Q. What are your thoughts regarding the video below claiming that Muslims have given precedence to the hadith over the Qur'an, and that this is primarily responsible for their decadence?
A. This is arguably the best fusion of academic and confessional assessment of the entire hadith phenomenon. The scholar couches his language carefully, and it may be misunderstood by those outside of the hadith discipline. When he mentioned "authentic" hadith, and at the same time criticized the sanad idea, he was basically talking about established practice, which is actually sunnah. And even then, he was also alluding to the fact that the practice of the early generations had their agendas. His talk points out the biggest error Muslims have committed: this new reliance upon hadith comes from a lay reading of classical texts. Those texts were made for scholars, who used them in terms of juridical readings. They were never meant for the lay person's consumption. The lay person was supposed to do precisely what the good scholar talks about: use his / her intellect and spiritual ideas. The hadith were not meant to deal with such, but rather to "fill a void" so to speak. The different polities pushed the hadith concept as part of a political agenda, foisting "predestination" so that we might accept governments without argument, and promoting hatred against non-Muslims because by that time, Islam had morphed from being a religion into an entire administrative system, not unlike the American and European supremacist mentality that we see among many people.
The scholar's predicament is that he is in a place wherein most of the official voices are against his position, given that they represent a particular unintellectual interpretation of Islam. I pray for his safety. As you can see, he supports our position on the subject, and also proves beyond a doubt what we have been asserting all along, i.e., that hadith criticism is not some modern innovation, but that from the very beginning, the hadith were seen as problematic. As we have noted, the definition of hadith is "that which is attributed to the Prophet in terms of word, deed, and tacit approval." Note that "which is attributed" is in the passive case, which in hadith usage, indicates lack of conviction. The difference can be explained thus: if it were defined as "that which the Prophet said, did, or granted tacit approval to," it would be deemed as strong proof. But instead, we are told it is "that which is attributed," indicating that no one wants to take the position of responsibility for such attribution. This of course is getting into terminological minutiae, but it is known as "sighat al-tamrid" -- the structure of deficiency. I trust our readers pay attention to his well-articulated presentation, and note that the other "shaykh" sitting in the background had nothing to offer in terms of a good rebuttal, the irony of it all being that he was bedecked in the garb of the Ottoman colonizer.
Posted June 30, 2016