Q. Can you explain the authenticity of the ahadith below? These ahadith were emailed to me. I am sick and tired of these emails where scare tactics are used to force girls to wear the hijab or to please Allah! I see my country ruined and in the dark ages due to so many twisted and confused beliefs (I am confused myself). When I was young, I remember being scared into things the same way by other friends and mullahs with 'the adhab of the grave' and other similar items. I love my religion but I need some guidance. When will some of my fellow Muslims stop acting like bigots, and stop calling everyone else kuffar and what not? Why can't these people realize that we, as Muslims, are treated here in the West with more respect and dignity, and acknowledge many of the religious freedoms we have that are lacking in many Muslim countries?

Start of ahadith

Imam Ali ibn Abu Thalib and Hadrat Fatimah once visited the Prophet (s.a.w.) and found him in tears. They asked him the cause and he replied: 'O Ali, on the night of my ascension (miraj), I saw women of my ummah who were being severely punished and I became concerned for them and started crying.

* I saw a woman who had been hung by her breast.

* Another was hung by her feet, inside and over.

* Then I saw a second woman who was eating her own flesh and fire raged below her.

* A third woman was hanging by her tongue and boiling water was being poured down her throat.

* A fourth was bent over, her hands and feet were tied together, and snakes and scorpions were crawling all over her.

* A fifth was deaf, dumb, and blind, enclosed in a cage of fire, her brain oozing out of the holes in her skull. Her body fell apart due to leprosy.

* Yet another woman's body was being shredded to pieces by scissors made of fire.

* One woman had a head of a pig and a body of a donkey and was given several punishments.

* Another had the face of a dog, fire was entering her body from her posterior and coming out of her mouth, and the angels were beating her with iron rods.

Fatimah then inquired of her father: 'Please tell me, what did the women do to deserve such punishment?' Then the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: Listen my dear;

* The one who was hanging by her breast used to deny her husband his rightful pleasure.

* The one hanging by her feet used to go out of her house without her husband's permission.

* The one eating her own flesh used to beautify herself and show her body to men other than her husband.

* The one whose body was burned and who was eating her own intestines used to provide other women for sex.

* The one whose hands and feet were tied together and covered with snakes and scorpions never took care of her impurities and wasn't careful about ghusl, thus taking her prayer lightly.

* The deaf, blind, and dumb used to bear children through adultery and claim the children belonged to her husband.

* The one whose body was being cut by scissors made of fire never observed hijab in front of non-mahrem men.

* The one with the face of a pig and a body of a donkey was a backbiter and a liar.

* And the one with the face of a dog and who had fire entering her behind and coming out of her face was a jealous woman.

End of ahadith

Can you also address the following verses that are sometimes cited to subjugate women and dictate how they should dress and behave?

O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women, provided that you remain truly conscious of God. Hence, be not overly soft in your speech, lest any whose heart is diseased should be moved to desire you: but speak in a kindly way.Q33:32

And abide quietly in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the old days of pagan ignorance; and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto God and His Apostle: for God only wants to remove from you all that might be loathsome, O you members of the Prophet’s household, and to purify you to utmost purity.Q33:33

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as all other believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments when in public: this will be more conducive to their being recognized as decent women and not annoyed. God is indeed much forgiving, a dispenser of grace.Q33:59

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms in public beyond what may decently be apparent thereof; hence let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display more of their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs in walking so as to draw attention to their hidden charms. And always, O you believers -- all of you -- turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state.Q24:31

A. For most Muslims, the ahadith have become an integral part of Islam. Now while the theoretical aspect of this is seemingly firm, it is only because most Muslims do not investigate the history of the concept and just blindly accept what they think the ahadith mean. Ask the average person what is the difference between hadith and sunnah, and he or she will either say it is the same, or that the latter is simply the former put into action, and will attribute both to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w).

The fact is that sunnah simply means practice and is attributed to the first generation of ALL Muslims, as in Imam Malik talking of the practice of the people of Medina. Only later did the "sunnah" come to mean the actions of the Prophet.

The ahadith only came into being much later and were then attributed to the Prophet, and this (which is documented in Muslim history) came about after a dispute between the "ahl al ra'y" and "ahl al hadith". Note too that the ahl al ra'y predated the ahl al hadith. That normal logic – that later generations create a mythical chain to the founder to legitimize their positions – was lost on many.

I start with that simple focus of fact because the Qur'an tells us that it is the only thing that God protects: "We have sent down the scripture, and we will protect it." Most Muslims see in that verse the eternal protection of the Qur'an. That, however, is a rather broad perception, for the fact is that there is no broad interpretation to be taken: the meaning is rather restrictive. ONLY the Qur'an is protected; nothing else is. This means that the ahadith are NOT protected.

And from religion theory, the ahadith are only the reflection of men of a later time putting words into the mouth of the Prophet to defend their agendas. Some did this out of pietitious prevarication, but it is prevarication nonetheless.

Now the Qur'an tells us that the Prophet does NOT know what will happen to him: "I do not know: I am waiting with you too." ALL of the eschatological ahadith are false, regardless of whichever book they may be in. Muslims generally take "sahih" to mean true. That is a wrong assumption: it simply means that to the best of the knowledge of the collector, it appears to be true. That perception may be at odds with reality. Additionally, do note that traditional ahadith authenticity, as we have noted elsewhere, is not on the basis of the text, but on the basis of the probity of the narrator. This means that if A is a good person, and B is and C is, we take their hadith. But is it possible that one may have been mistaken? Is it possible that the Prophet could have said different ahadith on different things that contradict each other in the most discordant way? Would the Prophet have predicted about the inhabitants of hell when he acknowledged that he did not know what was going to happen to him?

These ahadith are all fear-mongering lies designed to browbeat people into subjection and ought to be unceremoniously cast aside by those who love God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This kind of misinformation is used by anti-Muslim bigots to smear Islam, and Muslims who propagate these nonsensical ahadith (which number in the hundreds) as gospel are unwittingly helping to slander God, his noble Prophet, and the religion of Islam. May God protect us from such evil lies.

Regarding the Qur’anic verses in question, it is true that the Qur’an says what is stated above in 33:32 and 33:33. But to whom are the verses addressed? That is clear: "Ya nisaa an nabi" -- O wives of the Prophet. So the specificity is beyond question. Next, as if not satisfied with that clarity, God goes further, seemingly anticipating that Muslim men would seek to use those verses against their innocent female folk, and so states: "You are not like other women." So what we have here is that the wives of the Prophet, in 7th century Arabia, being advised on how to deport themselves in their capacity as "first ladies." Think how it would look if in a society where free interaction among sexes AT THAT TIME, where a particular way of speech could be seen as indicative of sexual promiscuity or "come hither" incitement -- that is the context of the verses. They do NOT apply to women at large.

Let us go further: "Don't be attractive in speech lest he in whose heart there is sickness lusts". Here it is not the speech of the woman that is bad per se, but the lust of "he in whose heart there is sickness". Here the MAN is the one with the problem, not the woman. It is HE who has sickness in his heart. The Qur'an is saying that a GOOD MUSLIM, a RIGHTEOUS man, would NOT have lust in his heart. It is also saying that NORMAL women may speak how they wish.

As for 24:31, this applies to a society where certain clothing and the way it is worn gave certain messages, in an environment where men had their way. This is a social verse, not a worship verse. If men want women to stay at home, then let them earn enough money to pay the mortgage, and let them have employees who do the shopping and housework. This verse is set in a society where there are slaves and certain norms. We do NOT live in such a society today. As such I don't believe western societal norms remove us from Islam, for many of the mores are indeed Islamic. The freedom of women is indeed in all of the goals of the shari’ah, and there is freedom of religion that the shari’ah promotes. That means that I, as a trained jurist, see 24:31 and 33:59 as NOT being applicable in today's society. But what about a woman who wants to dress in today’s society as described in the Qur'an (or reported ahadith), or a man who sees scripture as forever immutable? While I may disagree, it is his / her right. Freedom of thought and expression in Islam means that even if I do not agree with an opinion, I will accept that the INTENTION of the person is good. This is why, even though the Qur'an says Jesus is not the son of God, yet in 2:62, it says Christians are entitled to heaven. The beauty in this verse is that their good conduct, in spite of their theological "error", is beneficial for society. And so it is for us Muslims, we judge not and leave that to God. We must not force women to be second class citizens or slaves, rather we must train ALL MUSLIMS to be free to think and act in a righteous manner. NOWHERE in the cited verses does it talk about the hijab, and I find that rather significant. And God knows best.

Posted September 22, 2010