Abdullah al Andalusi from the Muslim Debate Initiative says modernists are wrong to attack the authenticity of hadiths.
Modernists have always found dealing with the Sunnah (traditions, examples and practices) of the Prophet Muhammed (saw) very difficult. This is because, although the Quran is formidably difficult to alter its meanings to justify a liberal moral and political system, it becomes even harder when there is a Sunnah to explain it by example and elaborating its wisdom.
Although making the Quran by itself look like it supports liberalism is absurd, liberals have long since learned that by fabricating invented “historical context”, and attributing unsupported word “meanings” to words used in the Quran, they can make the word black mean white, and white mean black, given enough mental gymnastics (e.g. I once heard a modernist claim that the punishment for wanton theft was cutting which “only meant making a light scratch on the hand with a blade”, not amputation).
However, if the entire early Muslim community, including the Prophet Muhammed (saw) himself understood the Quran in a way that is antithetical to liberalism, and there were hundreds of records upon records making repeatedly clear accounts of different situations meriting consistent application of how the Quran was understood, it does make the claim “liberalism is compatible with Islam” even more rightly absurd (e.g. to continue with the example above, the multiple records of commands and decrees by the first four Caliphs specifying such things as ‘making bandits, single handed’).
However, modernists understand that while Muhammed (saw) could not be misrepresented to the entire Muslim community while he was alive and amongst them, there is a possibility he can be misrepresented now.
Consequently, this leads them to use the Western intellectual tool of historical scepticism to reject the accuracy of certain hadith (recorded narrations of the Muhammed (saw) which don’’t suit their goals and objectives, by casting doubt upon it.
They usually give the excuse that the hadith are contradictory, or hold the possibility of error. They then use this excuse as a “visa” to reject all Sunnah related to political aspects of Islam from Islamic traditions, and merely affirm the “private” aspects of Islam, like personal manners, and private spirituality (which secularism permits).
Of course, historical scepticism is a “nuclear weapon” when used, due to the fact that it potentially denies all historical knowledge! The lack of sincerity of the modernist becomes clear when they don’t follow through with their flawed use of scepticism to its logical conclusion, and just reject the accuracy of all hadith and even the Quran (like the infamous sceptic Tom Holland does).
This shows that they are not modernists because they are sceptical, but rather, they are sceptical because they are modernists (and use it only when and where they need it).
The problem with this line of thought is both rational and obvious. In history, many accounts are contradictory, inaccurate or even invented. However, the most reliable, and definite accounts, are of aspects of human history which was witnessed and practiced publicly by large masses of people, especially throughout generations.
This includes public events, political laws and culture. We know more accurately about Julius Caesar’s military campaigns and his political reforms of Rome, than we know about him as a private man, or his habits and tastes. If anything, the private aspects of a particular man, his character, his private conversations, are the least accurate of any historical record!
Ironically, by modernists trying to use the weapon of scepticism to neuter Islam of its political aspects, and render it a purely spiritual faith, it actually backfires upon them, and ends up casting doubt on the private spiritual matters of Islam, while affirming the political and publically practised aspects of Islam! Producing the very opposite of what the modernists intended.
Back to the step one for the Modernists it seems.
Abdullah al Andalusi is an international lecturer, thinker, speaker and debater on Islamic and Muslim issues.