A Short History of Refuting the Sunnah & Hadith and its Causes, By Maulana Syed Muhammad Yusuf Banuri
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
1. FIRST CAUSE: The Kharijites
The first Fitna which raised its head in the Islamic Ummah, a reality that cannot be denied is the Fitna of the Kharijites. It was while combatting this Fitna that the unity of the Muslims was shredded to pieces. Many of these Kharijites made loud and clear announcements of their independence from many senior illustrious Companions (R.A). They labeled Hadhrat Uthman, Hadhrat Ali, and those who participated in the Battle of the Camel as well as all those Sahabah (R.A) who acknowledged the third period of rule as disbelievers. The result of these charges of infidelity resulted in them not accepting all such Ahadith narrated by them (for the first condition for the narrator of a Hadith is to be a Muslim and they are all disbelievers). This is how the seeds of rejection of Hadith were sown.
2. SECOND CAUSE: Shiasm or Rafdhis
Apart from the Fitna of these Kharijites, the Fitna of Shiasm also reared its head. Whereas the Fitna of Shiasm was a political ploy (for they wanted to somehow gain control by using the name of the family of Prophet SAW). It was from these Shias that different factions arose like the Sabaies and Rafdhis which became common. Apart from Hadhrat Ali (R.A), his family members, and a handful of other Companions (R.A), all three former Khulefa as well as the other majority of the Sahabah (R.A), were labelled as disbelievers. The natural result of this Fitna was their rejection of all the narrations of the Sahabah apart from the few they acknowledged (for they labeled them all as disbelivers).
3. THIRD CAUSE: The Muatazilites
Thereafter, in the 20th year of Hijri, the period of the intellect (worshipping the intellect) arose. As a result of this worshipping of the intellect, the Muatazilites were constrained to resort to interpretations (where they could not make interpretations, they were forced to reject whatever did not fit in with intellectual beliefs. During the rule of the Abbasid Khalifa Mamoon, when the works of the Greek philosophers were being translated into Arabic and became commonly available, the Mutazilites grew greatly during his reign of power.
4. FOURTH CAUSE: The Murjiah
When the Khawaarij and Mutazilities resorted to exaggeration and included actions in the tenets of faith, as a requirement and pillar of faith, in response, the groups called the Murjiah and the belief of Irjaa came upon the scene. The Murjiahs resorted to such exaggeration that they clearly said:
لا تضر مع الإیمان معصیۃ کما لا تنفع مع الکفر طاعۃ
Translation: “As long as one has faith, sin cannot cause any harm just as with Kufr, no good deed can deliver any benefit.”
By means of this belief, the Murjiah rejected all those Ahadith of Holy Prophet (SAW) which dealt with major sins on the commission of which warnings of punishment in Jahannum were given.
5. FIFTH CAUSE: The Jahmiyyah
It was during his very era that the following of the famous deviated and extremist fanatic, Jahm bin Safwan al Rasibi who was later killed, came onto the scene. He rejected all those Ahadith comprising the attributes of Allah and the details with regard to their coming into existence on a daily basis and the knowledge of Allah with regard to actions and occurrences and accidents prior to them happening. The Fitna of the Quran created and Jabr or Fatalism whereby the servant is bound without any freedom of choice were some of the other Fitan that came onto the general scene with great force. As such, they also clearly rejected the unanimously accepted belief of the Ummah that disbelievers will permanently reside in Jahannum.
In short, these Khariji, Qadri, (Muatazilite) Shiite, Murjiite, and the Jahmiyah were those major factions that came into existence during the initial era of Islam. They smashed the Islamic beliefs to smithereens in order to support their different beliefs and rejected the appropriate Ahadith which did not back their point of view. It was due to them that the Fitna of rejecting Ahadith became a specific Fitna and spread like a plague as we have explained.
This is the history of the opening of the doors to rejecting the Ahadith and Sunnah or its subjection to interpretations, interferences, and changes based on individual opinions and its causes and means. These Kharijis, Qadri’s, Shias, Jahmiyahs, etc were factions which did not reject all the Ahadith nor was it possible for them to do so (for these very factions attempted to substantiate their beliefs by means of Ahadith as a result of which they only rejected those Ahadith which went against their belief system) but in the process, they sowed the seeds for such a course of action which was tread by the later heretics and hypocrites whereby they totally escaped from the Islamic beliefs and openly proclaimed their total rejection of all Ahadith, thereby opening wide the doors of heresy and hypocrisy.
The struggle of jurists and imams for the protection of Hadith and Sunnah
Therefore, the wisdom of Allah necessitated the existence of the Aimmah of Islam (The Imams of Deen) who were to protect the very fabric of Islam and ward of attacks against the Sunnah and Ahadith of the guide of all Prophets and to purify the Islam from all distortion and tampering, from all changes and variations and on which the Islam is established. This is how the Aimmah of ahlus sunnah wal jamaah, the supporters, and protectors came into the arena whereby they fulfilled their obligation to support and protect the Islamic Shariah.
Hence, the very first among these supporters of the sanctified Islam to stand up in order to fulfill this obligation was the guide, Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A). He sacrificed himself in opposition to the Kharijites particularly the faction called the “azariqah”. This faction was the discipline of Nafi ibn Azraq Khariji. Its center was Basrah where he enjoyed much power and support. This is why history shows us that Imam Abu Hanifa traveled from Kufa to Basrah twenty times in order to engage in debate and academic discussions with these azariqah Kharijites. This Nafi ibn Azraq was the first person to call his faction “Murjiah” just as has been explained by Ibn Abil Awwam with his authority in Manaqib Abi Hanifa.
lmam Shafee too took up the gauntlet against the Murjiah and the rejecters of Ahadith and Sunnah in his Writings entitled Kitab ul Umm and Ar Risalah in order to eradicate this belief.
imam Ahmed bin Hambal fulfilled the severe test of withstanding the Mutazilites in their claim that the Quran is created and thereby fulfilled his responsibility to eradicate this false belief as well. As such the incident about the torture of Imam Ahmed bin Hambal is well recorded in the history of Islam as a severely tragic incident. Imam Jalalud deen Suti (R.A) writes in his book entitled, “Miftahul Jannah fil Ehtijaaj bis Sunnah”:
“This school of thought (the refutation of Hadith) was present in abundance during the time of the four Imams and used to attend their lessons. The Imams have written against them in their works and debated against them as well.”
As such there are splendid instances of Imam Abu Hanifa’s achievements with respect to the protection and preservation of Hadith. His tireless efforts in nipping these factions like the Kharijites, Qadri’s, Jahmiyahs, and Mutazilites in the bud, is a reality that cannot be laid waste by history. Similarly, Imam Shafi’s and the Muhaddithen’s continued efforts to eradicate this is something which a reality which cannot be denied and for which we need to be grateful.
Imam Ahmed (R.A) was granted the opportunity and credit for nipping in the bud the concept that the Quran is created and for opposing the Mutazilites, the Jahmiyahs, as well as the rejecters of Allah’s attributes through the Taufeq of Allah.
Due to the rise of this Islamic dissension and deviated sects, the senior Muhaddithen as well as the Imams of the Ahlus sunnah wal Jamaah and at the head of the list, the Imams of Hadith considered it necessary to write specifically in opposition to these rejecters of the Hadith and Sunnah. This is why the compilers of the famous and renowned books on Hadith like Imam Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nisai, Ibn Majah etc. have in their famous books established special chapters dealing with and refuting the beliefs of the protagonists of this heretic, deviated, rejecters of Hadith by collecting Ahadith in order to support this rejection.
Therefore, due to all the efforts and endeavors of the Imams of Hadith and the supporting Imams of the Sunnah both the Hadith and the Sunnah were protected and saved from the vile effects and endeavors of these misguided souls. So much Imam Abu Ja’far Tahawi (R.A) penned his famous book entitled, “Mushkil ul Aathar” and “Sharah Ma’aaniul Aathar” specifically for this purpose and based on the demand for such a treatise as he has explained to himseIf in these books. This is why both these books have been considered as unique and without peer in terms of discussing explaining and elucidating the Ahadith and Sunnah as well as their meanings along with replying to the doubts and misgivings of the rejecters of Hadith as has been explained by Imam Tahawi in the introduction to Sharah Ma’aaniul Aathar.