I felt I should say something following the poll I made a few posts ago on hadiths, and why they add to the Quran’s instructions. Thank you to everyone who answered, it was very interesting to survey people’s opinions. The poll is open indefinitely, so if you haven’t already answered, feel free to!
The most popular answer at this point is that God was considered to be revealing things to Muhammad besides what is in the Quran. This is not really a surprise, since mainstream Islam and shariah law is based on this premise. But all around the blogosphere, I see people saying that the Quran is the word of God and hadiths are the word of man and the two cannot be compared. I have said this myself.
I just thought it was interesting that so many of us seem to naturally assume that the Quran would have more weight, when in fact this is not really the mainstream position, and it seems likely that it was not the original belief of the early Muslims either – they probably accepted divine commands from the mouth of Muhammad. The idea of divine scripture being central to everything, like a “life manual”, is basically the Protestant attitude to the Bible, and I wonder if this has pervaded our consciousness in western culture and caused us to see the Quran this way.
Of course there are more issues about authenticity when it comes to hadiths, as compared to the Quran. And the Quran was certainly treated differently than the sayings of Muhammad. But how was it viewed by the early Muslims? Was it used the same way Protestants use the Bible – as a life manual; or was it a much more mystical entity, recited in prayer and revered as a part of the mystery of God? Where did actually they take their authority from on matters of ritual, law, behaviour…? These are questions I think need to be asked rather than taking the liberty of making assumptions.
Unless, of course, history doesn’t matter and we divorce ourselves completely from the origins of our religions, choosing to let our religion be whatever it has evolved to become over the centuries (which may well be an improvement). Nothing wrong with that AT ALL as long as we are clear we are not following a “universal” religion in its original form.