Can Muslims Reject Hadith?
A Hadith is a saying or an act or tacit approval or disapproval in a valid or invalid manner by Prophet Muhammad.
Great classical Islamic scholars have compiled thousands of Hadiths. Since, to Muslims, Muhammad is the perfect example of human character, whose every saying and deeds they must strive to emulate for all eternity, devout Muslims use the hadiths as guide to their life. But many of the hadiths are contradictory to each other. Others are outright embarrassing or barbaric in modern ethical standard. As a result, there is a rising new group of Muslims, who want to reject the Hadith, taking the Quran as the sole and absolute religious guide, such as the Qur’aniyyoon (Qur’an-only Muslims).
The question is: Can Muslims reject the hadith and be able to do all the religious practices they observe on a daily basis?
At face value, we see a growing group of modern, educated Muslims, who reject hadith. The question again: How such Muslims practice all the Islamic teachings done and practiced by Muhammad and the early Muslims relying solely on the Qur’an? I submit to you that the clear answer is “Impossible”. I will elucidate this in the following discussion.
“Hadith is more authentic than the Qur’an itself”
This statement is from Mumin Salih, an Arab ex-Muslim. He wrote an excellent article, analyzing how the Qur’an was compiled, and how the Hadith was compiled. After doing a comparative analysis, he showed convincingly that the Hadith deserves to be considered more authentic or reliable than the Qur’an itself.[i] The fact that we have many Hadiths that are contradictory – and there are many contradictory verses of the Qur’an, which has been comprehensively shown by Abul Kasem[ii]— is a testament to the falsity of Islam as a coherent belief system and does not undermine my claim here: one has to look at Hadith as more reliable/authentic than Qur’an itself.
Even so, over the centuries, Muslims have attributed tremendous importance to the Qur’an and Hadith. Can we, then, disregard Hadith’s importance in Islam, because it contains many contradictions, silly stories, and laughable scientific beliefs? Even though the answer is “No”, let me start by saying “Yes”. I will show that this “Yes” answer makes us ignore many Islamic faith elements. So, in the end, we will have to change our answer to “No” as Hadith would prove indispensable to Islam.
What if all Hadith books were lost?
Denying Hadith as a source of religious knowledge and guidance for Muslims will lead to losing important practices that Islam cannot do without. An important example here is the Qur’anic verses on stoning. Those verses, kept in the Prophet child-wife Aisha’s care, were lost, supposedly eaten up by goat. As a result, those verses could not be included in the Quran during compilation.[iii]
However, as tradition coming down from Muhammad’s time, the stoning-to-death punishment for adultery was preserved in the Hadith as a venerable prophetic tradition. And Muslim societies have relied on the hadith source to apply the punishment for adultery as do some societies to this day.
And what about praying in Islam? The Qur’an says nothing about the whole procedure. This “How to” is found only in Hadith.
Not only Islamic “How to” rituals are relied upon hadith but also the proper implementation of the Qur’anic teachings are also to be found in Hadith. For instance, Qur’an 4:34 instructs Muslim men to beat their women in certain circumstances. But, the degree of severity of beating which is to be applied is not found in the Qur’an. It is found in a Hadith, which quotes Muhammad telling his followers not to beat their wives as hard as they beat their slaves. Another Hadiths says a good beating is in order, but it should not result in broken bones. In other words, beat your wife, but not to the extent of breaking her bones (probably Muhammad thought that breaking of bones should be done while beating slaves only!!)
In short, without hadith, many “How to” of Islamic rituals and practices will be impossible to practice.
If a Muslim says he/she accepts only the Qur’an and rejects Hadith, he has two tasks to prove to us:
1. Why reject Hadith when it is more authentic and more reliable in the way it was compiled than the Qur’an itself. For Muslims, it is more logical and easier to be “Hadithiyyoon” (followers of Hadith only) rather than “Qur’aniyyoon”.
2. Rejecters of hadith will have to show us, how all the Islamic practices and rituals are to be observed based on guidance of the Qur’anic verses alone. This is in fact an impossible task to achieve.