The Approach to Resolve Contradictory Prophetic Traditions
Hafiz Firdaus Abdullah.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Praises be to Allah, the Lord that created and ruled the worlds that He created.
Allah said in the Qur’an:
It is Allah Who has created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven).
His Command descends between them (heavens and earth),
that you may know that Allah has power over all things,
and that Allah surrounds (comprehends) all things in (His) Knowledge.
Salutations and peace be to Muhammad bin ‘Abd Allah who was sent by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta‘ala as a mercy to the world, teacher of the Qur’an and conveyer of the message. Allah said:
And We have sent you (O Muhammad PBUH) not but as a mercy for the Alameen
(mankind, jinns and all that exists). [al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107]
And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the reminder and the advice (the Quran),
that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.
Indeed Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger
(Muhammad PBUH) from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses (the Quran),
and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them (in) the Book (the Quran)
and Al-Hikmah (the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH
(i.e. his legal ways, statements, acts of worship, etc.)),
while before that they had been in manifest error.
[‘‘Ali Imran 3:164]
Salutations of peace too, to the Prophet’s family, companions, followers and them who abide to his message and traditions. Allah Tabaraka wa Ta‘ala said:
And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajiroon (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah)
and the Ansar (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhajiroon)
and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them
as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens
under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.
Some ahadith (sg. hadith) have meanings, guidance and rulings that seem to differ or even oppose one another. Such ahadith enlist themselves as one of the factors that keeps a person from appreciating the prophetic traditions to its full.
Consequently, there are doubts among some people about the validity and authenticity of these ahadith, while some others resorted to a foul approach of accepting and rejecting the ahadith on their own construction. Worse, several factions felt prompted to reject ahadith in its whole from Islamic jurisprudence, this being one of their implausible arguments.
God willing, the ways to resolve these seemingly contradictory traditions will be made explicit here in this work. Undeniably, some ahadith may appear to be contradicting one another. Nevertheless, we can be rest assured that the contradictions are never definitive. Rather, they are imaginaries- perhaps this misapprehension arises from one’s lacking in his or her ability to comprehend the true design of such ahadith while not knowing any methods to resolve the apparent contradictions.
This work is sectioned into two parts. The first dwells around the meaning and concept of contradictory traditions, and whether or not they actually even exist. The second- and last- part we will present a list of 20 examples of ahadith that often seem to be contradictory, but in fact are perfectly consistent. For each hadith we will include the following points:
 Bring forward at least two ‘contradictory’ traditions.
 Elucidate on how and where the ‘contradiction’ sparks.
 Enumerate and describe methods to untie the confusion.
 Demonstrate on the resolution, and
 If necessary, followed by further explanation. This is especially when the hadith on discussion relate closely to contemporary issues. On the other hand, when footnotes are used, it should mean that the writer thinks they are not essentially important in helping readers to tackle the issue at hand.
The purpose of such arrangement is to familiarize readers with some extent of analytical approach and critical thinking. First, the traditions are being laid out (stage 1 and 2). It is best that the readers themselves try to solve the ‘contradiction’, according to their own capacity. Finally, readers can compare and consolidate their findings with the answers we present (stage 3 and 4). May this method give ample preparation to dear readers for their future encounters with similar confusions.
However, it is to be reminded that this book only seeks to demonstrate the general methods to resolve seemingly contradictory ahadith, which have been outlined very much earlier by many Muslim scholars. Without going too deep into the conditions, methods, and rulings, this book does not attain the standard of a reference literature for derivation of Islamic rulings (fatwa). Should readers seek to learn all these details, they have to delve into usul fiqh, especially in the chapter of tarjih.
As for readers with Islamic Jurisprudence background, they will plainly notice some differences between the methods used in this work and what some other books suggest. This is so because our work is based on thorough research encompassing books of various schools of thought (pl. mazahib sg. mazhab). With a wider selection of methods, we have chosen the most practical and relevant methods to be included as examples in this work, for readers among the general public. Our preference of one method does not in any way mean that we dismiss or reject another.
Four distinguished sources have been taken as the main references to writing up this book:
To help dear readers in maximizing their research, we have frequently quoted Muhammad Wafaa’s book. Moreover, his book has been translated and is widely available.
The translations of verses of the Holy Qur’an are based on Mohsin Khan’s, which are extensively accessible in the internet. For each and every prophetic tradition, we will disclose its authenticity as confirmed by specialists in this field. In some rare situations where a tradition has not been adequately checked, we- in our own capacity- will try our best to examine its status. There will be some instances where we differ with a particular conclusion given by an examiner, whence we shall give ample explanations. Truth and perfection are only from Allah, and verily faults are from our own meek nature and weaknesses.
Together we seek Allah’s guidance and protection, and that He includes us among those who are careful and concerned when interacting with the sacred prophetic traditions, which undoubtedly is also a form of Godly revelation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is binding upon us that we ascertain the sources of any hadith, together with its level of authenticity, before having it used as arguments or in practices. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
Whoever deliberately tell a lie on me surely he has reserved his dwelling in hell.
Ascribing traditions to the Prophet (PBUH) falsely is tantamount to lying against him. A lie- or fabrication- has several stages, the lowest being laymen’s difficulty in determining a tradition’s status definitely. For them is the forgiveness from The Forgiver whose mercy is boundless and infinite. Nevertheless, this group of people mustn’t cease from exerting their best in learning about the ways to interact with these prophetic traditions.
The situation is not as easy for active preachers, propagators, teachers, speakers, writers, and mufti. Being the successors of the Prophet (PBUH), they have to be extensively responsible; conveying only what is rightfully from him. No room for any laxity should be made available, save that of which was mistaken or forgotten. For ourselves and them, the above-mentioned hadith should be a reminder as well as an encouragement impelling us to apply extra care, attention and discipline in such dealings.
Finally, it is highly hoped that this work attains its purpose in helping readers to be acquainted with objective understanding of the subject matter, therefore being able to offer the public a solution to this confusion. Most importantly, this book should help us to regain our trust in the validity and sacredness of the prophetic traditions, while simultaneously discarding all the unfounded doubts that had once reside in one’s heart.
Should there be any mistakes, inaccuracy, or weaknesses in this work- despite all the efforts that have been poured in preventing such occurrences- we warmly welcome suggestions and even corrections from dear readers, which can be done via email or post to the publisher. Verily, only Allah the Almighty owns all perfection, and we are but meek beings.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us by any means, measurable or not, to make this book a success. Amongst them are Muhammad Iqbal ‘Abd al-Rahman, Haezal Hezri Omar, Maryati Mat Nasir, Azimah Othman and Najah Nadiah Amran. We hereby extend our gratitude to our parents and family in whom we have found abundant support and consort that has contributed to the successful publishing of this work. May Allah SWT shower them with rewards in manifold.
Hafiz Firdaus Abdullah
 Sound: Mutawatir hadith narrated by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, Muslim and others, refer to al-Lu’ Lu’ wa al-Marjan – no: 001.