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Interpreting the Qur’ān in the Light of Hadīth
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)

I hold that in case the Qur’ān and the Hadīth contradict each other, the Book of God will take precedence because it is the final judge and the criterion. Now I intend to explain this point in detail.

I have been hesitant to write on this issue for fear of attacks from some of my co-religionists. But on the question of role of Hadīth in the Qur’ānic interpretation, they have been led to believe that the Hadīth too comes under the divine promise of protection from error and corruption as is said in the following verse of the Holy Qur’ān.

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (٩:١٥)

Indeed it is We who have revealed the reminder and upon us is to protect it. (15:9)

Such exaggerations did not allow them to reflect over the far reaching consequences of their claim. This left no choice for me to hold back. It is now incumbent upon me to hoist the flag of truth without fearing for my life. I am therefore ready to risk my life if they decide to punish me for this.

We must remain clear on the fact that many traditionists have admitted to themselves the claim that what has been recorded in the Sahīh of Bukhārī and the Sahīh of Muslim is not subject to doubt and therefore cannot be made subject to analysis. In order to ascertain the veracity of such claims, I will present here some of the things mentioned in these books. By this, I intend to make it clear to the readers that God has forbidden to take the scholars as divine. Therefore, we must not believe in what they have adopted without critical thought.

Imām Bukhārī and Imām Muslim both have recorded the following narrative reported on the authority of Abū Dharr (rta).

سألت رسول لله صلي الله عليه و سلم عن قوله والشمس تجري مستقر لها قال مستقرها تحت العرش

I asked the Holy Prophet (sws) about the implication of the divine words: “and the sun follows its destination”1 and he replied: “its destination is under the throne of God.”2

They have also reported another narrative on the authority of Abū Dharr (rta) again:

كنت مع النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم في المسجد عند غروب الشمس فقال يا أبا ذر أتدري أين تغرب الشمس قلت الله و رسوله أعلم قال فإنها تذهب حتى تسجد تحت العرش فذالك قوله والشمس تجري لمستقر لها

I was in the company of the Holy Prophet (sws) at sunset. He asked me: “Abū Dharr, do you know where does the sun set?” I said: “God and His Messenger know best.” Then he said: “It reaches beneath the throne of God and prostrates there. This is what is implied in the divine saying: “Sun follows its set destination.” 34

Now I cite examples from what have been ascribed to the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws). You will see how outrageous contradictions have been ascribed to them without impunity.

Ibn Abī Shaybah, in his Musannaf, Imām Bukhārī, in his Tārīkh, Ibn Jarīr in his exegesis, Ibn. Mundhir, Ibn Abī Hātim, Dārā Qutnī in his Ifrād, Abū Sheikh, Hākim, Ibn Mardawayh, and Bayhaqī in his Sunan, have ascribed the following narrative to ‘Alī Ibn. Abī Tālib (rta) which explains the meanings of the word wanhar in the last verse of Sūrah Kawthar (108):

وضع يده اليمنى على وسط ساعده اليسرى ثم وضعهما على صدره في الصلاة

[In order to demonstrate what the verse implies], he placed his right hand on the middle of his left wrist and then placed his hands on his chest in salāh.5

Abū Shaykh and Bayhaqī in their Sunan, have ascribed this act to the Holy Prophet (sws) himself on the authority of Anas Ibn Mālik (rta). Another narrative, recorded by Ibn Abī Hātim, Ibn Shāhīn, in his Sunnah, Ibn Mardwayh and Bayhaqī, ascribes this act to Ibn ‘Abbās.6 Mere God-consciousness should guard us from accepting such interpretations. At the same time, assuming them to be authentic, a God-conscious person will not be able to doubt these interpretations. But we see that these compilers of the Hadīth works themselves have brought things which raze down the whole edifice.

Ibn Abī Hatim, Ibn Mardwayh and Bayhaqī have recorded that ‘Ali Ibn Abī Tālib (rta) said:

لما نزلت هذه السورة على النبي صلي الله عليه و سلم إنا أعطيناك الكوثر قال النبي لجبريل ما هذه النحيرة التي أمرني بها ربي قال إنها ليست بنحيرة ولكن يامرك إذا تحرمت للصلاة أن ترفع يديك إذا كبرت وإذا ركعت و إذا رفعت رأسك من الركوع إنها صلاتنا و صلاة الملائكة الذين هم في السموات السبع و إن لكل شئي زينة وزينة الصلاة رفع اليدين عند كل تكبيرة قال النبي رفع اليدين من الإستكانة. قال الله فما استكانوا لربهم وما يتضرعون

When this  Sūrah Kawthar7 was revealed to the Holy Prophet (sws), he asked the angel Gabriel about the nature of the al-nahīrah8 he was commanded to offer?  Gabriel explained to him that it did not require him to offer sacrifice, rather, God commanded him to raise his hands [to ear lobes] while saying first takbīr9 and while going into ruku‘10 and then standing straight again [in the prayer]. Gabriel told the Prophet (sws) that this form conforms to his [Gabriel’s] salāh and that of all of the angels in the seven heavens. Everything has certain traits which serve to embellish it, and the embellishment of the salāh is raising hands to earlobes while uttering each takbīr. The Holy Prophet (sws) said that raising hands to earlobes exemplifies the istikānah11 referred to in the following divine command:

فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ (٢٣: ٧٦)

They did not bow before their Lord neither did they humble themselves before him. (23:76)12

Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Mardawayh too have recorded this explanation of the word nahr.13  A little deliberation shows that these people have ascribed contradictory interpretations to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta).

Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Mundhir have recorded a saying ascribed to Ibn Abbas where he interprets it to mean the obligatory salāh and offering an animal on the day of ‘Īd al-Adhā14. Bayhaqī has reported in his Sunan that Ibn ‘Abbās interpreted the word wanhar in this sūrah as supplicating on the Day of ‘Īd al-Adhā.15  Similar interpretations have been ascribed to Sa‘īd Ibn Jubayr, ‘Ikramah and Qatādah.16 Confusion over the interpretation of the word kawthar is no less shocking. Also notice the contradictory interpretations of the word falaq occurring in the first verse of Sūrah Falaq (113).

Such contradictory statements can in no way provide satisfactory explanation of the Qur’ānic words and phrases.  They only intensify the thirst of a seeker of truth and add to the confusion of those who approach them seeking clarity. If you seek the clear path, you need to apply the exhaustive and comprehensive knowledge of the language of the Holy Qur’ān and to walk in perfect light acquired by pondering over the Holy Qur’ān. This can be the only guide to the accurate and satisfying interpretation of the word nahr.

(Translated from Farāhī’s Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)




1. The Holy Qur’ān 36:38.

2. Bukhārī No: 4525, Muslim No: 159.

3. Bukhārī No: 4524, Muslim No: 159.

4. This discussion too could not be completed.

5. Suyūṭī, Jalāl al-Dīn, al-Durr al-Manthūr fī Tafsīr al-Māthūr, 1st ed. vol. 6 (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2000), 689.

6. Ibid.

7. Indeed we have granted you abundance. (the Holy Qur’ān 108:1).

8. Ritual sacrifice.

9. Saying Allāhu Akbar which means God is great.

10. Bowing down in the salāh.

11. to humble oneself before someone.

12. Suyūṭī, Jalāl al-Dīn, al-Durr al-Manthūr, vol. 6, 689.

13. Ibid.

14. festival of offerings.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid, vol. 6, 689-690.

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