Divine Standards, Collective Revival, Hadith Preservation

Issue 861 » September 25, 2015 - Zul-Hijja 11, 1436

Living The Quran

Divine Standards
Abasa (The Frowning) - Chapter 80: Verses 1-4

"He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him. How could you tell? He might have sought to purify himself. He might have been reminded and the reminder might have profited him."

The divine instructions which followed this incident are much more far reaching than appears at first sight. They are indeed a miracle. These instructions, the principles they seek to establish and the change they aim to accomplish in human society are, perhaps, the most important miracle of Islam. But the instructions are made here as a direct comment on a single incident. It is part of the Quranic method to make use of isolated incidents in order to lay down fundamental and permanent principles. The principles established here and their practical effects, as seen in the early Islamic society, are indeed the essence of Islam. They constitute the truth which Islam, and all divine religions that preceded it, seek to plant in human life.

The point at issue here is not merely how an individual or a class of people should be treated. This is indeed the significance of the Quranic comment on the incident itself, taken in isolation. The heart of the matter is, however, something far more important. It is: how should people evaluate everything in their lives? From where should they derive the values and standards necessary for such an evaluation?

What the divine instructions contained in the opening part of the surah seek to establish is that people must base their values and standards on divine considerations, laid down by God. No social circumstances, traditions or practices, nor any concept of life derived from them should be allowed either to encumber or determine these values and standards. There is no denying the difficulties involved in conducting human life on the basis of values and standards laid down by the Divine Being, free from the pressure of all worldly considerations.

If we consider the pressure of society on the individual’s feelings and attitudes, and the weight of considerations to be taken into account such as traditional values, family and social ties, as well as the values that prevail in one’s own environment, we can appreciate the difficulty of carrying out these divine instructions. Our appreciation of such difficulty is even greater when we remember that in order to convey it to people, Muhammad himself (peace be upon him) needed this special directive, or rather censure. Reference to this is sufficient to convey the gravity of the matter. For Muhammad (peace be upon him) attained greater heights of sublimity and greatness than any man can aspire to. Yet the fact that special instructions were required for him to convey a certain principle makes that principle greater than greatness, subliminally unique.

This is, indeed, a true description of the principle established here, namely that mankind should derive their values and standards from the Divine Being, after they have freed themselves from the pressure of their social set-up with all its values and standards.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 18, pp. 37, 38

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Collective Revival

Tajdid originates in the authority of a renowned hadith: "God will raise for this Ummah, at the head of each century, someone who will rejuvenate for them their religion." [Mishkat]

Commentators have analyzed almost every word of this hadith. The key term here is yujaddid, from the root verb, jaddada, to renew something. Mujaddid (renewer) is one who renews and revives neglected aspects of the religion to their original state. Restoring and disseminating the purity of those principles among people and their acting upon them is the main task of the renewer.

The hadith under review also implies that Islam will not die nor become redundant and that God will help this ummah to be on the right path and reconnect with the original messages in its endeavours to face new challenges.

The word mujaddid (renewer), although occuring in the singular, also applies to a multitude. Tajdid may thus be attempted by one person, a group, party, or movement. Notwithstanding the emergence of individual renewers that featured prominently in the past, modern interpretations of tajdid favour collective endeavour by groups of 'ulama', specialists and scholars in various disciplines. One renewer may be a jurist, another a political scientist, yet another an economist, and so forth - their collective impact and action tend to acquire renewed prominence in modern times.

Compiled From:
"The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur'anic Principle of Wasatiyyah" - Hashim Kamali, p. 221


Hadith Preservation

It would take a cosmic level of cynicism to accuse Muslim scholars of feigning entirely their commitment to preserving the Prophet's Sunnah and concocting the vast body of Hadiths out of whole cloth to justify received practice. This was, of course, precisely the level of cynicism exhibited by several generations of Western scholars of Islam, many of whom claimed that all of early Islamic history was an illusion conjured up by Sunni orthodoxy in the 800s. The most recent Western scholarship on Hadiths has shown that such wide-scale forgery was highly improbable. Textual analysis and archaeological evidence can take us back reliably to within a century of the Prophet's death, and as far back as that horizon the Sunni science of Hadith transmission and law seems to have been an honest if hotly contested undertaking. As for the first crucial century of Islam, beyond its broad outlines, it lies out of historical sight. For those who ponder it, the content of its veiled chamber are determined by presupposition, whether belief in Islam or scepticism about religion, whether Sunni or Shiite.

As Muslim scholars themselves admitted, Hadith forgery in the generations after the Prophet was widespread, and many Hadiths were certainly concocted for political or sectarian causes or in an effort to help make exegetical sense of the Quran. But we are justified in granting individual Hadiths the historical benefit of the doubt until given some reason to think otherwise. It is not unlikely that many Hadiths really can be traced back to the generation of the Companions and represent their personal recollections of Muhammad's teachings. When looking at the lengthy and unexciting chapters on ablution, prayer or inheritance in mainstay Hadith collections, it seems more plausible that the Prophet actually made many of these statements than that each Hadith was made up to suit some boring purpose.

Compiled From:
"Misquoting Muhammad" - Jonathan A.C. Brown, pp. 176, 177