Are our hadith collections sound and reliable?
The Usuli school is notorious for attacking the credibility of hadith. They accuse our hadith collections to be filled with fabrications and exaggerations (ghuluw). The corruption in hadith, they claim, is so pervasive and systemic that it is almost impossible for an ordinary Shia to distinguish truth from falsehood. In order to identify the authentic hadith, they need to be evaluated and analyzed using the “hadith sciences”. These invented sciences are taught at the advanced levels in the seminaries to the aspiring mujtahids (self titled ayatollahs). Only the mujtahids have the requisite training, qualifications and “aql” to navigate the treacherous paths of the hadith literature. Anybody else who attempts this (they claim) will fall into perdition by becoming a victim of corrupt and exaggerated beliefs! Although, even the mujtahid, in his process of ijtihad, ultimately ends up rejecting or weakening most of the hadith because either according to him there is a problem with their chain of transmission (sanad) or they are not supported by his personal understanding of the Quran. As a result most of his fatwas are zanni (speculation, conjecture, not having certainty) in nature. In the end we are left with a fraction of the hadith that are deemed authentic and reliable, the vast majority being labelled as dubious and corrupt. This is the sorry state of hadith according to our so called ulama (scholars).
If hadith were going to be vulnerable to corruption why did the Ahlulbayt (as) not warn us against this? If the process of hadith transmission is error prone why did Islam allow such a process to exist? What use is the body of hadith that is riddled with fabrications that are not easily distinguished by simple minds? Obedience and submission to the Imams (as) is a pillar stone of Shiasm. How can one obey and submit without access to the reliable hadith? If hadith were going to be mostly useless, what was even the need of the 12 Imams? The Prophet could have simply handed us the copy of Quran and asked us to seek salvation through it. Quran should have been enough for us – just like Umar said!
We challenge the above allegations of corruption on hadith and argue that this is not the case. Let us first ask an important question. Did Allah (swt) preserve and safeguard the deen of Islam? Did he preserve the sharia? Did he preserve the teachings of Ahlulbayt (as) – their instructions, commands, orders, guidance and all that knowledge required to become a true Shia? If the answer to this question is no – then religion is lost and humanity has been left in misguidance. But surely nobody believes this to be the case. This leads us to the next important question. What does deen comprise of? Where and how is it defined? Is it defined in the Quran or in the Hadith? What are their respective roles from a practical standpoint?
Most muslims believe that Allah protected the deen by protecting the Quran and allowed the hadith to become corrupt. They believe that Allah guaranteed the authenticity of the Quran and offered no guarantees for hadith. However, in this post we argue that this is not true. As far as the believers are concerned the complete deen has been ultimately preserved and safeguarded in the hadith.
Are we claiming that there is absolutely no corruption in hadith and that they are 100% protected? No, but hadith are sufficiently protected that a believer (common Shia) who dedicates to follow them will get salvation and succeed (to the highest levels) on the day of judgement.
No doubt, the Quran is the Book of Allah (swt) but the knowledge that lies within it can be unlocked only through hadith (the explanations of Ahlulbayt). And no doubt, tilawat of the Quran carries tremendous rewards and is a spiritually uplifting experience as one articulates the words of Allah. But the point we are trying to make is that, for a believer to practice his deen, knowledge of hadith, not the Quran, is indispensible. As far as the Quran is concerned the minimum needed is memorization of surah fatiha and another short surah so that Salat can be offered. Therefore, to save the deen, to save the sharia, to save Islam – the hadith must be saved and protected from corruption. If Ahlulbayt (as) failed to do that then they failed (God forbid) in their duty as protectors of the deen. If Allah (swt) didn’t preserve and safeguard the hadith then he didn’t save Islam at all!
To further highlight the importance of hadith let us consider the example of a person who has just recited the shahadah and converted to Islam. Let’s say we congratulate him, welcome him to Islam, and then hand him a copy of the Quran (with a translation if needed). Equipped with the Quran we then ask him to go off and practice Islam. We know that it will be impossible for him to practice anything – because Quran does not have the required practical details. You would agree that as soon as one becomes a muslim, it is the knowledge of hadith (not Quran) that becomes pressing and urgent. Without this knowledge one has no idea on how to discharge the obligations, protect from haram, observe the sharia, and practice Islam on a daily basis. The knowledge needed for day to day practice can’t be derived from the Noble Quran. Even for the true aqeedah (beliefs), one is forced to refer to the hadith of Ahlulbayt (as). Even to understand the Quran we need their (as) explanations (tafseer, interpretation).
The issue of fabrication
The allegation of fabrication is wildly exaggerated by the clerical establishment in order to deter people from hadith. No doubt the enemies of Ahlulbayt (as) made attempts to spread false reports and attribute it to them (as), but how successful were they? Time and again the Imams (as) exposed them and informed us about the type of fabrications they would produce. All our great muhaditheen (compilers of hadith) were aware of the nature of fabricated reports and were careful not to include them in their compilations. The muhaditheen were in a much more stronger and advantageous position to recognize and filter out fabricated hadith then the mujtahids who came 1000 years later.
Inspite of the diligent and careful work of our muhaditheen, even if a small percentage of fabrications did seep into the system – it is not a doom and gloom scenario. Our salvation lies in the spirit of obedience to Ahlulbayt (as).
The Commander of the Faithful (as) said: When you narrate Hadeeth, then mention its chain (of narrators). If it was the truth then it is to you (its reward), and if it was false it is to them (its punishment). [Source: Wasaail us Shia – h23259]
Bid’ah and Ghuluw in our society
Both bid’ah (innovations) and ghuluw (exaggerated beliefs) practices are a result of ignorance of hadith and not because the hadith are corrupt. Bid’ah by definition are those practices that don’t exist in hadith. And ghuluw beliefs are promoted by popular scholars who when challenged are unable to prove them from hadith.
The reason why the Shias are steeped in bid’ah and ghuluw is because they can’t distinguish sunnah from bid’ah. Bid’ah has become the foundation, sign and symbol of Shiasm. If Shias had based their practices strictly on hadith only and limited their actions to the orders (amr) and commandments of Ahlulbayt (as) there would be no bid’ah in society. Unfortunately, the majority of the Shias haven’t been educated on hadith and neither has the religious establishment made any efforts to translate and spread the canonical and foundational hadith collections (like the kutub-e-araba). On the contrary, they mock and belittle the hadith in our collections and thus prevent people from reaching the Ahlulbayt (as).
Salvation lies in following hadith
The example of my household (ahlulbayt) among you is like Noah’s Ark, whoever boarded it will be saved and whoever misses it will perish. [https://en.wikishia.net/view/Hadith_al-Safina]
There are many narrations emphasizing that salvation lies in following the Ahlulbayt (as) and being obedient to them. There are no narrations which say salvation lies in being able to understand the zawahir (apparent meanings) of the Quran. When one follows the Ahlulbayt (as) the person has also automatically followed the Quran. One can’t be a Shia without having access to hadith. If our hadith literature were in reality to become corrupted to the level claimed by the Usuli school, then deen would have been entirely lost.