Moving on… Now we shall provide you, our dear reader, with an illustration that demonstrates how one particular hadith has one certain meaning but in the hadith there are different words that convey a matching implication. Here is the hadith in its original Arabic. It is well known among the scholars.
جاءت امرأة الى النبي وأرادت أن تهب نفسها له، فتقدم رجل فقال: يا رسول الله: أنكحنيها. ولم يكن معه من المهر غير بعض القرآن ، فقال له النبي: أنكحتك بما معك من القرآن.
وفي رواية: "قد زوجتكها بما معك من القرآن"
وفي رواية ثالثة: "زوجتك على ما معك"
وفي رواية رابعة: "قد ملكتكها بما معك"
وفي رواية خامسة: "قد ملكتكها بما معك من القرآن"
وفي رواية سادسة: "أنكحتكها على أن تقرئها وتعلمها"
وفي رواية سابعة: "أمكناكها..."
وفي رواية ثامنة: "خذها بما معك"
The following is the approximate translation of the above hadith:
“A woman approaches the Prophet (pbuh) with the intention of conceding herself to him in marriage (i.e. wanting to marry him). At that moment a man comes forward and says: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Bequeath her to me in marriage and wedlock.’ This person had nothing to offer as a wedding gift except some of the Qur’an (which he had memorized). So, the Prophet (pbuh) said to him: ‘I give her to you in lieu of the Qur’an that you have (i.e. your memorization of some of the Qur’an)’.”
In a second narration of this same hadith the ending is: ‘I couple you with her in matrimony in lieu of [parts of] the Qur’an that you have [memorized].’
In a third narration of that same ending of the hadith it says: ‘I couple you with her in matrimony in lieu of what you have [of the Qur’an].’
In a fourth narration of the ending of that hadith it says: ‘I give you [marital] custody of her in exchange for what you have [of the Qur’an’s memorization].’
In a fifth narration of this same hadith the ending of it says: ‘I give you [marital] custody of her in exchange for what you have [obtained] of the Qur’an.’
In a sixth narration of this identical hadith the ending goes like this: ‘I couple you with her in marriage and matrimony provided you school here and teach her [what you know of the Qur’an].’
In a seventh narration of this very same hadith the ending is: ‘We give you sway over her.’
And in the eighth and final version of the ending of this hadith it says: ‘Take her with what you have [acquired of the Qur’an].’
As one can see, the hadith begins with the same wording but it ends with different words imparting an interrelated meaning. It should be evident that the Prophet (pbuh) did not repeat all of these eight different sentences in that one setting. Obviously there were not eight different women who came to him to marry him and then he ceded them to eight different men on eight different occasions. The truth of the matter, which is not a point of contention among anyone, that this hadith tells us about one incident but the last phrase in this same hadith is worded in a different way eight times. What we may understand from this is that the Prophet (pbuh) actually articulated one of the eight expressions above and the other seven were a rewording of the Prophet’s original words by those who professed to have heard the Prophet (pbuh) express himself. So, we have seven narrations above that were rephrased by the original relator whoever he may have been. Without going into fiqhi details, there is an undignified connotation when some learned scholars establish an equivalency between “having sway over” or “taking control of” a woman on one hand [refer to the seventh and eighth narrations above] and husband-and-wife pairing a dignified and apportioned marriage on the other.
These types of rephrasing and rewording of the Prophet’s statements by narrators is what convinced some remarkable linguists not to cite hadith as a reference for linguistic, grammatical, and etymological purposes. The Qur’an, though, is cited and quoted for linguistic, grammatical and etymological purposes.
A quick reminder here—it is not our preference to dwell at length on these diverting and sometimes disturbing aspects of “hadiths” that are fake and statements attributed to our dear Prophet (pbuh) that are untrue. Some readers may think that there are “larger fish to fry”. And we understand that. But the fact of the matter is that the nationalisms, sectarianisms, and liberalisms that have harmfully shaken us to the core are directly and openly related to mistaken and/or misunderstood hadiths. There is a mental and psychological war on par with the military and ideological war against our inevitable Islamic renewed beginning. There are some Muslims who use the word “khalifah” as the watchword and fulcrum in expressing their return to basics and their resumption of an independent and consolidated Islamic state of affairs. And then there are some other Muslims who use the word “Imam” as the catchword and pivot in expressing their return to basics and their resumption of an independent and consolidated Islamic state of affairs. And both of these approaches are laced with sectarianism in many instances. And this need not be. This sectarianism cannot be substantiated by the Qur’an or verified by genuine hadiths from the Prophet (pbuh). So where does it come from? It comes from the false hadith literature on both sides of the sectarian spectrum and then it takes on a life of its own. The terrible warfare and terrifying wars that are costing us—both Sunnis and Shi‘is – tens of millions of innocent lives being killed, or injured or dislocated in Yemen, Syria, ‘Iraq, Afghanistan, etc… Here, in this column, we are trying to disinfect hadith literature that is specific to “Sunnis”. We extend our hand of friendship and brotherhood to someone on the other side who will reciprocate and try to disinfect hadith literature that is specific to “Shi‘is”. Once this task is mutually undertaken by “Sunni-Shi‘i unity Muslims”, from both sides, our conviction is that we the Muslims (of whatever historical or cultural background) will have reached a degree of maturity and a common understanding of togetherness that will make it very difficult if not impossible for our common internal and external enemies to continue to work on our “contradictions”. We all agree that our perfect Prophet (pbuh) undertook two concerns and commissions: a recipient of revelation and an initiator of the revelation’s application; the first concern – that of receiving revelation – was completed before he passed away. The Muslims after the Prophet (pbuh) needed someone who would carry on the implementation of revelation and who would be contained and controlled by what has already been revealed. They understood that whoever would assume that position would have to be selfless. No power monger or self-centric is qualified for that position. Of the three qualifying segments for leadership of that newfound Islamic society – Banu Hashim, al-Muhajiroon, al-Ansar there was a common understanding that most of the people who, a short time ago, had become Muslims were not verifiably committed and demonstrably tested and experienced to “run for that office” and manage the affairs of the Ummah. Most committed Muslims belonging to the three societal segments above understood the “public mood” that had resulted from a decade of polarization and warfare between an anti-Islamic Makkah and the power base of Islam in al-Madinah. The greater part of the “Islamic citizenry” were either “dual loyalists”, Arabian amateurs, desert-dwelling nomads, amnestied Makkan ex-enemies of the Prophet (pbuh), people with strong tribal affiliations and those with weak Islamic devotion, etc…
To preserve the togetherness of the “Muslim public” and avoid an internal Islamic civil war those who assumed the responsibilities of “head of state” in the first forty years after the Prophet (pbuh) passed on were noble and unselfish. In a highly charged tribal culture and history they disallowed any family member from ascending into the higher offices of the Islamic governing body. The divergence from this Prophetic principle occurred during the last six years of the rule of ‘Uthman. Those forty years after the departure of the Prophet (pbuh), with the far from certain last six years of ‘Uthman’s rule, cannot be likened to any monarchical or dynastic rule. They were, in their own way, an attempt to “stay the Prophetic course”. What remains to be said here is that there was no psychological hostility or armed opposition by Imam ‘Ali to the three incumbents who preceded him – even though he was more qualified to lead and had his differences with them.
We hope to continue on this path of Islamic brotherliness with the aid of Allah (swt).
Knowledge rests with Allah alone: I only put across to you the message with which I have been entrusted… (Al-Ahqaf, 23)