Umar’s Ban on Hadith

In many conversations and discussions with Muslims who acknowledge hadith as a source of law, I would often mention how Umar Bin Al Khattab disallowed the recording of hadith and the narration of sunan. Most of the time, I was asked for proof and could not quite provide any. “Fair enough,” I’d say to myself, “I learned about this on a missionary-kind of Hadith-rejection TV show after all, and never did my homework on it as I should.”

But today is the day.

Umar ibn al-Khattab once tried to deal with the problem of committing the Hadith to writing. The companions of the Prophet whom he consulted, encouraged him, but he was not quite sure whether he should proceed. One day, moved by God’s inspiration, he made up his mind and announced: “I wanted to have the traditions of the Prophet written down, but I fear that the Book of God might be *encroached* upon. Hence I shall not permit this to happen.” He, therefore, changed his mind and instructed the Muslims throughout the provinces: “Whoever has a document bearing a prophetic tradition, shall destroy it.” The Hadith, therefore, continued to be transmitted orally and was not collected and written down until the period of al-Mamun. (The Life of Muhammad, Cairo, 1935) [Source].

Many Muslims already argue that Umar outlawed hadith so that the Quran would not get mixed up and neglected at such an early, vunerable stage. They offer the same argument when you tell them the Prophet himself ordered his companions to burn what they recorded of his sayings. But it seems to me that people were doing well without hadith during the time of Umar.

There’s also the interesting view of Shi’a on this.

Muhammad lived in the hearts of his companions and friends. After his death, they wished to preserve all their recollections of his life. These recollections were of two kinds – his words and his deeds. The two together formed his Sunnah (the trodden path). Anything he said, and was quoted by a companion, is called a hadith or ‘tradition.’

But Umar did not want the companions to preserve any recollection of the words and the deeds of the Prophet. He, apparently, had many reservations regarding the usefulness, to the Muslim umma, of these recollections. He, therefore, forbade the companions to quote the sayings of the Prophet in speech or in writing. In other words, he placed the Hadith of the Prophet under a proscription. [Source].

Turning the tables, most Shi’a believe that this is a conspiracy-kind of act coming from Umar to prevent Ali of being declared a successor by the Prophet on his death bed. It’s actually surprising, to some level, that the Prophet wanted to leave behind anything beside the Quran. This means the very notion of the Prophet having preached anything outside the boundaries of the Quran are redicilous. How could Umar remember that statements outside the Quranic verses were unlawful while the Prophet could not?

Most Sunnis view that Muhammad himself proclaimed that no hadith are to be recorded to ensure that people would not confuse any hadith with the Qur’an, and that this decision of Muhammad was upheld by his successors (Arabic: caliph), including Umar, the second Sunni Caliph. [Source]

So, until the second Caliphate, people survived without documented hadith. In fact, they survived with it being illegal and advertised as haraam (being made illegal for religious purposes). Why did that ever have to change?

And just for the sake of reading, I give you this:

Abu-Dhahabi reports: The Caliph Abu-Bakr compiled a work, in which there were 500 traditions of the Prophet, and handed it over to his daughter ‘Aishah. The next morning, he took it back from her and destroyed it, saying: “I wrote what I understood; it is possible however that there should be certain things in it which did not correspond textually with what the Prophet had uttered.”

As to Umar, we learn on the authority of Ma’mar ibn Rashid, that during his caliphate, Umar once consulted the companions of the Prophet on the subject of codifying the Hadith. Everybody seconded the idea. Yet Umar continued to hesitate and pray to God for a whole month for guidance and enlightenment. Ultimately, he decided not to undertake the task, and said: “Former peoples neglected the Divine Books and concentrated only on the conduct of the prophets; I do not want to set up the possibility of confusion between the Divine Qur’an and the Prophet’s Hadith.” (Introduction to Islam, Kuwait, pp. 34-35, 1977)

One of the companions whom the Sunni Muslims consider one of the greatest authorities on Hadith, was Abu Hurayra. He was ever ready to quote a Hadith. There was never an occasion when recollection did not come to him of something he had heard the Prophet saying or something he had seen him doing. Once Umar asked him:

“O Abu Hurayra! Tell me this. Did the Messenger of God have nothing in the world to do except to whisper Hadith in your ears?”

Umar then ordered Abu Hurayra not to narrate any more Hadith.

You can read the rest here: I’ll have to disagree on the last part of the article that claims Quran cannot be understood without hadith. Also that Umar acted alone when all others actually wanted to record and document hadith.

Abu Hurayra’s Short Time with the Prophet

Veronica asked this question on QRAC today:

Abu Hurayrah is considered amongst Sunni’s to have the largest amount of related Hadiths as the Prophet’s Wife Aisha is considered the 2nd. Now, this in itself seems a bit “fishy”, especially that Abu Hurayrah did not know the Prophet for long? I have always held some suspicion of this fact. Does anyone here have any access to some background info on Abu Hurayrah?

Well Abu Hurayra was also the first professional hadith storyteller. The guy used to ask about the Quran just to get a free lunch. This was narrated by Bukhari himself who didn’t have a problem with this deceptive tactic. Strange…

Is Mohammad Shaikh a Hadith Rejector?

Apparently, this video tries to imply he isn’t! I have known Mr Shaikh for the last 13 years and I have never known him to use hadith. To the Sunnis, this IS rejecting hadith. You don’t need to speak out against hadith. It’s enough for the Sunnis that you don’t accept their hadith.

Loving the Companions.

Taylor asked a great question in QRAC today:

I was speaking with a ‘Mainstream Muslim’ and he was saying that my belief in Qur’an alone was an insult to the Sahaba because they diligently memorized the Sunnah, and Hadeeth. I responded by saying I mean no disrespect to our loyal Muslim Brothers and Sisters, however the only thing I know for a FACT regarding authenticity is that Allah promised to protect the Qur’an alone. ( 5:48, 6:115-116, 15:9, 16:101, 22:52)

For anyone who’s read hadith collections, this issue wouldn’t arise because the hadith collections impute the sahaba far worse than rejecting hadith from them does!

Yahoo Answers – If hadith is essential to understand and practice Quran, then…?

Interesting discussion in Yahoo Answers today:

If hadith is essential to understand and practice Quran, then does that mean the Quran is useless without hadith?

We have lost many, many hadith to time, history and harsh recording circumstances of the past. We must have lost a HUGE deal of hadith. Does that mean we are possibly misunderstanding the Quran?

Why isn’t hadith protected if it’s the “key” to open the Quran’s treasures?

Additional Details

Vaxoco Kabana – Why, I can relate!

2 days ago

seven8six – That doesn’t answer my question. Also, Hadith is not the same as Sunnah. 🙂
Thank you for answering though.

2 days ago

Dang!!! – I love the comment, but just wanted to point out that “hadith” is not always used in the Quran as useless information. The Quran itself is called “ahsanul hadith”, and there are many other cases such as, “did you hear of the hadith of Musa?”

2 days ago

anza m – Does that mean the Quran is not enough?

1 day ago

Omed – Thank you so much for clarifying it. However, I want to point out that those who accept hadith do not believe it’s the personal wish of Muhammed, but rather also revelation. At least I did when I used to be a Sunni.

They even quote the verses that say “He does not speak of wishes; it is but a revalation being revealed” which is obviously taken out of context. Many use that phrase to claim anything Prophet Muhammed ever said was a revelation (which hadith itself does not even support since it shows how the Prophet would sometimes give orders then fail or change his mind!).

I just want to ask them that, if hadith is wahi/revelation, then why didn’t Allah (st) bother to save and protect it?

1 day ago

Mushu – My Mushu, clever as usual!

Quran – I agree. 🙂

1 day ago

learnisl… – That’s such a new way to see it! Thanks! 🙂
My personal answer was this:
I like to ask this question:

Imagine you were the first caliph, Abu Bakr. Almost all the sahabas were around and the memories of the Prophet was still fresh. Of course being Abu Bakr you read the Quran and you know the message must be brought to the whole of humankind. So why didn’t you gather all the sahabas together and a produce a ‘compendium of the Prophet as authenticated by all the sahabas’. Why did we need Bukhari to come along 250 years to do the job the sahabas should have done in the first place? If hadith was crucial to the faith, it wouldn’t have been so carelessly handled. There is absolutely no doubt what is ‘The Quran’ yet among the Sunnis themselves, debates are going on about what are true hadith.

Answer: Because the sahabas were never concerned about hadith. They knew what was TRULY Islam.

Jibreel In Disguise

We had a new guy bring in a hadith in Quranology Discussions.  The hadith goes:

Abu Huraira reported: One day the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appeared before the public that a man came to him and said: Prophet of Allah, (tell me) what is Iman. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allah, His angels, His Books, His meeting, His Messengers and that you affirm your faith in the Resurrection hereafter. He (again) said: Messenger of Allah, (tell me) what does al-Islam signify. He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Al-Islam signifies that you worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him and you establish obligatory prayer and you pay the obligatory poor-rate (Zakat) and you observe the fast of Ramadan. He (the inquirer) again said: Messenger of Allah, what does al-Ihsan imply? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, and in case you fail to see Him, then observe prayer (with this idea in your mind) that (at least) He is seeing you. He (the inquirer ) again said: Messenger of Allah, when would there be the hour (of Doom)? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: The one who is asked about it is no better informed than the inquirer. I, however, narrate some of its signs (and these are): when the slave-girl will give birth to he master, when the naked, barefooted would become the chiefs of the people – these are some of the signs of (Doom). (Moreover) when the shepherds of the black (camels) would exult themselves in buildings, this is one of the signs of (Doom). (Doom) is one of the five (happenings wrapped in the unseen) which no one knows but Allah. Then he (the Messenger of Allah) recited (the verse):” Verily Allah! with Him alone is the knowledge of the hour and He it is Who sends (down the rain) and knows that which is in the wombs and no person knows whatsoever he shall earn tomorrow, and a person knows not in whatsoever land he shall die. Verily Allah is Knowing, Aware. He (the narrator, Abu Huraira) said: Then the person turned back and went away. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Bring that man back to me. They (the Companions of the Holy Prophet present there) went to bring him back, but they saw nothing there. Upon this the Messenger of Allah remarked: he was Gabriel, who came to teach the people their religion.

My comment: Jibreel has 600 wings (from another hadith). How did he manage to stay unrecognised?!

An Introduction to the ‘Sciences of the Quran’

by Abu Ammar Yasir Qadi. This book is an excellent introduction to the Traditionalist ‘sciences’ which they use to understand the Quran. The only problem is, their claim to have been ‘taught by the Prophet’ seems to be quite tenuous if one goes by this book. There are so many contradictions in these sciences (all there, im not making this up!) that one must wonder, how on earth do they claim this?!

Whatever the case, this is a good book and i highly recommend it.