The Sharing Group Discussion: Quranists or Munkir al-Ahadits

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone shared Mufti Abu Layth’s post, on The Sharing Group, on the 24th April, 2015.  He said, “An excellent response to those that deny the ahadits.  I would add to this, how can we be sure that the ayat which says something like, ‘And We will Preserve this Qur’an,’ is not actually a human addition?”

Mufti Abu Layth wrote, “A very brief response to some who refer to themselves as Quranists, doubting and rejecting the authenticity and legislative nature of the ahadits.  Suffice it to say that to Allah Alone Belongs all praise.  There is no term ‘Quranist’ but rather, munkir al-ahadits, one who rejects ahadits.  We do not dignify such a pathetic understanding by giving such people an association with the Qur’an - the same Qur’an which teaches us to take teachings of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) as a guidance and source for sacred law.

My question to any suffering from such theological and psychological deficiencies, is how do you actually prove the Qur’an to be authentic?  If you say it has been transmitted by mutawatir chains, I would like to ask you where these chains are?  And have you seen and evaluated them?  Since, most importantly, the people who transmit the Qur’an are the people who transmit the sunnah, the companions and their students.  To attempt to destroy one is a logically equal attempt to destroy the other.  May Allah Preserve this ummah from such rational decay.  Amin.”

Sister Sabine: Pathetic language.  Besides, if he was really interested in an answer to that question, he could have gone to some so-called Quranist sources and he would have seen that this issue has been addressed by some.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: May Allah Keep us on the Straight Path.  The ahadits and non-ahadits bickering reminds me of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the days of ‘Isa (a.s.); both groups missed the point completely.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: But he does have a point.  Only someone deficient in knowledge and piety would actually buy into the Quranist nonsense.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: I would have to agree to disagree on that one.  While not a Quranist myself, I have met plenty who are both pious and knowledgeable.  However, it depends on the person.  I would agree about the deficient part when it comes to Quranist who claims to hate or reject every single ahadits or that all ahadits are from Shaythan and such.

Brother Joel Troxell: I think the argument that the Qur’an stands on the merit of its transmission is a weak one.  It puts more faith in its compilers than it does in the contents.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Having issues with ahadits does not make one a Quranist.  Rejecting all ahadits and claiming the Muslims are astray does, and such people are clearly out of Islam.  A knowledgeable person will not reject ahadits.

Brother James Harris: He is not saying the Qur’an stands on the merit of its transmission.  His point is that if one is to discredit the ahadits on the basis of its transmission, it follows that this must apply to the Qur’an as well.

Brother Joel Troxell: Not necessarily.  The only thing that gives ahadits authority is its means of transmission, which modern epistemology has problems with.  The Qur’an sets its own internal challenges related to authenticity and those can be used to verify whether or not the Qur’an is what it says it is.

Brother James Harris: Brother Joel, in what way can ‘modern epistemology’ accept the Qur’an, but not the ahadits?

Brother Kevin Kaya: I only reject the ahadits if it is used for source of law.

Brother Dan Oo: I do not reject ahadits, but I do reject legislation being based on one or two transmitters per generation standing as witness for a legislative position that could mean the loss of a person’s life.

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother James, I think those are two different discussions.  Ahadits stand as authoritative solely on their transmission, with the exception of those narrations that are considered authoritative because of their contents, irrespective of strength of their chain.  The system of authority used to compile and give authority to ahadits is a man-made system based on the epistemological assumptions of 7th century Arabs.  These assumptions have problems, such as giving a measure of reliability to narrators who were considered morally upright.  A moral person can be biased, just as a criminal can be honest, but there is no allowance for a hermeneutic of suspicion, unless a hadits has a Shi’ah in the sanad.  We also have legal definitions of hearsay for testimony which are not perfect but set a good standard for determining culpability.  Given that there are ahadits that involve capital punishments more severe than anything found in the Qur’an, the level of proof for the authority of such sayings should go well beyond the best possible definition of hearsay.  Just increasing the standard of proof to what is needed in a modern court of law significantly reduces what is usable and authoritative in the collections of ahadits.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I would like to reiterate my question by re phrasing it: if we were asked how can we be certain that not an ayat more or an ayat less of the Qur’an is the Qur’an that was Revealed to Muhammed (s.a.w.)?  And more particularly, such a phrase like “We are the Protector,” for instance, has not just been added?

Brother Joel Troxell: Simple.  Manuscript evidence.

Brother James Harris: I do not see how something being a ‘man-made system’ is a problem.  Any systematisation of Islamic knowledge is, in fact, ‘man made’.  It should also be said that ahadits collections are not books of legislation.  The authenticity of a hadits referring to a harsh punishment is one thing, and how this is applied in actual legislation is another thing entirely.  The role of ahadits in legislation differs from one school of law to another.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: But if we apply the same logic as those denying ahadits, these manuscripts were written later by the supposedly corrupt people of the Umayyad or Abbasid eras.

Brother Joel Troxell: When a criticism of the texts and beliefs of prior Revelation is that they are man-made systems, then we certainly cannot internally grant authority to our own man-made systems without being illogical.  And yes, there is a difference between the body of fiqh in a madzhab and materials from which that fiqh is developed.  I understand that.  However, to make an analogy, if I may, a person is given the authority to either act justly or commit a crime.  In one scenario, you give them a boxing glove and in another a butcher knife.  In both scenarios, the person chooses to do unjustly.  The level of harm that they can commit with the limitations of a boxing glove is considerably less than if they wield a butcher knife.  The problem with ahadits is that they are so across-the-board and generic and quite reckless in the actions that they document, that they give a crooked heart ample opportunity to commit injustice with some dangerous tools.

This is not the case with the Qur’an.  It takes considerably less scholarship and knowledge to properly exegete the verses of the Qur’an than it does to derive any semblance of societal justice from the ahadits.

Brother Abdulkareem, if a Quranist uses an ad hominem against the compilers of the text without evidence of actual textual corruption, then their argumentation fails on many levels.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The shari’ah’s purpose is to protect the lives of people, to protect people's honour and to ensure the practices and beliefs of Islam are protected.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) and his companions implemented such a society from which sprung such a flourishing period of history.  The blueprint for this were the companions who travelled to other places of the expanding community and the people of the city of Madina as a whole.  One can only understand the foundation of this era of security and intellectual flourishing through these people.  The architecture and productivity of Islamic cultures later, testify to the importance of these earlier pioneering and illustrious individuals.  It is bad character in the extreme to dishonour the early generation by insinuating they failed in their entirety to preserve Diyn.

Brother Joel Troxell: I get tired of romantic appeals to the past.  You do realise that 3 of the 4 Rightly-Guided caliphs were killed by domestic terrorism, right?  You do realise that the body of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was barely cold and buried before swahabah started fighting swahabah?  You do realise that they failed to instill enough basic moral outrage in their constituents to cause them to rise up and prevent the caliphate from becoming a hereditary monarchy, right?  Let us not gloss over problematic elements that were present from the very beginning.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Thank you, Brother Joel.  I am not sure many Muslims wish to entertain what you have posited.  Ahadits has reached an almost sacrosanct position without the consideration of what you have brought forth, and it perplexes me to see people making judgements, calling others ‘out of Islam’ for rejecting ahadits.  Have we have reached such a station of overwhelming knowledge to make such a fatwa?  I think those participating in this discussion need to step back from their conditioned assessments and reflect a bit.

Sister Sabine: Insulting language and ad hominem attacks are now ‘beautiful’?  What happened to the Qur’anic instructions on how to conduct a debate and address ignorant people?  What happened to the prophetic example of patience and tolerance?

Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord Knoweth Best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive Guidance. (Surah an-Nahl:125)
Nor can goodness and evil be equal.  Repel (evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! (Surah Fuswswilat:34)
“And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster.” (Surah Luqman:18)
And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!” (Surah al-Furqan:63)
And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say, “To us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you: we seek not the ignorant.” (Surah al-Qaswasw:55)

O ye who believe!  Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: and those who do not desist are (Indeed) doing wrong. (Surah al-Hujraat:11)

Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance.  Thus have We Made Alluring to each people its own doings.  In the end will they Return to their Lord and We shall then Tell them the truth of all that they did. (Surah al-An’am:108) 

Seest thou not how Allah Sets Forth a parable? ― A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens ― It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord.  So Allah Sets Forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. (Surah Ibrahim:24-25)

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Islam is vast not to be contained by the opinions of those who arrogate terminal knowledge to themselves.  I thought this group was for sharing rather than for blasting opinions about who or who not is in Islam because of beliefs in ahadits.  This should be discouraged, Brother James.  It is incorrect.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The death of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was the greatest catastrophe to have ever befallen mankind.  Shock and trauma was an inevitability.  A painful but necessary period for this was death of the Final Prophet (s.a.w.), and his followers had to shoulder the burden that, until then, had been carried only by prophets.  Mistakes of an enormous scale were made for the duty of nubuwwat was, from now on, to be carried out by those unprotected from sin.  But within those early generation is an important lesson from the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  From them, we learn how those not in receipt of Revelation carried the burden of nubuwwat.  Without understanding their lives, we can never understand Diyn.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: The death of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was to be expected, just as any soul passes on to the next life.  This is corroborated by the Qur’an.  And yes, Brother Abdulkareem, it is good to take knowledge from those who were with him, understanding that they were totally fallible in their transmissions and behaviour and that there was an immense amount of caliphal pressure to produce what would support the power base.

I do not believe in the term ‘swahih’ as meaning incorruptibly and unreservedly Truth.  These were only men, albeit well intentioned, doing their best to sift through a million pieces of information over a millennium ago, with great limitations.  Additionally, we must begin to see the history of Islam after the Prophet (s.a.w.) without sectarian goggles, as Brother Joel indicated.

The issue of ahadits reminds me in some ways of the Golden Calf in the time of Musa (a.s.).  When he was gone to the Mount, this charismatic being, Samiri, who evidently had some knowledge from ‘the footsteps of the Messenger’, enjoined all the people to melt their gold down in the construction of a calf to worship even though they had the teachings of Musa (a.s.).  Please understand, I am not eschewing all ahadits.  I am merely attempting to inject a bit of sanity into the sacrosanct opinion of many Muslims on the carte blanche use of ahadits.  And if a Muslim wishes to leave aside ahadits, who can arrogate to themselves the judgement that they are not Muslim?  These types of outbursts need to be modified.

I absolutely confirm what you have said above, Brother Abdulkareem C Stone.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I would like to clearly and unhesitatingly agree with the language chosen by the mufti.  Those denying ahadits, calling themselves ‘Quranists’ have a retarded logic.  To deny ahadits means denial of the whole sirah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Our knowledge of Khadijah (r.a.), Fathimah (r.a.), and ‘Ali (k.w.), come from ahadits.  We cannot understand Islam with understanding the context of his family within Makkah and Madina.  This is only known through ahadits.  How would we know what Iqra’ means without ahadits?  The reasoning of the ‘Quranists’ is most certainly retarded.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: The sirah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is the Qur’an as ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “He is the Qur’an walking.”

Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the Messengers that passed away before Him.  If he died or was slain, will ye then turn back on your heels?  If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly Reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:144)

Say, “I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the inspiration has come to me, that your God is one God: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.” (Surah al-Kahf:110)

Having mentioned this I will add that the history of the companions and the Ahl al-Bayt contains knowledge, but the Qur’an is the sirah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  If we had nothing but the Qur’an and followed it, we would succeed fi ad-dunya wa al-akhirah.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The Qur’an is not the sirah of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.); he is the tafsir of the Qur’an.  Tell me, other than his name, what events and details of his life are explained in the Qur’an.  There are references to events but these events are only understood through ahadits.  Please, somebody illustrate a story of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) using Qur’anic verses alone.

Sister Ginny Quick: I do not reject ahadits outright as much of what makes us Muslim, the acts of worship, comes from ahadits.  I am not sure why people cannot just agree to disagree with the shaykh or better yet, go to his page directly.  If you truly reject ahadits and you feel you have your evidence for doing so, why get all defensive if someone else disagrees with you?  Just live and let live.  In my experience, defensiveness is usually a sign of your own doubts on the issue.  There are so many things we could all be debating about, myself included, but there is just a lot more important things to be doing, like, well, reading and pondering the Qur’an.

Sister Sabine: Sister Ginny, I feel it is exactly the other way around.  The original post sounds quite defensive to me.  And if the shaykh is so irritated by Quranists, why does he not go directly to their pages or discussion forums to ask those questions?

Brother James Harris: He did not go to their pages because he was not asking anything; he was making a statement.

Sister Sabine: He said, “My question to any suffering from such theological and psychological deficiencies, is how do you actually prove the Qur’an to be authentic?  If you say it has been transmitted by mutawatir chains, I would like to ask you where these chains are.  And have you seen and evaluated them?”

Brother James Harris: They appear to me to be rhetorical questions, Sister Sabine.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I will again stick my head above the parapets by saying the mufti has attacked a reasoning that claims Islam can be understood without ahadits at all.  This is an extremely disingenuous position and does lead to a retarded understanding of Islam.  Its central premise is defunct and leads to an inevitable retardation in understanding Diyn.  Again, I reiterate we cannot understand Islam without understanding the personage of the noble Prophet (s.a.w.) and we can only begin to get a glimpse of his beauty through ahadits.  Anyone saying ahadits is invalid is saying sirah is invalid, thereby essentially presenting a deformed image of a religion akin to a cadaver with its heart dissected.

Sister Sabine: By the way, there is nothing new about those questions at all.  They could already be found years ago in a so-called “combat kit against Qur’an only Muslims” and have been addressed repeatedly.

Brother James Harris: It is one thing to say that practices that occurred at past points in history should no longer be practised, and it is another thing to say they never happened because we cannot trust the sources that record them.  It seems you are confusing two issues here.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I suppose the phrase retarded logic is somewhat erroneous as logic would not be logic if it was not logical.  A logical fallacy is like a false truth.  But we can say that the illogical and fallacious basis of Quranists will severely hinders one’s intellectual and spiritual development in this religion.

Brother Dan Oo: this guy comes off like a condescending jerk.  I would never listen to him just because of the manner and method he writes this.  Where is the professionalism?  He is supposed to be a mufti, a professional position.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: Brother Abdulkareem C Stone, I remind you that your 100% thing is wrong.  Indeed, my conversion was based on the words of the Qur’an itself and had nothing to do with ahadits.  In fact, had I known some of the ahadits I know now without proper context, I dare say I would not have come to Islam at all if not for the Will of Allah.  And I am far from the only one.

Again, the mutual bashing of Quranists versus others is but a rehash of Pharisee versus Sadducee during the days of ‘Isa (a.s.).  Seeing both sides and wanting to remain on the straight path, I understand the problem with Quranists who wholesale reject all ahadits and I take issue with that as well.  However, I also take issue with those who place ahadits above the Qur’an or ones who misuse it to invalidate the faith of others.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: I absolutely agree with my Brother Ishaq.  I came to Islam through the Qur’an, not ahadits.  A brother came to my house one day and saw my dog.  He chided me with finger wagging that the angels would not be in my house.  I laughed at him and replied, “My friend, there are angels on either side of me that do not depart until my death, so if there are no angels here, do you find me deceased.”  By the way, that brother is probably part of the group this new age ‘mufti’ belongs to.

Now, Brother Abdulkareem, that is disingenuous.  Of course, the Qur’an was transmitted by many people and was agreed upon by all the Muslims.  This is not the same as ahadits.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: So, Brother Hajj Ahmad, you read about Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) later, after becoming Muslim?  And you did not read any of the explanation of the Qur’an concerning the reason for Revelation?  I think any literate person would read other books explaining the verses and Islam as well.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: So, Brother Abdulkareem, are you inferring that I am illiterate?  My friend, this is one of the hallmarks of the group the young ‘mufti’ probably allies with.  I am most familiar with the tactics.  They have the answers and the devil be with those who do not agree.  Yes, my friend, I knew relatively little about the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his history.  I opened the Qur’an during Ramadhan read for a while and wept for an hour until the moisture was gone from my body.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: All those translations rely heavily on ahadits.  They are not really the Qur’an as such, but exegeses as they are accompanied by explanation.  I am saying it would be surprising for you as a literate person not to read any explanation of the verse you read.

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother Abdulkareem, as Brother Ishaq said, knowledge of the Torah and Injil provided ample explanation.

Brother James Harris: The Bible says nothing of the circumstances of the Revelation of the Qur’an or of Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his life.

Brother Joel Troxell: And which of those are necessary for having a correct relationship to our Creator and our fellow humans?

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: That is untrue, Brother Abdulkareem.  Again I have 7 or 8 translations of the Qur’an.  Minus slight nuances, they all say the same thing.  To say that all of them rely heavily on ahadits is to say the entire Qur’an relies on ahadits, which is a dangerous statement.  And the Yusuf ‘Ali and Muhammed Asad translations have the Arabic script and transliteration in them so I can look up the word directly without needing a hadits to figure it out.  You are comparing apples and oranges at this point.

Brother James Harris: Do you mean that it is not necessary to know the Qur’an in order to have a correct relationship to our Creator, Brother Joel?  I am not quite clear what you are getting at.

Brother Joel Troxell: I’m saying knowledge of the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is not necessary to know God or to engage in correct exegesis of the Qur’an.

Brother James Harris: Brother Ishaq, you cannot interpret the Qur’an by simply using an Arabic dictionary.  That is impossible.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: He means it is not necessary for the Bible to have information on the life of Muhammed (s.a.w.) or the Qur’an for someone who knows the Bible to understand the Qur’an.

Brother James Harris: In what way is the veracity of the Bible stronger than the ahadits?  Many of the events described in the Bible were written hundreds of years after the fact.  Why do you accept that and not the ahadits?  That doesn’t make sense to me.

Brother Joel Troxell: The Qur’an affirms both Jewish and Christian scriptures.  There is a ridiculous amount of manuscript evidence to go through in terms of determining the reliability of those texts.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: What is there to interpret?  If I read the Bible in Hebrew and looked up original words, it does not change the message.  And this is where I sympathise with the Quranists.  This notion that the Qur’an cannot be understood by itself without ahadits is borderline abhorrent to me.  The words are there and Allah Guides Whom He Wills.  There was no ahadits for the 23 years of Revelation.  There was just the daily life for the Muslims.

I did not say I did not go and research things more in depth later.  But I did not take shahadah because of a hadits.  I took it because of scriptures like this:

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation) unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (Surah al-‘Ankabut:46)

And again, I do not reject ahadits.  But I did not come to Islam because of it.  That is my point.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: There was no ahadits for 23 years?  It is a bit like saying there is nothing about the fall of the Berlin Wall because it was not written about in history book that are twenty years old.  Ahadits is basically history.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: Yes, the ahadits is history.  But again, you are missing the main point, which is that it is possible to come to Islam without it.

Brother James Harris: No text can be understood as strings of isolated words without reference to who said them and why they said it.  It is a basic fact you will find any study of literature, translation, tafsir or any other field dealing with text interpretation.  You may find that abhorrent now, but if you study in further depth, you will have no choice but to examine all the sources available that provide insights into the verses and their meanings.

The verse you posted is one translation, but you will find dozens of variant translations based on differing understandings of the circumstances of the revelation.  Look at how ISIS uses the Qur’an to justify their murderous beliefs.  They can do that because they decontextualise.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: For those who wish to live in an elegiac world of the swahabah as related in some sayings from 1,400 years ago, many of which make no sense to us in our time, may Allah Reward them.  I realise it is an anchor that provides comfort.  It is just not for me except what relates to me personally in my ‘ibadah and does not offend my logic or understanding.  For those who wish to use the Qur’an as a primary tool for self and cosmic discovery in addition to the vast array of ancient and current world wisdom including the ahadits that confirms this pre-existing knowledge, bismillah.

As you may know, I am Shi’ah and function on a rotor as a khathib for a mosque.  At the last ‘Iyd al-Fithr, some brothers and I got into a discussion about the Mahdi (a.s.).  You may know the Shi’ah version of this but to make it short he is in occultation.  Personally I do not know if this is true or not.  I do not discount the possibility but it is not important to me in my life.  I sort of ‘believe’ the Mahdi (a.s.) will one day arise, but whether according to Sunni or Shi’ah traditions, I have no idea.

When I told this group of brothers that the concept of the Mahdi (a.s.) did not figure into my daily life, they looked at me in disbelief, and I received an email from a brother I have known for 37 years, warning me that my Salvation was at stake.  I did not answer, which is uncharacteristic of me as you can well imagine.  I did not know what to say.

I write this incident to amplify my attitude about the swahabah, may Allah (s.w.t.) Reward them for their iman and deeds as well as all the Muslims.  Their life and times were for them, and ours is for us.  The great principles of akhlaq taught through ahadits could probably be condensed to a dozen pages.  What more do I need than to act generously, compassionately, discriminately, sincerely, with good opinion of others, honestly and so forth in all my actions, to keep aware of myself, to make tawbah for my foolishness, to fully internalise tawhid, to love the Messenger (s.a.w.) and his family, and I am sure I have left a few things out.  The rest is righteous action in the world, serving Allah’s (s.w.t.) Creation and hoping for His Succour through my life, at the moment of my death and in the states of the Hereafter upon passing from this existence.

Brother James Harris: Brother Ishaq, it is possible to believe in God and be deeply spiritual without knowing anything about the Qur’an at all.  But that is not the issue here.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I looked through the thread and all sides have merit in their argument.  But there does seem to be a conflation of points.  This is my thoughts on some of the points raised.

Firstly, the field of ahadits is vast but comes down to two main disciplines.  The first pertains to the collation of ahadits.  The sole purpose of this field is to determine the veracity of the hadits.  It is the same criteria as used in the collation of the Qur’an.  The second pertains to its interpretation, or sharh.  This pertains only to putting a narration in context.  This is not the same as using them as a basis for a legal opinion.

Secondly, the use of Qur'an, ahadits, and the other sources of legal opinion belongs to the field of jurisprudence.  This is distinct from the collation and interpretation of ahadits.  A lot of times, what people think is an issue of ahadits, is merely an issue of jurisprudence.

Personally, I am with Brother Hajj Ahmad on the issues pertaining to the use, or misuse of ahadits in jurisprudence.

On the Bible, if we were to apply the same criteria of collation and verification as we used for ahadits, almost the entirety of the Biblical text would be discarded as either dha’if, weak; or mawdhu’, fabricated.  As such, we cannot use the Bible to verify anything in the Qur’an and the ahadits, but we can use the Qur’an and the ahadits to verify stories in the Bible.

Within Bible scholarship, we have discussed the many irregularities in the text and if anyone was interested in addressing that in a separate thread, I have a lot to say on the subject.  That is why I left Christianity.

On the Quranist issue, a person who rejects ahadits altogether is considered to have left Islam, as I have mentioned before.  This Quranist movement is an anti-intellectual movement with no doctrine and no scholarship.  They are a waste of time.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Thanks for the clarification, Brother Terence.  I love you folks.  Have a blessed rest of the day.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Ahadits were first written down in the time of time of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Most famously, we have the Swahifah of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) and the collection of ibn ‘Umar (r.a.).  The most famous amongst the first generation of narrators was Imam Malik (r.a.), who gathered from the swahabah.  But he was not the only one.  However, his al-Muwaththa’ is the most complete we have from that generation.

Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.), amongst others, gathered all these collections and sorted them out according to narrators, subject matter and other criteria.  To them, we owe this debt.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: But, Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, would you agree that sirah is a vitally important aspect of Diyn in gaining the love of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  And of course, is ahadits.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Most certainly, I do, Brother Abdulkareem C Stone.  But that is not the issue we face in the ummah.  The issue we face pertains to people taking a literal interpretation of ahadits and Qur’an and applying them to their own personal brand of jurisprudence.  Sirah, on the other hand, is about knowing the Prophet (s.a.w.) and learning to love him.  The ahadits is the source, but it does not impact jurisprudentially.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I think it does really, as from his life we understand the purpose of Diyn, the reason for the edifice of law.  Without this understanding, the Diyn is vulnerable to hijacking from negative elements.  Sirah, as a whole, in this day and age, maybe more necessary than ever.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sirah is the foundation that every new Muslim needs to build his faith.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: New Muslims should indeed start with the Qur’an as the foundation and, in between, read on the life of Muhammad (s.a.w.), and perhaps, the highest grade of ahadits.

Brother James Harris: Brother Ishaq, the sirah refers to biographical accounts of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and not the Swahih collections.  The ahadits collections, such as by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), provide the raw material for biographical accounts of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) life and the circumstances of Revelation.

Brother Joel Troxell: I think someone should do a basic sociological study of Muslims.  First assessing them on a spectrum of the importance of the collections of ahadits in relationship to the Qur’an, and then survey them on their attitudes about things like women’s rights and roles in society, freedom of religion, democracy, and so forth.  I would strongly wager that the more important a Muslim thinks the ahadits are, the more likely they are to hold to oppressive and discriminatory ideas.  We can talk all day long about how these Muslims do not understand the relationship to fiqh, or the use of ahadits to compile sirah, but that does not change the resemblance to my earlier analogy of those collections being like putting a dangerous weapon in the hands of untrained and careless individuals.  Does anyone disagree with what I am saying here?

Brother James Harris: Taking a literalist view of any text, Brother Joel, leads to oppressive and discriminatory ideas.  That may be the Bible, the Qur’an, or any other text.  The problem is not the text itself but how one understands it.

Brother Joel Troxell: I agree.  But there has yet to be any Quranist guilty of oppressive behaviour I know of because they read the text too literally.  I am saying if we look at the behaviour as the result of certain preconditions of belief, then the ‘error’ of Quranism is not exactly getting anyone killed or women oppressed or calls for a lack of participation in community governance.

Brother James Harris: Quranists have never been in any position of power to do so.  From what I have experienced so far of Quranists in this group, they take very literal readings of certain translations of the Qur'an into English.

Brother Joel Troxell: One does not need power to engage in acts of violence and oppression.  If you do a survey of Quranist forums, the most that any of them plan on doing is buying a plot of land to live and do some organic farming and escape the people at the masjid.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: No, Brother Joel Troxell.  I think that Muslims in general are opinionated and ignorant.  And in this case, that ignorance falls into two broad bands.  On one hand, we have Muslims who use the text to justify cultural norms that may or may not be at variance with the religion.  And on the other hands, we have idiots like these Quranists who throw everything out because they dislike some things and create their own religion and call it ‘Islam’.

At least the former has a religious tradition to fall back on, and these issues are eventually addressed.  The latter do not even have the shahadah.  Ever notice that there are no scholars of Arabic or the Qur’an amongst the Quranists?  They all read translations or try to translate individual words and terms themselves and come up with hilariously wrong ideas.  There is no Islam with them.  And we should be as intellectually brutal with them as we are with the Wahhabis.  They are two sides of the same coin.

What the ummah is facing is a crisis of morals, intellect and social cohesion.  It is rent with conflict on many levels and pulled apart by various ideologies masquerading as Islam.  We cannot equate moral degradation and oppression with Islam since they are contrary to the religion.  The ahadits have nothing to do with this. They are, just like the Qur’an, a means used for good or ill.

Brother Timothy Saunders: What a thought provoking and illuminating discussion to listen into thanks. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: What I find most amusing about the Sunnis here is that they seem to be saying their own Revelation, Sent Down by God Himself, is inadequate on its own.  I came to Islam after reading the Qur’an and I think that is how most converts come to Islam.  If there is anyone here who came to Islam after reading the hadiths put up your hand.

Brother James Harris: No Muslim rejects the Qur’an or considers the ahadits more important than the Qur’an, Sister Eleanor.

Sister Eleanor Grant: If you do not believe the Qur’an is adequate on its own, you have rejected it.

But most of them follow nothing but fancy: truly fancy can be of no avail against Truth.  Verily Allah is Well Aware of all that they do.  This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary, it is a confirmation of (Revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book ― wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the Worlds.  Or do they say, “He forged it”?  Say, “Bring then, a surah like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!” (Surah Yunus:36-38)

Brother James Harris: Adequate for what?   Pretending that the Qur’an has no historical context renders it meaningless.

Sister Eleanor Grant: And I am also amused by the accusation that I have left Islam because I read, follow and live my life by Qur’an alone.  My response to that would be: what is Islam?  Of course Qur’an has historical context.  Who said it does not?  The historical context does not need explanation from an external source.

Brother James Harris: Well, for those translations you read, the explanations certainly come from external sources.

Sister Eleanor Grant: I disagree.  When we read the Qur’an with an open heart and faith, the Explanations come from God.  This is one of the things that makes it so special.

Brother Timothy Saunders: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience - how to balance them is the key.  I really see this argument as talking at cross purposes unless it is about whether or not to reject any one of these four sources of authority and guidance.

Brother James Harris: You mean, when we read translations of the Qur’an that are interpreted and explained relying heavily on early sources including ahadits.  No Quranist translation exists.  As for the original Arabic Qur’an, I have never heard of an Arabic-speaking Quranist.  It seems to be a movement entirely for English speakers.

Sister Eleanor Grant: The translations do not rely on ahadits at all.  I know many Arabic-speaking Quranists.  There are Arab Quranists out there, believe it or not.

Brother Timothy Saunders: But you are not saying Scripture alone and no to tradition, reason or experience are you, Sister Eleanor?  At least, I did not think you were.  Or is your objection to treating ahadits on a par with Revelation when it is actually tradition?

Brother James Harris: The asbab an-nuzul, circumstances of Revelation, is crucial in interpreting the verses of the Qur’an.  This refers to the biography of the Prophet (s.a.w.), as contained in the ahadits. I would be very interested if you could provide a reference to a Qur’anic commentary that completely ignores the asbab an-nuzul.

Sister Eleanor Grant: I do not think the Qur’an needs any commentary.  The translations should be purely based on the original Arabic text.  The problems arise when translators add commentaries and parenthesis within the text.

Brother Timothy, to the first question, I say no to tradition and yes to reason.  To the latter question, yes.

Brother James Harris: A translation is a commentary, even those without parentheses.  It is not the original text.  ‘Interpretation’ does not just mean comments in the margins, but also choices of words, what events and peoples are being referred to, and the legal, practical implications of individual verses.

Sister Eleanor Grant: A translation is an attempt to interpret the text as close to the original wording as possible.  A commentary from what I have gathered from the translations I have read so far, is a tafsir that it added on as an appendix, outside the text.

Brother James Harris: Why do you think there are significant differences between the different translations, and on what basis do you consider a translation reliable?

Sister Sabine: In response to the comment that no Quranist, ahadits free, translation exists, there is this Qur'an Reformist Translation.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: An interpretation cannot be made without a historical context.  Iqra’, for instance, occurred as a historical incident, the night of the first Revelation.  Its significance is due to it being the first word Revealed but this is only known through ahadits.  Like I said before, I do not think that there is anyone who has accepted Islam through only reading the actual translated Qur’an without any historical commentary.  All the classic so-called translations of the Qur’an are exegesis.  When I started reading the Qur’an, it was significant that Jibril (a.s.) was the one who Revealed the Qur’an in the cave of Hira and the Prophet (s.a.w.) ran down to Khadijah (r.a.).  Others on this thread admit that they read the exegesis of the Qur’an such as the Yusuf ‘Ali translation, all of which are based on ahadits.

Brother James Harris: Interesting translation, Sister Sabine.  Sister Eleanor said that Quranists do believe that the Qur’an is understood in context.  However, there is no context at all here.  If a person is happy to accept that “the explanations come from God”, which I assume means the explanations are, “whatever comes into my head when I read the words”, then what more can I say?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: That translation is full of hatred and pride against the Muslims of the world.  It reads like some vile Protestant vilification of Catholics, the sort that was written after they decimated Ireland and then blamed the plight on their adherence to the Catholic faith.  It says in this writing that those who are expecting the shifa’ of Muhammad (s.a.w.) and, amongst other things, step with their left foot in to the toilet, are better off not praying!

Sister Sabine: Where?  Could you refer to the page?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: It does not cut and paste well but it is page 505 of 520.  It reads like Protestant writing because it demeans the status of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  It chimes in what Qaddafi is reported to have written that “Muhammed is just like a postman”.  But as Brother Hajj Ahmad reminded us, Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the Qur’an.  He is the embodiment of the Qur’an.  We only understand it through him.  This treatise is full of a constant accusation against the established practises of the Muslims.  Its central accusation is we all worship Muhammad (s.a.w.), and puts forward that the remedy for this is to intentionally abandon everything he ordained that is not explicitly Mentioned in the Qur’an, even suggesting that the breaking of wind does not nullify wudhu’.  In this sense, it is the logical conclusion of Wahhabism.

Sister Sabine: This is the quote you are referring to.  I think there is a lot of truth in it.  It says, “If you are expecting the intercession of Muhammad and many other saints, if you are associating your religious leaders as partners to God in authoring your religion, justifying authoritarian regimes, violating women's rights and putting them in black sacks, showing no tolerance for the expression of opposing ideas and cultures, justifying the punishment of stoning to death for adulterers, adhering to numerous superstitions, entering the restroom with left foot, forcing your child to eat with right hand, prohibiting music and visual arts; in short, if you are condemning yourself and your society to a backward and miserable life just because you learn from those sectarian sources how to bend your belly or where to put your hands, then it is better for you not to pray at all.  Such a prayer (more accurately, physical exercise), is not worth exchanging monotheism with polytheism, reason with ignorance, light with darkness, peace with conflicts, universalism with tribalism, progress with regression.”

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother Abdulkareem, that is a pretty tired polemic.  Terrorists are not coming out of the Quranist ideology.

Brother James Harris: It shares with Wahhabism the idea that a quick fix to the problems of Muslim societies can be found by throwing away most of our Islamic heritage, scholarship and tradition.  While it does not take a violent approach like Wahhabism, there does seem to be a somewhat mocking tone towards Sunni Muslims, even though many of us may agree with some of the humanistic issues mentioned in the comment above, such as women's rights and freedom of expression.  Ultimately the problems Muslims face will be resolved by rethinking what our Islamic heritage means to us in the modern context.  Throwing our entire heritage away will ultimately leave us without the intellectual or cultural tools to resolve any of the issues facing Muslims, and indeed without any means to make sense of the Qur’an.

Brother Timothy Saunders: As I hinted in another thread recently, most people seeking to interpret the Qur’an for themselves as a personal quest for meaning and illumination, I do not expect, would even bother calling themselves by another fundamentalist, term like Quranist.  Such folk are usually at a more highly developed stage of faith and spiritual practice.  Like me, of course.

Brother Joel Troxell: That is only a matter of agreement in the same way that the far left and the far right do not like those who sit in the middle.  This is just an illustration, not for one to jump on some comment about the middle path.  I personally do not think it will be possible to rethink tradition without someone developing an entirely new paradigm related to authority and knowledge, because the current approach to tradition is always going to go back to the notion that we are bound to follow the practices and traditions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his companions.  It ties our hands to a culture that has no solutions to the problems we currently face.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The best way to eradicate terrorism is to make every effort to return to the normative tradition of Islam that has historically the best track record of any society in terms of stability and tolerance.  By undermining the most effective voice of reason, one is, by default, adding to the confusion and misunderstanding driving so many to despair.

Brother Joel Troxell: I disagree.  I will again point out the instability that existed at the time of the Rightly-Guided caliphs.

Brother Timothy Saunders: But we are not here to eradicate terrorism, and all historic forms of Islam in the tradition are flawed right from the moment of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) passing.

Brother James Harris: We have our own culture and traditions that developed independently of Islam or alongside it to resolve political, social and other problems, as have Muslims at every other time and place.  If you see the Prophet (s.a.w.) as purely a kind of political legislative model, then of course there will be problems in applying his practice and teaching to any time outside 7th century Arabia.  However, for us, he is the perfect human, whom we seek to emulate as best we can, in terms of our attitudes, relationship with God, and our character.

In response to your remark, “It ties our hands to a culture that has no solutions to the problems we currently face,” if Islam was about recreating 7th century Arabian society all over the world, it would have died out very quickly long ago.

Brother Timothy Saunders: At the risk of postmodern heresy, I am not terribly interested in replicating the model of Islam bequeathed by the first generations of Arabian Muslims.  In my humble fashion, I would rather sit at the feet of Muhammad (s.a.w.) and Jesus (a.s.) to learn directly.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: When we talk about today about traditional Islam, I really do not think we are.  The entire context of the Islam most new Muslims come into is not traditional.  It is framed in a political context which deems shari’ah as a constitution or a printed rule book.  These are not how the shari’ah was traditionally understood.  These are borrowings from the modernist worldview, one that deems reason and experiment alone as the basis of knowledge, the idea that all can be understood in a prescriptive fashion.

Brother Timothy Saunders: But a recoil theology which seeks to return to the first modernity of religious grand narratives is not the answer either.  What we call modernity is actually 2nd modernity reacting against those religious grand narratives of 1st modernity bequeathed by the axial age.

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother Harris, conventional Islam is absolutely a mimicry of the culture and norms of 7th century Arabia.  Women are responsible for the temptation of men so they should cover up and head to the back of the room, and you are more blessed if you pray while wearing a thobe.  I cannot tell you the times I was shot a dirty look for showing up to prayer in a tie because I had directly left work.  I am going to wager my experience of Islam like this is hardly unique.  Anyone can then respond and talk about the ignorance of most Muslims, but we still need to talk about the conventions, assumptions, and practices that have produced jahiliyyah.

Brother James Harris: It depends on the community you are around, Brother Joel.  I imagine you are talking about a mosque that is either mainly Indo-Pakistani or Wahhabi communities in Western countries.  I have not experienced that at all in places like Egypt, the Gulf, Indonesia, Turkey, and elsewhere, where I only ever turned up to pray in a suit and tie, or other ‘non-traditional’ clothes.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: It is those that give a dirty look to others of ‘modern’ appearance that are themselves modern, or postmodern to be precise; certainly not traditional.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Islam is going through a revitalisation and renewal as we speak, and the statements made herein prove that very point.  We desperately need an Islamic milieu that retains the core principles and applies them to the 21st century.  A return back refuses to accept the differences of our current challenges.

Brother Colin Turner: Sister Eleanor Grant, a translation is a commentary, by default.

Sister Eleanor Grant: When I mentioned commentaries I was referring to the exegesis outside of the text.  I agree you cannot translate word for word from Arabic to English and so personal interpretation must be involved, but this does not need to come from ahadits; just from a good understanding of both Arabic and the language that it is being translated to, which in our case, is English.

Brother Colin Turner: What is wrong with using external sources?  We use them all the time - our own powers of reason are sources external to the Quran, and we rely on them for our own particular ‘reading’ of the text.  Everyone who reads the Qur’an interprets it by default; every reading, qara’a, is at the same time an interpretation, qara’a.  It is pointless saying that God is the One Who Gives us our understanding, and so that shows we do not need mufassirun.  What does that mean, in practice?  Why should our understanding be privileged over that of a mufassir?  I find the Quranist arguments against the necessity of external scholarship self-defeating.

It does not need to come from ahadits, but if there are ahadits, or narratives, which purport to include insights into the text, what is wrong with considering them?  You see, you seem to be saying that personal interpretation is okay, but that it is not okay to rely on, or make us of, someone else's ‘personal interpretation’.  Is that not what you're saying?

Sister Eleanor Grant: Yes, that is what I am saying.  The reason I say that is because many ahadits actually contradict the Quran, so how can we use them to explain it?  God Gave us a conscience, intellect and own reasoning so why should we not use it?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The ahadits do not contradict the Qur’an.  A lot of ‘contradictions’ are misinterpretations.  A lot of Qur’an ‘contradicts’ common sense, conscience and reality.  But that is only because people are inadequate in their knowledge, in their ethics or in their spirituality.  If the vessel of the self is corrupt, then the veracity of scripture is irrelevant.

Sister Eleanor Grant: So stoning the adulterer to death is not contradicting Qur’an?  What about apostasy laws?  Or have these ahadits been misinterpreted?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Qur’an is silent on the matter of rajm.  So it cannot contradict what is not there.  And the ahadits on apostasy are easily explained, and have been explained, and put in the context of jurisprudence.

Sister Eleanor Grant:

None of Our Revelations do We Abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We Substitute something better or similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath Power over all things? (Surah al-Baqarah:106)

There are no apostasy laws in the Qur’an.  Freedom of religion is allowed.

Nay, this is a Glorious Qur’an, (Inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved! (Surah al-Buruj:21-22)

Have the ahadits been preserved?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Really?  You are going to use a poor translation addressing a separate issue to make a point when I know Arabic?  And you take every verse out of context to suit what you believe.  It is the same disease of the Protestant movement with their nonsensical sola scriptura.

Regarding apostasy, if you had actually studied the religion and know something of jurisprudence, then you would already know that the vast majority of scholars hold the position that there is no penalty for apostasy.  And there are ahadits that underscore the point.  It is a non-issue.  No one sane is advocating killing apostates.  So what is your point?  Not killing apostates is against the Qur’an then?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: How do you know that those verse were not just added along with a few other sneaked in?

Sister Eleanor Grant: As excerpted from Swahih al-Bukhari, it was narrated by Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) and Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani (r.a.) that a Bedouin came to Allah’s Apostle (s.a.w.) and said, “O Allah’s Apostle!  I ask you, by Allah, to judge my case according to Allah’s Laws.”

His opponent, who was more learned than he, said, “Yes, judge between us according to Allah’s Laws, and allow me to speak.”

Allah’s Apostle (s.a.w.) said, “Speak.”

He said, “My son was working as a labourer for this (man) and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife.  The people told me that it was obligatory that my son should be stoned to death, so in lieu of that I ransomed my son by paying one hundred sheep and a slave girl.  Then I asked the religious scholars about it, and they informed me that my son must be lashed one hundred lashes, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this (man) must be stoned to death.”

Allah’s Apostle (s.a.w.) said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, I will judge between you according to Allah’s Laws.  The slave-girl and the sheep are to be returned to you, your son is to receive a hundred lashes and be exiled for one year.  You, Unays, go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death.”

Unays (r.a.) went to that woman next morning and she confessed.  Allah’s Apostle (s.a.w.) ordered that she be stoned to death.

So stoning to death is okay?  The punishment for adultery is 100 stripes if there are 4 witnesses.  I would like to know if you guys agree with stoning to death?  This is a simple question.  Anyone care to answer?

Sister Sabine: Brother Terence, yes, the Qur’an is silent on stoning.  But it specifies the punishment for adultery as a number of lashes depending on the case.  The hadits saying adulterers should be stoned to death clearly contradict this, yet they are being applied.

Many comments here seem to suggest that all Quranists are white converts.  But, as Sister Eleanor has already pointed out, many of them are born Muslims or native Arabic speakers or former Sunni Muslims.  Also, and this has been discussed here before, Quranism is not a monolithic movement.  It is extremely diverse and as such it is hard to generalise about its members and their beliefs.  Many do not even call themselves ‘Quranists’; simply ‘Muslim’.

Sister Eleanor Grant: I'm yet to hear who here agrees with stoning to death.  Only skirting around it.

I actually do not call myself a Quranist.  I am Muslim.  And my father is Turkish.  I am a former Sunni myself.

Sister Sabine: The following is extracted from The Quranists by Aisha Y. Musa: “Recently, however, an increasingly vocal Muslim opposition to the use and authority of the ahadits has emerged.  Insistence on the Qur’an alone as the sole source of religious law and guidance in Islam has earned those who oppose the ahadits the epithet ‘Quranists.’  This article will introduce the most prominent trends and thinkers among the various groups referred to by this title.

There are two strains of opposition to the authority of the ahadits.  The first is opposition to an extra-Qur’anic source of scriptural authority and the second is to the problematic content of some of the ahadits that make the religion an object of ridicule.

Authenticity is also a concern, and opponents of the ahadits often argue that the ahadits have nothing to do with the Prophet (s.a.w.).  However, the overriding concern is about granting scriptural authority to something other than the Qur’an.  The number of groups and individuals who may be called ‘Quranists’ appears to be increasing.  The Internet has opened the discussion to a broad array of participants and observers.  At the time of this is being written, Wikipedia’s entry entitled ‘Qur’an alone’ contains links to more than a dozen websites dedicated to interpreting Islam without using ahadits.

While some opponents of the ahadits express themselves openly, using their own names, others publish their views anonymously or under pseudonyms for fear of reprisals.  Arrest, detention, and imprisonment of Quranists in Egypt has gained increasing attention in the Muslim world since at least early 2003, when the London based, Arabic language daily, ash-Sharq al-Awsath, reported that eight Egyptians were sentenced by Egypt’s Supreme State Security Court to terms ranging from 6 months to 3 years for ‘contempt of religion’ for rejecting Prophetic Traditions, interpreting the Qur’an for themselves in ways differ dramatically from mainstream understanding of Islamic beliefs and practices.

More arrests and detentions in 2007 sparked intense debated in the Egyptian press, and scholars of al-Azhar declared the Quranists apostates who are attempting to ‘destroy Islam.’  Former Deputy Rector of al-Azhar and member of the Islamic Studies Committee, Mahmoud Ashour, was quoted in ash-Sharq al-Awsath as saying they are ‘more dangerous to Islam than any other group.’  The situation of Egypt’s Quranists illustrates the gravity of the issue for Muslims.

An important aspect of the modern debates over the ahadits is that they involve educated ordinary Muslims.  In his 1999 article, ‘The Coming Transformation of the Muslim World,’ Dale Eickelman discusses the effect that ‘unprecedented access that ordinary people now have to information and knowledge about religion and other aspects of their society’ is having on religious authority in the Muslim world: ‘What distinguishes the present era from prior ones is the large number of believers engaged in the ‘reconstruction’ of religion, community, and society.  In an earlier era, political or religious leaders would prescribe, and others were supposed to follow.  Today, the major impetus for change in religious and political values comes from below.’

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: It is simple when we strive to derive the principles applied in the early periods.  One the legal ruling for stoning was always four witnesses to see penetration as the pen goes in to the ink pot.

Sister Sabine: So all people acting in porn movies or engaging in group sex should be stoned to death?

Sister Eleanor Grant: So the hadits abrogates the Qur’an in the case of punishment for adultery, Brother Abdulkareem?  The Qur’an clearly states the punishment for adultery.  Why does the hadits abrogate the Qur’an?  This, I would like to know.

Sister Sabine: Another excerpt: “Among the leading opponents of the ahadits are Rashad Khalifa and Ahmad Subhy Mansour, Egyptians who settled in the United States, Kassim Ahmed of Malaysia, and Edip Yuksel, a Turkish religious activist who immigrated to the United States to escape persecution in his homeland.  Their works are available both in traditional print media and on the Internet.

Each of them was born and raised in a traditional Sunni family in a Muslim country.  While some may have lived and studied in Western countries, they came to the West as adults with their respective cultural, social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.  They are not ‘Westerners’ who are seeking to ‘Westernize’ Islam to fit their ‘Western’ culture.  This is significant because one of the most frequent criticisms of the modern-day opposition to the authoritative status of the ahadits is that it is an essentially Western-influenced assault on Islam.”

Sister Eleanor Grant: So the supposed actions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) overrule God’s Words?

Brother Sulayman Bates: There are evidences in the Qur’an itself on the necessity in following the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his sunnah, there is no separation of the Qur’an and Sunnah; they complement one another:

... So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you... (Surah al-Hashr:7)

He was the best interpreter of the Book.  As for how the laws are applied, it is beyond my knowledge and Allah Knows best.

Sister Eleanor Grant: The only actions that can be Godly Driven are those that are in accordance with God’s Revelations.  Would you not agree, Brother Sulayman?  This ayat is about the spoils of war.

Brother Colin Turner: Sister Eleanor Grant, I do not accept stoning for apostasy or adultery.  Your point?

Sister Sabine: This verse explicitly refers to the distribution of booty.  How did you come to the conclusion that it refers to following sayings of the Prophet (s.a.w.)?  That does not make sense at all.

Brother Colin Turner: I think the weakest card you Quranists play is this insistence on not using ‘external sources’ to understand our foundational texts, when you yourself are relying on your own limited wisdom - itself an external source by definition.  No-one is saying that ahadits or tafsir are infallible.  And why not avail ourselves of scholarship if it is there and helpful?  And ahadits cannot abrogate the Qur’an, Sister Eleanor.  I am not sure why you think they can.

Sister Eleanor Grant: Just out of interest, Brother Colin, would you agree that the hadits in question should be thrown out?  If so, why?

Brother Colin Turner: I do not necessarily reject its authenticity, Sister Eleanor, but I reject its validity. The hadits predated the Revelation of the verse in question.  Recent scholarship discusses this at length.

Sister Eleanor Grant: How can the hadits predate Revelation of Qur’an?  The hadits mentions the Qur’an, Brother Colin.  And it is well-known that the ahadits were compiled and written centuries after the revelation of the Quran.  There are no ahadits that pre-date the Quran

Brother Colin Turner: The hadits in question, Sister Eleanor; not the ahadits as a corpus.

And Sister Eleanor, this is another Achilles Heel, I believe.  You insist that the ahadits were not compiled until centuries after the Revelation of the Qur’an.  Yet, I assume you do not hold with the revisionists who say that the Qur’an was the work of a council of editors in the 8th century?  Why do you accept one historical narrative about the provenance of the ahadits but not about the provenance of the Qur’an?

Sister Eleanor Grant: The hadits in question makes reference to the Qur’an, does it not?  I am not here to make personal judgments.  I just want to have a discussion to make sense of these important issues.  This is not me versus you, Brother Colin.  It is truth versus falsehood.  Perhaps, we can all learn something.  If you give a reasonable argument backed up by logic and proof, you will find my mind is open.

Brother Sulayman Bates:

O ye who believe!  Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority among you.  If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination. (Surah an-Nisa’:59)

Interpretation of meaning, I guess where the disagreement remains is what he said and what came from him.

Sister Eleanor Grant: We can all be certain that the Qur’an came from him, Brother Sulayman.

The Qur’an has its own in built dictionary and it has no contractions.  This is proof enough for me.  There are many numerical proofs as well.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Sister Eleanor, just out of curiosity how do you know al-Hashr:7 is about the spoils of war?  There is nothing in the ayat that indicates that, and I would venture to say that the 4th form translation of fa’-ya’-alif in Lane’s as “giving the spoils of war” was a result of the sirah or ahadits.  And to Brother James’s point from before, the English translations of many words in the Qur’an are based to some degree upon the Prophetic event, the knowledge of which comes to us from sirah account and ahadits.

The linking of the Quran, sirah and traditions is unavoidable.  The problem is in using reason to sort out what is nonsensical among the ahadits regardless of the tag of ‘swahih’ being attached, perhaps after understanding the ahadits from context, or perhaps even not needing context if the ahadits is blatantly unreasonable. I cannot imagine the Prophetic dispensation and the Qur’an requiring a vast hierarchy of scholarship to understand the Revelation and apply it, but I do not think we can, out of hand, discard ahadits and sirah which are deemed reliable and do not offend our reason.

Sister Eleanor Grant:

What Allah has Bestowed on His Messenger (and Taken Away) from them ― for this, ye made no expedition with either cavalry or camelry: but Allah Gives Power to His messengers over any He Pleases: and Allah has Power over all things.  What Allah has Bestowed on His Messenger (and Taken Away) from the people of the townships, Belongs to Allah to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; in order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealth among you.  So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you.  And fear Allah; for Allah is Strict in Punishment.  (Some part is due) to the indigent Muhajirin, those who were expelled from their homes and their property while seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure, and aiding Allah and His Messenger: such are indeed the sincere ones ― (Surah al-Hashr:6-8)

These verses are clear enough.  Even if they are not referring to spoils of war, they are certainly referring to the distribution of wealth, and not the sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  What do you think, Brother Hajj?

Brother Colin Turner: You still refuse to engage with the issue I mentioned earlier about trusting your own interpretation but not engaging with the interpretations of others.  Forget ahadits; what about Qur’anic commentaries?  Do you impugn tafsir as a discipline?  How about other scholarly disciplines such as fiqh and uswul?  Theology?  Philosophy?

Sister Eleanor Grant: I do not claim to be a scholar.  I study the Qur’an with like-minded people.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Sister Eleanor, the position of the Quranists does not make sense.  Of course, if there were no ahadits or history we could use the Qur’an alone and fashion our spiritual practice.  But Allah (s.w.t.) has Made available all of the other scholarly disciplines to help us, and He has Provided highly intelligent experts in their field to try their best to make our Diyn as specific as possible so we err as little as possible.  If Allah (s.w.t.) had not Willed this, He would not have left such a broad legacy of scholarship for us to use.

How can the Quranists dispute what 99.999% of scholars and intelligent Muslims accept?  Is this what we as human beings do in other endeavours?  I understand your criticism of ahadits as do many who have posted here.  We agree with you on this.  Very few on this thread seem to support ahadits that go against reason or are not useful to us in our time and place.  Most of us understand that the designation of ‘swahih’ attributed to the jami’ of Imam Muslim (r.a.) and Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) was the optimum way available at that time to sift out the best of a million ahadits.

The Qur’an is Divine Revelation through a human medium to guide a people of that time and culture using their language.  How did the people of that place and time relate to the words and idioms?  For example, what exactly did the word ‘shaythan’ mean to the Arabs?  How did the Arabs relate to the stories of Jesus (a.s.) and Mary (a.s.), as well as Musa (a.s.) and all the other narratives?  They had to have some understanding in order for the Qur’an to make sense to them.  In the same way, for the Qur’an to make sense to us so it is most useful, we must use the historical context contained in sirah and sunnah.  It makes no sense not to.

I do not mean to be demeaning, but it is childish.  It is like a parent who knows what is better for the child yet the child adamantly claims no.  Sister Eleanor, I sense you're an intelligent woman.  Islam is meant to reduce ego not increase it.  Do not just read this quickly and shut it out without reflecting on the wisdom.  Leave yourself open to shift your position.  The bottom line here is do not take chances like this with your spiritual life which is more important than any other aspect.  You will be accountable as will I and others.  Continue to study the Qur’an as you do, and most of it will make sense without resorting to tafsir or ahadits, but do not completely shut out what the vast majority of well-intentioned Muslims have been saying for 1,400 years despite their differences of opinion particularly when it comes to the practices of the Diyn like swalah, zakat, swawm and hajj.  The scholars are not perfect, and that is why we have the capability of discerning for ourselves after examining what they have said.

Brother Colin Turner: Sister Eleanor, the ruling of stoning for apostasy or adultery predates the Qur’an, and that ruling, which has come to us via ahadits, was enforced before the verse about whipping was Revealed.  I did not say there was a written hadits which preceded the Qur’an.  I said the ruling, later encapsulated in a written hadits, predated the whipping verses.

Brother James Harris: Sister Eleanor, you said, “The Qur’an has its own in built dictionary and it has no contractions.”  Words are symbols that point to a reality.  This is a general principle that applies to all human languages.  The Qur’an is an indicator of the Muhammadan Reality, al-Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah.  Without considering this reality, words on their own are merely a series of sounds without any intrinsic meaning.  Therefore, the second part of the Muslim declaration of faith is, “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, not “the Qur’an is the Messenger of God”.  The words of the Qur’an point to the actions, beliefs and ideals of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and past prophets.  A word does not acquire its meaning from other words, but from the actions, people and places in the real world to which it points.

Brother Colin Turner: Just out of interest, Sister Eleanor, do you read any Qur’an commentaries or works of Muslim theology or philosophy?

Brother James Harris: So how do you distinguish between the verses that you use for your fiqh, and those which do not have legal force?

Sister Eleanor Grant: Legal force meaning?

Brother James Harris: ‘Legal’ here means those verses which are explicitly providing a model to be followed in practical terms, versus those which are not to be taken as practical instruction.

Sister Eleanor Grant: Brother Colin, I have ‘The Message of the Qur’an’ by Muhammad Asad on my reading list.  It was recommended to me.  Have you read it?

Brother James Harris: I assume you do not take the jihad verses as practical instruction, for instance.  If not, why not?

Sister Eleanor Grant: Brother James, if something is explicit in the Qur’an as a Command, I take this as a law I follow.  Yes, exactly, jihad is a personal struggle.  Striving means difference things to different people depending on their circumstances.

Brother James Harris: Let me be a bit clearer.  I am talking about verses such as:

Let those fight in the cause of Allah, who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter.  To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah, ― whether he is slain or gets victory, soon shall We give him a Reward of great (value). (Surah an-Nisa’:74)

It is not referring to ‘personal struggle’ here.

Sister Eleanor Grant: This is specific instruction in relation to fighting oppressors.  It is not relevant to me.

Brother James Harris: It does not mention oppressors here.  The idea of the Makkans as oppressors only comes from the asbab an-nuzul literature and biography of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

Sister Eleanor Grant: For me, the Qur’an has concepts which have to be studied holistically.  Whenever war or fighting is Mentioned, it is against those who oppress or fight you.

Brother James Harris: Most of us have this interpretation because the verse was Revealed in the context of the Prophet (s.a.w.) being attacked by the Makkans.  If you do not consider this in your understanding, how have you come to the conclusion that it refers to oppressors?

Brother Joel Troxell: It seems to me that, while throwing questions at Sister Eleanor about how she would interpret in a vacuum, is a reasonable line of questioning, we should not forget the established lines of interpretation in Islam that are accepted that are blatantly unjust and discriminatory, such as Shafi’i commentary on the treatment of the Ahl al-Kitab in an Islamic State, and the perennially discussed issue here related to inheritance.  Saying, “I don’t know” would be preferable to saying that Jews and Christians cannot even recite their Scriptures in public in a perfectly-run Islamic State.

Brother James Harris: That is a good point, Brother Joel.  Such rulings are indeed problematic.  However, from what I have seen here, the Quranist approach discussed above is clearly in no way a solution.  It is important to remember that a madzhab is primarily a methodology and not merely a set of rulings.  Within each madzhab, there is considerable diversity of rulings within a single tradition, as scholars adapt to the circumstances of the time and place.

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother James, you may be right.  And I think your comment points out the dilemma.  There is no clear way forward, but I do not much relish the idea of solving the problems of modernity by romantically looking to the past.  I personally think Quranism is a misnomer, much as sola scriptura was for Luther.  I think they really want to see a different hermeneutic than the traditional methodology, but cannot put forward a cohesive one.

Brother Colin Turner: Again, Sister Eleanor, you chide those who ‘follow’ the reason of others but have no qualms about following your own.  And how can you contextualise any Qur’anic verse without at least some historical background?  It seems to me that Quranists cut off their noses to spite their face, effectively sequestering themselves away from any external inputs whatsoever: no history, no jurisprudence, no theology, no philosophy, no scholarly tradition whatsoever.

Brother James Harris: We have the experiences of Muslims of prior generations to learn from, Sister Eleanor.  Having a long tradition is a strength, not a weakness.  A living tradition does not mean blindly replicating everything people did in the past.

Brother Joel Troxell: Yes, there is a wide variety of opinions even within a particular school of fiqh, but to say this and yet consider them in some way valid or politely consider them ‘problematic’, then we are giving assent to injustice.  We also cannot ignore how the traditional ‘us versus them’ narrative with Muslims turned into economic discrimination because non-Muslims, because of a hadits, could not occupy positions of power where they would be above a Muslim.  There were rare occasions in Andalusia and under the Fatimids where Christians held some prominent government positions, but this was rare and cannot be used to excuse systemic discrimination justified by traditional fiqh.

Brother James Harris: Brother Joel, the definition of ‘problematic’ is ‘something that constitutes a problem’, that is for Muslims to resolve in our law.  I was not politely validating such rulings.  They are history, and hopefully will stay there.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: A whimsical idea of the past does not reflect where Islamic governments, and to a large degree their people, are today.  The suggestion that we can be saved by going back to the future is romantic.  It may be a pleasant daydream, but a daydream nonetheless.

Brother Timothy Saunders: At a personal level, I love history and am the most nostalgic person I know, yearning for an ideal past and cherishing its losses in a way which makes the present perpetually disappointing.

But I also know this is a romantic creation of my imagination seeking the primordial origin in the past whereas the continuous Divine Recreation of each moment is what is truly creative and original and the only ‘place’ Islam can be located as reality unfolds with my heart’s participation in the eternal present, connected to the Source.  In fact, I'm not sure Islam is really about the past or the future.

We say, “Inna lillahi wa inna ‘ilayhi raji’un,” as a reminder of a beloved’s passing, the end of their history, but this ayat speaks to me as much about the sacred moment in between belonging and returning we all share.  When we pause to remember, that is.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Coming Back to the Quranist issue, anyone not witnessing the kalimah, Laa ilaha illa Allah wa Muhammadar Rasulullah, is not, in this world, considered a Muslim.  This is agreed-upon by all Muslims.  They are not a sect; they are just not Muslim.

Sister Eleanor Grant: If I say there is no God but Allah, this still means I am not Muslim?  Yet, I believe in the God of Abraham (a.s.) just as the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) did.  How strange!

Brother Hajj Ahmad: The second part of the shahadah must be included, especially if it is knowingly denied.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: We must remember, as Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi said, that it is ‘Muhammadar Rasulullah’ that makes us Muslim.

Sister Eleanor Grant: What was the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) shahadah?  The shahadah is a condition of the heart.  It is not just something you utter and then forget.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: The Prophet’s (s.a.w.) shahadah was, “Laa ilaha illa Allah Muhammadar Rasulullah.”  What else would it be?  He was speaking with the tongue of the Real not like you and I, Sister Eleanor.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Prophet's (s.a.w.) shahadah is the same as what we say: Laa ilaha illa Allah Muhammadar Rasulullah.

Shahadah means witnessing.  The mere utterance is not the reality of the shahadah since there is no mushahadah.  Rather, it is a du’a borne of hope.  Whoever removes the second portion has not recited the shahadah and is not of the Muslims.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Anyway, how do you compare your shahadah to his?  Seriously.  You think his inner reality was like yours?  Not so.

Brother Colin Turner: Allah (s.w.t.) Himself Bears Witness that there is no god but He, so why should the Prophet (s.a.w.) not bear witness to his own prophethood?

Sister Eleanor Grant: What is the shahadah according to the Qur’an?

There is no god but He: that is the Witness of Allah His angels and those Endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice.  There is no god but He, the Exalted in Power, the Wise. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:18)

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: We take it from the example of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  When people accepted Islam, they recited the shahadah as he taught them.  And that is where we got it.  It is not in those words exactly in the Qur’an, but that is irrelevant since there is no Qur’an without the Prophet (s.a.w.).  That is the sunnah.

Sister Eleanor Grant:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
When the hypocrites come to thee, they say, “We bear witness that thou art indeed the Messenger of Allah.”  Yea, Allah Knoweth that thou art indeed His Messenger, and Allah Beareth witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.  They have made their oaths a screen (for their misdeeds): thus they obstruct (men) from the Path of Allah: truly evil are their deeds. (Surah al-Munafiqun:1-2)

The only time that bearing witness that Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the Messenger is Mentioned in Qur’an, it is in the negative sense.  Is this a lesson for us?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: You cannot take a translation of the verse without the tafsir.  It has no actual meaning beyond what you think it is.  This has already been explained.  A person can take a verse from the Qur'an and still be deceived.

Sister Eleanor Grant: Just because it has been explained, that does not mean I have to accept your explanation as truth.  Do you accept my explanation?  Is my understanding of Qur’an inferior to yours?  Why?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Yes, Sister Eleanor Grant.  Your understanding of the Qur’an is definitely inferior to mine.  You do not even have the language of the Qur’an.  You do not know the asbab an-nuzul, or naskh wa mansukh.  You do not even know the sciences of tafsir and you are taking verses without context, and mere translations as that.  It is like I am on the moon and you are not even out of your house.

Whether you accept what is said or not is irrelevant to me.  My responsibility is to point out when something is against the orthodoxy.  There are a lot of people who read these threads, and we cannot allow deviant ideas to be unchallenged.

Sister Eleanor Grant: I am a deviant now as well as an idiot.  Cool.

Sister Terence Helikaon Nunis: I did not say you are an idiot, Sister Eleanor Grant.  You asked me a direct question pertaining to levels of knowledge and I gave you a direct answer.  Also, although when I address Quranism as a doctrine and state that it is deviant, you would note that I have never called you specifically and directly a deviant or said you are out of Islam.  I am very particular about what I write, and I seldom, ever use words superfluously.

What I do think about you, is that you are a decent person.  It is obvious that you have a good heart, and you seek a deeper, closer relationship with God.  And may Allah (s.w.t.) Grant you that.  And I know you have an interest in Sufism.  If you ever decide that you can empty your cup, and you do want to know the deeper mysteries of the religion, I, especially, am willing to share.

Religion is about taste, dzawq.  Perhaps someday, you will meet the Prophet (s.a.w.), in a dream or in a waking state and then, you will understand.

Sister Eleanor Grant: Oh, thank you, Brother Terence.  You have duly appeased me.

Brother Ishaq Mohammed: I would have to disagree with you on that one, Sister Eleanor Grant, because it would mean anyone who declared the prophethood of Muhammad (s.a.w.) was a hypocrite, meaning, for 1,400 years, every Muslim would be damned.  That would defeat the purpose altogether.

Sister Eleanor Grant:

When Allah, the One and Only, is Mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust and horror; but when (gods) other than He are mentioned, behold, they are filled with joy! (Surah az-Zumar:45)

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Yours is a complete misunderstanding of the verse, but you will continue in opposing what is clear because your personal identity is attached to feeling and appearing rebellious. Sister Eleanor, you are a beautiful, young, spiritual lady who is on the wrong track.  You need to use your intellect and not invest yourself so much in your ego identity.  Your continued combativeness on this issue will not serve you well unless you finely see what everyone else here is telling you. I wish you the best.

Sister Eleanor Grant: And I wish you the best too, Brother Hajj.  And what is your understanding of the verse?  If sharing my ideas in a sharing group is a display of ego, then I think you have misunderstood what sharing means, Brother Hajj.  Should I just keep my mouth shut and go along with the crowd?  What would be the point then of my membership here?  And just because ‘everyone’ agrees does not mean it is right, does it?  Maybe I am wrong, but I will not bend to agreement for the sake of it.

Brother Timothy Saunders: There's a world of difference between sharing verses that have personal meaning and using them to make a competitive point in an argument.  One of the things that put me off Evangelical Christians in my time was when they used the Bible against others rather than to explore the way it searches and illumines our hearts.  I hear Sister Eleanor more clearly when she does the latter but to be fair the tone of the original post was deliberately polemical.

Brother Louis Llewellyn Shann IV: I can relate to Sister Eleanor’s position in many ways.  As far as Evangelical Christians go, Brother Timothy Saunders, I grew up with them; I live in the heart of them in Western Virginia and it is much worse than you can imagine.  Trust and believe.  I cannot wait to move out of this area.  Everyone around me here is a ‘One-Verse-Charlie’.  But I digress.

Sister Eleanor Grant: Oh dear God, I hope I do not come across as being Evangelical!

Brother Colin Turner: I do not find you Evangelical, Sister Eleanor, although I do find it a bit disconcerting to suddenly have a Qur’anic verse shoved under one’s nose, with no surrounding commentary or observation.  It is a bit like being flashed at, to be honest.  Not in a bad way, of course, but disconcerting nonetheless.

Brother Louis Llewellyn Shann IV: Diversity of opinion is a good thing.  Unless it is hateful, which I did not find in this thread.


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