One of the challenges upholders of Hadith fall into is if they categorize the Hadith besides the Quran as divine revelation or not. If they claim it is not divine revelation, then there is no obligation to uphold any Hadith besides the Quran. If they believe it is divine revelation, then this creates many potential problems.
The Only Book
The first problem that this poses is that it contradicts the Quran. The Quran informs us that the only source that the followers of the Quran are to uphold is the Quran alone.
(٤٤) وَمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ كُتُبٍ يَدْرُسُونَهَا وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ قَبْلَكَ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ
[34:44] We did not give them any other books to study, nor did we send to them before you another warner.
The Quran also informs us that the only source of law we are to uphold is the Quran alone and that God’s words in the Quran are complete and fully detailed.
أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ أَبْتَغِي حَكَمًا وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكِتَابَ مُفَصَّلًا وَالَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ مُنَزَّلٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ
[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.
وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلًا لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
[6:115] The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.
Additionally, the Quran informs us that on the Day of Judgment, the messenger’s claim against his own people is that they have deserted the Quran and not his Sunnah or the Hadith attributed to him.
(٢٧) وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَالَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا
(٢٨) يَاوَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا
(٢٩) لَقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنْسَانِ خَذُولًا
(٣٠) وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَارَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
[25:27] The day will come when the transgressor will bite his hands (in anguish) and say, “Alas, I wish I had followed the path with the messenger.
[25:28] “Alas, woe to me, I wish I did not take that person as a friend.
[25:29] “He has led me away from the message after it came to me. Indeed, the devil lets down his human victims.”
[25:30] The messenger said, “My Lord, my people have deserted this Quran.”
The Only Divine Revelation
Even according to Hadith history, the only divine revelation the prophet left was the Quran alone.
حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ يُونُسَ، حَدَّثَنَا زُهَيْرٌ، حَدَّثَنَا مُطَرِّفٌ، أَنَّ عَامِرًا، حَدَّثَهُمْ عَنْ أَبِي جُحَيْفَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قُلْتُ لِعَلِيٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه هَلْ عِنْدَكُمْ شَىْءٌ مِنَ الْوَحْىِ إِلاَّ مَا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ قَالَ وَالَّذِي فَلَقَ الْحَبَّةَ وَبَرَأَ النَّسَمَةَ مَا أَعْلَمُهُ إِلاَّ فَهْمًا يُعْطِيهِ اللَّهُ رَجُلاً فِي الْقُرْآنِ، وَمَا فِي هَذِهِ الصَّحِيفَةِ. قُلْتُ وَمَا فِي الصَّحِيفَةِ قَالَ الْعَقْلُ وَفَكَاكُ الأَسِيرِ، وَأَنْ لاَ يُقْتَلَ مُسْلِمٌ بِكَافِرٍ.
Narrated Abu Juhaifa: I asked Ali, “Do you [all] have the knowledge of any Divine Inspiration besides what is in Allah’s Book?”Ali replied, “No, by Him Who splits the grain of corn and creates the soul. I don’t think we have such knowledge, but we have the ability of understanding which Allah may endow a person with, so that he may understand the Qur’an, and we have what is written in this paper as well.” I asked, “What is written in this paper?” He replied, “(The regulations of) blood-money, the freeing of captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed for killing an infidel.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 3047
Based on the above Hadith, when Ali was asked if they had received any book from the prophet, their response was that the prophet left only the Quran and what was written on a piece of paper. For a detailed look at what this paper stated according to the Hadith, see the following article, but in summary, the writing on the supposed piece of paper left by the prophet condemned those who wrote or disseminated Hadith.
“We do not have with us anything from the prophet except the book of God, and this writing: The Sacred City, what is between ‘Aer and such and such, whoever he narrates therein a Hadith (innovation) or sheltered a propagator of Hadith (innovator), then upon him is the curse of God, the angels, and all the people. Not He will accept from him an excuse and not a ransom. [And he said] The responsibility of the Muslim (Submitter) is one. Then whoever he violated (his responsibility with) a Muslim (Submitter), then upon him is the curse of God, the angels, and all the people. Not He will accept from him an excuse and not a ransom. And whoever he turned away a people without the permission of his master, then upon him is the curse of God, the angels, and all the people. Not He will accept from him an excuse and not a ransom.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 7300
For the sake of the argument, let’s presuppose that the Hadith attributed to the prophet was divine revelation. If this was true, there is another problem which is that while the Quran was perfectly preserved per God’s promise in 15:9, there is no promise from God towards any other Hadith besides the Quran. One of the most widely transmitted Hadith, considered by many as the prime example of a mutawatir, mass transmitted, Hadith states:
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ بْنُ يَزِيدَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنِي سَعِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي أَيُّوبَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنِي بَكْرُ بْنُ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي عُثْمَانَ مُسْلِمِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: مَنْ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَيَّ مَا لَمْ أَقُلْ، فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ وَمَنِ اسْتَشَارَهُ أَخُوهُ الْمُسْلِمُ، فَأَشَارَ عَلَيْهِ بِغَيْرِ رُشْدٍ فَقَدْ خَانَهُ وَمَنْ أُفْتِيَ فُتْيَا بِغَيْرِ ثَبْتٍ، فَإِثْمُهُ عَلَى مَنْ أَفْتَاهُ.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who attributes words to me which I did not say should take his seat in the Fire. Anyone who gives his Muslim brother misguided advice when they consult him has betrayed them. If anyone gives a fatwa which is not firm, the wrong action of that rests on the one who gave the fatwa.”
Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 259
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو هِشَامٍ الرِّفَاعِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ عَيَّاشٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَاصِمٌ، عَنْ زِرٍّ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ مَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ مُتَعَمِّدًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ” .
Narrated ‘Abdullah [bin Mas’ud]: that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever lies upon me, then let him take his seat in the Fire.”
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2659
Ironically, even in this most sound and authentic Hadith, there are disputes if the prophet stated the lie must be intentional or not. This is because some narrations include the word deliberate, while others do not. For instance.
حَدَّثَنَا مَكِّيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي عُبَيْدٍ، عَنْ سَلَمَةَ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ “ مَنْ يَقُلْ عَلَىَّ مَا لَمْ أَقُلْ فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ”.
Narrated Salama: I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, “Whoever ascribes to me what I have not said then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 109
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مَعْمَرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَارِثِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، قَالَ أَنَسٌ إِنَّهُ لَيَمْنَعُنِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَكُمْ حَدِيثًا كَثِيرًا أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ مَنْ تَعَمَّدَ عَلَىَّ كَذِبًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ”.
Interestingly according to the the Hadith regarding this supposed statement from the prophet, it also makes the claim that this is the reason that Anas was apprehensive to share Hadith from the prophet,.
Narrated Anas: The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Hadiths to you is that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 108
This further reinforces that upholding religious law based on Hadith besides the Quran is a fool’s errand when even the most trusted Hadith, by the advocators of Hadith own standard, cannot even definitively state what exactly the prophet said. And this is not a trivial matter because if someone is wrong in their belief regarding this Hadith they could be sealing their seat in Hell.
(٢٩) ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَجُلًا فِيهِ شُرَكَاءُ مُتَشَاكِسُونَ وَرَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِرَجُلٍ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
[39:29] GOD cites the example of a man who deals with disputing partners (Hadith), compared to a man who deals with only one consistent source (Quran). Are they the same? Praise be to GOD; most of them do not know.
This poses another problem with this paradigm. Again presupposing that the Hadith were divine revelations, that means if a person rejects a single authentic Hadith from the messenger, they could be destined for Hell for rejecting God’s revelations.
بِئْسَمَا اشْتَرَوْا بِهِ أَنْفُسَهُمْ أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ بَغْيًا أَنْ يُنَزِّلَ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ عَلَىٰ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ عَلَىٰ غَضَبٍ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ
[2:90] Miserable indeed is what they sold their souls for, disbelieving in what God has revealed out of sheer resentment that GOD should bestow His grace upon whomever He chooses from among His servants. Consequently, they incurred wrath upon wrath. The disbelievers have incurred a humiliating retribution.
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا نُؤْمِنُ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَيَكْفُرُونَ بِمَا وَرَاءَهُ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَهُمْ قُلْ فَلِمَ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنْبِيَاءَ اللَّهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
[2:91] When they are told, “You shall believe in these revelations of GOD,” they say, “We believe only in what was sent down to us.” Thus, they disbelieve in subsequent revelations, even if it is the truth from their Lord, and even though it confirms what they have! Say, “Why then did you kill GOD’s prophets, if you were believers?”
Now consider that the compilers of the Kutub al-Sittah, the six major hadith collections considered the most important among the different Sunni Madhhabs, each rejected nearly 99% of the Hadith they collected.
If any of these hundreds of thousands of Hadith that they rejected were authentic, then they would be potentially rejecting God’s revelations and dooming themselves and their followers to Hell. Also, consider that among the Hadith compilers and Maddhabs, schools of thought, there are disputes regarding the authenticity of the Hadith that the other compilers and Maddhabs accepted. So even by their own standards, they are each condemning the other to Hell due to their disagreements and possibly even themselves if they were wrong in any of their rankings of Hadith.
But this also goes the other way as well. If a person claims that the Hadith attributed to the prophet are divine revelations, and a person was to uphold an inauthentic Hadith as authentic, they would ultimately be attributing lies to God and His messenger, which is one of the most horrendous offenses.
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ قَالَ أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ وَلَمْ يُوحَ إِلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ وَمَنْ قَالَ سَأُنْزِلُ مِثْلَ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذِ الظَّالِمُونَ فِي غَمَرَاتِ الْمَوْتِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ بَاسِطُو أَيْدِيهِمْ أَخْرِجُوا أَنْفُسَكُمُ الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ عَذَابَ الْهُونِ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَكُنْتُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِهِ تَسْتَكْبِرُونَ
[6:93] Who is more evil than one who fabricates lies and attributes them to GOD, or says, “I have received divine inspiration,” when no such inspiration was given to him, or says, “I can write the same as GOD’s revelations”? If only you could see the transgressors at the time of death! The angels extend their hands to them, saying, “Let go of your souls. Today, you have incurred a shameful retribution for saying about GOD other than the truth, and for being too arrogant to accept His revelations.
So individuals who believe that the Hadith, besides the Quran, should be upheld are playing Russian roulette with their salvation.
The Quran informs us that it should be the only book we uphold and our only source of religious law. If we consider the narrations attributed to the messenger as additional divine revelations, the problem arises that the Hadith, besides the Quran, were not perfectly preserved, with many narrations conflicting with one another even among the supposed trustworthy and authentic Hadith. So it is unclear what exactly one should follow. Additionally, if we claim that the Hadith that are attributed to the prophet are divine revelations, then we run the risk of either accepting false revelations or rejecting authentic revelations, which in either case would send the person who does such an action to Hell. The fact that the compilers and graders of Hadith had disagreements regarding the authenticity of Hadith shows that if they are wrong in a single Hadith, either rejecting an authentic Hadith or propagating a false Hadith, then they could be sealing their fate in Hell.
This is why it is not worth entertaining the possible authenticity of any Hadith besides the Quran as a source of religious law. We are best off doing exactly as God commanded in the Quran, which is to uphold the Quran alone.
[39:23] 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 whomever He wills. As for those sent astray by GOD, nothing can guide them.
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُتَشَابِهًا مَثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ