Hope for someone desiring suicide

I want to KILL myself But im not cuz its haram But idk what to do help me Give me hope

Think back to the past and remember all the difficulties that you once suffered from and that have disappeared from your life. Sooner or later, your present difficulty will also be part of the past and will stop influencing you. No matter how difficult the day or week is, it will pass. To kill yourself is to say that you do not believe that God can put a stop to your situation. Do you think God is that powerless? Ask God for help and He can help you in ways you never expected.

Please see these two articles I wrote a while ago:

The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

God has not abandoned you: Regaining your sense of purpose when life feels spiritually empty, lonely and meaningless

On the evil eye

/ No Comments on On the evil eye

Salaam 'alaykom. I reblog a lot of photography, but a lot of times i forget to say Ma Sha Allah. Can I cause evil eye on the person on the photos because of this? I'm sorry if this sounds ridiculous.

My way of practicing Islam is to judge a thing’s importance by the amount of attention that the Quran dedicates to it. Since the evil eye is never mentioned in the Quran, I consider it of negligible importance. There are a number of authentic narrations in al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Muwatta and others that state that the evil eye is a real thing. To answer your question, if you look at a photo and you admire something in it (a person’s clothing, etc.), then it is recommended that you make a prayer for the benefit of the person. Whether your merely looking at a photo can have a negative influence is not something we can determine with any degree of certainty.

Getting engaged Islamically without marriage

I have met this non-muslim guy who is willing to change his religion for me and always puts my happiness over his own. Now we both love each other but want to accomplish our personal goals such as uni first before we can marry and live together which would be in almost 8 years. My concern is that we won’t be able to not have sex until then.

In that case you should perform the nikah/engagement ceremony now but put off the wedding. This would make your relationship formal and halal, it would allow you to be intimate without it being sinful, while also allowing you to continue living as you do now. This is done in countries like Iran where culturally the religious engagement ceremony (the nikah) and the wedding are considered two different things that can happen years apart.

I’ve messaged you already because of this non-muslim guy couple days ago and I agree a nikah would make sense. The problem is that in my culture you have a nikah the same day you marry. Therefore my parents wouldn’t agree.

This is a matter between you and God. It is up to you to decide whether God’s pleasure is more important or your desires and parents’ opinion. This world is a testing hall. God asks you to do certain things, but lets you have the freedom to act according to your desires and watches to see what you will do. If you do what you want regardless of His wishes, you fail the test like millions of others do daily.

If you want a blessed life under His protection, you have to put His desires before your own. And if you want to live according to your own desires, God will take His blessings out of your life and your life will become a long string of meaningless inconveniences and failures.

It is in the nature of this world to present us with temptations that go against God’s wishes. This is something everyone experiences almost daily, the point in them is to allow us to prove whether we are loyal to God or to our own desires.

This is your life and it is up to you what you make of it. No one else will be held responsible for your sins.

Good luck and I hope things will turn out well for you inshaAllah.

[Book Review] Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr

Lost Enlightenment is a highly readable overview of the history of the Persian-speaking cities of Central Asia, an area that gave Islamic civilization the majority of its great philosophers and thinkers (Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Biruni, al-Ghazali)  and many of its great scholars (such as the creators of five of the six “canonical” hadith collections: al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Nasa’i, al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood, the exception being Ibn Majah who, a Persian like the rest, came from Qazvin in Western Iran).

While the book is a good source of information on Islamic civilization’s most advanced and intellectually productive area, it is marred by the writer’s secularist bias. It is often implicit in his writing that he believes the more religiously faithful a Muslim is, the less capable of rational and logical thought they are. He often spends many pages arguing that a particular thinker was actually secular and only paid lip service to Islam (Ibn Sina, Khayyam). As for the devout Muslim thinkers he covers, he often cannot hide his contempt and his belief in the person’s narrow-mindedness and falseness of conscience (as in the case of al-Ghazali).

Errors

Lost Enlightenment is also marred by various errors. The writer’s grasp of the workings of the Islamic religion and its intellectual tradition is amateurish at best (despite his merits as a historian). Starr is guilty of incredible statements like the following:

Going still further, a new governor named Nasr, ignoring the Quran’s demand that apostasy be punished by death, in 741 struck a deal with the Sogdians that abolished all punishments for those who had reverted to their former religions.

He also writes in another place:

But Ghazali branded both thinkers posthumously as heretics and therefore, according to the Quran, punishable by death.

And yet in another place:

Those who follow the philosophers were not merely heretics but, he averred apostates. The Quran quite clear states that apostates must be punished with death.

The Quran does not prescribe a punishment for apostasy anywhere in it! This is an elementary error that even an undergraduate student of Islamic studies should not make.

Starr attributes to the scientist Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi a “weighty commentary” on the Quran, confusing him with Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, who was born two centuries later.

Starr writes:

Quranic prohibitions against depicting the human form were frequently ignored...

The Quran has nothing to say on the depiction of the human form. These elementary errors about Islam’s chief scripture betray a serious ignorance of Islam as a religion, in contradistinction to the author’s wide knowledge of Central Asian history.

Starr mentions al-Hakim al-Nisaburi as a critic and challenger of al-Bukhari who caused him to be expelled from Naishapur. This means that al-Naisburi was able to go back to the time 60 years before his birth to harass al-Bukhari. It seems that Starr confused al-Naisaburi with al-Dhuhali, who fits Starr’s descriptions. Al-Hakim al-Naisaburi was actually a champion of al-Bukhari, critical to the canonization process of al-Bukhari’s hadith collection, as is covered in detail in Jonathan Brown’s The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim. This is all the more strange since Starr quotes Brown’s book multiple times in the pages dealing with al-Naisaburi.

Finally, some nitpicks: He says that Tus is 15 miles northeast of Nishapur. It is actually 43 miles away. He also writes:

Insurgents seized Basra on the Red Sea...

Basra is 700 miles away from the Red Sea.

In summary, Starr’s Lost Enlightenment is a good historical overview of the period it covers. Readers should be aware of its biases and should read books by other scholars to get a more accurate understanding of the topics covered.

A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani

A History of the Arab Peoples is a great general introduction to the history of the Arab countries and the history of Islam. It was written by the respected British scholar Albert Hourani (of Lebanese Christian descent). While not written by a Muslim, the book’s treatment of Muslims is balanced and fair-minded.

This book does not cover the history of other important parts of the Islamic world, such as Central Asia and the countries of the Indian ocean, therefore it should not be considered a complete history of Islam.

The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

Schale mit Blumen by Marie Egner (1940)

Every person’s life seems to contain problems that have no solution. Such problems can last for years, even decades. Among such problems are:

  • Poverty: A person’s life may be denied many joys and contain many indignities brought about by poverty.
  • Having a disabled child: An otherwise happy and wealthy couple may be force to worry and spend much of their time and energy in the care of a disabled child, without any hope of things getting much easier.
  • Having to take care of an elderly parent: There are people who spend years as part-time nurses, having to take care of a parent that cannot take care of himself/herself. The person may not be able to afford professional care, so that despite their life’s various demands, this extra demand is placed on them, sometimes for many years or a decade.
  • Illness: There are people who suffer from an illness that prevents them from enjoying the foods they like or the activities they enjoy. Some illness are uncurable and will put a damper on a person’s life for the rest of their lives.
  • Family problems: A person may have nearly everything they want, but their life may be made extremely difficult due to abuse or neglect from a spouse, meanness from family members, or having a child that constantly gets into serious trouble.

There problems are unsolvable in the sense that there are generally no quick solutions to them. We desire to live in Paradise on earth, having a peaceful and easy life that is not marred by any serious issues. We wish to live in a light-hearted comedy rather than a tragedy.

But that desire for perfect peace will never come true in this life, because that is not the purpose of this life. Ibn Ata Allah al-Iskandari says:

So long as you are in this world, be not surprised at the existence of sorrows.

Ibn al-Qayyim says:

God, glory to Him, created His creation to worship Him, and that is their purpose, as He says: “I have not created jinn and humans except to worship Me” [Quran 51:56]. It is clear that the perfect servitude and worship that is required of humans cannot be achieved in the Home of Bliss [Paradise], but can only be achieved in the home of affliction and trials.

Ibn al-Jawzi says:

The worldly life has been created as a place of testing. The wise person should fully habituate himself to patience.

We want to escape this world with all of its little annoyances and worries and inconveniences so that we can enter a world of perfect peace. But this desire is mistaken and can never be attained in this world. Even if we unexpectedly acquire great wealth, leave behind all of our worries, move to a different country, buy an amazing house, and find a great spouse, the excitement of all of these will wear off in a few day, and we will feel as if we are back to square one. Problems will start to haunt us again out no nowhere. The perfect spouse may end up not being so perfect. We may engage in a seemingly profitable business enterprise that brings us great fear and worry, perhaps due to choosing the wrong business partner. If the wealth is enough to make us needless of any extra work or investment, we may dedicate ourselves to making art, or writing novels or poetry, only to experience discontent and grief as people ignore or criticize our works. Meanwhile, in our new social circle we may start to be judged for all kinds of things that we dislike to be judged for, and this may make us feel inferior.

While films and novels often tell us that we can live happily ever after once we solve our problems, get rich, or escape our past lives, reality will always prove this false. This world is a place of testing. There is no escaping God’s tests, and He knows better than anyone else exactly how to test you. Even if you are the ruler of the world, God can defeat all of your plans and place you in utter misery if He wishes. There is no escape from God. Regardless of where we run to, He will always be there first, ready with the next barrage of tests designed to build us into better and worthier people.

If you suffer from a problem of inconvenience and think “This is too stupid, I shouldn’t be having to deal with this type of nonsense!”, you have actually misunderstood the test. If something makes you feel discontented, impatient, angry or unthankful toward God, then that is exactly the type of test you should be going you through. A test that does not hit you right where it hurts is not a proper test. You have to best tested for all that you have, each test should reach deep into you and tempt you to anger and ungratefulness.

The Building of Character

Ibn al-Qayyim says:

When God tests you it is never to destroy you. When He removes something in your possession it is only in order to empty your hands for an even greater gift.

God does not take sadistic pleasure in seeing us suffer. The purpose of His tests is to show us our true natures, our weaknesses and our absolute dependence on His mercy, and these things prompt us to seek to improve ourselves. People who are never shown their faults and weaknesses fail to develop. If we are unaware that a problem exists, we have no incentive to seek a solution.

Mostafa Sadeq al-Rafi’i says:

When I looked into history I found a small number of individuals whose lives mirrored the life-cycle of a grain of wheat. They were torn from their roots, then crushed, then ground in mills, then kneaded with fists, then rolled out and baked in ovens at high temperatures… just so they could provide food for others.

The best people you meet are not people who have been spared life’s troubles. They are people who been crushed again and again by life’s troubles until they have reached a state of near-perfect acceptance and humility, so that they no longer reject God’s decrees nor do they desire to escape their lives. They know God is in charge, and that He can cure them from their distress any time He wants. They look to Him for help and seek refuge only in Him. The poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, who suffered for years from a painful illness and from loneliness and nostalgia, expresses this type of thinking in his famous 1962 poem Sabr Ayyub (The Patience of Job).

For You is praise, no matter how long the distress lasts,
And no matter how oppressive the pain becomes,
For You is praise, afflictions are bestowals,
And suffering is of Your bounty.
Did You not give me this darkness?
And did You not give me this dawn?
Does the ground then thank raindrops,
But get angry if the clouds do not find it?
For long months, this wound
Has been cutting my sides like a dagger.
The affliction does not calm at morning,
And nighttime does not bring death to wipe out the agony.
But if Job was to cry, he would cry,
“For You is Praise, for suffering is like drops of dew,
And wounds are presents from the Beloved,
The stacks of which I hug to my chest.
You presents are in my line of sight, they do not leave,
Your presents are accepted, bring them on!”
I hug my wounds and call out to visitors:
“Look here and be jealous,
For these are presents from my Beloved!”
And if the heat of my fever approaches fire,
I would imagine it a kiss from You fashioned from flame.
Beautiful is insomnia, as I watch over Your heaven
With my eyes, until the stars disappear
And until Your light touches the window of my home.
Beautiful is the night: The hooting of owls
And the sound of car horns from a distance
The sighs of patients, a mother retelling
Tales of her forefathers to her child.
The forests of a sleepless night; the clouds
As they veil the face of heaven
And uncover it from under the moon.
And if Job cried out, he would say:
“For You is praise, O One who hurls fate,
And O One Who, after that, decrees the cure!”

If you are tested, instead of thinking “This shouldn’t be happening to me!”, consider it an opportunity to practice patience and a call to improve yourself. We never grow if we constantly turn our backs on our problems. Growth happens when we accept that this is exactly what we should be going through, this is God’s decree for us. If God wants, He can remove our difficulty in an instant. If we feel impatient and discontented, this is a clear sign that we are not close enough to God, that we are rejecting Him. We are, in effect, telling Him “We dislike this thing that You are doing to us O God and reject Your decree for us, we know better than You what should be happening to us, and this is not it.” You will meet many religious people who are stuck in this way of thinking. Their life’s difficulties, failures and missed opportunities are present in their minds and they blame God for not providing them with a better lot.

That is the state of a spiritually stagnant person. As for the best of the believers, they walk with God through life. They know He is in charge. They know that life’s difficulties are reminders from God that they should not put their trust in this world and that they should not expect to achieve perfect peace in it. Perfect peace is only achievable in the afterlife. Abdullah, son of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, asked his father one day:

"O Father, when will we ever achieve rest?"

His father looked him in the eye and said:

"With the first step we take into Paradise."

Rather than feeling discontented with life’s unsolvable problems, accept them and tell yourself that this is the fate that has been decreed for you. If you wish for a better fate, if you wish God to raise your status and remove the various indignities you suffer in life, ask Him to raise your status. Only He can help you. Ibn al-Qayyim says:

Whoever among the workers wishes to know his status in the eye of the King, then let him look at what jobs He gives him and with what He busies him.

If you want to have a better lot in life, if you want your life to be more meaningful and to contain fewer problems, then ask yourself whether you deserve it, whether you deserve to be given special treatment over the millions of people who are equally suffering. In reality, you want God to treat you as if you are special. Do you deserve such treatment? If you constantly turn your back on Him, if you only do the minimum He asks of you, if you never take refuge in Him and do not consider Him in charge, then you are giving Him no reason to treat you specially. If you want a higher status in life, become the type of person who deserves a higher status in life. Do your best to stay close to Him. You should ask Him for these five things in every prayer you pray (during prostration) (I have written my favorite Arabic prayer words that I say for these purposes):

  • To forgive your sins. Allahumma innaka affuwwun tuhibbul afwa faafu anni (O God, you are the Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness, so forgive me.)
  • To guide you and increase your knowledge and wisdom. Allahumma zidni ilman wahdini li aqraba min haza rushdan (O God, increase me in knowledge and guide me to a better state of maturity than what I currently possibly)
  • To support you: Allahummanasurni wa anta khairun nasireen (O God, support me, and You are the best of supporters.)
  • To bless your time and works: Allahumma baarik fi aamali wa awqati (O God, bless my works and my times/moments.)
  • To make things easy for you: Allahumma yasir li amree (O God, make the matters of my life easy for me.)

As Muslims, the best source of guidance we have is the Quran. Always remember the saying of the famous Pakistani poet and scholar Muhammad Iqbal:

Of the things that had a profound effect on my life is an advice I heard from my father: "My son, read the Quran as if it was sent down specifically to you."

Make the Quran your guide in life and treat as if it was sent down to you this very moment. The Quran is not meant to be a reference that we leave on the shelf. It is meant to be a guide that is present with us through life. When you suffer difficulty and discontent, always go back to the Quran and it will teach you a new lesson every time if you persevere in reading it.

Difficulties are part of the design of our universe. If we want to mature and to be raised in status, instead of rejecting God’s decrees, we must accept them, embrace them and seek refuge and support only in Him. Only He can make things easy for us, help us mature, make our lives more meaningful and raise our status. And rather than expecting to achieve perfect peace in this life, we should accept its nature (that there can be no perfect peace in it), and we should instead put our hopes for our final rest in the afterlife.

The life of this world will never live up to our expectations. We always think if only we get this or that we will be so happy! But as soon we get there, we start to feel like we are back to square one. Life’s problems continue to haunt us. And there is no escape. There are elderly people who, having always rejected God’s decrees, continue to express anger at life for throwing problems and undignities in their faces. Do not be like them. Accept the nature of this world. If you want your life to be more meaningful, if you want your difficulties to raise you rather than degrade you, ask God to raise your status, and do what is necessary to please Him and convince Him that you deserve a better lot in life.

The Quran guarantees religious freedom, so why don’t Muslim scholars believe in it?

I would be very thankful if you could answer me on my following question. In Quran is written: "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing."

But also on other places is talked about punishing or killing people who do things like for example: stopping being Muslim, having sex before marriage, being gay and so on. With punishing I mean punishing on this world, and not when we die. If we have freedom to be Muslims or not, why there is no freedom of doing some things that are against religion but don't hurt other people. I am really confused and i hope you can clear this topic for me. Thank you in advance.

Regarding the issue of religious freedom, you are right that the Quran guarantees it. The scholars, however, had to also reconcile various hadith narrations in which the Prophet Muhammad is mentioned as putting limitations on religious freedom. Another case is that of Abu Bakr in the Riddah wars; when some Arabian tribes wanted to leave Islam and stop paying the zakat, Abu Bakr did not let them but fought them until they were one again part of the Islamic state.

Out of these historical anecdotes, the scholars tried to come up with an interpretation of the religious freedom mentioned in the Quran. The interpretation they came up with was that Islam should not be forced on others, but that a Muslim should not be allowed to leave Islam. From their position of power and authority, it seemed only natural that this should be the case. Islam is God’s chosen religion, so people should be prevented from leaving it for their own good if not for anyone else’s.

That way of thinking went unchallenged until the last century or so. The new reality that Muslims found themselves in (being in a position of weakness rather than strength) forced the scholars to re-examine their interpretation of the idea of religious freedom. In the 20th century there was also a new movement to take the Quran more seriously than before. In the past, the Quran was treated as just a piece of historical evidence that stood side-by-side with hadith. In the 20th century, various new thinkers (Mustafa Mahmud, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Sayyid Qutb, Said Nursi, Ahmad Moftizadeh) arose who rejected this way of thinking and considered the Quran’s teachings superior and more authoritative than hadith. And with this came a new interpretation of various issues within Islam.

Out of this atmosphere came people like Mahmud Shaltut (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from 1958 to 1963) ruled that apostates are only punished if they try to fight the Muslims and plot against them, that mere apostasy is not punishable, and more recently Ali Gomaa (Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003–2013), who also says that apostasy is not punishable in Islam unless the apostates try to make other Muslims leave Islam. While this is not perfect religious freedom and not perfect freedom of speech, it is an important step in the right direction. Many clerics have yet to update their thinking on this matter, but that might happen within the next 50 years.

Regarding the death penalty for things like adultery and homosexual sex, this too, like the issue of apostasy, went unchallenged until the 20th century. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra, one of the greatest scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, rejected execution of adulterers saying that the historical evidence could be interpreted in a different way. Abu Zahra is not a liberal modernist, he was one of the religious scholars (ulema), and his opinion is highly significant.

Ideally, there should be a constitutional law that all Muslims and non-Muslims follow (as in Malaysia, although the Malaysian system has serious issues). Islamic law would be something that all Muslims willingly choose to live under, and anyone who wants to leave Islam should have the right to do so, so that they stop being subject to Islamic law and will only be subject to constitutional law that Muslims and non-Muslims agree upon.

In summary, the things you mentioned (killing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals) are all issues that have already been solved by respected scholars. What remains is for the rest of the scholars and preachers to catch up.

Dealing with the aftermath of a husband’s cheating

Assalamu Alaykum. I feel so helpless right now. I don't know what to do. I have a husband, and we are married for almost 2 years. We don’t have a child yet. But my husband has a baby who was just born last month from other woman. They committed zina. The girl secretly hide her pregnancy until she gave birth and now he wants my husband to marry her but my husband said he don’t love her but he is willing to provide for the baby. My husband is receiving death threats. What I should I do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That situation will have to be resolved by discussion between your family, his family and perhaps that woman’s. There is no quick solution to such a situation. We have to be patient and trust God to take care of us in the end.

There is the danger of your husband maintaining a relationship with that woman in secret, since he doesn’t have sufficient self-control to not sleep with other women while married. Islam strictly forbids you from staying with a husband who commits adultery and does not repent (who plans to do it again). The Quran says about such people:

The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress shall marry none but an adulterer or an idolater. That has been prohibited for the believers.1

Therefore the situation must be resolved one way or another, whether it is through divorce or his promising to never see that woman again. And if he breaks his promise, then difficult as it will be, you will be required to divorce him. There is no toleration in Islam in any way for staying with a cheating spouse.

May God ease your situation and grant you patience and consolation.

Question from a reader

What does it mean that the adulterer should marry the adulteress or the idol worshiper. Aren't these things entirely different? And if a person strives to become better (if that's the main goal of Islam) then why marry someone who errs Just like you do? Aren't they by the hadd law supposed to have a death penalty so how can they have time to marry? I'm really confused about the answer.

Regarding the first part of your question, the verse is defining the boundaries between the believers and the non-believers. It is saying that marrying or staying married to an adulterer is not something a believer would do, it is only something a pagan or an adulterer would do. It is basically telling Muslims to stay away from known (unrepentant) adulterers in their societies. If they strive to be better (if they repent), then the verse does not apply to them.

As for the ḥadd punishment for adultery, this is a matter for the authorities (the police and the courts) to implement. The Quran does not assume that such an authority would exist. The Quran assumes that there will be unrepentant adulterers living in societies that Muslims also live in.

The great Egyptian scholar of Islamic law Muhammad Abu Zahra (1898 – 1974) rejected the death penalty for adultery. He based his reasoning on various arguments, such as the fact that we do not know at what point in the Prophet’s career the stonings recorded in  hadith took place; they may have taken place long before the verses on adultery in the Quran were revealed, meaning that they may be narrating events that took place at a time when the Prophet had no guidance except Jewish law. InshaAllah I will write an article to translate his full reasoning.

But even scholars who believe in the death penalty for adultery say that this is a matter for the government to carry out, so that someone who commits it may repent and go on with their lives.2 So the husband dealt with in this article, since his case did not go to court, may repent and stay married to his Muslim wife.

The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics) by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem

The Qur’an by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem is one of the best translations of the Quran available in English. With its many clarifying footnotes, the book is especially helpful to people new to the study of the Quran.

The issues surrounding the reliability of authentic narrations (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

I'm the one who asked for the explanation of how we should deal with hadiths. Thank you for your answer, it put things to perspective. Is there any book in which the author (scholar) himself has done the Quranic focused model of hadith as you described it, so I don't have to read directly from saheeh Muslim/bukhari. I read in a book that saheeh Muslim/bukhari have full isnad so how can any of them still be wrong?Also is there any book that can help me understand Qur'an better?

The science of hadith is an effort at historical reconstruction, which is an inherently subjective and error-prone effort. While hadith scholars considered the full isnād the “gold standard” of hadith reliability, early authorities like al-Hasan al-Basri are quoted saying that they did not mention full isnads for hadiths they had heard from multiple people, meaning that the hadiths they mentioned that lacked full isnāds (known as mursal hadiths) were actually more authentic because they had come down from multiple reliable sources.

Then there is the issue of the Prophet’s career . A hadith may mention something from year 15 of his career that was superseded a year or two later by a Quranic verse or a different practice. The great Egyptian 20th-century scholar of Islamic law Abu Zahra used this argument (among others) to go against the consensus of the hadith scholars in his rejection of the punishment of stoning adulterers. Imam Malik, who is considered perhaps the most reliable authority on hadith transmission in all of Islamic history, being part of something known as the Golden Chain, rejected narrations that were known to be authentic because they clashed with the practice of the devout Muslims of the city of Medina, which Malik considered more authoritative than hadith narrations.1

The majority of hadith narrations, including authentic hadith narrations, belong to a category known as āḥād (“solitary”) hadiths, which according to the field of jurisprudence (fiqh) are inherently doubtful. Scholars of hadith consider any authenticated hadith authentic, while scholars of fiqh require multiply-transmitted narrations to establish authenticity.

The practice of judging a person in an isnād trustworthy or not is sometimes extremely subjective. Hadith scholars who disliked someone for disagreeing with them on some theological or legal issue would retaliate by declaring that person untrustworthy. Sometimes a scholar would throw away the entirety of another scholar’s narrated hadith narrations after a quarrel.2

For a beginner’s guide to the issues surrounding hadith authenticity, see Jonathan Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad.

As far as I know there hasn’t been an effort to create new collections of hadith based on considering the Quran more authoritative than hadith. Such a work cannot be done by one person or a dozen, it will likely require centuries of work. What can be done is studying all the narrations having to do with one particular issue that is under discussion, such as whether drawing living things should be permissible or not, or whether music is permissible or not (my opinion and that of many modern scholars is that they are permissible). Studying just a single issue can take years because you have to bring together hundreds of narrations from a dozen or more collections, then you have to study the opinions of a dozen or more hadith scholars on each of the hundreds of people involved in their transmission, then you have to study the opinions of a dozen or more scholars on the contents of the hadith narrations.

What is needed is what I call the empirical study of hadith which ignores questions of which sect or group or cult one belongs to and uses the scientific method used by historians to judge the evidence. And instead of using the simplistic authentic vs. non-authentic framework (which is not actually used by hadith scholars, who are aware of the shades of authenticity that separates different authentic narrations), we should use a framework that admits the various shades of reliability that separate narrations. One narration may be 99% likely to be true while another might be 95% likely. One “reliable” hadith transmitter can be far more reliable (having a better memory, better knowledge and understanding of the hadiths they transmitted) than another “reliable” transmitter, and these differences between different transmitters should be taken into account.

The Western Islamic studies tradition has made important progress in the empirical study of hadith, some of which can be seen in Harald Motzki’s Analysing Muslim Traditions: Studies in Legal, Exegetical and Maghazi Hadith. This is a completely new way of studying Islam that has the power to accomplish what I described above since the evidence is not judged according to who belongs to what camp but according to the actual historical evidence.

20th century Western scholars like Ignaz Goldziher, Joseph Schacht and Patricia Crone, despite their thorough scholarship, had a hyper-skeptical attitude toward hadith narrations, considering most of the literature potentially false and fabricated until proven otherwise. These views have been largely discredited today. Hadiths represent a true historical record rather than fabrication on an industrial scale.

As for what a Muslim should when dealing with such a complex issue, it is actually quite simple. Hold on to the Quran. The Quran contains sufficient guidance for 99% of a Muslim’s life. What remains are all side issues, such as the proper to say the aḏān and how many times one should raise their hands during the ṣalāh. In such matters, you can follow the well-established opinions of the scholars, except in cases where your reason or conscience make you think that some opinion might be false. In these rare cases, you can do research and find out the differing opinions on it and follow the one that seems most sensible. The Quran itself is usually a sufficient criterion for judging such issues. If a person says that Islam should be forced on others and has some hadith to back up this opinion, the Quran’s principle of religious freedom (in verse 2:256) should take precedence regardless of the hadith. This is a highly simplified example, but in general, the Quran’s ethics and morality should always be paramount and no hadith should be allowed to override and corrupt its teachings.

Regarding understanding the Quran better, Abdel Haleem’s translation is extremely helpful due to its large number of footnotes clarifying the verses.

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