By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
31 July, 2015
Some of the worst Muslims were in the first few generations and also some of the best.
That the best were among the earliest Muslims who migrated to Medina with the Prophet and the Ansars who welcomed them, gave them shelter and support is attested by the Quran itself in several verses. The expression خَيْرُالْبَرِيَّةِ (the best of creatures) in verse 98:7 is reserved for them and they were promised heaven in their life time itself.
(9:100) The vanguard (of Islam) - the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds, - well-pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.
and of these people it is said that God will not allow them to go astray. Some did but quickly realize their mistake and corrected themselves.
(115) And Allah will not mislead a people after He hath guided them, in order that He may make clear to them what to fear (and avoid)- for Allah hath knowledge of all things.
(117) Allah turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs, and the Ansar,- who followed him in a time of distress, after that the hearts of a part of them had nearly swerved (from duty); but He turned to them (also): for He is unto them Most Kind, Most Merciful.
(118) (He turned in mercy also) to the three who were left behind; (they felt guilty) to such a degree that the earth seemed constrained to them, for all its spaciousness, and their (very) souls seemed straitened to them,- and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah (and no refuge) but to Himself. Then He turned to them, that they might repent: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
Please make a note that they were not infallible nor was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) infallible, and the Quran itself mildly reproaches some of his “errors” and ascribes no divinity to him and makes clear that he was human.
(9:101) Certain of the desert Arabs round about you are hypocrites, as well as (desert Arabs) among the Medina folk: they are obstinate in hypocrisy: thou knowest them not: We know them: twice shall We punish them: and in addition shall they be sent to a grievous penalty.
(102) Others (there are who) have acknowledged their wrong-doings: they have mixed an act that was good with another that was evil. Perhaps Allah will turn unto them (in Mercy): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
The expression “Al-Salaf Al-Sāliḥ” refers to the best among the early Muslims. Conceptually there can be no argument against following the “Al-Salaf Al-Sāliḥ”in all their good deeds but not as perfect human beings since only Allah is perfect. All Sunnis claim to be both Ahle-Sunnat-wal-Jam’at as well as followers of the “Al-Salaf Al-Sāliḥ” including the Barelvis/Sufis as is evident from the following:
“The Ahl as-SunnatWalJama’at is the largest group of Muslims and the only group whose beliefs and teachings are truly in accordance with the Noble Qur’an and Sunnah of the Most Beloved Prophet (SallaAllahualaihiwaSallam). The beliefs of this group are the same as the beliefs of the Sahaba or Noble Companions of the Beloved Prophet (SallaAllahualaihiwaSallam) and the Salf-e-Saliheen (our great pious predecessors). In many Ahadith, the Beloved Prophet (SallaAllahualaihiwaSallam) strongly advised the Muslims to follow his Sunnah and to remain steadfast upon the path of his Sahaba, the Salf-e-Saliheen.”
In practical terms however, since Islamic scholarship and writings beyond the text of the Quran did not begin until 200 years later, the Muslims are followers of what later date scholars made of what the Salaf practiced. What we know about the “Al-Salaf Al-Sāliḥ” is therefore from scholars who came two to three centuries later and therefore in practical terms, the Muslims follow one or several of the scholars of later times. The most important among them are the compilers of the Ahadith and the four imams of Islamic jurisprudence.
All major Sunni sects follow the Quran and the Ahadith and none of the sects has a methodology by which they have declared some of the contradictory Ahadith (plural of Hadith) or those Ahadith that are antithetical to the message of the Quran as doubtful and put them aside as apocryphal. The fact is that all major sects of Islam interpret the Quran through the Ahadith which means that the Hadith prevails over the Quran!
The primary difference between the various sects of Sunni Islam is on the definition of what constitutes “innovation in the religion” or “Bid’at”. Puritanism is thus related to the degree to which innovation in religious practices that are not supported by the Quran and the Ahadith is shunned. But for this, there is very little difference of an ideological nature. Takfir is practiced to the same degree and in the same manner by all sects. Contrary to what is propagated by the sectarians, Abdul Wahhab's teachings as far as Takfir of other sects is concerned, are no different from that of any other sect and none of his writings go against the Ahadith accepted by all sects of Sunni Islam. For example,
Natana J. DeLong-Bas says in her book “Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad” :
“despite his at times vehement denunciations of other religious groups for their supposedly heretical beliefs, Ibn Abd al Wahhab never called for their destruction or death. … he assumed that these people would be punished in the Afterlife …”
“Although a person will be considered as Mushrik until he has fulfilled Aslu-Dīn al-Islām, Abdul Wahhab was opposed to declaring Takfir upon any individual person if the argument has not yet been established upon him so that he has an excuse with Allāh on the Day of Judgment.”
Apostasy is punishable by death for all major sects and while other sects are declared as heretic, heretics are not punishable by death. A person changing his sect is considered an apostate by the sect the person has left which then considers such a person as punishable by death. As long as a person remains in the sect in which he was born, he is safe from all sects that follow their creed strictly.
Radical Islam is a result of the inability of all major sects of Islam to deal appropriately with the Ahadith which have corrupted the Islam of the Quran. The unreliable and mostly concocted Ahadith, are the cancer of Islam. Reform, to my mind, is possible only through a call to a return to the Islam of the Quran which undoubtedly was the Islam of the “Al-Salaf Al-Sāliḥ” and not what passes today as Islam which is a travesty of Islam based on Ahadith concocted two centuries later. All major sects of Islam follow the Ahadith and are suspect and those who lay the greatest emphasis on the Ahadith are the most vulnerable to a xenophobic form of Islam. The Muslims will have to accept that the Quran is the best source for the Sunna of the Prophet and not the Ahadith. The Ahadith must be accorded a secondary position and greater emphasis laid on a study of the Quran for any reform to be possible.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.