My companions grow weary of my reluctance to own anything anymore. It will be said, “What was that hadith about such and such?” I will reply: “I don’t know.” It will be said, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, said such and such.” I will say: “I don’t know if he said that.” It is not that I mean to be forever contrary. It is just that as the years have passed by, I have learnt that much of what I learned early on has turned out to be spurious and untrue.
My companions then question my faith, but I respond in kind. The narrators of hadith used to say, “It is reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said such and such.” They never made it definitive, but rather attributed words to him, while allowing for the possibility that he did not in fact say them at all.
The Quran says:
“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.”— Quran 2:42
This has become my overriding concern, even as my companions castigate me for not embracing all that I learned until now. Much of what I once held to as certainty I have had to suspend until I have been able to corroborate and confirm. Critics would rather characterise this as weakness of faith, but it is in fact faith itself: to seek out, to the best of one’s ability, what is true and what is not.
I picked up my daughter’s madrasa book the other day and discovered that there were whole swathes of it that I could not teach. I am not convinced at all by narrations that the authors have decided are parts of belief. Of course, those reports may turn out to be an accurate record of something said in ancient times. But many a scholar in ancient times also classified those narrations as weak. That it is of our inheritance no-longer satisfies me.
To probe is part of faith. The Quran itself warns us of the misguidance of words wrongly attributed to the Way:
And of the people is he who trades in hadith to mislead from the way of God without knowledge and who takes His way in ridicule. Those will have a humiliating punishment.— Quran 31:6
Though it pains me, and may cause annoyance to those around me, I must correct myself where I can. When errors are made, you must take corrective action. When you have passed off something you thought was true as true, you must take it back when it turns out to have been anything but. If the process of verification leads you to the realisation that you were wrong, then you must have humility to swallow your pride and admit that.
In all of this, however, one needs wisdom; that is the hardest aspect of all. Thus do my companions castigate me, for wisdom still alludes me. None of us dare admit that we might be wrong.