Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So It Begins?

Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs has released details to the BBC about their ongoing project to publish a revised edition of the Hadith, the account of the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad. The (collective, authoritative) Hadith is theoretically second in authority to the Koran. In many ways, however, it is more influential in the daily lives of Muslims, for whom any of life's questions are to be answered in the light of Muhammad's words and deeds. WWMD writ large, if you will. This gets problematic, however, in that the authorship of many of the individual hadith is uncertain. From the earliest generations of Islam, supposed hadith flourished, and one of the most significant acts of the early Caliphs was to collect and canonize those hadith which were judged authoritative, and stamp out the transmission and use of those judged apocryphal. Indeed, conflict over the authority and interpretation of various contested collections of hadith was a significant component of the internecine struggles that divided Islam in its first centuries.

The Turkish government is now hoping to enlist modern academic research and textual criticism to weed out those hadith that can now be determined to be illegitimate, as well as the illiberal and culturally-influenced classical interpretations of them. I'm pretty dubious that this sort of top-down approach will be able to achieve the stated goals, but I wish them all the best. It has to start somewhere, right?

No comments: