And among men are those who purchase idle HADITH (tales) without knowledge to mislead (men) from the Path of God, and make a mockery of it (God’s Path) [Quran, Luqman (31): 6]
وَمِنْ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا اُولَئكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ
And when it is said to them, Follow what Allah has revealed, they say: Nay! we follow what we found our fathers upon. What! and though their fathers had no sense at all, nor did they follow the right way. [Quran, Al-Baqarah (2): 170]
وَاِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ اتَّبِعُوا مَا انزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَا الْفَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ ءابَاءَنَا اوَلَوْ كَانَ ءابَاؤُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْءا وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ
While the broad majority of Muslims would not say that the Ahadith (plural of Hadith, which refers to the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) are equal to the Quran with regards to their importance as a source of religious law (shari´a) and jurisprudence (fiqh) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiqh very often the two (Quran and Ahadith) are confused with eachother.
Maybe half of the religious citations made by Muslims starting with „In Islam…“ to explain or justify something relate to the Ahadith and not to the Quran. It is my experience that more and more Muslims are getting indifferent regarding the necessity to distinguish between the two sources and effectively place the Ahadith at the same level as the Quran.
In addition the Ahadith are considered the main source for the Sunnah (the actions of the Prophet which are considered mandatory for Muslims because the Prophet should be regarded a „role model“). The Sunnah would not be known if it were not transmitted through the Ahadith. This is the point of view of the Ulama (the religious experts). The Ulama maintain that especially the Ahadith that narrate the accepted Sunnah are 100% authentic (Sahih). Thus they are binding for a Muslim and there is no reason to reject them as islamic source, they claim.
The traditional and ongoing perception/point of view of the orthodox Ulama is that the authencity and genuineness of the „Sahih Ahadith“ is proven by checking and approving two aspects of them:
– Isnad (the chain of transmitters)
– Matn (the textual content)
It is claimed that the six so called „canonical Hadith collections“ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kutub_al-Sittah only contain Ahadith, where the Isnad is 100% reliable and the Matn is 100% in accordance with the Quran.
On closer examination it becomes clear that neither of these really withstand critical analysis:
For one thing all of the legendary Hadith collectors (such as al Bukhari and Muslim) lived some 200 years after the Prophet Muhammad and for another thing there is no way to check the credibility of the transmitters who are long dead. More on Isnad criticism in the links below*.
Scrutinizing the Matn, however, reveals even much bigger problems as many Ahadith in fact:
– contradict the Quran either totally or partially
– contradict eachother
– contradict human reason, science and in a broader sense knowledge in general
The focus of this article and it´s subsequent parts will be the Matn (content) of the Ahadith, and I will attempt to show many flaws in it.