The motte-and-bailey fallacy (named after the motte-and-bailey castle) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy where an arguer conflates two positions that share similarities, one modest and easy to defend (the “motte”) and one much more controversial (the “bailey”). The arguer advances the controversial position, but when challenged, they insist that they are only advancing the more modest position. This allows an arguer to guard their indefensible position by only addressing their less egregious position when challenged.
The motte-and-bailey fallacy is a tactic often used by upholders of Hadith. The Hadith are full of heinous and disparaging narrations attributed to the prophet and his companions that clearly contradict the verses of God in the Quran. These Hadith constitute the bailey, which are the controversial narrations that one is forced to accept if they ascribe to Hadith as a legitimate source of religious law. But when upholders of Hadith are pressed on their justification for upholding the Hadith, they only discuss the less controversial narrations, their motte.
A typical favorite claim that Hadith followers make is the claim that without Hadith how would one know how to do Salat? Ironically, there is no single Hadith that explains in detail how to perform the Salat.
Below is a small sample of the foul and nonsensical Hadith (the bailey) that Hadith followers prefer to avoid addressing.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 278]: The prophet said that Moses had enlarged testicles then one day while taking a bath a stone ran away with Moses’ clothes, and Moses ran naked after the stone and beat the stone to get his clothes back, and the people who observed this witnessed that Moses did not have a defect in his body.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 4557]: You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind because you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 3167]: The prophet threatens to evict the Jews from their homes and land if they don’t become Muslims
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 6922]: Ali used to burn atheists alive and said that the prophet ordered to kill apostates.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 2818]: The prophet said, “Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords.”
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 610]: The prophet took outpost outside villages, and if he heard the Call to Prayer (Adhan), he would postpone the attack, and if he didn’t hear the Call to Prayer, he would attack them.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 2819]: The prophet said that Solomon had sex with 100 wives in the same night.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 268]: It was claimed by the prophet’s companions that he used to have sexual relations with all of his wives each night and that he had the sexual drive of 30 men.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 232]: the clothes of the prophet were always covered with semen.
- [Sahih Muslim 2240b]: He who killed a gecko with the first stroke for him are ordained one hundred virtues, and with the second one less than that and with the third one less than that.
- [Sahih Muslim 2865a]: The prophet said, “Allah commanded me to burn the Quraish.”
- [Sahih Muslim 1300]: The prophet commanded to wash oneself with an odd number of stones after answering the call of nature.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 3012]: The prophet authorized to attack villages, even if women and children could be harmed in the attack.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 3579]: The prophet secretly conspired an assassination and authorized lying to carry out the attack for someone who wrote mean poems about him
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 3583]: The prophet used to deliver his Khutba while leaning against a trunk of a date-palm tree. When he had the pulpit made and used it instead, the trunk started crying and the Prophet went to it, rubbing his hand over it (to stop its crying).
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 5639 & 169]: Once, when there was not enough water for everyone to perform ablution, so water started gushing out of the prophet’s fingers until one thousand four hundred men all performed ablution.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 3579]: The prophet’s meals used to glorify Allah while he ate, and this glorification was heard by the companions of the prophet.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 4712 & 335]: All of God’s other prophets and messengers are inferior compared to Muhammad.
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 5686]: The prophet recommended people to drink camel urine
- [Sahih al-Bukhari 29]: The majority of people in Hell are women because they were ungrateful to their husbands.
The Quran informs the believers that the Quran is complete, fully detailed, and should be our only source of religious law. Additionally, it references sources like that of the Hadith that individuals uphold besides that of the Quran as fabrications by human and jinn devils.
[6:112] We have permitted the enemies of every prophet—human and jinn devils—to inspire in each other fancy words, in order to deceive. Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. You shall disregard them and their fabrications.
[6:113] This is to let the minds of those who do not believe in the Hereafter listen to such fabrications, and accept them, and thus expose their real convictions.
[6:114] Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt.
[6:115] The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَا لِكُلِّ نَبِيٍّ عَدُوًّا شَيَاطِينَ الْإِنْسِ وَالْجِنِّ يُوحِي بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ زُخْرُفَ الْقَوْلِ غُرُورًا وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ مَا فَعَلُوهُ فَذَرْهُمْ وَمَا يَفْتَرُونَ
وَلِتَصْغَىٰ إِلَيْهِ أَفْئِدَةُ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَلِيَرْضَوْهُ وَلِيَقْتَرِفُوا مَا هُمْ مُقْتَرِفُونَ
أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ أَبْتَغِي حَكَمًا وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكِتَابَ مُفَصَّلًا وَالَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ مُنَزَّلٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ
وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلًا لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
وَإِنْ تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ