Monday, February 22, 2010

Questions on the Sunnah and Hadith

I'm really interested in finding out how you guys think the Sunna and Hadith fit into Islam. The Sunna are basically the practices of the Prophet and the Hadith are the written version of these. They can also include the Prophet giving his approval to someone else's action, without necessarily doing it himself.

Are we supposed to follow ALL of the Prophet's Sunna? Through the hadith we would know exactly what he did and how he lived. Does this mean we are supposed to implement this? If this is the case, as many Muslims argue, then we should grow beards, wear niqab, drink in a certain way, etc. Interestingly, these same Muslims DON'T think we should go back to riding camels or donkeys, give up all modern technology, give up healthcare, etc. So does following the Sunna mean selectively following it, or does it mean following all of it?

When it comes to hadith, how do you determine whether one is authentic (sahih) or not? Does it depend on the collection it is from? Many people say "well it's from Bukhari or Muslim so it must be right". Actually, weak hadiths were later found in the collection of Bukhari and a lot in the collection of Muslim. Also, neither of them was trying to make an exclusive collection of hadith - so there could be hadith that are sahih that were not included in their collections.

When a hadith contradicts our common sense, do we ignore it or do we ignore our common sense?

Is it a problem that the hadith were compiled by human beings, prone to error?

Can we understand the Qur'an without the hadith?

I would love to hear from all of you! My next post will be my answers.


Shahirah Elaiza said...

I don't think we are required to follow ALL Sunnas. We should follow what makes sense to us because that would make it more meaningful. Nobody likes to follow blindly. As for the rest, they may not make sense now... but perhaps later in our lives we may come to realise a thing or two and see the benefit of him doing certain things a certain way.

Think of it this way... when David Beckham had a mohawk it was considered cool. People like to idolise people they look up to and most of the time, celebrities are not the best role models.

I'd rather try emulating the Prophet peace be upon him than trying to copy the actions of so many celebrities out there whose lives seem so topsy turvy.

There are different levels of authenticity for hadeeths. Just because humans recorded them it doesn't mean they are not reliable. The Qur'an was memorised by the Prophet's peace be upon him closest and trustworthy companions. Does that make the Qur'an invalid? It's the same with hadeeths. God gave certain people the ability to remember things with astounding memory.

Taylor Swift was able to remember Stevie Wonder's speech which she heard only once at a restaurant they both happen to dine at, at the same time.

I know, silly example, but that just came to my mind when I was writing about having good memory =P

I think it helps to understand the Qur'an with all the hadeeths out there. The Prophet peace be upon him did say this in his last sermon:
"I leave behind me two things, the QURAN and my example, the SUNNAH and if you follow these you will never go astray."

Wrestling With Religion said...

As I said on your other post, I'm really not sure and will be interested to see what people say!

I've heard a lot of opinions, nearly everyone has an opinion on the relative importance of Quran and sunnah, but I always want to know why people hold those opinions. It seems to be more personal preference (I don't like the hadiths, so I won't follow them; or, I think it's good to have detailed rules, so I will follow them). To me it all boils down to the question: what did Muhammad/Allah mean for people to follow?

The Quran clearly states you cannot be a believer and choose to go against parts of the religion (33:36). There is no compulsion, of course, but you cannot be considered a believer if you go against parts of it. So it seems to be important for a Muslim to know what the religion was supposed to consist of, so that they can follow it.

And I don't know the answer to that.

Reza Aslan says in No God But God: “There is a tendency to think of Islam as having been both completed and perfected at the end of Muhammad’s life. But ... it would be a mistake to think of Islam in 632 C.E. as being in any way a unified systems of beliefs and practices; far from it.” Plus we know Muhammad did not organise the preservation of his sunnah in written form, nor even the collection of the Quran into a canon. So I really don't know what to think! What were Muhammad's intentions for the future of Islam? I have no idea!

coolred38 said...

Well, Ive always assumed common sense was considered a good thing and meant to benefit humanbeings...but then on many occassions when we attempt to use it we are told...someone a thousand years ago said its like this...not like your wrong and your common sense is broken blah blah blah.

In my opinion...if something rubs me the wrong way, puts my hair up, makes me hesitate and think "now hold on a minute" or just makes me THINK in general..thats my common sense telling me to wake up and pay attention and get all the facts before making a decision. Generally I do. It doesnt always agree with everyone else's choice...but Im good with that.

In my opinion, hadith have a certain amount of value as far as history and a useful look see into the past etc...they obviously are not based on fact but on the whims of men and whatever they believed, wanted, ordered, hated, desired, and wished for to be part of Islam. Common sense helps me to decipher which ones are useful and worth my time and which ones can go into that circular file in my mind labeled "trash".

So say I.

Sara said...

I think people tend to misuse the concept of sunnah and hadith into making things "haram" or makrooh...or basically labelling things..

Candice said...

I think we can definitely understand the Qur'an without hadiths. The hadiths are useful in explaining certain parts of the Qur'an, and these are the only ones that I think can be important to follow. If it's a hadith that does not contradict the Qur'an, but does not directly explain anything in it either, then it's nothing more than optional. Like using miswak or something. If you wanna, go ahead, just don't think it will get you closer to Allah. It might get you closer to shirk than anything. So in these cases, I'd rather be careful.

In this way, I see most hadiths and I see the sunnah as being a sort of optional thing. I'd rather have it than not, just for help on explanations or things like this, but I will never take it as fact that must be obeyed. Being compiled by humans, it is full of error and bias, and should not be a source to use beside the Qur'an.

I wish it was easier to find a "middle way" in Islam. Because the Sunnah Muslims obviously have a huge presence in Islam and their interpretations dominate, and the Qur'an only groups have interpretations that are pretty easy to get a hold of, but what about people who do not accept to follow hadiths as though it's word from God, but also do not want to pretend the Qur'an fell on their lap today with no history attached to it?!

Candice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Shahirah: "We should follow what makes sense to us because that would make it more meaningful."

But everyone has their own opinion of which make sense and which are meaningful. So how to decide? And if it is up to us, then we should not get judged by other Muslims.

"Just because humans recorded them it doesn't mean they are not reliable."

That is definitely true. But that does not make them automatically reliable either. We need to realize there could be a lot of mistakes in them, and many traditional Muslims don't acknowledge this.

I definitely agree that the hadith help us understand the Qur'an better, especially the occasions of revelation.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Wrestling: "The Quran clearly states you cannot be a believer and choose to go against parts of the religion (33:36)."

Religion could mean a lot of things though - the 5 pillars, belief in the Qur'an, belief in Muhammad, etc. I wonder if there is any literature on the occasion of that particular revelation, explaining what "religion" meant.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Coolred - I completely agree! However, this attitude always seems to get one judged by the traditionalists, who seem to believe that using one's common sense leads you away from God :/

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara: I agree, I've seen that a lot :S These days whenever someone wants to ban something or show that something is allowed, they turn to the hadith and sunnah, before even the Qur'an itself.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice: I also think the Sunnah should be optional. Let's face it - no Muslim alive today is practicing ALL the why should we expect that?

I think the hadith do help us understand the Qur'an though. How would we know certain things in the Qur'an or why God discussed certain issues without the hadith telling us the story behind it. I think we just have to be careful and remember that there could be subjective opinions in the hadith and the way they were compiled.

ModestJustice said...

Interesting questions!
Since Wrestling with Religion already quoted Reza, I'm just going to quote again!

The books not with me, but I remember he wrote that the hadiths were actually collected during the 9th century, not the 7 century when the Prophet was alive. Therefore, the hadiths reflect the culture and mindsets of 9th century Arabia not the...7th.. see?

Uhh yeah, I personally do not follow any hadith that does not make sense to me because I believe the hadiths were written by men who were fallible (in their collecting and memorizing skills) And doesn't compare to the Qur'an in importance.

If it ain't in the Qur'an, or goes against something in the Qur'an, what authority does it have?

But that's just my opinion, it'd be interesting to see what others and you say :)

Shahirah Elaiza said...

Nope, we shouldn't be judged by other Muslims. But it happens and it's never ending. A non-hijabi gets judged for not wearing hijab. Then a hijabi gets judged for wearing hijab with jeans and make up... and so on and so forth.

I know it's easier said than done but we have to do what feels right in our hearts. At the end of the day, the only acts that are important are those that we do purely for the sake of pleasing Allah swt. Everything else is pretty much superficial.

ellen557 said...

I think that some people really don't differentiate between hadiths that go along with the message of the Qur'an and those that are completely against it. There are a lot of things in Sharia law for example that are entirely based on hadiths - I just don't think that hadiths are valid enough to base laws on, you know? Like they are not God's word, they are someone else's words. I know that some talk about the compilation of the Qur'an being by men but if you are a Muslim, then you believe the Qur'an is from God so it's a lot more protected than hadiths.
People and hadiths together can be very dangerous too. People end up yelling "haram, bida, haram" at everything when the Qur'an may even say it's halal, they just think that because of some warped hadiths.

Maybe I'm overly critical of them, I don't know. I just think that moderation is the key - follow the Sunnah but don't follow it so much that you are accepting questionable hadiths over the Qur'an.

Sara said...

I had a discussion with my mum on the same topic and I asked her how do we know whether the Hadith is realiable.

Bukhari used to travel the world looking for people who met the Prophet Mohammed PBUH. He travelled several countries just to meet those people and ask them what they heard from the prophet(PBUH). Once they told him, Bukhari made sure that there were 3 other people with the same story. (Keep in mind that those 3 people do not know each other) This was to make sure that what he heard was not a lie. He also studied the nature of the person that he spoke to and asked about his reputation. If the person was known as un trustworthy or a liar he would disgard the hadith. If he saw the person do an action that was not trustworthy why we know that Bukhari hadith are in fact Sahih. Another good point is that The Quran tells us to follow the way of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

There is nothing wrong with following the Hadiths narrated from Sahih Bukhari. You must consider the factthat when you read the hadith it is very helpful towards understanding the nature of Prophet Muhamamd (pbuh). Some hadith are so beautiful Mashallah.

And for the record; I have a feeling that people have a hard time accepting a particular hadith and say it contridicts the Quran but that let me assure you it doesnt contridict the Quran it actually supports what the Quran says. If there is anything that contradicts with the Quran please bring it forward because Im very interested to know.

And one more thing?

The Quran is perfect. If you are person searching for your purpose in this life and need guidance from the one God then that is why the Quran is sent down.

If one needs further explanations on issues regarding how to pray or paying zakaat and so on then i dont see why we cant use hadith.

I love the Prophet Muhammad so much and I learnt so much about him from Hadiths.

Adib said...

I believe that this "common sense" can only be used if you have certain knowledge about a subject. You would then have a basis for your common sense instead of having blind faith. As in, you have studied under various scholars, who have studied under so-and-so scholars dating back all the way to the most pious of generations, i.e the Sahabahs. The sahabas were the ones who understood the religion most, and they were promised Jannah in the Qur'an itself. Advice from scholars is that you shouldn't study about hadeeths on your own.

No, I don't believe that Hadeeth can be separated from the Qur'an. Just because something is in the Qur'an, it doesn't mean that it's obligatory to follow. And just because something is in the hadeeth, it doesn't mean that its not obligatory to follow.

And the use of categorizing things into Wajib, Sunnah, Makruh and haraam isn't "misusing" the concept of hadeeth. It's a way to understand the religion more, and a way to make things a lot more easier to understand and easier to follow. Even though something was understood as wajib, you need more understanding of hadeeths to make things easier for you if you can't perform the obligation.

How they are categorized was due to the understanding of the best generations before us. An example of how things were categorized is as follows. The Prophet tells you not to do an action as narrated in a hadeeth, but then you have hadeeths that narrate that he himself does that action, that categorizes the action to the level of makruh. This is the reason why the Prophet is sent down to complete the religion. Allah didn't sending copies of the Qur'an to the hands of all the people of Quraish to read in one go.

I still have a lot to study, and I am more prone to mistakes than you might think, but one thing for sure is that I'm not going to study about Hadeeths on my own. My "common sense" seem to change every time I study under a teacher who brings out his proof from the Qur'an, Sunnah and ijma' of scholars. I've learnt my lesson when I once become either too strict or too shallow because I once misunderstood a hadeeth. That changed when I began to study under a teacher, and I realized that the hadeeth, even though it was saheeh, it didn't clarify a situation and that it wasn't generally meant for everything. We should listen to what the ijma' of scholars have to say because they spent their whole lives studying and memorizing, and holding meetings to come to conclusions. They even wake up in the middle of the nights to pray istikhara hundreds of times just so that they could ask Allah to help them in making the right decision when it comes to Fiq.

Anonymous said...

I agree with coolred.

My thoughts on this - well why weren't there instructions to collect the hadith during or right after Prophet Muhammad (saw) died? Why didn't any of the companions collect them into volumes themselves? Why didn't any of the caliphs collect them? Why did it happen 200+ years after, by someone who was not even Arab?

Also, why do hadith overrule the Qur'an on the punishment for adultery?

Sure, there are some hadith with good advice - on cleanliness, being good neighbors, etc ... but then there are some that make Prophet Muhammad (I'm talking even about Bukhari ones) look like a not very good person.
Here is an example of one from Bukhari:

Volume 9, Book 83, Number 26:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

That he heard Allah's Apostle saying, "We (Muslims) are the last (to come) but (will be) the foremost (on the Day of Resurrection)." And added, "If someone is peeping (looking secretly) into your house without your permission, and you throw a stone at him and destroy his eyes, there will be no blame on you."

What? Would Prophet Muhammad (saw) said it is okay to ruin someone's eyes just because they looked in your house without your okay?!!!

Or what about this one:

Volume 8, Book 82, Number 797:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

A group of people from 'Ukl (or 'Uraina) tribe ----but I think he said that they were from 'Ukl came to Medina and (they became ill, so) the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) she-camels and told them to go out and drink the camels' urine and milk (as a medicine). So they went and drank it, and when they became healthy, they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. This news reached the Prophet early in the morning, so he sent (some) men in their pursuit and they were captured and brought to the Prophet before midday. He ordered to cut off their hands and legs and their eyes to be branded with heated iron pieces and they were thrown at Al-Harra, and when they asked for water to drink, they were not given water. (Abu Qilaba said, "Those were the people who committed theft and murder and reverted to disbelief after being believers (Muslims), and fought against Allah and His Apostle").

There are actually several versions of that story in Bukhari.

BuJ said...

السلام عليكم!

hi there, i read ur comments at our good friend Stimulus... so i clicked over to your blog :)

so you're a feminist and a Muslim, wow.. what a combination :)

life must be complicated.. ahhh

I've been to Cairo and the dam of Amster, but never to Lusaka! Lusaka is probably the coolest city of the 3.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Modest Justice - "Therefore, the hadiths reflect the culture and mindsets of 9th century Arabia not the...7th.. see?"

Exactly! I think that is a very valid criticism of the hadith, which a lot of Muslims ignore. It should at least prevent us from raising the hadith to the level of the Qur'an...the ACTUAL word of God :/

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ellen - I think being critical of the hadith is the safest option, to be honest. So many of them seem ridiculous and go against the Qur'an, which is weird. And I definitely don't think a hadith is enough to base a law on, but a lot of people think otherwise, as we can see from the Shari'a.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara: unfortunately, weak hadith have been found in Bukhari's collection, so no, he is not infallible.

Yes, some hadith are beautiful, but some are disturbing, especially for women.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Adib: if we go back to the earliest generations, then why not take Omar as an example, who was AGAINST compiling hadith? Many companions were scared to do it, and thought it was a bad idea because it was not 100% foolproof. Interesting that we never hear about that.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur - exactly! The Companions were unsure about recording hadith because they foresaw all the problems that would arise! In the end a Persian ended up compiling the best collection!

Also I think it is ridiculous that a hadith can overrule the Qur'an.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

BuJ - welcome to the blog! Lusaka is definitely the best out of the 3 :P

And yes...being Muslim and a feminist is not always easy haha.

Adib said...

Sorry, whats the daleeel where Umar was against compiling hadeeths?

'Abdullaah Ibn 'Umar Ibnul 'Aas used to write everything he heard from the Messenger of Allaah, so the Quraysh forbade him from that and it was mentioned to the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). So he said: "Write. So by the One in Whose Hand my soul is, nothing emanates from me except truth."

The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) commanded the Muslims in the farewell pilgrimage to teach about him as a general command. So he said: "So let the one who is present teach the one who is absent. So it may be that the one who is being taught may be more heedful than him."

He also said: "So let the one who is present teach the one who is absent, for the one who taught may be more heedful than the one who heard directly."

So the Muslims understood that all this was obligatory upon them. They memorized everything about the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and they acted upon that, and they went to great lengths to fulfill this trust, and they related hadeeths from him; either as well known (mashhoor), or with authentically established chains of narrations. According to the scholars, this is named an authentic hadeeth (hadeeth saheeh) or a good hadeeth (hadeeth hasan).

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Adib - I've read in several historical books that Umar was not sure about writing the hadith down. Here is something I found now:

"Umar ibn al-Khattab once tried to deal with the problem of committing the Hadith to writing. The companions of the Prophet whom he consulted, encouraged him, but he was not quite sure whether he should proceed. One day, moved by God's inspiration, he made up his mind and announced: "I wanted to have the traditions of the Prophet written down, but I fear that the Book of God might be encroached upon. Hence I shall not permit this to happen." He, therefore, changed his mind and instructed the Muslims throughout the provinces: "Whoever has a document bearing a prophetic tradition, shall destroy it." The Hadith, therefore, continued to be transmitted orally and was not collected and written down until the period of al-Mamun."

I could be wrong about this but I do remember reading it in many places. Then again, there are often contradictory hadith out there.

Adib said...

Ah I see. So if I understood the daleel right, he wasn't really completely against it. He was only afraid that it would be mixed and confused with the Qur'an. This only shows how careful sahabas were in protecting the religion.

Allah knows best.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Adib - yes, you're right. Maybe I should have worded it differently. He was against it because he was worried about things getting mixed up, like the Prophet (pbuh) was.