Is My Faith Valid Even If I Can’t Answer All Doubts?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: My Mother is dealing with someone at work that is dedicated to making her doubt Islam by trying to find contradictions between Hadith and empirical science. What’s your advice to her?

Most “contradictions” are very specific and would need specialists in those fields to determine accuracy.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

Obligatory Faith

We are obligated to believe everything that the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – delivered to us from God, and that he was truthful in transmitting what he did.

Does Failing to Resolve Apparent Contradictions Negate this?

Someone may point out apparent contradictions between certain narrations and empirical science, in an attempt to demonstrate the unreliability of the former. A Muslim’s faith is not impugned if they do not know how to resolve these apparent contradictions, or how others have sought to resolve it, even if they do nothing to find out.

Reasons for Faith Remaining Intact

This is for two reasons. One is that, as you have mentioned, many such resolutions require specialist knowledge, or at least a familiarity with Islamic or other disciplines. A layperson is not obligated to know such information for their faith to be sound.

The second is that a person is obligated to believe in a general framework that is internally coherent; this is the belief that I mentioned above, that the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – transmitted to us truthfully from God.

With that as the default, singular confusions or lack of understanding of the interpretation of specific traditions attributed to the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, cannot be said to render the entire framework of belief untrue.

This understanding of knowledge accords with the manner in which we normally see and operate in the world. For example, a person can have a general belief in the idea of gravity, which may be as unsophisticated as believing that things are supposed to fall down. That, as a default belief, is based on good evidence, namely, the vast majority of a person’s life experience. If, however, one comes across something that seems to militate against this – say, something that rises instead of falling down – one wouldn’t discard their belief in the general applicability of gravity, even if they don’t understand precisely how this exception fits into the entire system, or never bothers to find out.

A similar scenario plays out for faith beliefs, such as a person’s belief in the prophecy of Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him. An inability to readily explain certain narrations, or even to access scholarly discussion on such matters, does not render the entire coherent framework of belief untrue.

This easily applies at the level of the layperson, because of the lack of access to scholarship. It can also applies at the scholarly level; this is why scholars, who by virtue of being human have access to limited knowledge, may at times indicate that they are not sure yet how to fit certain traditions into the overall framework of established belief.

How Scholars Deal with Difficult Traditions

That said, if one is able to, it is generally encouraged to seek out answers to anything one thinks might impugn their faith.

To this end, it is useful to know how scholars tend to deal with traditions that, while transmitted through sound methods, appear to contradict empirical truths. They usually do this in one of two ways.

The first is to interpret the text in a non-literal fashion when possible, according to linguistic and social convention. This is a preferred method, as it allows for scholars to conserve and continue to make use of the maximum amount of available evidence, as opposed to discarding it.

When this does not appear possible, scholars may consider the tradition fabricated; a general principle is that a sign of a tradition being fabricated is that it irreparably contradicts other clear evidence, whether it be established texts or principles, or empirical truth.

Understanding that there are hermeneutical principles at play in interpreting and dealing with traditions can – God willing – assuage the layperson in remaining content in their faith, especially if one does not have the time, means, or concern to delve into the issues raised. If this is not the case, one should seek out reliable scholarship in an effort to determine how others have specifically dealt with such apparent contradictions.

Shuaib Ally

English Mutawatir Hadith Compilations and Researching the Hadiths of Gibril and Kingship

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: 1) Are there any English translations of Imam Suyuti’s (rahimullah) or Imam al-Kattani’s (rahimullah) mutawatir ahadith compilations?
2) Where can I find the different isnad for the groups of people who narrated the famous hadith of Jibreel (as) about islam, iman and ihsan, and the hour?
3) I heard shaykh Hamza Yusuf mention that there was a hadith that mentions that our beloved Prophet (saw) predicted that “the political tradition of his faith would dissipate very rapidly after 30 years.” Can you tell me which hadith book this is in, its number, its rating, and its isnad?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
1. Not that I know of.
2. You can refer to the commentaries written on this narration. For one in English, see: Commentary on the Hadith of Gibril.
3. The following is perhaps what Sh. Hamza was referring to. This is courtesy of Sh. Girbril Haddad:
1.1 The Prophet said – Allah bless and greet him: “This business began as prophethood and mercy, then mercy and a khalifate, then a voracious kingdom, and then arrogance and tyranny and corruption will enter the community.” In Qadi`Iyad’s al-Shifa’, chapter on the Prophet’s (SAWS) knowledge of the Unseen. This is a proof in Islam and Shari`a that kingship is not as good as caliphate but is better than tyranny. Here are some narrations to that effect in their precise wordings insha Allah:
1.2 “Successorship (al-khilâfa) after me shall last for thirty years. After that, there will be kingship.” Imam Ahmad declared this narration sound and adduced it as a proof for the caliphate of the four Imams. A sound hadith narrated from Safina by al-Tirmidhi (hasan) with a fair chain according to Shaykh ‘Abd Allah al-Talidi who declared it sahîh because of its cor-robo-rative and witness-chains in his edition of al-Suyuti’s Tahdhib al-Khasa’is (p. 293 #375); also narrated by al-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud,Ahmad in his Musnad with two chains; al-Hakim; Ibn Hibban with two fair chains as stated by al-Arna’ut (15:34 #6657, 15:392 #6943); al-Tayalisi in his Musnad (p. 151, 479); and al-Tabarani in al-Kabir with several chains.
This narration is among the “Proofs of Prophethood” (dalâ’il al-nubuwwa) as the sum of the first five caliphates is exactly thirty years: two years and three months for Abu Bakr, ten years and a half for ‘Umar, twelve years for ‘Uthman, four years and nine months for ‘Ali, and six months for al-Hasan as narrated from Safina by al-Suyuti in Tahdhib al-Khasa’is (p. 293 #375) and Tarikh al-Khulafa’ (p. 22, 198-199). Al-Dhahabi cites the saying by Mu’awiya: “I am the first of the kings” (anâ awwalu al-mulûk) in the Siyar (3:157).
1.3 To the man who said: “O Messenger of Allah! I saw in my dream as if a balance came down from the heaven in which you were weighed against Abu Bakr and outweighed him, then Abu Bakr was weighed against ‘Umar and outweighed him, then ‘Umar was weighed against ‘Uthman and outweighed him, then the balance was raised up.” The Prophet ? said: “Successorship of prophethood (khilâfa nubuwwa)! Then Allah shall give kingship to whomever He will.” Narrated from Abu Bakrah by Ahmad with three chains, Abu Dawud, and al-Tirmidhi who said: hasan sahîh, and from Safina by Abu Dawud with a fair chain and al-Bazzar with a fair chain as indicated by al-Haythami. Al-Tirmidhi’s narration omits the last statement of the Prophet (SAWS). Al-Hakim narrated it with a chain similar to al-Tirmidhi’s and graded it sahîh, and al-Dhahabi concurred.
1.4 “There shall be Prophethood (nubuwwa) among you for as long as Allah wishes it to be among you. Then it shall be lifted up when Allah wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be successorship (khilâfa) on the pattern (minhâj) of Prophetship for as long as Allah wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allah wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be a trying kingship (mulkan ‘âddan) for as long as Allah wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allah wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be a tyrannical kingship (mulkan jabriyyatan) for as long as Allah wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allah wishes to lift it up.Then there shall be successorship on the pattern of Prophetship.”Narrated from Hudhayfa by Ahmad with a sound chain as stated by al-Zayn in the Musnad (14:163 #18319) and as indicated by al-Haythami (5:188-189): “Narrated by Ahmad, al-Bazzar with a more complete wording, and al-Tabarani partly, in al-Awsat. The narrators in its chain are trustworthy.” Also narrated from Abu ‘Ubayda by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (1:157) with the wording “Then there shall be kingship and tyranny” after the mention of successorship. It was pointed out that the sequence of events described in these narrations is strikingly similar to the Christian Eastern Orthodox explanation of the Prophet Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of the Babylonian King in Daniel 2:31-43.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani