Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Akhir / Jamadiul Awwal 1423 H
July 2002
Volume 15-07 No:187

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Book Review


Forged Narratives
Applying Reason to Faith


Forged Narratives

"When Allah is angry, He reveals in Arabic, when pleased, He reveals in Persian"! "Red rose is from the Prophet's sweat"....and the list goes on. In his brilliant compilation titled, Fake Pearls, Syed Iqbal Zaheer brings together a collection of fabricated Prophetic sayings, a must-read for all Muslims and non-Muslims.

Reviewed by
Nigar Ataulla

A Collection of Fabricated Prophetic Sayings

Fake Pearls
A Collection of Fabricated Prophetic Sayings
By Syed Iqbal Zaheer
Iqra Publications, No 332,
First Floor, Darus Salam Bldg,
Queen’s Road, Bangalore-560052,
Ph: 2289305/2389680,
Email: ymd@bgl.vsnl.net.in
Price:Rs. 45

The Quran and Sunnah are the two primary sources of the religion of Islam. Sunnah narrations are known as Hadith. Hadith stands for what is transmitted by a chain of narrators as Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh) words, deeds, what bore his tacit approval, or the description of his person.

Many of the first generation Muslims had compiled Hadith for their personal use (after the Prophet removed the ban he had initially placed on its writing), this discipline took its own time to catch on as a special subject of study. In the earlier days of Islam, life was simple and societal interactions limited. But with the expansion of Islam and entry of thousands of men and women of different geographical regions into its fold, complications grew and the need to turn to Hadith for guidance also grew. The result was that by the end of the first Islamic century, Hadith had become a vast discipline to which thousands of people devoted their energy, time and resources. Also, in the early Islamic phase, all that the newcomers needed was some confidence about how they understood the Quran. Once they had achieved that confidence, they turned to Hadith in splendid zeal. A Sahih (sound) Hadith is one that is reported by trustworthy narrators, men of integrity, the chain of narrators ending right with the Prophet, without a break, the report not being an isolated one and not carrying a hidden defect. In contrast, a Daif (unsound, weak) hadith is one that falls short of any one of the criteria assigned to the Sahih hadith. There can be a few other reasons for a hadith to be declared Daif- like if someone from its chain of narrators was a careless, slipshod person, indecisive or who practised innovations. Mawdu are forged traditions. Of these, there are two kinds. First, those that were intentionally forged and attributed to the Prophet. They are known as Mawdu ahadith. A second kind is one in which either a false attribution is made to the Prophet, but unintentionally or a wrong narrator’s name is quoted by error. It is termed as Batil (baseless).

The first efforts of the Hadith Doctors were aimed at collecting the Sahih traditions, rather than bother themselves about forged or questionable ones. Compilers such as Imam Malik, Imam Ahmed, Bukhari and many others paid no attention to the weak.s They knew that the substance of the forged traditions was so ostensibly lacking in depth that there was no reason to fear them. As time passed by and knowledge spread, they would be dropped from circulation by common sense alone. They were not in written documents anyway and being in verbal circulation could not be expected to enjoy a long life. It were the Sahih hadith that needed preservation and hence the appearance of Sahih compilations. It was only when they found that the weak and fabricated hadith were finding their way into written materials or were being treated seriously by the masses that the scholars sprang into action.

The early scholars of Islam quickly set about documenting the trustworthy reports. But that was no guarantee against fresh incursions of the untrustworthy ones. Preachers, zealots, ascetics, pamphleteers, story tellers and ignorant samaritans of every age give currency to old narratives and add a few of their own invention. In their early phase, these reports remain in verbal circulation, but with time, they infiltrate into written works. The scholars therefore take to purging them out. The cycle goes on. Fake Pearls by Syed Iqbal Zaheer, collected from five different books is a short collection of such reports as falsely attributed to the Prophet and which have somehow been popular among the masses through the centuries. Most of the reports selected for this work are very weak ones. Another criterion of selection was the currency of the reports. Many of those presented in this collection have once again begun to gain currency among the common people especially in the non-Arab world.

Zaheer has brilliantly brought together this collection and the accuracy in editing reflects the amount of dedication that has gone into this book. It is amazing to read how narrators have coined terms and falsely attributed some sayings to the Prophet--there are some shockers like “ when Allah is angry, He reveals in Arabic and when He is pleased, in Persian.” Then there is something like- “when Allah completed the creation, Alif stood up while bah prostrated”. “Don’t travel when the moon is in the Scorpion”, “red rose is from the Prophet’s sweat,” “frequent Hajj and Umrah drive away poverty”, and the list goes on.

For those who have been reading the Sahih collections of Hadith and for every Muslim, it is pertinent that he or she picks up this book so that one gets aware of the type of fabrications that have happened in the hadith and how valuable it is to read the right and correct sayings of the Prophet if one wishes to lead life as per the directives of Almighty Allah. Packaged well with the title engraved in silver lettering, Fake Pearls is a must-read for every Muslim and even for those non-Muslims who really care to know the difference between the authentic and the non-authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammad.

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Applying Reason to Faith

Reviewed by
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

A Journey to Islam in America

Even Angels Ask
A Journey to Islam in America

By Dr. Jeffrey Lang
Amana Publications
10710 Tucker Street
Beltsville, MD-20705-2223
www:amana-publications.com
$ 11.75 Pages: 230

This book is a fervent plea to Muslims by a white American convert to Islam, and a athematics professor at that, to apply reason in whatever they do in their life. For, the spiritual source of Islam, the Holy Quran lays a great deal of stress on reason and repeatedly beckons them to apply wisdom. Even angels, who are not supposed to question God’s actions, questioned Him when he expressed His intention to create man. Even Angels Ask is essentially an outcome of Dr. Lang’s fear that if Muslims do not behave rationally, their religion will lose appeal with the majority of people in the West, where the entire civilisation has come to be firmly rooted in rationalism. Muslims would need to produce scholars and scientists by applying modern critical analytical methods of study. This needs an altogether new environment where spirit of free enquiry thrives and self-criticism and objectivity are encouraged and questioning and doubt are tolerated.

It has rather become fashionable for elite Muslim gatherings to discuss how fast Islam is growing in the US. But few bother to learn as to how many of those converts stay with Islam. A study quoted by the author says that nine out of ten children born to Muslim parents in America either turn atheists or claim allegiance to no particular religion by the time they reach the college age.

The situation for a rational learning of Islam in the US is more compelling because Islam is the most feared of religions in the US and its rituals and practices are most taxing and its constrains seem to go against the larger society’s trends and lifestyles. A very critical area where Muslims need to make course correction, in the author’s view, is to differentiate between precepts and tenets of the faith on one hand and culture on the other. He says Islam loses its appeal in the West as Mid-Eastern culture appears to dominate the Muslim community in the US far beyond what scholarship, ritual and piety demands. Some examples are quite illustrative. Some phrases that form part of mannerism in the Middle East (for instance Insha Allah, Masha Allah etc) are so frequently used by Muslim speakers in the West that it renders them unintelligible to the extent that one thinks that in order to be Muslim one has to become a foreigner.

The seclusion of women from the social life to the extent of reducing their life to a tedium and closing the doors of mosques on them, putting them into all-coverng cloaks much beyond the demands of modesty, changing the native names to Arabic names (even those that do not conflict with Islam), sectarianising the mosques, insistence on a particular accent for Islamic terminology, etc are certain aspects of Muslim community that alienate Muslims from the US society and make Islam a foreign religion. Lang argues that strict application of Prophet’s (Pbuh) mores, habits, manners and personal characteristics may lend the Muslims heightened spirituality, group solidarity, but it is wrong to insist that other lifestyles that do not violate essential Islamic mores and precepts are wrong. The author spent a year in Saudi Arabia and felt exasperated with suffocating ambience of the country, particularly for the family life. His observation that the Western impression that Islam is hateful of women will not go away with idealistic lectures of superior position of women in Islam, the right of inheritance and voting given to them 1400 years ago if they see a mosque being shut for them in San Francisco and Chicago.

The Darul Harb (abode of war) and Darul Islam (Abode of peace) constructs which Muslim often cite in their bid to differentiate the world into two mutually exclusive territories is not fundamental to Islam. The author argues that this construct leaves Muslim minorities in a dilemma if they are citizens of democracies such as the US. It forces them to commit political treason. Several conflicts such as Bosnia, Kashmir, Cyprus owe their origin to such argument. Jeffrey argues that if a scripture is supposed to be the source for all humanity in all times to come, then there are bound to be varied interpretations according to times, societies and circumstances and levels of understanding. By this token, Islam has to be understood in perspective of societal needs of technologically advanced societies such as the US. Tolerance of different viewpoints will lend the Muslims the image of a community that allows a wide range of intellectual vision. The book could be a valuable asset to Muslims in all societies that practise democracy, hence its value for India.

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