The Hadis dilemma

Hadis are thousands of short reports or narratives on the sayings and deeds of Prophet Mohammad which were collected in the 9th and 10th centuries. Six of these books are considered most authentic.

The historical basis of the Hadis is at best tenuous. Some of the historical points such as (1) the prohibition of the Prophet himself on Hadis writing, and honoring of the same position by his immediate followers, (2) the long time gap between the Quran and the Hadis, and the accompanying lack of proper records of the deeds and sayings of the Prophet, and (3) flawed oral transmission due to weakness of the human sources, including their imperfect memories add well to effectively dismiss the Hadis altogether.

To this list, one may add (4) the influence of the ruling regimes, of people with wealth and power of the time, and of the disputing theologians on Hadis collection, recording, selection and compilation, and finally (5) the weakness of the criteria used to judge authenticity of individual Hadis texts.

Shiites accept only 2000 Hadis, out of which 1750 were derived from Ali-ibn-abi-Talib. Imam Shafi had stipulated, that all traditions of law must be traced back to Prophet Mohammad to retain their credibility. As a result, the great mass of Hadis which invoked the authority of the Prophet, during the time of Shafi, and later (780 AD onward) and consequently express later Iraqian doctrines and not those from early Arabia. All compilations are characterized by inclusion of material in support of conflicting legal and doctrinal persuasions.

There are often contradictions, confusions and inconsistencies as well as anomalies in Hadis. Hence, the Hadis literature does not have a sure and solid historical foundation. The Hadis stands on no sound ground to claim authenticity and authority, and as such it loses significance as any reliable religious guidance.
However,the fact of the matter is that 90% of Islam practiced today is based on Hadis.

By Waseem Altaf

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