Chapter 7: Prohibition of Transcribing the Hadith.
)بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالزُّبُرِ وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ(
(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Scriptures; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may reflect. (Holy Qur’an, 16:44)
Without a doubt, the art of writing separates the truth from falsehood, maintains agreements, and reminds people of what has passed and many other important things. Even during the pre-Islamic era, writing was a rare but honored skill. According to Ibn Sa’d, “The accomplished among them in the time before Islam were those who wrote Arabic, mastered swimming, and mounted archery.”(1) Various schools in Mecca, Madinah and Taif taught the difficult art of the Arabic script.
When Islam came, its teachings prioritized writing and the advancement of knowledge and imagery of books and writing permeate the verses of the Qur’an. One of the first verses which Allah revealed was, “[He] Who taught by the use of the pen,”(2) thus making the pen as an instrument used for a binding oath, such as in Surah al-Qalam, “By the pen and by what they write.”(3) Therefore, despite the difficulties of writing at that time, gradually the jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic) society slowly became literate.
After establishing the mosque in Madinah, one of the priorities of the Prophet had was to appoint a teacher, Abdullah Ibn Sa’d al-Aas to teach reading and writing. This skill was so important that the Prophet even allowed some of the captives taken during the Battle of Badr to earn their freedom in exchange for teaching ten Muslims how to read and write.(4) Between forty-three and forty-five scribes recorded the revelations of the Qur’an at the Prophet’s request, and in addition, he would constantly urge the people to “write (uktubu)”(5) and “document (qayyidu),”(6) and would advise, “Help yourself to memorize by writing.”(7)
Most significant, the Prophet commanded that his hadith (sayings and actions) be written down. He instructed the Muslims, “Write everything that comes out of my mouth, for by the One whose Hands my soul is in, nothing comes from it except the truth.”(8) Abu Bakr narrates from the Holy Prophet that, “Whoever writes down a piece of knowledge from me or a hadith will receive ajr (reward) as long as it (the writing) exists.”(9)
A companion, Abdullah Ibn al-Aas used to put everything the Prophet said in writing to such an extent that some companions of the Prophet ordered him to stop doing so because they felt that the Prophet was just a human being whose utterance should not be recorded. He consulted with the Prophet and the Prophet replied, “Yes, write down everything that I say.”(10) Similarly, on the authority of Rafi Ibn Khadij we read that:
The Prophet of Allah passed by us one day and we were talking. He said, “What are you talking about?” We replied, “What we heard from you.” He said, “So talk about it, but whoever deliberately attributes false statements to me reserves his place in the hell-fire,” and then the people stopped talking.
The Prophet asked why they were not talking anymore, and they replied that they had stopped talking because of his serious words. He said, “I did not say not to talk. I said, ‘speak, but speak the truth.’ I only ask you not to attribute false statements to me.” They said to him, “O Prophet of God, we hear things from you, should we write them down?” He said, “Yes, by all means, write them down. By thy Lord, everything that comes out of my mouth is the truth.”(11)
In addition, the Prophet emphasized the transmission of his teachings through other means. He repeated twice saying, “Therefore, the witness must inform the absent,”(12) regarding those who were not present to hear his words. He also encouraged the Muslims to memorize his sayings in order to transmit them and as a way to verify their authenticity. In this regard, the Prophet would say, “Whoever memorizes and conveys forty hadith from my tradition, I will admit him into my intercession on the Day of Judgment,”(13) and “Whoever from my ummah memorizes forty hadith, Allah will raise him on the Day of Judgment as a scholar.”(14)
Despite all this significance and attention given to recording the hadith of the Prophet, during the reign of the first three caliphs, the Muslims were absolutely forbidden from recording any hadith.(15) In the words of Lady Aishah:
My father collected the hadith of the Messenger of Allah and they numbered five hundred. He spent the night turning back and forth. He saddened me and I said to him, “Are you turning around because of pain, or because of bad news which you have received?” In the morning, he said to me, “Bring me the hadith of the Prophet which I have left with you.” I brought him all the hadith. At this point, he asked for fire and burned all the hadith in the fire. I said to him, “Why do you burn these hadith?” He said, “I fear that I will die while I have these hadith. I took them from the man I trusted, but maybe some hadith are not his or maybe the sayings are not authentic.”(16)
The excuse proffered in the above quote is that the hadith might not have been authentic. However, Abu Bakr could hardly have had reason to doubt traditions that he heard with his own ears and from other companions whom he himself says he trusted.
This position becomes even more difficult to accept when coupled with the idea subsequently introduced by scholars, such as Ibn Hajar that Allah did not allow the companions to lie or make mistakes!
In later times, in order to support Abu Bakr’s action, a false saying was cited on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri stating, “Whoever took from me other than the Qur’an and wrote it down, let him erase it.”(17) Aside from the fact that this hadith contradicts previous hadith in which the Prophet ordered the Muslims to write down his traditions and the spirit of the Holy Qur’an which encourages writing, if this hadith was authentic then Abu Bakr would certainly have been aware of it and would never have narrated any hadith.
To placate the people, Abu Bakr said, “Between us and you is the book of Allah, so follow the lawful in it and refrain from the prohibited.” Across the board, both Shi’a and Sunni scholars believe that the Qur’an alone does not suffice for a comprehensive explanation of Islam and it is in need of the Prophet’s explanation as a supplement.
Even more, the verses of the Qur’an fall into many categories, such as mujmal (having equal possibilities) and mubayan (clearly recognized); muhkam (fundamental or basic) and mutashabih (vague); aam (general) and khass (specific); and naasikh (abrogating) and mansukh (abrogated). It is for this reason that Allah did not leave the Muslims without a guide to the proper interpretation thereof. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an,
“Whoever obeys the Prophet has obeyed Allah,”(18)
“Your Companion (Muhammad) errs not, nor is he led astray, nor does he speaks of his own inclination.”(19)
Similarly, the Prophet said, “By Allah, I have commanded and admonished and prohibited things, and just like the Qur’an, you have to follow what I say,”(20) and “Verily, I have been given the Qur’an and something equivalent to it [the hadith].”(21) One of his final injunctions to the Muslims was, “I am leaving among you the Book of Allah and my family (itrati);” “itrati,” also refers to the hadith of the Prophet and his family.
In a hadith narrated in the Sunni books, the Messenger of Allah prophesized:
It is imminent that a man will narrate from me while leaning on his couch and then he will say, ‘Between us and between you is the Book of Allah. When we find something permissible in it, we will follow it, and when we find something impermissible in it, we will refrain from it.’(22)
‘Umar continued the hadith precedent of Abu Bakr during his caliphate. However, at one point, he consulted the companions of the Prophet about recording hadith and they encouraged him to do so. After considering the matter for a month, ‘Umar then declared:
My intention was to record hadith but then I realized that some people (nations) before you kept writing down the sayings of their prophets, and kept reading them; as a result, they forgot the book of Allah (their scriptures). I fear that the same will happen if I order you to document the sayings of the Prophet, or if I do it myself. I do not want to make the Book of Allah a victim here because of the hadith; nothing has precedence over the Book of Allah. (23)
He then wrote to the Ansar, “Whoever has anything should erase it.”(24) Even afterwards ‘Umar decreed, “These (the hadith of the Prophet) are just like the Jewish scripts (mushnat), and they must be burnt.”(25) He then gathered all of the hadith written on leather, tablets, and pieces of wood and ordered them to be burnt.(26)
However, it is important to note that the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) did not neglect their scriptures (Holy Revelations) in favor of the sayings of their prophets [hadith]. Their problem was not that they were overly fastidious in transcribing the sayings of their prophets. Instead, they neglected almost all of the traditions of their prophets, as well as the commands of their Divinely sent books (i.e. the Tawrah). They also refused to follow the successors that their prophets named, such as Asif Ibn Barkhiyah, the successor of Prophet Sulayman, and Yushaa, the successor of Prophet Musa.
As agreed by both schools of thought, the Messenger of Allah forewarned that the Muslims would follow the pattern of previous generations when he said, “You will follow the footsteps and tradition of the nations before you step by step.”(27) Since the first three caliphs enforced the policy of not recording the sayings, fabricators such as Ka’ab al-Ahbar (28) and Tamim Ibn Aus al-Dari (29) flourished and spread thousands of false hadith, forever affecting Islam.
Furthermore, fearing that they would spread the sayings of the Prophet outside Madinah, the second caliph summoned many of the prominent companions, such as Abdullah Ibn Hudaafah, Ibn Masud, (30) Abu Dardah,(31) Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, (32) and Uqbaah Ibn Aamir to Madinah and rebuked them saying, “What is it that you have done! You spread the hadith of the Prophet in other places. You have to stay here (in Madinah) and you will not depart or separate from me as long as I live.” Thus, they were confined to Madinah until ‘Umar was assassinated.(33)
Al-Shibi says that the Muhajireen from the Quraysh despised ‘Umar for confining them to Madinah, so that they would not spread the hadith elsewhere. The situation reached to a point that some of the men would ask permission to accompany the ghazw (military dispatch) and ‘Umar would tell them, “No, you had your share with the Prophet, and you had enough reward for that, so today it is better for you that you do not see the world and for the world not to see you either.”(34)
In contrast, others who were not known for their honesty in conveying the hadith of the Prophet, such as al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah, Hanbal Ibn Abu Sufyan, and Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh were permitted to travel wherever they wanted, even to the conquered lands of Iraq and Persia. However, those who were known for their integrity in transmitting the hadith of the Prophet were forced to remain behind.
Unlike Abu Bakr who expressed fear that the hadith he possessed were not authentic, ‘Umar argued that the hadith should be destroyed because the people might follow them instead of the Qur’an or that they might confuse them with the Qur’an. However, the true hadith hardly led people away from the Qur’an. In fact, the hadith contain an explanation of the Qur’an itself and the more people know about the hadith, the more one would heed to the Qur’an. Allah assigned the Prophet to “make clear to humankind what has been sent down to them,”(35) hence the hadith are extremely vital to understanding the Qur’an.
Similarly, the fear that people might mix up the Qur’an and the hadith is also difficult to understand, since even the average modern reader can readily distinguish between the text of the Qur’an and that of a hadith. The style of the Qur’an is inimitable among human beings and the Qur’an itself says that it is a miracle, and challenges human beings to produce one verse like it – a challenge that the Prophet never issued for his hadith. Such a fear, were it genuine, would imply a severe lack of confidence in the reasoning abilities of the sahabahs (companions) who had the additional advantage of hearing the Prophet himself speak.
Muslim analysts believe that the real reason why there was a calculated ploy to prevent the hadith from being recorded was that there were innumerable hadith about the virtues of the household of the Prophet and their right to the leadership after the Holy Prophet’s death. Had these sayings circulated in written form amongst the predominant sahih books then they would have undermined the political legitimacy of the first three caliphs.
As a result, the sad reality developed that, although, the hadith are second only to the Qur’an in Islamic legislation, many authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammad were lost, while many others were forged.
The situation degenerated to the level where Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan ordered Kab al-Ahbar to sit in the mosque and invent hadith to read to the people, and no one could disprove what he said because no written sources existed among those masses. It was not until the time of the Umayyah caliph, ‘Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz (99 ah) that Muslims were allowed, for a short but unsuccessful period, to record the hadith.(36)
Anyone who tried to compile the hadith of the Prophet faced severe punishment and this state of affair lasted for more than a century – spanning from the periods of the first four (37) caliphs thru to the Bani Umayyah dynasty and until the time of Abu Ja’far al-Mansur of the Abbasid dynasty. Ironically, Mu’awiyah told the people, “Narrate less from the Prophet, and if you want to mention a hadith from him, say what used to be said about him during the time of ‘Umar.”(38)
In reality, the policy of not writing hadith took form right before the death of the Prophet when ‘Umar prevented the Prophet from writing his will while the Messenger was on his deathbed, as recorded in prominent Sunni sources, ‘Umar proclaimed that, “The Book of Allah is enough for us.”(39)
Chapter 8: Legacy of the Quraysh on the Hadith
)وَقُلْ جَاء الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا(
Truth has arrived, and falsehood has perished; verily falsehood by its nature perishes. (Holy Qur’an, 17:81)
The critical influence of the Quraysh group was not confined to the temporary prohibition of the compilation of hadith. This group and the Bani Umayyah came and went, however the results of their propaganda tactics survive until today in the invented practices that have found their way into the books of hadith.
Under the employment of the Bani Umayyah, individuals such as Abu Huraira al-Dusi and al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah composed stories ridiculing the household of the Prophet and exaggerating other companions. They even attributed some false hadith to Imam ‘Ali. As a result, the sources of Islamic shariah (legal law) and legislation became tainted which lead to many people within the ummah becoming misinformed.
Some Muslims believe that if one rejects any hadith narrated in the six books of hadith called the Sahih as-Sittah (the six authentic books of hadith), then they are actually rejecting their faith. Few people realize that belief in the validity of these six sahih hadith books is not a prerequisite for faith and that another option does exist.
Where did all of these fabricated hadith come from? A major source is the man whom ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab accused of stealing the wealth of the Muslims and called him “the enemy of Allah and the enemy of the Book of Allah”(1) and that man was Abu Huraira, who is known to have narrated over 5,700 hadith. In fact, in regards to him, ‘Umar said, “Most likely because of the abundance of the hadith you have delivered, you are lying about the Prophet.”(2)
Abu Huraira used to tell stories in which the Prophet would say absurd things and when the Muslims stared at him dumbfounded, he would affirm, “I believe in this hadith, and so do Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.” By his own statement, he was implying that no one else had faith to believe in his narrations!(3)
Abu Huraira was not the only person who composed his own hadith and attributed the sayings to Prophet Muhammad. Another prominent storyteller was ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas.(4) For example, ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas narrates that when Lady Aishah was asked who was the closest person to the heart of the Prophet, she said, “My father.” When asked who else, she said, “‘Umar,” and then after him, she named other people.(5) However, Lady Aishah had always maintained that amongst men, the closest person to the Prophet was ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, and that amongst the women it was his daughter, Lady Fatima al-Zahra.(6)
Sunni scholars who carefully examine the sahih books would automatically question the authenticity of some of the problematic hadith. Of course, had the Bani Umayyah not begun the practice of forging their own hadith, then the entire science of hadith classification may never have developed. Nevertheless, since they did, the science of hadith classification was developed.
One of the primary principles, which both Sunni and Shi’a scholars use in the science of hadith, is that if one narrator in a chain of narrators is unreliable then all of his hadiths are meaningless.(7) In this case, why did the fables of Abu Huraira, and those that insulted the Prophet, remain in the sahih books? By their own inclusion of a few shortsighted narrators, these false and fabricated hadiths affected Muslim thought forever.
Hadith of the “Ten People Guaranteed Paradise”
One of the most infamous hadith a fabrication is referred to as, “Ten People Guaranteed Paradise (al-Asharah Mubashsharah bil-Jannah).”
According to this hadith the “ten people guaranteed Paradise” are: (1) Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafah (2) ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab (3) ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan (4) Talha Ibn Ubaydillah (5) Zubayr Ibn al-Awam (6) Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf (7) Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas (8) Abdullah Ibn Masoud (9) Abu Obaydah Ibn al-Jarrah and (10) ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Collectively granting them all paradise puts us in a great dilemma because many of these individuals are known for their questionable character.
To begin with, only al-Tirmidhi includes this hadith, whereas al-Bukhari, al-Muslim, and al-Dhahabi all reject it.(8) It behooves us to ask why the other prominent hadith recorders did not mention this hadith, since being guaranteed Paradise assures that their course of life was traveled correctly. Then who narrated this “hadith?” Near the top of the chain of narrators lies Sa’ed Ibn Zayd, the son-in-law of the second caliph – a man who refused to pay allegiance to Imam ‘Ali during his caliphate.
Another point to consider is that those guaranteed Paradise should include those who sacrificed their lives and properties in the path of Allah, so why were not the hundreds of martyrs and companions included in this hadith? For example, the “Leader of the Martyrs (Sayyid al-Shuhada),” Hamzah, the uncle of the Holy Prophet is not included in this hadith, nor are any of the Ansar whom the Holy Prophet constantly praised.
Above that, to guarantee Paradise to Talha, Zubayr, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf, and ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan would bring about a problem for several reasons. First, Talha, Zubayr, and Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf used to call ‘Uthman a “fasiq” (indecent), and they eventually revolted against him during his caliphate. In addition, Talha and Zubayr pressed for a civil war by supporting and joining Lady Aishah in the Battle of the Camel, in which both of them were killed in the battle. Secondly, ‘Uthman and Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf (whom ‘Umar nicknamed “the Pharaoh of this nation”(9), after a falling out, did not speak to one another until death.
Furthermore, after ‘Uthman’s assassination, the Muslims were so angry with ‘Uthman that they did not allow for his body to be buried in al-Baqi cemetery; hence, his remains were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Kokab.(10) He remained buried there until Mu’awiyah came to power and included him in the common cemetery of al-Baqi, in Madinah. To add, Sa’d Ibn Abi al-Waqqas refused to pay allegiance to Imam ‘Ali even when the rest of the ummah accepted him as their fourth caliph. Nevertheless, many Muslim leaders still cite this fabricated hadith, and many Muslims embrace it unquestioningly.
‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab
Many of the fabricated hadith were introduced to provide religious legitimacy for the government of the caliphs. In fact, that could be seen as the primary motive for inventing hadith. For this reason, many posthumous narrations are recorded in praise of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab; some of which are attributed to the Prophet having said them, others to Imam ‘Ali, and some are attributed to various companions.
However, almost all of these hadith are flawed as either they contradict the Qur’an, the sunnah or other established facts, or one or more of their narrators are known to be unreliable, according to the standards of recognizing the hadith in the Sunni tradition.
Virtually all of the fabricated sayings in praise of ‘Umar appeared during the time of Bani Umayyah, particularly during the rule of Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, for obvious reasons, since the Bani Umayyah was attempting to consolidate their rule. In contrast, most of the reliable hadith about ‘Umar that appeared during his lifetime and have been included in the Sunni books are not overly favorable for him.
‘Umar is recorded to have said about himself, “All people are more knowledgeable than ‘Umar, even the housewives.”(11) He asks, “Doesn’t it surprise you that your leader erred and a lady in his audience corrected him?”(12) He also spoke about himself saying, “All the people are more knowledgeable than you, ‘Umar.”(13) In regards to the claims of ‘Ali supposedly praising ‘Umar’s knowledge, Sunni and Shi’a agree that ‘Umar said, “If it were not for ‘Ali, ‘Umar would have perished.”(14)
From the viewpoint of other companions, “‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab took twelve years to learn Surah al-Baqarah, and when he learned it, he sacrificed a cow.”(15) One of the transcribers of the Qur’an, Ubay Ibn Ka’ab said to ‘Umar, “The reason for your lack of knowledge about the Qur’an is that the Qur’an was keeping me busy (with it), while you were busy in the marketplace.”(16) Al-Bayhaqi says, “Since the house of ‘Umar was far from the Mosque of the Prophet in the area of al-Awali, he used to go to the Mosque of the Prophet once every two days.”(17)
Conversely, many unreliable hadith grossly exaggerate ‘Umar’s position and knowledge. One says, “If all of the knowledge of humanity was put on one side of a scale, and the knowledge of ‘Umar was put on the other, then the knowledge of ‘Umar would outweigh the knowledge belonging to all of humanity.”(18)
If this hadith was true, then what would be the need for the Prophet if ‘Umar had all of this knowledge? Another “hadith” says, “One day an earthquake hit Madinah, and ‘Umar hit the ground with his stick and said, ‘Be calm, by the permission of Allah,’ and the earthquake ceased because ‘Umar told it to.”(19) Moreover, another “hadith” claims that the Prophet said, “If I had never been sent to you as a prophet, ‘Umar would have been sent by Allah as a prophet.” (20) One hadith goes as far as to state, “In the nations before us, there were some people whom the angels would talk to, and if there is one person in our ummah that one is ‘Umar.”(21)
Although ‘Umar looked to ‘Ali for guidance during his caliphate, still ‘Ali is purported to have said, “We used to say there is an angel speaking through the tongue of ‘Umar.”(22) While hadith pointing to the realistic good qualities of the second caliph would not be out of the ordinary; nonetheless, these traditions go beyond the bounds of credibility and suggest that ‘Umar himself was higher than the Prophet was, and this is definitely an unacceptable belief.
Not all hadith regarding the second caliph came out of nowhere. Some hadith were specifically introduced to either counterbalance or share a similar tone in praising Ahlul Bayt or the immediate household of the Prophet. For example, Sunni and Shi’a both agree that the Prophet said about his daughter, “Fatima is part of me. Whoever angers her angers me, and whoever angers me angers Allah.”(23) Therefore, the appearance of a similar hadith about ‘Umar is not surprising – it reads, “Avoid angering ‘Umar, for if he becomes angry, Allah will become angry.”(24) Regarding one of the narrators of this hadith, Abu Luqman Ibn Asakir says, “He narrates false narrations and attributes them to people who are honest and trustworthy.”(25)
Fortunately, many authentic hadith passed the test of time; nevertheless, numerous unfounded hadith remain. Moreover, such hadith continue to cause friction among the schools of thought. As an example, one fabrication that al-Dhahabi dismisses, in fact, he says, “This is a clear fabrication,” is the hadith that reports:
The first thing that Allah will embrace on the Day of Judgment is ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, and the first thing that Allah will shake hands with is ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, and the first who Allah will take his hand and go with him to Paradise is ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab.(26)
Another instance of a clearly erroneous hadith in the established books comes to us by Ibn al-Atheer who relates from Muhammad Ibn Khaleel, who al-Atheer himself said that he, Khaleel fabricates hadith (27) states:
The Prophet climbed Mount Uhud with Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman. The mountain was shaking, so the Prophet kicked the mountain and said, “Stop it Uhud, climbing you are only a prophet, a siddiq (truthful person), and two shaheeds (martyrs).”(28)
In Sahih al-Muslim, Ibn Abbas says:
When ‘Umar died and was lying on his bed, people were coming and praying for him. I felt a man holding my shoulders from my back. I saw that the man was ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib. He (‘Ali) began seeking forgiveness for ‘Umar and said, “I wish I could meet Allah with the same deeds that ‘Umar is meeting him with.” Then he continued to say, “I hope that Allah will gather you (‘Umar) with your two companions (the Prophet and Abu Bakr) because I always heard the Prophet say, “I came with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar; I left with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.”(29)
Since ‘Ali grew up side by side with the Prophet and spent virtually every moment with him, it is unlikely that the Prophet named others as being closer to him, especially since ‘Umar himself narrated that the Prophet said, “‘Ali is the guardian (mawla) of every male and female believer.”(30)
Attempting to prove that ‘Umar was more insightful than the Prophet was someone related the following story:
One day, ‘Umar saw the Prophet ordering the Muslims to destroy the palm trees of Khaybar, so ‘Umar asked the Prophet to stop doing that. The Prophet listened to ‘Umar and asked the people not to cut down the palm trees of Khaybar.(31)
Unfortunately, this particular narration has been used to lower the status of the Prophet, whereas in fact, it is extremely unlikely that Allah would send His final Messenger, perfect him in every way, and then leave him in need of basic guidance.
In another peculiar myth:
When Egypt was conquered during the time of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, the people of Egypt came to the first governor, ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas. They told him, “We have a tradition regarding the Nile River. On the eleventh of this month, we find a virgin woman and after seeking her parents’ permission and satisfying them, we put the best clothing and ornaments on her, and then we throw her into the Nile. If we do not do this, then the river will not run.” ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas said, “No, this is against Islam, for this is injustice,” and he banned them from this act.
Since they did not throw a virgin woman into the Nile that year, it did not run and they had a drought so severe that they had to move (locations) due to a lack of water. When ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas saw this, he wrote to ‘Umar and asked him what to do. ‘Umar wrote a letter to the river and asked his governor to throw the letter into the river.
He wrote in the letter that he told the river, “If you are running by your own permission, then it is better that you do not run, but if you are running by the permission of Allah, then I ask that Allah make you run.” They threw the letter into the river, and suddenly the river began running.(32)
While many fabrications focus on ‘Umar, numerous others exist exaggerating the status of Abu Bakr and ‘Uthman and sadly belittling the Holy Prophet. For example, in Sahih al-Muslim:
The Prophet’s thighs and legs were uncovered. Abu Bakr came, but the Prophet did not cover himself. ‘Umar came, but he also did not cover himself. But when ‘Uthman came, the Prophet sat and covered himself. When Lady Aishah asked him why he did that, the Prophet said, “Should I not be modest in front of a man that the angels are shy in front of?”(33)
This narration is not in concordance with the high moral character of the Prophet. Seeing as the Prophet described Islam as a religion of modesty; it is difficult to imagine that he himself would be violating his own description of the path that he taught.
Similarly, in Sahih al-Muslim it says:
One day, Lady Aishah was sitting next to the Prophet. Abu Bakr sought permission to enter while the Prophet was lying on his bed and Lady Aishah was sitting there. He came and the Prophet attended to Abu Bakr, and then Abu Bakr left. Then ‘Umar came and the Prophet attended to him. Then ‘Uthman came. When ‘Uthman came, the Prophet told Lady Aishah, “Cover yourself.” So she covered herself and the Prophet attended to ‘Uthman.
Then the Prophet turned to Lady Aishah and asked her, “Why were you not afraid when ‘Umar and Abu Bakr came like you were when ‘Uthman came?” She said, “Due to the fact that ‘Uthman is a man with shame (rajulun hayy), and if I had remained (uncovered), then he would not have come and asked for what he needed, and I did not want to deprive him of obtaining what he required.” (34)
Another story narrates that Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to ask Abu Bakr, “Are you happy with Allah? You are poor, do you accept this poverty?” Abu Bakr replied, “Should I be angry with Allah? No, I am happy with my God’s decision. I am happy with my God’s decision. I am happy with my God’s decision.” Al-Suyuti says regarding this hadith, “It is strange and the chain of narrators is weak.”(35)
In another hadith it says, “Allah ordered the angels to penetrate the skies just like Abu Bakr is penetrating the earth.” Regarding this claim, Ibn Kathir says, “This hadith is wrong and evil (munkaran jiddan).”
Al-Bukhari and Ahmad Ibn al-Hanbal relate that Lady Aishah said, “The Prophet was affected by magic by someone from Bani Zareeq named Lubayd Ibn al-Asal; and because of this spell, the Prophet would imagine that he had done something, but in fact he had not done it.”(36)
Despite the poor performance of certain companions during the military excursions, fabrications about their bravery became abundant. When asked who was the bravest of the companions, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib is said to have replied, “Abu Bakr – because on the day of Badr, we set up a tent for the Prophet, and we asked someone to stand next to him, so the mushrikeen (non-believers) would not attack him, none came forward except Abu Bakr. He raised his sword and stood there, thus he is the bravest person.”
However, the Sunni historian, al-Tabari alludes to the unwillingness of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar to fight, in addition to their frequent fleeing away from battles, such as in the Battle of Uhud and Hunain. Thus, the narrations that speak about their bravery are unjustifiable.(37)
Since Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and Lady Aishah were the center of focus of such narrations, thus it may point to an element of untruth in them, since innumerable devoted companions, more than 100,000, aided the Prophet. Other books, such as Kitab al-Maghazi by al-Waqidi illustrates the same bias, mentioning ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab in 166 pages, and Abu Bakr in 143 pages, while he mentions only a few times other great companions such as Ammar Ibn Yasir, Musab Ibn Umair, Abdullah Ibn Masud, Khuzaymah Ibn Thabit, and Zayd Ibn al-Khattab (the brother of ‘Umar).
Fabrications Involving the Qur’an
Some of the Umayyah clan went so far as to claim that some of the Qur’anic verses descended because of ‘Umar’s wishes, actions, and suggestions. For instance, al-Suyuti says:
When ‘Umar gave his opinion about something, the Qur’an would come with a verse supporting his opinion. Whenever there was a disagreement between the people and ‘Umar, the Qur’an came and supported what ‘Umar said… Allah supported ‘Umar and confirmed his views in 21 places in the Qur’an.(38)
Such narrations claim that because ‘Umar had instructed the Prophet not to seek forgiveness for the hypocrites that Allah revealed the following verse,
“Whether you seek forgiveness for them or not, Allah will never forgive them.” (9:80)
They also say that ‘Umar suggested to the Muslims to prepare themselves for the Battle of Badr, and the Qur’an came in support of ‘Umar’s idea. However, these reports ironically neglect the fact that ‘Umar is recorded to have been against the military engagement for the Battle of Badr.
In addition, it is alleged that Allah revealed, “And whoever is the enemy of Allah and His angels and His Messengers and Gabriel and Michael, Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject faith,” (c. 2:98) because ‘Umar was defending the Angel Gabriel against a Jewish man who called the angel their enemy. Moreover, they maintain that the verse requiring people to seek permission before entering a person’s chamber also came at the request of ‘Umar.(39) These are all blatant tales trying to raise the status of ‘Umar.
Imam al-Nawawi attributes many verses to ‘Umar and says, “The Qur’an descended in conformance with ‘Umar in many places, such as the prisoners of Badr, the verse of hijab, the station of Ibrahim, and the prohibition of wine.”(40) However, the latter statement is extremely doubtful, since historians agree that ‘Umar gradually ceased drinking.(41) In fact, the final verse prohibiting alcohol was revealed after ‘Umar became drunk and injured the head of Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf.
Hadith of the Twelve Successors
In addition to the fabrication of hadith, the ruling powers also took the trouble to change well-known traditions. One in particular reinforces their legitimacy and is a well-known hadith transmitted amongst both the Sunni and the Shi’a schools of thought.
Al-Bukhari, al-Muslim, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, al-Tabarani, and Ibn Hajar all narrate the famous hadith which says, “The successors after me will be twelve, and all of them will be from Bani Hashim,”(42) except that in the sahih books, “Bani Hashim” has been changed to read “Quraysh.”
How did the change in the hadith happen? According to al-Muslim, the narrator Jabir Ibn S’Amrah reports:
I went with my father to see the Prophet and I heard him say that after him there would be twelve successors. Then he said something that I could not hear very well. I turned to my father and asked him, “What did the Prophet say?” My father said, “The Prophet said, ‘All of them will be from Quraysh.’” (43)
Al-Bukhari relates the story somewhat differently, using the word “amir” (commander) instead of “khalifah”:
I heard the Prophet say that there will be twelve amirs, but then said something I could not hear. I asked the person sitting next to me what the Prophet said and he replied, “All of them are from Quraysh.”(44)
Abu Dawud says:
When the Prophet said, “There will be twelve successors after me,” all the people began to do takbir (uttering “Allahu akbar”) and raised their voices while the Prophet was speaking. Therefore, I could not hear the Prophet because all of the people were saying takbir. So I asked my father, “What did the Prophet say after that?” He said, “All of them will be from Quraysh.”(45)
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal simply relates that Jabir Ibn S’Amrah says, “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘This nation will have twelve successors,’(46) and ‘all of them will be from Quraysh.’”(47) Al-Tabarani includes the same hadith, only using the word “qayyim” (guardian) instead of “khalifah.”(48)
However, Ibn Hajar points to the root of the matter and explains that Jabir Ibn S’Amrah was sitting and could not hear the Prophet clearly. He turned to the two people next to him; one of them was his father and the other was ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab.
As the Prophet was speaking, the people were listening quietly. Suddenly, when he approached the subject of who was to succeed him, clamor broke out (described in the other reports as takbir). Few could hear the Prophet clearly. However, according to Ibn Hajar, a person was ready to relate what the Prophet had said, and that was ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab – who as a key member of the Quraysh group had a strong interest in ensuring that the caliphate was not limited to the members of Bani Hashim.(49)
In addition, Sunni scholars have had difficulty interpreting this hadith, since their number of successors to the Prophet never reached twelve. Shi’a scholars on the other hand, maintain that this hadith relates to the twelve Imams whom they say the Prophet designated to succeed him, one after another, beginning with Imam ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib and ending with Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi.
Where Did the Hadith Fictions Come From?
The fabrication of hadith flourished due to the initial ban on the transcription of the hadith that lasted for one century. Had Abu Bakr and ‘Umar allowed the Muslims to write down the hadith, the Bani Umayyah would never have been able to attribute such lies to the Holy Prophet and his companions. Instead, the Bani Umayyah had free reign to encourage fabricators in their favor, (50) and in the words of Abu Jafar al-Iskafi:
Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan encouraged and paid some of the sahabah and the tabieen (the second generation of the sahabah) to fabricate evil hadith against ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib in order to slander, defame, vilify, and denounce him. He (Mu’awiyah) allocated an amount of money for them and they started inventing and creating these hadiths for him, which truly satisfied him. Among the fabricators were Abu Huraira, ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas, al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah, and Urwah Ibn Zubayr. (51)
A prominent Sunni historian adds:
Mu’awiyah ordered all of his governors not to accept any testimony from the Shi’a of ‘Ali (followers of ‘Ali and the Ahlul Bayt). However, those who were the Shi’a of ‘Uthman (the followers of ‘Uthman and Bani Umayyah), were brought close, honored, paid, and their stories were documented until the virtues of ‘Uthman were plenty and widespread. Then Mu’awiyah realized that there were too many hadith in favor of ‘Uthman, so he said, “Go and from now on, say hadith in favor of the rest of the sahabah and the rest of the khalifah (Abu Bakr and ‘Umar), and whenever you find a hadith narrated by the Prophet in favor of ‘Ali, invent an identical one in favor of the sahabah. Remove from the public registry (diwan, list of salaries) whoever loves ‘Ali and his family, and do not pay him his salary and destroy his house.” (52)
As is apparent, the Bani Umayyah were ready and willing to contradict the Qur’an, known hadith, and even exaggerate the qualities and stature of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman for the sake of political gain. Regrettably, they undermined the credibility of the hadith by fabricating a new Islam and turning its history inside out.