The deniers of hadith or Munkar e Hadith
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Munkar e hadith is a popular term among Muslims. Some Muslims use it to label an individual or a group accused of denying the hadith's validity or the Prophet's saying or action. Hadith means words or expressions or an act of Prophet Muhammad. It primarily aims to invalidate any argument about the legitimacy of a statement attributed to the Prophet. It is a weapon to stifle the discussion of anyone who questions the prevailing opinion among Muslims as promoted by their schools of thought. You may have heard the expression commonly applied to particular individuals or groups to ostracize them and invalidate their opinions on any issue.
Take, for example, the following statement attributed to the Prophet. Abd Allah ibn al-Samit said: Abu Dharr said: Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and salute him! -- said: "When one of you stands in prayer, what constitutes a barrier for him is an object placed in front of him of the same height as the back of a camel-saddle. If it is not in front of him and of the same height as the back of a camel-saddle, then some [stray] donkey, or some woman passing, or some black dog will cut off his prayer." I said: "O Abu Dharr! What is it that makes a black dog different from a red or yellow dog?" He replied: "O dear cousin! I asked Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and salute him! -- the same question. He said that the black dog is a devil." (Sahih Muslim, Book, 4, No, 1032)
According to many scholars, people who question this hadith's validity are a denier of the hadith or Munkar e hadith.
Interestingly in the same book of Sahih Muslim, four hadith later, a statement is attributed to Aisha, the believers' mother. "Urwa b. Zubair reported: 'A'isha asked: What disrupts the prayer? We said: THE WOMAN AND THE ASS. Upon this, she remarked: IS THE WOMAN AN UGLY ANIMAL? I lay in front of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) like the bier of a corpse, and he said prayer. (Sahih Muslim, Book, 4, No, 1037)
Sahih Bukhari also includes a similar hadith in his collection: Narrated 'Aisha: People narrated to me conditions that annul the prayers. They said, "Prayer becomes nullified by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)." I said, "You have made us (i.e., women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I needed something, I would slip away. for I disliked to face him." Bukhari:: Book 1:: Volume 9:: Hadith 490
The believer's mother questioned the validity of this statement and said that the Prophet could not have said it because his practice was different from this statement.
Can she be described as a denier of the hadith? Can anyone say that the mother of the believer did not know her faith correctly? Can anyone say that she was acting on the commands of feminists of her time? Can she be accused of pursuing a Jewish or Christian agenda? No, not many would have the courage even to raise such issues.
This hadith and the mother of the believers' response summarize the debate on Munkar e hadith.
Like the mother of believers, millions of Muslims now know their religion. They have gone through the vast literature produced by Muslims throughout the centuries and have questions about not just one but also several statements attributed to the Prophet. They are sincere in their commitment to divine guidance. They care about their faith, and they genuinely believe that silencing people or ignoring their questions will only create more confusion.
There have always been people who looked at such statements and responded to them according to their ability. For instance, the compilers of the six most authentic books on the Prophet's sayings had access to his 2.3 million statements. The hadith compilers were Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Abu Dawood, Imam Nasai, Imam Ibn Maja, and Imam Tirmidhi. Before the inclusion of Ibn Maja, it was Imam Malik's Muwatta that was part of the six most accurate books on the Prophet's statements. But all of them included only 23 thousand in their collections. Even in the 23,000 they collected, only a few thousands have commonalities either in the text or in the meaning. Can anyone call them Munkar e hadith. They were the deniers of the overwhelming majority of the ahadith they collected. They did not select ahadith based on divine revelation. It was the outcome of their human efforts to construct a methodology to verify the statements as much as one can.
So, essentially, one can look at their methodologies and choose the one they feel makes better sense. Almost six compilers and many hundred more who worked on hadith literature had differing methods in their work.
They were first formally grouped and defined canonical by Ibn al Qaisarani in the 11th century, who added Sunan Ibn Maja. Since then, they have enjoyed near-universal acceptance as part of the official canon of Sunni Islam.
· In Sunni Islam, the six canonical work are Sahih al Bukhari, Sahih Musli, Jamia Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasai, Sunan ibn Maja and Sunan Abu Dawood. However, Malikis do not accept Ibn Maja part of the six canonical work. They include al Muwatta in those collections.
The Twelver Shia sext has four hadith collections: Kitabul al Kafi, Man La Yahduruhu al Fatih, Tahdib ul Ahkam and Al Istibsar; the Ibadi sect has Tartib al Musna as their book of hadith. The Ismailis use the Daim al Islam as hadith collections.
The compilers of the Prophet's statements were the first ones who rejected many because they did not fulfill their self-determined criterion. There were companions, including the scholarly ones and the Caliphs who chastised people who were reporting the Prophet's unverified statements.
No Muslim can ever say that in his 40 years of life as a prophet, the Prophet did not utter a single word or explanation other than the Quran's verses. No one argues that the Prophet did not address people on different occasions. Similarly, no one can ever say that everything the Prophet did and said got recorded during his lifetime by the companions who had also obtained his verification for their written or memorized words.
For instance, the number of ahadith narrated through the Prophet's family, such as his wife Khadija, who lived for almost 28 years or his four daughters is far less than the number attributed to some companions who are the primary source of ahadith.
From the second year of Hijra until he left this world, the Prophet must have given at least 400 plus Friday sermons. Yet we do not have more than 50, and scholars themselves have often disputed their accuracy. About the first Friday sermon given by the Prophet, there are two opinions. Imam Qurtubi reports one version, and Imam ibn Qayyim al Jauzi offers a different one.
Thus many Muslims believe that not everything that was said by the Prophet was either written down or memorized. The closest of the Prophet did not report much about his instructions and style of life. None of the companions approached the Prophet for his seal of approval of what they had written or memorized. The companions wrote down the Quran and remembered it with full concentration.
However, the Quran clarifies that no one should attribute any statement to Allah and his messenger unless it is true. Muslims believe that the Prophet ensured in his lifetime the preservation of the Quran. Thus, many Muslims believe that people have to be extra cautious when dealing with the Prophet's statements collected by the compilers. They suggest the best way to determine their accuracy is the chain of narrators and their integrity and the relationship of the report with the Quranic dictates. The Quran is the criterion to judge the accuracy and validity of any statement attributed to the Prophet.
Those accused of denying the Prophet's ahadith do not deny that the Prophet did not leave his followers without instructions. But they say that not every word of what he said got preserved and approved by him in his lifetime. They do not deny the hadith; instead, they argue to have stricter and logically sound methodology to determine the accuracy of the statements attributed to the Prophet.
On the other hand, some people say that the early scholars or salaf completed all the research and resolved all the issues. Their logic defies the Quran that asks human beings, including the believers, to search for Allah's signs continually. This verse of the Quran emphasizes continuous research and continuous pondering over issues faced by human societies.