Al-Ustadh Muhammad Abduh said: Islam was never inflicted with a calamity greater than the bidaâ€™ (heresies) ascribed to it by those pretending to be Muslims, and the fabrications invented by the Ghulat, which corrupted the minds of Muslims and made others mistrust the foundations of religion. Consequently falsification spread tremendously against the Muhammadan religion in its early centuries, continuing till the era of the Companions, and rather falsity was practised against the Prophet (S) during his lifetime. But the misfortune of falsification exacerbated and prevailed everywhere during the rule of the Umayyads, where the narrators increased in number and the truthful decreased, with many of the honourable Sahabah refraining from reporting the hadith, except from those whom they trusted to be truthful, for fear from the perversion that inflicted the narrations. In the introduction to his Sahih, Muslim said: â€œI have never seen the righteous people telling lies in anything more then in the hadith742 and then evil of slandering spread, with fabrication and invention exacerbating and extending with passage of time.â€ Whoever going through the introduction of al-Imam Muslim, would verily realize how intense toil and fatigue he experienced in compiling his Sahih, and how much falsified traditions were foisted by fabricators into religion with which it had nothing to do. And men of insight in history were fully aware of the fact that Islam has overshadowed sights of the world with brightness of might, rising above heads of nations with power of authority, inundating among people like rushing streams, with some of them covetting certain desires in it, and some imagining in it dreads, with manifest signs established for men of insight. Hence, those embracing this Din were of several divisions: Some people believed in it submissively to the need for it and for obtaining its light, and those were the truthful. Some others were of different cults who arrogated its title and began to be branded with its mark, either out of desire in its spoils, or out of fear from assaults of its followers, or priding themselves in belonging to it. So they covered themselves with it but couldnâ€™t be conscious of its real slogan, covering their superficial conditions under the disguise of Islam, without sensing it by their hearts, following their religions inwardly while resembling the Muslims with their apparent aspects. Allah the Exalted said in regard of their equals: â€œThe wandering Arabs say: We believe. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Ye believe not, but rather say: â€œWe submit,â€ for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts.â€
Among these people there was someone exaggerating in riyaâ€™ (dissimulation) to the extent that people would start to count him among the pious. On seeing some people trusting and believing in his utterances, he would begin to relate them traditions from his old creed, ascribing them to the Prophet (S) or some of his Companions, as a result of which all the Jewish traditions (Israeliyyat) and whatever was contained in the expositions of the Torah were recorded in the Islamic books as being Prophetic traditions.743 And some of them have deliberately fabricated traditions which if their meanings be firmly rooted in the minds, they would deteriorate the morals and impel to neglect and think little of legal and religious duties, slackening peopleâ€™s resolutes from supporting the truth. Of them those traditions indicating the end of life of Islam â€” we seek protection by God â€” or enticing greediness to Godâ€™s forgiveness with deviating from His sharâ€™ (legislation), or those impelling full submission to the fate (qadar) through letting alone the reason indulged in what improving the Din and the world. All these traditions were fabricated by the fabricators on purpose with the aim of corrupting the Muslims and diverting them from the original rules of their religion, so as to disturb the order of their life and weaken their might.
Among the liars there were some believing that increasing in the akhbar and narrating abundant sayings would elevate the position of religion, so they babbled whatever they willed, seeking by this reward and thawab, while they would not gain but heavy burden and punishment. It is them in regard of whom Muslim in his Sahih said: I have not seen the righteous telling lies more than in the hadith.744 He means by â€˜the righteousâ€™ those who used to prolong their sibal (beard), widen their trousers, bow down their heads, keep low their voices, frequent regularly to the mosques with their ghosts, while being the farthest among people from them with their spirits, move with remembrance their lips and follow them with moving their rosaries. But in fact they were as described by Amir al-Muâ€™minin Ali ibn Abi Talib who said in their regard: They made the Din one of the locks of insight and blockages of intellect. They are self-deceited and deluded, doing evil but thinking to do good. They imagine oppression to be justice, and treachery to be a virtue, so they believe that ascribing what they surmise to the Prophetâ€™s Companions will increase in their honour and make others hold them in higher esteem, so as to be fit for what is said in their regard: â€œA wise enemy is much better than an ignorant lover,745 (with some abbreviation).
When broaching to `ilm al-hadith in the bill he laid down for reforming the education, and what method should be followed, he (Muhammad Abduh) said: â€œArt of hadith is considered acceptable when it is viewed as interpreting the Qurâ€™an and exposer for it, with deleting from it whatever contradicting the Quranic text, like the unauthentic traditions and exertion of opinion (ijtihad), so as to restore the correct traditions to it, if their outward appearance deludes of being contradictory (to the Qurâ€™an).746
In an address to one of brothers (in Din), counselling him to keep on reading the Qurâ€™an and the Prophetic sirah (conduct), he said: â€œKeep on reading the Qurâ€™an and learn its imperatives, the forbidden things, counsels and lessons, as it used to be recited for the believers and disbelievers in the time of (coming of) revelation. Beware of going over the books of tafsir but only for understanding the meaning of some word that you could not realize what the Arabs intended by it, or connection between a word and another the conjunction of which was unknown for you. Then betake yourself to what the Qurâ€™an designated for you, bear down upon what it assaults, and attach to this study of the Prophetic conduct, admitting the reasonable correct matters, keeping your eyes away from the weak and rejected things.747
In interpreting the Qurâ€™an and comprehending the religion, he said: In this regard that which should be followed is only the decisive proof, since this issue comes under bab al-aqaâ€™id (doctrines), and it is dependable upon certainty that canâ€™t be taken through conjecture and imagination.748
742. Muslim reported this statement in the introduction to his Sahih, from Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan, with these words, and with the word al-salihin (the righteous) instead of ahl-al-khayr (benevolent).
743. Refer to the chapter of Isra’iliyyat in this book.
744. Refer to the chapter “The Good Fabricators” in this book.
745. Ta’rikh al-isnad of al-Imam Muhammad Abduh, vol.II, pp.347-349.
746. Ibid., p.516.
747. Ibid., p.559.
748. Ibid., p.643.
Adapted from: “Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah” by: “Mahmud Ali Riyyah”