The Problem with Quranism

What do you think about Quranism? (The idea that we should rely on the Quran, augmented by reason and experience, for our spiritual and ethical lives, and not the Hadith? It makes a lot of sense to me that God would want us to follow his message, with the aid of the gifts of feeling reason and sensation that he has given us, and that if he had wanted us to follow the Hadith (e.g including Muhammad in the Shahada) he would have included them in the Quran. But I appreciate this is controversial!❤️

I used to somewhat lean toward that, though I never liked complete Quranism where all hadiths are rejected. I realized that almost everything that is problematic in Islam is caused by hadith, so I supposed that if we take most of our religion from the Quran rather than hadith then that would be better for everyone. But as I learned more I realized that the traditional view of the Quran and hadith is mostly correct. 

Quranism is based on a few dishonest arguments, such as the saying that the Prophet’s traditions were merely his personal attempts at applying the Quran, meaning that we have the right to make our own attempts. This is the “channels of revelation” problem; some claim that the Quran was the only channel of revelation that the Prophet PBUH had, so that all of his own interpretations were personal interpretation attempts. But hadith tells us this is false; we have a hadith where a person asks the Prophet PBUH about a technical issue related to the pilgrimage and the Prophet PBUH receives non-Quranic revelation at that time that allows him to answer the question. This shows us that the Prophet PBUH was not merely an interpreter of the Quran; he was an *additional* source of guidance besides the Quran who received information that is not in the Quran (such as how to perform the formal prayers).

If we believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then we should ask why God failed to tell us that we should only follow the Quran and that the Prophet PBUH is merely an interpreter. The reality is the opposite; the Quran tells us to follow the Prophet and to bow to his judgments.

As I have greatly increased my knowledge over the past few years, I have realized that an honest look at the situation shows us that we are required to consider the Quran our main source of guidance, supplemented by hadith wherever necessary. The Quran is perfect, hadith is imperfect. The Quran is fully reliable, hadith is only partiality reliable and very few hadiths reach the level of authenticity of the Quran.

So the honest conclusion is that we should hold onto the Quran very strongly. In this I differ from many scholars who believe that the Quran and hadith are equal. They think that the Quran and the hadith collections stand side-by-side as equal sources of guidance. My view is that the Quran stands above everything else; it should be the criterion by which we judge hadith. But the honest conclusion is also that we are required to love and abide by hadith; hadith is indispensable and irreplaceable.

Quranism is attempt to simplify the life of the Muslims by giving them a single clear source of guidance. But simplification can be bad if it is over-simplification; and that is what Quranism is. It throws out an essential part of Islam by thinking that it knows better. So I am with the traditionalist scholars in believing in holding onto the Quran and hadith, while I disagree with many of them (but not most of them, recent Azhar university scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Draz have my view) on the importance of the Quran, since I believe the Quran is much more important than hadith.

I invite you to take an honest look at the situation. You can never be fully sure that Quranism is the right way because the “channels of revelation” question at the very least puts it in a gray area, since there is always the possibility that hadith contains additional material that we are required to have as Muslims. One can never be sure if throwing out this material is the right choice, and the justification for it (that it simplifies life, or that the Quran is the only fully reliable source) is not a good enough justification.

We should start by thinking of the fact that God is all-powerful and that He could have prevented the present situation from coming about if He had wanted, and He could have given us clear guidance that we should only follow the Quran. But He didn’t do that. So we should reflect on this choice that God has made in not telling us to follow the Quran only. By leaving the matter vague, the honest conclusion is that we required to follow both the Quran and hadith and to struggle with hadith despite its complexity and problematic aspects. This is what almost all scholars have agreed on. They too were honest and sincere humans doing their best to make sense of an imperfect situation. The struggle is not easy, but we should conclude that we are meant to have this struggle. It is a test; do we choose to throw away hadith because it is problematic and break away from the Muslim community and the scholars out of our personal desires, or do we overcome our desires, and for the sake of unity and love remain within the traditional Muslim community and go through with the struggle and prevent it from being a cause for division and hatred.

I used to have a very negative view of the intelligence of past scholars because of some their ridiculous statements that I knew about. But as my knowledge has increased, as I have benefited from dozens of Western non-Muslim sources that studied the lives and works of these scholars, my love and admiration for them has only increased.

I recommend that you humble yourself before God and admit the fact that He has put you in this imperfect situation in order to struggle with it without giving up your honesty and your principles. We have the choice to be arrogant, proud and to think that we know better than others. We also have the choice to be humble and to treat the scholars and the Prophet’s hadiths with love and appreciation. I have chosen the path of love.

A Muslim who wants to only follow the Quran due to the contradictions in Hadith

Selam I come from Sunni tradition. As I try to do more in relation to my faith I have tried to learn obout history of islam. I am becoming more interested in being Quaran only muslim. I have big problem with hadiths. So many contradictions to Quran. They almost complicate relationship with God. They almost undermine the beauty of Quran to me. So many doctrins Sunni shia and dozen others. They all claim to be the right path but to me they have only devided Uma. I have read that some Sunni rulings say I would not be considert muslim anymore by being only Quran muslim What do you think? Am I wrong. Thank you.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I understand your difficulty and I have been in a similar situation myself.

The first thing to understand is that religion is only a tool for knowing God better. Religion is not the point; God is the point. So the disagreements and infighting between the sects should not in any way affect your relationship with God; think of it as children bickering.

Once you take that to heart, you can approach hadith with the eye and heart of one who loves God and His Messenger PBUH and wishes to reach the highest ideal of character and morality.

Hadith should never be a cause for you to feel burdened or conflicted. Hadith is meant to be your helper. The Prophet PBUH says:

If you hear hadith from me and your heart knows it, and your feelings and good cheer lean toward it, and you consider it close to you, then I am closer to it than you. And if you hear hadith from me hadith that your hearts do not know, and your feelings and good cheer are repulsed by it, and you consider it distant from you, then I am more distant from it than you.

Musnad Aḥmad 15808, a very similar version is considered hasan by al-Albānī

So make this your approach to Hadith. Take from it what is good and beneficial. And whatever troubles you, you can research it further or safely ignore it. Hadith was never meant to be a competitor to the Quran. Companions like Umar ibn al-Khattab [ra] refused to write down hadiths because they feared it would compete with the Quran in people’s hearts and minds.

So the Hadith literature we have is a very imperfect representation of the Prophet’s manners and teachings PBUH. Whatever good you find in it, take it and appreciate it. And whatever troubles you, seek its interpretation from those who are knowledgeable. And if nothing they say satisfies you, you can safely ignore the hadith.

Realize that God could have given us a 10,000 page Quran. He could also have asked the Companions to write down everything the Prophet PBUH said and did. This would have greatly simplified our lives. So why didn’t God choose to do that?

Because religion is both a blessing and test. God does not want to take out all possibility of disagreement among Muslims. He wants us to open our hearts and perfect our characters within the imperfect world that we live.

Choosing to only follow the Quran is not a valid option; it is an extreme response that means you failed the test of God. God wants you to do what is moderate and open-hearted. And that means to do your honest best to make sense of the conflicting scripture that we have. Trying oversimplify the world for yourself by rejecting all hadith narrations means that you abandon the Muslim community and choose comfort over sincerity.

Accept the Hadith literature in its imperfect form and use it to enhance your Islam.

I too used to feel strongly tempted to reject all hadith narrations in favor of the Quran. But as my knowledge greatly increased and as I rededicated myself to following God as sincerely and honestly as I could, I realized that that is the cowardly option to choose. The pious and admirable option is love. To love hadith, to love the scholars and their sincere attempts to make sense of our imperfect world, and to love the Muslim community, to love the fact that God did not make it too simple or easy.

So do not let your intellect overpower your heart. Learn to love the Quran and the Sunna the way they are. I do not say that this will take all of your trouble away, but it will give you a path to follow. And if you constantly and sincerely seek God’s guidance, He will guide you through this troubled path.