Saudi documenting Hadith to stop misuse by Islamic radicals, terrorists

Story by  Aasha Khosa | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 05-07-2023
Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mumahhad Bin Salman
Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mumahhad Bin Salman


Aasha Khosa/New Delhi

Saudi Arabia where sweeping changes are taking place to align this once-closed Kingdom to the fast-changing world is expected to give a compilation of the most authentic and verifiable Hadith, the sayings and deeds of the founder of Islam Prophet Muhammad, to the Islamic world.

The Hadith documentation project is ordered by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who believes that in the absence of this, the plethora of hadith in circulation are liable to be misused by terrorists and extremists.

The outcome of this project will have far-reaching implications in the Islamic world. It may be recalled that the death punishment for blasphemy prevalent in countries like Pakistan and radicals asking for beheading people for the same in India is justified by them on the basis of Hadith as Quran doesn’t ordain these harsh retributions.

A year ago in an interview with The Atlantic, an American magazine, MBS claimed that the misuse of hadith had become the key reason for division in the Muslim world into extremist and peaceful people.

“You have tens of thousands of Hadith. And, you know, the massive majority, are not proven and are being used by many people as the way to justify doing what they are doing. For example, Al-Qaeda followers, ISIS followers, they are using Hadith which are very weak, not proven to be true Hadith, to propagate their ideology.” The Crown Prince said.

Explaining it, he said: God and the Qur’an tell us to follow the Prophet’s teachings. At the Prophet's time, people were writing down the Qur’an, and also the Prophet's teachings. At this, the Prophet ordered that his teachings should not be written down to make sure that the main base of Islam remains the Holy Quran. So when we go to Prophet’s teaching, we have to be very careful.

MBS explained that the Hadith falls into three categories: The first one is called mutawatir. It means several people heard it from the Prophet, a few people heard from those few people, and a few people heard (it) from (those) few people. And that has been documented. Those are almost super strong, and we have to follow them.

According to MBS, there are around 100 Hadith in this category and these are the strongest.

In another interview with the Saudi television channel, MBS explained, “So, when we talk about a Mutawatir hadith, i.e., narrated and handed down from one group to another group to another starting with the Prophet, PBUH, these hadiths are very few in number, but they are strong in terms of veracity, and their interpretations vary based on the time and place they were revealed and how the hadith was understood at the time.”

He said, “The second category is what we call the individual Hadith. So, one person heard it from the Prophet and another person heard it from that person, all the way to the one who documented it. Or a few people heard it from the Prophet, a few people heard it from the Prophet, and one person heard it from those few people. So, if there is a one-person link in the lineage of the Hadith, we call it one-person hadith.”

“And this type of hadith, called ahad, is not as compelling as the mutawater hadiths; the ones narrated by a chain of groups, unless paired with clear Quranic stipulations and a clear mundane or worldly good to be had, especially if it’s a correct ahad hadith,” MBS explained.

The Crown Prince said this category needed a lot of sifting and research. ‘One should study whether it is true, whether it goes with the teachings of the Qur’an if it goes with the teachings of mutawatir, and if it goes with the interest of the people. And based on that, you use it or not.”

The third one was called Khabar. Someone heard it from the Prophet, etc, etc., and among the links are some that are unknown. Those are the tens of thousands of Hadith, and that you shouldn't use at all, except in one case:

Mohammad Bin Salman said, “And in the biography of the Prophet PBUH, when the hadith was first recorded the Prophet PBUH ordered those records to be burnt and forbade the writing of hadith, and that should apply even more so to “khabar” hadiths so that people are not obliged to implement them from a Sharia perspective since they also might be used as ammunition to dispute God Almighty’s power to produce teachings that are fit for every time and place.

He told the media that this category should be discarded as most of such hadith are either hearsay or unverifiable. If you have two options, and both of them are very good. And you can use that khabar Hadith in that case, provided that it is in the interest of the people.

MBS told The Atlantic that we are trying to identify and publish, to educate the Muslim world about how do you use Hadith. This, he said would make a huge difference.

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The Saudi ruler told the Atlantic a year ago that this project needs time. “We are in the final stages, I think we can put it out and maybe two years from today. It's just documenting Hadith in the right way. Because people when they read different books, do not have the mindset or the brain or the knowledge to look into the lineage of the Hadith and differentiate between them. We just put it simply: this is proven.”