Refuting The Argument That The Qur’an Is Not Perfect If Hadith Is Needed

by Bassam Zawadi

This is more of an emotional argument because the person is basically assuming that the Quran is not perfect since we must refer to a different source to understand it better. The person making the argument doesn’t realize that the Quran itself is claiming that this is what to be done. Therefore, the person simply does not like the process of understanding the Quran from another source besides the Quran and disagrees with God’s way. Again, an emotional argument not even worth paying attention to.

Dr. Ahmad Shafaat says…

If the messenger is the message and the Hadith is revelatory, then what is the function of the Qur’an? The authentic Hadith of the Prophet consisted of a great deal of words and actions, considering the well established historical fact that the ministry of the Prophet spans about two decades. To pass it on from generation to generation would have been extremely difficult, as the example of earlier prophets makes abundantly clear. So through the Qur’an the message of Islam embodied in the Hadith was crystallized in the form of a book of manageable size that could even be memorized. This crystallization required higher level of inspiration than ilham, nur, and hikmah that the Prophet was given in the highest measure. At this level of inspiration the Prophet was in the presence of God in a very special way. Hence the Qur’an is the word of God. Through the Qur’an God himself directly formulated the main message for the guidance of all humanity and for all times. One may ask, if the message has been crystallized into the Qur’an, then can we not concentrate on the Qur’an and forget about the Hadith? Not quite. Suppose some big book has been summarized in a fairly complete summary. For some purposes we can indeed concentrate on that summary, but for a fuller knowledge of the message it is at least helpful to also go back to the details in the original book itself. Likewise, the Qur’an is no doubt a very complete and eloquent summary but for its better and better understanding we need to acquire more and more knowledge of the Hadith.

Once the core of the message was thus crystallized into a book of manageable length, the remaining part of the revelatory words and deeds of the Prophet could be left to the normal processes of transmission by humans with all their faults. This clear division of the revelation into two parts – one part being regarded the word of God and its preservation being promised by him while the other part being called the word or deed of the Prophet and its preservation being entrusted to human beings — is in fact one of the primary ways in which the Prophet Muhammad is distinguished from the earlier prophets and makes him the Seal of the Prophets. There is no evidence that a certain part of the teachings of any earlier prophet, especially among those recognized by the Qur’an as true prophets, was believed to be verbatim the word of God and to be entrusted to special divine care for faithful preservation. The books attributed to various Israelite prophets do contain some statements purported to be verbatim words of God but they are also full of statements not purported to be statements of God. These books are sometimes described as the word of God but not always. Thus the Torah could be called the word of God but it is also often called the Book (or Law) of Moses. The same is true of all the other books in the Old Testament. They are sometimes considered the word of God in a loose way but when it comes to naming them they are attributed to the prophets who wrote them the Psalms of David, the Book of Jeremiah etc. In case of the gospels even the attribution to the Prophet Jesus is not direct. They are attributed to the evangelists who wrote them – the Gospel of Jesus according to Mark, the Gospel of Jesus according to Matthew and so on. Moreover, whether an earlier book is described as the word of God or the book of a prophet no distinction is made between the parts that are attributed to God and the parts attributed to human beings. In contrast the Qur’an describes itself and is described by every Muslim as the word or book of God in a consistent way. On the other hand, the ahadith, although considered revelatory are not considered, with the possible exception of the ahadith qudsiyyah, as words of God but are described as ahadith nabawiyyah (prophetic traditions). In the light of these facts we can say that the revelation given to earlier prophets was of the type of the Hadith, with statements attributed in earlier books to God corresponding to ahadith qudsiyyah. In the important cases of the Torah and the Gospel there is another similarity with Hadith: the material in these earlier books originally existed in the form of separate sayings and reports just like ahadith. These individually separate traditions were only later woven together into connected accounts that we now find in the Torah and the Gospels. The unique character of the Qur’an makes the Prophet Muhammad the prophet for all times. In earlier times, as already noted, the revelation was sooner or later corrupted by the human process of transmission, becoming too ineffective for salvation and necessitating the coming of another prophet with another revelation. If there were no Qur’an, the case with the Islamic revelation would have been the same. The revelation brought by the Prophet Muhammad would have existed in the form of the Hadith only, suffering evermore corruption, finally becoming too ineffective and in need of being replaced by another revelation. But because of the Qur’an the main part of the Islamic revelation has been preserved faithfully and even corruption in the remaining part contained in Hadith can be combated on the basis of the Qur’an.

We earlier talked about the “mountain-climbing” approach. The Qur’an provides the solid ground from which we can step to climb the mountain of historical truth. In earlier religious traditions there is no such solid ground. They leave us floating in a fluid never enabling us to find a solid rock to step on and move upward. Another way to look at the role of the Qur’an is that it is a muhaymin over all revelatory knowledge (book):

And unto you (O Muhammad) We have sent down the book in truth confirming whatever of the book is before it, and as a watcher (muhayminan) over it. So judge between them by what God has sent down … (5:48)

In 59:23 al-muhaymin is one of the names of God. The word means one who watches over something and thus exercises control over it. The book, as explained earlier, means primarily divine knowledge which is manifested in revealed books. The Qur’an acts as a control over all revelations in the sense that the most serious excesses committed by human beings during the transmissions those revelations can be corrected by reference to it. This is as true of the earlier revelations as of the Islamic revelation in its Hadith form in the sense that excesses committed during the Hadith transmission can be corrected by reference to the Qur’an. But unlike earlier revelations the Hadith cannot be dispensed with, since it is too closely related to the Qur’an and provides the context needed for at least a better understanding of the Qur’an. In fact, even earlier revelations are not entirely dispensable, since they too provide the context for better understanding of parts of the Qur’an. For example, it is by relating the Qur’an with earlier revelations we begin to see how Islam completes and perfects them. Of course, there are many levels of understanding of the word of God. At some level the Qur’an with a minimum of the Sunnah, e.g. about the method of prayer is all that is needed and is sufficient for salvation. But for better and better understanding we need more and more knowledge about the external context provided by the Hadith, by the linguistic facts, by history, and by earlier religious traditions.

(Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, The Sacred Hadith Project, Chapter 2: The Message and the Messenger, Source)

Taqi Usmani says…

Does the Holy Qur’ân Need Explanation?

Before concluding this discussion, it is pertinent to answer a question often raised with reference to the explanation of the Holy Qur’ân. The question is whether the Holy Qur’ân needs anyone to explain its contents? The Holy Qur’ân in certain places seems to claim that its verses are self-

explanatory, easy to understand and clear in their meanings. So, any external explanation should be uncalled for. Why, then, is the prophetic explanation so much stressed upon?

The answer to this question is found in the Holy Qur’ân itself. A combined study of the relevant verses reveals that the Holy Qur’ân deals with two different types of subjects. One is concerned with the general statements about the simple realities, and it includes the historic events relating to the former prophets and their nations, the statement of Allâh’s bounties on mankind, the creation of the heavens and the earth, the cosmological signs of the divine power and wisdom, the pleasures of the Paradise and the torture of the Hell, and subjects of similar nature.

The other type of subjects consists of the imperatives of Sharî’ah, the provisions of Islâmic law, the details of doctrinal issues, the wisdom of certain injunctions and other academic subjects.

The first type of subject, which is termed in the Holy Qur’ân as Zikr (the lesson, the sermon, the advice) is, no doubt, so easy to understand that even an illiterate rustic can benefit from it without having recourse to anyone else. It is in this type of subjects that the Holy Qur’ân says:

And surely We have made the Qur’ân easy for Zikr (getting a lesson) so is there anyone to get a lesson? (54:22)

The words “for Zikr” (getting a lesson) signify that the easiness of the Holy Qur’ân relates to the subjects of the first nature. The basic thrust of the verse is on getting lesson from the Qur’ân and its being easy for this purpose only. But by no means the proposition can be extended to the inference of legal rules and the interpretation of the legal and doctrinal provisions contained in the Book. Had the interpretation of even this type of subjects been open to everybody irrespective of the volume of his learning, the Holy Qur’ân would have not entrusted the Holy Prophet with the functions of “teaching” and “explaining” the Book. The verses quoted earlier, which introduce the Holy Prophet as the one who “teaches” and “explains” the Holy Qur’ân, are explicit on the point that the Book needs some messenger to teach and interpret it. Regarding the type of verses which require explanation, the Holy Qur’ân itself says,

And these similitudes We mention before the people. And nobody understands them except the learned. (29:43)

Thus, the “easiness” of the subjects of the first type does not exclude the necessity of a prophet who can explain all the legal and practical implications of the imperatives contained in the Holy Qur’ân.


(Taqi Usmani, The Authority of Sunnah, Chapter 2: The Scope of the Prophetic Authority, Source)


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