We need the hadith because…

In this article, we look at the 9 common arguments that Muslims make when they are told to follow the Qur’an alone — since it is clear, complete and detailed.

Obey God and Obey the Messenger

Muslims are quick to point to Qur’anic verses that command the believers to obey God and the messenger. Let us consider how we can apply this command today. Muhammad is not among us anymore; he is dead. How exactly can we obey a dead person? We cannot. The command to “obey God and the messenger” was only applicable to the believers during Muhammad’s’ time, just as the following command:

O you who heed warning: enter not the houses of the Prophet, save that leave be given to you for a meal, without watching for its hour. But when you are called, then enter; and when you have eaten, then disperse. And seek not to remain for conversation; that hinders the Prophet, and he is shy of you; but God is not shy of the truth. And when you ask of his wives an item: ask it of them from behind a partition; that is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not for you to hinder the messenger of God, or to marry his wives after him ever; that were, in the sight of God, monstrous.

And this one:

The believers are but those who believe in God and His messenger, and when they are with him on a common matter, go not away until they ask leave of him. They who ask leave of thee: those are they who believe in God and His messenger. So when they ask leave of thee for some matter of theirs, give thou leave to whom thou wilt among them, and ask thou forgiveness of God for them; God is forgiving and merciful.
Make not the calling of the Messenger among yourselves as your call one of another. God knows those who slip away surreptitiously among you. And let those who oppose His command beware lest a means of denial befall them, or there befall them a painful punishment.

If Muslims argue that by obeying the hadith and sunnah they are obeying the messenger, then my response is as follows: Do you consider following secondary suspect sources written centuries after Muhammad’s death — which he never saw or approved of — to be the same as following a living, breathing person? This is a nonsensical proposition.
Muhammad, himself, was following the Qur’an i.e. he was obeying God. To obey the messenger, after his death, is to follow the one thing that was revealed to him by God. It is to continue calling men towards God and warning them of the Hour.

And strive for God with the striving due Him. He has chosen you, and has not placed upon you in doctrine any distress — the creed of your father Abraham. He named you those submitting before, and in this, that the Messenger might be a witness to you, and that you might be witnesses to men. So uphold the duty, and render the purity, and hold fast to God; He is your protector. Then excellent is the Protector! And excellent is the Helper!

Take what the Messenger gives you

Muslims claim that Muhammad was a law-giver — he allowed and forbade things — but the fact of the matter is that God alone is the law-giver. Muhammad was simply following the ordinances of God. Muslims start out with the false claim that Muhammad was a law-giver and then proceed to make the argument that they have been commanded by God to take what the messenger gives and to leave what he forbids i.e. they need the hadith because it contains details on what Muhammad allowed and forbade. However, the verse in question has nothing to do with legislation; it has to do with the spoils of war.

What God gave in spoil to His messenger from the people of the cities belongs to God and His messenger, and to relatives, and the fatherless, and the needy, and the wayfarer[…] that it be not a distribution by turns between the rich among you. And what the Messenger gives you: take it, and from what he forbids you: refrain — and be in prudent fear of God; God is severe in retribution —

Muhammad Explained the Qur’an

Muslims claim that Muhammad’s mission was to explain the Qur’an; how then can we understand it if we abandon the hadith? This argument assumes that the Qur’an is difficult to understand, which is simply not true. Muslims usually cite the following verses to support their argument.

And We sent a messenger only in the tongue of his people, that he might make plain to them; and God sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills; and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

And We sent before thee only men to whom We revealed — so ask the people of the remembrance, if you know not —
With the clear signs and the writings. And We sent down to thee the remembrance, that thou make plain to mankind what has been sent down to them, and that they might reflect.

A cursory review of these verses does suggest that Muhammad was to “make plain” the Qur’an to mankind, but let us look at how the Qur’an uses the Arabic word bayyana — which Brother Gerrans translates as make plain or make clear” — in other places.

They said: “Call thou to thy Lord for us, that He make plain to us what she is.” He said: “He says: ‘She is a heifer neither old nor young, middling between that,’ so do what you are commanded.”

Those who conceal what We sent down of clear signs and guidance after We made it plain to men in the Writ: those are cursed by God, and cursed by those who curse,
Save those who repent and make right and make plain: those are they towards whom I turn; and I am the Accepting of Repentance, the Merciful.

They ask thee about wine and games of chance. Say thou: “In both is great sin, and benefits for men; but their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask thee what they should spend. Say thou: “The surplus.” Thus does God make plain to you the proofs, that you might reflect

Would one of you wish to have a garden of date-palms and grapevines, beneath which rivers flow, he having every fruit therein?[…]. And old age befell him, and he had weak progeny, and a cyclone wherein was fire befell it, and it was burned up. Thus does God make plain to you the proofs, that you might give thought.

God desires to make plain to you, and to guide you to the established ways of those who were before you, and to turn towards you; and God is knowing and wise.

O doctors of the Law: Our messenger has come to you, making clear to you much of what you hid of the Writ, and pardoning much. There has come to you light from God, and a clear Writ

O doctors of the Law: Our messenger has come to you making clear to you, upon an interval between the messengers lest you say: “There came not to us any bearer of glad tidings or warner.” But there has come to you a bearer of glad tidings and warner; and God is over all things powerful.

The Messiah, son of Mary, was but a messenger; messengers had passed away before him; and his mother was a woman of truth; they both ate food. See thou how We make plain the proofs to them; then see thou how they are deluded.

And they swear by God their strongest oaths: “God will not raise up him who dies.” Verily, it is a promise binding upon Him, — but most men know not —
That He might make plain to them that wherein they differ, and that those who ignore warning might know that they were liars.

And when Jesus came with the clear signs, he said: “I have come to you with wisdom, and to make plain some of that concerning that wherein you differ; so be in prudent fear of God, and obey me.

As we can see, the Qu’ran uses the phrase “make plain” in a generic sense only. To claim that 16:44 is referring to the hadith literature — which was never seen or authorized by Muhammad — is deceptive and fraudulent. Nowhere in the Qur’an does it state that Muhammad was to explain the Qur’an, issue edicts allowing and prohibiting things, or divine the future; only God explains the Qur’an.

(Move thou not thy tongue with it to hasten it.
Upon Us is its gathering and its recitation.
And when We recite it, follow thou the recitation thereof.
Then upon Us is its clarification.)

Muhammad’s duty was the same as the messengers before him: notification.

And if they argue with thee, then say thou: “I have submitted my face to God, as have those who follow me.” And say thou to those given the Writ and to the unschooled: “Have you submitted?” And if they have submitted, then are they guided; but if they turn away, then upon thee is only the notification; and God sees the servants.

And obey God and obey the Messenger, and beware; but if you turn away, then know that upon Our messenger is only the clear notification.

Upon the Messenger is only the notification; and God knows what you reveal and what you conceal.

And whether We show thee part of what We promise them, or We take thee, but upon thee is the notification; and upon Us is the reckoning.

And those who ascribe a partnership say: “Had God willed, we would not have served, besides Him, anything — neither we nor our fathers — nor would we have forbidden anything contrary to Him”; thus did those before them. Then is there upon the messengers save the clear notification?

And if they turn away, upon thee is only the clear notification.

In this is a notification for people who serve.

And We sent thee only as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner.

So be thou patient, as those of determination among the messengers were patient, and seek thou not to hasten for them. The day they see what they are promised, it will be as though they had not tarried an hour of a day. Notification! And will there be destroyed save the perfidious people?

And obey God, and obey the Messenger; but if you turn away — then upon Our messenger is only the clear notification.

Say thou: “None will grant me protection against God, nor will I find, besides Him, a refuge
“Save notification from God and His messages.” And whoso opposes God and His messenger, for him is the fire of Gehenna; they abiding eternally therein forever.

I hope that these verses are sufficient for the sincere reader to appreciate the true job of the messenger. It was to communicate the messages of God to his audience. This is also the job of the believers, if they want to follow in the messenger’s stead.

The Qur’an is Difficult to Understand

Rather than applying their own mind to the Qur’an, Muslims prefer to blindly follow the opinions of their ulemas who, in turn, follow the hadith literature and the opinions and edicts of their forebears; a classic case of the blind leading the blind. However, the Qur’an is not difficult to understand, we must apply our intelligence and ponder on its verses. There are no shortcuts to salvation.

And We have made it easy in thy tongue, only that thou bear glad tidings therewith to those of prudent fear, and thou warn therewith a contentious people.

Will they then not consider the Qur’an with care! If there be locks upon their hearts:

And We taught him not poetry, and it does not behove him; it is only a remembrance and a clear recitation
To warn whoso is alive, and that the word might become binding against the false claimers of guidance.

And We have made it easy in thy tongue, that they might take heed.

And We have made the Qur’an easy for remembrance; so is there any who will remember?

He it is that sends down to His servant clear proofs, that He might bring you out of darkness into the light; and God is to you kind and merciful.

Muhammad given special knowledge

Muslims claim that God gave special divine knowledge to Muhammad, Wisdom, besides the Qur’an. This argument, like most of the Muslims’ arguments, assumes that the Qur’an is not clear, complete, and fully detailed. Muslims point to the following verses in support of their claim.

Like as I have sent to you a messenger from among you reciting to you Our proofs and increasing you in purity and teaching you the Writ and wisdom and teaching you what you knew not,

God indeed showed favour to the believers when He raised up among them a messenger among themselves, reciting to them His proofs, and increasing them in purity, and teaching them the Writ and wisdom — though they were before in manifest error.

He it is that raised up among the unschooled a messenger from among them, reciting to them His proofs, and increasing them in purity, and teaching them the Writ and wisdom — though they were before in manifest error —

A superficial reading seems to support the Muslims’ claim that Muhammad received wisdom besides the Qur’an. But let us investigate further. I agree with Muslims that Muhammad received divine knowledge, the Qur’an (which contains the Writ). But was he given extra knowledge (Wisdom) besides the Qur’an?

And remember what is recited within your houses of the proofs of God and of wisdom; God is subtle and aware.

And there has come to them of reports that wherein is deterrence:
Far-reaching wisdom; but the warnings avail not.

And when you divorce women, and they have reached their term, then retain them according to what is fitting or release them according to what is fitting. And retain them not through harm, to transgress; and whoso does that has wronged himself. And take not the proofs of God in mockery; and remember the favour of God upon you, and what He has sent down to you of the Writ and wisdom whereby He admonishes you. And be in prudent fear of God, and know that God knows all things.

The Qur’an usage of wisdom is in a generic sense and certainly cannot be interpreted to mean divine knowledge given to Muhammad besides the Qur’an. Prophet Muhammad was given the Qur’an, nothing else.

We Must go to Muhammad for Judgment

Another argument put forth by Muslims is that God commands the believers to go to the Messenger for judgment. They consider deriving judgments from hadith literature to be the same as submitting to the judgment of a living Messenger! Let us look at the verses in question.

And they say: “We believe in God and the Messenger, and we obey”; then a faction among them turns away after that — and those are not believers.
And when they are invited to God and His messenger, that he judge between them, then a faction among them turns away.
But if the truth be theirs, they come to him in willing submission.
Is there in their hearts a disease? If they doubt, or fear that God would deal unjustly with them — or would His messenger: — nay, it is they who are the wrongdoers.
The only word of the believers, when they are invited to God and His messenger, that he judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey,” — and it is they who are the successful.
And whoso obeys God and His messenger, and fears God, and is in prudent fear of Him: — it is they who are the attainers of success.

It is clear from the surrounding context that this is referring to a faction who did not come to the Messenger for judgment during his lifetime. Since the Messenger is dead, we cannot apply these verses to our present situation. As I mentioned earlier, there are some verses in the Qur’an that were applicable to the believers during Muhammad’s lifetime. It is ridiculous to derive rulings from sayings attributed to Muhammad — which he neither read nor approved of — to the rulings of a living, breathing Messenger. In any case, Muhammad was bound to judge people by God’s scripture, as were prophets and men of God before him.

And how come they to thee for judgment when they have the Torah wherein is the judgment of God, then turn away after that? And those are not believers.
We sent down the Torah wherein is guidance and light. The prophets who submitted judged thereby those who hold to Judaism as did the rabbis and the religious scholars with what ­they were given charge of the Writ of God and were thereto witnesses: “So fear not mankind but fear Me; and sell not My proofs at a cheap price.” And whoso judges not by what God has sent down, it is they who are the false claimers of guidance.
And We prescribed for them therein a life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds just requital; but whoso forgives it by way of charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoso judges not by what God has sent down: it is they who are the wrongdoers.
And We sent Jesus, son of Mary in their footsteps confirming what was before him of the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel wherein was guidance and light, both confirming what was before him of the Torah and as guidance and admonition for those of prudent fear.
And let the people of the Gospel judge by what God sent down therein; and whoso judges not by what God has sent down: it is they who are the perfidious.
And We sent down to thee the Writ with the truth, confirming what is before it of the Writ, and as a control over it. So judge thou between them by what God has sent down; and follow thou not their vain desires away from what has come to thee of the truth. For each of you We appointed an ordinance and a procedure. And had God willed, He could have made you one community; but that He might try you in what He gave you[…]. — So vie in good deeds; unto God will you return all together, and He will inform you of that wherein you differed —
And judge thou between them by what God has sent down; and follow thou not their vain desires, and beware thou of them lest they seduce thee away from some of what God has sent down to thee. And if they turn away, know thou that God but intends to afflict them for some of their transgressions; and many among men are perfidious.
Is it the judgment of ignorance they seek? And who is better than God in judgment for people who are certain?

Accept some hadith and reject others

Liberal Muslims, realizing that some hadiths contradict the Qur’an and are backwards, propose a compromise: accept hadiths that agree with the Qur’an and reason. This is a last ditch effort to save their beloved hadiths from irrelevance. Yet, if they claim that the hadith is part of their doctrine — i.e. it is part of the Writ — they must accept every single hadith; there can be no half-measures.

Then are you those who kill your own, and turn a faction among you out of their homes, assisting one another against them in sin and enmity; and if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, but unlawful for you was their expulsion. Do you believe in part of the Writ and deny part? Then what is the reward of him among you who does that save disgrace in the life of this world? And on the Day of Resurrection they are sent back to the harshest punishment; and God is not unmindful of what you do.

The sane approach is to take all of the Qur’an — and only the Qur’an — as guidance and law:

He it is that sent down upon thee the Writ; among it are explicit proofs: they are the foundation of the Writ; and others are ambiguous. Then as for those in whose hearts is deviation: they follow what is ambiguous thereof, seeking the means of denial, and seeking its interpretation. And no one knows its interpretation save God, and those firm in knowledge; they say: “We believe in it; all is from our Lord.” But only those of insight take heed.

The Qur’an was compiled after Muhammad’s death

Muslims claim that Qur’an was compiled in the form of a book after Muhammad’s death. And to bolster this claim, they make an even stranger claim; that Muhammad was illiterate. They say that he was an ummiyi (illiterate) and present the following verse as proof.

(Say thou: “O mankind: I am the messenger of God to you all together — to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god save He. He gives life and He gives death.” So believe in God and His messenger, the unschooled prophet, who believes in God and His words; and follow him, that you might be guided.)

The word ummiyi does not mean illiterate. According to the Qur’an, it means a man who is ignorant of the Writ i.e. the profane.

He it is that raised up among the unschooled a messenger from among them, reciting to them His proofs, and increasing them in purity, and teaching them the Writ and wisdom — though they were before in manifest error —

And among them are those unschooled: they know not the Writ save vain desires; and they are only assuming.

And if they argue with thee, then say thou: “I have submitted my face to God, as have those who follow me.” And say thou to those given the Writ and to the unschooled: “Have you submitted?” And if they have submitted, then are they guided; but if they turn away, then upon thee is only the notification; and God sees the servants.

Is it not strange that a man who received a revelation from God would not do his best to compile this message in the form of a book during his lifetime? If his companions were transcribing the revelation, would he not verify their work? God had already warned Muhammad of hypocrites unknown to him in his midst. Let us be reasonable. Muhammad did indeed know how to read and write. The Qur’an was codified in the form of a book within his lifetime. It was not written down on the bones of animals, cloth, or any other material conjured up in the imaginations of Islamic scholars.

By a Writ inscribed
In a parchment unrolled!

No, indeed! It is a reminder,
So whoso wills might remember it,
In honoured pages,
Exalted and purified,
By the hands of scribes
Noble and virtuous.

The truth is, it is a glorious recitation,
In a protected tablet.

Muslims have been played by their forbears; by getting them to accept that the Qur’an was compiled by Muhammad’s companions after his death, the inventors of the religion of Islam have tricked Muslims into accepting the veracity of the hadith literature. They question those who are skeptical of the hadith: how can you reject the hadith literature when it was relayed through the very same companions of the prophet who compiled the Qur’an? This question effectively neutralizes those who dare question the reliability of the hadith literature. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the Qur’an was compiled during Muhammad’s lifetime while the hadith was compiled centuries after his death. Muhammad did not leave it to others to compile the Qur’an however vociferously the inventers of religion market this fiction.

The Qur’an is in Arabic

Muslims claim that Arabic is a holy and special language which can only be understood by the Arabs. The fact of the matter is that Arabic, like any language, can be mastered. Native Arab speakers do not understand the Qur’an. If they did, they would stop relying on non-Qur’anic literature — the Qur’an explicitly states that it is complete, clear, and fully detailed.
Language is not a barrier to understand the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a message to all of mankind. God opens up His guidance to whom He wills.

It is a noble recitation
In a hidden Writ,
— None will touch it save those purified—

And had We made it a recitation in a foreign tongue, they would have said: “Oh, that its proofs were but set out and detailed — a foreign tongue and an Arab!” Say thou: “It is for those who heed warning a guidance and a healing”; but those who do not believe: in their ears is deafness, and it is for them blindness; those: they are called from a far place.

The fact of the matter is that Muslims will not accept to follow the Qur’an alone as it does not contain the details of their religion which they inherited from their ancestors. I should know as I was born into a Sunni family myself and was a follower of the religion of Islam for the better part of my life until God guided me to His straight path.

And when it is said to them: “Follow what God has sent down,” they say: “Nay, we will follow that upon which we found our fathers.” — Even though the satan invites them to the punishment of the Inferno?
And whoso submits his face to God, and is a doer of good, he has grasped the most firm handhold; and to God is the final outcome of matters.

I thank Sam Gerrans for many of the ideas presented in this article. All translation are from his work The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation which can be read for free here.