TRADITIONS IN ISLAM
An essay on the origin and value of
Qur'anic references were edited to reflect the verse numbers used in modern translations of the Qur'an.
Also, some footnotes were edited to give additional support for the text.
|Kaaba in Mecca|
REV. WILLIAM GOLDSACK
Author of: The Qu’ran In Islam, Christ In Islam,
The Origins of the Qur'an, God In Islam, Muhammad In Islam. . .
THE CHRISTIAN LITERATURE SOCIETY FOR INDIA
MADRAS ALLAHABAD CALCUTTA RANGOON COLOMBO
PRINTED AT THE S.P.C.K. PRESS, VEPERY
|I.||THE ORIGIN OF TRADITION||1|
|II.||THE AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY OF TRADITION||28|
|III.||THE COMPILATION AND SYSTEMATISATION OF THE TRADITIONS||51|
|IV.||TRADITION AND THE BIBLE||63|
|V.||TRADITION AND THE QUR'AN||79|
|VI.||THE TRADITIONS AND REASON||89|
a. Page numbers correspond to the page numbers in the original book.
THE importance of the traditions in Islam can hardly be over-estimated. Muslim scholars define them as wahi ghair matlu (وحي غير متلو), or ‘unrecited revelation’, and in the theology of Islam they occupy a place second only to the Qur’an itself. Indeed they are described as the ‘uninspired record of inspired sayings’, and have, all down the ages, been used by Muslim divines both in the formation of canon law, and also in the exegesis of the Qur’an.
In popular Islam the traditions have usurped the place of the Qur’an itself, and for every Muhammadan who knows anything of the Qur’an, there are a thousand who are conversant with the stories of the traditions. Indeed, in countries in which Arabic is not the vernacular of the people, the Qur’an is an unknown book to all except a select few; whilst, on the other hand, books of traditions, such as the Qisasu’l-Anbiya, are read by the masses in vernacular translations almost wherever Muslims are to be found.
Yet there have always been Muslims who have questioned the authority of the traditions. For example, there died in the year 276 of the Hijra a Muslim scholar, named Al Imam Ibn Qutaybah ad-Dinawari, 1 who wrote a remarkable book, quoted frequently in the following pages, entitled Kitab Tawil Mukhtalifu’l-Hadith. 2 In the preface to his work the author describes it as written in refutation of the enemies of the people of the traditions and a reconciliation between the traditions which they accuse of contradiction and discrepancy; and an answer to the doubts which they cast on some of the obscure or seemingly ambiguous traditions.’
If thus early in the history of Islam opposition to the traditions had become so pronounced as to call forth a reply of nearly five hundred pages, one is less surprised to find a modern scholar, like Syed Amir Ali, describing the stories of those same traditions as golden dreams and beautiful and gorgeous legends.
Educated and thoughtful Muslims to-day ought no longer to be content to take on trust the extravagant claims made for the traditions. Intellectual honesty requires that they test for themselves this great mass of literature, which has come down to them from the second and third centuries of the Muslim era. If the following pages help any such to a clearer appreciation of moral values, and lead them to view the traditions in a truer historical perspective, the author’s labours will not have been in vain.
There are few phases of Islam about which more general ignorance prevails amongst English-speaking people than the traditions. Books, in the English language, dealing with the Qur’an, are not rare; but, so far as the author is aware, no critical study of the traditions of Islam has yet appeared in English. The late Sir William Muir, it is true, has dealt with the subject in a popular way in the valuable introduction to his Life of Mahomet; and the same writer has given us, in his book The Mohammedan Controversy, an admirable review of Sprenger’s famous essay on tradition; but, so far, nothing has been produced in English corresponding with Goldziher’s epoch-making essay on the traditions in his Mohammedanische Studien (vol. ii) in German.
The following essay is, at best, an introduction to the study of a most important and fascinating subject; and it is to be earnestly hoped that some capable scholar will yet do for English students of Islam what Goldziher has done for German.
In compiling the following pages the writer has laboured under somewhat severe limitations. In the first place, he had access neither to Goldziher’s famous study of the traditions, nor to Sprenger’s celebrated essay on the same: yet these two scholars have undoubtedly given us the best analysis of the traditions which has yet appeared in any European language. In the second place, the writer has endeavoured, all through, to confine himself to the briefest possible limits consistent with perspicuity. The book was written, primarily, for educated and intelligent Muslims, and this object is reflected, not only in the size, but in the style of the book. Over twenty years of close personal intercourse with Muslims in India has taught the writer the value and necessity of giving chapter and verse for every statement made in a book which is, necessarily, more or less of a controversial character. Hence the following pages are burdened with a much larger number of original quotations than would have been the case had he been writing exclusively, or even primarily, for western readers. The same reason has operated to keep these quotations in the body of the book, instead of placing them in footnotes at the bottom of the page.
For the convenience of students generally, and of educated Muslims in particular, a complete list of the works made use of in the preparation of this volume is given in an appendix. The writer has, all through, made large use of the famous Mishkatu’l Masabih which is, to-day perhaps, the most popular collection of traditions in India. Generally speaking, the quotations from that book are made from Matthew’s translation.