Refuting The Argument That The Quran Is Complete; Therefore, We Don't Need Hadith

by

Bassam Zawadi

 

Quranites usually point to the verses of the Quran which state that the Quran is fully detailed and clear and that there is nothing left out of the Quran. Therefore, they ask the question, "Why do we need the Hadith?"

The Quran is clear in saying that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is here to explain and teach us the Glorious Quran as we have previously demonstrated here. So does that mean that the Quran is wrong when it says that it is clear and explains all things?

There is a fallacy in reasoning going on here. Let me give an example.

Professor X says to his students that in order to know everything for the exam they must read textbook A. The Professor says that textbook A is clear, fully detailed and enough to pass the test. However, you must do everything that textbook A commands you to do. When students read textbook A they find out that textbook A says that textbook B clarifies and explains in better detail textbook A. So what should the students do? They should read textbook B of course because text book A is CLEARLY stating that textbook B should be referred to. Textbook A clearly explains to the students that textbook B should be referred to.

Similarly the Quran, which is fully detailed and clear, clearly states that we should refer to the Prophet. How do we refer to the Prophet? Through the authentic hadith of course!

Dr. Ahmad Shafaat says...

 

b.      And We have sent down unto you (O Prophet) the book explaining (tibyanan) everything and as a guidance, and mercy, and glad tidings for those who have surrendered (to God) (16:89).

Here the words "explaining everything" are said to show that we need no source of guidance other than the Qur'an. Once again we should not abandon the use of `aql (reason) and fikr (reflection) in interpreting any verse, since the Qur'an itself tells us to use these. Now `aql and fikr immediately tell us that we cannot take this verse in an absolute sense. For we would then have to take "everything" literally. But that is obviously impossible, since there are clearly things that the Qur'an does not explain; for example, the rules of Chinese grammar or the way to fix your computer. Thus common sense requires that we qualify "everything" as something like "everything that is relevant to religion, spirituality, and morality". Reason further requires us to bring another element in the understanding of this verse and that is that many statements in a text have a context both within the text as a whole and in the circumstances in which the statements were made. This is why we find it easier to understand books written in our own time and in the society in which we live than those written in a different time and place: in the former case we know not only the context within the books themselves but also the context provided by external circumstances; whereas in the latter case we know the context within the books but we have much less knowledge of the external context. Now the Qur'an no doubt rises as far above its context as it is possible for a book written in a human language to do, but still it has both types of contexts. Hence the Qur'an explains everything only when its verses are interpreted by taking into account both the context within the book as a whole as well as the context of circumstances, practices, and events that are assumed in those statements. Now this latter context is provided partly by the Hadith.

If the above verse does not support the Qur'an-only position, it also does not fully agree with the traditionalist point of view. For, the verse clearly shows that the Qur'an views itself far more complete and self-sufficient than the traditionalist Muslims are inclined to think. In the light of this verse it is difficult to view Hadith as a second primary or independent source of guidance/law. It can only be regarded as a secondary source. This conclusion will find further support as we proceed with our study, especially in this part and Part II.

c.       There is no animal in the earth nor a flying creature with two wings but they form communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the book. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered (6:38)

The words "We have neglected nothing in the book (al-kitab)" are used by the Qur'an-only people to conclude that everything is found in the Qur'an and hence there is no need for the Hadith. But in the Qur'an the book is not always the Qur'an. Sometimes it is a heavenly book where everything that happens or exists is written down. Thus a little later in the same surah it is said: "There is not a grain (buried) in the dark depths of the earth nor anything fresh or dry but is inscribed in a manifest book" (6:59). In other verses we read: "And there is no moving (i.e. living) creature on earth but sustenance thereof is dependent on God. He knows its habitation and its repository. All is in a manifest book (kitab)" (11:6). "And the book (al-kitab) will be displayed and you (O man or Prophet) see the sinful in great terror because of what is in it (the book) and they will say, Woe to us, what a book is this! It leaves nothing small or great, but takes account thereof" (18:6).

But even if we take the words "We have neglected nothing in the book" to refer to the Qur'an, they would have to be understood like the words "the book explaining (tibyanan) everything" in the verse discussed earlier.

d.      And We have indeed coined for humanity every kind of similitude (mathal) in this Qur'an that they may reflect (39:27; see also 17:89, 18:54, 30:58).

Again, this statement should be understood in the same way as the statement that the Qur'an explains everything.

e.       Shall I seek other than God as judge when it is he who has sent down unto you the book well explained (mufassalan)? ... The word of your Lord (O Prophet) reaches perfection in truth and justice. There is none to change his words. He is the hearer, the knower (6:114-115).

A book whose revelatory statements (ayat) have been firmly formulated (uhkimat) and then explained (fussilat) by One wise and informed (11:1).

The word mufassal in 6:114-115 is understood by the Qur'an-only sect to mean "fully detailed" and with this understanding they deduce from the passage that the Qur'an is complete and perfect and therefore does not need Sunnah or Hadith in any way. But neither the statement that the Qur'an explains its verses nor the statement that the word of God is perfect in truth and justice can mean that the external context provided by the Hadith is not relevant in understanding, interpreting and applying the book of God.

Thus even the verses most favorable to the Qur'an-only people do not support their contention, or at least do not oblige us to accept their position. But now we show that there are many passages in the Qur'an which clearly do oblige us to conclude the opposite.

To begin with, if it were just a matter of delivering a book, God could have used other ways to achieve this. The book could have fallen from heaven or an angel could have brought it to the people. Or, the Qur'an could have been miraculously written down on tablets of stone or tablets of gold and then carried by someone to the people (as said to be the case with the ten commandments and the Book of Mormons). The unbelievers actually raised such possibilities:

The people of the book ask you that you cause a book to descend from heaven ... (4:153)

Had we sent down to you writing upon parchment so that they could feel it with their hands, the unbelievers would have said, This is nothing but mere magic. They say, Why has an angel not been sent down unto him? ... (6:8-9, see also17:94-95)

But God did not follow any such mechanical method. Instead he revealed the Qur'an through the heart of the messenger, stressing that a messenger sent to human beings has to be a human being (2:97, 26:194, 42:24). Clearly, then it was not simply a question of delivering a book but the human heart and the person of the messenger also plays an important part in the process of delivery.

There are other verses showing that the Prophet's involvement in his work as the messenger was much deeper than that of a mere deliveryman. The Qur'an says:

Have We not opened your breast (O Prophet). And lifted from you the burden that was weighing down your back (94:1-3).

From these verses it becomes clear that a great deal happened within the soul of the Prophet before he embarked on his mission. Simply conveying a message as a postman need not have involved such inner back-breaking struggles. (Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, The Sacred Hadith Project, Chapter 2: The Message and the Messenger, Source)

 

Taqi Usmani says...

 

Does the Holy Qur'ân Need Explanation?

Before concluding this discussion, it is pertinent to answer a question often raised with reference to the explanation of the Holy Qur'ân. The question is whether the Holy Qur'ân needs anyone to explain its contents? The Holy Qur'ân in certain places seems to claim that its verses are self-explanatory, easy to understand and clear in their meanings. So, any external explanation should be uncalled for. Why, then, is the prophetic explanation so much stressed upon?

The answer to this question is found in the Holy Qur'ân itself. A combined study of the relevant verses reveals that the Holy Qur'ân deals with two different types of subjects. One is concerned with the general statements about the simple realities, and it includes the historic events relating to the former prophets and their nations, the statement of Allâh's bounties on mankind, the creation of the heavens and the earth, the cosmological signs of the divine power and wisdom, the pleasures of the Paradise and the torture of the Hell, and subjects of similar nature.

The other type of subjects consists of the imperatives of Sharî'ah, the provisions of Islâmic law, the details of doctrinal issues, the wisdom of certain injunctions and other academic subjects.

The first type of subject, which is termed in the Holy Qur'ân as Zikr (the lesson, the sermon, the advice) is, no doubt, so easy to understand that even an illiterate rustic can benefit from it without having recourse to anyone else. It is in this type of subjects that the Holy Qur'ân says:

 

And surely We have made the Qur'ân easy for Zikr (getting a lesson) so is there anyone to get a lesson? (54:22)

The words "for Zikr" (getting a lesson) signify that the easiness of the Holy Qur'ân relates to the subjects of the first nature. The basic thrust of the verse is on getting lesson from the Qur'ân and its being easy for this purpose only. But by no means the proposition can be extended to the inference of legal rules and the interpretation of the legal and doctrinal provisions contained in the Book. Had the interpretation of even this type of subjects been open to everybody irrespective of the volume of his learning, the Holy Qur'ân would have not entrusted the Holy Prophet with the functions of "teaching" and "explaining" the Book. The verses quoted earlier, which introduce the Holy Prophet as the one who "teaches" and "explains" the Holy Qur'ân, are explicit on the point that the Book needs some messenger to teach and interpret it. Regarding the type of verses which require explanation, the Holy Qur'ân itself says,

 

And these similitudes We mention before the people. And nobody understands them except the learned. (29:43)

 

Thus, the "easiness" of the subjects of the first type does not exclude the necessity of a prophet who can explain all the legal and practical implications of the imperatives contained in the Holy Qur'ân. (Taqi Usmani, The Authority of Sunnah, Chapter 2: The Scope of the Prophetic Authority, Source)

 

 

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