Critiquing the Core Islamic Tradition: Building a New Tradition on an Ephemeral Foundation of Conjectures [Hadith 4 of 5]

I have already posted this video and discussed the range of arguments about the age of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), here. This post (below), however, focusses on a very interesting discussion that took place during the question and answer session regarding the centrality of hadiths in the Islamic tradition.

الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful




Q: “When do we say, this hadith may be problematic even though it’s authentic?”

A: “That’s a good question. That’s the big question – the ultimate question… [i.e.] there’s a hadith that seems to contradict what I think is reasonable, possible or right. How do I deal with that? There’s a couple of approaches:

  • Option 1] The Traditional Sunni approach: … God and the Prophet know better on a moral issue.
  • Option 2] Another legitimately (Islamic, sunni and shi’i): there are instances… [where the hadith…] is not literal then… So if you see something that contradicts empirical reality, you just realise that it’s figurative.”

(See section 6 for option 3)




0: 15:48:

Q: So there is an option of revisiting hadiths? [For instance] because “it goes against empirical evidence”.


A: [Wait!] “There is a problem, however, for when you get to ethical issues [and hadiths] because there… is no objective standard to measure against…. Right and wrong is different to different people.”





Q: Is there a universal notion of right and wrong?

A: [Paraphrase:] Protagoras… in one of Plato’s works – or the Sophists believed there was no universal morality:

“Right and wrong is relative to what city you’re in [i.e. based on conventions and on your culture and laws], which is also exactly what Sunni Muslims say… right and wrong are… conventional… based on place and time.”

[Paraphrase:] If you come up with a universal law, you need to develop ways of justifying them. Muslims would assert the universal legitimization comes via revelation from God (Scripture). The moderns believe in Human Rights; but the problem is this is often amended to add laws or exclude previous ones or alter them; one wonders how universal this can be. Should I exchange my fixed values to ones that change every decade and thereby appear less grounded and so less universal?





Q: “Could someone revisit [the hadith regarding the] age of Aisha and for ethical reasons ask, maybe it’s not true?”

A: “You could do that but then my question would be… what motivates you?… [i.e.] where do you get your values?” [from Islam? – Or are you superimposing onto Islam, foreign values (that must be wrong because it’s not Islamic – i.e. authentically revelatory) to then judge Islam and shape it according to those non-Islamic (i.e. false, conjectural, subjective) values?]






Q: “It is an absurd argument because what you’re saying is we cannot determine, identify justice without revelation. And I just think when we look at … scholarly discourse, there are some views that aren’t stipulated by the Qur’an and hadith and they had to use their ‘aql, their reason to develop opinions.”

A: “If you want to talk about justice or equity in a specific situation, everyday we use our reason to come up with what is just and what is equitable to a specific situation. And we don’t necessarily refer to scripture. However, no one is going to argue that [my opinion] in this situation should be universally applied to all human beings in all places and all times, retroactively applied to people in the past and to be used to judge them. That’s nonsense. So there’s a difference between using reason to come up with justice or equity in a specific situation – and – saying that it can dervive universal principles that should be applied to all.”





  • Option 3] “You look at the hadith and… maybe you decide that it’s not authentic.”

Q: But then, what is the criterion to work out if it’s not authentic in modern times, given that the original science of hadith’s authentication process is already robust?

“Everything is subject to debate. Everything is subject to evaluation.” But…

0:24:20: [Paraphrase:] If you begin to de-authenticate the sahih hadiths (which is really only being considered from the twentieth century onwards – and consider that this is not done in an impartial, neutral way – but rather as a result from pressure from non Muslim (perhaps anti-Muslim) sources and the ‘politics’ involved) then what is behind what you’re doing?

“The criticisms against Bukhari and Muslim are really criticisms against the Islamic ethical system. The idea of scripture. The idea that religion as being the main reference in your life. The idea that you should overturn things in the past because of fads in the present. That’s why there is so such defensiveness about.. re-evaluating hadiths. It’s not because scholars objected to re-evaluating hadiths; they never did. Scholars were concerned with The danger of “opening a door to modern, ephemeral fads, or ephemeral beliefs overturning centuries of consensus.”

0:26:35: “We have to recognise that within a religious tradition, there have to be certain controls on interpretation… But when you’re talking about [re-evaluating the] core, like the Qur’an, like things that are agreed upon, like the five prayers, or that fornication is prohibited, if you want to open up that to discussion, the religious tradition will cease to exist. It will evaporate… Look at religion in many European countries or urban America, it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”



سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين

Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.


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