By Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman issued a Royal Decree on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 for the establishment of a complex named after him for the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam). It will be in Madeenah and be known as The King Salman Complex For The Prophet’s Hadeeth.
In the Royal Decree, the King was very explicit as to the reason behind establishing the Complex which is ‘in recognition of the elevated position occupied by the Hadeeth among Muslim faithful as the second source of the corpus of Islamic Shari’ah after the Glorious Qur’an’. This came as an answer to popular demands from specialists in the field and other scholars with interest in the Prophet’s Hadeeth to have a complex that will compliment what the King Fahd Complex for the Glorious Qur’an is doing in printing and distributing Allah’s Book, so also there will be free distribution of the the Prophet’s Hadeeth around the world.
This noble effort of King Salman that should be appreciated by every Muslim was misrepresented in some quarters which made some people question the intention behind establishing the Hadeeth Complex in the first place. I heard and read in the social media that in an interview he granted the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Sheikh (Prof) Ibrahim Ahmad Makari said the King Salman Hadeeth Complex will not succeed in its aim, and criticised ‘the Saudi Arabian government for promoting Islamist extremism and teaching terrorism…’, among other unsavoury comments.
I was grieved and sad. Why would my brother, Sheikh (Prof) Makari, go out of his way to criticise the establishment of a Hadeeth Complex such as that of King Salam’s? Yes, I know Sheikh (Prof) Makari is not a friend of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As a Tijjaniyyah adherent, Sheikh (Prof) Makari has never hidden his grave reservations about Saudi policies or what some will call Wahhabism, but I did not think he would take exception to an initiative that will serve the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam).
I did what the Glorious Quran adjured Muslims to do in such matters – investigate – lest I injure my brother unwittingly and regret my action afterwards. (Al-Hujuraat: 6). Thus I spoke to Sheikh (Prof) Makari concerning what I read on Facebook and in WhatsApp groups on what he said and why. He told me what happened exactly and even offered to send me online links as well as audio recording of the aired BBC interview.
Let me state here, as I did on these pages sometime ago; I am a proud ‘Wahhabi’, whatever that means to the reader, even though I have not seen or heard of any group so named. I have not seen any mosque consecrated to Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia in spite of my frequent visits to that country. But I reckon that enemies of Tauheed (Islamic Monotheism) as propounded by Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhaab in his Kitaabut Tauheed are wont to christen anyone who accepts that understanding as a Wahhabi. So, yes, I profess that only Allah has the right to be worshiped, alone without partners in any form, and that graven images, idols, waliyyai (saints), Sheikhs, Gausus, prophets or angels do not deserve to be worshiped in any way that is Allah’s due. If this is Wahhabism, let those who are averse to Tauheed perish in their rage, I am ‘Wahhabi’, proudly!
I was informed by Sheikh (Prof) Makari that a lady called him from the BBC and offered to interview him ‘on a very urgent matter’; that Saudi Arabia is set to remove from the books of Hadeeth all texts used by extremists in advancing terrorism around the world. The said lady gave Sheikh (Prof) Makari 30 minutes within which to get ready for the telephone interview to express his opinion on the issue, and sent him a link of the (London) Guardian online that carried the news : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/18/saudi-scholars-to-vet-teaching-of-prophet-muhammad-to-curb-extremism?CMP=twt_gu
The heading of the story on this Guardian online page read: Saudi scholars to vet teaching of prophet Muhammad to curb extremism
‘Saudi authorities’, continues the story, ‘have taken an “unprecedented” step to tackle Islamic extremism by setting up a council of scholars to vet religious teachings around the world.
‘A royal order issued this week by King Salman established a global body of elite scholars based in the holy city of Medina to root out and “eliminate fake and extremist texts”.’
The story has nothing to do with the text of the Royal Decree which Sheikh (Prof) Makari, a professor of Arabic, would have read online in the original language it was issued. The Royal Decree did not speak about vetting or eliminating any ‘fake and extremist texts’. The evil contrivance to deliberately misrepresent the import of King Salman’s Royal Decree on the Hadeeth Complex came from Reuters and broadcast by the (London) Guardian. The lady from BBC called a busy scholar on such an important issue without adequate notice. She did even worse by putting blinkers on Sheikh (Prof) Makari’s judgement when she sent him a link to the deliberate lies in the Reuters article. Surely my brother would only have enough time to read and digest the fake news before the telephone interview, and coupled with the dislike he already has for Saudi Arabia’s religious policies, the result was not a surprise. I will come to what he should have done later, insha Allah.
What scholars of Hadeeth do is work on both the chain of transmission and the text of any narration attributed to the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam), his companions and those who came after them. Each Hadeeth is rated and categorised as saheeh (sound), hasan (good), da’eef (weak), maudu’ (fabricated), etc. according to the trustworthiness or otherwise of the people in its broken or unbroken chain of transmitters, as well as the standing of its text in relation to other texts of similar import, proven historical events or the wordings of the Qur’an itself. They do not ‘vet’ or ‘eliminate’ any Hadeeth. Those words are reminiscent of what is done in Christendom where a board of ‘eminent scholars’, backed by representative of various denominations will sit to vet what could or couldn’t be in the Bible or what to eliminate in order to revise and standardise the word of God. Therefore, no Muslim will be comfortable with the news published by the Guardian regarding vetting and eliminating Hadeeth.
The one thing Muslims can confidently lay claim to is that our religious texts and scriptures are not tampered with. The entire vast field of Hadeeth sciences was borne out of the need to ensure that all the texts remain intact and are not subject to the whims of men. If someone invents a new narration in hadeeth today, unless he keeps it hidden, he shall be exposed for a fraud. The Quran preservation methods are even stricter; just like the Hadeeth, many people have memorised it completely and they can reproduce it verbatim in oral or written form. I wrote a piece on these wonderful preservers of the exact words of Allah in 2012, which I titled, “I Am Almajiri” http://www.abubakrsiddeeq.com/2012/09/i-am-almajiri.html
Moreover, the BBC, for whatever reason, did not give Sheikh (Prof) Makari ample time to crosscheck the information before granting the interview. To be fair to Sheikh (Prof) Makari, he had made frantic attempts to seek help from a WhatsApp group, (Nahnu Muslimun), of which I am a member, for anyone who has any update on the matter. He did not get any, as apparently, none of us saw the message in time to be of help. Do not tell me, the BBC was not complicit; it has full access to the original text, the link of which I am sharing here: http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewstory.php?lang=ar&newsid=1678298 .
The Royal Order was very clear. It established the Complex where Hadeeth sciences would be studied, specified its name and the head of its Council of Scholars and said the composition of its remaining members would be made public through another edict. It did not mention any removal of Hadeeths which promote terrorism as there are none. The mischief of Reuters here beggars belief because they have access to the official release as I do via the Saudi Press Agency, the equivalent of Nigeria’s NAN.