A Quick Conversation on Hadith: Its Science and Logic

While discussing with a sister the topic of Hadith and its key role in the practice of Islam, she responded as follows (edited for publication):

“Ok Yunus, you might be right. I’ll give you one example regarding a hadith I used to come across frequently in hadith books (that’s all I read at the time!).
The hadith says:
“The Prophet (SAW) used to love eating garlic, so much that he (SAW) ate it all the time and recommended that others eat it for their health. He (SAW) also loved the taste of it…

Now another hadith I ran into said that “The Prophet (SAW) hated garlic (i.e., the taste of it) but wouldn’t forbid eating it: he (SAW) simply would not eat it, and he (SAW) didn’t mind if others ate it, so long as it was not before attending the masjid.”

And lastly, the final one I came across said, “The Prophet (saw) would not eat garlic, and he (SAW) told others not to eat it either.”

Now who could believe the hadith collections after seeing such contradiction?
Our religion was not made to be complicated! I hate how humans messed up the translation of the Prophet’s (saw) life and made our religion harder and look bad.

Explain this please!”

The sister had a point. Today, many people get confused when they see contradictory messages within the deen. And sheytan loves to use such confusion to stir up fitna, create doubt, and whisper to the Muslim to encourage him or her to interpret hadith in the fashion that suites their own desires.

As a response to the sisters excellent question, I wrote the following. Perhaps others may find it useful as well. For this reason, I share it here (edited for publication):

“Good question! This topic is a very deep one but unfortunately I can only afford a quick response as I am now at work. Before I get started, let me say that my own understanding of the hadith you referenced is that the Prophet (SAW) said the angels don’t like the smell of onions and garlic and so not to eat onions and garlic before attending the masjid or doing a group zhikr.

However, to better understand your own line of questioning, there are two things we need to know about hadith:

1. Hadith can be fabricated (meaning, like you mention, some evil or self-centered people added their own hadiths). This is the problem with most religions: they were changed over time. However, if one studies the deeper science of hadith collection, you quickly find out that hadith have ‘rankings’ of weak, sound, strong, and authentic (and maybe some others). This is because the collectors of hadith researched the chains of transmission through known “non-liars.” For example, they met a shaykh of good character and reknowned for his adab (manners), ethics, and following the shariah. They know he is good. They ask him about any hadith he knows, and he tells about the hadith and they ask then: “Who did YOU learn it from?” And based on the known character/ethics/shariah observance etc of the transmitter(s) they would then rank the hadith. If a hadith had only a small number of transmitters, the strength of the hadith was reduced, and if it had a lot, the strength was increased. Now, you should know that more than once the hadith compilers came upon a hadith that they very much felt was a good and true hadith. But because the transmitter was of questionable character, they excluded the hadith from the collection. My point here is to illustrate the soundness of the various hadith collections (such as Tirmidhi, Muslim, Bukhari, Ibn Majah, etc.)

2: Hadith are collections of what he (SAW) said and did. However, many times, the context of the hadith is removed. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that “beginners” not simply run to the hadith collections. This is because they risk picking and choosing hadith to suite their own desires and needs. Many groups of Muslims do that today (and end up making other Muslims such as yourself very disgruntled!).

Now in answer to your question, I want to illustrate that it is possible for all three hadith to be perfectly true.

For example, you can legitimately tell two different people different things about a particular subject. Now later, when these people are asked about what you said, they both reveal it. However, because you were telling each something according to your own relationship with them, WHAT you said differs.

For example: If you taught at the masjid, and you disliked garlic, you would say: “Don’t eat garlic and onions before coming to the Masjid”
You then go home, and guess what? Of course: you STILL dislike garlic, so you turn to your husband (with whom you are intimate) and you say: “I HATE garlic, don’t you EVER eat it!!!!!!”

HA! See? This simple example very quickly explains that two of the three hadith you asked about could very well be accurate.

Now to PROVE that all three hadith could very well be real and possible: (just to restore your faith in the hadith): Think of how often your food preferences changed over the course of your life? I remember as a child, I HATED, HATED tomatoes!!!! I also know many people LOVEEEEEEEEEED Ice cream and candies and sweets as children!!!!

But… After growing up, I find that now I LOVE tomatoes and all these people who used to love ice cream and sweets HATE them because they developed lactose intolerance and heart issues ;-)

So, you see, when applying the hadith, one must understand the context in which Rasool (saw) said the utterance, to whom, and what was the Hikma behind it.

God bless you for having spent the time to read this short note and inshAllah it will help remove any doubt you might have harbored regarding why some hadith appear contradictory.

Ma Salaama and Barakallahu Feekum,
Br. Yunus

The power of “Why”

Beliefs are part of every one of us. We have beliefs, whether we like it or not. Those beliefs not only affect our emotions and thoughts, but they also dictate how we act. We see the world, as well as other people, through them. A racist, for one (bad) example, sees others through dark belief glasses! An open-minded person, who believes that all people are created equal, regardless of color or race, has “normal”, transparent glasses. Our ultimate goal really is to see the world through this type of glasses: Transparent, clear and clean. Hopefully our glasses, besides being transparent, also correct our sight distortions. We can be born with seeing problems, major or minor, but no one will ever be born with corrective lenses. Those we can acquire over time, using the right knowledge, tools and resources.

Beliefs are part of every one of us. So we need to make sure that our beliefs are not damaging our vision. Seeing is a great gift. Your eyes are an asset that you would not exchange for billions of dollars. What would you do with all the money in the world, if you can’t see the world! However the eyes of the mind are far more important than the eyes in our face. We know of many great men and women who were blind, but their blindness was the small, minor one. They could see clear with their hearts and their minds, and this is what really counts. This is what made them great people. Our beliefs shape this inner eye, which in return shape our actions and reactions, our life, and our whole destiny. So we basically should care about the accuracy of our beliefs as much as we do about the accuracy of sight. Who wants to see things as they are not? We can safely say that those who don’t care if what they see is true or not, accurate or not, are insane, superficial or naïve. Those who see things as they are but pretend to see them as they are not are even worse.

So I think we can easily come down to this conclusion: we have to examine our beliefs. Inaccurate, unreal beliefs do us harm, and no good. This has another name: seeking the truth. Distorted vision simply means that what we see is not true. Being concerned with the truth is the key. It is also the door. It is the way.

Submit to start

Deciding that Islam was the only religion that was right for me was nothing like an end. It was just a conclusion. A conclusion is not meant to close, what it does is rather build a solid foundation. Without a solid foundation nothing can be built. And to build is the only way to make things last. It’s the way to eternity!

The end is dead, the end is death. We describe a closed road that leads to nothing as being “dead-end”. If accepting Islam was supposed to be an end, I wouldn’t have accepted it. I accepted it because it spoke pro-life, pro-freedom, pro-beauty, and pro-common sense.

It was just a start. It pointed me to a reliable source. A source that I can trust and ask for guidance in the journey of life. It didn’t end questions. Questions are part of the journey. I wouldn’t take Islam for a religion if it suppressed questions and questioning.

I am still on the road. No destination has been reached yet. I have the message of Islam as a map, a guide book that I keep handy. Without it the journey could be depressing and scary, and indeed very mysterious!

Typical Western stereotypes

I used to think and say that one of the biggest failures of the Western civilization is its inability or unwillingness to understand and appreciate Islam. I wonder how did such a civilization so fond of knowledge and scientific (meaning, among other things, objective) research misunderstand this religion when the resources are this easily accessible. Of course there are too many honest westerners who didn’t just listen to the bad press about Islam and they did their homework and declared their appreciation of the religion and the culture, and many even converted to Islam and accepted it as a universal truth, but this still seems to be the exception.

The reason I am mentioning this issue today is a recent online experience that I had with the very common accusations that Islam is so used to get in this culture. I was reading a post by Donald Trump in Trump University blog (it’s really good, check it out), and in one of the comments, a reader says things about how Muslims are involved in wars and killing Christians, etc. Frankly, I was irritated and decided to comment on the comment, and I am copying here what I have said. I was somewhat overwhelmed and wasn’t sure how to give a brief but good answer. I just wrote what came to my mind, without planning. You can see the post written by Trump and the comments, including mine and the one I was replying to, here.


“how you explain the 1000 years of war in Middle East you*re part of?”

“So the question is who what envy as long that as far as Pakistan the christians are killed?”

I know this was not a post about religions. But reading the comment written by our friend Daniela and approved by the moderators of the blog made me think of commenting on her comment.

First, I did my best to understand the comment. English is not my first language and I cannot know if this is what caused the difficulty I had in understanding the comment. So hopefully I didn’t misunderstand what Daniela exactly meant.

I am a Muslim and I know exactly why I have chosen to be Muslim.

Daniela is talking about the 1000 years of war in the Middle East Muslims have been part of. The question gives me the impression that our friend is implying that Muslims loves war. Then the second question is implying the same, it’s talking about Christians being killed in Pakistan.

It can take a book to reply to these questions. I will try to use my “right to answer” as a Muslim in the most brief of ways.

I suggest that our friend be open minded to the truth and the truth only. We all have been raised up believing certain things about “the Others”. We should read and learn and find out for ourselves how true is anything we believe in by listening to the media or whoever.

I suggest our friend read a translation of the Quran itself, the holy book of Muslims, which we have in the original language of the book, Arabic, and of which we have only ONE version, and see what it says about war and other values. The Quran states, for one example, that killing ONE SOUL is like killing all of humanity. We as Muslims are not allowed to go war UNLESS WE ARE BEING ATTACKED.

Now here is something else that can be a pleasant surprise. Muslims are ordered, if going to war, not to kill a woman, a child, an elderly, a person retired to worship God, no matter what religion they follow, and not even to destroy a tree or destroy a house. They are only allowed to kill those in direct war with them.

Muslims were killed, by thousands, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Sometimes up to 8000 Muslims were killed at once by Christians. We, Muslims, never said that Christians killed us. We are ordered in the Quran never to accuse one person of what another person did, even if they belonged to the same group.

Muslims paved the way for the civilization that we are living today. All that is found in history books for whoever wants to read and learn. I will briefly mention that sciences like Algebra and Chemistry take their names from Arabic, they were born in the time of the Islamic civilization. The Islamic rule in Spain, which lasted 800 years, is known as the Golden Age for Jews and Christians. Arabs and Muslims were the first in history to invent hospitals, the first was established in Baghdad.

I can’t really go on, it takes books. I would just like to remind Daniela and others who think that Muslims are the only terrorists that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki alone more than a quarter of a million CIVILIANS were killed. This was not done by Muslims. In the dark ages of Europe, scientists were BURNT alive if they said something that the priests didn’t approve!!!!

I would love that everyone will consider carefully what they believe about whose who are different from them, especially what they believe about Islam. They are keeping themselves from knowing and understanding a treasure.

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