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[Others] Emad Hamdeh

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Edited by mircteryx at 4-5-2021 03:49 PM

Are Hadith Necessary?: An Examination of the Authority of Hadith in Islam
Emad Hamdeh

The Qur'ān and the Sunnah have served as the primary sources of Islam. Together with the Qurʾān, the statements and actions of the Prophet form the basis of Islamic law and theology. Historically, all Islamic sects have acknowledged the necessity of at least some ḥadīths, even if few, to understand the Qur'ān. Despite their many theological and legal differences, Muslim sects have all drawn from these two primary sources: the Qurʾān, which is considered to be the direct word of God revealed to the Prophet, and the Sunnah, which consists of the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad inspired by God. In other words, the ḥadīth are reports about what the Prophet said and did. Muslim jurists and ḥadīth scholars use these reports (i.e., ḥadīth) to understand the teachings of the Prophet, which are called the Sunnah.

Each ḥadīth is a piece of data about the Prophet; when collected, these data points paint a larger picture which is the Sunnah.All Muslim groups consider the Qurʾān to be the most authentic and authoritative source, followed by the Sunnah. Because the Sunnah is needed in order to contextualize the Qur'ān, all Muslim groups have accepted the necessity of following at least some ḥadīth alongside the Qurʾān. This view has been held by all known Muslim groups, including all strands of both Sunnism and Shi'ism.

This is important because the theory of consensus (ijmāʿ) holds that it is inconceivable for the entire Muslim community to agree upon falsehood. Whenever all living jurists agreed on a particular formulation of Islamic law, this consensus raised the formulation to an infallible representation of divine will. The possibility of error concerning formulations of law only existed when jurists disagreed. When they agreed on an issue, the fallibility of individual jurists was erased through the supervening principle of the infallibility of consensus.

Consensus set boundaries on disagreement in the formulation of the law, and the authority of the Sunnah was outside of those boundaries.[1] Because dissent is the norm in matters of Islamic law, it makes any consensus all the more credible and binding when it occurs. In other words, the unanimity of opinion (ijmāʿ)—in a religion that has countenanced in its history a vast array of differences—is considered one of the strongest proofs for the formulation of law or creed. Ḥadīth, therefore, form a necessary component of the religion (al-maʿlūm min al-dīn bi ḍarūra).

It was not until the nineteenth century that a movement emerged that rejected the entire corpus of ḥadīth and the authority of the Prophet. This rejection of the entire ḥadīth corpus stems from a mistrust in the historical preservation of ḥadīth when compared to the Qur'ān or the fact that many ḥadīth clash with modern sensibilities. In an attempt to bypass any fabrications and ḥadīth that might contain discomfiting material, some have attempted to understand the Qur'ān on its own, without ḥadīth.

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