By: Sr. Sundus Alsharif

I'm part of a listserv for Professors in the United States, more specifically, professors in English rhetoric and composition. The last couple of days, threads have been going back and forth regarding the incident in Paris and discussions around free speech occurred. One professor sent out an email which I greatly appreciated. He found ahadith that show the Prophet Muhammad's( salllalahu alayhi wa Salaam) call to be gentle, to seek knowledge and to be nice toward all of human...ity. Another professor responded to the thread and said: "keep in mind that these are hadiths, which many different sects within Islam argue about, and the hadiths that contradict the Quran are automatically thrown out as fabrication." I do not understand how someone with any type of education could think that just because there are differences or that people disagree within the realm of Islam, that there's no way to decipher what Muslims really believe. With my very limited knowledge, I decided to respond to the professor since I felt an obligation to let him know that ahadith are not just "thrown out as fabrication" just because they[in his words]: "contradict the Quran." I wrote back: There is actually a way to determine which ahadith (the plural of hadith in Arabic) are authentic and which one's aren't. The one's that are authentic have an unbroken chain back to the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him), and the one's that aren't authentic have a broken chain. There is a science to determine authenticity, and ahadith that are dismissed are dismissed for legitimate reasons. For example, maybe the narrator wasn't trustworthy or was known as a fabricator. This type evidence is used even in the western world, and it's called ethos- which refers to credibility. 

Also, it is very important that the context of ahadith are studied after verifying the authenticity of ahadith. Many ahadith are taken out of context by readers who read on their own, never receiving legitimate education on the topic. This is why contextual knowledge is so important. 

I never received a response, which was surprising, but maybe not completely. This last Sunday, my halaqa teacher told us how the Quran is our textbook, and the ahadith are the teacher's edition for us in this Dunya. It hurts to see so many people dismiss such a large part of Islam without ever learning it the way we have. Society wants to depict Muslims as this large group of people who can't make up their mind about anything, and it hurts because Allah literally gave us every single tool to make our time here beautiful. Magazines may mock us, news stations may lie about us, and people might hate us, but they can never take away a sincere intention to please Allah. Nothing they do can remove that from us. Allah is the One who gives us honor, and He will give it back to us. If only we remember Him and turn to Him always.