True Conception of the Ahmadiyya Movement
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
The Third Distinction: The Quran must be given Precedence over Everything Else
All Muslims agree that the Quran is the real source of guidance for Muslims. All the Islamic principles are mentioned in it, and this pure book is in our hands in exactly the same form in which it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The status of Hadith, though a collection of reports of the Holy Prophet, is not in any way equal to that of the Quran, and that it has not been so carefully preserved as the Quran. Firstly, because the hadith gives only the sense of what the Prophet said and his actual words have not been preserved entirely and, secondly, the fabricated reports have also found place in the works of Hadith.
Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), which although the result of the exercise of judgement (ijtihad) by the great Imams, cannot be held above the Quran or Hadith. A jurist does err, sometimes in spite of his profound knowledge and good intentions. Moreover, Fiqh is concerned only with those matters which have not been expressly mentioned in the Quran or Hadith because it is only then that the need of ijtihad arises. As a matter of belief, though Muslims consider the Quran above everything else, practically they attach more importance to Fiqh over the Quran and the Hadith. The general attitude of the Ahl Sunnah wal Jamaah relating to all matters of principles of religion or a portion thereof is that they should refer to one of the four Imams, and according to the Ahl Hadith (Wahabis) reference should be made to the Hadith of the Prophet. The argument brought forward in the first case is that Imams had a better understanding of the Quran than common Muslims and if perchance there seems to be a difference between the Quran and the ijtihad of an imam, they should better follow the Imam, as his knowledge and understanding of the Quran was much superior to their own knowledge. And according to the Ahl Hadith, if any difference exists between a hadith and a verse of the Quran it should be solved in the light of the hadith, the latter being the saying of the Holy Prophet who had again the better understanding of the Quran.
Doubtless we should all bow our heads in complete submission to the sayings of the Holy Prophet but the difficulty is that all the words of a hadith are not the actual words uttered by the Holy Prophet. Only the sense of his utterances has been conveyed to us and the words of the reports which are at present before us, are in most cases the words of the reporters. As compared to this the words of the Quran are definitely the same which were revealed to the Prophet; therefore, if we place the Hadith over the Quran it would mean that we are giving a higher status to words, which are not certain, over the Divine communication which is absolute and certain in every respect. Besides this, the compilers of Hadith have very often differed themselves about the authenticity of a hadith. One hadith may be accepted by Tirmidhi or Abu Dawud but not by Bukhari and Muslim. Again, a hadith accepted by Muslim may be rejected by Bukhari. Even the reports collected in Bukhari have been criticized although the book has been regarded as the most correct book after the Book of God. It has been, however, declared the most correct book as compared only to the Quran because the authenticity of the Quran, unlike Hadith, cannot be doubted. Thus if we observe any contradiction between the Quran and a hadith, in all cases the Quran should be given preference over the hadith. If a contradiction is found, the hadith should be interpreted to make it fall in conformity with the Quran or else it should be rejected.
The question of ijtihad of Muslim Imams is more clear than this. No doubt their knowledge of the Quran and Hadith was greater than ours but they were after all not infallible. Was it not possible for them to commit an error at some place while interpreting the Quran? Was their knowledge of the Quran equal to God’s knowledge and free from the possibility of all errors? Again many times it happens that an Imam gives a judgement on the basis of a Quranic verse but fails to notice another verse which is more explicit on the subject. The instance of ‘Umar is well known who exhorted Muslims not to exceed a certain limit in fixing up nuptial gifts (mahr), otherwise the excess amount would be deposited to the Bait al-Mal (Public Treasury). An old lady stood up and argued with him by quoting the verse:
“And (if) you have given one of them a heap of gold, take nothing out of it.”1
This proves that even a heap of gold could be offered to a woman in marriage. ‘Umar immediately apologized for his mistake as he had not thought of this particular verse at that time. This does not mean that the woman’s knowledge of the Quran was greater than that of ‘Umar. Similarly, if a particular verse escapes any Imam’s notice, this does not go to slight his knowledge of the Quran. Again in matters of Hadith also he may err in his judgement, either being unaware of a particular report or forgetting it while contemplating over a subject.
The Quran and Hadith, therefore, should always be given preference over Fiqh or the ijtihad of the Imams. This mistake which has been referred to above is found among all the Muslim sects. Practically, all of them give preference to the sayings of their respective Imams over the Quran, with the result that this Divine Book has been relegated to the background. It is recited in prayers or for further reward of course but Fiqh is considered to be the real Shariah of Islam. The natural beauty and simplicity of Islam has been lost in the labyrinth of arduous and nerve-racking questions which have ultimately sapped the energy of Muslim nation. The principles of Islam which had arrested the hearts of other people have become like riddles by the inclusion of such intricacies, which in the end blocked the progress of Islam. Books depicting the teachings of Islam written by European Christians were chiefly based on the works of Fiqh and they tried to excite hatred against Islam among the Europeans by presenting before them a confused and complicated picture of the simple doctrines and beliefs of Islam.
To remove all these misunderstandings and revive the movement for the preaching of Islam it was, however, essential that the original simplicity of Islam be restored. This was the work that Ahmadiyya Movement accomplished by laying due emphasis on the importance of the Quran in a Muslims’s life. The Founder explained not only the right place of the Holy Quran as compared to Hadith and Fiqh but also directed his whole attention to the study and teachings of the Quran. For the reformation of Muslims and for the propagation of Islam among non-Muslims he used the Quran as his chief instrument. In his poems along with his expression of love for the Prophet Muhammad, his love for and devotion to the Quran has also been fully manifested. The object of all this was that Muslims should develop a real thirst for the Quran and consider it a panacea for all their ills and the basis of all their progress. They should go ahead with it to conquer the world as they did before in the early days of Islam.
Whatever success the Ahmadiyya Movement has achieved in its missionary activities is due to the fact that it has placed the Quran above everything else. Although the Ahmadis fully respect the Hadith and thereafter the ijtihad of the Imams and after the Quran they refer to and accept these two as sources of information on religious matters, yet their main energy is spent in disseminating the knowledge of the Quran which was the real source of the life of Muslims before, and it is the Quran which is still capable of giving them life. The Fiqh throws light on certain details of our religion and the Hadith, apart from this, contains valuable teachings for high morals but the Quran is far superior to both of them. It not only lays down the principles of religion, or sheds light on certain fundamental problems or teaches the highest morals to men but also generates faith in God and creates in man the will for action. And this faith is the real source of all religious life. In short, by giving preference to the Quran the Ahmadiyya Movement has set up the right basis of reformation among Muslims and preaching of Islam among non-Muslims.
- The Holy Quran, 4:20. ↩