The Dangers of Following Hadith Without Understanding

Ibn Abi Zayd al-Maliki reported that Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah said:

“Hadith is a cause for misguidance except for the fuqaha (Jurists)”

 

Reflection: It is fitting to begin the first post of the blog with this quote, as it shows the importance of putting things in their right place, which is something I hope the blog will facilitate. Much harm has come about by people applying the ayats of the Qur’an, the ahadith and the sayings of the scholars, in a wrong context. They speak about things without understanding and often without any basic knowledge of arabic. Al-Asma’i was of the opinion that someone who studies hadith without learning arabic grammar is considered among the forgers of hadith [1], and similar opinions have been reported from other scholars. Despite these warnings from the earlier scholars, this is a widespread tendency in our time on social media like Facebook, and we should be very careful not to contribute to this in any way. Likewise, one will even find islamic speakers today who quote ahadith to prove a specific point, going against what generations of jurists have said about the matter.

Some principles worth being mindful of: One of my teachers mentioned that one should generally be skeptical when a person quotes fiqh from a book of hadith or tafsir. This is because the hukm given in light of a specific hadith or ayah might be correct in terms of that particular text, at the particular time it was said/revealed. However, there’s the possibility that other texts might elaborate on the matter, specify it to a particular context or might even have abrogated it (and this might not be mentioned in the book). This last point is what Ibn ‘Uyaynah intended with his warning (as explained by Ibn Abi Zaid).

Another point worth mentioning is that even though a hadith is considered authentic in terms of it’s isnad (chain of transmission), it could still be rejected because of it’s matn (text) according to the principle: “If you encounter a hadith contrary to reason, or to what has been established as correctly reported, or against the accepted principles, then you should know that it is forged.” [2]

All this goes on to show the importance of having a comprehensive understanding, before following a hadith by itself. Such undestanding is only attained by the scholars and they should be our reference point in these matters.

 

[1] Yaqut, Mu’jam al-Ubada’ (As cited in “Hadith Literature”, Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi)

[2] Suyuti, Tadrib (As cited in “Hadith Literature”, Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi)

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