The first question asks whether rejecting the validity of all “trustworthy”
(sahih) hadith is warranted on the basis of examination of a few
of them. This implies two assumptions: (1) that Submitters base
their entire position regarding hadith and sunnah on the identification
of a few flaws; and (2) that they reject the possibility outright
that some hadith may be accurate historical accounts. However, Submitters
reject hadith first and foremost because the Quran specifically
requires the faithful to make the Quran their only source of guidance.
Textual analysis has nothing to do with it. Analysis of the content
of hadith merely serves to corroborate the dictate, after the fact.
As for the other point, Submitters do not deny the historical validity
of much of hadith. (As Edip Yuksel accurately points out, “we
can study hadith to get an approximate idea about the people and
events of those times.”) However, Submitters do not bother
to undertake the difficult task of sorting out truth from falsehood
in them because the primacy of the Quran makes the oral traditions
utterly irrelevant as far as guidance is concerned. Given the choice
of flawless guidance from the Quran and dubious anecdotes from the
hadith, only a fool would choose to study the latter in place of
The second question is really a restatement of the first. It suggests
examination of each hadith individually to assess its veracity.
Suffice it to say that the underlying assumptions are the same,
and the task suggested could only interest a historian or philologist.
It would do nothing to enhance the institution of worship as far
as Submitters are concerned.
The third question evokes the above-mentioned fear of the prescriptive
vacuum: “Suppose we cease to use hadtih as a source of information
about the Prophet, his life, and his career. Then we notice that
the Quran itself says very little about the Prophet's life. It also
says nothing about how the Quran was compiled. The historicity of
the Quran is based on hadiths.”
The first assumption here is that the
Quran's validity is supported solely by historical evidence. While
the answer to this assumption is obvious to those truly familiar
with the Quran, it is worth noting that the historicity of the Quran
is not an issue to those who already accept it as the Word of God.
To them, the Quran is the first truth, against which everything
else must be compared. Nor does the Quran depend on the opinions
of historians to give it importance. Submitters have already gone
through the process of assessing its validity, whether on the basis
of what they had learned about its historicity or on the basis of
other evidence, such as the patient confirmation of the truth of
the miraculous code embedded in its text. No longer finding it necessary
to assess the veracity of the Quran, they now seek only to obey
Finally, there are even bolder assumptions underlying the third
question than those I have mentioned. By asserting that “the
Quran itself says very little about the Prophet's life” and
that it says “nothing about how the Quran was compiled,”
the questioner assumes that the information that the Quran leaves
out is nevertheless vital to our spirituality. (One might ask how
the questioner knows that this information is vital—does it
say so in a hadith?) The Quran, as we know, is “fully detailed”
(6:114). What this tells us is that it is not up to us to decide
what the Quran should tell us. If a given issue is truly vital to
our spirituality, we will find it addressed in the Quran. If it
is not vital, we should not expect to find it there.
Finally, if what is lacking from the Quranic text—how to
light a fire, how to bake a cake, how to tie our shoes—really
concerns us, then let me just add that our role as Submitters is
not merely to follow a list of prescriptions, but to come to understand
the wisdom behind them through our observance of them. With this
wisdom, which increases over time as long as we keep up our genuine
worship, we become progressively more capable of finding the answers
to life’s questions ourselves. Indeed, God could merely have
given us a list of
rules to follow (and it would be no
exaggeration to say that may “Muslims” perceive Islam
in precisely this way!).
The Word of God, on the contrary, is designed to see to our evolution
as human beings, not to set up a society of robots who cannot think
If the Quran—the Word of God ?alone is not enough for us,
then we should reconsider whether we can truly identify ourselves
as slaves of God, followers of the examples of Abraham and Muhammad.
Perhaps all debates should begin with this assumption: that the
Quran alone is sufficient as a criterion against which to discuss
anything anyone proposes with respect to worship, exactly as it
it written, without footnotes.
Richard Steven Voss
God Willing, be There
August 9-11, 1996
The conference registration fee is $57 per person. The fee is $29
for children 5-12 years old. Children under 5 are free. The registration
fee covers two lunches and two dinners, including the miscellaneous
conference expenses. It does NOT include the hotel room charges.
We made special arrangements with a first class hotel and reserved
rooms for our group. The special rate is $72 per room per night
(i.e., a single adult pays $72 total for 2 nights assuming double
occupancy). This includes full breakfast for Saturday and Sunday.
Participants pay the room charges to the hotel directly on departure.
Please start making your plans early to attend the conference.
If you travel by air, you need to fly into Houston Intercontinental
airport. The hotel has free shuttle service from the airport.