The relation between the Quran and Hadith – 5

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 29 July 2022

“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. This is best and more suitable to (achieve) the end.” — 4:59

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اَطِیۡعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ وَ اُولِی الۡاَمۡرِ مِنۡکُمۡ ۚ فَاِنۡ تَنَازَعۡتُمۡ فِیۡ شَیۡءٍ فَرُدُّوۡہُ اِلَی اللّٰہِ وَ الرَّسُوۡلِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ ؕ ذٰلِکَ خَیۡرٌ وَّ اَحۡسَنُ تَاۡوِیۡلًا ﴿٪۵۹

“…And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain (from it); and keep your duty to Allah. …” — 59:7

وَ مَاۤ اٰتٰىکُمُ الرَّسُوۡلُ فَخُذُوۡہُ ٭ وَ مَا نَہٰىکُمۡ عَنۡہُ فَانۡتَہُوۡا ۚ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ ؕ

“O you who believe, respond to Allah and His Messenger, when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah comes in between a man and his heart, and that to Him you will be gathered.” — 8:24

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِلّٰہِ وَ لِلرَّسُوۡلِ اِذَا دَعَاکُمۡ لِمَا یُحۡیِیۡکُمۡ ۚ وَ اعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّ اللّٰہَ یَحُوۡلُ بَیۡنَ الۡمَرۡءِ وَ قَلۡبِہٖ وَ اَنَّہٗۤ اِلَیۡہِ تُحۡشَرُوۡنَ ﴿۲۴

I am returning to the topic of my previous series of khutbas, the relation between the Holy Quran and Hadith. The first verse, which I have dealt with briefly in an earlier khutba, tells Muslims to obey Allah, obey the Messenger of Allah and those in authority from among them. This third category we may take as meaning the religious leaders and interpreters of Islam. It also envisages the situation in which there would be some disputes among Muslims, and disagreements between their own religious leaders. In such cases, Muslims are instructed to refer the matter “to Allah and the Messenger”. The second verse also shows the authority of the Holy Prophet, in that whatever he allows for the Muslims or forbids to them, they must act accordingly. The third verse again addresses Muslims, telling them to respond to the call of God and the call of the Holy Prophet to act on the teachings which give them spiritual life. It is the Quran which is the source of their spiritual life. God calls people to this source by revealing it, and the Holy Prophet calls people to this source by explaining its message and illustrating it in practice.


In my previous khutbas in this series, I have mentioned the various views among Muslims that had developed over the centuries about where, i.e., in which sources, the teachings of Islam are to be found, and what is the relative priority of these sources, i.e., which is higher and which is lower. Most Muslims, for their practical lives, both for religious rituals and worldly activities, relied upon the books of Islamic law known as the books of Fiqh. These books contain­ the judgments and verdicts of eminent Muslim scholars of some 1200 years ago. For spiritual development, many Muslims followed the Sufi saints and their later successors. Close to the time of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, some groups of Muslims arose who rejected the books of Fiqh in favour of the books of Hadith, since Hadith contained directly the statements and actions of the Holy Prophet. Some other groups arose who rejected everything that was outside the Quran, including Hadith.


Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in his capacity of Mujaddid, gave his assessment of the rights and wrongs of each of these groups and he explained the true position. He declared the Quran to be the supreme authority and the ultimate source for finding out what is Islam. Addressing his followers, he wrote:

“An essential teaching for you is that you must not leave the Quran neglected because your very life lies in it. Those who honour the Quran shall receive honour in heaven. Those who give precedence to the Quran over every hadith report and every other saying, they shall be given precedence in heaven. There is now no book for the guidance of mankind on earth except the Quran” (Kishti-i Nuh, p. 13).

He went on to say:

“I have heard that some of you do not accept Hadith altogether. If they are doing this, they are making a serious mistake. This is not my teaching. I believe that God has given you three things for your guidance. First of all is the Quran. … Beware, do not take even one step against God’s teaching and the guidance provided by the Quran. … Pity be on those people who give pre­cedence to something else over it. The source of all your success and salvation lies in the Quran. There is no spiritual need of yours which is not provided in the Quran. … God has done you an immense favour by giving you a book like the Quran, … So value the blessing given to you” (p. 24).


Then he goes on to say that the second means of guidance for the Muslims is the Sunnah, or the practical actions of the Holy Prophet which he performed in order to explain the teachings of the Quran. Hazrat Mirza sahib makes a distinction between the practice of the Holy Prophet which his followers copied from him, which he calls Sunnah, and the Hadith books which came to be written later on, after at least 200 years. Take the example of prayer. Its details are not mentioned in the Quran, as to which times of the day and night the prayers should be said, and with what move­ments and positions of the body, and many other such details. These we find in Hadith books. But how did these details get into the Hadith books? Hazrat Mirza sahib asks the question:

“Is it the case that it was the compilers of Hadith books who laid the basis of the prayer, and that before them there was no prayer in the world, and Muslims were utterly unaware of it, and that it was only many centuries later (after the Holy Prophet’s time) that the prayer came into being on the basis of one or two Hadith reports?” (Shahadat-ul-Quran, p. 6.) No, of course not!


Those Muslim groups who were totally rejecting Hadith said that many things which Muslims do, such as how they pray, are only mentioned in books of Hadith, and these books are not reliable because they were compiled 150 to 200 years after the Holy Prophet’s time. In reply, Hazrat Mirza sahib writes that when the compilers of Hadith began their work they already saw that millions of people said prayers at the same times, five times a day, and prayed with the same number of rak‘ahs during each prayer:

“Besides this, in every rak‘ah they recited the Fatiha, uttered Amin, whether loudly or silently, said the at-tahiyyat in the last sitting posture, followed by the Darud and other supplications, and ended the prayer by uttering the salam towards both sides. Seeing this form of worship, the compilers of Hadith became interested in factually tracing the form of prayer back to the Holy Prophet Muhammad and to establish it from authentic, highly reliable, and uninterrupted lines of reporting.” (Shahadat-ul-Quran, p. 5.)


He goes on to write:

“Hence it is not true, as some ignorant people believe, that the world came to learn of hundreds of essential teachings of the faith, even prayer and fasting, from the Hadith reports compiled by Imam Bukhari, Muslim and others. Were Muslims living without practising the faith for 150 years? Did they not pray, give Zakat, or perform the Hajj? Were they ignorant of the creed of Islam which is recorded in Hadith? Most certainly not. … Islam was flourishing as much before the age of Bukhari, Muslim and other compilers of Hadith, as after their writings” (p. 7).

He adds:

“… if the compilers of Hadith have put people under a debt of gratitude, it is only to the extent that as regards those matters which, from the very beginning, had been accepted by all in the form of prevailing practice, they investigated and searched for the authorities of their reporting and showed that the beliefs and the practices followed by the Muslims in their times were not novelties that had become mixed up with Islam just then, but were precisely the teachings that the Holy Prophet had imparted to his Companions by word and deed” (p. 8).


Apart from Hadith books being a record of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, Hadith is also a source of the history of Islam. Hazrat Mirza sahib writes that: “If we do not consider Hadith reports to be reliable, we cannot believe with certainty that Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali — may God be pleased with them — were Companions of the Holy Prophet, who succeeded him in this order, and also died in this order” or that his father and mother were called Abdullah and Amina, and he had a wife called Khadija and one called Aishah. It would, in fact, be almost impossible to ascertain any of the events of the life of the Holy Prophet. He then lays down the correct approach:

“To believe, therefore, that no conclusive and authentic information can be found through Hadith, is to destroy much of Islam with one’s own hands. The true and correct position is that whatever has come through Hadith, unless contradicted by the Holy Quran in plain and clear words, must be accepted” (p. 4).


Hadith is subordinate to the Quran and subordinate to the known practice of the Holy Prophet. Hadith cannot sit on judgment on the Quran. For example, if the Quran says, as it does say clearly, that there must be complete freedom for everyone to follow and adopt whatever religion they wish, and there is a report in Hadith that the Holy Prophet said: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him”, then this hadith cannot be accepted as a general rule and principle, and made to over-ride the Quran. You can give explanations such as that, historically speaking, in the Holy Prophet’s time when there was any case of a Muslim leaving Islam he then joined the enemy forces who were fighting against the Muslims. His change of religion did not only mean changing the belief that he held, but it meant that he joined the opposite side in a war against the Muslims which was already going on.


Hazrat Mirza sahib has summarised his position as follows. Not to value Hadith is like cutting off a limb of Islam. However, if a hadith contradicts the Quran, or it con­tra­dicts other hadith which conform to the Quran, then it cannot be accepted. But one must not deny any hadith unless it can be rejected on the basis of the Quran. One must act on what we are taught in each and every hadith except if it conflicts with the Quran. If it does, then one should try to bring its meaning under the Quran. If that is not possible, then such a hadith should be rejected because it could not be from the Holy Prophet Muhammad. (See Kishti-i Nuh, p. 58).


So may Allah enable us to adhere to this correct standard, and may Allah reward those who have explained the true position to the world and bless their efforts — Ameen.