The relation between the Quran and Hadith – 1

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 17 June 2022

“The response of the believers, when they are invited to Allah and His Messenger that he may judge between them, is only that they say: We hear and we obey. And these it is that are successful. And he who obeys Allah and His Messenger, and fears Allah and keeps duty to Him, these it is that are the achievers.” — ch. 24, v. 51–52

اِنَّمَا کَانَ قَوۡلَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ اِذَا دُعُوۡۤا اِلَی اللّٰہِ وَ رَسُوۡلِہٖ لِیَحۡکُمَ بَیۡنَہُمۡ اَنۡ یَّقُوۡلُوۡا سَمِعۡنَا وَ اَطَعۡنَا ؕ وَ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ ﴿۵۱  وَ مَنۡ یُّطِعِ اللّٰہَ وَ رَسُوۡلَہٗ وَ یَخۡشَ اللّٰہَ وَ یَتَّقۡہِ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡفَآئِزُوۡنَ ﴿۵۲ 

“Say: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, he is responsible for the duty imposed on him, and you are responsible for the duty imposed on you. And if you obey him, you go aright. And the duty of the Messenger is only to deliver the message clearly.” — ch. 24, v. 54

قُلۡ اَطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اَطِیۡعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ ۚ فَاِنۡ تَوَلَّوۡا فَاِنَّمَا عَلَیۡہِ مَا حُمِّلَ وَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ مَّا حُمِّلۡتُمۡ ؕ وَ اِنۡ تُطِیۡعُوۡہُ تَہۡتَدُوۡا ؕ وَ مَا عَلَی الرَّسُوۡلِ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِیۡنُ ﴿۵۴

“And keep up prayer and give the due charity and obey the Messenger, so that mercy may be shown to you.” — ch. 24, v. 56

وَ اَقِیۡمُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ وَ اٰتُوا الزَّکٰوۃَ وَ اَطِیۡعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُرۡحَمُوۡنَ ﴿۵۶


I have recited a number of verses which occur close together in ch. 24, Surah Nūr of the Holy Quran. It is mentioned here and in several other places in the Quran that Muslims must also obey the Messenger of Allah, after first of all obeying Allah. Those who obey the Messenger of Allah, as well as obeying Allah, are described here as “successful”, as “achievers” and as being on the right path. The last verse places obedience to the Messenger with the basic duties of a Muslim to say prayers and give in charity.


When you have two authorities to obey, then one of them must have priority over the other, and that other one gets its authority from the first one. If it looks to you as if — and I stress “looks to you” — they are giving you opposite and conflicting orders, you have to obey the first one. In a well-known verse the Quran says: “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day” (4:59). So in terms of whom we should obey, Allah comes first, then the Messenger and lastly the persons who govern us in various aspects of our lives. These last are the ones that we can have disagreements with, and we resolve those disagreements by referring to Allah and the Messenger.


In the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, he taught Muslims how to follow the religion of Islam. He did this by talking to them in words and by his example and behaviour. On some occasions when he gave Muslims some instructions he also added: “Those who are present must convey this to those who are absent” (Bukhari, hadith 104). So Muslims regarded it as important to convey his instructions not only to the people of their times who couldn’t come to the Holy Prophet, but also to future generations who would never be able to come to him.


In the times of the Companions of the Holy Prophet, if they heard someone repeating a saying ascribed to the Holy Prophet but they had some reason to doubt that the Holy Prophet could have said such a thing, or it seemed to be in conflict with the Quran, they would not accept it as a genuine saying. For example, once, long after the Holy Prophet’s death, when Muslims were fighting the Byzantine Romans, a Compa­nion, Maḥmūd ibn ar-Rabī‛, related an incident of the Holy Prophet which he had heard from another Companion, called ‛Itbān ibn Mālik of the tribe of Banī Sālim. During this incident, the Holy Prophet had said: “Surely Allah has forbidden the fire (of hell) for the one who says: ‘There is no god but Allah’, and he is seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah” (Bukhari, hadith 1185–1186). In another version of this story, in Sahih Muslim, the words of the Holy Prophet are given as: “He who testifies that there is no god but Allah and I am the messenger of Allah would not enter Hell or it would not consume him” (Muslim, Book: Faith, ch. 10). When Maḥmūd related this, the commander of the Muslim army, Abū Ayyūb Anṣārī, said: “I doubt that the Messen­ger of Allah ever said what you have said.” Maḥmūd states that he was deeply hurt by this remark and he said that “I vowed to Allah that if I remained alive in that battle, I would ask ‘Itbān ibn Mālik if I found him still living in the mosque of his people.” Mahmud did survive the battle and he returned to Madinah and went to the tribe of Banī Sālim. He found there that ‘Itbān was still alive and leading the prayers, although he was now old. Mahmud asked him about that incident of the Holy Prophet, and ‘Itbān repeated the same story with the same words of the Holy Prophet. The Muslim army commander, Abu Ayyub Ansari, could not accept that the Holy Prophet could have said that if a person merely recites ‘There is no god but Allah’, or that ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger’, he is saved from the fire of hell, regardless of his other deeds. Maḥmūd ibn ar-Rabī‛ was embarrassed in front of his army commander and friends and he undertook a special, long journey to get the story confirmed from the person who had told it to him.


Unfortunately, we find that people, without knowing the background, keep quoting words of the Holy Prophet to the effect that if someone recites the Kalimah then that mere act saves him from the fire of hell in the Hereafter. Here we see that in Bukhari the Holy Prophet’s words are: “the one who says: ‘There is no god but Allah’, and he is seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah”. The condition of seeking the pleasure of Allah is added. The person who seeks the pleasure of Allah must strive to walk along the path taught in the Book of God, and not merely recite the Kalimah. Why did the Holy Prophet even say this in this particular incident? ‛Itbān ibn Mālik invited the Holy Prophet to his house to come and lead his household in prayer, as he intended to make his house into a permanent place of prayer for his tribe. After the prayer finished, some more people gathered in his house and they began talking about a person who had not come and calling him “a hypocrite who does not love Allah and His Messenger.” Hearing this, the Holy Prophet told them: “Do not say that. Have you not seen that he says ‘There is no god but Allah’ (Lā ilāha ill-Allāh), desiring thereby the pleasure of Allah?” They said: “But we see him mixing with the hypocrites.” But the Holy Prophet insisted that: “Surely Allah has forbidden the fire (of hell) for the one who says: ‘There is no god but Allah’, seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah.” In other words, even if a person is a bad Muslim in the judgment of other Muslims, if he is at all sincere in reciting the Kalimah then he is on the path of being saved from the fire of hell. The Holy Prophet is not saying that anyone who recites the Kalimah will be saved from the fire of hell. He is telling Muslims that they have no right to denounce a person as a hypocrite who recites the Kalimah, not for any worldly gain or fear of people, but for the sake of Allah. And we may say that anyone professes Islam freely, without any compulsion, who has not been converted to Islam through coer­cion, must be regarded as reciting the Kalimah only for the sake of God’s pleasure.


We can also see a difference in how these words of the Holy Prophet are reported in Bukhari, which is the most authentic collection of Hadith, and how they are reported in Sahih Muslim, which is of lesser authenticity. There is a report in Bukhari that the Holy Prophet told his well-known Companion Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal: “There is none who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, with the sincerity of his heart, but Allah has made him forbidden to the fire (of hell)” (hadith 128). The same report is found in Sahih Muslim. Accord­ing to that, he said: “There is none who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger, but Allah has made him forbidden to the fire (of hell)”. In the more authentic collection of Hadith the condition is mentioned that the person has to bear witness with sincerity of heart, but in the less authentic collection the words about “sincerity of heart” are not present.


There is another interesting incident reported in Sahih Muslim. Once the Companion Abu Hurairah, who has reported a large number of sayings of the Holy Prophet, was alone with the Holy Prophet in a garden. The Holy Prophet said to him: “Go and whenever you meet anyone outside this garden who testifies that there is no god but Allah, and he is sure of it in his heart, give him the good news of entry into Paradise”. Abu Hurairah relates that the first person he met was Hazrat Umar. When he told Hazrat Umar what the Holy Prophet had told him to announce to people, Hazrat Umar hit him and took him back to the Holy Prophet. When they both came to the Holy Prophet, and Abu Hurairah told the Holy Prophet what had happened, the Holy Prophet asked Umar: “Why did you hit him?” Hazrat Umar replied: “Did you tell Abu Hurairah to go and give people this good news?” The Holy Prophet replied: “Yes.” Hazrat Umar said: “Do not do so because I fear that people will rely on this alone (i.e., they will consider just testifying to the Kalimah as sufficient for entry into Paradise). Let them do good deeds.” The Holy Prophet agreed with Umar’s opinion and said: “Let them do good deeds.”


From these incidents we can see that the Companions (and this also applies to the immediate next generations) raised questions about any reported saying of the Holy Prophet if they felt that it was not consistent with his other teachings. And the collec­tors of Hadith have included such incidents in their collections, thereby indicating that there are some reports which cannot be accepted at face value and need to be interpreted.