Friday, November 27, 2015

Hadith-less Muhammad


or when Islam meets Mormonism

The core of all Abrahamic religions is the Message. Message is a divine guidance that is uttered in one of the languages that human speak [75:18] [40:66] [2:159] [14:4] [19:97]. Messenger is a chosen, virtuous human through him the message is received. This key role of the messenger, however, does not decrease any of his human values: he does not know unseen [6:50], make mistakes [9:43] [47:19] [80:10], and has sensual desires [33:37]. After the death of the great messenger of Islam, however, Muslims innovated and fabricated a new role for him and defined a perfect Muslim the one who mimics all his behavior, life style, outfit, and even the beard size! This innovation at our time has grown to the point that the messenger without such fabricated role seems useless! For instance if one questions that perhaps Hadith (stories attributed to the messenger) was never a pillar of Islam, Muslims consider that ignoring the messenger and offending him! and would ask: If Hadith is not a pillar of Islam, then why there was a messenger in the first place?!
In this article we review message-discovery, a substitute for revealing the message but without a messenger, and we will show that the role of the messenger in receiving and spreading the message is crucial. The position of the messenger in religion is already precious and does not need us innovating Hadith to become worthwhile.


To better understand the importance of messenger's role in religion, in this section we discuss an alternative way to convey the divine message to the earthly human. Assume that the God wants to convey the message without using an intermediary messenger to the people of a region. One approach would be to have the divine message written down on a tablet so that people could read it directly without needing an intermediary messenger. The problem would be that how the people would know that the tablet is from the God and is not man-made. However the revelation of tablets is, there is always one of the people who is the first to discover the tablets, whom we refer to as the Message-discoverer. There should be a mechanism to inform the message-discoverer of the importance and the origin of the message, such as meaningful changes in the visual space of the message-discoverer (like having the tablets being descent from the sky [4:153]), or meaningful changes in the auditory space of the message-discoverer (like him hearing words from the sky [20:11]). In practice this mechanism resembles that of revelation in which an angle [96:1] or the God [20:13] speaks to the messenger.

The next problem would be that the physical tablet does not have eternal life; if not by human wars, the tablets would be eventually destroyed by natural erosion. The most that will be left for the next generations is a copy of tablets and historical testimonies of them being close to what tablets said. This is the same destiny that came to Moses's stone tablets containing the ten commandments. Thus for the next generations it does not make a difference whether the message was carved on tablets by a human or by a divine miracle, whether the message-discoverer has read the message on a physical tablet or has received the message through revelation. From this point of view, message-discovery has no advantage over the practiced approach of revelation.

After the message-discoverer is informed of the significance of the message, the next challenge would be convincing the people of the region of the importance as well as authenticity of the message: the message-discoverer needs an approach to attract attention of its people. A known approach is miracle: the God gives the message-discoverer the power to make supernatural changes into the natural environment; the people of the region observe such supernatural changes with naked eyes and gain faith in importance and soundness of his mission [7:120]. The problem then would be that generation by generation the amazement of the miracle declines and a time will come that the future generation who has not directly witnessed the miracle asks itself: did the miracle actually happened? [16:24] The scope of the miracle is therefore limited to the people of the region and perhaps a couple of generations after them, and its expiration date will arrive sooner or later.

Message-discoverer = Messenger

In the previous section we showed that by addressing the shortcomings of the message-discovery approach, the message-discoverer essentially becomes a messenger: receives the message through revelation and makes use of miracle to attract the attention of the people of the region. A good historical example of message-discovery approach is Moses who brought the tablets containing the ten commandments, who was actually a messenger.

The elegance in the Islam's way of messaging

There are two points in the Islam's way of messaging that makes it stand out. One is that instead of traditional miracles, what attracts people of the region to the message is the phenomenal character of the messenger of Islam [3:159] [9:128] [68:4]. Muhammad had such a reputation in honesty and integrity that many of the people of the region accepted the message solely based on his words. The other point is that when the messaging expanded and naggers complained about absence of traditional miracles [6:37] [2:118] Islam resists against such requests [2:33] and name the text of the message as the miracle [20:133]. The miraculous nature of the message's text itself in Islam is the key to its eternity: in other religions after ages there will be nothing remained from the miracles but some legends about them, and even if a generation believes in them it has to be through trusting the intermediary historians; and what science can we name weaker and more unreliable than history! To have faith in Islam's message, however, there is no need to trust any of historians: each human at any time can read the message (Quran) and see if it finds it divine or not [11:13]. In other words, Quran is a self-verifiable message that does not need trustworthy channel along the history. (Refer to Appendix 2 for further discussion on this subject)

Advantages of gradual revelation of Quran

In the previous sections we explained that the message-discovery has no advantage over the way of messaging in Islam. In this section we name some advantages of gradual revelation of Quran on the Islam's messenger over the alternative message-discovery approach (sudden discovery of Quran by Muhammad). Quran says that gradual revelation of Quran strengthen the messenger's heart [25:32]. Messenger, although a virtuous person, is essentially a human with all the human doubts and flaws. Quran was being revealing gradually and according to situation that he was located in, to strengthen him along his difficult path.
Second, the gradual and situation-specific revelation of Quran highlights this important point that the details of the commands mentioned in Quran was closely weaved into the specificities of the time and place in which Quran was being revealed and hence are not necessarily global nor eternal. For example Quran includes some small details about inheritance rules (which apparently were revealed after the corresponding questions were asked by the people of the region [4:176] [2:215]). The fact that such rules were revealed upon a specific question or event, and the fact that Quran discourages people of the region from asking unnecessary question about details [2:71] [5:101], leads us to understanding that such details are not the core of the religion and are closely weaved to a specific time and culture.
Third, a seed with highest potentials for perfection have no chance to grow in a salt marsh and will get nipped in the bud. If it was not for sacrifices of Muhammad for spreading the message to its people [26:3], and if it was not for obedience of a group of its people [4:59], there would be nothing left from that message so that our generation seek guidance through it. The gradual revelation of Quran helped to nurture a new generation [9:124]. This profound start although was perverted soon after the death of Muhammad, was strong enough to ensure preservation of the message for future generation.


In this article we discussed the role of the messengers in general and the role of the messenger of Islam specifically in transmitting the divine message to the earthly people. If it was not for the sacrifices of the great messenger of Islam there would be no Quran left now to be our guide still after 1400 years. Therefore the innovation of Hadith by us not only does not add anything to his great position but also shows our ungratefulness towards all those sacrifices as we are perverting the very spirit of the message that he brought [20:86].

Appendix I: Mormons

Mormons are a very interesting example in history to study the phenomenon of message-discovery. Joseph Smith was a regular citizen who told his folks in 1823 that he has found a message carved on golden tablets. According to Joseph, at the time of discovering the tablets an angle appears to him and describes what the tablets are about. There is nothing left from the tablets except for the testimony of a couple of neighbors in having seen them [1]. Joseph never gave away any copy of the tablets. Instead over the years he gradually wrote a book, which according to him was a translation of the tablets to English. Although the presumed tablets are gone, for our generation the (translation of the) message itself is remained and we can read it and decide whether we find it divine or not. If we consider trusting historical stories a reliable way of validating a belief system, then we cannot blame the Mormons since they are apply the same approach that we Muslims do. But if we base our judgement on the content of the message itself we can easily see the huge differences between the book of Mormons and Quran. We invite the readers of this article to read some chapters of the book of Mormons [2] and to compare it to Quran.

Appendix II: Quran and History

Currently there are multiple readings of Quran [3] [4], out of which 10 are more recognized. The differences between the readings are minor but sometimes lead to difference in the meaning. Also for each Muslim there are parts of Quran that is not quite comprehensible. A person finding a reading of Quran miraculous does not guarantee that all the vowels and words are exactly the same as the Quran that was revealed to the messenger. Although we belief Quran is a divine message because it is miraculous (and not because the history claims so), the very frequent historical evidence maximizes the probability that this Quran is very similar to the Quran of Muhammad. On the other hand, the key points in Quran such as monotheism, the judgment day, doing good deeds, and piety are repeated so often that minor differences cannot distort their spirit.


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