The clergy misguide people in a number of ways:
2). Ignoring the context of the evidence
3). Propagating opinions or culture instead of actual evidence
4). Elevating the position of a hadith or saying of a Companion above the Quran
All of these imply poor researching skills. Today, I want to take a closer look at Number 4 – Elevating a hadith or saying of a Companion above the Quran.
Now, of course belief in ahadith or the Sunnah of the Prophet is a fundamental part of being a Muslim. We need to know the Sunnah so we know how to pray, exactly how to pay Zakah, and so on as well as the character of the greatest example of all time.
The problem arises when one or several ahadith are taken and followed without looking at the Quran. This is extremely corrosive to our understanding of the religion because the Quran, being Divine Scripture, the word of Allah, is protected while ahadith can be weak and were sometimes recorded in shortened versions where key bits of information are missing.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples;
Narrated Ibn Muhairiz:
I entered the Mosque and saw Abu Said Al-Khudri and sat beside him and asked him about Al-Azl (i.e. coitus interruptus). Abu Said said, “We went out with Allah’s Apostle for the Ghazwa [battle at which Muhammad was present] of Banu Al-Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus. So when we intended to do coitus interruptus, we said, ‘How can we do coitus interruptus before asking Allah’s Apostle [Muhammad] who is present among us?” We asked (him) about it and he said, ‘It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul (till the Day of Resurrection) is predestined to exist, it will exist.”
This hadith from Bukhari is often quoted to claim sex slavery is permitted in Islam. Yet, the Quran states exactly the opposite in Surah An Nis’a, verse 25.
وَمَن لَّمْ يَسْتَطِعْ مِنكُمْ طَوْلاً أَن يَنكِحَ الْمُحْصَنَـتِ الْمُؤْمِنَـتِ فَمِنْ مَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُكُم مِّن فَتَيَـتِكُمُ الْمُؤْمِنَـتِ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِإِيمَـنِكُمْ بَعْضُكُمْ مِّن بَعْضٍ فَانكِحُوهُنَّ بِإِذْنِ أَهْلِهِنَّ وَءَاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ مُحْصَنَـت غَيْرَ مُسَـفِحَـتٍ وَلاَ مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ فَإِذَآ أُحْصِنَّ فَإِنْ أَتَيْنَ بِفَـحِشَةٍ فَعَلَيْهِنَّ نِصْفُ مَا عَلَى الْمُحْصَنَـتِ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِىَ الْعَنَتَ مِنْكُمْ وَأَن تَصْبِرُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And whoever of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess, and Allah has full knowledge about your faith, you are one from another. Wed them with the permission of their own folk (guardians) and give them their due in a good manner; they should be chaste, not fornicators, nor promiscuous. And after they have been taken in wedlock, if they commit Fahishah, their punishment is half that for free (unmarried) women. This is for him among you who is afraid of being harmed in his religion or in his body; but it is better for you that you practice self-restraint, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
As you can see, the Quran commands men to marry these women NOT to take them as sex slaves!
Interestingly, the above hadith has several versions but all seem to go back to the same narrator – Ibn Muhairiz. Ibn Muhairiz narrated one other hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah which was categorised as weak (It reads: “I asked Fadalah bin Ubaid about hanging the hand (of the thief) from this neck, and he said: ‘It is sunnah. The messenger of Allah (saw) cut off a man’s hand then hung it from his neck”).
Additionally, there is a lack of information about this narrator and so his credibility should set off alarm bells for anyone seeking the truth.
Once we elevate or prioritise ahadith over the Quran, like a scientist who desperately wants his/her hypothesis to be proven true, we are likely to misinterpret other evidence. (See my blog on ‘Sex slavery’ if you are interested – for more on this subject).
Another example is the issue of divorce. The ‘scholars’ remain divided on whether stating ‘divorce’ thrice at one time constitutes an irrevocable divorce. Here it is not an issue of hadith versus Quran but a saying of a Companion prioritised over the Book of the Creator.
Many ‘scholars’ claim a husband saying ‘divorce’ three times at one time means that he has divorced his wife and they cannot re-marry until she marries another man. Their view is based upon the actions of Umar ibn Al Khattaab when he was Caliph. Umar passed this as law to teach the people not to take divorce lightly although this is not what the Quran states. In fact, the Quran clearly states each declaration of divorce has a waiting period of 3 menstruation cycles.
Surah Al Baqarah, verses 228,
وَالْمُطَلَّقَـتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَـثَةَ قُرُوءٍ وَلاَ يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِى أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُواْ إِصْلَـحاً وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكُيمٌ
And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
- The verses which follow (229 & 230) tell us about the maximum number of three divorces before the divorce becomes irrevocable and the woman must then marry someone else.
In other words, many of the clergy are following what Umar did as opposed to what the Quran dictates.
There must be a hierarchy if we want to follow the actual religion and the primary source must come first.
1). The Quran
3). Sayings of the Companions and the Tab’ieen (the generation after the Companions).
So, this hierarchy means we must look at the Quran first and foremost. Then, ahadith must only be taken as evidence if they do not contradict the Quran. Subsequently, the opinions of the Companions can only be followed when they are in line with ahadith and the Quran. Opinions are after all opinions and not truth (There are, in fact, many records of the Companions differing in their views).
I believe it is easy to take ahadith without checking whether they are in accordance with the Quran and use them to propagate a certain view and give the masses a fatwa/judgement. Over time, the more people propagate the same ahadith, the more the judgment attached to them is perceived as ‘truth’. Yet, it is not.
To research ahadith properly and actually study the Quran can take years and a lot of sustained effort. But, this is our religion, our path to Jannah and salvation does not come easily. As Muslims, our beliefs and actions must be based upon truth even when the path to truth is a struggle.