Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
If we were to strictly read the Quran in light of the Hadith, it will be frozen in the context of seventh century Arabia and that was not to be for it is an eternal book for all times to come. So, the Prophet Muhammad did not carve the text of the Quran on stone, rather had it written on papers and parchments.
The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change and progress, the Quran always yields, and will go on yielding, the needed guidance in advance. This has now been demonstrated through more than thirteen centuries, and that is a guarantee that it will continue to be demonstrated through the ages.
The Quran has proclaimed that falsehood will never overtake it. All research into the past and every discovery and invention in the future will affirm its truth (41:42). The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral, and spiritual laws (18:54; 39:27; 59:21).
Kabir Helminski, the founder of the Threshold Foundation in Sufism, writes in his book, Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation, & the Challenge of Our Time, in the chapter, What is Shariah really about?:
There is a saying of the Prophet which suggests that he himself had expressly forbidden the writing down of any hadith. According to Muslim and ibn Hanbal: Abi Said al-Khudri reported that the Prophet said, ‘Do not write down anything from me except the Qur’an. Whoever writes down anything other than the Qur’an must erase it.’
Even after the Prophet’s death and after the Qur’an had been carefully bound into its present form, the followers of the Prophet still refused to write down anything of the Prophet’s sayings. This is evidenced from another hadith of Ibn Hanbal: ‘Zayd ibn Thabit (the Prophet’s personal aide and scribe) was visiting the house of Mu‘awiya and was narrating to the Caliph a story about the Prophet. The Caliph, who became much impressed with the story, immediately asked his scribe to record the story. Zayd then cautioned the Caliph, ‘The holy Prophet has forbidden us from writing down anything from his hadith.’
While people did refer to the sayings of Muhammad in the early days, we are on less solid ground in accepting a consider- able Collection of hadith, some of which, at least, either address issues not in the Qur’an or even in some cases contradict the Qur’an (the stoning of adulterers, for instance).
Furthermore, we must question the acceptance of the hadith literature as an irrefutable source for Muhammad’s words. The hadith collections came into existence two to three hundred years after the life of the Prophet. Bukhari, Muslim, and other scholars of hadith were said to have sifted through close to a million hadiths, from which they ﬁnally gave their approval only to some thousands. It is clear that some people forged or invented hadiths, often for their own sexist, political, and sectarian reasons.
We see, for instance, quandaries over legal issues in the very early decades and centuries, which would have been easily resolved if the jurists had access to certain hadiths now accepted as sound Why is it that a century or so later there is a well-attested hadith in existence, complete with its own isnad (chain of transmission) that no one seemed to know a century earlier? We witness over time how hadiths grow in detail. We can only conclude that even the sound hadith are not beyond question, especially if they are legal rulings that appear to contradict or add to the Qur’an.
So, the Muslim brothers and sisters, who are inclined to read the Quran in more literal terms, either due to their personal leanings or of their teachers, and try to freeze the Quran in the seventh century Arabia are doing disservice to the scripture and limiting their own thoughts and horizons.
Shall I politely suggest that they may not be following the suggested paradigms of the holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.
With this in mind I want to now share a few articles to read the Quran without the constraints created by the culture and paradigms of a certain era, in the last 15 centuries of the Quran’s existence:
- Rumi: The Quran is Like a Shy Bride!
- Truth Cannot Contradict Truth: Understanding the Holy Quran
- Sometimes the Quran is Written on Stone and Often on Paper?
- The Scope, Style and Effect of the Holy Quran
- The History of the Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation
- Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran
- The Quran Gives Principles of Justice, But No Judicial System
- The Quran Only Means What Our Wisdom and Intentions Dictate: A Progressive Understanding
- The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors
- Is God Alive or Dead: A Metaphor for the Scriptures from the US Constitution?
- God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?
- I was an Isis sex slave. I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have