Seven Questions Seeking Answers
Consider this… Suppose you are reading a book, you enjoy reading this book, you really like all the ideas and theories it presents. You even accept some new theories or some new information that the author gives, which you didn’t know earlier. Now on one page, you come across a statement or an idea that clearly contradicts either commonsense or the knowledge that you already have. You know for sure that this can’t be true because it will run counter to facts that are established as true. This idea forwarded by the book is neither justified, nor substantiated by the author. What will you do with the book? Even if you continue reading, will you now blindly accept all that the author says as you did before? Will you trust his knowledge after he has erred even once? No! The human nature is such that it creates a suspicion in our minds even if we see one mistake or loophole in the information the author gives. What will you do then? Henceforth every time the author presents some information that is new to you, you will verify that information with some source that you know provides you correct information. For example, if the author says that the moon is a satellite of Saturn! You will outright reject this claim, because it goes contrary to the facts established as true. Now, further at some stage the author states that the moon rotates around its own axis. Let us suppose you don’t know this fact, then, will you blindly accept what the author has stated? No, because he said that the moon is a satellite of Saturn, which was wrong. Therefore you will open a standard book on Solar System and check out the topic of Moon. If you see that the book also states the same, you’ll accept the fact. Look carefully; even if the author states something correct, because of his one mistake in informing you, you’ll surely verify any further information that you receive from him! You will always verify the information with a source that you know for sure, gives correct information on a particular topic. Regarding health, you will look into medical science books and not book of astronomy! Right?
Now let us understand the difference between information and idea. In the case I mentioned above, it is always regarding information and never any idea. Why? Because when it comes to ideas, all humans are free to express their own ideas. Whether they run contrary to the ideas accepted by the majority of people or not is immaterial. When Marx, Lenin, Gandhi and people like them put forth ideas that ran counter to what people accepted then, no one simply rejected their claims. This is because, we as humans always give others the freedom to express their ideas, whatever they may be. We may test the ideas, accept or reject them, but we don’t deny any person’s freedom to present his/her ideas. But FACTS are something different. Facts are pieces of information upon which our entire structure of knowledge rests. If a Marx would have said that drinking oil will quench our thirst, we will call him mad because what he stated runs contrary to some facts we call commonsense. Facts are unquestionable pieces of information, whose validity has been proven beyond doubt. Do we ever doubt whether the Earth is round? We don’t, because we have been proven that the Earth is round. This becomes a fact. Now if someone says something contrary to facts, we are justified in calling him mad. Am I clear in distinguishing between the two concepts of fact and idea? Well, the case I mentioned in the previous paragraph always relates to facts and never to ideas.
With this distinction clear in our mind, let us look at the following piece of information:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, 'The (people of) Bani Israel used to take bath naked (all together) looking at each other. The Prophet Moses used to take a bath alone. They said, 'By Allah! Nothing prevents Moses from taking a bath with us except that he has a scrotal hernia.' So once Moses went out to take a bath and put his clothes over a stone and then that stone ran away with his clothes. Moses followed that stone saying, "My clothes, O stone! My clothes, O stone! Till the people of Bani Israel saw him and said, 'By Allah, Moses has got no defect in his body. Moses took his clothes and began to beat the stone." Abu Huraira added, "By Allah! There are still six or seven marks present on the stone from that excessive beating."
(Emphasis added by the author)
The above narration has been excerpted from the collection of Imam Bukhari. (Al Bukhari, 1:277), one of the most relied upon books in Hadith literature. Now, I don’t need to analyze this Hadith to show that it runs contrary to commonsense and also insults the highly esteemed character of the Prophet Moses. Notice the underlined part of the text; Prophet Moses lived hundreds of years before Prophet Muhammad and Abu Huraira. How is it possible for anyone to say that there are ‘six or seven marks’ on a stone that received ‘beating’ some hundreds of years ago, some hundreds of miles away defies commonsense.
Just to cite another, take a look at this one…
Narrated Abu Dhar:
The Prophet asked me at sunset, "Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?" I replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." He said, "It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates Itself underneath the Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west. And that is the interpretation of the Statement of Allah: "And the sun Runs its fixed course for a term (decreed). That is The Decree of (Allah) The Exalted in Might, The All-Knowing." (36.38)
Emphasis added by Author.
The above narration is from the same collection, (Al-Bukhari 4.421). The above piece also doesn’t require any explanation. It simply runs counter to the simplest facts, which are unquestionably proven.
Now just like the example I stated in the beginning, when we came across such narratives that contains information that runs contrary to commonsense or runs contrary to facts undeniably true, then we decide to verify all further information that the author gives. Let us see a piece of information that the same book gives (two narrations regarding adultery):
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
`Umar said, "I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book," and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession." Sufyan added, "I have memorized this narration in this way." `Umar added, "Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him."
Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani:
A Bedouin came to Allah's Apostle 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 said, "Speak." He (i.e. the Bedouin or the other man) said, "My son was working as a laborer 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 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, Unais, go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death." Unais went to that woman next morning and she confessed. Allah's Apostle ordered that she be stoned to death.
Emphasis added by the author.
Excerpted from Al-Bukhari (8.816 and 3.885).
Now, since the information before these two narrations were defying facts, we can’t blindly accept whatever this book says anymore. We will need to verify any claim or information that the book seeks to convey. What will we verify it with? We aren’t the ones whom God sent down messages to establish Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammad was the only source from whose lips we got to know the dictates of Islam. If the collection of Imam Bukhari isn’t reliable, there exists only one source to look to – The Quran. Yes, the Quran is one such source, which can never be doubted in its position of authority. So what we will do is that we will verify everything we come across regarding Islam, with the Quran. If the Quran also agrees with what we read from other sources (in this case Al Bukhari), only then we can agree with the author. So let us see what the Quran tells about the punishment for adultery:
Chapter 24:2-3 states that:
“The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment. The adulterer shall not marry save an adulteress or an idolatress, and the adulteress none shall marry save an adulterer or an idolater. All that is forbidden unto believers.”
The above translation is not my own, it is the most widely accepted translation of the Quran, by Marmaduke Pickthall. Transliteration of the above verse is as follows:
“Alzzaniyatu waalzzanee faijlidoo kulla wahidin minhuma mi-ata jaldatin wala ta/khuthkum bihima ra/fatun fee deeni Allahi in kuntum tu/minoona biAllahi waalyawmi al-akhiri walyashhad AAathabahuma ta-ifatun mina almu/mineena”
This is the only punishment given for adultery. Now take a careful look at the words in Arabic. The word used to depict the crime is a form of the word ‘zina’. In English we wrongly translate this word to ‘Adultery’, but in Arabic it’s meaning is ‘illicit sexual intercourse’. Any sexual intercourse (fornication or adultery) that is illegal is ‘zina’. Don’t believe me, check out the online Arabic –English dictionary on the Internet, it is al-misbar.com, or type ‘online Arabic – English Dictionary’ in Google search and you’ll find the name there. Check the meaning of the word ‘zina’. I got the following result:
This clearly shows that the word ‘zina’ doesn’t leave any doubt whether the above verse from the Quran refers to adultery or fornication.
The information by Imam Bukhari is: Punishment for Adultery is Stoning to Death (Rajam).
The information by The Quran is: Punishment for Adultery or Fornication is 100 lashes.
Clearly the two don’t tally. Then what do we do? Which book do we believe? The book (Al Bukhari) that has proved that it’s information may be fallible, or do we believe the Book (Quran) whose information we know for sure is unquestionably infallible?
An important clarification:
I am not saying that Imam Bukhari has done any manipulation, or he has deliberately corrupted the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. That would be like imposing a lie on the honored Imam Bukhari. None of us were present during the time of Imam Bukhari, nor do we know him in person. So, it is very cheap to label him a liar simply because his book contains a lie. Imam Bukhari took up a task that normally many wouldn’t dare to take. He began the first organized collection of Hadith about two centuries after the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He classified the Hadith into many categories based on the nature of Isnad and many other criteria. This is the collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad is what we posses today as the collection of Al-Bukhari. This much we know about him. Saying or adding anything else would be a fabrication by us. Maybe, he honestly sought to make a collection of the sayings of the Prophet or maybe not. Whatever it may be, we don’t know about it. So saying or alleging that Hadith are ‘satanic innovations’ and calling the Imams names may be as much a lie as we claim these Hadith to be. Hadith are a secondary source of information, but given its fallibility, given its human authorship, given its contradictions, given the possibility of lies in its body, do you honestly think that it can override or abrogate something as infallible, perfect and Holy as the Book of God, The Quran? At least I don’t think so.
Whatever I have stated above applies to all Hadith collections. It would be wastage of space and your time if I were to quote numerous Hadith from the various collections. I took up the example of the collection of Al-Bukhari because it is the most highly esteemed book (supposedly) next only to the Quran.
Most people say, “These anti-Hadith fellows reject the entire body of Hadith just because they find only a few that are dubious or untrue”. At least we are not of this belief. As I stated in the beginning of this article, even if ONE piece of information proves to be incorrect, we can’t take anything else for granted. It is not that if one piece of information is incorrect the entire book is incorrect, No. There may be many statements that are correct. But how are we to know? Do we just sit and say, “I think this is correct” or “I feel this is correct” or do we toss a coin? The availability of one mistake proves that the book is not infallible. It proves that the book is liable to mistakes. Therefore, further on when we come across a piece of information, which is new to us, how can we be sure if this is not another mistake? The only way is; verification with something undeniably true. In the case of general knowledge it is the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the case of Islam, it is The Quran.
After all this discussion let me state my first Question:
Question 1: How can the Hadith override the clear statements of the Quran?
If you say the Quran isn’t detailed, needs explanation or anything of the sort, the please go through the article - Twelve Conclusions on True Islam.
The Fortress of Ignorance
Let me ask you, how many Muslims today obey the Quran and deny these statements of the Ahadith (plural of Hadith)? Islamic governments give the sentence of ‘rajam’ (stoning to death) to the convicts. How many look at this contradiction?
Well this may shock you, but the Muslim Scholars or so to say the Clergy, always abrogate the Quran with the Hadith. There are a thousand and one places where the common, Muslim in his simple-hearted devotion contradicts the dictates of True Islam according to the Quran, because he assumes that the Clergy are saying the correct things to him. In numerous websites a lot of space has been consumed to bring forth these abrogation. One very glaring example I have cited above, I think it is enough. If you want to find more, then please do so. Every Muslim doesn’t have the patience or time to go through the massive volumes of Hadith to prove or argue this point, he as a family to look after and a job to keep. So he simply thinks that these Clergy are correct. But little does he know that the Quran at many places teaches exactly the opposite!
In fact, he doesn’t want to know, because then he will have to begin to study and understand the Quran and use his brains. His religion will no longer be just a ritual that he simply has to follow; his religion will become a life and death question for him. We are ready to die for our religion, but how many of us are ready to live by our religion? We are ready to kill for our religion, but how many of us are ready to save lives for our religion? That is why, the ‘traditional’ Muslim world will never heed this call to the Quran alone, because too much is at stake!
The Muslim world has created a fortress around its ignorance. It will never let anyone destroy that fortress. Since fourteen hundred years this fortress has been being strengthened in every way possible. In the following few pages, I will discuss what this fortress is made up of and how it operates in the minds of the people (Muslims) in detail and only then proceed with how such people are related to the Hadith.
As I stated earlier, the common, average Muslim, doesn’t question the Clergy. Not because he fears them, but he never feels the need to do so. He assumes whatever he has learnt from his parents or Islamic teachers, to be unquestionable. Why? Usually we all have this tendency to question, then why doesn’t a Muslim question the traditions? In order to achieve this, four things are necessary:
- Destroying the Intelligence of the child.
- Excessive importance to rituals.
- Developing religious ignorance.
- Encouraging dogmatic acceptance.
Each one of these four things have been incorporated into the Muslim world, someway or the other. I have no knowledge how exactly it happened, nor do I know who were the people responsible. I don’t have the right to claim so, because it will be just conjecture. I wasn’t there when these things formed. So I have no right to claim that such and such people, or the Hadith collectors etc. were corrupt and they are responsible. Many theories have been advanced; any one of them may be true. But our work here is not to find out who were responsible, but what has exactly happened. Whoever has been responsible, it is no longer our business, because it is God who will punish, not us. But if we don’t understand how this system sustains itself, then we will fall again into a trap, maybe not the same, but of similar nature. Let us consider each one of the above aspects and see how it functions in relation to the human mind. Each situation I will be discussing will be a hypothetical and general situation applicable to all and not only to the Muslim world. The points I will be discussing will be purely from a religious and spiritual point of view and not necessarily reflect our materialistic and monetary life.
(I) Destroying the Intelligence of the Child.
This is achieved by a combination of five methods:
i. Stories and Ignorant company
ii. Blind obedience
iii. Suppressing Questions
iv. Discouraging creativity and innovation
v. Avoiding exposure
The above five can be called the poisonous five, because they are so interrelated and so very contagious, that once these poisonous five get into any system, they manage to completely destroy its intelligence. How? Let me explain.
Stories and Ignorant Company is the very first step to kill a community’s intelligentsia. Women are not encouraged education. They aren’t allowed to take up any significant responsibilities. They are forced into a ‘shell’ of family life wherefrom they don’t get any exposure to the external world; forget the whole world. Due to lack of education and outlook, the women lack a scientific temperament. Now when a child is born, its father is usually out for work. The child spends its early days mainly in the company of the mother and other women folk (including grandmas and grandpas). As a child, its whole world is these people. The world of these people itself is so narrow and small that the child gets a sense of this right from the beginning. It loses the capacity to imagine great things. Because of lack of a scientific temperament on the part of the parents, the child’s tender mind gets to feed only on mythological stories that have no basis of reasoning or proof. Every now and then the child is fed with a story that conveys some ‘moral’ or something else. The child accepts these things and never questions them. A child’s imagination is so vivid that if you tell a child that a pink elephant jumps over the moon, he can easily picture that. So, when his childhood imagination gets into this vicious circle of mythological tales, reasoning loses its grip, because unreasonable things have happened in this world, according to the child’s memory of tales. This was the first attack; reasoning is undermined and gets weak. Secondly, due to the ignorant company, the outlook is damaged. The child forgets the very possibility that the tales may be false. Later on when he grows up, he may understand the purpose of the stories were the morals, but the habit of accepting things without questioning from some ‘trusted’ people, and the lack of the very thought to question ones beliefs is already ingrained in him. The stories and the ignorant company have done their work.
Blind obedience is the next weapon. When a child starts mischief, the parents impose a blind obedience. No one has the patience to convince the child and make him responsible. The whole concern is to avoid trouble. So, the child is taught to simply obey, without questioning. This kills intelligence in a very subtle but very powerful way. When a child is asked not to do something, he is never going to obey. He needs to be explained why he has to do so. His intelligence and reasoning will question him. But when we force him to obey, without understanding, the child get programmed that understanding is immaterial, what matters is whether you do it or not. So to avoid all the beatings and scolding the child simply does it. Slowly the child gets programmed to neglect understanding and acting and starts to simply learn and act. Later on in his life, this is reflected in every aspect of his life. People everywhere seem to be doing things without any trace of understanding what they are doing. This is not only the case with the Muslim world, but of all people. We get trained to understand the technical skills or anything related with our earning money, but we are never trained to understand others or ourselves. I have seen many a professors and scientists, who have extremely high knowledge in their fields, draw a huge salary, but they don’t even understand themselves. Something wrong goes in the office and the scream at a shopkeeper or their child. This clearly shows that this negligence of understanding ourselves in our childhood is taking its toll.
Suppressing Questions is another side of the coin of Blind obedience. Once can’t exist without the other. If you have to encourage blind obedience, you will have to suppress questions. If you seek blind obedience, then you can never ever answer questions, because the very answering will bring about an understanding in a person. Once understanding is there, it no longer is blind obedience. Hence suppressing questions is unavoidable to obtain blind obedience. This also helps protect the child from venturing into areas, which the parents haven’t been exposed to. The areas may be of knowledge, faith, relationship or any other thing. By not letting the child ask questions or by simply suppressing its questions, we are only subtly forbidding the child to venture out into the unknown. Forget about traveling our lives alone towards God alone!
Discouraging creativity and innovation is the most crucial blows on a man’s intelligence. One may argue back that there is creativity rampant in men and women. The very theme of what I am saying is Religion. Hence, all the above points are concerned with the religious and spiritual background. How many of us are given the freedom to be creative? Yes, we may be allowed to be creative but within certain limits. If our creativity, even if backed by reasonable arguments crosses these limits, we are considered apostates, liars or even threats to our religion. When Gautama, became the Buddha, he preached what was totally against the existing religion. People neglected him and scoffed at him at first, but the simplicity of his teachings won the crowd over. In the same way, we are never encouraged creativity that can challenge the existing standards of religion even if it could set up a new and a better one. It is for this reason that creativity in religion is discouraged. Rituals play a very significant part in this, but I will be dealing with that later.
Avoiding Exposure delivers the final blow. Discouraging the sharing of religious ideas between two communities does this. When we don’t know that there is an ocean out there, how can we even remotely imagine that the well we live in is insignificantly small? This is what avoiding exposure does to our minds.
These five initial things begin to destroy a child’s intelligence. I don’t say that the child’s intelligence is totally destroyed by these things. The intelligence in a human is God given. It can never be destroyed completely. But it can be crippled or neglected to various extents. If someone appears intelligent, it only means that his intelligence is less crippled and is able to blossom. These five things program a child to neglect his intelligence thereby making it crippled. The next three schemes manage to keep it crippled throughout our lives. After coving the first point in detail. Let us move on further.
(II) Excessive importance to rituals:
Many of us underestimate the significance of rituals. Rituals are the most formidable and indestructible weapons that cripple any civilization. You wonder at what I am saying right now, but as I explain, it will become clear. Rituals, by their very nature form a definition of an activity. Rituals set up a rigid, frozen and inflexible rule of performing something. Rituals are good to an extent when they are performed for achieving the actual purpose, but when they become a religion in itself, they become very dangerous. Now, with the first step, the intelligence is being destroyed, the fresh air of knowledge is being denied. But the mind needs something to feed on, to live by. When people are intelligent and seek knowledge, religion is a quest for the truth, but for people who neglect intelligence and are not bothered with seeking knowledge, religion becomes only a set of rituals. Do you see? Rituals become the only definition of Religion for such people. This has happened to many civilizations. In the beginning, the Indian culture was hell-bent on seeking knowledge. In every single ashram, every single individual was on his own quest for the truth. This quest was called ‘sannyas’. Every citizen had his own understanding of religion, based on his own intelligence. That was when Indian civilization was in its heights of glory. But in the years to come, religion got converted only to a set of complex rituals that must be followed to attain ‘poonya’ or ‘moksha’. Common man lost all track of truth. He was simply programmed to live by the rituals. This killed intelligence. And that was the major drawback on traditional Hinduism. Well, the scenarios are changing, but our concern here is not that. I just wanted to provide an example. Here is another. The same has happened to the Muslim world. Perhaps, during the time of the Holy Prophet, the major significance was given to ‘taqwa’ or fear of God. This taqwa guided the peoples’ lives and kept their intelligence functioning in all spheres of life. That is when the Arabian civilization reached its heights of glory. I say perhaps because this is just a hypothesis, it may be wrong. I have no proof to justify this. But one thing is clear – due to the excessive importance given to rituals these days, ‘Salat’ has become a duty imposed upon every Muslim, who must do it to save himself from Hell. But according to the Quran, the main purpose of Salat is ‘remembrance of God’. How many of us do Salat to remember God and God alone and for nothing else? It is difficult to bring these points on paper. One must critically and unprejudiced look at one’s own life. Then you will get the knack of what I am trying to say here. Rituals are a must for every religion to sustain its external and perceptible form, but they become a poison when they become the very definition of Religion. I have come across many Muslim ‘scholars’ who told me, “Just do your Salat, pay Zakat, do Fasting, and try to go to Hajj and you will surely attain Heaven”. Just see this! Religion, the very definition of Religion has come down to these four rituals. But according to the Quran, Islam is all about worshipping God and God alone, associating no partners with him. These rituals are prescribed by God to act as a protecting shield and an encouraging factor in our worship of God alone. They by no means make the definition of Religion. Now after understanding the disastrous consequences of giving excessive importance to rituals, let us move on to the third factor.
(III) Developing Religious Ignorance
After rituals start to take the place or true religion, the fortress is made, but not secure. There may be someone who comes up and questions all the practices. He proves that the Quran says otherwise etc. This is the danger that lingers. In order to lessen this danger, Religious ignorance is developed and encouraged in the society. If you didn’t agree with my previous point fully, you will have to agree with this one. Establishment of Religious ignorance is done in three steps:
- Making religious details very complicated.
- Qualifying only some people to study these details. (Forming the Clergy)
- Encouraging he common man to follow the religion in the ways described by the Clergy.
We see these three steps in action in every religious society. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, in fact, every religion in the world. The first of the steps is to make the religious details very complicated and bulky, because the common man has no time to bother reading voluminous texts to arrive at some conclusion. He is concerned with fulfilling his religious duties so as to win the favor of God and then he is concerned with the survival of his self and his family. The common man is very simple and is easily intimidated at the sight of extensive and specialized study of religion. Only a few will get the interest and pursue this matter. These people are systematically trained – remember these people too have undergone the treatment of steps I, and II i.e., neglecting their intelligence and following rituals. These people are taught that their knowledge will be their source of their livelihood. They must respect the body of such ‘scholars’ etc. When these people become fully trained, they become one of those who ignorantly guard this fortress of Ignorance. Every one of us isn’t educated in Medicine, so if one of us falls ill, do we pick up medical-science book and study pathology or do we simply go to a doctor? This is what the common man does. He finds the religious details difficult and intimidating to study, but he has to and he wants to follow the religious rites. So he simply approaches this clergy. The difference between the doctor and the clergy is that, medical science is a need of the world and the society needs qualified people, hence the need of doctors. But religion is the need of every individual. It is supposed to be every individual’s quest for the truth. But by now, religion is not a quest for truth for the common man; it is simply a set of rituals (step II). Another important clarification - Doctors are merely scholars in a field of science, they aren’t the dictators. If a doctor’s prescription doesn’t work, you go to another one. This is the role of a scholar, just to inform you. But Clergy is different. He is free to impose his ideas and understanding as long as it is in accordance with the consensus of the clergy. And you can’t deny him, you can’t say, he doesn’t know, and you can’t go to another one, just because you have no idea whether his prescription of religion is working or not. How can you know whether God is accepting your prayers or not? You are simply asked to have faith and to blindly follow. Look at this, all the above factors work together here. They aren’t independent of each other. Common man has already bee programmed to follow this system. So when actually no clergy is needed, a clergy is formed. So the common man simply and unquestioningly absorbs the religion by the clergy, blindly. Thus the reigns of the Religion get into the hands of the Clergy, who run it according to their needs. Now this clergy may be varied, there may be a set of clergy called the ‘Shias’ and another called the ‘Sunnis’. Among the Sunnis, there may be a set of clergy called the ‘Hanafi’ and another called the ‘Shafi’ etc. But this is not our concern here. Their common work is to cripple the individual intelligence of man so that he doesn’t become a threat to their ideological body.
(IV) Encouraging Dogmatic Acceptance
This is the final brick in the wall of the fortress. With the religious details in the hands of the ‘trusted’ clergy, dogmatic acceptance simply takes place. There isn’t much work needed now. But this is a crucial factor, because this along with the other three helps sustain this fortress of Ignorance throughout ages and ages. That is why systems have been running for over thousands of years without change. And because it has been running for such a long time, we think that it can’t be wrong. No one can think that the vast majority of the Muslim world have underestimated and neglected the Quran! But we fail to understand that such systems don’t sustain because they support the truth, but because in course of time, they have made an impregnable fortress, which protects and sustains this system. One of my friends, a strict ‘Sunni’ Muslim was telling how Islam is different from other religions. She told me that Islam’s source is the Holy book of God, the Quran. I asked, “Do you have any proof to substantiate your claim?” She said, “It is the unquestionable word of God. How can I even doubt that?” I asked, “Hindus believe that Bhagavad Gita is the word of God, Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God, You believe that the Quran is the word of God, in what way are you different?” Not just she, but almost all of us ever think why we accept things the way we accept them. We somehow just accept and the very idea of questioning creates a revolt. Any Muslim will feel uncomfortable if you put the questions that I put on her. This is dogmatic acceptance. And she isn’t any other girl. She is doing her graduation and is a topper! See, his dogmatic acceptance hasn’t got anything to do with what you are. It is simply ingrained in you. The Quran states some challenges to prove that it is not the word of God. If you ask a Muslim, “Will you forsake the Quran if it is proved that it is the word of God?” You will never get a single “Yes” as an answer. Everyone ‘believes’ that it is the word of God, but if it is truly the word of God, it must be free of mistakes, it must contain correct facts, right? And if it carries faults and errors that are human, then how is it that it is the word of God? So, these so called Muslims say that they believe the Quran to be the word of God, but in the same breath deny the same by rejecting the challenge. The details of how the Quran proves to be a word of God is covered in another article – Islam the Religion through Reason. Certain websites confuse Muslims by pretending to have found mistakes in the Quran. But I will be dealing with those allegations in a separate section in this site. Well, you can see, the Muslim is not accepting the Quran as the word of God because he is sure of it, but because he can’t practice Islam without this belief. The same is with other religions. This is dogmatic acceptance. First you accept the Quran without verification, and then you can easily be made to accept the Hadith, then the Clergy or Ulema etc. Once you accept the Clergy dogmatically, you are finished! The trap probably will continue throughout your life.
This is the fortress of Ignorance. Look at all the above points and you will be surprised to see the extent to which these things are active in the Muslim world today. As I showed, we can’t blame anyone in this process. You may think that the Clergy are deliberately doing this to sustain this system. It may not be so. They may be as ignorant of this system as you are. Their lives are also trapped in this vicious circle. If we blame these scholars, these clergy, if we blame Imam Bukhari or Imam Muslim or other Imams, we are in fact doing nothing except accepting another dogma. The new dogma is that these Ulema have destroyed Islam. This is as unsubstantiated as any dogma, because we weren’t present then to see this. So even by denying Hadith and the Clergy, many advocators of Quran Alone fall into the same trap by accepting unsubstantiated ideas simply to insult and refute the others. Our concern here is not this. Whoever has been responsible is none of our business. We need to see how to get out of this; we need to understand how we ourselves are subtly again creating this fortress of Quran Alone.
My Second Question:
Question–2: Why do we not let the common Muslim live his life according to the Quran, by his own studying and understanding of it?
If your answer is again that the Quran isn’t simple and is difficult to understand, you are refuting God’s claim that the Quran is clear, plain and simple.
If you say that it isn’t detailed, you are again refuting God’s claim that the Quran contains all details regarding religion.
For details of the above claims read the article – Twelve Conclusions on True Islam.
If you say that you need Hadith to understand the Quran, then, I have two questions:
Question-3: How can I accept books that are fallible (as I showed earlier) to explain something Infallible?
Question-4: How can I assume that the explanations given by these books of Hadith are infallible when these books themselves are fallible and liable to mistakes?
Hadith advocates believe that the Hadith are words uttered by the Holy Prophet with inspiration from God. Now, in the beginning of the article, I showed how the Hadith explains a verse from the Quran (36:38), i.e., the setting of the sun. This explanation is clearly untrue and dubious. But the scientists who explained this verse have explained in this way:
“And the sun runneth on unto a resting place for him. That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Wise.”
Above translation is by Pickthall.
Now, discarding the Hadith, we come up with only this explanation: The sun moves towards a resting place for it. ‘The resting place’ can also be translated as ‘Homing place’. It means the sun moves towards a place that can be called its home. There is no reference to sunset in this verse or the preceding or following ones, related with this statement. Hence this verse can only mean that the movement of sun referred to here is not that which causes day and night, but that which causes the sun to move towards a homing place. Modern science has proven that the sun in fact moves towards a home that is the eye, or center of this galaxy.
Here it is clear that a non-Hadith translation and explanation brings out a fact from the verse that rings true and in fact further proves that the Quran is the word of God, because no one fourteen centuries ago could have even remotely guessed that the sun’s movement doesn’t cause day and night, the sun’s movement is towards the ‘homing place’ for it. Whereas a Hadith explanation shows that God himself doesn’t know the details of his creation! This is only one glaring example from only one book (Al-Bukhari). I can waste many pages showing you many explanations proposed by the Hadith that contradict facts that we know. But for my purpose here, only one is enough. If one explanation from Hadith goes wrong, it doesn’t mean that all the explanations are wrong. Assuming this is also stupid. The Hadith may be giving explanations that are correct. But how am I to know? When once it has gone wrong, as I showed in the example in the beginning of this article, how can I assume that all other information to be true? Once it has gone wrong, it proves that it can be wrong. In fact, Hadith explanations are considered so true that they abrogate the explanation that the Quran gives of itself! Explanations that run counter to the standard translations and tafseer are rejected and ‘fatwas’ (legal verdicts) are issued against such translators! Why?
Remember the distinction between ideas and facts? Well, look carefully; here the Hadith contradicts a fact and not an idea. The Hadith may give explanation to the Quran in ideas that may be different. These ideas should be considered as fallible as others. Every human should be allowed to present new ideas on the Quran. But if someone puts forth ideas that contradict facts, then obviously they can’t be accepted. But do the Hadith advocates accept this view? No! Even if you state something correct, if it is not in the Hadith, it becomes wrong! Honestly, tell me, is it a scientific approach?
So, my next question is:
Question-5: If, as I showed above, a Hadith may give a wrong explanation to a verse, how can I assume that all other explanations given are true and correct?
One may say, “If one goes like this, one can never come across any book that can explain the Quran, because every human effort is liable to mistakes.” True, one can never come across any HUMAN authored book that can explain the Quran. First of all, who is asking someone to explain the Quran? Yes translations are necessary to get the meanings of the Quran, but explanations and interpretations are to be studied at one’s own risk, because they may or may not be true. To know the details of Quran translations, read the article – Quran and its many faces, (this article is not yet on this site, but in the making). It finally comes down to one point: No human can explain the Quran with 100% correctness. Therefore the only true explanation that we can get is from God. This conclusion is in conformation to what the Quran says:
4:26. Allah would explain to you and guide you by the examples of those who were before you, and would turn to you in mercy. Allah is Knower, Wise.
24:46. Verily We have sent down revelations and explained them. Allah guideth whom He will unto a straight path.
Translation is by Marmaduke Pickthall. The above verses are general in context and none of them address to the Prophet Muhammad either in theme or in words.
The above verses show our conclusion, that no Human can explain the Quran. The only explanation already provided by God (24:46 – ‘explained them’) is within the Quran itself. There are many verses in the Quran, which say that it is God who explains the Quran. I could have cited them here, but these two are enough to prove my point. All human endeavors are liable to mistakes and are only an interpretation of the Quran, as the human perceives it.
I came across some sites, which state that there was a Hadith book in the time of the Prophet Muhammad. This book contained written records of the sayings and actions of the Prophet. First thing to note is that my argument here is not to debase the Hadith, nor am I claiming that all the Hadith are false. Some people make such claims, but I don’t. But these sites then say that Imam Bukhari and others later collected those Hadith recordings and all those sayings are there in the present Hadith literature. So only the Hadith can explain the Quran and the Sunnat is a must, because they were recorded in those Hadith books in the time of the Prophet.
Consider this case… there are many translations of the Quran in various languages, along with the Arabic text. Then why do we still keep a Quran purely in Arabic? Why not destroy all those? Anyway all the Arabic verses are there in the tafseer books. Is not this idea ridiculous? It is really crazy. Simply because other books contain all the lines of a certain book ‘A’ (for example), it doesn’t mean that the book ‘A’ should be destroyed. Similarly, if all those Hadith from the early recordings have been stored in the present Hadith books, it doesn’t mean that those early recordings can be destroyed, right? Then where in physical existence are those early recordings and compilations? And if they exist, then we should follow only those Hadith and discard the Hadith compilations by the Imams whose works date two hundred years after the Prophet. Such claims contradict themselves. Since the majority of the Muslim world follows these later compilations and their entire jurisprudence, rituals and religious beliefs owe their origin to these books, we can safely say that no such compilation existed.
Well, even if we were to accept all the Hadith. Let me bring a clear fact out of which you are probably unaware. Take a look at this Hadith:
012: 703: Narrated By 'Abdullah bin 'Umar
I saw that whenever Allah's Apostle stood for the prayer, he used to raise both his hands up to the shoulders, and used to do the same on saying the Takbir for bowing and on raising his head from it and used to say, "Sami a-l-lahu Liman hamida". But he did not do that (i.e. raising his hands) in prostrations.
This Hadith is from the Sahih Al Bukhari, supposedly the most authentic collection of Hadith.
Now, do you know, that all the ‘Sunni’ Muslims don’t pray in the above manner? According to this Hadith, the Holy Prophet Muhammad raised his hands to his shoulders and say ‘Allahu Akbar’. But do you know that most ‘Sunni’ Muslims don’t follow this. Do you know why? Because, even though they all claim to accept all Hadith, they follow only the ones, which the head Imam of their school of thought followed. For example, majority of the Muslims follow the Hanafi School, whose head Imam was Imam Abu Hanifa. He didn’t advocate saying Takbir in the above-mentioned manner. The Hanafi School simply says Takbir without raising their hands. I am not saying that they reject this Hadith; they don’t, perhaps because they can’t. If they reject, then they will have to justify themselves as to why they are rejecting. So on the one hand they accept this Hadith, and on the other, they deny it. If they accept this Hadith, since it is a ‘Sahih’ or ‘sound’ Hadith, then they are denying a Sunnat of the Prophet! In order to justify their choice, they may quote some other Hadith, which says otherwise. This again has some problems. If two Hadith are contradictory, then why do you follow one and not follow other, even if you accept the other? These Muslims claim to believe in the Hadith, but if you closely look at them, then you will find out that they contradict themselves. In answer to this question, they usually take you deep into the so-called science of Hadith and somehow find out some answer. But for simple and straightforward reasoning they have no answer. When I asked the Imam of our mosque about this, he said, “Those Imams; Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi, Imam Malik etc. were in agreement among themselves, they greatly respected each other, so we as their followers can’t disrespect any one of them.” He failed to answer a simple and direct question from me, my sixth question:
Question-6: Which School among these agrees totally with the Prophet? If any one of these schools actually represents the Holy Prophet, then on what basis do the other schools exist?
The reply comes, “We can’t say which school perfectly agrees with the Prophet.” The fact is that, each School has its own set of Hadith, which it believes and follows. So it is not possible for either of the Schools to debunk any one of them. And if they go too far, then they will end up rejecting the body of Hadith and forced to accept the Quran alone as the guide. If we can’t say which school is 100% correct in their imitation of the Prophet, how can we be sure that their expression of the Sunnat of the Prophet is one hundred percent correct? How can we be sure that this body of Hadith gives the most accurate explanation possible of the Quran? Here I put forward my seventh and final question:
Question-7: Given the above discrepancy and insoluble disagreement among the Hadith, how can I even think that such a literature can override and abrogate the Quran?
As a Muslim, you may not know, but whenever there is a clash between the Quran and the Hadith, Muslims follow the Hadith and leave the Quran. How can you rely on such a literature that is inconsistent within it and that varies widely, so much so that you are ready to neglect the fully consistent and incorrigible word of God in the Quran?
Some Hadith scholars have come up with explanations that the Hadith contradict, but only in minor matters and not in major matters. The question is not that of minor or major matters. The question is, if the Hadith correctly and clearly represent the sayings and actions of the Prophet, then how come they contradict each other? Surely God or the Holy Prophet wouldn’t contradict themselves, even in small matters. The manner of prayer (Salat), do you call it a small matter? A wrong Takbir can nullify the Salat, then how are you sure that the Takbir you say by raising you hands to your earlobes and not to the shoulders is correct. If saying Takbir by raising the hands to the earlobes would have been the instruction from God; then surely, Prophet Muhammad wouldn’t commit the mistake of raising it to the shoulders! So the point here is not regarding matters big or small. The point here is that these contradictions show that either one of these Hadith are giving a wrong narration. Some scholars explain these contradictions in another manner. They say that these Imams simply collected these Hadith not bothering whether they contradict one another, just for the sake of information, so that the latter generations may filter out the correct ones and remove the contradictions. This again has led to some problems. Each School considers its Hadith and discards the contradicting ones. So, in a way, all these school absorb the contradictions. That is why, no school contradicts itself, but they contradict each other. The problem here is: on what basis can you accept one of the two or many contradicting Hadith? There are two reasons given by the scholars: one, because their Imam accepted it for some reasons that they may state; and two, because they believe a particular Isnad to be correct. In either case, how can we know for sure that a particular Isnad is correct and the transmission has been always complete? This can only be conjecture, but never a scientific proof. Even then, I haven’t taken the Isnad to be my theme of this article, though many scholars ridicule the Hadith because of this Isnad system. The other point of accepting a Hadith is because of its matn or content. But on what basis can we accept a matn? Is it because it suits us? Is it because we like it? Is it because God wants it to be that way? Yes, because God wants it to be that way. But how can we say so? What proof do we have that God himself wants to accept such matn? We can’t possibly quote other Hadith, since the very contradiction exists between two Hadith. The body of Hadith can’t become an explanation for itself because due to the contradiction, the whole body is put to question. The only criteria can be the Quran. Only the matn that agrees with the Quran can be said to be in agreement with God’s guidance. Right? But then a problem arises because some important Ahadith contradict the Quran, for example the punishment of Rajam as I stated in the beginning of this article. Seeing all this mess, how can we possibly say that the Hadith can override and abrogate the Quran?
The most common question that comes on rejecting the Hadith is: “What are we going to do about the details that the Quran doesn’t cover?” This question requires a very detailed study of some verses of the Quran. I will be citing them in another forthcoming article called, “The Quran and the missing Details”.
An important clarification:
All I am saying is that if we let the Hadith override and abrogate the Quran, if we pull the Quran down in its authority over Islam, sharing it with Hadith, then we are insulting and rejecting those words, which we know for sure are from God, in order to accept and respect those words, the divine source of which we aren’t sure of. I don’t say, “burn the Hadith books, disrespect the Imams, discard the Sunnat”. I am saying that the most accurate Sunnat of the Messenger can be obtained from the most authentic source, The Quran.
It is time for us Muslims to wake up to the call of God. It is time for us to drop down our petty distinctions and barriers. It is time for us to unite as one brotherhood, following the words of God, the Quran. It is time for us, to unleash the creative intelligentsia in our society, to encourage education, to advocate peace – both communal and national, to give freedom of expression a new life, to give women freedom and their denied rights, to give children a scientific temperament with which to grow up. The west gives some of this, but disregards culture and ethical values; it encourages immorality (e.g. Premarital sex) and encourages competition instead of brotherhood. Only Islam, True Islam, can strike the balance. May be that is why it is called The Religion of God.