Akyol here argues that the Hadith and Sira should be jettisoned, leaving only the Qur’an. He seems to be suggesting that virtually all the features of Islam that are not in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come from those secondary sources, not from the Qur’an itself. I don’t agree that an Islam that follows only the Qur’an would emerge as tolerant and peaceful, and perhaps even more importantly, I doubt it will be possible for an Islamic movement rejecting Hadith and Sira to emerge. Here are Akyol’s main points, with comments from me:
Â· According to the secondary sources, apostates from Islam must be killed. There is no basis for this in the Koran and in fact several verses which emphasize religious freedom, such as “let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve” (18:29) render such killings impossible.
“Let him who please disbelieve” does not actually apply to apostates at all. The Qur’an directly addresses apostasy in Sura 4:89: “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): but take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks…” The verse is clear: those who “turn renegades” and “reject Faith” are to be killed by the believers.
On these points, however, Akyol is largely correct:
Â· Secondary sources ban all fine arts, especially painting and sculpture. There is no such commandment in the Koran, and instead, the statues that Prophet (King) Solomon had built for himself are praised. (34:13)
True. This comes from Muhammad’s statements, including this one: “Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 428).
Â· Secondary sources define a very strict dress code for women and this is generally applied to all women under Muslim rule. The Koran orders a dress code only for Muslim women and it is open to interpretation. No verse explicitly orders the headscarf — let alone the all-covering burka.[ii]
Largely true. The Qur’an says that women “should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty” (Sura 24:31). Muhammad is more explicit: “‘When a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this,’ and he pointed to her face and hands” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 32, Number 4092).
Â· Secondary sources favor the seclusion of women from men. There is no basis for such segregation in the Koran. Instead, Koran tells about civilized dialogues between prophets and women. (28:25, 27:44)
This is a bit disingenuous. The fact that men and women talked to one another on some occasions doesn’t mean that women were not generally secluded from men. Even today in Sharia states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, women may speak to men — when they are addressed first.
Â· Secondary sources try to punish every sin and supposedly immoral behavior. There are, for example, punishments for drinking alcohol or refraining from prayer. These, again, have no basis in the Koran, whose penal code is focused mostly on crime, not sin or immorality. The stoning of adulterers, a brutal command of the secondary sources, is also totally unsubstantiated on a Koranic basis.
It’s interesting to note here that the Hadith notes the absence of the stoning penalty from the Qur’an, but insists that it originally was there and denounces those who will attempt to make anything out of its absence:
‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported that ‘Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession. (Sahih Muslim, Book 017, Number 4194)
But in any case, Akyol is correct about at least some of these points: they are based on Hadith, not Qur’an. But can it be done? Can Muslims reject Hadith and Sira? Imagine for a moment that Akyol becomes the leader of a large movement of Muslims who reject Hadith and base their faith on the Qur’an alone. What will they make of verses like these?
Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah. (Sura 33:21)
O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination. (Sura 4:59)
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee [Muhammad] judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction. (Sura 4:65)
The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, “We hear and we obey”: it is such as these that will attain felicity. (Sura 24:51)
So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear Allah; for Allah is strict in Punishment. (Sura 59:7)
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path. (Sura 33:36)
I have quoted so many of these (although there are many more) to illustrate that it is a repeated emphasis of the Qur’an that a Muslim must obey Muhammad. How can a twenty-first century Muslim obey Muhammad? Why, by obeying his commands as transmitted in the Hadith and Sira.
So we are back to square one: Akyol says Muslims should obey only the Qur’an, but the Qur’an leads Muslims out to the Hadith and Sira. As I am deeply interested in seeing a genuine movement for tolerance and peace arise within Islam, I will be interested to see what Mr. Akyol makes of this.
Finally, one related but tangential point. Akyol also says:
Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, Assistant Professor at the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University notes, “[while] the Koran viewed Judaism as the chief monotheistic religion . . . It was the Hadith, the revisionist interpretation of the Koran from the medieval period, that demonized the Jews and Judaism.”
I don’t know what Qur’an Khaleel Mohammed is reading. Here are some quotes about Jews from the one Muslims read:
And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.” (Sura 2:65)
Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places, and say: “We hear and we disobey”; and “Hear what is not Heard”; and “Ra’ina”; with a twist of their tongues and a slander to Faith. If only they had said: “What hear and we obey”; and “Do hear”; and “Do look at us”; it would have been better for them, and more proper; but Allah hath cursed them for their Unbelief; and but few of them will believe. (Sura 4:46)
O Messenger! let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say “We believe” with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,- men who will listen to any lie,- will listen even to others who have never so much as come to thee. They change the words from their (right) times and places: they say, “If ye are given this, take it, but if not, beware!” If any one’s trial is intended by Allah, thou hast no authority in the least for him against Allah. For such – it is not Allah’s will to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a heavy punishment. (Sura 5:41)
O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. (Sura 5:51)
The Jews say: “Allah’s hand is tied up.” Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them we have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief. (Sura 5:64)
Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans… (Sura 5:82)
The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Sura 9:30)
To the Jews We prohibited such things as We have mentioned to thee before: We did them no wrong, but they were used to doing wrong to themselves. (Sura 16:118)
Let’s see. They’re liars, idolaters, blasphemers, corrupters of the Scriptures, etc. etc. But the Qur’an doesn’t demonize Jews? Khaleel, do you have a suspension bridge to sell me too?