July 23rd, 2010

How to respond to the "fake hadith" defense

It's commonly accepted amongst Muslims that the Quran is God's eternal, unchangeable word, but that the hadith collections contain some "fake hadith".  They will often use this defense to dismiss unsavory accounts of their prophet's life.

If that happens, this is an effective response:

EW:  The hadith collections of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are considered to be the second and third most authentic and important books in Islam.  Both these accounts make it absolutely clear that Prophet Mohammed married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her when she was nine (It's worthwhile to read the relevant hadith).

So Dr. Naik, we've already established that Mohammed is a "beautiful pattern of conduct" for Muslims to follow.  Therefore, you certainly believe that in the year 2010, all his actions were morally acceptable, correct?  So you must believe that in the year 2010 there are certain circumstances in which it is morally acceptable for a grown man to marry and have sex with a nine year old child, correct?

Dr. Naik:  Actually, the Quran is eternal and unchangeable, but the hadith collections are subject to corruption.  We believe that there are numerous fake hadith in the collections of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, even though in general, their accounts are very reliable.  We believe that the hadiths which indicate Aisha's age are fake.  Recent analysis has concluded that Aisha was approximately 16 when the marriage was consummated.

EW:  Oh, that's interesting.  Even though these two books are considered the second and third most important books in Islam, you believe they are filled with fake and/or unreliable information.  That seems strange to me.

Is this a correct statement?  In order for Muslims to draw close to God, Muslims are to follow the Quran and the Sunnah (the sayings and deeds of the Prophet).

Dr. Naik:  Yes, Muslims are to do both.

EW:  Alright, then please either confirm or deny this statement:  in order for Muslims to follow the Sunnah, they are to look to the six "authentic" hadith collections, of which the two most reliable are those by Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

Dr. Naik:  That's basically correct, but we're also to look to the sira (biographies of Mohammed).

EW:  Alright, thank you.  So it's God's plan for people to draw near to him by following the Quran and the Sunnah, and in order to understand the Sunnah, they are to read the hadith collections of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.  Yet according to you, these most reliable hadith collections are filled with fake and unreliable information.

I'm having trouble grasping this.  God wants you to follow the Sunnah, but he made the Sunnah deliberately difficult to understand.  Why do you think God did that?

Dr. Naik:  God most certainly did not intentionally provide false information.  These hadith collections were corrupted by men, and as we're all aware, men are from from perfect.

EW:  It's true that men are fallen, but answer this question for me.  Do you believe that your god is all-powerful?

Dr. Naik:  Surely he is.

EW:  OK.  Then either confirm or deny this statement for me:  God is powerful enough to keep the hadith collections free from fake hadith.

Dr. Naik:  Well, yes, He could have.

EW:  Alright, so your god could have kept these hadith collections free from fake/unreliable hadith, but He didn't.  Therefore, we can only conclude that your god intentionally included fake hadith.  Why do you personally believe your god would do such a thing?  You earlier told us that God wants man to follow both the Quran and the Sunnah, yet according to your own words, God gave man no clear way to understand the Sunnah.  Seems odd.  Please help me to understand this.

Dr. Naik:  Well, we believe that God allowed some fake hadith so that His followers would take the time to carefully study the holy texts and learn more about His true character.

EW: It seems strange to me that a "holy, pure" God would try to intentionally deceive his own followers, but I suppose I'll go with it.

Let's now go back to the issue of Aisha's age.  Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari clearly stated that Aisha was nine.  None of the other "authentic" hadith collections disputed this.  Why do you personally choose to believe God included these outright lies into his holiest of books?

Dr. Naik:  (I'm not entirely sure what happens at this point, but this approach has worked well in previous debates, so I'd recommend using it)