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Qur'an only Islam
Within Islam the two largest sects are the Sunnis (up to 90%) and Shi'ites (approximately 10-20%). 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):
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), Qur'anists are not Muslims:
. . .
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.
. . .
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".
The Grand Mufti of Pakistan Muhammad Rafi Usmani has also criticised Qur'anists in his lecture Munkareen Hadith (refuters of Hadith); he states:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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), 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.
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.
This is also missing instructions, as well as the purpose for the rituals described in the Quran. 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, 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.
This issue continues into many different aspects of Islamic law, as Islamic Scholar Michael Cook notes:
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)..
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.
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).
There is no explanation of what the ten nights are.
Nor the four months.
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.
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 (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:
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.
- Debate - Edip Yuksel vs. Ali Sina - Dr. Edip Yuksel, is a prominent member of the submitters (Qur'an-Only Muslims).
Links from Muslims
- Issues Concerning Ḥadīth - collection of articles dealing with hadith criticism, from the Muslim site Islamic Awareness
- A Look at Hadith Rejecters' Claims - from the Muslim site TheModernReligion, filed under "Pseudo-Islam Cults"
- Combat Kit To Use Against the "Quran Only" Muslims (article by a Muslim)
- The Importance of Hadith in Islam - by Professor Shahul Hameed, consultant for IslamOnline.net
- Various Issues About Hadiths - by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad
- Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam - ReligionFacts
- Islām - Encyclopædia Britannica (2010)
- Sunnite - Encyclopædia Britannica (2010)
- Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population - Pew Research Center, October 7, 2009
- 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
- Shīʿite - Encyclopædia Britannica Online (2010)
- al-Azhar Verdict on the Shia - Shi'ite Encyclopedia v2.0, Al-islam
- Gibril Haddad - The Sunna as Evidence: The Probativeness of the Sunna - Living Islam, August, 1999
- Quranism. Wikipedia. Accessed 02/02/24.
- Muhammad (Past Masters) Michael Cook. 1996 (Revision of 1983 original) 9780192876058 (ISBN10: 0192876058). (Kindle Locations 469-487). Kindle Edition.
- Tafsir Jalalayn on verse 31:1. Al Jalalayn / Jalal ad-Din al-Maḥalli and Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti. Published in 1505.
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Verse 37:1-5. Ibn Kathir d 1373.
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Verse 52:1-16. Ibn Kathir d. 1373.
- Tafsir Jalalayn on verse 52:4. Al Jalalayn / Jalal ad-Din al-Maḥalli and Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti. Published in 1505.
- 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.