Early Muslim history needs fresh appraisal — III
Currently, some leading religious figures actually believe that if there is a discrepancy between the Quran and the Hadith, the latter takes precedence
M Aamer Sarfraz
NOVEMBER 5, 2018
Banu Umayyah usurped others’ right and ruled with an iron hand for hundred years. They were ousted by Banu Abbas who gained power in the name of Hazrat Ali and his decedents but chose to ignore them during most of their five-hundred-year rule. Both Dynasties encouraged innovation of Ahadith which could boost their Islamic credentials and shrink those of Hazrat Ali. As a reaction, many who felt sorry for Hazrat Ali took matters into their own hands. Non-Muslims, especially Magians, actively contributed to all these malevolent efforts. Thousands and thousands of new Ahadith came into being which were inconsistent, curious, bewildering and sometimes embarrassing.
It is reported that Jonabari, Ibne Akasha and Tamim Farabi invented more than ten thousand Ahadith between them. Ibne Abi Alauja admitted before execution that he had fabricated four thousand Ahadith mostly related to halal and haram. Some historical characters did not even exist, and others had the audacity to write books, which were full of fabricated Ahadith. If this was not enough, some companions of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) were invented with a lifespan spread over centuries. For example, people shook hands with Abu Abdullah Saqali in 5th century because he had held Prophet’s hand; and Baba Rattan Hindi (d. 632 Hijra) was famous for having attended Hazrat Fatima’s wedding.
Islam is basically about one Allah, one Prophet and one book. Ahadith not only created doubts about the Quran but also inspired several ‘prophets’. Quran has inbuilt evidence regarding its construction and form preserved forever but doubts were crafted whether it was compiled by Hazrat Abu Bakar, Hazrat Umar and/or finally by Hazrat Usman. All Hazrat Usman did was to make copies from the originals and got those sent to various corners of the State to be copied from as required. Legends were spawned how some verse was eaten by a goat and others got left out during compilation, leading to differences in renditions and the versions found in different regions. As a result, Quran was being brought down to the level of other scriptures Muslims claimed were unreliable, and exposed Islam to unwarranted attacks from non-Muslims.
Ahadith also creatively opened the door of ‘lesser-Wahi’ to ambitious individuals who were not messengers of Allah. Similar to other religions, this licence inspired many to become saints and mystics, and others to claim ‘prophethood’ especially when Muslim fortunes were in decline. Most of the latter were suitably treated by the relevant authorities but some went on to carve out new religions and followers for themselves. I met one notable aspirant, kept in a high security jail in Faisalabad, a couple of years ago. He was definitely mentally ill.
Ahadith became a source of innovations which had no basis in the Quran, and were not practiced in the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). This sowed the seeds of permanent internal discord and changed the focus of Muslim beliefs and culture for good. Most worryingly, people like Imam Tabari, also wrote exegesis (Tafsir) of the Quran and used Ahadith as the background (Shan-e-Nazool) to determine the meaning of verses of the Quran. This practice has become an unshakable dogma since, leaving no prospect for any scholar to translate or interpret the Quran independently. Currently, some leading religious figures actually believe that if there is a discrepancy between the Quran and the Hadith, the latter takes precedence. This is what Allama Iqbal had pronounced as Ajami Islam and cried that Haqeeqat (Quran) Kharafat Mein Kho Ghaee/Yeh Ummat Rawayat (Ahadith) Mein Kho Ghaee.
Throughout history, Allah has never left Muslims without choice. Unfortunately, they choose to remain stuck in a vicious cycle primarily due to this wicked historical trap set through their inaccurate grasp of early Muslim history. There are two main versions — the rest are a spin-off from either of them. Muslims are globally split along these versions without national boundaries. This divide is so deep and sturdy that historical attempts to repair these did not succeeded. This is because treating the symptoms does not cure a disease — you need to treat the cause.
Throughout history, Allah has never left Muslims without choice. Unfortunately, they choose to remain stuck in a vicious cycle primarily due to this wicked historical trap set through their inaccurate grasp of early Muslim history
In the first version of early Muslim history, everything was fine, barring minor incidents attributed to human error, until well into Hazrat Usman’s caliphate. Due to his generous and forgiving nature, some of his relatives, especially his secretary Ibne Hakam, grew increasingly powerful. As Hazrat Usman grew old and vulnerable, some prominent Muslims started accumulating wealth. Ibne Hakam also took some disastrous decisions, without his knowledge, which culminated in Hazrat Usman’s own murder by Muslims. This was such a shock to the Muslim community that they drew their own conclusions about the incident and acted in good faith consequently. Unfortunately, this led to permanent rifts among the Muslims which were inherited to us.
The second version is that early Muslims also included hypocrites, and their number increased through overnight conversions after the conquest of Mecca in 10th Hijra. They conspired, collaborated and acted in their own interest during and after the lifetime of Prophet Muhammed (SAW). They came out into the open when Hazrat Ali took over the caliphate. This was later followed by persecution and martyrdoms of Hazrat Ali’s descendants and their allies during the Umayyad and the Abbasid regimes.
Both versions of early Muslim history are full of gaps, contradictions, irrationality and contravene the message of the Quran. Both have been unpicked by rival camps using their own and opponent’s sources to the great satisfaction of their own faction and non-Muslims. This deepened the divide and increased hostility among Muslims, and also caused non-issues (e.g. halal, hijab, jihad, polygamy) according to the Quran to become an albatross.
There is also a third version of early Muslim history with reliable references which has been mostly ignored…
to be continued
The writer is a consultant psychiatrist and visiting professor based in London. He tweets @AamerSarfraz
Published in Daily Times, November 5th 2018.