Fazlur Rahman’s Understanding of the Hadist/Sunnah

Andi Purwanto & Arif Imam Zulfahmi *

Fazlur Rahman was probably the most learned of the major Muslim thinkers in the second-half of the twentieth century, in terms of both classical Islam and Western philosophical and theological discourse. He came from a Punjabi family steeped in traditional Islamic learning; and then went on to familiarise himself with modern critical thinking at Oxford under H.A.R. Gibb and Van Der Bergh. In general, he was a committed teacher and research scholar (he was particularly innovative in Avicennian studies) with spells at Durham, McGill (Montreal) and California. From 1969 until his death, he held the post of Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Chicago, and so far has been the only Muslim to receive the prestigious Giorgio Levi Della Vida prize (1983). A disastrous spell in Pakistan during the 1960s, attempting to reform the teaching of Islam at tertiary level there, led to a systematic attempt, when Fazlur Rahman returned to North America, to re-evaluate his religious heritage. He is virtually unknown outside of intellectual circles, not having been a scholar-activist like his contemporary, Isma‘il al-Faruqi (d. 1986). It remains to be seen whether Muslims by pondering his works will be inspired to popularise his ideas.

For all those Muslim Researchers out there, we would like to offer Fazlur Rahman as a paradigm of the modern committed Muslim intellectual. But to say this when Muslims have fallen into the deepest intellectual stagnation, which no amount of self-defeating rhetoric can hide, we must face the uncomfortable truth: within modern accumulations of knowledge lie some of the tools for our intellectual re- ignition and renewal. This is something that Fazlur Rahman recognised, and, in this sense, he is a torch-bearer. For insight, independence of thought, and crucially, unremitting courage, his work bears repeated examination. His bravery is borne out by the fact that he was criticised by all sides, as well as praised by many. If I might begin with a brief outline of his life.

Special in this paper, we would like to write about one side of FazlurRahman’s thoughts, that is ‘Fazlur Rahman’s Understanding of the Hadist or Sunnah’. The study of Hadith based on Fazlur Rahman thought has a important meaning to the renewal of Islamic thought, especially its contribution in the field of methods and approaches. The historical approach of Fazlur Rahman offers a positive contribution to the study of traditions that had been occupied by the study sanad, -which based on his opinion- although giving a rich biographical information, but can not be positive argument that is final. Muslims today, according to Rahman, requires a methodological attempt to melt back the traditions that exist in the form of a living Sunnah (sunnah living) through historical approach.

Fazlur Rahman has reviewed intellectual works associated with the study of hadith, among them are Ignaz Goldziher, Margoliouth, H. Lammens, and Joseph Schacht. Rahman begans of his study hadith which its study the concepts of Sunnah in the early history of Islam until the formalization of tradition, and offers a historical approach in the study. So, the keyword of Rahman’s thought is the sunnah living (living sunnah), the moral idea (ratio legislators), and specific legal.

Hadith studies of Fazlur Rahman gives some contribution of new knowledge about the methods of criticism of the Hadith, gives an alternative way of methodological rigidity of Islamic thought, especially the Islamic legal thought that during this periode build methodological on flavorful methodological formalistic scholars, scripturalistic and atomistic, and contribute significantly to reconstruct the “istinbath methods”.  So that more feasible to challenge the era.

SUNNAH AND HADIST: Something More About the Sunnah

SUNNAH is a behavioral concept—whether applied to physical or mental acts—and, further, denotes not merely a single act as such but in so far as this act is actually repeated or potentially repeatable. In other words, a sunnah is a law of behavior whether instanced once or often. And since, strictly speaking, the behavior in question is that of conscious agents who can “own” their acts, a sunnah is not just a law of behavior (as laws of natural objects) but a normative moral law: the element of moral “ought” is an inseparable part of the meaning of the concept Sunnah. According to the view dominant among more recent Western scholars, Sunnah denotes the actual practice which, through being long established over successive generations, gains the status of normativeness  and becomes “Sunnah”.[[1]]

This theory seems to make actual practice—over a period—not only temporarily but also logically prior to the element of normativeness and to make the latter rest on the former. It is obvious that this view derives its plausibility from the fact that since Sunnah is a behavioral concept, what is actually practiced by a society over a long period, is considered not only its actual practice but also its normative practice. This is especially true of strongly cohesive societies like the tribal ones. But, surely, these practices could not have been established in the first place unless abinitio they were considered normative. Logically, therefore, the element of normativeness must be prior. And although it must be admitted that the fact of a custom’s being long established adds a further element of normativeness to it—especially in conservative societies—this factor is quite different and must be radically disentangled from the initial normativeness.

That Sunnah essentially means “exemplary conduct” as such and that actually being followed is not a part of its meaning (although the fulfillment of the Sunnah necessarily consists in being followed) can be demonstrated by numerous examples such as the following. Ibn Durayd, in his Jamharah (and he is followed in this by other lexicographers), gives the original meaning of the verb sannah as “sawwara (al-shay’a)”, i.e., to fashion a thing or produce it as a model. Next, it is applied to behavior which is considered a model. Here (and this is the sense relevant to us here) sannah would be best translated by “he set an example”. It is in this sense that Abu Yusuf admonishes Harun al-Rashid (see his Kitab al-Kharaj, the chapter on Sadaqai) asking   the Caliph “to introduce (as distinguished from ‘to follow’) some good sunnahs”. In the same passage, Abu Yusuf quotes the Hadith, which may be very early, “whoever introduces a good sunnah will be rewarded . . and whoever introduces a bad sunnah . . . “, etc. If one asks how a sunnah could be bad if its essential meaning is not to be actually followed by others but to be morally normative, the answer (given by the author of Lisan al- Arab, s.v.) is that those who set bad examples wish, nevertheless, to be followed by others and in most cases (perhaps in all cases) they do not think they are setting bad examples.[[2]]

From the concept of normative or exemplary conduct there follows the concept of standard or correct conduct as a necessary complement. If I regard someone’s behavior as being exemplary for me then, in so far as I follow this example successfully, my behavior will be thus far up to the standard or correct. There enters, therefore, an element of “straightness” or correctness into this enlarged complemental sense of the word “sunnah”. It is in this sense that the expression “sananal-tariq” is used which means “the path straight ahead” or “the path without deviation”. The prevalent view that in its primary sense sunnah means “the trodden path” is not supported by any unique evidence, although, of course, a straight path without deviation implies that the path is already chalked out which it cannot be unless it has been already trodden. Further, the sense in which sunnah is a straight path without any deviation to the right or to the left also gives the meaning of a  “mean between extremes” of the “middle way”. [[3]]


That Hadith from the Prophet must have existed from the very beginning of Islam is a fact which may not reasonably be doubted. Indeed, during the life-time of the Prophet, it was perfectly natural for Muslims to talk about what the Prophet did or said, especially in a public capacity. The Arabs, who memorized and handed down poetry of their poets, sayings of their soothsayers and statements of their judges and tribal leaders, cannot be expected to fail to notice and narrate the deeds and sayings of one whom they acknowledged as the Prophet of God.[[4]]

Rejection of this natural phenomenon is tantamount to a grave irrationality, a sin against history. Their new Sunnah—the Sunnah of the Prophet—was much too important (an importance so emphatically enshrined in the Qur’an itself) to be either ignored or neglected, as we sought to establish in the previous chapter. This fact juts out like a restive rock in the religious history of Islam, reducing any religious or historical attempt to deny it to a ridiculous frivolity: the Sunnah of the Community is based upon, and has its source in, the Sunnah of the Prophet.

But the Hadith, in the  Prophet’s  own time, was largely an informal affair, for the only need for which it  would  be  used  was the  guidance in the   actual practice  of the Muslims and this need was fulfilled by the  Prophet  himself.    After his   death, the Hadith seems to have attained a semi-formal status for it was natural for the emerging generation to enquire about the Prophet.   There is no evidence, however, that the Hadith was compiled in any form even at this stage. The reason, again, seems to be this, viz., that whatever Hadith existed—as the carrier  of the Prophetic Sunnah—existed for practical purposes, i.e., as something which could generate and be elaborated into the practice of  the   Community.          For this   reason, it was interpreted by the rules and   the judges freely according   to   the   situation at hand and something was produced in course of time which we have described as the “living Sunnah”. But when, by the third and fourth quarters of   the   first century, the living Sunnah had expanded vastly in different regions of the Muslim Empire through this process of interpretation in the interests of actual practice, and difference in law and legal practice widened, the Hadith   began to develop into a formal discipline.[[5]]

It appears that the activity of the Hadith transmitters was largely independent of, and, in cases, developed even in opposition to, the practice of the lawyers and judges. Whereas the lawyers based their legal work on the living Sunnah and interpreted their materials freely through their personal judgment in order to elaborate law, the Hadith transmitters saw their task as consisting of reporting, with the purpose of promoting legibility and permanence. Although the exact relationship between the lawyers and the transmitters of the Hadith in the earliest period is obscure for lack of sufficient materials this much seems certain that these two represented in general the two terms of a tension between legal growth and legal permanence: the one interested in creating legal materials, the other seeking a neat methodology or a framework that would endow the legal materials with stability and consistency. It is also quite certain that in the early stages the majority of the Hadith did not go back to the Prophet, due to the natural paucity of the Prophetic Hadith, but to later generations. Certainly, in the extant works of the second century, most of the legal and even moral traditions are not from the Prophet but are traced back to the Companions, the “Successors” and to the third generation. But as time went on, the Hadith movement, as though through an inner necessity imposed by its very purpose, tended to project the Hadith backwards to its most natural anchoring point, the person of the Prophet. The early legal schools, whose basis was the living and expanding Sunnah rather than a body of fixed opinion attributed to the Prophet, naturally   resisted this development.   We have briefly outlined the ro1e of al-Shafi in this process in the previous chapter. Al-Shafi constantly accuses the lawyers of “not transmitting the Hadith” and of not making use in law, “of the little (Hadith} you transmit”. Such criticisms are made by al-Shafi especially against the Hijazis but are equally turned against the Iranians.

By the middle of the second century, the Hadith movement had become fairly advanced and although most Hadith was still attributed to persons other than the Prophet—the Companions and especially the generations after the Companions—nevertheless a part of legal opinion and dogmatic views of the early Muslims had begun to be projected back to the Prophet. We shall produce detailed evidence for this statement presently. But still, the Hadith was interpreted and treated with great freedom. In the last chapter we adduced evidence from Malik who often upholds the practice of al-Madinah against the Hadith and often bases his interpretations on his own opinion (ra’y).[[6]]

Rahman’s View about Sanad and Matan

Hadist (wich literally means a story, a narration, a report) as we know it, being a unit of that disclipine wich bears the same name is a narrative, usually very short, purporting to give information about what the prophet said, did, or approved or disapproved or of similar information about his champanions, especially the senior champanions and more especially the four caliphs. Each hadist falls in two part : the text (matn) of the hadist itself and the transmissional chain or isnad, giving the name of narrators, wich support the text. Both the classical and the modern historians agree that at the first hadist existed without the supporting isnad wich probably appeared at the turn of the 1st/7 century. This is also roughly  the date when the wholesale appearance of the hadist as a formalized written disclipine begins. There is, however, strong direct and indirect evidence that before becoming a formal disclipne in the 2nd/8th century, the phenomenon had existed at least since about 60-80/680-700.[[7]]

The first point to be made in this connection is that a higly developed system with to part, the text and the isnad, could not have appeared on the scene all of a sudden without a periode growth in wich it had only develop technically but expanded materially as well. An informal tradition is indeed naturally to be postulated during the lifetime of the prophet himself who was the pivot of the muslim community. But after Muhammad’s death, the hadist passed from a purely informal condition into a semi-formal state. By this mean that whereas during the lifetime pf the prophet people talked about what he said or did as a matter of course, after his death this talk became a deliberate and conscious phenomenon since a new generation was growing up for whom it was natural to enquire about the prophet’s conduct.[[8]]

Rahman criticism of the hadist from matan which in his opinion many dimensions that are not historical, isnad system is also not free from his criticism. He admit that the isnad containing rich of geographic information, and also minimize counterfeiting efforts traditions, but isnad can’t be used as a final positive argument. According to Rahman, late developing isnad begins around the end of the first century hijriyah, so the traditions that are predictive of the political turmoil in the authentic Bukhari and Muslim despite having an awesome isnad, Rahman is not acceptable if we are really honest with history.

Furthermore, Rahman gives two criteria for the assessment of hadist, they are history and the Qur’an. And these, hadist must be interpreted situationally appropriate historical perspective and according to their exact function in a clear historical context. With the principle of such interpretations, Rahman asserted that the traditions of law not understood as a law that is so to be applied directly, but must be understood as a problem that must be revisited (a problem to be retreated).

Rahman and Modern Western Scholars

Among the modern Western scholars, Ignaz Goldziher, the first great perceptive student of the evolution, of the Muslim Tradition (although occasionally uncritical of his own assumptions), had maintained that immediately after the advent of the Prophet his practice and conduct had come to constitute the Sunnah for the young Muslim community and the ideality of the pre-Islamic Arab sunnah had come to cease. After Goldziher, however, this picture imperceptibly changed. While the Dutch scholar, Snouck Hurgronje, held that the Muslims themselves . added to the Sunnah of the Prophet until almost all products of Muslim thought and practice came to be justified as the Sunnah of the Prophet, certain other notable authorities like Lammens  and Margoliouth came to regard the sunnah as being entirely the work of the Arabs, pre-Islamic and post Islamic—the continuity between the two periods having been stressed. The concept of the Sunnah of the Prophet was both explicitly and implicitly rejected. Joseph Schacht has taken over this view from Margoliouth and Lammens in his Origins of Muhammedan Jurisprudence wherein he seeks to maintain that the concept “Sunnah of the Prophet” is a relatively late concept and that for the early generations of the Muslims sunnah meant the practice of the Muslims themselves.

We (Rahman) have criticized, elsewhere, the grounds of this development in Western Islamic studies and have attempted to bring out the conceptual confusion with regard to sunnah. The reason why these scholars have rejected the concept of the Prophetic Sunnah is that they have found (i) that a part of the content of Sunnah is a direct continuation of the pre-Islamic customs and mores of the Arabs ; (ii) that by far the greater part of the content of the Sunnah was the result of the freethinking activity of the early legists of Islam who, by their personal Ijtihad, had made deductions from the existing Sunnah or practice and—most important of all—had incorporated new elements from without, especially from the Jewish sources and Byzantine and Persian administrative practices ; and, finally (iii) that later when the Hadith develops into an overwhelming movement and becomes a mass-scale phenomenon in the later second and, especially, in the third centuries, this whole content of the early Sunnah comes to be verbally attributed to the Prophet himself under the aegis of the concept of the “Sunnah Of the Prophet”.

Now, we (Rahman) shall show (1) that while the above story about the development of the Sunnah is essentially correct, it is correct about the content of the Sunnah only and not about the concept of the “Sunnah of the Prophet”, i.e., that the “Sunnah of the Prophet” was a valid and operative concept from the very beginning of Islam and remained so throughout; (2) that the Sunnah-content left by the Prophet was not very large in quantity and that it was not something meant to be absolutely specific ; (3) that the concept Sunnah after the time of the Prophet covered validly not only the Sunnah of the Prophet himself but also the interpretations of the Prophetic Sunnah ; (4) that the “Sunnah” in this last sense is co-extensive with the Ijma of the Community, which is essentially an ever-expanding process ; and, finally (5) that after the mass-scale Hadith movement the organic relationship between the Sunnah, Ijtihad and Ijma was destroyed. In the next chapter we shall show the real genius of the Hadith. and how the Sunnah may be validly inferred from the Hadith-material and how Ijtihad and Ijma  may be made operative again.

It may be gathered from the foregoing that the theory that the concept of the Prophetic Sunnah and even the content of the Prophetic Sunnah did not exist (outside the Qur’anic pronouncements on legal and moral issues) draws its force from two considerations, viz. (1) that in actual fact most of the content of the Sunnah during the early generations of Islam is either a continuation of the pre-Islamic Arab practices or the result of assimilative-deductive thought-activity of the  early  Muslims themselves,  and (2) that the Sunnah, in any case, implies a tradition, as distinguished from the activity of one person. This latter statement itself both enforces and is enforced by the first. In Sections I and II above we have advanced evidence to refute this assumption and have shown that Sunnah really means “the setting up of an example” with a view that it would or should be followed.


It is absolutely imperative to be exactly clear about the real issues at stake particularly because there are strong trends in our society which in the name of what they call “progressivism” wish to brush aside the Hadith and the Prophetic Sunnah. In their anxiety to “clear the way”, they resort to methods much more questionable than Nero’s method of rebuilding Rome. Not only are the trends in question lacking in the foresight, they exhibit a singular lack of clarity of issues and a dismal ignorance of the evolution of Hadith itself. Without any grounding either in scholarship or in insight, they sometimes tell us that the Hadith is unhistorical and therefore unreliable as a guide to the Prophetic Sunnah. At other times we are naively told that Hadith may be history but it has no Shari’ah normativeness, i.e. even if Hadith is genuine, it contains no Sunnah for us. “Progress” we all want, not despite Islam, nor besides Islam but because of Islam for we all believe that Islam, as it was launched as a movement on earth in the seventh century Arabia, represented pure progress—moral and material. But we can neither share nor forgive “confusionism” and obscurantism. What shall we progress from and what shall we progress with, and, indeed, where to shall we progress?

We (Rahman) shall now endeavour to show that technical Hadith, as distinguished from the historical and biographical Hadith, although it is by and large not historical, must nevertheless be considered as normative in a basic sense and we shall try to indicate by illustration what this basic sense is. These are the points we wish to make in this connection: [[9]]

(1) That the technical Hadith is by and large not historical in its actual formulations is shown by the various examples dealt with in the preceding pages. It may be said that we have, after all, given a few examples from a vast literature and that our conclusion is too sweeping. Now the first thing to be remembered in this connection is that the examples we have adduced are what we have called “Fundamental Hadith”, i-e. Hadith concerned with the Islamic Methodology itself. If the Hadith about the fundamental principles of Ijma’ and Hadith themselves proves unhistorical, the prima facie case for the Historicity of most other Hadith is demolished, It must be noticed that we are saying “most other Hadith” and not “all other Hadith.” But this difference between “most” and “all”—with the   notable    exception of Hadith

(2) But the most fundamental objection to our thesis of non-historicity of Hadith will not be scientific but religious, viz., that Hadith will thus turn out to be a gigantic conspiracy. The question, however, is whether the Ahl al-Hadlth themselves regarded their activity as strictly historical.

(3) But if the Hadith is not strictly historical, it is quite obvious that it is not divorced from the Prophet’s Sunnah, either. Indeed, there is an intimate and in eliminable connection between the Hadith and the Prophet’s Sunnah. We recall what we established in the first chapter, viz. that the earliest generations of Muslims—judges, lawyers, theoreticians and politicians—had elaborated and interpreted the Prophetic Model (Sunnah) in the interests of the needs of the Muslims and the resultant product in each generation was the Sunnah in sense (ii), i.e. the living Sunnah. Now, the Hadith is nothing but a 1 reflection in a verbal mode of this living Sunnah. The Prophet’s Sunnah is, therefore, in the Hadith just as it existed in the living Sunnah. But the living Sunnah contained not only the general Prophetic Model but also regionally standardized interpretations of that Model—thanks to the ceaseless activity of personal Ijtihad and Ijma’. That is why innumerable differences existed in the living Sunnah.   But this is exactly true of Hadith also. This is because Hadith reflects the living Sunnah.

(4) We have said repeatedly—perhaps to the annoyance of some readers—that Hadith, although it has as its ultimate basis the Prophetic Model, represents the workings of the early generations on that model. Hadith, in fact, is the sum total of aphorisms formulated and put out by Muslims themselves, ostensibly about the Prophet although not without an ultimate historical touch with the Prophet. Its very aphoristic character shows that it is not historical. It is rather a gigantic and monumental commentary on the Prophet by the early Community. Therefore, though based on the Prophet, it also constitutes an epitome of wisdom of classical Muslims.

It must, of course, be emphatically pointed out that a revaluation of different elements in Hadith and their thorough reinterpretation under the changed moral and social conditions of today must be carried out. This can be done only by a historical study of the Hadith—by reducing it to the “living Sunnah” and by clearly distinguishing from the situational background the real value embodied in it. We shall find thereby that some of the major emphases of our traditional Orthodoxy will have to be modified and re-stated. Take, e.g. the case of determinism and free-will. At the time of the early Umayyad who advocated pure determinism, free-will had to be emphasized and this is precisely what Hasan al-Basri and the early Mu’tazilah did. But when the Mu’tazilah humanism seemed to run riot and threatened the very bases of religion, Ahmad b. Hanbal and his colleagues accentuated the Will and Power of God over against the Mu’tazilah rationalism. But this doctrine of Divine Power and determinism subsequent became, and remains to this day, the hallmark of Orthodoxy.

On the very same principle of situational interpretation, by resurrecting the real moral value from the situational background, must be handled the problem of legal Hadith. We must view the legal Hadith as a problem to be re-treated and not as a ready-made law to be directly applied.   This is certainly a delicate question and must be handled wisely and cautiously, but handled it must be. Recall, e.g., the question of Interest. The Qur’an, as stated above, brings out the real reason behind the prohibition of Riba saying that it cannot come under the definition of a commercial transaction because it is a process whereby the capital is unjustly increased manifold. The historical Hadith confirms this by informing us that this was, in fact, the practice of the pre-Islamic Arabs. But we have seen the moral strictness by    which   legal opinion brought various activities under the definition of Riba by formulating a general principle that every loan which brings any advantage to the creditor is Riba.   In the same breath we are told that Riba applies exclusively to  the articles of food, gold and silver and beyond these it has no  application.

 On some such line of re-treatment, we can reduce the Hadith to Sunnah—what it was in the beginning— and by situational interpretation can resurrect the norms which we can then apply to our situation today. It will have been noticed that although we do not accept Hadith in general as strictly historical, we have not used the terms “forgery” or “concoction” with reference to it but have employed the term “formulation”. This is because although Hadith, verbally speaking, does not go hack to the Prophet, its spirit certainly does, and Hadith is largely the situational interpretation and,  formulation of this Prophetic Model or-spirit. This term “forgery” and its equivalents would, therefore, be false when used about the nature of Hadith and the term “formulation” would be literally true. We cannot call Hadith a forgery because it reflects the living Sunnah and the living Sunnah was not a forgery but a progressive interpretation and formulation of the Prophetic Sunnah. What we want now to do is to recast the Hadith into living Sunnah terms by historical interpretation so that we may be able to derive norms from it for ourselves through an adequate ethical theory and its legal re-embodiment.

One anxiety will trouble many conscientious Muslims. It is that it is found impossible to locate and define the historically and specifically Prophetic content of the Sunnah, then the connection between the Prophet and the Community would become elusive and the concept “Prophetic Sunnah” would be irrevocably liquidated. But this worry is not real. To begin with, there are a number of things which are undeniable historical contents of the Prophetic Sunnah. Prayer, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. with their detailed manner of application, are so Prophetic that only a dishonest or an insane person would deny this. Indeed, the historical Hadith, i.e., the biography of the Prophet, is, in its main points, absolutely clear and would serve as the chief anchoring point of the technical Hadith itself when the latter is interpreted. Indeed, the overall character not only of the Prophet but of the early Community is indubitably fixed and, in its essential features, is not at all open to question— even though there may be questions about the historical details. It is against this background of what is surely known of the Prophet and the early Community (besides the Qur’an) that we can interpret Hadith. The purely prophetic elements in technical Hadith may be hard to trace, it may even be impossible to recover the entirety of them without a shadow of doubt, but a certain amount will undoubtedly be retrieved. But our argument does involve a reversal of the traditional picture on one salient point in that we are putting more reliance on pure history than Hadith and are seeking to judge the latter partly in the light of the former (partly because there is also the Qur’an) whereas the traditional picture is the other way round. But the traditional picture is already biased in favors of technical Hadith ; there is no intrinsic evidence for this claim and much intrinsic evidence that we have adduced is  against it.


Based on the above, it can be concluded that Fazlur Rahman does not equate between understanding the Sunnah and Hadith. According to the Sunnah is non-verbal transmission, while the Hadith is the verbal transmission. Sunnah that has been agreed many people, expressed in the hadith. Hadith is Sunnah verbalization. This is what gave rise to the term from the Sunnah to the Hadith. Whereas, the term of ‘Hadith to Sunnah’ means: that the behavior of the Prophet, during his life is constantly a concern amongst companions. Those with different levels trying to establish his behavior in accordance with the Prophet. Prophet’s companions repeatedly told to emulate. In terms of the prayer, the Prophet said:: “pray you as you see me pray.” In terms of Hajj, he said: “Take from me your rituals.” Prophet occasionally asserted, that behavior sunnah to be followed, “Marriage is my sunnah. Anyone who turns away from it does not include my group.”

And to overcome the problems faced by the Muslims (in view of the second source of Islamic thought, namely the Qur’an and Sunnah through ahistorical approaches, literalist, and atomistic) Rahman offers a situational interpretation of the historical approach, then combine it with the method sociological approach.

In addition, the critiques of the hadith, in fact Rahman criticism matan method and override the method sanad criticism. This is because of lating develope of Sanad, began around the end of the first century hijriyah, so the traditions that are predictive of the political turmoil in the authentic Bukhari and Muslim despite having an awesome isnad by Rahman is not acceptable if we are really honest with history. Furthermore Rahman gives two criteria for the assessment of history and tradition that the Qur’an, the hadith it is not valid if it contradicts the historical as well as the Quran.


  1. Rahman, Fazlur, Islamic Methodology in History (Karachi: Central Institute of Islamic Research, 1994).
  2. Fazlur, Rahman, Islam (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1979),  second edition.

* Students of Ushuluddin Faculty for Spesial Program of IAIN Walisongo  Semarang  (Presented on Mei 31st, 2013, at Hadist’s Contextual lecture)

[1]  Fazlur Rahman, Islamic Methodology in History (Karachi: Central Institute of Islamic Research, 1994), page 1.

[2] Ibid., page 2-3.

[3] Ibid., page 3.

[4] Ibid., page 31.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., page 34.

[7] Fazlur Rahman, Islam (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1979),  second edition, page 54.

[8] Ibid.

[9] OP.Cit., page 71-82.


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