April 1996: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Zul-Qaida 1416

Volume 12 No 4

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Submitters Perspective

Monthly Bulletin of the International Community of Submitters Published by Masjid Tucson

Identifying Assumptions in the


Too often we become embroiled in arguments over hadith and sunnah with their advocates before considering the disparate assumptions underlying our opposing viewpoints. The debate that ensues often becomes little more than a game, debate for the sake of debate, or a contest to determine the better debater rather than the truth. This complicates discussions. Perhaps while we are occupied in pointless debate, there are others who sincerely wish to know the truth but who are currently deprived of our insight because our time and energy are being consumed by people who have no interest in the truth.

The assumptions that underlie the respective positions of proponents and opponents of hadith and sunnah generally revolve around what is meant by “discarding” them. The opponents of hadith and sunnah are concerned only with the question of sanctity [of upholding God’s word], their proponents, on the other hand, are concerned with the prescriptive vacuum that they fear would be created if all the world's Muslims suddenly do away with their volumes of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and the

rest of the transcribers of the oral traditions of the early Islamic era. In a given debate, therefore, the Submitter [the advocate of following the Quran alone] may think that “discarding” hadith and sunnah means merely resisting the belief that they could serve as a source of divine guidance, while the advocate of hadith and sunnah may think it means doing away with information valuable for providing insight into certain aspects of early Islamic history. In such a debate, the debaters could reach a consensus if each realizes what the other assumes is understood from the outset.

In order to carry on more rational debates and, more importantly, to determine whether our prospective opponents in debate are interested in the truth or merely the debate itself, we ought to clarify what our main concern is before we start. Do we wish to debate the ostensibly divine origins of the oral traditions or merely their historical or philological merit? Do we wish to debate the accuracy of their content? Do we wish to discuss the reliability of oral tradition in general, of which the hadith and sunnah are

merely transcriptions? To many Submitters the oral traditions are as intriguing as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some may hold hadith philology in the same regard as many of us hold non-religious hobbies. Being Submitters, however, they do not confuse their academic interests with their worship. We should be careful not to encourage an exaggerated fear of the oral traditions, just as the advocates of hadith and sunnah should have sense enough not to forment an irrational fear of the consequences of carrying on discussions without them.

To exemplify my point, I refer to Edip Yuksel’s responses to three questions from an advocate of hadith and sunnah in the May ‘95 issue of SP. While his responses are clear and valid, they do not directly address the assumptions held by the questioner. It is my opinion that, if we are quick to entertain debate before we have considered the assumptions underlying the questions, we are bound to wind up with very lengthy responses that do very little to address the central issues.

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