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New Muslims Qur'an & Sunnah

The Difference between the Qur’an, Hadith and Hadith Qudsi

By Ahmad von Denffer

The Qur’an

The Qur’an can be defined as follows:

The speech of Allah, sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in its precise meaning and precise wording, transmitted to us by numerous persons (tawatur), both verbally and in writing.

The Word Qur’an

The Quran is the speech of Allah, sent down upon the last Prophet Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in its precise meaning and precise wording, transmitted to us by numerous persons (tawatur), both verbally and in writing.

The Arabic word ‘qur’an‘ is derived from the root qara’a, which has various meanings, such as to read, [Sura 17: 93.] to recite, [Sura 75:18:17: 46.] etc. Qur’an is a verbal noun and hence means the ‘reading‘ or ‘recitation‘. As used in the Qur’an itself, the word refers to the revelation from Allah in the broad sense [Sura 17: 82.] and is not always restricted to the written form in the shape of a book, as we have it before us today.

However, it means revelation to Muhammad only, while revelation to other prophets has been referred to by different names (e.g. taurat, Injil, kitab, etc.).

Other Names of the Qur’an

The revelation from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad is referred to in the Qur’an itself by the name qur’an (recitation) as well as by other names, such as e.g.

  • Furqaan (criterion, see 25: 1).
  • Tanzil (sent down, see 26: 192).
  • Dhikr (reminder, see 15: 9).
  • Kitab (scripture, see 21:10).

Other references to the Qur’an are by such words as Nur (light), Huda (guidance), Rahma (mercy), Majid (glorious), Mubarak (blessed), Bashir (announcer), Nadhir (warner), etc.

All these names reflect one of the various aspects of the revealed word of Allah.

The Meaning of Hadith

The word hadith means news, report or narration. It is in this general sense that the word is used in the Qur’an. [e.g. Sura 12:101.] Technically, the word hadith, (pl. ahadith) means in particular the reports (verbal and written) about the sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. Hadith reports about the Prophet Muhammad are of the following kinds:

  • What he said (qaul).
  • What he did (fi’l).
  • What he (silently) approved (taqrir) in others’ actions.

There are also reports about him, i.e. about what he was like (sifa).

The Difference between the Qur’an and Hadith

There is agreement among most Muslim scholars that the contents of the sunna are also from Allah. Hence they have described it as also being the result of some form of inspiration. The contents of the sunna are however expressed through the Prophet’s own words or actions, while in the case of the Qur’an the Angel Gabriel brought the exact wording and contents to the Prophet, who received this as revelation and then announced it, in the very same manner that he received it.

The difference between these two forms has been illustrated by Suyuti (following Juwaini) in the following manner:

‘The revealed speech of Allah is of two kinds: As to the first kind, Allah says to Gabriel: Tell the Prophet to whom I sent you that Allah tells him to do this and this, and He ordered him something. So Gabriel understood what His Lord had told him. Then he descended with this to the Prophet and told him what His Lord had told him, but the expression is not this (same) expression, just as a king says to someone upon whom he relies: Tell so-and-so: The king says to you: strive in his service and gather your army for fighting … and when the messenger (goes and) says: The king tells you: do not fail in my service, and do not let the army break up, and call for fighting, etc., then he has not lied nor shortened (the message) …

‘And as to the other kind, Allah says to Gabriel: Read to the Prophet this (piece of) writing, and Gabriel descended with it from Allah, without altering it the least, just as (if) the king writes a written (instruction) and hands it over to his trustworthy (servant) and says (to him): Read it to so-and-so. Suyuti said: The Qur’an belongs to the second kind, and the first kind is the Sunna, and from this derives the reporting of the Sunna according to the meaning unlike the Qur’an.” [Sabuni, tibyan, p.52]

It is generally accepted that the difference between Qur’an and sunna is as follows:

The ahadith from or about the Prophet Muhammad are:

  • The words or actions of a human being, and not the speech of God as the Qur’an is.
  • Not necessarily reported in their precise wording, as the Qur’an is.
  • Not necessarily transmitted by tawatur, except in some instances.

Hadith Qudsi

Qudsi means holy, or pure. There are some reports from the Prophet Muhammad where he relates to the people what God has said (says) or did (does), but this information is not part of the Qur’an. Such a report is called hadith qudsi, e.g.:

Abu Hurairah reported that Allah’s messenger said:

‘Allah, Mighty and Exalted is He, said: If My servant likes to meet me, I like to meet him, and if he dislikes to meet Me, I dislike to meet him.’ [Forty Hadith Qudsi, Beirut, Damascus, 1980, No. 30.]

While the common factor between hadith qudsi and the Qur’an is that both contain words from Allah which have been revealed to Muhammad, the main points of difference between Qur’an and hadith qudsi are as follows:

In the Qur’an the precise wording is from Allah, while in the hadith qudsi the wording is given by the Prophet Muhammad.

  • The Qur’an has been brought to Muhammad only by the Angel Gabriel, while hadith qudsi may also have been inspired otherwise, such as e.g. in a dream.
  • The Qur’an is inimitable and unique, but not so the hadith qudsi.
  • The Qur’an has been transmitted by numerous persons, (tawatur) but the hadith and hadith qudsi often only by a few or even one individual. There are hadith qudsi which are sahih, but also others hasan, or even da’if, while there is no doubt at all about any aya from the Qur’an.

Another point is that a hadith qudsi cannot be recited in prayer.

Distinctive Features of the Qur’an

The most important distinction between the Qur’an and all other words or writings therefore is that the Qur’an is the speech from Allah, revealed in its precise meaning and wording through the Angel Gabriel, transmitted by many, inimitable, unique and protected by Allah Himself against any corruption.


The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Ulum al-Quran: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran” with some modifications.

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His Legacy New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad: The Greatest Revolutionary Ever

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Prophet Muhammad’s great contribution to history lies in his being a philosopher and a seer as well as a living embodiment of his own teachings.

In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all others that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them possessed a genius capable of making a deep impression on more than one or two aspects of human life. Some are brilliant theoreticians but are lacking when it comes to practical action. Some are men of action but with little knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only, others are masters of strategy.

Others again have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual problems but have ignored economics and politics. In short, one comes across heroes who are expert in one walk of life only.

His is the only example where all the excellences have been blended into one personality. He is a philosopher and a seer as well as a living embodiment of his own teachings. He is a great statesman as well as a military genius. He is a legislator and also a teacher of morals.

He is a spiritual luminary as well as a religious guide. His vision penetrates every aspect of life. His orders and commandments cover a vast field from the regulation of international relations down to the habits of everyday life like eating, drinking and personal hygiene.

On the foundations of philosophy he established a civilization and a culture without the slightest trace of a flaw, deficiency or incompleteness. Can anyone point to another example of such a perfect and all round-personality?

Why that Unique?

Most of the famous personalities of the world are said to be the products of their environment. But his case is unique. His environment seems to have played no part in the making of his personality. At most one might accept in the light of Hegel’s philosophy of history or Marx’s historical materialism that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader who could create a nation and build an empire.

But Hegelian or Marxist philosophy cannot explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the highest morals, to purify humanity and to wipe out prejudice and superstition, who looked beyond the artificial compartments of race and nation-state, who laid the foundations of a moral, spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the whole world, who practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics and international relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced synthesis between worldly life and spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered to be a masterpiece of wisdom and foresight.

Can anyone honestly call such a person a product of all-pervading darkness of Arabia?

He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. When we look at his achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends the limitations of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers, passes beyond centuries and millenniums and encompasses within itself the whole of human history.

History Maker

He is not one of those whom history has cast into oblivion, and he is not praised only because he was a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity who marches with time, who is modern in every age and in every era.

Those whom people style ‘makers of history’ are only ‘creatures of history’. In fact, in the whole of history of mankind, he is the unique example of a ‘maker of history’.

One may scan the lives and circumstances of the great leaders of the world who brought about revolutions and one will find that on such occasions the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for the right moment.

In harnessing these forces the revolutionary leader played the part of an actor for whom the stage and the role is set beforehand. On the other hand the Prophet is only a person who had to genuinely create a revolution; he had to mold and produce the kind of men he wanted because the spirit of revolution and its necessary conditions were nonexistent.

He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful personality and molded them to his way of thinking. By his iron will he prepared the ground for revolution and directed events into the channels he wanted. Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such brilliance and splendor?

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The article is an excerpt from the book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi.

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His Character New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad: The Embodiment of the Role and Features of Believers

By Abdur Raheem Kidwai

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) devoted himself heart and soul to the mission of Islam and achieved great success notwithstanding stiff opposition, in transforming the polytheistic Arabs into champions of monotheism. He drew upon every conceivable means for articulating the truth of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad: The Embodiment of the Role and Features of Believers

The Prophet was granted the following charter of social justice, which also spells out the role and features of believers.

His concern was so deep felt that he cried over the prospect of the inevitable divine punishment for those Arab unbelievers who refused to embrace Islam. The Qur’an, however, directed him not to grieve so much about the miserable fate of such unbelievers:

Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not become believers. (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26:3)

The Makkan unbelievers asked him to produce a miracle which they could see with their own eyes. They were told to look around them in that Allah’s distinct signs are scattered everywhere. He was, nonetheless, granted the miracle which we know as the Qur’an. For it embodies the light of Allah’s guidance and mercy.

Prophecies

The Qur’an recounts the prophecies about the Prophet Muhammad’s advent which featured in the earlier Scriptures, especially the Torah and the Gospels. Take this as illustrative:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah sent to you, confirming the Torah, which came before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me. His name shall be Ahmad.” (As-Saff 61:6)

Even in the face of such clear pronouncements in their own holy Books about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Jews and Christians of the day rejected and opposed him. They did so for their own selfish ends. For the radical message of Islam was set to destroy their vested interests, their degenerate way of life and their clergy that abused religion for pecuniary gain.

Overwhelming Victory

However, Allah promised and sent His help to the Prophet. For example, when the unbelieving Makkans mocked him for being without a son, Allah consoled and comforted him:

To you We have granted Al-Kawthar. Turn to your Lord in prayer and sacrifice. For he who hates you will be cut off (from future hope). (Al-Kawthar 108:1-4)

Allah blessed him with an overwhelming victory over the unbelievers, the Jews and Christians. Millions accepted Islam and country after country was won over to the Caliphs, who succeeded the Prophet, to lead the community of believers. As for the Prophet himself, he devoted more and more of his time to glorifying Allah and seeking Allah’s forgiveness.

As to the exalted rank which he enjoys in Allah’s sight, the following Qur’anic passage is instructive:

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O Believers! Send your blessings upon him and salute him with all respect. (Al-Ahzab 33:56)

Allah also conferred another distinction on the Prophet – that of his Ascent and Night Journey to the heavens, which is recorded thus in the Qur’an:

Glory be to Allah Who took His servant (Muhammad) for the night journey from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose surroundings We have blessed in order that We might show him some of Our signs. (Al-Israa’ 17:1)

Our Role Model

More importantly, on that occasion, he was granted the following charter of social justice, which also spells out the role and features of believers:

Those who are constant in their prayer. And in their wealth there is a recognized right for the beggar and the deprived. (Al-Ma`arij 70:23-25)

And those who respect their trusts and covenants. They stand firm in their testimony. (Al-Ma`arij 70:32-33)

The same note of social justice permeates the Prophet’s sermon at `Arafat which he delivered on the occasion of his farewell pilgrimage.

It captures the essence of the mission which he professed and practiced throughout his illustrious life:

“No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and any non-Arab does not have superiority over an Arab. Piety alone confers honour on man. All men are from Adam and Adam was made of clay.

O people! Your lives, blood and property are sacred for one another … All of you will certainly appear before Allah and He will take you to account. Thus do I warn you. Whoever among you is entrusted with someone’s property shall return the trust to the rightful owner.

O people! Allah has laid down rights for everyone. No one should therefore, leave a will in favour of any of his heirs. Debt is to be repaid. Borrowed things are to be returned. It is not lawful to deprive anyone of what is due to him. Your wives have rights. They owe you obligations. Treat them well. For they are dependent upon you. If you follow the Book of Allah and my practice (Sunnah), which I leave behind with you, you will never go astray.”

This sermon stands out as his strong exhortation for cordial human relationships and a tension-free society.

This sermon stands out as his strong exhortation for cordial human relationships and a tension-free society. His assertions about shunning violence and bloodshed, not usurping others’ belongings and refraining from betraying the trust reposed in one re-echo the Qur’an:

No prophet could (ever) be false to his trust. If any person is so false, He shall, on the Day of Judgment, restore what he misappropriated; then shall every soul receive its due,- whatever it earned,- and none shall be dealt with unjustly. (Aal ‘Imran 3:161)

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (Forever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:93)

He is also seen reminding everyone of the need to discharge their obligations, especially those which they owe to fellow human beings in general and to their family members, friends and neighbors in particular. Man is asked to keep the trust placed with him as a responsible member of the society and as a good citizen.

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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FEATURED New Muslims

Revelation and How It Came to the Prophet Muhammad

By Ahmad von Denffer

God guides His Creation

Allah, the Creator, has not only brought about the creation, but continues to sustain and direct it, in the way that He has created us and all that is around us. He has provided many forms of guidance, indeed, a system of guiding principles, of which the laws of ‘nature’ are a part.

The word awha, from which ‘wahy’ (revelation) is derived, occurs in a number of shades of meaning in the Qur’an, each of them indicating the main underlying idea of inspiration, directing or guiding someone.

But Allah has also granted a special form of guidance for mankind from the outset of its occupancy of the earth. He promised to Adam and his descendants:

‘Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve’ (Quran 2: 38).

[The word here used for guidance is hudan.] This guidance comes through the prophets, whom Allah continuously sent to mankind, until the last messenger, Muhammad received His final guidance.

Guidance through Revelation

We call a man to whom God in His own way communicates His guidance, a prophet or messenger (nabi, rasul). Prophets receive the word of God through revelation and then communicate it to their fellow human beings:

‘Indeed, We have given REVELATION to you, (O Muhammad,) even as We gave REVELATION to Noah and the prophets after him- and (as) We have given REVELATION to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and (to) the (prophets of the) Tribes (of Israel), and (to) Jesus, and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon. And We gave David the Psalms (as a revelation).

Thus there are messengers of whom We have told you before and other messengers of whom We have not told you. And (it is true that) God spoke (directly) to Moses His very word, indeed!

They were messengers- bearers of glad tidings and forewarners- so that after (the coming of) the messengers people would have no argument before God (to justify their misdeeds). Indeed, ever is God overpowering, all-wise.’ (Quran 4: 163-5).

The three words italicized (capitalized) in the above translation are both derived from the Arabic root ‘wahy‘.

The Meaning of Wahy

The word awha, from which ‘wahy‘ (revelation) is derived, occurs in a number of shades of meaning in the Qur’an, each of them indicating the main underlying idea of inspiration, directing or guiding someone. In each example below, the italicised words in the translation are forms of the root word wahy in the original text of the Qur’an:

  • Guidance in natural intuition:

‘so we sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses . . .’ (Quran 28: 7)

  • Guidance in natural instinct:

‘and thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (man’s) habitations’ (Quran 16: 68)

  • Guidance by signs:

‘So Zakaria came out to his people from his chamber: he told them by signs to celebrate God’s praises in the morning and in the evening’ (Quran 19: 11)

  • Guidance from evil:

‘Likewise did we make for every messenger an enemy evil ones among men and jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception …’ (Quran 6: 112)

  • Guidance from God:

‘Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message) …’ (8: 12)

Means of Revelation

Wahy in the sense of ‘revelation’ is guidance from God for His creation, brought by the Prophets, who received the word from God through one of the means mentioned in the following Qur’anic verse:

‘It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by sending of a messenger to reveal with God’s permission what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise’ (Quran 42: 51)

Means of revelation are:

  • Inspiration, e.g. in a dream (see Quran 37:102, where it is related that Ibrahim receives guidance in a vision, while asleep, to sacrifice his son).
  • Speech hidden away (see Quran 27:8, where it is related that God spoke to Musa from the fire).
  • Words (speech) sent through a special messenger from God (see Quran 2:97, where it is related that God sent the Angel Gabriel as the messenger to Muhammad to reveal His message).

The Qur’an revealed to Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad, the last of God’s messengers, received the revelation of the Qur’an through a special messenger sent by God for this purpose: the Angel Gabriel, who recited to him God’s words exactly.

The Descent of the Qur’an

According to Suyuti’ [al Itqan fi ulum al quran, Beirut, 1973, Vol. I pp. 39-40] on the basis of three reports from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, in Hakim, Baihaqi and Nasa’i, the Qur’an descended in two stages:

  • From the lauh al-mahfuz, the ‘well-preserved tablet’, to the lowest of the heavens (bait al-‘izza) of the world, all together, in the laila al-qadr.
  • From the heavens to earth in stages throughout the twenty-three years of Muhammad’s Prophethood, and first in the laila al-qadr of Ramadan, through the Angel Gabriel.

This second descent from the heaven to the heart of the Prophet is referred to in Sura al-isra’ (17) and Sura al-furqan (25).


The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Ulum al-Quran: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran” with some modifications.

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