Monday, 17 August 2015

Reza Aslan is not a Hadith Scholar or Islamic Studies Scholar

So Reza Aslan questioned the historicity of Hadith literature on Twitter and Muslims on the Internet went into an uproar. He is no stranger to dismissive hyperbole and we Muslims are no strangers to overreacting. This makes for an unfavorable combo. I have said time and time again that Twitter with its 140 character limit is no place for such discussions. It forces people to make impetuous statements sorely lacking nuance. But the problem isn't just Reza's statement. I'm not too keen on the reactions I've seen either.

First of all, Reza Aslan is a secular academic scholar of sociology and religious history who happens to be Muslim. He is not an Islamic cleric and scholar. He is not "Shaykh Reza Aslan". He has never claimed to be any of that. So if he expresses his personal opinions and beliefs that are unorthodox in Islam then there is no need to freak out. If any orthodox Sunni or Shi`i Muslim considered, or considers, him an authority from whom one should learn Islam then the problem is with them, and not him.

He has some incredible value to offer when it comes to politics, society and history. But if you intend to study the Qur'an and Sunnah then he's not the guy you're supposed to be going to. And if anyone did then, as I said, the fault was theirs, not his. Secondly, look at the CONTEXT of his controversial Tweet. Who was it in response to? Did any of you who are outraged bother to go on Twitter and read the entire Tweet chain? He made this statement in an exchange with the atheist maniac Sam Harris and his groupies. Sam Harris is the nut who mused whether Muslim nations should be preemptively nuked and also said he'd rather get rid of religion rather than rape. They were using Hadith citations to discredit Islam and, out of frustration, Reza dismissed Hadith literature in toto. THAT is what happened.

So, yes, he said (and, apparently, believes) something that is wrong according to the overwhelming majority of Muslims, but please understand that he did so in the context of defending you! We get all giddy and cheer for Glenn Greenwald when he defends Muslims' rights and speaks out against injustices towards them and he's a non-Muslim. Why should we treat Reza so differently?

Finally, in regards to Reza's dismissive contentions with Hadith literature, I present that God says in the Qur'an: “Naught but men divinely inspired were sent before you. So ask the People of Remembrance (of the previous scriptures) if you do not know.” [16:43]

 Aside from the obvious moral of asking only those who are qualified when one does not know something, there is a more critical nuance in this verse. When God cites His divinely elect prophets who came before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the many, many others like them (peace and blessings be upon them all), he says to ask the people knowledgable in the previous scriptures...scriptures which happen to be transmitted by a far, far less rigorous standard than Hadith literature with its Isnad transmission system and the methods of censuring and exonerating thousands upon thousands of thoroughly documented narrators. So if God is instructing in the Qur'an itself that the believers are to ask the experts in the Bible —for most of which the authors are not even known!— then how can one fault the far more rigorously verified Hadith literature? So everyone, Reza, outraged Muslims, go back to your corners and reflect a little. Try and understand one another better and don't be dismissive towards one another.

And for the love of God don't engage in such high level discussions on any medium where you have to limit your responses to 140 characters!

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