Early Muslim history needs fresh appraisal — XIII
The ‘most reliable’ collection of Ahadith by al-Bokhari was written after 250 years; and the mother of all Islamic histories by al-Tabri was written after 300 years of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) death
M Aamer Sarfraz
DECEMBER 30, 2018
I have demonstrated how Ahadith have contributed to serious discords and brought Muslims in direct conflict with the Quran. The contribution of early Muslim history in this regard needs further examination.
While there is external and internal evidence that every word of the Quran was safely transmitted, and is preserved, early Muslim history, based on Ahadith or otherwise, has no such credibility because neither God nor Prophet Muhammad (SAW) – or his companions- took responsibility for its writing or safeguarding. The ‘most reliable’ collection of Ahadith by al-Bokhari was written after 250 years; and the mother of all Islamic histories by al-Tabri was written after 300 years of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) death. Both works were based on oral reports from writers’ contemporaries, without any written evidence or reference.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) established the State of Medina on the principles of Deen laid down in the Quran. Since this Deen was to remain after him, he prepared a community (Ummah) of Muslims led by his close companions. The Quran is categorical that every child (human being) is respectable (17:70) irrespective of their kinship, colour, creed, and socio-economic status. And his or her level of reverence would be determined by their conduct in line with the Quranic values (49:13). Beyond that, their status is based on their talent, knowledge and skills (46:19). This community was chosen to be the recipient of Quranic message, and He certified, “Those who believed, emigrated and struggled (did jihad); and those who helped them and gave refuge — are real Momins and worthy of deference and honour (35:32; 8:73).
The Quran is superfluous in praising the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) — they were endowed with invaluable affection for one another (8:64), and are the ones with all-embracing merits and have triumphed (9:88). Surah al-Fatah elaborates how these companions were most kind to each other, and resolute and strong towards their enemies. They were forever striving in the way of the Deen with humility, with determination etched on their faces. And that God is on their side against disbelievers, and promises great rewards for them.
The above leaves us in no doubt about how highly the Quran regards the companions of Prophet Muhammad. Let us examine what early Muslim history, derived from al-Tabri and Ahadith, offers on this subject.
It presents a confusing, contradictory and embarrassing portrayal of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It includes the Quranic view, but dramatizes and highlights negative details of the personalities and events too much, and clouds Qur’anic perception. Our history presents the majority of the close companions as ambitious, intolerant, and conspiring charlatans. A critical narrative is actually built around the events which surround Prophet’s (SAW) death.
Al-Tabri and Ahadith inform us that some companions of the Prophet: rejected his appointed successor (Hazrat Ali RA), did not let him write his will, ignored his burial to engage in power struggle, engrossed in abuse (scuffles, beatings, pulling each other’s beards, drawing swords) to trick others to agree on Hazrat Abu Bakar’s Khilafat because Quraysh merit the right to lead, reverted to pre-Islamic beliefs, caused physical harm and threatened to burn down Hazrat Fatima’s house, wrongly denied the inheritance of Bagh-e-Fidak to Hazrat Fatima, introduced unlawful innovations in Islam, etc. We are also ‘reliably’ informed by these sources that: Hazrat Ali RA claimed Khilafat on the basis of kinship, did not make a bid for it fearing rejection and never getting a second chance, Hazrat Fatima tried but failed to get support for Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Fatima rejected the succession of the Prophet, died discontented, and asked to be buried secretly, Hazrat Ali tactically accepted Hazrat Abu Bakar’s Khilafat later despite swearing not to do it earlier, etc.
The Quran is categorical that every child (human being) is respectable (17:70) irrespective of their kinship, colour, creed, and socio-economic status. And his or her level of reverence would be determined by their conduct in line with the Quranic values (49:13). Beyond that, their status is based on their talent, knowledge and skills (46:19)
We can surmise from the above that the picture of the companions of the Prophet (SAW) painted by our history is completely different from the Quran. We can therefore decide justifiably that we should reject such a history because the Quran is more reliable. However, it is not that simple because most of the above-mentioned history is derived from a collection of Ahadith by al-Bokhari. Leading religious leaders believe that this is as important as the Quran, and a significant number actually regard Ahadith over the Quran. They latter go as far as abrogating those verses of the Quran which are in conflict with the Ahadith. If you hold the alternative, apparently more sensible, view that Ahadith (or Islamic history) which contradict the Quran should be rejected; you are likely to be declared a non-believer and worthy of a death sentence.
The entirely irrational and unIslamic conundrum of Ahadith-above-Quran has put both leading scholars and general Muslims in a lethal straitjacket. This has made them take ridiculous academic and everyday positions over the years. For example, Maududi misused this paradigm on more than one occasion. During the heated debate, which split Jamaat-e-Islami split in the 1960s, he used the example of ‘leadership from the Quraysh’ to justify his own claim. He had actually gone further (1958) to write that lying is permissible in Islam for practical purposes (obviously relying on Ahadith which mention occasions where the Prophets, including Muhammad (SAW), is supposed to have, God forbid, lied). (To be continued)
The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist & Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfarz
Published in Daily Times, December 30th 2018.