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The Hadith (2)
Victor M. Eskew
In our previous article, we began a discussion of the Hadith. The Hadith are the illustrations of the Qur’an. They are said to be the Qur’an put in practice. The Hadith involve the life of the prophet Muhammad. They are his sayings and his actions as he lived out the principles of the Qur’an. The Hadith are considered to be just as authoritative as the Qur’an to most Muslims. It is important to remember that the Hadith did not come directly from Muhammad. They came from his followers over a period of some 300 years.
Several individuals collected the Hadith and confirmed the ones that were “authentic.” One is these individuals was Sahih al-Bukhari and another was Sahih Muslim. Several hundred thousand traditions were collected by these men, but only a few were authenticated as the Hadith. Each tradition was judged by two things. First, the tradition was judged in light of the teachings of the Qur’an. Second, the tradition had to follow a chain of transmission back to the prophet or a companion of the prophet. Some of those companions are Aisha, his wife; Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, his aristocratic followers; Amas b. Malik, his servant for ten years; Abdullah b Abbas, his cousin; Abu Haraira, the authority for over 3,500 traditions; and Jabir, who belonged to the Khazraj tribe of Medina, which was allied to Muhammad. This line authority is referred to as the Isnad.
“Virtually every action taken by Muslims, from how they approach your home to how they brush their teeth, has precedent in the Hadith” (Islam Unveiled, p. 100). In his book, Understanding the Hadith, Ram Swarup, presents 19 chapters of Hadiths. Some of them are entitled as follows: Faith, Purification, Prayer, Poor Tax, Fasting and Pilgrimage, Marriage and Divorce, Business Transactions, Inheritances, Gifts, Banquets, Vows, etc. In the book, Unveiling Islam, Caner and Caner present 93 chapter topics found in the Hadith. Again, the Hadith address almost every aspect of the life of a Muslim. By following the Hadith, a Muslim is able to pattern his life after the prophet Muhammad.
One author makes this statement about the Hadith and Muhammad: They give “very intimate glimpses of the life or the Prophet, an impressionistic view that makes him seem more a living, breathing person than the portrayals given his more formal biographies” (Understanding Islam, p. 11). This being true, he, then writes: “The picture that emerges is hardly flattering, and one is left wondering why in the first instance it was reported at all and whether it was done by his admirers or enemies. One is also left to wonder how the believers, generation to generation, could have found this story so inspiring” (Ibid.). This last statement was made because the Hadith picture both the good and bad in the prophet’s life. The bad is often brutal and shocking. But, Muslims do not condemn their prophet’s lifestyle because they view him through the “eyes of faith.” “To them morality derives from the Prophet’s actions, the moral is whatever he did. Morality does not determine the Prophet’s actions, but his actions determine and define morality. Muhammad’s acts were not ordinary acts; they were Allah’s own acts” (Ibid.).
There are some very interesting teachings that are found in the Hadith of Bukhari. One of the teachings indicates that a camel’s urine has medicinal purposes (Vol. 8, Book 82, No. 794). Another proclaims that a house fly in one’s drink has healing properties in one of his wings (Book 4, Vol. 54, No. 537). Cumin, it is taught, is the cure for all maladies (Vol. 7, Book 71, No. 592). Within the Hadith, a story that is told about a group of monkeys that stone another monkey because she had committed adultery (Vol. 5, Book 58, No. 188). Muslims are also instructed about how to put on their shoes. When putting on his shoes, he should put the right shoe on first. When taking off his shoes, he should take off the left shoe first (Vol. 2, Book 72, No. 745). These quotes help us to see the different aspects of life that the Hadith touch. Too, we see the outlandish nature of some of the hadiths. In an article about the monkeys, Sam Shamoun and Jocken Katz make this powerful statement: “The hadith collections (and we dare say the Quran also) is filled with absurd fables and scientific errors which (should) make it apparent to any rational minded person that Islam cannot be a religion revealed by God. In a valiant effort, MENJ has tried to mount a strong defense for the credibility of the Islamic traditions by seeking to undermine the charge that the hadith literature contain many irrational stories that are just outright silly. Many people have long realized that one of the most effective ways to expose Islam as a false religion is to present material from the hadith collections” (http://www.answering-islam.org/ Responses /Menj/she-monkey.htm).
In his book, Authentication of Hadith: Redefining the Criteria, Isran Ahmad Khan points out ten problems in the Hadith. Textual conflicts among the reports and the probability of fabrication in the Hadith text are just two of the areas he notes. A website entitled, “Ancient Modern Islam,” lists 25 reasons for rejecting the Hadith in the article, “Why Reject Hadiths?” The article notes that the Hadith mix truth and falsehood. It says that there is much plagiarism in the Hadith. It also says that the Hadiths are what divide the Muslim world.
In this article, we have just barely introduced the subject of the Hadith. At best, the Hadith are vague remembrances of the life and sayings of Muhammad. At worst, they are total fabrications with only a hint of truth about the life of Muhammad. Islamic law rests heavily upon the Hadith. Most Muslims revere the Hadith as much as they do the Qur’an. To understand Islam, one must have an understanding of this “authoritative” collection of the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad.