In matters of faith, jurisprudence, and legislation, Quranists differ from ahl al-Hadith, in that the latter consider Hadith in addition to the Quran as being Islam’s legislative authority in matters of law and creed. Each hadith-espousing sect of Islam, however, has its own distinct compendium of ahadith upon which their Muslims rely, but which are rejected by the other hadithist sects, while the Quranists reject all the differing collections of hadith and espouse none of their own.
Adherents of Quranic Islam are referred to as "Quranists" (Arabic: قرآنيّون, romanized: Qurāniyyūn), but also as "reformists" or "progressive Muslims" by other types of Muslims, although they mostly deny these names. Quranists should not be confused with Ahle-e-Quran ("People of the Quran"), which is an organisation formed by Abdullah Chakralawi. Quranists may also refer to themselves simply as "Muslims" or "Submitters".
Quranists believe that the Quran is the sole source of religious law and guidance in Islam and reject the authority of sources outside of the Quran like Hadith and Sunnah. And, citing Quranic verses like 6:38, 45:6 and 6:112–116, they believe that the Quran is clear, complete, and that it can be fully understood without recourse to the hadith and sunna. Therefore, they use the Quran itself to interpret the Quran:
". . . .a literal and holistic analysis of the text from a contemporary perspective and applying the exegetical principle of tafsir al-qur'an bi al-qur'an (explaining the Qur'an with the Qur'an) and the jurisprudential principle al-asl fi al-kalam al-haqiqah (the fundamental rule of speech is literalness), without refracting that Qur'anic usage through the lens of history and tradition."
This method of interpreting the Quran is different from the method favored by most Sunni and Shia exegetes, known as tafsir bi-al-ma'thur (interpreting the Quran with narrations, i.e., hadiths). In contrast to Quranists, Sunnis do not believe that the Quran is fully detailed. They believe that, "the Qur'an needs the Sunnah more than the Sunnah needs the Qur'an (inna l-Quran ahwaju ila l-sunna mina l-sunna ila l-Quran)". This methodological difference has led to considerable divergence between Quranists and Sunnis and Shia in matters of theology and law.
For example, in the centuries immediately following Muhammad's death, Muslims who rejected hadiths did not believe in Naskh. The Kufan scholar Dirar ibn Amr's rejection of hadith led him to reject the belief in Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, Punishment of the Grave, and Shafa'ah in the 8th century. And the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zayd's rejection of hadith-based commentaries led him to reject the belief in the Isra and Mi'raj in the early 20th century. In his rationalist Quran commentary published in 1930, Al-hidaya wa-l-'Irfan fi tafsir al-Qur'an bi-l-Qur'an (Guidance and Instruction in Interpreting the Qur'an by the Qur'an), which uses the Quran itself to interpret the Quran, he claimed that verse 17:1 was an allusion to the Hegira and not Isra and Mi'raj.
Syed Ahmad Khan argued that, while the Quran remained socially relevant, reliance on hadith limits the vast potential of the Quran to a particular cultural and historical situation.
The extent to which Quranists reject the authority of the Hadith and Sunnah varies, but the more established groups have thoroughly criticised the authority of the Hadith and reject it for many reasons. The most common view being the Quranists who say that Hadith is not mentioned in the Quran as a source of Islamic theology and practice, was not recorded in written form until a century after the death of Muhammad, and contain internal errors and contradictions.
For Sunni Muslims, "the sunnah", i.e the sunnah (the way) of the prophet, is one of the two primary sources of Islamic law, and while the Quran has verses enjoining Muslims to obey the Prophet, the Quran never talks about "sunnah" in connection with Muhammad or other prophets. The term sunnah appears several times, including in the phrase "sunnat Allah" (way of God), but not "sunnat al-nabi" (way of the prophet) – the phrase customarily used by proponents of hadith.
Quranists date their beliefs back to the time of Muhammad, who prohibited the writing of hadiths in order to prevent the hadiths from being confused with the Quran. One of Muhammad's companions and successor Umar, also prohibited the writing of hadith and destroyed existing collections during his rule as Caliph. When Umar appointed a governor to Kufa, he told him: "You will be coming to the people of a town for whom the buzzing of the Qur'an is as the buzzing of bees. Therefore, do not distract them with the Hadiths, and thus engage them. Bare the Qur'an and spare the narration from God's messenger (peace and blessing be upon him)!".
The centrality of the Quran in the religious life of the Kufans that Umar described was quickly changing, however. A few decades later, a letter was sent to the UmmayadcaliphAbd al-Malik ibn Marwan regarding the Kufans: "They abandoned the judgement of their Lord and took hadiths for their religion; and they claim that they have obtained knowledge other than from the Koran . . . They believed in a book which was not from God, written by the hands of men; they then attributed it to the Messenger of God."
In the following years, the taboo against the writing and following of hadiths had receded to such an extent that the Ummayad leader Umar II ordered the first official collection of Hadith. Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Hazm and Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, were among those who wrote Hadiths at Umar II's behest.
Despite the trend towards hadiths, the questioning of their authority continued during the Abbasid dynasty and existed during the time of Al-Shafi'i, when a group known as "Ahl al-Kalam" argued that the prophetic example of Muhammad "is found in following the Quran alone", rather than Hadith.
In South Asia during the 19th century, the Ahle Quran movement formed partially in reaction to the Ahle Hadith whom they considered to be placing too much emphasis on Hadith. Many Ahle Quran adherents from South Asia were formerly adherents of Ahle Hadith but found themselves incapable of accepting certain hadiths. Abdullah Chakralawi, Khwaja Ahmad Din Amritsari, Chiragh Ali, and Aslam Jairajpuri were among the people who promulgated Quranist beliefs in India at the time.
In Egypt during the early 20th century, the ideas of Quranists like Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi grew out of the reformist ideas of Muhammad Abduh, specifically a rejection of taqlid and an emphasis on the Quran. Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi of Egypt "held that nothing of the Hadith was recorded until after enough time had elapsed to allow the infiltration of numerous absurd or corrupt traditions." Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi wrote an article titled Al-Islam Huwa ul-Qur'an Wahdahu ('Islam is the Qur'an Alone) that appeared in the Egyptian journal Al-Manar, which argues that the Quran is sufficient as guidance: "what is obligatory for man does not go beyond God's Book. If anything other than the Qur'an had been necessary for religion," Sidqi notes, "the Prophet would have commanded its registration in writing, and God would have guaranteed its preservation."
Like some of their counterparts in Egypt such as Muhammad Abu Zayd and Ahmed Subhy Mansour, some reformist scholars in Iran who adopted Quranist beliefs came from traditional institutions of higher learning. Shaykh Hadi Najmabadi, Mirza Rida Quli Shari'at-Sanglaji, Mohammad Sadeqi Tehrani, and Ayatollah Borqei were educated in traditional Shia universities in Najaf and Qom. However, they believed that some beliefs and practices that were taught in these universities, such as the veneration of Imamzadeh and a belief in Raj'a, were irrational and superstitious and had no basis in the Quran. And rather than interpreting the Quran through the lens of hadith, they interpreted the Quran with the Quran (tafsir al-qur'an bi al-qur'an). These reformist beliefs provoked criticism from traditional Shia scholars like Ayatollah Khomeini, who attempted to refute the criticisms made by Sanglaji and other reformists in his book Kashf al-Asrar. Quran-centered beliefs have also spread among lay Muslims like Iranian American, Ali Behzadnia, who became Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare and acting Minister of Education shortly after the Iranian Revolution. He has criticized the government in Iran for being undemocratic and totally alien to the "Islam of the Quran".
In the 21st century, Quranist beliefs have spread in various countries. However, in countries that have incorporated some aspects of Sunni law, adherents have faced opposition. For example, a Saudi scholar, Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, was arrested numerous times for promoting political reform and a return to the Quran.Saudi Arabia began its prosecution of the researcher in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which was specially established in January 2009 to handle cases of "terrorism and national security." In 2019, the public prosecution, which is directly linked to the Saudi king, leveled charges almost entirely related to Maliki's religious views and has requested that the court sentence him based on "extremist interpretations" of Islam. Other Saudi intellectuals, like Abdul Rahman al-Ahdal, continue to advocate for the abandonment of hadith and a return to the Quran. And in Egypt and Sudan, Quranists have been arrested for their beliefs.
The late Syrian intellectual, Muhammad Shahrur, claimed that hadiths do not have any religious value and that the Quran should be Muslims' exclusive source.
The spread of Quranist beliefs in Russia has provoked the anger of the Sunni establishment. The Russian Council of Muftis issued a fatwa against Quranism and those it said were its leaders in Russia. However, one of the purported Quranist leaders mentioned in the fatwa, the Russian philosopher Taufik Ibragim, pointed out that his beliefs were more in line with the Jadid tradition, although there is some overlap between the two groups in Russia.
In Turkey, Quranists have responded on social media to criticism by the Diyanet on their Quranist beliefs.
In South Africa, an Oxford educated Islamic scholar, Taj Hargey, established the Open Mosque. As the name implies, Hargey intended the mosque to be more open to demographics traditionally shunned by Sunni and Shia mosques, like women. Hargey describes the principles of the mosque as, "Quran-centric, gender equality, non-sectarian, inter-cultural and independent".
Arabic calligraphy which reads ahl al-Qur'an, meaning adherents or people of the Qur'an
Ahle Quran is an organisation formed by Abdullah Chakralawi, who described the Quran as "ahsan Hadith", meaning most perfect hadith and consequently claimed it does not need any addition. His movement relies entirely on the chapters and verses of the Quran. Chakralawi's position was that the Quran itself was the most perfect source of tradition and could be exclusively followed. According to Chakralawi, Muhammad could receive only one form of revelation (wahy), and that was the Quran. He argues that the Quran was the only record of divine wisdom, the only source of Muhammad's teachings, and that it superseded the entire corpus of hadith, which came later.
This is a Quranist organization in Kazakhstan whose Cyrillic name, "Ізгі амал", may be transliterated into the Latin script as İzgi amal. It has an estimated 70 to 80 thousand members. Its leader, Aslbek Musin, is the son of the former Speaker of the Majlis, Aslan Musin.
Kala Kato is a Quranist movement whose adherents reside mostly northern Nigeria, with some adherents residing in Niger. Kala Kato means a "man says" in the Hausa language, in reference to the sayings, or hadiths, posthumously attributed to Muhammad. Kala Kato accept only the Quran as authoritative and believe that anything that is not Kala Allah, which means what "God says" in the Hausa language, is Kala Kato.
Malaysian Quranic Society
The Malaysian Quranic Society was founded by Kassim Ahmad. The movement holds several positions distinguishing it from Sunnis and Shias such as a rejection of the status of hair as being part of the awrah; therefore exhibiting a relaxation on the observance of the hijab, which according to Quranists is not in the Quran.
Quran Sunnat Society
The Quran Sunnat Society is a Quranist movement in India. The movement was behind the first ever woman to lead mixed-gender congregational prayers in India. It maintains an office and headquarters within Kerala. There is a large community of Quranists in Kerala. One of its leaders, Jamida Beevi, has also spoken out against India's triple talaq law which is mostly based on the Sunni inspired Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. The most prominent predecessor to the Quran Sunnat Society in India was from the views put forth by Ahmed Khan in the 19th century.
The Submitters are a movement started in the United States by the Egyptian-American Rashad Khalifa. The movement popularized the phrase: The Quran, the whole Quran, and nothing but the Quran. They believe that the Quran has a mathematical structure based on the number nineteen. Some objected to these beliefs and, in 1990, Khalifa was assassinated by someone associated with the Sunni group Jamaat ul-Fuqra. Among those influenced by Khalifa's ideas include Edip Yuksel,Ahmad Rashad, and Nigerian High Court Judge, Isa Othman.
The movement was started by Abdülaziz Bayındır, a Turkish professor of theology. The organisation openly challenged Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). They hold different positions from Turkish Sunnis, as they reject almost all hadiths, claiming they are not authentic, and they do not have religious authority. The organisation's manifesto reads "Against the lies of tradition, we will continue to give fatwa using only the Quran".
Kassim Ahmad (1933–2017) a Malaysian intellectual, writer, poet and an educator known for his rejection of the authority of hadiths. He was the founder of the Quranic Society of Malaysia. He was arrested for "having communist ideas" in 1976 and released in 1981. At the time of his death, he was working on a Malay translation of the Quran.
Mustafa İslamoğlu (born 1960), a Turkishtheologian, poet, writer. He was criticised in Turkey and received death threats for his ideas that promoted logic above tradition and denying the authority of certain hadith, who he saw to be fabricated.
Rashad Khalifa (1935–1990), an Egyptian-American biochemist and Islamic reformer. In his book Quran, Hadith and Islam and his English translation of the Quran, Khalifa argued that the Quran alone is the sole source of Islamic belief and practice. He was assassinated by traditionalists on January 31, 1990.
Ahmed Subhy Mansour (born 1949), an Egyptian-American Islamic scholar. He founded a small group of Quranists, but was exiled from Egypt and is now living in the United States as a political refugee.
Chekannur Maulavi (born 1936; disappeared 29 July 1993), a progressive Islamic cleric who lived in Edappal in Malappuram district of Kerala, India. He was noted for his controversial and unconventional interpretation of Islam based on the Quran alone. He disappeared on 29 July 1993 under mysterious circumstances and is now widely believed to be dead.
Ahmad Rashad (born 1949), an American sportscaster (mostly with NBC Sports) and former professional football player. Ahmad Rashad studied the Arabic language and the Quran with his mentor, the late Rashad Khalifa.
Mohamed Talbi (1921–2017), a Tunisian historian and professor. He was the founder of the Association Internationale des Musulmans Coraniques (AIMC), or International Association of Quranic Muslims.