Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "Meeting the Quranic Challenge: How Muhammad's Sunna Trumps Allah's Book"


Bassam Zawadi

Shamoun's article can be found here. To get a better picture of what is going on, one should read Shamoun's article first and then proceed to read this rebuttal.

Shamoun puts forth several arguments (that he took from the Qur'anites), and they have already been sufficiently addressed here:

Shamoun says:

The first major problem with the statements of these specific reports is that the Muslim scripture claims to be the best and only hadith:

. Which Hadith, beside this, do they believe in? S. 7:185 Khalifa

These are GOD's revelations that we recite to you truthfully. In which Hadith other than GOD and His revelations do they believe? S. 45:6 Khalifa

Which Hadith, other than this, do they uphold? S. 77:50 Khalifa

Among the people, there are those who uphold baseless Hadith, and thus divert others from the path of GOD without knowledge, and take it in vain. These have incurred a shameful retribution. S. 31:6 Khalifa

GOD has revealed herein the best Hadith; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways (to Heaven and Hell). The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe therefrom, then their skins and their hearts soften up for GOD's message. Such is GOD's guidance; He bestows it upon whoever wills (to be guided). As for those sent astray by GOD, nothing can guide them. S. 39:23 Khalifa

Therefore, let Me deal with those who reject this Hadith; we will lead them on whence they never perceive. S. 68:44 Khalifa

Notice how Shamoun appeals to the translation of Rashad Khalifa, the well-known deviant who tampered with the Qur'an while translating it to suit his agenda.

Khalifa translates 7:185 as:

Which Hadith, beside this, do they believe in?

However, a better translation would be that of Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Hilali-Khan, Shakir, and Sher Ali, who translate the Arabic word baAAdahu as "after this" and not "besides this."

The same applies to the other verses.

So since the Qur'an does teach that we should refer to the Sunnah of the Prophet (see here), following the hadeeth (speech) of the Qur'an is actually following the Sunnah, and we should not follow any other hadeeth after this as religiously authoritative. 

So this answers Shamoun's argument when he appeals to 17:77, 33:62, and 35:43, for the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is ultimately the Sunnah of Allah since Allah revealed it to him.

Shamoun lies in his subheading when he said "The Quran - the only inspiration given to Muhammad", for the very verses that he goes on to quote afterwards do not say that the Qur'an was the only inspiration given to the Prophet (peace be upon him). They only say that it was an inspiration (none of them say that the Qur'an is the only inspiration given).

Shamoun's main argument is when he states:

To further justify the centrality and necessity of Muhammad's Sunna, Muslim polemicists and scholars argue that their prophet always spoke by inspiration. Thus, since he was always inspired this therefore establishes the reason why Muslims need to preserve and consult his teachings and mannerisms. As one dawagandist puts it:

{Wa-ma yantiqu 'ani-l-huwa, in huwa illa wa'hyum yu'ha (He, Muhammad, does not speak of his own desire, it is only a revelation revealed)} (53:3-4)

Prophet Muhammad did not only speak, or 'Nataqa (in the present tense: Yantiqu)' the Quran, he also spoke the Sunnah. Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn al-'Aas used to write everything the Prophet said, meaning, his Hadeeth or religious statements. Muslims from the tribe of Quraish -the Prophet's tribe- criticized Abdullah for doing this, claiming that sometimes the Prophet might say things in anger. Abdullah Ibn 'Amr asked the Prophet about it, and he said, while pointing to his mouth .

"Rather, write! For by He (Allah) in Whose Hand is my soul, nothing save the Truth comes out of it." (A Sahih Hadeeth; Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud [3646]) (Muhammad's Role in Islam, p. 35)

The problem with this position is that the hadith literature itself disproves the notion that Muhammad always spoke or acted by inspiration.

First of all, we challenge Shamoun to quote any well-respected scholar who says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ALWAYS spoke by inspiration (i.e., this includes his conversations with his friends and wives, when he conducted business transactions, etc.)

Secondly, Shamoun forgot to highlight what Shaykh Jalal Abu Al Rub said:

Prophet Muhammad did not only speak, or 'Nataqa (in the present tense: Yantiqu)' the Quran, he also spoke the Sunnah. Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn al-'Aas used to write everything the Prophet said, meaning, his Hadeeth or religious statements.

This only refers to when the Prophet (peace be upon him) is speaking about religious issues. Abdullah ibn 'Amr thought that his statements shouldn't be recorded when the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke in a time of anger. However, the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that this was false and that even if he speaks about religious matters angrily, this doesn't change the fact that they are still revelations and need to be recorded.

The rest of Shamoun's arguments crumble.

Shamoun states:

The second major problem is the assertion that the reason why Muhammad didn't allow the recording of his traditions is because of his fear that the people would confuse them with the Quran. How could anyone confuse Muhammad's words with the Quran when the latter is supposed to be unmatchable? Since Sunnis believe that the words Muhammad spoke when he wasn't reciting the Quran were not dictated to him, but were merely inspired in the sense that the ideas were from Allah but the words that he used to express them were his very own, how then could anyone confuse the two together?

In other words, wouldn't the words of the Quran be of superior quality and eloquence to Muhammad's statements since the former were divinely dictated to him which he then recited?

The Quran is not only for Arabs and the hadeeth had nothing to say about eloquence or anything else, this is an addition by Shamoun to what is not in the hadeeth. Imagine they wrote the Quran with Sunnah; how would you today explain to non-Arabic speakers who do not understand Arabic what is Quran and what is not Quran? How can the eloquence of the Quran make a difference to them if they inherited a book with the Quran and Sunnah? Also, the Arabs who came after the Sahaba would have considered both very eloquent. Perhaps they may have thought that Allah sent two eloquent books, one less than the other. The Sahaba could distinguish which is the Quran due to eloquence, but for those who came later, how can they differentiate if they inherited a book with the Quran and no Quran? What does the eloquence of the Quran and the Sahaba's knowledge of it have to do with Indian Muslims today who cannot read Arabic if they inherited a book that has the Quran and non-Quranic material in it? How can they benefit from the Sahaba knowing which is which?

There is another theory that people were forbidden to write down ahādīth in the early days because all attention should be paid to the Qur'ān and its preservation, and that later on, when there was no danger of neglecting the Qur'ān, the previous order was abrogated and permission was given to write ahādīth. (Ibn Qutaibah, Tāwīl Mukhtalif al-Hadīth, 365; al-Khattābī, Ma'ālim al-Sunan, iv, 184; Ibn al-Qayyim, Tahdhīb al-Sunan, v, 245; Ahmad Shākir, Alfiyat al-Suyūtī, 146; Al-Bā'ith al-Hathith [sic], 148-9; Maudūdī, Tarjumān, Risalat Number 1961, pp. 329-330., cited in Dr. M. M. Azami's Studies in Early Hadith Literature, p. 24)

If someone saw something written on the same page, they could erroneously conclude, if they weren't a memorizer (hafiz) of the Qur'an, that what was written was part of the Qur'an because it was written with it.  They might even wonder why the words are less eloquent than the Qur'an normally is, thus putting doubts in their mind. So, the argument can go both ways.  We're not talking about someone hearing something and then noting that it's less eloquent, but finding a written document that seems to be declaring that those writings are part of the Qur'an (even though it's less eloquent than it should be)

Shamoun said:

Moreover, doesn't Muhammad's fears show that his statements were equal to the Quran? Is this why certain reports claim that Muhammad was given something similar to or like (mithli) the Quran? But if they are equal to the words of the Muslim scripture then doesn't this meet the challenge of the Quran to produce something like it? If so wouldn't this falsify the Quran's claims that it is inimitable? After all, how can human speech no matter how inspired be equal to Allah's words which are dictated through a human agent?

Just because the hadith says that the Prophet was given something equal to the Qur'an (i.e., Sunnah), doesn't mean that it is similar in every way.

For instance, someone might say that Ahmed and Khalid got equally good marks on the exam paper. They both got 90 percent. However, it is possible that Ahmed scored higher on the essay section of the exam than Khalid, while Khalid scored higher on the multiple-choice section. Thus, just because they are equal does not necessarily imply that they are the same in every aspect.

The scholars have understood the narration:

"I was given the Quran and its equal with it (i.e., the Sunnah)"

This means that the Qur'an and Sunnah have equal authority since both came from Allah. It does not necessitate that both are equal and similar in every aspect.


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