Quranism

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Qur'an only Islam

Within Islam the two largest sects are the Sunnis (up to 90%)[1][2][3][4][5] and Shi'ites (approximately 10-20%).[1][6][4][5] Together they make up almost the entirety of Islam. However, there is a small heretical group who are collectively known as "Qur'anists" (also referred to as Quraniyoon, Ahle Quran, or hadith rejectors). They reject the Hadith (oral traditions) and the Sunnah (example) of Muhammad, an integral part of Islam, and are viewed by mainstream Islam in much the same way as the Jehovah's Witnesses are viewed by mainstream Christianity (i.e. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox etc).

Rejected as Apostates

According to Sunni and Shi'ite orthodoxy, the hadith literature is an integral part of the Muslim faith. The 11th century Andalusian Maliki theologian and scholar Yusuf ibn abd al-Barr wrote in his Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm wa Fadlihi جـامع بـيـان أخذ العـلم وفضلـه (Compendium Exposing the Nature of Knowledge and Its Immense Merit):

The Sunna is divided into two types. The first is the consensus transmitted from the masses to the masses. This is one of the proofs that leave no excuse for denial and there is no disagreement concerning them. Whoever rejects this consensus has rejected one of Allah's textual stipulations and committed apostasy. The second type of Sunna consists in the reports of established, trustworthy lone narrators with uninterrupted chains. The congregation of the ulamas of the Community have said that this second type makes practice obligatory. Some of them said that it makes both knowledge and practice obligatory.
Ibn Abd al-Barr - Jami' Bayan al-'Ilm (2:33)

According to many high-ranking figures at Al-Azhar University, a highly respected authority in Sunni Islam (and who also accept Shi'ite fiqh as a fifth school of Islamic thought),[7] Qur'anists are not Muslims:

Dr. Yousef Elbadry, a member of the Higher Assembly of Islamic Affairs, accuses the Quranists of having a strange logic because relying on the wholly [sic] Quran only; while the Quran itself -as he claims- is in need for the Sunna,. Dr. ELbadry wonders what the Quranists say about verses like, "He who obeys the messenger obeys God?" Dr. Elbadry added that these Quranists went astray and should be considered apostates.
. . .

Dr. Mohamed Said Tantawy, the Sheikh of AL-Azhar replied saying that those who call for relying only on the wholly Quran are ignorant, lairs, and do not know religious rules because the ideas in the Sunna came from God, but it was put into words by the prophet (Peace be upon him). Moreover, Sunna explains and clarify the rules mention as in the wholly Quran.
. . .
Dr. Mahmoud Ashour, a member of the Committee of Islamic Research, that the Sunna is indeed a source of the Islamic Sharia, and that those who deny it are illogical because it is impossible to understand Islam with the Sunna. Dr. Ashour stresses that denying the Sunna costs the Quranists to lose their faith. He then called to protect Islam against those Quranists who plan to destroy Islam and pose the greatest threat on Islam and Muslims. He finally accused the Quranists to be spies and agents for other forces to aim at destroying Islam from Inside, but God will protect his religion as he promised.
. . .

Dr. Mohamed Abdelmonem Elberry, a professor at the School of Hadith and Explanation, Al-Azhar University, stressed the point that most Muslims have always agreed on validity of the Sunna, whether it is the verbal of practical Sunna. "The wholly Quran ordered us to obey the Messenger, and since this who do not are not true believers,"

Contemporary scholars such as Gibril Haddad have commented on the apostatic nature of a wholesale denial of the probativeness of the Sunnah according to Sunni Orthodoxy, writing "it cannot be imagined that one reject the entire probativeness of the Sunna and remain a Muslim".[8]

The Grand Mufti of Pakistan Muhammad Rafi Usmani has also criticised Qur'anists in his lecture Munkareen Hadith (refuters of Hadith); he states:

The Qur’aan, which they claim to follow, denies the faith of the one who refuses to obey the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and does not accept his ruling: “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” [al-Nisa’ 4:65 – interpretation of the meaning]

Problems with Quranism

A major problem with the Quranist understanding of Islam is the central place that the Messenger, Muhammad, plays in the Qu'ran. The Qur'an alleges that it is entirely composed of Allah’s commands, not Muhammad’s, yet the Qur'an itself orders Muslims to obey the Messenger.

He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah: But if any turn away, We have not sent thee to watch over their (evil deeds).

This verse somewhat begs the question of what, exactly, it is that the Messenger commands, since the Qur'anists themselves subscribe to the idea that the Qur'an is the word of Allah (God) himself and not just Muhammad's inspired word. The Qur’an also commands Muslims to follow the Messenger’s example, yet the only place this example is established is in the Sunnah. Without the Hadith, one cannot know Muhammad. Without knowing Muhammad, there is no Uswa Hasana. Doubting the hadith thus opens up multiple lines of doubt about entirety of Islam. If one rejects the hadiths, that in-turn rejects Islam as a system by going against the orders of the Qur'an and, in the eyes of most Muslims, renders the rejecter an apostate/murtad/kafir (whichever may apply). Ultimately, to remain faithful to Allah and the Qur'an in the traditional sense, there is no alternative to the Sunnah of the prophet as embodied in the hadith.

Islam means submission (contrary to popular belief that it means peace), and more specifically it means submission to the will of Allah. Qur'an-only Muslims believe that the Qur'an clearly defines what exactly Allah's will is. But the case is not so clear.

For one thing, the Qur'an is full of contradictory verses and commands; sometimes commanding believers to seek out and kill pagans (Quran 9:5), other times commanding Muslims to leave pagans to practice their polytheistic religions in peace (Quran 109:1-6). Without the Hadith and the Sirah to give context to the Asbab al-Nuzul (Revelational Circumstances of the Quran) , the doctrine of Abrogation becomes untenable as there exists no clear timeline of which verses were revealed at which time and the Qur'an itself provides little to no evidence in this regard. The pacifist can decide to take from it a peaceful message by deliberately ignoring or twisting violent verses whereas the sadist can easily interpret a violent message by focusing on such verses as are found in Surah 9. Both Muslims could be selectively justified by the Qur'an because of its contradictory messages from Muhammad-in-Mecca versus Muhammad-in-Medina.

If one rejects the Hadith (ie. Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud), the Tafsir (e.g. Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abbas, al-Jalalayn, Maududi), and the History (ie. al-Tabari, Ibn Sa'd, al-Waqidi, Ibn Ishaq), then the entire historical context of the Qur'an, along with proof of Muhammad's existence is lost. It simply becomes an ancient Arabic document of partially incoherent, repetitive, and often-times confusing statements and commands. The reader is left with such questions as: "Who wrote this and why?" and "Who is Abu Lahab, and why are he and his wife going to be tortured?" and "Why don't these stories match the ones found in the Bible?" and "Who is 'Isa?".

The often-levelled charge by the Qur'an-only sects that "Sunni's and Shi'ite's are following a deviant form of Islam by introducing these man-made books," is also questionable, considering most of the narrators of hadith are the very same people who passed down the Qur'an itself. The first Muslims (Sahabah- companions of Muhammad, which include all four Rightly Guided Caliphs) who partook in the Hijra to Medina, were not Qur'an-only Muslims as far as we can tell, nor the generation of Muslims that followed the death of Muhammad (the Tabi'un). As far back as the Rashidun Caliphs, the idea of "Sunnah" was salient although this idea changed rapidly in the first centuries of Islam. Recording and sorting through these narrations in written form was to codify and clarify already existing beliefs - though admittedly much later than the time of Muhammad, with the majority of compilations recorded in the 9th century (for a history on this, see the Britannica entry on Hadith), leading to many Mawdu' (Fabricated) and Da'if (Weak) Hadiths being recorded.

It can be argued that Qur'an only Muslims often reject the Hadith, a fundamental aspect of mainstream Islam, simply due to it preserving the norms of the early Islamic community which are in flagrant contradiction to modern, liberal mores around consent, sexuality, freedom of belief, and human rights. They may deny this as the reason behind their rejection of Hadith, but this appears to fit the idea by many Qur'anists who accept Hadith essentially as a historical source for the emergence of Islam but dismiss it as a religious or law-giving one. Critics argue this approach is logically unfeasible - either the Hadith are a valid source of information for Muslims, or they are not. One should not be able to pick and choose which bits to keep and which bits to ignore when the 'good' and the 'bad' all originate from the same sources.

Other verses

(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought.

The message (Qur'an) is explained and elaborated upon by the Prophet. Preserving the message (Qur'an) also requires preserving the Sunnah which explains the message, as the previous verse states.

Whatever Allah has restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, so that it may not be a thing taken by turns among the rich of you, and whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in retributing (evil)

This verse asks Muslims to follow everything Mohammad gives them, and abstain from everything he forbids. That means they are commanded by Allah to follow the Sunnah.

Five Pillars of Islam

The concept "5 pillars in Islam" is practiced and preached widely in the Muslim world and is a crucial part of the Muslim way of life. Yet this concept is not described or defined in the Qur'an in any way. It is only found in the hadith. Looking at the pillars individually, four out of five of Islam’s Pillars would not make any sense without the Hadith, therefore making Islam impossible to practice.

Shahadah

Allah’s Apostle said: “Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle.”

These are Muhammad's words and are not found within the Qur'an. Therefore, Islam’s First Pillar is without basis in the abscence of the works of Muslim historians Ibn Ishaq (704-770 AD) and al-Tabari (838-923 AD). If there is no definition as to what the Shahadah should be (or indeed if there is one), it can be any arbitrary phrase in any language (or not be carried out at all). In fact there are at-least three different shahadahs used by various Qur'anist sects.

Salah

“2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.”

Once again, the Qur'an does not provide all of the needed guidance. The “compulsory congregational prayer” is not described in the Qur’an at all. In fact, the Qur’an number of prayers could be interpreted several ways (Qur'anists do not even agree upon the number of daily prayers that should be offered. The various number of prayers should be offered are 0, 2, 3 or 5),[9] and none of which depict exactly how to pray, while the hadith clarify five. The only explanation of the obligatory prostration is found in the Sunnah, i.e. Muslims are performing a ritual without Qur’anic precedence. Also in the prayer itself, certain Arabic recitations and verses are recited. The Qur'an does not give specifications for these recitations so unless one follows hadiths and traditions, the recitations can be anything for a Qur'anist.

Zakat

“3. To pay Zakat.”

The terms of the Zakat are omitted from the Qur’an. The first to commit them to paper was Ishaq. A century later than that, Tabari referenced Ishaq’s Hadith. This practice is without basis in the Qur'an by itself.

Hajj

“4. To perform Hajj.”

This is also missing instructions, as well as the purpose for the rituals described in the Quran.[10] The only full explanations of the Hajj are found in the Sunnah. No aspect of the pilgrimage can be performed without referencing the Hadith. Muslims would not have this ritual without the Sunnah.

Sawm

“5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.”

Sawm, the final pillar of Islam is also not described in the Qur'an, the “perfect, detailed, and final revelation to mankind”. Though the Qur'an describes the fast, without the Hadith, Muslims wouldn’t know why they are fasting. The accounts of the meaning of Ramadan are in the Traditions, initially chronicled by Ibn Ishaq and then copied by the hadith compliers such as Bukhari, Muslim etc. and historians/exegetes like Al-Tabari.

Strangely, the one pillar that is actually described in the most detail in the Qur'an, is actually a borrowed pagan ritual Qusayy invented pre-dating Muhammad's Islam. Qusayy's family took a cut on merchandise sold during the “truce of the gods” fairs of Ramadan.

Islamic Law

This issue continues into many different aspects of Islamic law, as Islamic Scholar Michael Cook notes:

In the early Islamic period there was a school of thought which saw the Koran as the sole and sufficient basis of Islamic law. God Himself, it was argued, describes the Koran as a book which makes everything clear. The consensus of Muslim scholars, however, was against this view. Too much is left unsaid in the Koran; for example, it tells the believer to pray, but omits essential information as to how he should do it.

The bulk of Islamic law as it actually evolved is thus non-Koranic in substance. Some of what is missing is supplied from the innumerable traditions regarding the sayings and doings of Muhammad. A typical example of such a tradition was given in Chapter 2: at the conquest of Khaybar, Muhammad is said to have declared the eating of the flesh of the domesticated ass forbidden. At the same time, the lawyers had to rely, in one way or another, on their own legal reasoning. All this would bulk large in any survey of Islamic law as such; here, however, I shall focus on such law as there is in the Koran.

Although it does not add up to a comprehensive law-code, the Koranic treatment of law covers a wide range of subject-matter. In the first place, it deals with specifically religious rituals and duties: washing, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to the sanctuary. The treatment is uneven; thus the instructions on the fast are fairly full, whereas no indication is given as to how much alms a believer should give. It is nonetheless clear from the way in which the topics are treated that God's interest as a lawgiver is not confined to generalities.

For example, the believer in preparing himself for prayer is specifically instructed to wash his arms up to the elbows, and to wipe his feet to the ankles. In the second place, the Koran discusses a range of less narrowly religious aspects of law: marriage, divorce, inheritance, homicide, theft, usury, the drinking of wine, and the like.

Again, the treatment is uneven: thieves are to be punished by having their hands cut off, but the fate of the unrepentant usurer is not prescribed (though he receives a dire warning that he will find himself at war with God and His messenger)..
Muhammad (Past Masters). Michael Cook. 1996 (Revision of 1983 original) 9780192876058 (ISBN10: 0192876058). (Kindle Locations 457-486). Kindle Edition.

Sunni-Shia Split

There is nothing mentioned about how religious leaders are rightfully meant to be chosen, nor how religious laws are meant to be administered. With no direct instructions for a successor, or how to chose one (or them) in the Quran, there was a civil war almost immediately after Muhammad's death - which according to traditional accounts lead to the Sunni-Shia split. A quick summary of this can be read in this history.com article.

Other issues

Characters in the Quran

There are also characters supposedly contemporary to Muhammad such as Abu Lahab (Quran 111:1 (and his wife Quran 111:4)) and Zayd (Quran 33:37), who have no equivalents in biblical literature to refer to, that are named but not introduced formally - so the meaning of the verses and who they are is highly obscure (if not impossible to understand fully) without secondary literature.

Verses that have no meaning and/or make no sense

Many verses lack any clear meaning without further context, a few (of many) are given below. For example it is impossible to know what the following verses are talking about by themselves (tafsirs generally link them to angels, though the third verse is sometimes also linked to humans reciting the Quran).[11][12]

“By those ranged in ranks. Then those who drive away with reproof. And those who recite a reminder. Lo! Your Lord is surely One.”

Similarly the versus below are often given fanciful/mythological explanations by commentators, far beyond would ever be possible to gather from the Quran itself:[13] [14]

By the mountain, And a book inscribed, In parchment spread open, And the frequented house

And again:

By those who extract violently, And those who draw out gently, by those that swim serenely, and those that outstrip suddenly, And those who glide swimming, And those who race each other (in) a race, by those that direct an affair!

There is no explanation of what the ten nights are.

“By the break of dawn, And ten nights, And the even and the odd,

Nor the four months.

The number of months with God is twelve in accordance with God's law since the day He created the heavens and the earth. Of these four are holy. This is the straight reckoning. So do not exceed yourselves during them; but fight the idolaters to the end as they fight you in like manner; and remember, God is with those Who preserve themselves from evil and do the right.

Even the whole of Surah 105 (Surah of the Elephant) is left unexplained, which we have to look to traditions and commentaries for the meaning and what it is referring to.[15]

Have you not regarded how your Lord dealt with the army of the elephants? Did He not put their scheme into ruin? and send against them flocks of birds. Which hit them with stones of baked clay, thus making them like chewed-up straw?

Criticism of hadiths

Critics wonder why if these secondary texts/examples/revelations, which include the hadith as well as biographies of the prophet, are so important, they could not simply be included in the main holy book to avoid ambiguity and misleading scripture (not to mention schisms in sects across Islam). Especially when the Qur'an is claiming it is the preserved word of God - yet extra secondary revelations are needed to understand it and add to it, with many contradicting each other (see Contradictions in the Hadith and further examples from a Muslim website here) as well as the Qur'an itself (as this Islamic website shows), not to mention science (Scientific Errors in the Hadith) and common sense (see Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars: Remarkable and Strange Islamic Traditions).

The entire method of verifying isnads[16] (a chain of narrators leading back to the prophet or his companions), and therefore the hadith, as being classed as authentic, good, weak or fabricated is also never mentioned in the Qur'an. These tell the reader whether they should be followed or not, so are of utter importance to the religion. However as Britannica notes, these are also a non-contemporary (to Muhammad or early companion's of his) invention:

During Muhammad’s lifetime and after his death, hadiths were usually quoted by his Companions and contemporaries and were not prefaced by isnāds; only after a generation or two (c. 700 CE) did the isnād appear to enhance the weight of its text. In the 2nd century AH (after 720 CE), when the example of the Prophet as embodied in hadiths—rather than local custom as developed in Muslim communities—was established as the norm (sunnah) for an Islamic way of life, a wholesale creation of hadiths, all “substantiated” by elaborate isnāds, resulted. Since hadiths were the basis of virtually all Islamic scholarship, especially Qurʾānic exegesis (tafsīr) and legal theory (fiqh), Muslim scholars had to determine scientifically which of them were authentic. This was done by a careful scrutiny of the isnāds, rating each hadith according to the completeness of its chain of transmitters and the reliability and orthodoxy of its authorities.

This has resulted in many different large collections across different books, which examining them all and personally scrutinising these chains being such an enormous task, it is usually simply left to scholars to issue rulings on matters, rather than a personal reading.

Many scholars produced collections of hadiths, the earliest compilation being the great Musnad of Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, arranged by isnād. But only six collections, known as al-kutub al-sittah (“the six books”), arranged by matn—those of al-Bukhārī (died 870), Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj (died 875), Abū Dāʾūd (died 888), al-Tirmidhī (died 892), Ibn Mājāh (died 886), and al-Nasāʾī (died 915)—came to be recognized as canonical in orthodox Islam, though the books of al-Bukhārī and Muslim enjoy a prestige that virtually eclipses the other four.

See Also

External Links

Links from Muslims

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam - ReligionFacts
  2. Islām - Encyclopædia Britannica (2010)
  3. Sunnite - Encyclopædia Britannica (2010)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population - Pew Research Center, October 7, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tracy Miller - Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population - Pew Research Center, October 2009
  6. Shīʿite - Encyclopædia Britannica Online (2010)
  7. al-Azhar Verdict on the Shia - Shi'ite Encyclopedia v2.0, Al-islam
  8. Gibril Haddad - The Sunna as Evidence: The Probativeness of the Sunna - Living Islam, August, 1999
  9. Quranism. Wikipedia. Accessed 02/02/24.
  10. Muhammad (Past Masters) Michael Cook. 1996 (Revision of 1983 original) 9780192876058 (ISBN10: 0192876058). (Kindle Locations 469-487). Kindle Edition.
  11. Tafsir Jalalayn on verse 31:1. Al Jalalayn / Jalal ad-Din al-Maḥalli and Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti. Published in 1505.
  12. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Verse 37:1-5. Ibn Kathir d 1373.
  13. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Verse 52:1-16. Ibn Kathir d. 1373.
  14. Tafsir Jalalayn on verse 52:4. Al Jalalayn / Jalal ad-Din al-Maḥalli and Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti. Published in 1505.
  15. E.g. Tafsir Jalalayn on verse 105:1. (Al Jalalayn / Jalal ad-Din al-Maḥalli and Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti. Published in 1505.) summarises the general story.
  16. https://www.britannica.com/topic/isnad