April 1996: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Submitters Perspective

Page 2

Hadith/Sunnah Debate

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 former.

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 it.

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 for themselves.

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

1996 Conference

August 9-11, 1996

Houston, Texas

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.