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    The preservation of Hadith

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    Preservation of Islaam

    The science of narration, collection and criticism of hadeeth was unknown to the world prior to the era of the Prophet (r). In fact, it was due in part to the absence of such a reliable science that the messages of the former prophets became lost or distorted in the generations that followed them. Therefore, it may be said that it is largely due to the science of hadeeth that the final message of Islaam has been preserved in it is original purity for all times. This is alluded to in the Qur’aanicverse:

    “Indeed, I have revealed the Reminder, I will, indeed, protect it.” (Soorah al-Hijr, 15: 9)

    Hadeeth and the Sunnah

    The term hadeeth has become a synonym for the term sunnah, though there is some difference in their meanings. Sunnah, according to Arabic lexicographers, means ‘a way; course; rule; manner of acting or conduct of life’.11 Sunnah, as a technical term in the Science of hadeeth, refers to whatever statements, acts, approvals, physical or character descriptions that are attributable to the Prophet (r) along with his biography before or after the beginning of his prophethood. It is thus synonymous with the term hadeeth.

    However, according to Usool al-Fiqh science (legal methodology), sunnah refers to only the statements, acts and approvals of the Prophet (r). It also refers to whatever is supported by evidence from the sharee‘ah; the opposite of bid‘ah. And in the Legalistic science of Fiqh the term sunnah refers to recommended acts

    authentically attributable to the Prophet (r); the does of which is rewarded and the non-doer is not punished. It is also used to refer to the opposite of bid‘ah as in the statement: Sunnah divorce and Bid‘ah divorce. According to its general definition, the Qur’aan is the most important part of the sunnah conveyed by the Prophet (r).12 It may also be said that the hadeeths were the containers in which the sunnah of the Prophet (r) was conveyed during his life time and after his death.

    Musnad Ahmad, no. 23460 CD.
    11 Lane’s Lexicon, vol. 1, p. 1438.


    1. Era of The Prophet

    During the life of the Prophet (r) there was no pressing need to write down all of his various statements or record his actions because he was present and could be consulted at any time. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (r) himself made a general prohibition against writing down his statements which were other than the Qur’aan itself.1

    This was to prevent the possibility of mixing up the Qur’aan with his own words during the era of revelation. Consequently, the greatest stress regarding writing was placed on recording the Qur’aanic verses. However, there are many authentic narrations collected by the Scholars of Hadeeth that prove that
    Hadeeth were recorded in writing even during the lifetime of the Prophet (r).

    For example, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr said: “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (r) with the intention of memorizing it. However, some Quray****es forbade me from doing so saying, ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him, while the Messenger of Allaah is a human being who speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah (r). He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said: ‘Write! By Him in whose hand is my soul, only truth comes out from it.’2

    Aboo Hurayrah said: When Makkah was conquered, the Prophet (r) stood up and gave a sermon [Aboo Hurayrah then mentioned the sermon]. A man from Yemen, called Aboo Shaah got up and said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Write it down for me.” The Messenger of Allaah (r) replied, “Write it for Aboo Shaah.”3

    Al-Waleed asked Aboo ‘Amr, “What are they writing?” He replied, “The sermonwhich he heard that day.”4
    Aboo Qaabeel said: We were with ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So ‘Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said, “Take out the book from it.”

    Then ‘Abdullaah said, “While we were with the Messenger of Allaah (r) writing, The Messenger of Allaah (r) was asked, “Which city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Rome?” So Allaah’s Messenger (r) said: “The city of Heracilius will be conquered first,” meaning Constantinople.”5

    2. Era of The Sahaabah6

    After the death of the Prophet (r) his saying and action took of a new importance because he was no longer there to consult when problems arose. The practise of narration on a large scale started during this period. For example, when the Prophet (r) died, the Sahaabah debated about where to bury him. This debate ended when Aboo Bakr told them “I heard the messenger say, “No prophet dies but he is buried where he died.”7 Thus a grave was dug immediately below the bed on which he died in the house of ‘Aa’ishah. In this period a number of the leading Sahaabah wrote down hadeeths of the Prophet (r).

    The following are just a few of the leading narrators of the Prophet’s traditions who were known to have recorded them in writing. Aboo Hurayrah to whom 5374 channels of hadeeth narrations are attributed,
    actually narrated 1236 hadeeth. Hasan in ‘Amr ad-Damaree saw many books in his possession.8 ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas to whom 1660 channels of narrations are attributed used to write whatever he heard9.

    ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al- ‘Aas to whom 700 channels are attributed was know to recorded books of hadeeths during the Prophet’s lifetime with he titled as-Saheefah as-Saheehah.

    Aboo Bakr was reported to have written down over 500 different sayings of the Prophet (r).

    Ibn al-Jawzee, who provides a list of all the companions who related traditions, gives the names of about 1,060 together with the number of hadeeths related by each. 500 related only 1 hadeeth each; 132 related only 2 each; 80 related 3; 52 related 4; 32 related 5; 26 related 6; 27 related 7; 18 related 8; 11 related 9; 60 related between 10 and 20; 84 related between 20 and 100; 27 related between 100 and 500 and only 11 related more than 500 of which only 6 related more than 1,000 hadeeth, and they are commonly referred to as the mukaththiroon (the reporters of many traditions).

    Today, a graduate of the college of hadeeth in the Islamic University of Madeenah is required to memorize 250 hadeeth during each of the four years of his study (i.e., a total of 1,000 hadeeths).

    From the above, it can readily be seen that fewer than 300 companions related the vast majority of traditions.11

    3. Era of The Taabi’oon12 (1st Century Hijrah)

    After Islaam had spread into the Middle East, India, North Africa and the narration of hadeeth had become widespread, there arose people who began to invent hadeeths. To combat this development, Caliph ‘Umar ibn Abdul-Azeez (reign 99 to 101 AH - 71 8 to 720 C.E.) ordered the scholars to compile the traditions of the Prophet (r). The scholars had already begun composing books containing biographical data on the various narrators of hadeeth in order to expose the liars and fabricators. Aboo Bakr ibn Hazm (d.120/737) was among those directed by the Caliph to compile the hadeeth. Caliph ‘Umar requested him to write down all the hadeeths of the Prophet (r) and of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab and to pay particular attention to gathering the hadeeths of ‘Amrah bint ‘Abdir

    Rahmaan, who was at that time the most respected custodian of the narrations of ‘Aa’ishah. Sa‘d ibn Ibraaheem and Ibn Shihaab az-Zuhree were also requested to compile books and az-Zuhree became the first compiler of hadeeth to record the biographies of the narrators with particular reference to their character and honesty. In this period the systematic compilation of hadeeths was begun on a fairly wide scale.

    However, among the students of the companions, many recorded hadeeths and collected them in books. The following is a list of the top 12 narrators of hadeeths among the Prophet’s companions and their students who had their narrations in written form.

    Aboo Hurayrah (5374)13: Nine of his students were recorded to have written hadeeths from him.

    Ibn ‘Umar (2630): Eight of his students wrote down hadeeths from him.

    Anas ibn Maalik (2286): Sixteen of his students had hadeeths in written form
    from him.

    ‘Aa’ishah bint Abee Bakr (2210): Three of her students had her hadeeths in
    written form.

    Ibn ‘Abbaas (1660): Nine of his students recorded his hadeeths in books.

    Jaabir ibn ‘Abdillaah (1540): Fourteen of his students wrote down his hadeeths.

    Aboo Sa‘eed al-Khudree (1170): None of his students wrote.

    Ibn Mas‘ood (748): None of his students wrote.

    ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (700): Seven of his students had his hadeeths in written form.

    ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (537): He recorded many hadeeths in official letters.

    ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib (536): Eight of his students recorded his hadeeths in writing.

    Aboo Moosaa al-Ash‘aree (360): Some of his hadeeths were in the possession of Ibn ‘Abbaas in written from.

    (13) The total number of hadeeths or more properly, channels of narration of hadeeth ascribed to the

    Al-Barraa ibn ‘Aazib (305): Was known to have dictated his narrations.

    Of Aboo Hurayrah’s nine students known to have written hadeeths, Hammaam ibn Munabbih’s book has survived in manuscript form and published in 1961 in Hyderabad, India.

    4. Era of The Taabi‘ut-Taabi‘een15 (2nd Century)

    In the period following that of the Taabi’oon, the hadeeths were systematically collected and written in texts. One of the earliest works was al-Muwatta composed by Maalik ibn Anas. Other books of hadeeth were also written by scholars of Maalik’s time by the likes of al-Awzaa‘ee who lived in Syria, ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak of Khurasaan, Hammaad ibn Salamah of Basrah and Sufyaan ath-Thawree of Kufah. However, the only work which survived from that time is that of Imaam Maalik. It could be said that in this period the majority of the hadeeths were collected in the various centers of Islaam.

    The reason why these three generations have been given special consideration is because the Prophet (r) was reported to have said, “The best of generations is my generation, then the one which follows them, then the one that follows them.”16 It was through these three generations that hadeeth was first transmitted orally and in writing, until they were compiled into collections on a wide and a systematic scale.

    5. Era of The Saheehs (3rd Century Hijrah)

    There arose in the third century scholars who undertook the job of critical research of the hadeeths that were narrated and compiled in the first two centuries. They also grouped the hadeeth which they considered to be accurate according to the branches of Islaamic Law. E.g. From this period is the book
    Saheeh al-Bukhaaree containing 7,275 hadeeth which al-Bukhaaree (died- 870 C.E.) chose from 600,000 and Saheeh Muslim which contains 9,200 hadeeths which Imaam Muslim selected from 300,000. Besides these two works of Hadeeth, there are four other works which became famous during this period.

    They are the four sunan of Aboo Dawud (died 889 C.E.), at-Tirmithee (died 893C.E.), an-Nasaa’ee (died 916 C.E.) and Ibn Maajah (died 908 C.E.).

    Stages of writing

    1. The first stage covers the period of the first century A.H. which began in July 622 C.E. or the early part of the century C.E. It was the age of the companions and their successors often referred to as the age of the Saheefah, that is, a sheet or some sort of writing material such as shoulder blades or parchments
    on which a number of hadeeth were written. E.g. Saheefah Aboo Bakr and Saheefah Saadiqah of ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr. The aim of the first stage was mainly recording the hadeeth without any particular format.

    2. The second period covers the middle of the second century A.H. is referred to as the stage of Musannaf (i.e. classified organized work). The second stage represents a planned compilation of hadeeth grouped under headings denoting their subject matter. E.g. Muwatta Maalik

    3. The third stage known as the stage of Musnad (compilation of hadeeth according to the companion’s names). This stage began at the close of second century A.H. e.g. Musnad Ahmad

    4. The fourth and most important stage is known as the stage of Saheeh. This stage began during the first half of the third century A.H. (9th century C.E.) and overlaps the period of the musnad e.g. Saheeh al-Bukhaaree, Saheeh Muslim and Saheeh Ibn Khuzaymah.

    The Companion-Narrators


    Aboo Hurayrah stands at the head of the list of hadeeth transmitters, due to the sheer bulk of his narrations. He had been regarded by the Prophet himself as the most anxious of all Muslims to acquire knowledge of hadeeth. Belonging to the tribe of Daws, an offshoot of the great clan of Azd, he came to Medina in the seventh year of the Hijra, and on being told that the Prophet was at Khaybar, went there and accepted Islam. Since that time, and until the death of the Prophet, he kept his company constantly, attending him and memorising his words during the day, thereby sacrificing all worldly pursuits and pleasures. We are told that he divided his nights into three parts: one for sleeping, one for prayer, and one for study. After the death of the Prophet, he was appointed governor of Bahrain for a while during the caliphate of ‘Umar and acted as governor of Medina under the early Umayyad caliphs. He died in 59/678.

    When the Prophet had died, and information about religion and legal judgements had to be sought indirectly, Aboo Hurayrah (who instructed more than 800 students in hadeeth) poured out the store of knowledge he had so meticulously accumulated. At times he was taken to task for reporting certain traditions which were unknown to other Companions. But he would reply that he had simply learnt what the Ansaar had missed because of attending to their lands and properties, and what the Emigrants had failed to learn because of their commercial activities. Once, when he was taken to task by ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar for relating a particular hadeeth, he took him to Aa’ishah who bore witness to the truth of what he had related. His knowledge and memory were also tested by Marwaan, who, having written down some traditions related by him, wanted him to relate the same after a year. He found them to be exactly identical to his earlier narration. Bearing in mind Aboo Hurayrah's intense dedication to learning hadeeth, his devotion to the Prophet, and the various tests which were applied to his memory and scholarship by his contemporaries during his life, it is inconceivable that he would have fabricated any hadeeth. This does not mean, however, that material was not falsely imputed to him at a later date. The fact that he narrated a uniquely large number of traditions itself did make inventing hadeeths in his name an attractive proposition.


    The second most prolific narrator of hadeeth, he was the son of the second Caliph. He had accepted Islam simultaneously with his father, and emigrated to Medina with him. He took part in many battles during the Prophet's lifetime, and in the wars in Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt, but maintained strict neutrality in the conflicts that erupted among the Muslims following the assassination of Uthmaan. Despite the immense esteem and honour in which he was held by all Muslims, who repeatedly asked him to become caliph
    (an offer which he refused), he kept himself aloof from factional strife, and throughout those years led an unselfish, pious life, setting an example of an ideal citizen just as his father had set an example of an ideal ruler. He died in Mecca in the year 74/692 at the age of 87.

    ‘Abdullaah's long association with the Prophet, his kinship with Hafsa Umm al-Mu'minin, and with certain other Companions, offered him a superb opportunity to learn hadeeth; and his long peaceful life gave him time and leisure enough to teach and spread hadeeths among the Muslims who assiduously sought

    He was renowned for the extreme scrupulousness with which he related hadeeths. Ash-Sha‘bee remarks that he did not hear a single hadeeth from him for a whole year. When he related hadeeths, his eyes filled with tears. His activities in the service of Islam, his austere life, his straightforward and honest character, and his careful treatment of the hadeeths, render the material we have from him of the highest value.


    At the age of ten, Anas was presented by his mother, Umm Sulaym, to the Prophet (r), following his migration to Madeenah. From that time until the Prophet's death, he was his favourite attendant, and afterwards he was appointed by Aboo Bakr as a tax-collector at Bahrayn. Towards the end of his life
    he settled at Basra, where he died in the year 711, at the age of over a hundred. During the ten years he spent in the Prophet's service, he was able to memorise a large number of his words, of which he later also learnt a good deal from Aboo Bakr, Umar, and many other Companions.55 His knowledge of hadeeth was so copious that his death was regarded as a death-blow to half of the entire mass of traditions.

    The traditionists accept him as one of the most prolific narrators of hadeeth.

    ‘AA’ISHAH UMM AL-MU'MINEEN. ‘Aa’ishah occupies the fourth place among the mukaththiroon. She enjoyed the constant company of the Prophet for about eight and a half years.57 She died in 5 7/676 at the age of 65. Aa’ishah was naturally endowed with a retentive memory and a developed critical faculty, having memorised a large number of the ancient Arab poems, on which she was a recognised authority.

    During her lifetime she was also honoured for her expertise in medicine and in Islamic law. Regarding the hadeeth, she had not only learnt a large volume of these from her husband, she also showed a critical appreciation of them, and corrected the mistakes in understanding of many Companions. When, for instance, Ibn ‘Umar related that the Prophet had said that the dead are punished in their graves on account of the wailing of their relatives, she pointed out that the Prophet had said that while the dead are punished in their graves for their sins, their relatives wept for them.

    It was on account of her extensive knowledge of hadeeth and Islamic law that even the most important Companions sought her advice on legal problems. A long list of those who related hadeeth on her authority may be found in Ibn Hajar's book Tahtheeb at- Tahtheeb.


    He was born three years before the Prophet’s migration to Madeenah, and was thirteen years old at the time of his death. He was greatly loved by the Prophet, as is apparent from the hadeeths which concern him. He died in 68/687 at the age of 71. It appears that despite his youth he learnt a few hadeeths from the Prophet (r) himself. Ibn Hajar (quoting Yahyaa ibn al-Qattaan) refers to the assertion that Ibn ‘Abbaas related only four or ten traditions from the Prophet (r), and adds that this estimate is incorrect, because the Saheehs of Bukhaaree and Muslim alone contain more than ten traditions related by him directly from the Prophet (r).

    There is, however, no doubt that the number of hadeeths related by him directly from the Prophet (r) is very small in comparison to what he related via other Companions. These hadeeths he learnt through years of hard labour: If I expected to learn any hadeeth from a Companion,' he remarked, I went to his door and waited there, until he came out and said: “Cousin of the Prophet, what brings you here? Why did you not send for me?” And I would reply that it was only proper that I should go to him. Then I learnt the hadeeth from him. Ibn ‘Abbaas was held in universal awe for his intellectual powers and capacity for memorisation. He was entirely devoted to the study of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, and was loved and respected for his scholarship by all the first four Caliphs and his contemporaries. He collected a large body of traditions, which he wrote down in books, and delivered lectures on them to his disciples. His tafseer of the Qur’aan which was handed down by his student Mujaahid is well-known, and has been referred to by numerous later commentators.


    One of the early Madeenan converts to Islaam, he was present at the second meeting with the Prophet (r) at Makkah. He took part in nineteen expeditions in the Prophet’s company, and died in Madeenah in
    about the year 74/693 at the age of 94. He learnt the Prophet’s hadeeth not only from him, but also from many of his important Companions, including Aboo Bakr, ‘Umar and others. He also studied under some of the Successors, including the famous Umm Kulthoom, the daughter of Aboo Bakr. He used to teach hadeeth regularly in the mosque at Madeenah.


    Sa‘d ibn Maalik. Another early Madeenan convert, his father was killed at Uhud. He himself took part in twelve of the battles fought during the Prophet's lifetime. He died in Madeenah in 64/683. Like Aboo Hurayrah, he had been one of the People of the Veranda', those who lived on the porch of the Prophet's dwelling by the mosque in order to dedicate themselves to an austere life of prayer and learning. He learnt the Sunnah from the Prophet, as well as from his important Companions such as Aboo Bakr, ‘Umar and Zayd ibn Thaabit. He was considered the best jurist among the younger Companions.


    An early convert to Islaam, who had suffered for its cause, had enjoyed the company of the Prophet for many years, and lived long enough after he was gone to transmit the hadeeths which he had learnt from him. Ibn ‘Amr, although he lived during the period of the civil war, resembled Ibn ‘Umar in keeping himself aloft from factional strife. He was, however, present at the Battle of Siffeen, at the insistence of his father; however he took no active part in it, deeply regretting in later life that he had been present at all.

    His interest in perpetuating the way of the Prophet (r) was intense. He wrotedown all the Traditions which he had learnt from him, collecting a thousand ofthem in a Saheefah which he called as-Saadiqah. When he settled at Mecca, students of hadeeth flocked to him in droves. But as he lived for the most part either in Egypt or at at-Taa’if, and since he occupied himself more with prayer than with the teaching of hadeeth, the later generations of Muslims received fewer traditions from him than from Aboo Hurayrah, ‘Aa’ishah and others.


    Tahammul al-‘Ilm

    During the era of the dissemination of hadeeths and their compilation in the first three centuries a variety of methods of learning and teaching evolved. These methods were later categorized and technical terminology developed to describe them within the field of hadeeth science. The following eight methods were identified, the first two of which were the most common and accurate.

    1. Samaa‘ : Reading by the Teacher

    This method of transmission of hadeeths had four different formats:

    a) Recitation from memory by the teacher. Wide use of this practice began to decline by the middle of the second century, though it persisted to a much lesser extent for a long time after that. Students remained with their teachers for long a time until they became authorities.

    b) Reading from Books. This method could either involve the teacher reading from his own books, which was preferred, or the reading of the teacher from his student’s book, which was either a copy or a selection from his own work.

    c) Questions and Answers. Students would read to their teacher a part of the hadeeths and he would complete the narration.

    d) Dictation. The companion, Waathilah ibn Asqaa (d. 83) was the first to hold classes for dictation of hadeeths. It was not a favored method initially due to the ease with which students could gather knowledge. However, az- Zuhree departed from this attitude and followed this method throughout his life.

    Later on, some scholars refused to dictate if their students did not write the hadeeths down. Dictation was either from memory or from books. A fast writer was often chosen to record all the hadeeths, while others watched him write to catch his mistakes. Later they borrowed the books and made their own copies. These copies were revised among the students or with the teacher himself.

    2. ‘Ard : Reading by the Students

    In this method, the students would read the teacher’s book to him while other students compared the hadeeths with their own books or they listened attentively. From the beginning of the second century, this became the most popular method. Often the teachers would provide their own copies as many of them had their own scribes. Otherwise the students would read from copies made earlier from the original in which they would put a circle at the end of every hadeeth and when they read it back to the teacher they would put a mark in the circle to indicate each reading. Even if a student knew hadeeths through books, he was not entitled to transmit them our use them in his own collections until they had been read back to the teacher and approved. If he did otherwise, he was labeled a hadeeth thief (saariq al-hadeeth). This was
    equivalent to modern copyright laws which permit a person to buy as many copies of a book he or she wishes, but prohibits them from making even a single copy.

    3. Ijaazah : Permission to Transmit

    In hadeeth terminology this referred to a teacher giving permission to a student to transmit the teacher’s book on his authority without having read the book back to him. This method came in vogue from the third century onwards. It evolved as a means of protecting texts from alterations. Its validity was disputed by some scholars of hadeeth.

    4. Munaawalah : Granting Books This was the name given to the act of a teacher giving a student his book or one of his verified copies with the authority to transmit it. For example, az- Zuhree (d. 124) gave his manuscripts to several scholars, among them ath- Thawree, al-Awzaa‘ee and ‘Ubaydullaah ibn ‘Umar. This practice was extremely rare in the first century.

    5. Kitaabah : Correspondence If a teacher wrote hadeeths and sent them to a student to transmit, it was referred to as kitaabah which may be translated as learning by correspondence or distance learning, in modern times. This method was in vogue from the first century. The official letters of the Righteous Caliphs contained many hadeeths which were later transmitted by scholars. Many scholars among the companions wrote hadeeths and sent them to their students. Ibn ‘Abbaas was a notable example among them in his writings to Ibn Abee Mulaykah and Najdah.1

    6. I‘laam : Announcement This term referred to the act of a teacher or student informing others that he
    has permission to transmit a book on the author’s authority. However, before any student who heard hadeeths from the book could transmit them, he would have to obtain an original copy which bore the certificate of the signature of the author.

    7. Wasiyyah : Bequest of Books

    To entrust one’s books to a student at the time of death with the authority to transmit was called wasiyyah. An example of that can be found in the case of the Taabi‘ee Aboo Qilaabah ‘Abdullaah ibn Zayd al-Basree (d. 104) who entrusted his books to Ayyoob at the time of the former’s death.

    8. Wajaadah : Discovery of Books

    If a student or teacher discovered the books of a scholar without permission to transmit on anyone’s authority, it was not recognized as a way of learning hadeeth. One who narrated from such books was obliged to indicate that it was taken from the scholar’s books.

    Transmission Terminology

    The hadeeth scholars utilized certain terms to indicate the sources and mode of their narrations. These Arabic terms have been commonly misunderstood by those unfamiliar to the field. The following are the most common terminologies and their abbreviations used.

    i. Haddathanaa ( ح  دثَنا ) commonly written as thanaa ( َثنا ) or naa ( (نا
    This term was mostly used to indicate learning through the first method; the teacher reading.

    ii. Akhbaranaa ( َأخبرنا ) mostly written as anaa ( َأنا ) and rarely as aranaa ( (َأرنا
    Some scholars used it as a synonym for haddathanaa and vice versa, but it
    was most commonly used to indicate the second method; the student reading
    to the teacher.

    iii. Anba’anaa ( َأنبأَنا ) In cases of ijaazah and munaawalah this term was used.

    iv. Sami‘a ( سمِع ) Used strictly for the first method of learning.

    v. ‘An ( عن ) Was used to refer to all the methods of learning. It was considered
    the most inferior method of narrating due its vagueness.4

    Since the terms haddathanaa (he said to us) and akhbaranaa (he informed us) implied oral transmission it was generally believed that the hadeeths were transmitted orally for at least one hundred years. However, the records show that many companions of the Prophet (r) wrote down hadeeths, so did their students
    and their students’ students. Furthermore, seven out of the eight learning methods mentioned previously (i.e. from 2-8) depended almost totally on written material. And even the first method involved dictation from written material in many cases. Thus, the literal meanings of the terms haddathanaa and akhbaranaa are not applicable as they were used to refer to transmission from written material in the vast majority of cases.

    Attendance in Hadeeth Circles

    Regular records of attendance were kept. After a book was read, a note was written by the teacher or one of the famous scholars in attendance in which the names of those who heard the whole book, part of the book, the dates and places. If the student was under five he was classed as an attendee, while those over five were rated as students. The certificate usually had a stipulation called tibaaq that no further entries could be made in the book.

    During the era of the Taabi‘oon, students usually memorized the whole Qur’aan and studied Islamic Law and Arabic grammar before joining the circles of the hadeeth scholars around the age of twenty. Az-Zuhree spoke of fifteen year old Ibn ‘Uyaynah as the youngest student he had seen and Ibn Hanbal began his hadeeth studies at the age of sixteen. However, in later periods, when texts were fixed and learning meant transmission of books, it was said that if a child could discriminate between a cow and a donkey he was old enough to start learning hadeeths. For example, ad-Dabaree transmitted ‘Abdur-Razzaaq’s book and when he died ad-Dabaree was only seven years old.5

    With every generation the numbers of teachers and students grew exponentially. In the time of the Taabi ‘oon, scholars like ath-Thawree, Ibn al- Mubaarak and az-Zuhree made reference to hundreds of teachers. Az-Zuhree himself had over fifty students who recorded hadeeths in writing from him. The actual numbers who wrote and attended his lectures are unknown. The growing numbers of transmitters resulted in a tremendous growth in the number of books and the numbers of hadeeth narrations. It became a common practice among hadeeth scholars to count every isnaad as one hadeeth. Consequently, a single statement of the Prophet narrated by one hundred isnaads was referred to as one hundred hadeeths and a few thousand hadeeths became hundreds of thousands of hadeeths.6


    Teaching the Sunnah : The Era of the Prophet (r) Anything which the Prophet of Islaam (r) said or did is considered to be a part of his Sunnah (i.e. way), which represents the practical application of Islaam
    according to divine guidance. The Prophet (r) used to encourage his Sahaabah7 to learn and memorize his
    Sunnah in many different ways. Sometimes he would sit them down and have them repeat after him certain Du‘aas8which he wanted them to memorize, the same way he would have them learn the Qur’aan. On other occasions he would repeat himself three times so that they could memorize his more significant
    statements. Sometimes he would give rites were to be performed, then he would tell them to do it as he had done it. At other times, he would have some of the Sahaabah record in writing some more complicated things.

    The Era of the Sahaabah

    After the death of the Prophet (r), the older Sahaabah began to teach the younger Sahaabah the sayings and practices of the Prophet (r) which they had not been around to hear or observe. Both the younger and the older Sahaabah used to teach those who had accepted Islaam during the last days of the Prophet’s life,
    and thus never had an opportunity to learn anything directly from the Prophet

    When Islaam spread all over Arabia and into Syria, Iraq, Persia and Egypt during the reign of the Righteous Caliphs, the Sahaabah began to teach those who newly entered Islaam the principles of the religion. They would say to those who gathered around them, “I saw the Prophet do this,” or “I heard the Prophet say that.” This was how the chain of narration of the Sunnah began. Those new Muslims who studied under the Sahaabah were later referred to as the Taabi‘oon.

    Most of the Taabi‘oon used to memorize and record the statements of the Prophet (r) which the Sahaabah used to quote. They used to travel to different parts of the Muslim world of that time in order to learn as much of the Sunnah of the Prophet (r) from as many of the Sahaabah as possible.

    Why All This Effort ?

    It is natural that people try to watch and remembers the sayings and deeds of anyone who is dear to them, and there is no doubt that Prophet Muhammad (r) was the most beloved person on earth to his followers. The Prophet (r) himself had enjoined this love on his community saying, “None of you has truly believed until I become more dear to him than this son, his father and all of mankind.” 9 Allaah, in the Qur’aan, emphasized for the whole of the Muslim Ummah the extreme importance of the Sunnah of the Prophet (r) by ordering them to obey all of his commands:

    “Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, leave it.”
    Soorah al-Hashr (59): 7

    How could the Muslim Nation obey this divine command after the Prophet’s death ? How could they know what Allaah’s Messenger (r) had commanded and forbidden if he was no longer with them? Therefore, great care had to be taken to preserve the Sunnah and convey it to each successive generations of Muslims.

    The Prophet (r) also stressed the great importance of passing on the Sunnah without any alterations by promising them Allaah’s blessings saying, “Allaah blesses any man who hears a saying of mine, memorizes it and understands it, then conveys just as he heard it ; for perhaps one who is informed has more understanding than the one who heard it.” 10 He also stressed it by warning them of the severe punishment awaiting anyone who lies on him saying “Whoever lies on me will find his seat in the Hellfire!”

    The Era of the Taabi‘oon

    When the Sahaabah began to die out and Islaam spread into India, Afghanistan, Russia, China, North Africa and Spain, the Taabi‘oon took up where the Sahaabah had left off and began the great task of teaching the new converts to Islaam the principles of the religion. They would say to those who gathered
    around them, “I heard such and such a Sahaabee say that he saw the Prophet (r) do this,” or, “I heard such and such a Sahaabee say that he heard the Prophet (r) say that.” In this way the second link in the chain of narration of the Sunnah was added.

    Those who studied under the Taabi‘oon were later called Atbaa‘ at-Taabi‘een (followers of the followers). Many of these new students used to travel for days or even months to meet and study under various Taabe‘oon, taking great care in the memorization and the writing down of their teacher’s narrations.

    Only a few books of Hadeeth from the time of the Atbaa‘ at-Taabi‘een have reached us. The most famous of them is the book of Maalik ibn Anas called Al- Muwatta, and the most famous copy of Al-Muwatta is that of Maalik’s student Yahyaa ibn Yahyaa from the Berber tribe of Masmoodah.

    In the second volume of Yahyaa’s copy of Al-Muwatta , in the chapter on the Dabb (lizard), we find the following: “Maalik told me from Ibn Shihaab from Abu Umaamah ibn Sahl (ibn Hurayf) from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas from Khaalid ibn al-Waleed that he accompanied the Prophet (r) to his wife Maymoonah’s house
    and a roasted Dabb was brought for him (to eat)... so Allaah’s Messenger stretched out his hand to eat some of it. Some of the women who were with Maymoonah said, ‘Inform Allaah’s Messenger of what he is about to eat.’ When he was told that it was Dabb, he removed his hand from it and (Khaalid ibn al- Waleed) asked, ‘Is it Haraam, O Messenger of Allaah?’ He replied , ‘No, but it wasn‘t in my people’s land and I find it loathsome.’ Khaalid then said, ‘I then tore off (a piece of) it and ate it whole the Prophet (r) watched me.’” 12

    The Sanad (chain of transmission) of this Hadeeth is as follows :

    Prophet> Khaalid> Sahaabah

    Chains of Transmission

    Every hadeeth consists of two sections. The first section is a list of all those who transmitted the saying of the Prophet (r) beginning with the last transmitter to the one who collected it in his book and ending with the companion who narrated it from the Prophet (r). The second section is the narrated saying, action,
    approval or physical description of the Prophet (r). The first portion is known as the isnaad or the sanad (chain of narrators) and the second is called the matn (text).

    For example:

    ‘Abdul-‘Azeez ibn al-Mukhtaar told us, saying: Suhayl ibn Abee Saalih informed us from his father from Aboo Hurayrah that the Prophet (r) said: “The Imaam was appointed to be followed. So when he says : Allaahu Akbar (Allaah is Greater), say Allaahu Akbar. But do not say it until he has said it. And bow when he bows, but don’t bow until he bows. And when he says: Sami ‘allaahu liman hamidah (Allaah hears those who praise Him), say: Allaahumma rabbanaa lakalhamd (O Allaah, our Lord, all praise is Yours. ). And when he prostrates, do so, but don’t do so before he does so. And if he prays standing, do so and if he prays sitting you should all pray sitting.”14

    In the above-mentioned hadeeth, [‘Abdul-‘Azeez ibn al-Mukhtaar told us, saying: Suhayl ibn Abee Saalih informed us from his father from Aboo Hurayrah that the Prophet (r) said:] is the isnaad and the remainder [“The Imaam was appointed to be followed. So when he says: Allaahu Akbar (Allaah is Greater), say Allaahu Akbar … and if he prays sitting you should all pray sitting.”] is the matn.

    The Pattern of Isnaad

    The usual pattern, which the isnaad system follows, is that the further one goes down the chain of narrators (isnaad), the greater the number of transmitters. For example, in the case of the above-mentioned hadeeth, research reveals that ten Companions living in three locations, Madeenah, Syria and Iraq, transmitted it.

    One of the companions, Aboo Hurayrah, had seven students transmit the hadeeth from him alone. Four of them lived in Madeenah, two in Egypt and one in Yemen. These seven students, in turn, transmitted the hadeeth to twelve of their students; five from Madeenah, two from Makkah, and one each from Syria, Kufah, Ta’if, Egypt and Yemen. The total number of third generation authorities who reported this hadeeth is twenty-six coming from ten different locations; Madeenah, Makkah, Egypt, Hims, Yemen, Kufah, Syria, Wasit and Ta’if.

    Furthermore, the hadeeth is found with virtually the same wording or meaning in all of the ten locations.15

    Nasr ibn ‘Alee al-Jahdamee and Haamid ibn ‘Umar al-Bakraawee informed us saying: Bishr ibn al-Mufaddal informed us from Khaalid, from ‘Abdullaah ibn Shaqeeq from Aboo Hurayrah that Prophet Muhammad (r) said: “If anyone among you wakes up from sleep, he must not put his hand in a utensil until he has washed it three times, for he doesn’t know where his hand was during sleep.”16

    At least thirteen students of Aboo Hurayrah transmitted this hadeeth from him. 8 out of the 13 were from Madeenah

    1 was from Kufah
    2 from Basrah
    1 from Yemen
    1 from Syria

    There are sixteen scholars who transmitted this hadeeth from the students of Aboo Hurayrah.

    6 out of the 16 were from Madeenah
    4 from Basrah
    2 from Kufah, Iraq
    1 from Makkah
    1 from Yemen
    1 from Khurasan (Iran)
    1 from Hims (Syria)

    Origins of the Isnaad System

    Every type of literature develops certain features particular to its nature and content and the character of the people who cultivate it, and the distinctive social, political or historical conditions in which it originates and flourishes. Hadeeth literature is no exception to this rule.17

    The isnaad system was used to transmit pre-Islamic poetry.18 However, it was in the hadeeth literature that it reached its peak at which it was considered an integral part of the religion itself. ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak (d. 181AH), one of the illustrious teachers of Imaam al- Bukhaaree, said: “The isnaad is from the religion. Were it not for the isnaad anyone could say anything he wished.”19 By the end of the first century the science of isnaad was fully developed.

    Ibn Seereen (d. 110), a Successor, said, “[In the beginning] they would not ask about the isnaad. But when the fitnah (turmoil / civil war) happened, they demanded, ‘Name your men to us.’ The narrations of the Ahlus-Sunnah (Adherents to the Sunnah) would be accepted, while those of Ahlul-Bid‘ah (Adherents to Innovations) would be rejected.”20 That is, prior to the turmoil the isnaad was used only occasionally, but after the turmoil they became cautious.

    In order to minimize the significance of the system in Islaam, orientalist scholars have tried to identify non-Arab pre-Islamic sources. Joseph Horovitz cited several instances from Jewish literature in which the isnaad was used before its use among Arabs.21 He further tried to trace its usage back to the Mosaic period, and by Talmudic times its chain assumed enormous length. Whether the isnaad system really goes back to Mosaic times is open to doubt, as Horovitz did not prove that they were not later interpolations. It has also been noted that Indians long before Islaam used the isnaad system. Occasional use can be found
    in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain literature. For example, in the great epic, the Mahabharta, it states:

    Vysda composed it, Ganesa served as a scribe, and the work was handed down by Vaisampayana, who communicated it to the king Janamejaya. Sauti, who was present at the time, heard it and narrated it to the assembly of sages.22

    However, regardless of where the isnaad originated, there is no doubt that having adopted the system, Muslims came to consider the isnaad an indispensable part of the hadeeths and developed it. They gave it a firm foundation by introducing the chronological method, assembling biographies of the transmitters, and
    establishing a science for determining the value of its contents and the authenticity of its channel of transmission. The ancient Indians, as far as is known, never made any attempt at a rigorous and consistent treatment of the isnaad, nor did they develop the chronological method. Likewise, Jewish literature had no usage of the chronological method thereby rendering their isnaads valueless. In fact,

    Professor Horovitz, himself, admitted that, ‘In the Talmudic literature there is no idea of chronological method, and the oldest extant work attempting such an arrangement was composed after 885 AD – more than a century later than the earliest Islamic work on isnaad-critique. From this fact,’ he goes on to say, ‘and from the fact that the important Jewish works [of this period] had been composed in the Islamic dominions, it may be inferred that this historical interest was due to the Islamic influence.’23

    The practice of specifying the isnaad, not only of the hadeeths but also the books in which they were collected, was of immense value in preserving the integrity of books in an age in which printing was unknown, and the creation of spurious and distorted works was a relatively easy task. The scholarly practice of certification seems to be unique in the world’s literary history, just as hadeeth literature is unique in employing a thorough and systematic method of source identification. Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Syriac manuscripts rarely, if ever, supply us with such a wealth of information about a book’s origin and use.

    The isnaad system, while originating in connection with the hadeeth literature, was in due course extended by Arab authors to many other genres, including geography, history, and prose fiction.24

    FOUR: Classification

    Due to a variety of factors, the narration of hadeeths came under careful scrutiny beginning with the generation of the Companions and their students. The statement of the Taabi‘ee, Ibn Seereen (d. 110), in the previous chapter identifies the approximate time period in which verification began.

    He said, “[In the beginning] they would not ask about the isnaad. But when the fitnah (civil war) happened, they demanded, ‘Name your men to us.’ The narrations of the Ahlus-Sunnah would be accepted, while
    those of Ahlul-Bid‘ah would be rejected.”

    Once the name of the narrator was known, it was possible to investigate whether he was trustworthy or not and whether he actually heard the person from whom he was reporting. Criticism of this nature later came to be known as ‘Ilm al-Jarh wat-Ta‘deel (The Science of Validation).

    The earliest recorded comments made for this purpose were reported by Shu‘bah ibn al-Hajjaaj (701-776 CE). Ibn ‘Adee reported with his isnaad going back to ‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibn al-Mahdee who said: “Once they differed in the presence of Shu‘bah and said: O Aboo Bistaam, appoint a judge between you and
    us.” He replied: “I agree to appoint al-Ahwal (Yahyaa ibn Sa‘eed al-Qattaan).” After a short while, he came. So they referred the issue to him and he gave his judgement against Shu‘bah. Shu‘bah remarked: “Who else has the ability to examine (tanqud) like you?”2 The term used by Shu‘bah was a form of the verb naqada which means ‘to examine or test’. Yahyaa ibn Sa‘eed (d. 804) was also the earliest of those whose comments were recorded. Ibn Shihaab az-Zuhree, as was earlier mentioned, was the first to record biographical material about the hadeeth narrators along with the narrations themselves.

    From these early efforts the science of hadeeth (‘Ilm Mustlah al-Hadeeth or ‘Ilm Usool al-Hadeeth) evolved to distinguish between authentic narrations and spurious or fabricated ones. The scholars of hadeeth have dealt with each hadeeth as an independent case, subjecting both its isnaad and its matn to close scrutiny
    according to the fundamental principles of this science.3

    Although the rules and criteria governing the study of hadeeth were meticulous in the early generations, there was considerable variation in their terminology. Their principles can be found scattered among various books of that era, e.g., ar-Risaalah of Imaam ash-Shaafi‘ee (d. 204AH), the introduction to
    Saheeh Muslim of Imaam Muslim (d. 261AH) and Sunan at-Tirmithee of Imaam at-Tirmithee (d. 279AH). Later scholars deduced the criteria of the early scholars like al-Bukhaaree, from a careful study of which narrators or isnaads were accepted or rejected by them.

    One of the earliest writings to cover this science comprehensively, using standard terminology, was the work of Aboo Muhammad ar-Raamahurmuzee (d. 360AH/970CE). The next major contribution was Ma‘rifah ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth by al-Haakim (d. 405/1014). His work covered fifty classifications of hadeeth, but left some points untouched. Aboo Nu‘aym al-Isfahaanee (d. 430/1038) later completed the most important missing parts of al-Haakim’s work. Al-Khateeb al- Baghdaadee (d. 403/1012) followed his predecessors with his classic, al-Kifaayah fee ‘Ilm ar-Riyaayah, along with another work on the etiquette of teaching and studying hadeeth.

    After further contributions by Qaadee ‘Iyaad al-Yahsoobee (d. 544AH), Aboo Hafs al-Mayaanjee (d. 580), and others, came the most comprehensive treatment of the subject, ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth, by Aboo ‘Amr ‘Uthmaan ibn as- Salaah (d. 643/1245). It is commonly known as Muqaddimah Ibn as-Salaah, and was compiled while he taught at Daar al-Hadeeth of several cities in Syria. This text came to be the standard reference book for scholars and students of hadeeth from that time until today. Many later works on the science of hadeeth were based on it or were abridgements of it. Among them is an-Nawawee’s abridgement, al- Irshaad, and his summary of this abridgement, Taqreeb. As-Suyootee wrote an outstanding commentary on the latter known as Tadreeb ar-Raawee. Ibn Katheer (d. 774AH) also compiled an abridgement of Ibn as-Salaah’s work called Ikhtisar ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth and so did Badrud-Deen ibn Jamaa‘ah (d. 733) in his work al- Minhaal.

    These books classified hadeeths according to a number of considerations. They were analysed according to the narrating authority (Companion, Successor, etc.), the isnaad, the number of narrators, the narrating terminology, the nature of the narrated text and the reliability of the narrators.

    The early scholars of hadeeth from the first two centuries generally classified hadeeths into two broad categories: Saheeh '(authentic) and Da‘eef (inauthentic). Imaam at-Tirmithee was the first to distinguish the category of Hasan (reliable) from that of Da‘eef.5

    Hadeeth Saheeh

    A hadeeth must meet the five criteria in order to be accepted according to Islaamic law as a source of legal ordinance. Ibn as-Salaah defined the Hadeeth Saheeh as follows: “A Hadeeth Saheeh is one which has a continuous isnaad, made up of trustworthy narrators narrating from trustworthy narrators, which is
    found to be free from any irregularities or defects.”6

    1. Ittisaal as-Sanad (Continuity of the chain of transmitters)

    The chain of narrators or transmitters, who are relating the Matn (text), has to be unbroken for the hadeeth to be considered. That is none of the transmitters must be missing from the chain and each narrator, Raawee, has to have met the transmitter directly preceding him as well as the one directly following him. Each Raawee has to be a known individual, otherwise he is classified as majhool (unknown) and the sanad is classified as broken.

    2. ‘Adaalah (integrity)

    The integrity of the narrators is the second key condition for a hadeeth to be considered valid. By integrity we mean that the narrator was a practicing Muslim and was not known to have done any of the major (forbidden things) if he was a known liar he is classified as kaththaab and the hadeeth that he has transmitted is classified as da‘eef. These are the conditions verified through the references of the biographical science of hadeeth known as Kutub ar-Rijaal.

    3. Dabt (accuracy)

    The accuracy of the text is determined by two factors either of which is sufficient
    by itself.

    (a) Dabt as-Sadr (Soundness of memory)

    Each narrator must be known for his ability to memorize and repeat with a high degree of accuracy. If a narrator had a tendency to repeat hadeeth in a number of different ways such a hadeeth is classified as Mudtarib (confused) and any other hadeeth that he narrates will be classified as Da‘eef. When the narrator’s level of accuracy is mediocre but the other conditions for authenticity are fulfilled, the hadeeth is classified as hasan.

    (b) Dabt al-Kitaabah (Written accuracy)

    Each narrator who does not fulfill precondition “a”, must be known for recording his hadeeth in books accurately and his narrations only be from his books, these two preconditions (a,b) are also verified by Kutub ar-Rijaal (books on Biographies of narrators).

    4. Ghayr Shaathth (conformity)

    It is critical that the hadeeth conform to similar hadeeths narrated on the same topic whose chains are stronger. If the text of a hadeeth contradicts that of another well-known text whose chain of narration is stronger, or it is in conflict with a group of other narrators of a similar status, it is classified as shaathth (errant),

    5. Laa ‘Illah (absence of hidden defect)

    The hidden defect is one that causes the hadeeth to appear to be sound and only become evident after deep investigation. For a hadeeth to be considered sound (saheeh) it has to be free of hidden defects. A hadeeth with hidden defects is called ma‘lool or mu‘allal. Ibn al-Madeenee (d. 324AH) said that a defect can only be revealed if all the isnaads of the hadeeth are coallated. In his book, al- Ilal, he listed 34 Successors and the names of the Companions they heard hadeeths directly from. For example, he said that al-Hasan al-Basree (d. 110AH) did not meet ‘Alee (d. 40AH), although there is a slight possibility that he may have seen him during his childhood in Madeenah. Such information is very important as it disproves the many Sufi traditions in which they claim that al- Hasan heard from ‘Alee. Only a few hadeeth scholars compiled books on this topic, among them, Ibn Abee Haatim ar-Raazee (d. 327), al-Khallaal (d. 311) and ad-Daaraqutnee (d. 385).7 which is one of the categories of hadeeth da‘eef.

    Ruling of Hadeeth Saheeh

    A hadeeth that fulfills all the five conditions of sihhah is referred to as a hadeeth Saheeh. Such a hadeeth can be used to establish points of Islaamic law and, if it isn’t abrogated, it must be accepted and applied. The ruling of a hadeeth saheeh can only be superceded by that of another hadeeth saheeh stronger than it.

    Saheeh li Ghayrih

    The hadeeth saheeh may be further subdivided into Saheeh li Thaatih and Saheeh li Ghayrih. Hadeeths fulfilling the five conditions completely were also referred to as Saheeh li Thaatih. That is, it is saheeh by itself, without any external considerations. The Saheeh li Ghayrih is a hadeeth hasan that has been elevated to the status of saheeh due to supporting narrations.

    The following is an example of a Saheeh li Ghayrih narration found in Sunan

    Abee Daawood:

    Aboo Kurayb informed us from ‘Abdah ibn Sulaymaan who informed them from Muhammad ibn ‘Amr from Aboo Salamah from Aboo Hurayrah who quoted Allaah’s Messenger (r) as saying: “Were it not that I would place a great burden on my nation, I would have ordered them to use the miswak at the time of every salaah.”8

    Ibn Salaah stated that that Muhammad ibn ‘Amr ibn ‘Alqamah was wellknown for his truthfulness and integrity, but he was considered inaccurate (Sadooq lahu Awhaam). Aboo Daawood stated at the end of the above-mentioned narration: Aboo ‘Eesaa [at-Tirmithee] said: “This hadeeth has been narrated by
    Muhammad ibn Is’haaq from Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem from Aboo Salamah from Zayd ibn Khaalid from the Prophet (r) and the hadeeth of Aboo Salamah from Aboo Hurayrah and Zayd ibn Khaalid from the Prophet (r) are both saheeh in my opinion because this hadeeth has been narrated through more than one
    channel from Aboo Hurayrah from the Prophet (r)… As for Muhammad ibnIsmaa‘eel [al-Bukhaaree], he claimed the hadeeth of Aboo Salamah from Zayd ibn Khaalid is more authentic. Aboo ‘Eesaa said: “On this topic [there are other narrations] by Aboo Bakr as-Siddeeq, ‘Alee, ‘Aa’ishah, Ibn ‘Abbaas, Huthayfah,
    Zayd ibn Khaalid, Anas, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr, Ibn ‘Umar, Umm Habeebah, Aboo Umaamah, Aboo Ayyoob, Tammaam ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Abdullaah ibn Hanzalah, Umm Salamah, Waathilah ibn al-Asqa‘ and Aboo Moosaa.9

    Grades of Saheeh

    The most correct view is that it cannot be absolutely claimed that any particular chain of narrators is superior to any other saheeh narration. The actual grades of authenticity depend on how the chain and text is influenced by the five conditions for authenticity. For example, the lowest level of authentic narrations would be those hadeeths which have transmitters whose accuracy is disputed. However,
    proof in favor of their reliability is overwhelming. For example, the narration of Suhail ibn Abee Saalih from his father from Aboo Hurayrah. In spite of that fact, some scholars traditionally considered certain chains of narration to be of the highest grade. For example, Ahmad ibn Hambal and Is’haaq ibn Raahawayh considered: “Zuhree from Saalim from his father, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar,” to be the strongest chain. On the other hand, al-Bukhaaree considered: “Maalik from Naafi‘ from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar,” to be the strongest.10 It came to be known as the “golden chain”.

    With regard to the hadeeth saheeh, it cannot be said that they are all found in he books of al-Bukhaare and Muslim because these scholars themselves confirmed that they did not gather all of the hadeeth saheeh. Al-Bukhaaree stated: “I only wrote in my book, al-Jaami‘, what was authentic and I omitted some authentic narrations to avoid it becoming too long.” Imaam Muslim also said: “I did not include in this book every hadeeth I found to be saheeh. I only put in it what the scholars agreed upon.” In fact the majority of authentic hadeeths are found outside of these two compilations. Imaam al-Bukhaaree himself stated:
    “And the authentic hadeeths which I have omitted are more than I have included [in my book].” He also stated: “I memorized 100,000 authentic hadeeths and 200,000 inauthentic hadeeths.” And the total number of hadeeths in Saheeh al- Bukhaaree is around 4,000 and in Saheeh Muslim is also around 4,000!11

    The hadeeths may be graded according to criteria used by Imaams al- Bukhaaree and Muslim which were considered to be of the highest standard.

    1. Authentic hadeeths recorded by both al-Bukhaaree and Muslim. Such
    narrations are often referred to by scholars as متفَ  ق علَيه muttaqun ‘alayh
    (agreed upon).
    2. Authentic hadeeths recorded by only al-Bukhaaree.
    3. Authentic hadeeths recorded by only Muslim.
    4. Authentic hadeeths according to the criteria of al-Bukhaaree and Muslim recorded by others.

    5. Authentic hadeeths according to the criteria of al-Bukhaaree alone recorded by others.
    6. Authentic hadeeths according to the criteria of Muslim alone recorded by others.
    7. Authentic hadeeths not according to the criteria of either al-Bukhaaree or Muslim.

    Hadeeth Hasan

    Linguistically the term hasan means “beautiful; fair; good.” However, according to the science of hadeeth evaluation, it refers to a hadeeth that is graded between saheeh and da‘eef (inauthentic). At-Tirmithee, who was the first to use the term hasan consistently in a technical way, defined it as a hadeeth that does not have in its chain a narrator suspected of lying, nor does it conflict with superior texts and it is transmitted via more than one chain of similar strength. This definition is quite general and could include the hadeeth saheeh lighayrih (saheeh due to external corroboration). Or it could define one dimension of the hadeeth hasan, namely the hasan lighayrih (hasan due to external corroboration). Ibn Hajar, on the other hand, gave the most accurate definition of the hadeeth hasan as one transmitted by upstanding narrators in a continuous chain of narration, free from any hidden defects or conflict with superior texts. Except that it contains a narrator or narrators whose accuracy is inferior. Such a hadeeth is regarded as hasan lithaatih (hasan by itself).12 In other words, a hadeeth is considered hasan if it fulfills all the requirements of Sihhah except Dabt (accuracy). If the memory of a narrator was only considered fair (sadooq), that is, he was known to make a few mistakes. The hadeeth is lowered from the level of
    saheeh to the level of hasan. In the early days, some scholars like Ibn Khuzaymah (one of al-Bukhaaree’s teachers) made no distinction between the hadeeth saheeh and the hadeeth hasan. Ibn Hibban and al-Haakim also followed this practice. The following is an example of a hadeeth hasan from the Sunan of Imaam at- Tirmithee:

    Qutaybah informed us from Ja‘far ibn Sulaymaan ad-Duba‘ee informed us from Aboo ‘Imraan al-Jawnee from Abee Bakr ibn Abee Moosaa al-Ash‘aree who said: I heard my father saying when we faced the enemy: The Prophet (r) said: “Indeed paradise is under the shade of the swords.” … Aboo ‘Eesaa [at-
    Tirmithee] said: This is a hadeeth hasan ghareeb.13

    This hadeeth is rated hasan because Ja‘far ibn Sulaymaan was graded sadooq (less accurate but upright) while the other narrators were all graded thiqah (reliable).14 The ruling on a hadeeth is always according to the weakest link in its chain of narrators. It is a hadeeth hasan li thaatih. However, due the existence of 3 narrations of this text in Saheeh al- Bukhaaree and 2 narrations in Saheeh Muslim it is reclassified as Saheeh li Ghayrih. The following hadeeth is one of the corroborating narrations in Saheeh al-Bukhaaree:

    ‘Abdullaah ibn Muhammad informed us that Mu‘aawiyah ibn ‘Amr informed them from Aboo Is’haaq from Moosaa ibn ‘Uqbah from Saalim ibn an-Nadr, the freed slave and scribe of ‘Umar ibn ‘Ubaydillaah, who said that ‘Abdullaah ibn Abee Awfaa wrote to him saying that the Messenger of Allaah (r) said: “Know
    that Paradise is under the shade of the swords.”15


    As in the case of the hadeeth saheeh where certain chains were considered the strongest, the following two chains were considered the strongest among the hasan hadeeths:

    · Bahz ibn Hakeem from his father from his grandfather.
    · ‘Amr ibn Shu‘ayb from his father from his grandfather.

    Hadeeths in which there are disputes as to whether they are to be considered hasan or da‘eef are rated lower, like the narrations of Haarith ibn ‘Abdillaah, ‘Aasim ibn Damrah, Hajjaaj ibn Aratt, etc.16


    When hadeeth scholars use the phrase صحِي  ح اْلإِسنادِ Saheehul-Isnaad (an authentic chain of narration) to describe a hadeeth, they are making a subtle indication that it is below the category of hadeeth saheeh.

    That is, it is probably a hadeeth hasan. On the other hand, if they use the phrase حس  ن اْلإِسناد Hasanul- Isnaad (a sound chain of narration) it means that the hadeeth is da‘eef . The
    reason for such a classification is that a chain may be saheeh or hasan with respect to the first three conditions (1. ‘Adl, 2. ‘Ittisaal as-sanad, and 3. Dabt) yet it may contain hidden defects or contradict a superior text. Imaam at-Tirmithee often described hadeeths in his Sunan using the ambiguous phrase  حسن صحِيح Hasan Saheeh (sound authentic). Ibn Hajar and followed by as-Suyootee explained it as referring to either: · A hadeeth which has two or more chains in which one chain may be hasan while others may be saheeh. In other words, it is actually saheeh lighayrih

    · A hadeeth with only one chain about which some scholars have graded it saheeh while others have graded it hasan and Imaam at-Tirmithee was reluctant to give preference to one opinion over the other.
    Imaam al-Baghawee in his work, Masaabeeh as-Sunnah, classified hadeeths found in Saheeh al-Bukhaaree and Saheeh Muslim as saheeh, while those found in the Sunan he classified as hasan. However, the scholars of hadeeth rejected his classification because the hadeeths found in the Sunan are a mixture of saheeh (authentic), hasan (sound), da‘eef (weak), and mawdoo‘ (fabricated).


    There are no texts in which hasan hadeeths have been specifically compiled. However, hadeeths of that grade can be found in all of the Sunans. In the case of Sunan Abee Daawood, the author expressed that the saheeh and da‘eef and those narrations that resemble them are clearly identified. Those without any reference at all were hasan in his estimation.1

    Hadeeth Hasan li Ghayrih

    If one or more of the narrators belonged to a lower grade (i.e. grades 5 or 6 rendering the hadeeth da‘eef), that is, its weakness is due to poor memory of a narrator or narrators and not due to indecent behaviour or lies, and there are other hadeeths supporting it in form or sense, it would be reclassified as hasan li ghayrih.

    It should again be noted that the overall acceptability of an isnaad is based on its weakest link. Consequently, if all of the narrators were highly reliable (thiqah) and one, anywhere in the chain was classified as a liar (kaththaab), the hadeeth would be classified as fabricated, even if proved authentic by other isnaads.

    The following is an example of a hasan li ghayrih hadeeth found in Sunan at- Tirmithee:

    Muhammad ibn Bashshaar informed us that Yahyaa ibn Sa‘eed and ‘Abdur- Rahmaan ibn Mahdee and Muhammad ibn Ja‘far all said: Shu‘bah informed us from ‘Aasim ibn ‘Ubaydillaah who said that he heard ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Aamir ibn Rabee‘ah from his father that a lady from the Fazaarah tribe was married based on [a dowry of] a pair of sandals. The Messenger of Allaah (r) asked: “Are you pleased to [turn over your] self and your wealth for a pair of sandals? ” She replied: Yes. So he permitted it.18 ‘Aasim ibn ‘Ubaydillaah is classified as da‘eef by Yahyaa ibn Mu‘een and Ahmad ibn Hambal and munkar by al-Bukhaaree. However, Imaam at-Tirmithee added: [There are other narrations] on this topic from ‘Umar, Aboo Hurayrah, Sahl ibn Sa‘d, Aboo Sa‘eed, Anas, ‘Aa’ishah, Jaabir, Aboo Hadrad al-Aslamee. [Thus] ‘Aamir ibn Rabee‘ah’s narration is hasan saheeh.

    Ruling on the Hadeeth Hasan

    The hadeeth hasan is valid for establishing Islaamic rulings that should not be rejected unless abrogated or superceded by a hadeeth saheeh. In this respect, it is no different from a hadeeth saheeh. The both represent valid instructions authentically transmitted from the Messenger of Allaah (r) who must be obeyed
    when he instructs and whose recommendations are better taken when he advises.

    Hadeeth Da‘eef

    Linguistically, da‘eef means “weak”, while technically it refers to a narration below the standard of hasan. This is a hadeeth in which any one or more of the five conditions of Sihhah have not been met. Al-Bayqoonee defined the hadeeth hasan in his poetry on ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth in a similar way:
    و ُ كلُّ ما عن رتبةِ الْحسنِ قَ  صر * فَ  هو ال  ضعِي  ف و  هو َأقْسام كَُثر

    Whatever is short of the level of hasan * It is da‘eef and it has numerous branches. A sample of a da‘eef narration can be found in the following narration collected by at-Tirmithee:

    Bundaar informed us [saying] Yahyaa ibn Sa‘eed and ‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibnMahdee and Bahz ibn Asad said that Hamaad ibn Salamah informed them fromHakeem al-Athram from Tameemah al-Hujaymee from Aboo Hurayray that the Prophet (r) said: “Whoever cohabits with a menstruating woman, or enters a woman from her anus, or goes to a fortuneteller has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad (r).” Aboo ‘Eesaa said: We do not know this hadeeth except from the narration of Hakeem al-Athram from Aboo Tameemah al- Hujaymee from Aboo Hurayrah.19 Hakeem al-Athram was graded weak by the scholars and Ibn Hajar labeled him layyin in Taqreeb at-Tah’theeb.20

    Grades of Da‘eef

    The weakness of a hadeeth will vary according the severity of the weakness due to breaks in the chain or defects in the narrators. As to the weakest chain, it would be the fabricated narrations. Al-Haakim commented in his work, Ma‘rifah ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth, about the weakest narrations attributed to certain Companions, regions and countries. For example, he stated that the weakest narration linked to
    Aboo Bakr as-Siddeeq was that of Ibn Moosaa ad-Daqeeqee from Farqad as- Subkhee from Murrahat-Tayyib from Aboo Bakr. He further stated that the weakest chain linked to the people of Syria was that of Muhammad ibn Qays al- Masloob from ‘Ubaydullaah ibn Zahrah from ‘Alee ibn Yazeed form Qaasim
    from Aboo Umaamah.

    Ruling on Da‘eef Narrations

    Scholars differed regarding the use of hadeeth da‘eef. The majority permitted its application for meritorious deeds not pertaining to theology or legal rulings (halaal and haraam) according to three conditions specified by Ibn Hajar.

    1. The hadeeth must not be excessively weak, containing liars or fabricators.
    2. It must be acknowledged as reliable evidence.
    3. One does not suppose that by its application its strength is established.21

    Sufyaan ath-Thawree, ‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Mahdee and Ahmad ibn Hambal used weak narrations. In fact Imaam Ahmad preferred to use weak narrations to Qiyaas.

    The hadeeth da‘eef is also referred to in classical works as al-Khabar al- Mardood (Rejected Narrations). The inauthentic hadeeth is one in which the truth of the report is highly unlikely due to the loss of one or more of the conditions for the acceptance. Some da‘eef hadeeths may be reclassified due to supportive
    factors while others are totally rejected. The inauthentic hadeeth may be further subdivided into different subcategories based on which of the five criteria has not been met.

    Causes of Rejection:

    The factors which cause a hadeeth to be rejected all fall under two main headings:

    1. A break in the chain of narration or 2. A defect in the narrator himself

    The breaks in the chain of narration can be classified according to appearance into two categories: Obvious breaks and Hidden breaks. A. Obvious breaks refers to those isnaads in which a narrator did not come in contact with his teacher due either to the difference in generations, making it impossible for them to meet,22 or due to him not ever meeting with the teacher according to records. Because of that the researcher in the area of narrators needs to know the biographies of the narrators themselves since
    they contain the dates of birth and death, time period in which they studied, their journeys etc. Hadeeth scholars have coined four names for these

    I.e. The teacher died before the student was born or when the student was below five years of

    Thought I'd share this to show the vaste knowledge required to grade hadith, this is not even the end there's several more modules and this is the basic level It shocks my when people come out and say this hadith is in authentic when they have no knowledge with regards to the science of hadith.

    Our mind and intellect/common sense/mentality/ is not the judge for whether or not a hadith is authentic or not because mind, intellect and mentality differs from person to person. What one person finds to be absurd and completely stupid another person could find it to be quite plausible.

    I get the impression that people think scholars use their desires to judge whether hadith is authentic or not however that is not the case, scholars judge hadith according to the science of hadith and not personal whims or desires.

    It really is irritating when people dismiss a hadith to be weak straight away just because it doesn't agree with their mentality or way of thinking/desires, since when did their brains give them the right to legislate what is apart of the religion and what isn't based upon their 21st century conditioned brain.

    bottom line, leave it to the scholars of hadith to decide whether a hadith is authentic or not because your mentality is simply a product of the society and time you live in.

    Source: The Islamic Online University, The science of hadith course. http://www.islamiconlineuniversity.c...rses&Itemid=20

    Also Bilal Phillips Usool Al Hadith book.
    Last edited by Salahudeen; 07-16-2010 at 04:07 PM.
    The preservation of Hadith

    “Who said that guidance requires there to be someone accompanying you"

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    Zafran's Avatar
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    Re: The preservation of Hadith


    Good work brother - May Allah swt bless you

    Before the hadith deniers can even start denying they have to study the science of hadith.

    Heres a great video from Dr Brown on A Brief History Of Hadith Collection And Criticism


    The preservation of Hadith

    Do you think the pious don't sin?

    They merely:
    Veiled themselves and didn't flaunt it
    Sought forgiveness and didn't persist
    Took ownership of it and don't justify it
    And acted with excellence after they had erred - Ibn al-Qayyim

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    Re: The preservation of Hadith

    Quote Originally Posted by Zafran View Post

    Good work brother - May Allah swt bless you

    Before the hadith deniers can even start denying they have to study the science of hadith.

    Heres a great video from Dr Brown on A Brief History Of Hadith Collection And Criticism


    jazakallah khair akhi, it could be argued that the science of hadith should be learnt so one can see what the authentic sunnah is. And follow the commands of Allah in the Qur'an where he tells us to follow the perfect example of the holy prophet pbuh. Indeed in the messenger of Allah you have the best example. So by learning the science of hadith we can grasp that example, or of course we can sit back and let the scholars tell us
    The preservation of Hadith

    “Who said that guidance requires there to be someone accompanying you"

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    Part One: Brief history of hadith collection, preservation and classification

    Stage One: Time of the Prophet (s)

    1. Companions recorded statements and actions of the Prophet (s) – some memorised while others memorised as well as wrote it. An example of such companions is Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas.

    2. Given the absence of literacy amongst most, they had developed their memory exceptionally well as that is all they had to rely for most important affairs of their lives as well as for their forms of
    “entertainment”, i.e. poetry. This was further developed due to importance of memorising the Quran and reciting every day in the five time prayers.

    3. Practically no Muslim could be a practising Muslim without memorising at least some hadith (statements etc) of the Prophet – to know what to recite during the compulsory five times prayers, to
    arbitrate in disputes between themselves at a family level or that of community. So hadith were indispensable and therefore some memorised by every Muslim.

    Stage Two: Companions (Sahabah) of the Prophet Muhammad (s)

    1. Efforts of Sahabah in collection for own practise and fatwa for others e.g. Abu Hurairah (d. 59H), Abdullah Ibn Abbas (d. 68H), Jabir ibn Abdullah (d. 78H), Aisha bint Abu Bakr (d. 58H), Anas ibn
    Malik (10BH-93AH), Abudllah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas (d. 63H), Abdullah ibn Umar (d. 74H) and Abdullah ibn Masud (d. 32H)

    2. Efforts of Sahabah in ensuring authenticity e.g. Umar ibn Khattab and Aishah

    3. They memorised it and some wrote it e.g. Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas or their students wrote it from

    Stage Three: Tabieen (Students of the Prophet’s Companions)

    1. Efforts of Tabieen who devoted their lives at some stage to collection of hadith, e.g. Urwah ibn Zubair (nephew of Aisha), Nafi Mawla of Abudllah ibn Umar, Thabit ibn Aslam al-Bunani (spent forty
    years with Anas ibn Malik); also Amrah bint Abdurahman Mawla of Aisha grew up with Aisha learning.

    2. Written Collection them e.g. students of Ibn Abbas, Abu Hurairah, etc.

    2. These travels were also to meet contemporary narrators, collect information about them to establish their reliability and trustworthiness. Thereafter these narrations were analysed and compared with those of others to determine the extent of accuracy of one’s transmission of hadith.

    3. Scholars who did this included the likes of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241), Sufyan Thawri (97 – 161H), Abdurahman ibn Mahdi (d. 198H), Yahya ibn Maeen (d 233), Ali Ibn Madeeni (d. 234H) and
    Abu Zur’ah.

    4. These scholars were authorities on classification of authenticity or reliability of a hadith – carrying on in footsteps of others from previous generation who were authorities on classifying hadith
    in their generation e.g. Imam Malik etc.

    5. Some of them compiled books of hadith narrations e.g. Imam Ahmad (Musnad) or books of information about narrators (Ali ibn Madeeni, Ibn Abi Hatim Al-Razi and many others) that survive to
    this day. Other books combined both types or were on one subject but survive today incorporated into other works.

    Stage Six: Further travels and Compilation of voluminous books on various topics

    1. Compilation: Although books were compiled from the first century on a specific topic, now they compiled large voluminous books for a specific purpose but which included numerous chapters.

    2. Examples of these include Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim by two of the greatest authorities in Hadith. Bukhari (d. 256) and Muslim (d. 261) compiled books on other topics too e.g. Tarikh Kabir by
    Bukhari with biographies on reliability of narrators (Jarh wa Tadeel). Other authors compiled books for purpose of fiqh (jurisprudence) related hadith (e.g. Sunan Abu Dawud) or for information about
    scholars fiqh opinions & its basis along with authenticity of hadith (e.g. sunan Tirmidhi). Many were same hadith with different chains.

    Stage Seven: Books on various aspects of these hadith

    1. Fiqh (jurisprudence) books: These used the above hadith to draw fiqh rulings from them, e.g. al- Umm of Imam Shafiee, some works of Muhammad ibn Hasan Shaibani, Ibn Mundhir, Muwata of Imam Malik and many others

    2. Hadith explanation books: these explained meanings of hadith from the above books. This continued for many centuries thereafter. Examples include Shar Sunnah of Imam Baghawi, Sharh of Sahih
    Muslim by Nawawi, Fath Bari of Ibn Hajar, sharh of muwata by Zarqani and many others.

    3. Meaning of wording of hadith (Gharib Hadith): These were written from the earliest times. Scholars travelled to Arab tribes to establish original authentic meanings of hadith words. Early works
    include those of Qasim ibn Sallam. Ibn Athir collected information from these earlier works into a large one work that encompassed books of the earlier times. This is titled, an-Nihayah fee Ghareebil-

    4. Jarh wa Tadeel: Large books with information from earlier works on biographies of narrators. Tahdh- eeb kamal by al-Mizzi, tah-dheeb-u-Tahdheeb by Ibn Hajar, taqreeb-u-Tahdheeb by ibn hajar are all on narrators of the six books. Tajeel Manfa’ah by Ibn Hajar, Kashif by Imam Dha-habi are two examples of books of narrators from hadith present in other collections.

    5. Takhreej: These books collected information about various narrators of the same hadith in order to analyse them and establish their authenticity. Some of these were based on hadith that are included in works of fiqh, e.g. talkhees-ul-habeer by Ibn Hajar, Nasb-urRaya by Zaylaee, etc.

    6. Other books: (a) Mawdooaat by Ibn Jawzi (written in 595H) this and other such books list fabricated false hadith (mawdoo) for alerting people to them. Ahaadith-ul-ahkaam (fiqh related hadith):
    Bulugh-ul-Maram by Ibn Hajar.

    Conditions for hadith to be authentic are five:
    1. Itisaal of Sanad i.e. chain is continuous and unbroken
    2. Adaalah of Raawi i.e. trustworthiness of narrator’s truthfulness
    3. Dabt of Raawi i.e. Precision of a narrator’s reports and lack of errors
    4. Ellah i.e. hidden defects in the hadith
    5. Shaadh i.e. above conditions seem to be met but contradicts other authentic upon close examination

    Source http://islamiclessons.com/files/Pres...th%20Notes.pdf

    check the PDF, it has charts in it showing an example of how a hadith was transmitted, it's easier to understand when you see the chart
    The preservation of Hadith

    “Who said that guidance requires there to be someone accompanying you"

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    Re: The preservation of Hadith

    This is Billal Phililps' Usool al Hadeeth, its also available in book form for those who wanna buy it

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