The relation between the Quran and Hadith – 2

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 24 June 2022

“And obey Allah and the Messen­ger, that you may be shown mercy.” — 3:132

وَ اَطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ الرَّسُوۡلَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُرۡحَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۳۲﴾ۚ

“Whoever obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys Allah. And whoever turns away, We have not sent you as a keeper over them.” — 4:80

مَنۡ یُّطِعِ الرَّسُوۡلَ فَقَدۡ اَطَاعَ اللّٰہَ ۚ وَ مَنۡ تَوَلّٰی فَمَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ حَفِیۡظًا ﴿ؕ۸۰

“And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, he indeed achieves a mighty success.” — 33:71

وَ مَنۡ یُّطِعِ اللّٰہَ وَ رَسُوۡلَہٗ فَقَدۡ فَازَ فَوۡزًا عَظِیۡمًا ﴿۷۱

“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and do not make your deeds null.” — 47:33

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اَطِیۡعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ وَ لَا تُبۡطِلُوۡۤا اَعۡمَالَکُمۡ ﴿۳۳

“And obey Allah and obey the Messenger; but if you turn away, the duty of Our Messenger is only to deliver the message clearly.” — 64:12

وَ اَطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اَطِیۡعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ ۚ فَاِنۡ تَوَلَّیۡتُمۡ فَاِنَّمَا عَلٰی رَسُوۡلِنَا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِیۡنُ ﴿۱۲


Continuing from my khutba of last week, I mentioned in it that the Holy Quran emphasises in many places that Muslims must obey Allah and His Messenger. Apart from those verses which I recited at the beginning of that khutba I have read five more such statements above. The third one which I recited is from a verse (33:71) which is read in the marriage sermon. That occasion is such an important one in the legal, moral and social system of Islam, with families and friends gathered together, and at that occasion too a reminder is read that through obeying Allah and His Messenger a great success can be achieved in our lives.


Last week I recounted some incidents to show that in the times of the Companions of the Holy Prophet, if they heard someone telling people that there was a certain saying of 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. They would point out why they did not think that the Holy Prophet could have said it, or could have meant it in the sense in which it was being conveyed. Here is another such incident. It relates to the custom of loud wailing and screaming at the news of someone’s death, which is indicative of not accepting Allah’s will but in effect protesting against it. When Hazrat Umar died, Ibn Abbas related to Hazrat Aishah that when he was dying and someone started crying and saying “my brother! my friend!”, Hazrat Umar told him to stop and said that the Holy Prophet had said: “The deceased is some­times punished because of the crying of his relatives over him.” By “crying” is meant, of course, excessive and out of control wailing. In some versions, “sometimes” is omitted and the Holy Prophet’s statement is quoted as: “The deceased is punished because of the crying of his rela­tives over him.” On hearing this, Hazrat Aishah said: “May Allah have mercy on Umar, but I swear by Allah that the Holy Prophet did not say this”. She also said: “The Quran is sufficient for you: ‘No bearer of a burden bears the burden of another’ (the Quran, 6:164, 35:18).” (See Bukhari, hadith 1287–1288.) She meant that the excessive wailing and screaming of the deceased’s relatives is their act and the burden is upon them only. The deceased cannot be punished because of their wrong-doing.


In the versions of this hadith in Sahih Muslim, Hazrat Aishah also said, when she was told that Hazrat Umar and his son Ibn Umar both had reported this saying from the Holy Prophet: “You have related to me from the two (‛Umar and Ibn ‛Umar) who are neither liars nor do they speak untruths, but they must have heard it wrongly” (Muslim, book: ‘Funerals’, ch. 9). She also said that Ibn Umar may have forgotten or made a mistake. An explanation is given in Sahih Muslim that the Holy Prophet had, in fact, said only on a particular occasion, and in a particular case: “The deceased is being punished for his faults and sins, while his relatives are now crying and wailing over him.” According to this explanation, the meaning is not that, as a general rule, any deceased will be punished because of the crying of his relatives over his death, but that while this particular deceased was being punished for his sins his relatives were crying that such a good and great person has left them.


We can think of examples where this may be so. A powerful man, the leader of a country dies. During his life he used to practise what is called nepotism. That is, he used to do favours for his relatives which were unfair, unjustifiable, unethical and illegal. His relatives are now crying and lamenting that he is no longer there to do them undue favours, unfairly reward them with contracts and jobs, illegally spend the wealth of the nation on them, etc. What the relatives are crying over is exactly what he is being punished for by Allah after his death. The more they miss him, the more they cry, and the more it shows how bad he was. Another example could be that a person during his life presents a good character to his relatives, but they are unaware of his misdeeds which were very many and very serious. They genuinely cry that they have lost someone who was good but Allah holds him to account for his misdeeds.


Anyhow, the important point here is that Hazrat Aishah found this saying, if it is quoted as a general principle, to contradict the Quran. Maulana Muhammad Ali has commented as follows on this correction by Hazrat Aishah: “Thus it is established that it was the practice of the Companions that when they found any hadith to be contrary to the Holy Quran they immediately rejected it, even though its narrator might be of an exalted stature and reporting directly from the Holy Prophet. They turned to the Holy Quran because it was preserved perfectly without error. On the other hand, hadith reports were not preserved to this high standard and there was the strong possi­bility of error in hearing, narra­ting and under­standing them. Thus any hadith which has come down to us through several narra­tors, most of whom were not Com­pa­nions, though the narration itself may be meaning­ful but it is not connected with any practice of the Muslims, and is a descrip­tion of history or events, if such a hadith is against the Quran then to reject it is perfectly in accord with the practice of the Com­pa­nions.”


Another hadith report of interest is the following, although it does not involve the Holy Prophet. In the presence of Hazrat Aishah people were talking about what thing can pass in front of someone who is praying and it makes his prayer null and void. They said: “A dog, a donkey and a woman”; if one of these passes in front of someone who is praying, it makes their prayer null and void. She said: “You have made us (women) dogs. I certainly saw the Prophet saying prayers and I would be lying on the bed between him and the Qiblah. If I needed anything, as I disliked to pass in front of him, I would slip away quietly” (Bukhari, hadith 511). In another version of this hadith, her reply is: “Do you equate us (women) with the dog and the donkey? And actually, I have seen it myself that I was lying in bed and the Prophet coming in and placing himself by the middle of the bedstead and saying prayers. I disliked remaining in front of him, so I used to slip towards the foot of my bed till I slipped out of my quilt” (hadith 508). Maulana Muhammad Ali comments as follows on this: “Aishah was anxious to contradict the wrong view held by some people that there was a saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that if a woman or a dog or an ass passed in front of a man in prayer, his prayer becomes void. She ridicules the idea. This shows how, even as early as the time of the Companions of the Holy Prophet, certain wrong notions had entered among the Muslims through lack of understanding.”


There is another interesting, and also controversial, report in Bukhari as follows: “When the illness of the Prophet became serious, he said: ‘Bring me writing material and I will write for you a docu­ment after which you will not go astray.’ Umar said: ‘The Prophet has been overwhelmed by illness, and we have the Book of Allah with us which is sufficient for us.’ Then people disagreed and the noise increased. He (the Holy Prophet) said: ‘Go away from me, for it is not proper that there should be any dispute near me’.” (Bukhari, Book of Knowledge, hadith 114)


Our Shiah fellow-Muslims allege that Hazrat Umar prevented the Holy Prophet from dictating his last will and testament for the Muslims. But Hazrat Umar could not have prevented the Holy Prophet from speaking out those same ins­truc­tions which he wanted to leave in writing. And in fact it was by speaking, and not writing, that the Holy Prophet used to give his teach­ings and instructions to his followers. It was the very serious condition of the illness of the Holy Prophet which prompted Hazrat Umar to say that in that condition he should not be subjected to dictating a document. He did not tell people not to listen to the Holy Prophet. When  Hazrat Umar said: “We have the Book of Allah with us which is sufficient for us”, the Holy Prophet became silent. The only thing which could prevent Muslims from going astray was adherence to the Quran. That was what  Hazrat Umar said, because he realized that this was the will that the Holy Prophet wanted to leave. I personally think that the problem with any such writing dictated by the Holy Prophet would be that it would, of course, not be revelation from Allah but words of the Holy Prophet. However, it might assume as much importance as the Quran.


Also we know that the Holy Prophet had told his followers that he is a mortal, and like any mortal what he says can be affected by his physical and emotional condition. So Hazrat Umar may have recognised that the severity of the Holy Prophet’s illness might have an affect on any utterance he pronounced on an important matter.


Again, this incident illustrates the relative positions of the Quran and the statements of the Holy Prophet himself.