(Draft Article) Shaykh Hamaz Yusuf and 500 Infallible Ahadith

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By a member of the MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

I recently read an article entitled “Sheikh Hamza Yusuf “We only have 500 hadith that are of the status of the Qur’an!”. This is an article where a bona fide Hadith Rejector is trying to use the statements of the very well-known Sunni Shaykh given in one of his videos towards his premise that we should only follow the Qur’an and nothing else[1].

Let me make some very quick observations, and Insha Allah as time permits in the future I will be able to expound on these matters either in this article or in other future works.

Firstly, the details of what “a Hadith that is of the status of the Qur’an” actually means, and the repercussions of this are very important. What is denoted in such a statement is that the transmission of such Ahadith have reached the level of Tawaatur (mass-transmission) – Shaykh Yusuf in other works of his uses the term “Infallible Hadith” for such types of narrations.

This means the Ahadith are Infallible in their wording and there is absolutely no doubt about their phrasing, and that just as denying any Verse of the Qur’an will land one in the realm of the disbelievers, denying any of these Infallible Ahadith will likewise land the denier of such Ahadith among the disbelievers, may Allah save us from such a fall.

Secondly, the video in which Shaykh Yusuf makes this assertion is not an academic-type lecture given to his students, but rather a general talk given to the masses about the input that Muslims have to give to the wider world and how they have to shun blind terrorism (the Infallible narration quoted being a indicator towards this fact). This point is important, because he would not have discussed the sources of “Infallible knowledge” in Islam are and how they are connected to the Dhanni (probabilistic) evidences, but would have instead oriented his lecture towards the subject at hand.

 Even so, in that very lecture Shaykh Yusuf mentions the Hadith where the Prophet said that he was innocent of the killing that Khalid bin al-Waleed (Radhia Allahu Anhu) inflicted on a certain tribe, which to the best of my knowledge is not an “Infallible”, mass-transmitted Hadith. If the situation was really such that Shaykh Yusuf believed that only “Infallible Ahadith” are to be quoted, then his quoting of this second narration is incomprehensible. Rather, the first “Infallible” narration was uttered in order to show the sanctity of the narration, not to make an academic point concerning Islamic fundamentals.

Thirdly, the matter is ultimately one of the faith we have in the exact words having been passed down to us without any mistakes whatsoever, and this is where the distinction between indubitable and probabilistic manifests itself (and correspondingly, the distinction between belief and disbelief). It should be noted that the Qur’an has a number of mass-transmitted, infallible recitations such as the ones people are generally familiar with nowadays, but has many more that are not infallible, and cannot be called “Qur’an” with certainty. But note that such recitations do exist, and the situation is somewhat analogous to the transmission of the Prophetic narrations – that is, a comparatively small number of “Infallible” and “Indubitable” transmissions, and an enormous number of transmissions that are not to the same level of certainty (even some of which are rejected).

If someone were to use the methodology of the Hadith rejecters and apply it to the Qur’an, then one would probably reject the Qur’an as well, due to the fact that there are recitations that do not reach the level of certainty. (To be honest, there are those from among the anti-Islamic groups who try to use this very fact in order to plant the seed of doubt in the hearts of Muslims.)

It is obvious then, that the problem with the Hadith rejecter is not that there are Ahadith having only a level of probabilistic certainty (sometimes approaching certainty and sometimes falling considerably off of this level), but rather that the Hadith rejecter does not consider the Ahadith to be the transmittal of meaningful speech to begin with. In fact, he considers the corpus of Ahadith as being unable to give any information at all, whether this information is of probabilistic certainty or whether it has actually approached infallibility of transmission, such as the “five hundred” Ahadith that Shaykh Yusuf mentioned in his talk.

Fourthly, and most importantly, one has to consider that we, as Muslims, are to take the “indubitable” primary texts of our religion as such, and not make an artificial distinction between the Qur’anic revelation, the Prophetic narrations, and those acts of the Companions that are pointers to what the Prophet did[2], even if the Companions did not specifically narrate it as a Prophetic tradition – like for example, if the Companion were asked as to how to perform the ablution, and he performs it in a certain way, we trust that this is a faithful transmission in practice of what the Prophet himself did. If the details of such an ablution reach the level of mass transmission (meaning that a huge number of Sahabah performed the ablution the exact same way), then there is no way we can reject it as coming from the Prophet himself.

Finally, we need to consider that these matters in which the Hadith rejecters consider themselves as novel, and of having found out some hidden truth have already been discussed many centuries ago by the scholars of Islam, and have their elucidation in the books of Usool (the fundamentals of the religion). It should be noted that the matter of deriving the final ruling, or explanation of a Hadith (or even a Qur’anic Verse) go well beyond the authenticity of the text itself, but also include matters of linguistics, comparison between the texts, and the different modes of understanding prevalent among people.

For example, it is well-known by the people of knowledge that an issue in jurisprudence or belief may rest on how the meanings of different Qur’anic Verses are taken by the scholars of Islam and not so much on the (probabilistic) Prophetic narrations, even though the words of the Qur’an itself are never in doubt. The Hadith rejecter has made the egregious mistake of supposing that a difference of opinion rests solely on the falsity of non-Qur’anic texts, but we can envisage him at a loss to explain how a situation developed, where the discussion and debates among the scholars was predicated on the different Verses of the Qur’an, and not on the Ahadith.

We can further envisage them making wild claims about Islamic doctrine (such as the very real postulation by certain Hadith rejecters that Prophets are to come in the future of this world, based on their understanding of certain Qur’anic Verses). We can even see some of them openly apostatizing from the religion, since they would not have any basis for information other than the strict text of the Qur’an itself– even though in order to even be able to read the Qur’an, one needs to have information outside of the Qur’an, such as how to pronounce the letters of the Arabic alphabet, what conglomeration of Arabic letters produce which words, or what the Arabic words mean in the real world, information not found in the Qur’an at all. These and similar issues are matters that may be hidden to the common Muslim in their evaluation of the Islamic religion, but they should not be used to doubt the truthfulness of Islam as a system.

We will stop at this juncture, hoping that soon we may be able to expand upon this topic. May Allah guide all those who are sincerely seek the truth. And with Allah is our success.

[1] I do not wish to give the link of this article because it is quite well-known that the Mutawaatir Ahadith are only a fraction of the total Ahadith corpus, and the Sunnis knew this long before Hadith rejecters to brought this up as an issue. With regards to the video, its title is: “an american muslim speaker haveing a go at muslims part 2/2” and is available on video sharing sites.

[2] That is, in terms of conveying true information. Obviously, the Qur’an has its own miraculous style that cannot be replicated by the normal words or actions of the Prophet .



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  1. Pingback: Responding to the tetchy comments of Saeed Baker | primaquran

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