By Sheikh Ahmad Kutty
I have recently begun to ponder the validity of Hadith in Islam. If Allah had intended for us to follow the Hadith, He would have included them in the Qur’an. Since I’m pretty sure He didn’t forget to do so, is there any Qur’anic evidence that the Hadith is a valid part of Islam?
Between Hadith & Qur’an
Hadith is integral to the Qur’an; since they are inseparably linked to each other, it is impossible to understand the Qur’an without reference to the Hadith. The Qur’an is the message, and the Hadith is the explanation of the message by the Messenger himself (peace be upon him). I mention the following points to clarify the issue:
1- The Qur’an makes it abundantly clear that the function of the Messenger is not merely that of delivery man who simply delivered the revelation from Allah to us; rather he has been entrusted with the most important task of explaining and illustrating the same. This is a point mentioned in a number of verses in the Qur’an:
…and We have sent down unto you (also) the Message; that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought. (An-Nahl 16:44)
And We sent down the Book to you for the express purpose, that you should make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe. (An-Nahl 16:64)
Therefore, the Hadith explains, clarifies, and removes ambiguities about the Qur’an. Hence, once we reject the Hadith, we may never be able to figure out the whole meaning of the Qur’an.
The Illustrative Hadith
Much of Islam will remain mere abstract concepts without the Hadith: We would never know how to pray, fast or pay Zakah or make pilgrimage without the illustration found in Hadith, for they remain as abstract imperatives in the Qur’an.
The Qur’an tells us the Prophet (peace be upon him) has taught not only the Book but also the wisdom:
It is He Who has sent amongst the Unlettered a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error. (Al-Jumu`ah 62:2)
And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the Signs of Allah and Wisdom: for Allah understands the finest mysteries and is well-acquainted (with them). (Al-Ahzab 33:34)
But for the Grace of Allah to you (O Muhammad) and His Mercy, a party of them would certainly have plotted to lead you astray. But (in fact) they will only Lead their own souls astray, and to you they can do no harm in the least. For Allah has sent down to you the Book and wisdom and taught you what you did not know (before): And great is the Grace of Allah unto you. (An-Nisaa’ 4:113)
As Imam Shafi`i stated the wisdom mentioned here is the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) so if we were to reject the Hadith, we would be rejecting the Qur’an itself.
Obeying the Messenger
The Quran tells us to obey the Messenger and abide by his decision:
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction. (An-Nisaa’ 4:65)
And this (He commands): Judge (O Muhammad) between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they beguile you from any of that (teaching) which Allah has sent down to you. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crime it is Allah’s purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious. (Al-Ma’idah 5:49)
Where we do we find such decisions except in the Hadith?
Last but not least, the Qur’an orders the faithful to emulate the role model of the Messenger (peace be upon him) and reckons it as the only way to gain the pleasure of Allah.
It is therefore imperative that we look up to his morals and behavior and emulate them in our lives. We can never do so without studying the Hadith. It is most illuminating in this respect to learn that when `A’ishah was asked to describe the character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) her definite answer was, “His character was the Qur’an” (Muslim).
In other words, he personified the best ideals and values of the Qur’an. How could we then neglect the Hadith which alone can lead us to the precise ways in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, exemplified the Qur’anic ideals?
Having said this, however, we must never fall into the temptation of taking all that which is found in the works of Hadith as being authentic or genuine. Hadith at all times must be evaluated by the well-established rules of validation as established by the great scholars.
Such firm criteria include the following: If a certain hadith is contrary to the well-established principles of the Qur’an or sound reason, it must be rejected.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty is a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.