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Islam - Haddith

What the Talmud is to Judaism that tradition, i.e., the hadith or sunna, is to Mohammedanism. One may as well expect to know what Christianity in Mexico or in Spain is like by a careful study of the New Testament as to learn the real character of Islam among the masses in lands like Morocco, Egypt, and China, from the text of the Koran. It is well known that orthodox Moslems speak of the sources of their religion, or the authorities on which it is based, as four: the Koran, Tradition, ijmd and kiyas. Ijma is the unanimous consent of the leading companions concerning any teaching based on the Koran or on tradition: while kiyas consists of deductions made by orthodox teachers concerning questions that are in doubt, by analogy, or, as Moslems express it, the opinions of the learned concerning that which is not mentioned in the Koran nor tradition by the analogy of questions that are mentioned. The Koran is called the verbal revelation (Wahi el Matlu); tradition is called Wahi gheir el Matlu.

The first thing that surprises us in studying the vast subject of Moslem tradition is the immense number of collections of these sayings of the Prophet. There are said to be 1,465 collections of traditions, but fortunately only six of them are counted classical or standard by the orthodox school, namely, Muslim, Bokhari, Tirmizi, Abu Daoud, An-Nasaei, and Ibn Majah. Abu Daoud, one of their number, states in his massive work that he received as trustworthy only 4,800 traditions out of 500,000.

It is not surprising that tradition should have had such power in the conservative East, and especially in Arabia. Even before the Hejira, Goldziher tells us, it was considered a virtue to follow the sunna of one's forefathers. When Islam came it was no longer possible to follow the customs of heathen ancestors. Every believer now took the conduct of the Prophet as a model for himself in all the affairs of life. First of all, they followed the practice of the Companions of the Prophet who had themselves witnessed his actions and heard his words. Later on they had to be satisfied with the tabi'un, or successors; in following generations they spoke of the successors of the successors. Every tradition accepted by Moslems necessarily retains this form of personal statement and consists of two parts. The first part is called the isnad or support, namely, the list of names on which the tradition is based, its pedigree. The second is called the matn, or actual text of the tradition quoted.

A whole science of so-called criticism of the isnad has arisen in Islam. Notwithstanding the severe warning given by Mohammed himself, regarding the invention or corruption of tradition, many spurious traditions have been handed down. Out of 40,000 persons whose names are recorded in Moslem books as handing down traditions, AlBokhari acknowledges only 2,000 as reliable. Accordingly nineteen-twentieths of these men were liars in his opinion. Moslem criticism in regard to this course of authority has been from the outset only external, and has never troubled itself about the text, although in a measure it criticised the isnad, or list of authorities. Their principle of criticism even here was unsound, for they were most particular in rejecting all doubtful characters of the second and third generation, but never doubted the veracity of the Companions of the Prophet.

Abu Huraira, Ibn Abbas, and Anas bin Malik are the chief authorities collected in Bokhari. Some 4,000 out of the 7,000 traditions are referred to them. Yet Ibn Abbas was only thirteen years old when Mohammed died, and how could he remember in detail and relate at random thousands of traditions in regard to the public and private life of the Prophet? In regard to Abu Huraira, even his real name is unknown to Moslems and the surname, "Father of the Little Cat," is supposed to have been given him on account of his tenderness to cats. He is said to have had an infallible memory and died at the age of seventy-eight. The inexhaustible stock of his information aroused suspicion as to his trustworthiness, even among Moslems. As for Anas ibn Malik, according to his own statement he was only ten years old at the time of the battle of Badr, and died at Busrah, some say, at the age of ninetyseven and some say a hundred and seven years. His reputation as a traditionist is none of the highest, and Abu Hanifa, the founder of one of the schools of theology in Islam, refused to acknowledge his authority. If this is the character of the three leading traditionists, the remainder, who came after them and were even more audacious in the manufacture of tradition.

Hadith-es-Sahih, a genuine tradition, is one which has been handed down by truly pious persons who have been distinguished for their integrity: Hadith-el-Hasan, a mediocre tradition, is one the narrators of which do not approach in moral excellence to those of the Sahih class; Hadith-ed-Da'if, a weak tradition, is one whose narrators are of questionable authority. With reference to the original narrators there are also three classes: Hadith-el-Marfu, an exalted tradition, is a saying or an act, related or performed by the Prophet himself and handed down in a tradition; Hadith-el-Mauquf, a restricted tradition, is a saying or an act, related or performed by one of the ashab, or Companions of the Prophet; Hadith-el-Maqtu', an intersected tradition, is a saying or an act related or performed by one of the Tabi'un, or those who conversed with the Companions of the Prophet.

Finally, traditions are also divided according to the manner in which they have been transmitted. Hadith-el-Mutawatir, an undoubted tradition, is one which is handed down by very many distinct chains of narrators; Hadith-el'Aziz, a rare tradition, is one related by one or two lines of narrators; Hadith-el-Gharib, a poor tradition, is one related by only one narrator; Khabar-el-wahid, a single saying, is a term also used for a tradition related by one person and handed down by one line of narrators. It is a disputed point whether a Khobar Wahid can form the basis of Moslem doctrine; Hadith-elMursal is a tradition which any collector of traditions, such as Al-Bokhari and others, records with the assertion, "the apostle of God said": Riwayah is a hadith which commences with the words "it is related," without the authority being given; Hadith-el-Mauzu', an invented tradition, is one the untruth of which is beyond dispute. This did not prevent its preservation and publication however!

Because of such careful classification no Moslem who considers himself orthodox will doubt any statement that has been accepted by one of the six great authorities, especially AlBokhari.

Though much less violent than the Christian antiJewish writings, an extensive anti-Jewish polemical literature has been produced by Mohammedan scholars. The subject-matter of this literature is closely connected writh the earlier attacks upon Judaism found in the Koran and the tradition (hadith), the most debated charge being that of having falsified certain portions of the Holy Scriptures and omitted others. Among the examples of falsification is the Biblical account of the sacrifice of Abraham, in which, according to the Mohammedans, the name of Isaac was substituted for that of Ishmael. The passages omitted contained the predictions regarding the advent of Mohammed and his mission to all mankind. A common point for controversy also was the question of the abrogation of the divine laws—the Sabbath law, the dietary laws, and other Biblical commandments.

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Page last modified: 08-11-2011 19:38:56 ZULU