Are Hadith Necessary? An Examination of the Authority of Hadith in Islam
For more on this topic, see Hadith Series
Reasons for ḥadīth rejection
The word I recall the shaykh using to describe what results when the unprepared non-scholar attempts to read the hadith literature was fitnah, or a trial, in the sense that the person would be so confused and overcome after undertaking such an uninformed and one-dimensional reading of that literature (i.e., in translation without the presence of a shaykh to guide him/her through the obstacles) that he or she would face a crisis in their religion, a trial of spiritual proportions.7
The necessity of hadīth
- The Qur'ān states that dates and grapes provide intoxicants and good provision (Qur'ān 16:67);
- Wine has some benefits, but its harm outweighs its benefits (Qur'ān 2:219);
- Muslims should not approach prayer while intoxicated (Qur'ān 4:43); and
- Muslims should completely abstain from wine. (Qur'ān 5:90-91).
The Sunnah as revelation
And it was revealed to Noah: None of your people will believe except those who have believed already, so be not sad because of what they used to do (Qur'ān 11:36).
And We revealed to him [Joseph]: Indeed, you shall inform them of their affair, when they know not (Qur'ān 12:15).
And We gave Moses the Scripture, after We had destroyed the former generations, as enlightenment for the people and guidance and mercy that they might be reminded (Qur'ān 28:43).
The verse implies that such funeral services had begun to be performed and that the Prophet used to offer prayers at the burial of the dead before this particular verse was revealed; yet no verse revealed earlier than this one can be cited as enjoining such services or prayers upon the Prophet and the Muslims. It must, therefore, be conceded that the command for the burial service was given through the sunnah.19
The Prophet ﷺ as a teacher
Many of the Qur’ānic injunctions—such as those dealing with prayer, zakāt, hajj, usury, and other commercial transactions—needed careful explanation. The Prophet, as an expounder of the Qur’ān, must have both explained them verbally and demonstrated them in practice. These explanations had the force of law and came under the heading of the sunnah of the Prophet. Thus, the sunnah came into existence simultaneously with the revelation of the Qur’ān and were part of the process of the creation of an Islamic system of jurisprudence.20
“Obey God and obey the Messenger”
Here, the decisions of Allah and the Messenger both have been declared binding on the believers. It is worth noting that the word ‘and’ occurring between ‘Allah’ and ‘His Messenger’ carries both conjunctive and disjunctive meanings. It cannot be held to give conjunctive sense only, because in that case it will exclude the decision of Allah unless it is combined with the decision of the Messenger—a construction too fallacious to be imagined in the divine expression. The only reasonable construction, therefore, is to take the word ‘and’ in both conjunctive and disjunctive meanings. The sense is that whatever Allah or His Messenger, any one or both of them, decide a matter, the believers have no choice except to submit to their decision.24
1 Bernard Weiss, “Interpretation in Islamic Law: The Theory of Ijtihād,” The American Journal of Comparative Law, 2:26 (1978), 201.
2 This group was mentioned by al-Shāfiʿī in his Kitāb al-Umm, but he makes no mention of names. Several scholars have discussed who this early group was. See Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami, On Schacht's Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford: Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and The Islamic Texts Society, 1985), 73-74. Also see ʿAlī Ibn Ḥazm, Al-Iḥkām fī Uṣūl al-Aḥkām (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-ʻĀṣima, 1968) 254-257. Jilāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, Miftāḥ al-Janna fi-l-Iḥtijāj bi-l-Sunna (Cairo: Idārat al-Ṭibā῾a al-Munayriyya, 1974), 3-4.
3 For more information on these groups, see Daniel Brown, Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Among the most famous responses to the rise of Qur'ān-only movements in the Muslim world, see Muṣtafā al-Sibāʿī, Al-Sunna wa Makānatuha fī al-Tashrīʿ al-Islāmī (Cairo: Dār al-Salām, 2006); ʿAbd al-Ghanī ‘Abdl al-Khāliq, Ḥujjiyyat al-Sunna (Virginia: al-Maʻhad al-ʻĀlami lil-Fikr al-Islāmi, 1994).
4 Ibn Ḥazm, Al-Iḥkām fī Uṣūl al-Aḥkām, 121-124.
5 Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Morals and Manners (Alexandria: Al-Saadawi Publications, 1997), i-iii.
6 Y. DeLorenzo, Imam Bukhari’s, ii.
7 Y. DeLorenzo, Imam Bukhari’s, ii-iii.
8 T. Nichols, Death of Expertise, 115-120.
9 M.M. Azami, On Schacht's Origins, 20.
10 For examples of the extent of differences on the fundamentals of prayer see D. Brown, Rethinking Tradition, 47-50. Also see E. Hamdeh, The Necessity of Ḥadīth, 129-147.
11 See Edip Yuksel’s Quran: A Reformist Translation (Brainbow Press, 2007).
12 Jonathan A. C. Brown, Misquoting Muhammad The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting Muhammad’s Legacy (London: Oneworld, 2014), 204-208.
14 Jonathan A. C. Brown, Misquoting Muhammad, 206.
16 Ibn Ḥazm, Al-Iḥkām fī Uṣūl al-Aḥkām, 135-136.
17 Muḥammad Luqmān al-Salafī, Makānat Al-Sunnah fil-Tashrīʻ al-Islāmī wa Daḥḍ Mazāʻim al-Munkirīn wal-Mulḥidīn (India: Dār al-Dāʻī lil Nashr wal-Tawziʻ, 1999), 63.
18 See M. Usmani, The Authority of Sunnah, 26-32.
19 Habib-ur-Rahman al-Aʿzami, The Sunnah in Islam: The Eternal Relevance of the Teaching and Example of the Prophet Muhammad (United Kingdom: UK Islamic Academy, 1989), 32.
20 M.M. Al-Azami, On Schacht's Origins, 20.
21 Qur'ān 24:54, 24:56, and 4:42.
22 Muḥammad ibn Abū Bakr Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Iʻlām al-Muwaqiʻīn ʻar-Rab al-ʻālamīn (Cairo: al-Maktabah at-Tijāriyyah, 1955), 48. Also see Muhammad Asad, “Social and Cultural Realities of the Sunnah.” In Hadith and Sunnah - Ideals and Realities. Edited by P. K. Koya (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 1996), 236.
23 Ibn Ḥazm, Al-Iḥkām fī Uṣūl al-Aḥkām, 87-88.
24 M. Usmani, The Authority of Sunnah, pp. 48-49.
25 Muḥammad Ismāʻīl al-Salafī. Ḥujjiyyat al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī Majmūʻ Maqālāt Nafīsa fil-Difāʻ ʿan al-Sunnah al-Sharīfa. Edited by Ḥasan Muqtaḍa. (Kuwait: Ghirās, 2007), 51-52.