Q. Is it permissible to cite a Hadith or a verse of the Qur’an the wording of which a person does not remember exactly, saying that he is quoting its meaning, but not its text?
A. It is very important to remember that the Prophet (Pbuh) warns against attributing to him something that he did not say. He said: “Whoever deliberately attributes a falsehood to me has his place reserved for him in hell.” This was the reason why many of his companions did not quote him when they explained Islamic principles and teachings. However, it is permissible to cite the meaning of a Hadith, provided that we make clear that we are not quoting the Prophet. We should make clear to our audience that we are only giving the meaning, or an approximation of it. Scholars have taught us that when we want to cite a Hadith, we better take the precaution of stating that ‘this is the gist of the Hadith’, even when we know it by heart. This is to guard against any error in the transmission of the Hadith. The same applies to the Qur’an. If one is not sure of the exact wording of a verse he wants to cite, he should state clearly that he is not making a quotation, but rather paraphrasing the text.