Are you rejecting the Prophet if you reject lies attributed to him?
I totally agree that to aspire to be a Muslim, one can take guidance primarily from the Quran and secondarily from the Sunnah of the prophet and thirdly, from the signs of God.
The Quran is in front of you and you can take all the steps necessary to verify whether the copy of the Quran that you have before you is authentic or not. This is easily done by comparing copies from various countries. Then, if you are like me and would like to explore whether the Quran is indeed the "word of God" and not that of human creation, you can also do it - though it takes much of your time, effort and thinking. My research has convinced me that it is indeed not the work of any mortal. For me, there are “no issues” as far as the Quran is concerned - It is from the Creator.
Now the Sunnah. The Sunnah is often understood as the conduct of the Prophet by the ulema of Hadith. To the ulema of hadith, “sunnah” refers to all that is narrated from the prophet, his acts, his sayings, whatever he has tacitly approved plus all the reports of his physical attributes and characters. Today, this “Sunnah” is in a written from often called the Hadith (on hadith later). In the Quran, the word “ Sunnah” has been used on 16 occasions and it has been used to imply an established practice or course of conduct.
Example (1): Quran 15:13: “That they should not believe in the (Message); but the ways (Sunna) of the ancients have passed away”.
Example (2): Quran 33:38 “There can be no difficulty to the Prophet in what Allah has indicated to him as a duty. It was the practice of Allah (sunnata Allahi ) amongst those of old that have passed away. And the command of Allah is a decree determined”.
Example (3): Quran 35:43 “On account of their arrogance in the land and their plotting of Evil, but the plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors thereof. Now are they but looking for the way the ancients (sunnata alawwaleena) were dealt with? But no change wilt thou find in Allah.s way (lisunnati Allahi) (of dealing): no turning off wilt thou find in Allah.s way (lisunnati Allahi) (of dealing)”.
Quran 35:43 is interesting that the word “sunna” in the first instance refers to the “practice/ways of the ancients” while in the second and third instance it refers to the “practice/ways of Allah”.
However, in all the instances the word “Sunnah” is used in the Quran, there is not a single instance where it is used in relation to the Prophet. In the Quran, however, you do have Allah referring to the Prophet as an excellent example of conduct in surah 33 verse 21 as follows:
“Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example (oswatun hasanatun) for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much”.
In recorded literature, therefore, it is the ulema of Hadith that have linked this word to the Prophet, hence the word “Sunnah Rasul”. According to Professor Dr Hashim Kamali, “There is evidence to suggest that the Sunnah of the Prophet was introduced into the legal theory by the jurists of
towards the end of the first century”. (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, page 45). This means therefore, that you can either believe the jurists wholeheartedly that everything they allege to be the sunnah of the prophet is indeed the sunnah of the prophet or you may want to take personal responsibility by verifying the same. This is an important decision to make if indeed you truly believe in Allah’s words in the Quran in surah 6 verse 94: Iraq
“And certainly you have come to Us alone as We created you at first, and you have left behind your backs the things which We gave you, and We do not see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were (Allah's) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you”.
Many like to use the jurists or ulemas as their intercessors in determining their faith in Allah with the excuse that the jurists are experts and they themselves are not. Of course, the role of some jurists in assisting research is commendable and helpful. We may draw useful information and knowledge from their work. However, this is not the same as being negligent or lazy or apathetic by delegating our responsibility in shaping our faith based on grounds that we are personally convinced to others. However, it is also a fact that the majority prefer to blindly believe based on conjectures and lies as in Quran 6:116
“And if you obey most of those in the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah's way; they follow but conjecture and they only lie”.
And there are quite a number who would rather follow what their families have taught them then to reflect and examine the Quran for themselves as in Quran 7:70:
“They said: Have you come to us that we may serve Allah alone and give up what our fathers used to serve? Then bring to us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful ones”.
Now the “hadith”. Ulemas have often used the word “hadith” and “Sunnah” interchangeably. Hadith literally means a narrative, communication or news consisting of factual account of an event. The word “hadith” occurs in the Quran 23 times and not once does it refer, in the technical sense, to the exclusive sayings of the Prophet. On the other hand, the Quran has referred to itself as the “ahanal hadees” in Quran 39:23 as follows:
“Allah has revealed the most beautiful Message (ahsana alhadeethi) in the form of a Book conformable in its various parts, repeating, whereat do shudder the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and their hearts become pliant to the remembrance of Allah; this is Allah's guidance, He guides with it whom He pleases; and (as for) him whom Allah makes err, there is no guide for him”.
In fact, the Quran goes further to challenge human beings as to “which other hadees” after the narrations in the Quran will they believe in?
Quran 77:50 “Then what message (hadeethin), after that, will they believe in?”
Today, for all practical purposes, when you speak of hadith literature in the Sunni world, you are referring to what is known as the Al-Sihah al-Sittah" translated literarily to mean "The Six Authentic", even though they are not all considered authentic (sahih), except for the first two collections. (The Shias have their own collections of hadith).
Sunni Muslims view the Six major Hadith collections as their most important. They are, in order of authenticity:
- Sahih Bukhari, collected by Imam Bukhari (d. 870), includes 7275 hadiths
- Sahih Muslim, collected by Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875), includes 9200
- Sunan al-Sughra, collected by al-Nasa'i (d. 915)
- Sunan Abi Da'ud, collected by Abu Da'ud (d. 888)
- Sunan al-Tirmidhi, collected by al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)
- Sometimes referred to as Al-Muwatta, collected by Imam Malik (d. 796) and sometimes, Sunan Ibn Majah, collected by Ibnu Majah (d. 886). Some have even considered Sunan al-Darami to be the sixth.
The first two are referred to as the Two Sahihs as an indication of their authenticity. Combined the Two Sahihs contain approximately seven thousand hadith without repetition according to Ibn Hajar.
All these hadiths collections were said to be complied some 150 to 200 years after the passing away of the Prophet. It is also interesting to note that the Muwatta of Imam Malik contains 1,720 hadiths out of which 822 are attributed to the Prophet while the rest are attributed to the companions, successors and others (Prof Dr Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, page 48).
I shall not discuss here the hadith collections of the Shias as Malaysians are primarily Sunnis.
Hadith “science” is complex. There are many hadiths that have been forged in the name of the Prophet and many more that are considered weak or daif as to its authenticity. There numerous classification of the authenticity of a hadith. For the active and sincere believer, I would suggest that you check on the authenticity of a hadith before you negligently attribute it to the Prophet. Sincerity should not be confused with laziness or apathy or blind faith.
If anyone quotes a hadith or attributes it to the Prophet, ask for its reference so that you can verify it for yourself. Do not go around accusing that if someone rejects a particular hadith, he must therefore be rejecting the Prophet. (It will also help if you self examine whether you have a solid basis for your own views.) If this is so then, you will be accusing scholars like Imam Bukhari and Muslim who have rejected many hadiths on grounds that it is forged and where it is unverifiable according to their standards. The fact is: we are required to reject lies attributed to our Prophet.
NOTE: The above views are entirely my understanding and no one is required to agree with them. Kindly check with your own copy of the Quran and make up your own minds and thoughts. If I have erred in my facts, kindly highlight to me.