Channel: Jonathan Brown
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Well, hello, everyone and welcome to blogging theology. Today I am delighted to talk to Jonathan brown. You are most welcome sir.
Thank you for inviting, happy to be here. So I want to welcome to salon. Now Professor Jonathan AC Brown is an American Muslim scholar of Islamic Studies. He is the Al Walid then tallied Chair of Islamic civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. And Jonathan has very kindly agreed today to tell us about Hadith. Now, he has published a critically acclaimed book entitled, Hadith, Muhammad's legacy in the medieval and modern world. And that's now into its second edition with additional chapters. I really recommend this book is an excellent introduction to a rigorously scholarly approach to Hadith. And I'll link to the book below if you want to get your own
copy. So perhaps we can begin by asking some basic questions. Jonathan, what are Hadith?
Well, no, funny you should ask. The
so Hadith SAR reports about things that the Prophet Mohammed Al Salam said, or did, or things that were done in his presence, and that he did not object to, right so the assumption being that if something good some somebody did something is presents, like, ate a certain kind of food, and he didn't say, you know, don't eat that, or you shouldn't eat that, that it's acceptable to eat that thing. So even things done in his presence are useful. Now, sometimes he will talk kind of about the Quran and Hadith as these two foundational scriptures of Islam. And in a way that's correct in the sense that, you know, you know, you can go and get the Qur'an off the shelf, it's in a book and you
can go and get books of Hadith and you know, look at them and their texts and things like that. But I think it's more accurate to think about the foundations of Islam being the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, the Sunnah of the Prophet, su Nn. A being is authoritative precedent, a authoritative precedent of the Prophet Muhammad.
So the Sunnah is as
Muslim scholars have long written, I was just reading actually in the works of Bashar Wali, Allah, the famous Indian scholar died in 1762. The definition which as I hadn't seen earlier, which is the Sunnah of the Prophet is the infallible application of the book of God. It's the Qur'an lived out and applied by the Prophet Muhammad. And that's why the grant talks about sending down al Kitab what hikma the book and the wisdom, the wisdom being the Sunnah, in the sense that God inspires the Prophet with wisdom to apply the brand's message in his life. And then some that can take the form of adding to the Koran, for example, adding rules, like you know, the Quran says we can't eat, you
know, basically you can't eat
let's say pigs, whereas the Sunnah ads, we can't eat animals that are that have canines that are predators, you know, so you can't eat lion meat or something like that.
The Sunnah, clarifies and explains the Koran. So the Quran that says, you know that the thief, male or female cut off their hand does exemplary punishment for what they've done. But we know from the Sunnah of the Prophet that this only applies to items that are above a certain value in which that,
that aren't certain things like foodstuffs or things like that. And also that the thief has to admit that they did this, if they just if they just deny that they did, or they thought it was theirs, then you won't have that punishment, it would drop down to a discretionary punishment for you interested in this, you can link to my article and you clean about it's called stoning and hand cutting, which I think is a very important article. So, you know, the, this is sort of the irony of people who are kind of,
you know, kind of Qur'an only or only one understand the song to the Qur'an is that you would be left with the,
with having to punish any thief for you know, stealing like a pen, you'd have to cut their hand off whereas this is absolutely absolutely not the understanding of Islamic law. And that that that explanation and clarification comes from the Sunnah of the Prophet, the Sunnah of the Prophet, so it can add, it can explain, clarify, it can restrict,
and it can affirm the message of the Quran. Now, the the relationship between the Sunnah and the hadith is sometimes people get confused about this. Hadith are a way of knowing about
So now that the prophet that you can think really about Muslim scholars thought about the Sunnah, in, you know, three or four ways, and they didn't talk about this so much as more my classification, but I think it's useful, I think it's accurate. First they thought about it, you know, as Hadith, right? So if you want to know about the prophets precedents, how he acted, what he said, how he lived, what his judgments were, what principles you live by, right? How he understood that grant, you could just go back and collect as many reports about things he said and did and things that were done in his presence as possible. And then sort of like building a puzzle, try and figure out okay,
fits with which, you know, which something he said it was a general rule versus somebody said it was for a specific situation, or what's something you said early on in Islam? And then the rules change later on, right? Or why something he said,
that applies to one group of people or not to another group of people. Something he said that maybe he was saying, in a hyperbolic way, like he's reaching people. So he's using kind of exaggerated language, versus something where he's being very legally specific, almost like a lawyer speaking. So. And of course, then we will I'm sure we'll discuss there's the challenge of figuring out whether or not these reports are actually things that the Prophet said or not, or if they were invented later on, but let's assume you could authenticate them all, you would have a bunch of pieces of a puzzle. And then you would be trying to fit these pieces of puzzle, the puzzle together. And this
is, in fact, what one of the main ways that Muslim scholars, all Muslim scholars understood the sun. The second way is to think about the sun as a
a method of problem solving a way of thinking a way that if you think about maybe like the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law, this would be more like the spirit of the law. How would the how would the Prophet deal with the situation.
And you can see this very clearly, for example, in the practice of the early Muslim calyx, like Abubakar and Omar,
especially Omar because he did so much legislating, that he would seek final situation. And he would sometimes he wouldn't call it the prophet, but he would come up with a rule that he thought of best implemented. This is what the prophet would do in situations. So for example, he's adjusted when Muslims started to encounter lots of non Muslims outside of Arabia, you know, he was like, you know, he said, I would discourage Muslim men from wearing marrying non Muslim women, because this as you can see, like, wait, you know, you're, we were allowed to do this. But now, it seems like there's gonna be a problem of Muslim women not having enough men to marry. So we discourage this. So that
that was, you know, you can see him to how would the Prophet have acted in this situation. And what's interesting is you don't actually find a lot of deeds from the very senior companions of the Prophet. Sometimes just because they die. You know, Abu Bakr died only two years after the Prophet stuff. But you'd be like, Oh, Ma, Raleigh,
Durham and Elfrida, we've lived for a long time after the Prophet please don't see as many narrations from them nowhere near as many as you see from younger companions, like they've been on bass bin Omar and Ben Malik. Aisha. Right. Because those senior companions, they sort of lived the Prophet sunnah and carried it on not by remembering to the things he said, but by like he his personality, he had actually sort of imprinted on there. So they had been shaped by their years with him by their many, many years with him, and constant contact with him. So you know, one way to think about this one is ID it's not a second way it's kind of a
method of problem solving. The third one would be a practice of a pious community that you know, the Muslim community that is built by moment have a soft spot in Medina. Actually, its practice its way of doing the hot when you go into the mosque, what do you do?
When you're standing for prayer? What do you do? Where do you stand? How far apart do you stand? How does it prayer? I mean, actually describing to somebody exactly how to do a prayer is kind of hard. You know, first, you raise your hands up to this part of your pants, you put them down, it's kind of hard, it's a lot easier to show somebody out, right? So the son of the Prophet as something that is just kind of practiced by the Muslim community. And of course, this is very, it's you see this in all the Muslim schools of law, they all talk about this, but it's especially prominent in the Maliki School of Law. I'm just gonna say that's really important quote, from your book that I mentioned,
you said, contrary to popular opinion, and this is opinion I've heard mentioned in the media both in America and elsewhere, the bulk of Islamic law does not come from the Quran, but from hadith
is really remarkable. And you've already alluded to the way, Hadith and incense qualify the rulings on cutting of the team's hands, but there are many other examples. So So what is the great bulk of it of Islamic law comes from
The the precedent of the Prophet and his teaching and so on.
Definitely, I mean, if you if you were to kind of look at just proportion of the details of Islamic law, I mean, a very small portion would come from the Quran. I mean, the current doesn't, isn't really a book of why, I mean, one scholar had been in the middle son hiney. In the 1700s, he counted about 80 to 100 verses in the Quran that deal with with legal issues. I think Imam Shafi talked about something like I actually met, I'm going to misquote it, so I'm just going to break it, forget about that. But
yeah, so I mean, basic things like the, you know, the number of prayers how you pray, I mean, these are basic parts of the religion that are not really either explicitly or meant, mentioned a grant or mentioned at all in a grant.
So, yeah, definitely. And then this hadith are a huge, you know, maybe like if you're thinking about a consent, you know, portions, let's say, of the of the Sherea, very small portion would come from the big, big chunk would come from a deets. And of course, there you have a kind of a, maybe also a spectrum in the sense that there are certain Hadith that Muslim scholars can all agree are reliably traceable back to the Prophet, Islam, there are certain Hadith that are not really reliable or not as reliable, but were really important for law. And that their main the main strength of those Hadith isn't really that you could find a chain of transmission that goes back to the Prophet
narrated by all reliable people who met each other and cetera et has lots of corroboration, for example, that would make a hadith sahih or sound, but its strength really comes from its communal practice. For example, I mean, this is just an obvious example. But
there's you'll find in books of law or Hadith, the murder lie caught Allah. Yes, the murderer does NOT inherit, right. So if you if somebody murders their dad, Quranic Lee speaking, your son will automatically inherit from their father, right? He doesn't matter if the father doesn't like them, you can't, there's nothing you can do. But let's say oh, I'd like to get some money. So I'm gonna go kill my dad and get inherited. But if you murder somebody you can't inherit from that person. And
there's not really a reliable Hadith about this, but you find in books of Hadith and books of law, that the Prophet said, the ninja murder does not inherit the strength of that hadith is really that it's been this as you know, all Muslim scholars agree on this, you know, this is sort of like its its strength actually is, is, comes from communal practice. So you see here, like a blending of Hadith and communal practice, then, of course, a huge chunk of Islamic law comes from either the opinions of the companions of the prophet
or from and from and, or from legal reasoning based on the Quran based on the Sunnah of the Prophet based on the early Muslim community, either through analogical reasoning. So you know, women don't have to breastfeed when they're,
you know, when they're sorry, you don't have to fast if you're traveling. You don't, you don't have to fast if you're sick, therefore, you don't have to fast if you're breastfeeding. So there's analogical reason, or, you know, and then of course, other types of
reasoning, like, kind of what are the aims of the Sharia? What are its objectives? If we don't have any evidence from the crown or the Sunnah of the Prophet or the Erland? Muslim community? You know, can we just sort of reason on our own to think about what would fulfill the aims of the Sharia. So these are all different sources of Islamic law, but definitely, Hadith are a major, major source, okay. And natural question to ask is, How did Muslim scholars detect forgeries because I've heard that, particularly the early centuries, it was a veritable industry of pumping out forged IDs to justify certain practices or certain political agendas or certain sectarian rivalries. So this
became a problem really early on. So how did Hadith scholars, the the Illuma, the Muslim scholars actually go about detecting these? These problems? These forgeries? Yeah. So I mean, there was a crime gets written down very early. So the crank gets written down in a in official form by 650, of the common Euro. I mean, so you're talking within two decades of the death of the Prophet Salam. And there's not really any debate about what the contents of the Qur'an since there's not you know, some, you know, alternative version of the Qur'an it's out there that people are citing or something. Now, you could people can argue till the cow cows come home about what the credit means,
but that's as a source. It's sort of bounded and set in stone so to speak. The headaches are very different and all those notions of some of the talks about a very different because they're all
they all have strengths and they all have weaknesses, the strength of the kind of sunnah as a way of problem
On solving is that it's, as I said, it really kind of allows you to carry the spirit of the law into situation with a letter of the lies a little bit is doesn't seem to apply or is not giving you a clear answer on that. The problem with that is that this spirit of the law reasoning can be can kind of get out of hand. So you say, Well, if you know if I'm allowed to not fast because of hardship, well, you know, it's hard to don't drink coffee during Ramadan, like, I really feel terrible if I don't drink coffee. And so I, I kind of feel like I should not that's sort of like what God wants in this situation. And that's not very good argument. Right?
Or, or, you know, with communal practice, it's really, sometimes, especially as you get farther and farther out of away from Medina of the prophets time in space and time, you know, what Muslims do most of the penal black communal practice can become very dirty, you know, very polluted. And so, you see, people will say, you know, in my, in my Muslim country, you know, men's go out and play, you know, back, you know, back end and and drink cheese and smoke, shisha and women sit at home and cook. So that's the way Islam should be. Well, that's not the way Islam necessarily should be. That's just one particular country, right? So
custom also is, can be corrupted. With Hadith. The problem was, it's very, it's a great way to get a really fine detailed description of things a prophet says and did. The problem is that, well, one, as I said, you have to kind of feel it fit the pieces together. But also, it becomes extremely clear in the time of the successors. So we essentially buy, as you know, a six, the late six, hundreds, that lots of edits are being forged. And this makes I mean, sometimes it can be mistakes, right? So some time somebody would sit would think they remember the Prophet saying something, when in reality, it's when other companions saying something, right. Or sometimes somebody could just get
confused and mix two heads together. And those are not necessarily forged. I mean, they are a defect forgeries in the sense that there's something that probably didn't say, but they're there. They're unintentional, they're byproducts of just the process of humans remembering and transmitting information. But then you have intentional forgeries, that was done number of Muslims, within the first 140 years of Islamic history, Muslims fight three civil wars, three major civil wars. In addition, they spread from the hijas, to Spain, and India. And you know, all the different cultures and religions and foods and clothing they encounter. And people are starting to become Muslim in
North Africa, and India, and all these places. And of course, they're bringing their own traditions, their own questions, their own agendas into the mix. So you have political disputes, to sectarian disputes, cultural disputes, legal disputes, etc, etc, etc. And what better way to advance your cause or your ideas. And by saying that the prophet of God said this or said that so there's a huge, huge, huge engine of forgery that's just starts chugging, especially in the early seven hundreds and that really keeps chugging hard, through the eight hundreds, and even into the nine hundreds of the common errors, I think when they were the the bulk of this material is forged. So Muslim scholars
have the challenge of how do you sort out what's authentic antiquity the words of the Prophet and what's what's for forgery. I'm happy to talk more about that unless you want I'm just I just changed it because the this word is not a bit of technical jargon here, what is the snag and, and the problem of 4g listeners as well, but this idea of having
reliable transmission from person to person known people who could have met each other did meet each other, who, who were known to be reliable, and so on and so on. There are various kinds of checks that were made want to see if you know of this IDs and its alleged authenticity really was authentic, and this is became quite a serious academic scholarly pursuit ideas, criticism, or you can call it
and that produced ultimately, these amazing book called psyche collection. So BaKari carrying famously, and had Muslim as well, which are the gold standard of Headies. Today, which everyone now looks to for, you know, really solidly reliable Heidi's. But that came quite late, didn't it? I mean, it was almost controversial, these Cyhi collections before that they there weren't these site collections that were there. There were all sorts of different kinds of IDs.
Yeah, um, so yeah, I think a good way to think about this is that no Muslims, all Muslim scholars, as Muslims develop their own scholarly class, so amongst the Companions, their companions who are seen as particularly knowledgeable Misha dative and phablets.
Omar right, even on bass
I suppose I'd even have been told that these are companions are really looked to for their understanding of the Quran, sunnah of the Prophet.
And then they teach the next generation of scholars in Medina like even Seidman was, say a
College of innovative and Fab it's
costing them Muhammad Ali Becker in in Kufa people like Ibrahim and Nakai, right? Shot Henry, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Syria. There's no you should have had the second third generations, you really have these very clear scholarly figures emerge. And they're all presented with this problem, which is, okay. We have a huge problem, which is we don't know what is really the same as the profit what isn't. And there's you can kind of think of a couple of different ways to solve this. One is maybe the way that emerged is really clearly in Kufa, especially around the thinking of scholar named Abu Hanifa, dies 157 67 of the Commonwealth wishes to say that, you know, in Kufa Cuttino I remember
also this is really important, which is that there's not like some internet, you know, there's not some book of headaches, you can go to the library and Kufa and checkout right and there's no, there's no, if you're in Kufa, the way you know about Islam is because a bunch of Muslims showed up, or they built the city of Cusco, right outside of here in Iraq. And the Muslims who happen to settle there are the ones who tell you about Islam. And if they remember certain things that Prophet said, and they forget other things. And the guy in Egypt, the companions in Egypt, remember certain things or promise that and don't remember other things, you're gonna have kind of two different verts,
certain two different versions of Islam in a way. And of course, they're not very different. But that's one of the reasons we have different schools of law is because you have this early
plurality of remembering what the Sunnah of the Prophet is, so that someone like Abu Hanifa and Kufa, he's saying, okay, look, we there's certain Hadith that we have here, and some of them really lay down clear principles, you know, really clear principles like the Prophets saying that the person who benefits from something is also liable for it, or the person who is liable for something also benefits from that seems like a principle. And so when he comes across a hadith that doesn't seem to fit with that principle, or this seems a contradiction contradict it.
I've already thought he might not say I don't think the Prophet said this. He just doesn't think this is representative of some of the prophets. So they try to kind of look at the Koran and look at the Hadith that they feel are kind of reliable and Kufa and then extract from those sources, some rules about lawmaking about norms. And then those rules are definitive. And if you come across a hadith that seems to conflict with those, you just sort of dismiss it, it's probably not something that Prophet said, it doesn't make sense in the system. They've established.
Other scholars who are actually more concerned with theology, which is a group called the Morteza lights, which emerged in the kind of mid to late mid seven hundreds, especially in bus, straw in Baghdad, and later on in Baghdad. They're thick, they're much more influenced by kind of theological discussions coming out of the Greco Roman, Near Eastern world of Christian theology of Jewish theology of Greco Roman philosophy, where you have you know, certain ways there how do you get certainty in life, you get certainty, through sense perception, you get certainty through the first principles of reason, you get certainty through just unambiguous uncontested transmission. Like, you
know, I've never been to China. I don't know if you've been to China. But I mean, I'm prepared to say that China exists although I've never actually seen it. Right. There's we are just we've just been bombarded with so much transmitted evidence that we don't, we don't doubt this. So they're much more concerned he's more Tesla is much more concerned with like he's debating with with Christians or Jews, and coming up with a way of
sort of routing Islam, epistemological,
and physiological sources that are certain and that are not going to carry any doubt. So they're very skeptical of somebody coming in saying, you know, someone so told me that someone so said that the Prophet said this, like, ah, that doesn't that's like for them. It's like a game of telephone. Now that they understand the Sunnah of the Prophet is essential. They understand what those lights are Muslim, right? These are not people who are, you know, insane heretics, or something ready, but they, they're saying like, look, this is not really going to cut it. Right? This is not really going to cut it for what we want, especially for theology, maybe for law, you can get something from these
rules. But what they say is, if you really want to know that the Prophet said something, it has to agree with the Koran. It has to agree with the established sunnah as we know, it has to agree with first principles of reason as we understand them, and this is a big deal, big difference and, or has to be agreed upon by everybody.
And here is where you would get to the third group, that third, third third approach, which is criticizing both of the previous ones. And this approach ends up being the Sunni approach, the approach that produces those indeed collections that you talked about, like Sahih Bukhari and sahih. Muslim.
And what this group says, and it's,
you know, forms around figures like Abdullah bin Mubarak and Horus on Matic in Medina, even humble in Iraq, right.
Sophia and authority Savannah in Kufa.
What this group approach says is,
look, here's the problem with these two approaches prior to this, which is that they both are setting up
sort of standards for deciding what the Prophet said or didn't say, that are too much the creation of their own worldview.
Right, so they're, they're putting their own minds in a way their own minds in the position of being the judge of what the Prophet said or didn't say, man, there's a problem here, right? Which, and this is a really good content, they have a good point, right? Imagine this, if I if I tell you that
there is more women in paradise than men?
Or let me let me make it easier for you. If I tell you that there's more men in paradise and women.
You're gonna say I don't I don't think that's true. That seems kind of sexist. Like, that doesn't seem fair. You know, it's not I'm not sexist. I don't think that's fair. But actually, you have no idea. And I have no, I mean, you have no idea like, if someone's a prophet of God, and God tells them information that comes from the unseen. What I mean, for all we know, there are more men or more women in paradise, or that we don't know. I mean, we can say like, this seems sexist or not, but that's just us talking about what our values are. So the problem is that there's certain that, you know, if we were to generally like sit around and evaluate things we hear, we could talk about
notions of fairness or justice. But really, when it comes to things that are from the unseen, we actually don't know the answers. We don't know what the unseen, right? So the reason is starting to get humbled here. Second,
if for example, if I say, well, Hadith can't contradict the Koran, that makes sense, by the way, almost some scholars agree on this. But here's the problem. And this is what the Sunni scholars pointed out. They said, What's the difference between contradiction and explanation?
If I say that, you know, the Quran says that carrying dead animals has been prohibited for you. That's what the Quran says. Now we then we find a hadith that the Muslim companion to the Prophet find a dead whale washed up on the beach, for the Red Sea, and that they eat from the meat of this whale. And then they come back until the Prophet they did this and he doesn't object to it, this is fine. This technically contradicts the Quran, but nobody actually rejects this hadith. They see this as an explanation. Ah, the Quran is talking about land animals, not see. And in fact, we have other Hadith that also talk about the contents of the ocean being pure to eat. Right? So what's the
difference between contradiction? And explanation? How do you know when something is contrary to the grand versus explaining or creating an exception to a Quranic rule or expanding a Quranic rule? The second, so they would say to someone like the cufon, someone's like, Oh, honey,
we understand you have these principles that you've derived from her deeds. And these actually might be good principles. But you're rejecting this hadith, because you think it violates your principle, but actually, it just might be an exception to your principle.
It might just be an exceptional situation the profit is making to this rule.
The second objection they had this is more kind of to the Morteza likes, is the monetize lights resemble we're very confident in the ability of human reason to come to knowledge about God and to come to knowledge about right and wrong, independent of Revelation.
the problem is that as the Stanley Fish the literary scholar said, you know, reason always comes from somewhere this reason isn't, you know, maybe there's some basic fundamental things like the rule of noncontradiction a can't be A and not A at the same time in the same way, okay, that maybe everyone can agree on but don't come to reason are really kind of culturally rooted or rooted in a certain tradition. So for example, the Montez lights were really they couldn't accept petites that talks about God moving around. So this one verse this one lady in Saudi Muslim has a book and other books as God is a very late at night God comes down to the lowest heavens and he listens to the
prayers of those who are awake.
night praying right?
Once as lights just could not they this sentiment apoplectic fit fits because the gods moving around what do you mean guys know, if the if God's moving around that mean gods in a body? And he's God's over here he's not over here. So what's that? What is this shape? What is the shape of God? What is God's body? Like? How does God move around? Does he have like a suitor and you know what is what's going on, I mean, what this they couldn't accept, because they came, they had been so much so influenced by the kind of Greco Roman tradition of,
of theology, and of course, philosophy that talks about, let's say, Boethius, talking about divine simplicity, that God can't be, you know, God can't be composite, because somebody that's composite can come into parts, then those parts could exist separate from him. And then you have things that are not God, they're eternal, or the idea of motion in the Aristotelian cosmos.
The prime mover are in the kind of the theistic world, God is outside of creation, anything inside of creation inside the sphere of the fixed stars, is part of the world of
change of time, right? And something can't move around. Unless it's inside that world. You can't talk about movement outside of the fear of this sphere that big stars because that's like another day, another realm, like God can't be moving around, because that means he'd be part of our world, in effect, now. Okay, fair enough monetize lights. But
what's all that got to do with Islam? I mean, you go back and you read that, say, the Old Testament, and it's talking about God walking and God do I might say that that's accurate. But my point is it clearly, you know, if you want to talk about like going to a Semitic imagination, they do not have a problem talking at least talking about God in a language that is at anamorphically inflected, at least, metaphorically or figuratively, so and then the early Sunday says, the montage slides, by the way, and once isolates, you guys are not consistent. Because, look, you're Muslims. You believe in the Quran, we believe in the Quran. And the Quran talks about, you know, God and His angels in
certain Fajr. God and His.
I think it's sort of a Jabra book of Americans who suffer and suffer God and His angels come in ranks. They come in ranks. So God's coming in ranks with the angels. And what type of lights it Yeah, but that's figurative, it's the power of God is coming. It's like, okay, that's figurative, why don't you do a figurative interpretation for that hadith that you reject? Maybe it's not God's, you know, coming down, maybe it's God's mercy coming down. In fact, this would be the interpretation of later aushadhi. So many scholars, they'd say that it's not actually God coming down, it's the mercy of God or the knowledge of God coming and approaching us or so that they were saying, if you
look, you're willing to interpret the crown figuratively, when it seems to go against your ideas of reason, but you're not. But when it comes to headaches, you just throw it out why.
So what the the early Sunnis proposed is, if you want, if we want to figure out what the Prophet said, When the Prophet didn't say, we, we are saying we're recognizing that human reason is a liability here. It's, it means taking means or giving too much power to your own culture to your own understanding of reason to your own backdrop background assumptions. So let's try to reason out of the equation. And let's just look at transmission. Let's see, Okay, where did this material who, who's who narrated this? Where did you get this idea? Where did that person get it? Where did that person get that? Okay? Let's look at these people. Let's look at what they transmit. If so, so if
Paul, let's say, is narrating from
his teacher, and he narrates, you know, ABC things. Then the other students in his teacher also narrate ABC from this teacher. Right, but now, that seems like these guys are all narrating the same thing. So, you know, they might be reliable. But let's say one Student narrates f g. LMNOP. Also, from the teacher, and that student only study with that teacher for three months or something, whereas you studied with him for 10 years. Whoa, wait a second, this, this student is claiming things from the teacher that are not corroborated by the other students. So once you start looking at what somebody narrates from their teacher, is it corroborated by other students of those
teachers, you can start to side is that person reliable transmitter? Once you've decided to have a reliable transmitter, you can say things that come from this person from another person and we say, this person met that person is at the same time in the same city. They said, I heard this from that guy, right? Or that girl, then that these people become realized
able transmitters. And through a process of evaluating the reliability of transmitters, and then looking for corroboration or the lack of corroboration for reports, we can decide what reliable had used the profit and what aren't. And so that was the method that was developed, really in the hijas, and Iraq and Horus on in the essentially late seven hundreds, or the eight hundreds and then really perfected in the mid 1800s by scholars like Bihari, and Muslim and their students. And they produced a set of collections that,
you know, we're fairly quickly appreciated, although a different not every collection was appreciated and valued in the same way at the same time. But especially Bukhari and Muslims books really came to be seen as the pinnacle of the critical rigor of this process and seen as the most stringent
forms of what authenticating with the province. Yeah. And your PhD is actually on that very subject, isn't it? The site collections of Bukhari and Muslim which, yeah, how they were, how they attain that position. Yeah, which is well worth getting and can be purchased by way, on this whole subject that Jonathan's just mentioned, I do recommend his acclaimed book IDs Mahabis legacy in the medieval and modern world, which I said before, I will link to below, it's really worth reading, that I just, it's something that really interests me, in that book I just mentioned, I often hear, by the way that, particularly from Christian missionaries, for some reason, not sure why that we have no Hadith
that can be traced back to the companions of the Prophet. Yet. In your book, you mentioned that we now have things called cipher or ciphers, apostrophe s is the English plural, which are kind of these small notebooks. And there's a fascinating story, I think we're
a friend of mine, who happens to be a Muslim scholar in the Hanafi tradition. And he said, When I spoke to him about this, that the ideas used to be passed on are passed on orally in his tradition, and they have been like, forever for generations, generations. And then, in your book, you mentioned that in the 20th century, actual small notebook that ultimately traces it, the words back to Abu Huraira, the companion of the Prophet was actually physically discovered. And the contents of that actually are the same as the orally transmitted Hadith that my Muslim scholarly friend knew of from oral tradition. So there's kind of an extraordinary opportunity, perhaps a reservoir to confirm
corroborate the reliability or accuracy of oral tradition in handing down these cities. But what could you just say a bit more about these Sahifa? What they are and why, and that particular discovery in the 20th century?
Yeah, um, so you're partially right, I guess, in some ways, I'm going to defeat some of your balloon, but I think you're generally on the right track, which is that, you know,
so first of all, the writing materials that the early muscle tab are very primitive, and they're not very permanent. I mean, things like a parchment and Irish are very expensive. Sometimes you would write on
essentially, like the bark of palm trees, you can kind of cut into sections, and other sources as well. So
you know, it was very expensive to write things down. And a lot of this material, you know, there's a lot of movement, a lot of change a lot of some of this, a lot of it early material doesn't really survive, we have some pages of most off some of the Qur'an that come from extremely early from maybe even the lifetime of the companions of the Prophet definitely from the lifetimes. Again, it probably notes certain pages of the Quran. But when it comes to her deeds, you know, we have a, there are certain collections that have we actually, so there's two questions here, right. So one is,
when are Hadith written down in a more systematic way?
And the second question would be, how reliable or how reliable or how confident can we be that a later book claiming to be accessing those poorly written collections is actually act? Is that is that is that a sound claim? Yeah. Okay. So in terms of Muslims writing stuff down.
They we know, they're writing small things down because, at least as far as we can tell, they're talking about like a letter that the Prophet let's say, wrote to the people of Yemen, he writes a letter that he can that contains rulings about compensation payment
And that letter is then transmitted in a family like for my dad to his son design, right. There's other reports that are that claim to be the ciphers, sort of notebooks that are basically written. I mean, you can imagine, imagine just like, imagine you have one piece of parchment, you have one sheet of parchment, which is actually, you know, you can wash and like this, these things are pretty rugged as long as you don't let it rot or something like that. So you can imagine, like a companion of the provenance son, or children writing down things a private cell, and there's rules, he said, Yeah, and then this actually being handed down in a family. Yeah, it was a good example, this Saif
have the honor of ensure a which goes ultimately back to the companion and 1100, or even a loss from the Quraysh.
And you can see like, you can, in some Hadith collections, like the most amount of active and humble, you actually see a appropriation of this sahih for almost in its entirety, like it's just a bunch of rules. And that song is an item connected, just like rule, rule, rule, rule, rule, rule rule.
clearly, from what we can tell, most of them start to write things down very early. But these are very limited writings. They're not systematic. They're like done by a family or person in a family, and they kind of pass on in that family.
Abu Huraira, the companion of the prophet who narrates the most deeds from him, actually only knows that prophet for about two or three years, he mostly is hearing other Hadith from companies hearing from other companions saying that the Prophet said, and there are reports that he actually is also collecting and copying these ciphers that he can find, right? Now. We have one such Sahifa the hatred of humanity and whenever, from a student of Abu Huraira, but we don't, we don't have like Imams written version, we have one that can be dated back to the early eight hundreds, right. So let's say that would be about 70 years or so after a man's death. So maybe it's the ribbon, we can
date it back to original. Now, that's not surprising, right? Because if you want a book to survive, anything to survive,
you have to I mean, you can either put it in like a vacuum, whatever, seal bag or something, right, but I mean, eventually, it's gonna get worn down to pieces. And so especially if you people are using it, so you need to recopy it.
So that gets us to the we start sorry, we have actual physical pages of Hadith collections, or of people's written compilations of Hadith. From the mid seven hundreds from the late seven hundreds from the eight hundreds, right, really going back to like kind of the mid seven hundreds is probably the earliest actual physical copies of things we have that have survived.
Now, in the time of the younger successor, so around, let's say the early seven hundreds, successors like a zoo hurry.
So even Abby Ruba, start to write down elite athletes more systematically. So now they're actually writing down more things they hear,
they're actually trying to write down a lot of their had deeds that they hear, they're not just trusting that they're remembering them. It's not just Saheba from their family, the writing, they're actually trying to collect and compile, but there again, they have very small amounts of material. Maybe their scrolls are about like, you could carry it in their saddlebags on their camera will be no problem to do that. Whereas by the time you get to like even humble. In the mid eight hundreds, I mean, his library of editors like 12 and a half camera loads of books, because by that time, by the way, by the time you get to late seven hundreds Muslims have gotten paper, the technology of paper,
which is cheap, and you can write as much stuff as you want. Right? It's not you don't just have like a small amount of papyrus or small amount of parchment that you can write on. Okay, so
texts, like from the late seven hundreds in actually the texts themselves bait dating back from the 1800s, but very limited.
Now, then, the final question is, if you have later books later actual physical copies, you can date to like the 10 hundreds or something or the nine hundreds
or the late eight hundreds, to what extent can you be confident that they're actually reproducing things from earlier? There? You know, you have to look at the works of scholars like Harold masky the later on. I think he died in about 2014 I'm not mistaken
He looked, he's looked at a lot of these words early, early and listen to fat books, which are basically books organized by topic.
The Masonic, the desoxyn Heini, who died, I think around 827 of the Common Era, we've been ABI Shaybah, in the 40s, of
the sea Robin his talk, and what he's what he's done by looking at all the different sources and certain say, okay, these people are claiming to narrate from a common link, and they all sort of narrating the same thing. And then these other people are also narrating from the earlier generation, they all kind of agree. And then you start looking you saying, look, here's a, here's a version of the report that has, you know, the content has, let's say, A, B, and C in it.
And it's transmitted along certain paths. And there's another version that has B, C, and D in it. And that's transmitted along certain paths. And if you look, you don't see a on this path over here, she's seeing that the contents of reports are really consistent with the chains that they're getting transmitted by. So and then maybe also, some of those transmitters are saying things like, like, for example, Zachary, or his students, almost a moment, like his student,
injured age or something, right? They'll say,
I don't know what this word means. Or I don't understand what he meant by this. Or they'll transmit something that disagrees with what they think the correct idea is. So why would somebody make up something and then say, like, I don't understand what he meant by this, or I don't this is what he said, I don't know what the word means? Or does it actually disagrees with my opinion. So all these things together that I mentioned, gave masky a sense of confidence that you could date specific reports, not necessarily the entire the corpus, but you could, if you started just looking at individual reports, you could start to date them back to the late six hundreds of the Common Era
kind of the time that they're actually still companions of the Prophet alive, or like relic.
And so that, I think, is the it doesn't necessarily, it doesn't help you say that Sahih Bukhari is 100% accurate, or the motto of Malik is 100% accurate. But what it does tell you is that Muslim scholars were able to accurately transmit material from the very early period. And
by the way, what's interesting is that a lot of times when they are,
let's say, when errors or misinformation, or foragers are entering into this, sometimes it's, well Muslim scholars are aware of it. And sometimes they were, you know, not necessarily averse to it, they'll explain that really quickly. Right. So it for you to say that for somebody to say, you know, is everything inside Bukhari true? Did the Prophet say everything is inside? Buhari? Well, I mean, the answer is no. But the question is wrong, right. The question is wrong, because there are inside Buhari, let's say, sometimes five or six different versions of one Hadith narrated by different chains of transmission. And they might differ in details. You know, one says the Prophet did prayed
to prayer cycles before he did this. The other one said, the Prophet prayed the tooth prayer cycles after he did this.
Which one is correct?
is, you know, they might all have authentic change of transmission? Is somebody just misremembering something, are both of them actually remembering something, but they were different on different occasions? Or who did someone in the change on mission get confused? So
Buhari himself will like talk about this, and later scholars will talk about this. But you, they can, in one sense, they can't both be true in a sort of digital sense of like, you know, either right or wrong.
But they're all like, they're definitely giving you the most accurate possible picture of what people remember about the Prophet sayings and his actions.
The second thing is that a lot of these reports that people were very suspicious about, and you can I mean, if you got if you gave a list of the Hadith that, you know, people get to the people who got upset about being in the Disable card or saving Muslim.
You could pretty much say that they all come from certain chapters of those books. They all come from chapters about the beginning of time, the end of the world, the Day of Judgment, they come on things about like campaigns of the Prophet, things happen out on campaign.
Virtues of people like such and such a person is so good because of this right? And those are
topics as far as we, as we can trace back the science of Sunni Hadith criticism, Sunni Hadith scholars were saying a decent deal with law I can, how about other than haram? How you worship, how you fast what you can eat, what you can drink, right? Like what they saw as the core areas of the religion. They were very strict about the snatch for this. They said, on other issues,
like the virtues of people, what happens at the end of time? What happens in the beginning of time, you know, the rewards you get for certain actions, etc, etc. Manners, do eyes you make, right. You know, in vocations you make, they said, we're relaxed about this, because they didn't see this as core issues. And you know, like, okay, Moses was so great that he did this. We know Moses is great already. He's a prophet. But you know it, was he this great or that great? I mean, it doesn't, it sort of doesn't matter. You know, the Prophet said that it's really good to teach your children good manners. We know it's good to teach your children good manners, that's not changing thing. You know,
if teaching your child good manners gets you this reward and the day of judgment as opposed to that reward. This is sort of not really a big deal for them, because it's all it's not changing anything that's that they don't already know. So that's where a lot of the sometimes not so much in like Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, but certainly in the other collections, a lot of the material that people find problematic is actually in subject matters, subject areas that most of them had each critics themselves were admittedly lacks about because they didn't see it as as detrimental. They didn't see themselves as betraying the Sunnah of the Prophet in doing this. Okay, that's very
helpful. But perhaps Finally, my final question, as we, as you've been discussing this for nearly an hour now, is to do with the Western historical critical method. You mentioned briefly how masky, this very esteemed German scholar who just died couple of years ago, hugely influential figure, a Western scholar, non Muslim, I think I assume your numbers.
But in terms of historical critical method, which is distinct and separate from the Muslim Hadith, critical method, what assumptions does the Western historical method make about the world and about God? And how does this impact on Western discussions about the historical reliability of Hadith because it tends to produce quite different conclusions, I think, in terms of what isn't isn't accepted in the Hadith. So if you want to share with your audience, there's on Ukraine institute.org, there's a, I think it's basically a sample from my Hadeeth book, and I added material as well, I think it's called blind spots, if you look up kind of on your feet and suit something
called blind spots. It's essentially the chapter of my Hadith book on historical critical method that I actually also add material to sort of like an enhanced doctor. And this will be good for your readers, or your your viewers, if they want to learn more about this. The way that that, you know, if you think about how, like we, you know, we in a kind of modern West, think about what's true and false in history, what's true and false about religion. This is not an objective methodology, you know, human beings don't drop out of the womb and automatically view the world, the way a French person views the world today, right, or an American person views the world. These are specific
traditions that come from, and if you look back at the way that if you look at the way that most Western scholars approach, not just their own religion, but also Islam, and kind of questions of authenticity and reliability, you see how it's shaped by the specific experience of Western Europe, with Christianity in the crack classical Greco Roman tradition, essentially, from the Renaissance until the modern period. Right. Briefly, I mean, a few things that are really important, are there the discovery in the 1500s 100 and 1700s, that there are a lot of gospels that weren't had totally different understandings of Jesus's message that didn't make it into kind of the official Christian
the early church, Christian Church,
introduced a lot of ideas that were not present in the earliest material, we can date back to, let's say, the Christian community or Jesus or, you know, cetera, et cetera, right.
Third, that the Old Testament itself had was not the product of you know, let's say the Five Books of Moses were not written by Moses, but in in fact, were the product of
multiple authors in different contexts with different aims. Yeah. So a couple of assumptions just that we can talk about quickly, and I think your viewers would benefit from reading the blind spots are
article, I think if they're interested, this is new. And I think these are the ones that kind of end up being the most influential in the way who Western scholars talk about Islam today, not all Western scholars, some Western scholars, is that there is this absolute conviction that religion change. So what the original Christianity, the original message of Jesus was not what eventually ended up being expressed in the four canonical gospels of the New Testament. Right? So that's sort of that becomes in some ways, like an article of faith, by the late 1700s, in the early 1800s, amongst Western academic scholars of religion, and then later on, even by pious believers and of
those religions, in some ways, not all of them, but some right, this idea that, that Orthodoxy
is a christobel creation, and the orthodoxy goes back and changes, what came before it to make it look like it wanted
to create a sacred history
that scriptures can't be intact because the Bible was not intact. So no other scripture, you know, just scriptures are, are doctored, they're forged to go through changes. Orthodoxy is a later creation, it goes retro back projects,
its own vision of the religion and history on to the past. And so this is assumed this is the case for Islam. Now, there may be aspects of this that are true. We there's this is a big discussion. I mean, there's clearly aspects of different schools of Islamic theology that are later developments, and not necessarily identifiable and the earliest time period.
The metabolites who several Muslims, and obviously, they're influenced by Hellenistic philosophy and their interpretation of ADIZ. Presumably, that doesn't go back to the original community. Yeah, exactly. I mean,
this is what they were criticized for right. Now. However, what this does end up with kind of bizarre situations where I,
you know, if you remember a few years ago, when the did if the Birmingham library, Birmingham University found that this pages of most hops of Quranic pages they had, and if they carbon dated back to like, the time of Abubaker. Yeah, right. And then you saw some of these scholars, like, I think Gabriel Slade Reynolds is one of them was very calm, skeptical scholar at Notre Dame, he's like, This can't be right. This must be later, right.
And then some, it came out that actually the range of dates was, could be, it could have been as early as, like the 550s, or something like before the life of the Prophet gave was like, but it could be from the five. So wait a second. It can't it has to be either later, or it's earlier than the Prophet. Why not from the Prophets lifetime? I mean, why is that such a great book, you can think, you know, non Muslim scholar we're talking to, you don't have to believe Muhammad was a prophet, you can believe he was a total fraud, you can believe you may have to look around. Right. You know, that's your opinion. But what's so crazy about saying that the grant comes from his time,
I mean, why is that such a ludicrous idea. But it's almost like you can see, this is almost a candidate reflex that they push it to the extreme, but not the obvious thing, which is what maybe it came from his own lifetime. Why not, you know,
there's just this obsession with death, or, you know, things like, you know, you have
just the other day, it's really funny. I mean, around the time that
that the US pulled out of Afghanistan, and I think it was August or September of this year, and there was, you know, there's this headline, it was like us leaves, Bagram Air, you leave Afghanistan in middle of night, you know, it's like BBC headline, right? You go back a couple of years, the onion, onion comic comedy newspaper, has the headline from I think it's 2019 us leaves Afghanistan in middle of May.
So over, so what,
you know, how do you know something is is made up like, you know, sometimes is, you know, yes, like you could make up something based on historical facts, but sometimes it's not clear what comes first historical facts or somebody imitating historical facts right. So a good example of this is like the, in that when the quake I think his name is Thomas Naylor or something. This Quaker
kind of leader in Britain in the 1600s. He enters I think, the city of Bristol and he's enters it on a riding a donkey, and people are like throwing palm fronds in front of them as far so
Okay, what if you were?
Okay, that's according to
according to like the way Western scholars think about Islam and Islamic scripture, right?
What that would mean is that they that guy's followers then wrote something in the Bible that talked about Jesus entering Jerusalem, are riding a donkey with people throwing palm fronds in front of him.
So, they would go back and Dr. Scripture to make it to prefigure or presage this leaders entrance into Bristol in the city in the 1600s. But of course, that's ludicrous because we know that the Bible I mean, whatever the rod is you the Bible, it definitely comes from way earlier in the 1600s in Britain, right. So what's what's happening here is Thomas forgot his lesson tickets.
If I'm wrong, you can correct it in though in the I'm sure. box underneath or wherever, which is that what he's doing is he's acting out scripture. Yes. So
like in the case in his in Musica deeds, there's a hadith that talks about. The Prophet talking about the black banners will come from the east, like the kind of the Mende The Messiah will come, the messianic figure will come from the east and of course on and carrying black banners.
Now, the Bassett caliphate, the ambassador revolution started in the horizont. And their colors, their banners are black, their uniforms are black, the basket calyx all wore black, right?
So what scholars Western scholars would say is that this hadith was invented to kind of legitimize the Bassett movement, as like this Messianic movement bringing justice and filling the world with justice as it had been filled with injustice.
Okay, that's possible. But it's also possible, like this Quaker fellow in the 1600s, in Britain, that there is an existing Hadith that talks about black manners coming from chorus on that maybe the Prophet actually said, and so the basses are like, hey, like, what color we're going to wear that kind of, oh, well, we'll wear black because of this idea. And we'll get like better? Well, you know, they might have actually structured their movement in part around that.
So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Or? That's not a good example, because that's a conundrum. But which comes first, the scripture or the invitation or the reality, creating scripture or scripture shaping reality, the Western kind of presumption or bias is that scripture and religion has always been doctored to fit to the present.
Yeah, so they kind of skeptical suspicious methodology that never never quite taking, you know, if a prophet actually is a prophet predicts things in the future. I mean, from his point of view, that's kind of automatically discounted, because, hey, we're suspicious Westerners. And we, we don't believe that God acts in the world anyway. And there aren't real prophets that God speaks through and make actual predictions that actually come true. So there's a whole worldview here, which is suspicious looking for ulterior motives looking for are the post facto creations and, you know, retro fitting narratives? And it's a very kind of conspiratorial,
I would say, I would say,
it's conspiratorial and skeptical beyond even what their own premises would call for what I mean, is that, okay, Western scholar, I know you're not Muslim. I know. You don't believe the Prophet Muhammad was a prophet. That's fine. I understand. Okay. But you got to admit that even somebody who thinks they are prophet or he says, their prophet is going to do things like prophesy, right, they're gonna say, there will come a day when x happens, right? So let's sit. And if they did that, and that there is these prophecies they made that are known in the community, it's entirely possible that the ambassador I'd say would shape or tailor their really tailor their clothing to fit that
prophecy, right. So, you know, even like, we're not even asking, I'm not asking non Muslim scholars all accept prophets and all accept revelation. So like, no, but you know, that sometimes the skepticism goes beyond even what's called for, by their, their own premises their own, sort of starting points, to the point where sometimes it becomes more insane to believe what they're proposing than just to believe that like the Prophet actually said something like the Prophet clearly said something and 23 years of being probably he didn't just sit there not saying anything for 23 years, right. But you'll find people like Patricia Crona, saying, you know, essentially every
Hadith cannot be is cannot be assumed to be true.
I don't understand like what you know, you want me to believe that all this stuff was made up
you know, or as
In my I wrote an article about the tickets on my webpage about Tom Hollins in his in the shade of a sword, right? Where he has this idea that the five daily prayers actually comes from Zoroastrianism in like the seven hundreds, and his evidence is like a Zoroastrian guy talking about how the ration converts still liked to drink after they become Muslim.
Tom Holland is a British historian almost must be very respectful towards Bucha stories, however, your debate with him, which you can see online, I think it's even on YouTube was absolutely hilarious. And, and the way you kind of unpicked and demonstrated the really extreme lengths he goes to avoid the obvious. It's almost I always find it almost funny, because the fact of the matter is, like, look, we look around says that Islam is building on existing religious traditions. It literally says that, right? So it's, I mean, why is it that crazy to think that Muslims have these five daily prayers? I mean, maybe they got who knows where it came from? But the point is, this is
what God and the Prophet commands, right? And isn't that crazy to think that Muslims? Why does everything have to be made up later on? Why does everything have to come from like some Zoroastrian conspiracy in the seven hundreds? Yeah.
Yeah, I know, we've talked to John Holland, he's, he's very respectful to people like Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham, then very ultra conservative Christian scholar. I mean, he's a great Christian scholar. Tom, right into right. So he's kind of, he's very kind of accepting and sympathetic towards that kind of biblical Christian methodology when it comes to the Gospels and their Harris historicity when it comes to Islam. There's a very different kind of methodology and the dough on say, skepticism to do with the sources there. So there's a slight inconsistency I would suggest, yeah.
But um, the paths, we can draw that to a conclusion, there have been absolutely fascinating. Jonathan, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us.
You mentioned several items we can look to for further reading the blind spots. And there's other articles, and I'll link to those below. But I also want to mention one of my favorite books, which is this misquoting Mohammed, the challenging choices of interpreting the prophets legacy, which also covers all of these subjects earlier D that can be community that crime. And what I so much material how I'm going through, this is a really excellent general book, Introduction to Islam, for the general reader. So I recommend that very much as well. So in conclusion, John has any he wants to just to say In summary, before we conclude, I mean, I'm grateful for your work, I follow it, I enjoy
it. And thank you keep doing keep doing what you do with people like me, enjoy and benefit from and show that. Well, thank you for your incredible work. Oh, I always ask why I try and always remember to ask the scholars I have on are you working on anything, particularly now? Or have you just produced any work that we might I just finished a book actually, I'm just doing the last read through right now of Islam and blackness, which is kind of a coda to my previous work, a book Islam and slavery and slavery in Islam, sorry, slavery, Islam, and then Islam and blackness. And then after that I have they finished the book that I had sitting on the back burner, which is almost
done. I've been on the back burner for now. Almost seven or eight years on, on justice and Islamic law Madala them to Madala legal reform and legal reform, right. So it's basically about how Muslims, conceptually and institutionally deal with instances in which their kind of law body of law and expectations of justice don't match up.
That's actually good. So that their book on Islam and blackness is that imminently deserves to be published this Yeah. In you know, once I'm done literally is a pile of paper right behind my computer. Once I'm done reading that, I'll
send an email to the publisher, and then they'll get it out whenever probably, I think in the fall as my guest. Okay, interesting. I look forward to that. Well, once again, thank you so much, sir. And,
as always say Until next time, and thank you very much for your expertise today. My pleasure. I come