Are the Prophetic hadith authentic? (Argue both sides of the case)

Essay by tumraUniversity, Bachelor's February 2005

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The issue of hadith has become an issue of faith, faith which Muslim scholars by definition hold and a faith that non-Muslim Western scholars have no reason not to be sceptical of. Any objective analysis of hadith it seems is a theoretical impossibility as one is necessarily conditioned by one's prejudices and preconceptions. One is forced a priori to choose between two camps, either that which invests considerable faith in the method of hadith criticism adopted by the Muslim scholars of the ninth century based on a critical analysis of the isnads (the chain of transmitters), thereby taking the overall authenticity of the hadith as one's point of departure or that which rejects the isnads as a reliable tool for the critical analysis of hadith, thereby presuming hadith to be inauthentic. It has hitherto proven to be exceptionally difficult to strike the middle ground between these two highly disparate positions, although this is not to say that theoretically there is no middle ground, which can only be gauged insofar as we can determine the extent to which the Muslim scholars were able to purge their collections of tendentious and fabricated hadith.

Practically, however, the consequences of reconciliation may be far more upsetting for both parties than the present scholarly tolerance of contrary viewpoints.

The disparity in the starting postulates of these two groups becomes most clearly manifest in the methodologies for criticism of hadith that they have adopted. While Muslim scholars look to the isnad as the best indicator of authenticity, Western scholars have invested the content, that is, the matn of the hadith, with greater importance. On a closer examination of the matns of hadith, which correspond to different phases in development of Islam, Goldziher has been compelled to conclude that many of the traditions ascribed to the Prophet...