Dual Tradition in Islam

Interestingly, the tension between authoritative text and tradition is not unique to Christianity.  It also seems to exist in Islam.  In a review of Islam without Extremes:  A Muslim Case for Liberty, Philip Johnson relates an interesting dynamic:

“When coercive Muslims want to justify their ways by referring to some Muslim precept, they usually find the desired text in the Hadiths rather than in the Qur’ran.

“It is strange that some Muslims seem to prefer the Hadiths to the Qur’ran, because only the latter records the revelation by God (Allah) to Muhammed.  Muhammed himself always distinguished between teachings that he had received by revelation and statements that came only from his own wisdom.  Muhammed is revered by Muslims as the faithful messenger of the divine revelation, but when he spoke from his own ordinary human wisdom, he was as capable of error as other men.

“Despite this distinction, some Muslims will even say that a line from the Hadiths can supersede a teaching of the Qur’an itself.  Mustafa [the author of the book, and a personal friend of Johnson] has told me that he admires the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.  Perhaps a similar doctrine might be of benefit to Islamic teaching.[1]


[1] Philip Johnson, “Peace-Seeking Muslims” in Touchstone, March/April 2012, 10-11.

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