“Volume 3, Book 31, Number 145: Narrated 'Abdullah: The Prophet fasted for days continuously; the people also did the same but it was difficult for them. So, the Prophet forbade them (to fast continuously for more than one day). They slid, "But you fast without break (no food was taken in the evening or in the morning)." The Prophet replied, "I am not like you, for I am provided with food and drink (by Allah)."

Collection of Hadiths

Al-Bukhari's name in calligraphy

In the name of ALLAH, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Collection of Al-Hadiths: Hadeeth: (1) 'A'isha said that Rasulullah saw said : "The deeds most loved by Allah swt (are those) done regularly, even if they are small". (Bukhari, Muslim)

“(2) 'Abdullah b. Umar said that Rasulullah saw said : "The muslim is he from whose tongue and hand a Muslim is safe, and the muhajir he who gives up what Allah has prohibited for him ". (Bukhari, Muslim) “(3) Abu Hurairah said that Rasulullah saw said : "Beware of envy, for envy devours good (deeds) like fire devours firewood". (Abu Dawud)

“(4) Jabir b. Abdullah said that Rasulullah saw said : "Allah is not merciful to whim who is not merciful to people ". (Bukhari, Muslim)

“(5) Abdullah b. Umar said that Rasulullah saw said :"The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful (to others) So show mercy to whatever is on earth, then He who is in heaven will show mercy to you “(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

“(6) From Abu Hurairah : Rasulullah saw said : "He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah". (Ahmad, Tirmidhi) [Source: “Hadith: The Traditions of the Prophet,” Internet Islamic History Sourcebook, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“(7) From Anas : Rasulullah saw said : "By Him in whose hand is my soul, a servant (of Allah) does not believe (truly) until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself ". (Bukhari, Muslim)

“(8) From al-Miqdam b. Ma'dikarib : Rasulullah saw said : “When a man loves his brother he should tell him that he loves him “(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

“(9) From Abu Ayyub al-Anshari : Rasulullah saw said : “It is not right for a man to abandon his brother for more than three days". (Bukhari, Muslim)

“(10) Jabir said that Rasulullah saw said : “If one makes excuses to his brother, but he does not excuse him, or accept his apology, he is as sinful as one who takes an unjust tax “(Baihaqi)

“(18) From Anas : Rasulullah saw said : “Make thing easy, and do not e make them difficult, and give good tidings and do not make people ay “run away (Bukhari)

“(19) From Abu Mas'ud al-Badri : Rasulullah saw said : “When a man spends to support his family hoping (for Allah's reward) it is counted for him as sadaqah “(Bukhari, Muslim)

Bukharis trip to collect evidence for what became the Hadith

“(20) From Amr b. Shu'aib, from his father, from his grandfather : Rasulullah saw said : "He is not of us who has no compassion for r our little ones and does not honour our old ones “(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

“(21) On the authority of Abu Hurairah ra, who said that Rasulullah saw said : Allah swt said : “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself. And if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me a hand's span, I draw near to him an arm's length. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed “(Hadist Qudsi: Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah) “(22) Ibn 'Umar ra said that Rasulullah saw said : "Do not talk for long without remembering Allah swt, for talking much without remembering Allah swt is hardness of the heart. The most distant among man from Allah swt is one with a hardened heart". (Tirmidhi)

“(23) From 'Iyad b. Himar al-Mujashi'i ra : Rasulullah saw said : Allah swt has revealed to me : "You should be humble so that no one boasts over his neighbour nor anyone oppresses his neighbour “(Muslim)

“(24) From Bahz b. Hakim ra, from his father, from his grandfather : Rasulullah saw said: "Woe to him who tells lies to make people laugh Woe to him Woe to him “(Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

“(25) From Abdullah bin Mas'ud ra : Rasulullah saw said “Try to earn a lawful livelihood is (also) an obligation like the other obligation (in Islam) ". (Baihaqi)

“(46) Al-Aswad ra said : I asked A'isha ra : "What did Rasulullah saw used to do in his house ?". She said : "He used to work for his family, and when prayer (time) came, he went out for prayer ". (Bukhari)

a hadith

“(47) It has been narrated on the authority of Umm Salama ra that Rasulullah saw said : "If a woman dies in a state when her husband is pleased with her, she will enter Paradise '. (Tirmidhi)

“(48) It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira ra that he heard Rasulullah saw as saying :" If I were to order anyone to prostate himself before another, I would order a woman to prostate herself before her husband ". (Tirmidhi)

“(49) It is reported that Abdllah bin Mas'ud ra had thin, weak legs. Once, upon seeing his leg uncovered, some people laughed, whereupon Rasulullah saw said : "Are you laughing at the frailty of his legs ? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, in the scale of Allah they are weightier than Mount Uhud." (Ahmad and al-Tiyalisi)

“(57) Abu Hurairah r.a relates that Rasulullah SAW said: Anybody who gets up to offer voluntary prayer during the month of Ramadhan with deep sense of iman and self scrutiny will have his previous sins remitted(forgiven) (Bukhari & Muslim)

“(58) From Abu Sa'id al-Khudri ra : Rasulullah s.a.w said : "If one of you sees (something) bad, he should change it with his his hand; and if he is not capable of that, then with his tongue; and if he is not capable of that, then (he should detest) it with his heart; and that is the weakest faith". (Muslim)

“(72) Abu Hurairah r.a. said : A man came to Rasulullah s.a.w. and said : "O Rasulullah, who of mankind is most entitled to the best of my companionship ?". Rasulullah said : "Your mother". He said :"Then who ?". Rasulullah said : "Your mother". He said :"Then who ?". Rasulullah said : "Your mother". He said :"Then who ?". Rasulullah said : "Your father". (Bukhari, Muslim)

“(73) Aisha r.a. said : A desert Arab came to Rasulullah s.a.w. and said : "Do you kiss children ?, We do not kiss them". Rasulullah s.a.w said : "What can I do for you if Allah has taken away mercy from your heart ? “(Bukhari, Muslim)

“(74) From Amr b. Shu'aib, from his father, from his grandfather, who said : Rasulullah s.a.w said :"Prescribe prayers to your children when they are seven years of age, and punish them (if they do not say them) when they are ten years old of age, and separate their beds (at that age)". (Abu Dawud)

Hadith: Obby

“(75) From Abu Hurairah r.a. : Rasulullah s.a.w. said : "The best house among Muslim is the house which orphan is well treated and the worst house among the Muslim is the house in which an orphan is badly treated".

“(76) Abu Huraira r.a. reported that Rasulullah s.a.w. said : It is not lawful for a believer to forsake a believer beyond three days, and whosoever does so more than three days and then dies, shall enter the Hell. (Abu Dawud)

“(77) Abu Khirash Hadard bin Abi Hadard Aslami r.a. reported that he heard Rasulullah s.a.w as saying : Whoever forsakes his brother for a year is like one who sheds his blood. (Abu Dawud)

“(78) Ibn Mas'ud r.a. reported that Rasulullah s.a.w as saying : When three of you are together, two of you must not converse privately ignoring the other till the number increases lest the third should be grieved. (Muttafaqun alayih)

“(79) Abu Huraira r.a. reported that Rasulullah s.a.w said : Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tale. (Muttafaqun alayih)

“(80) Abdullah bin 'Amr bin 'As ra reported that Rasulullah s.a.w said : He who desires to be rescued the fire of Hell and to enter Paradise should die when he believes in Allah and the Last Day, and should deal with others as he wishes to be deal with. (Muslim)

Turkey’s Effort to Update the Hadith

In the 2000s, Turkey published a document seen as a revolutionary reinterpretation and fundamental revision of the Hadith. The work was commissioned by Turkey’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs and put together by a team of theologians at Ankara University.. Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at Chatham House, told the BBC: “This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation. Not exactly the same, but... it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion.”[Source: Robert Piggott, BBC News, February 26, 2008 /=/]

Robert Piggott, religious affairs correspondent for the BBC, wrote: “The Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam. It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted. Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion. Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion. /=/ “The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology. An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society. "Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says. "You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition." /=/

“The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control. Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself. Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet. But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted. The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research. /=/

“Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam. Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam." Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy. They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones. "You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura. "You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."” /=/

Fathul Bari bisyarhi Shahih al-Bukhari Imam Khairul Annas

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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