World Faiths & Religions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Quran the source of Islamic doctrine and law?

Although Muslims consider the Quran the literal word of God, the focal point of ritual and the well-spring of Islamic law and dogma, most of the details of Islamic law and doctrine are not found in the holy book. They come from the teachings of Muhammad, which Muslims see as elucidating, specifying and adding to the teachings found in the Quran. The Quran forbids eating pork and carrion, for example, but Muhammad added prohibitions on eating carnivores as well. He also permitted Muslims to eat anything that comes from the sea, even if it is a dead whale washed up on the beach. The Quran makes ambiguous references to women wearing headscarves, but Muhammad's teachings make it clear that women must cover their whole body except for their face, hands and feet when in public. In terms of dogma, the Quran makes no mention of Jesus' return as the Messiah at the end of time or of the Antichrist, but Muslims believe both of these tenets were taught by Muhammad. Muhammad's teachings are found in the Hadith, or reports of what Muhammad said or did, as well as in the living practice of the Muslim community. Hadith reports were transmitted in oral and written form for two centuries after Muhammad's death until they were set down in books that have survived to this day. Because, unlike the Quran, the Hadith were not all recorded during Muhammad's life, many were forged. As a result Muslim scholars have devoted a great deal of effort to sifting what they believe are authentic Hadith from forgeries. Since most of the details of Islamic law and dogma come from Hadith, the reliability of Hadith and discussions of how they should be understood are questions that lie at the center of modern debates over the proper understanding of Islam.