· Beginners Guide to Hadith & Sunnah.
· Identify the four stages of hadith
· Identify the role of Umar bin Abdulaziz in
· Identify the completion of hadith
collection in third century and the major works of the time.
· Know the various methods of preserving hadith.
· SunnahSunnah has several
meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally
accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
· Hijrah - the act of migration from one place to
another. In Islam, the Hijrah refers to the Muslims migrating from Mecca
to Medina and also marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
· Hadith - (plural – ahadith) is a piece of information
or a story. In Islam it is a narrative record of the sayings and actions of
Third Stage in Collection of Hadith
With the passing away of the generation that had seen
and heard the Prophet directly, the work of the collection of hadith
entered a third stage. Since the Companions had traveled far in the Islamic
world and entrusted the knowledge of Sunnah to their students before
their death there were no more reports to be searched for from different
persons, and the whole of the hadith accumulation was now the property
of the different teachers who taught at different centers. But in the second
stage, hadith had passed from individual possession into public
possession, and therefore the whole body of accumulated hadith could be
learned in the third stage by referring to different centers instead of
searching it from different individuals.
Umar ibn Abdulaziz, the Umayyad Caliph, who ruled
towards the close of the first century of Hijrah, was the first man who
issued definite orders to the effect that written collections of hadith
should be made. Umar ibn Abdulaziz wrote to Abu Bakr ibn Hazm:
saying of the Prophet can be found, and write it down, for I fear the loss of
knowledge and the disappearance of the learned men; and do not accept anything
but the hadith of the Prophet; and people should make knowledge public
and should sit in companies so that he who does not know should come to know,
for knowledge does not disappear until it is concealed from the public.”
Abu Bakr ibn Hazm was the Caliph’s governor at Medina,
and there is evidence that similar letters were written to other centers. Before
the middle of the second century, written collections of hadith saw the
light of the day. Hundreds of students of hadith were engaged in the
work of learning it in different centers. Every scholar of hadith
traveled in search of hadith. Khateeb al-Baghdadi, a famous classical
scholar, has written an entire work, Ar-Rihlah fi Talab al-Hadith, or Traveling
in Search of Hadith. What is interesting is that the work talks about
scholars who traveled in search of just one hadith! By far the
most important collection of the era is the Muwatta of Imam Malik which has
recently been translated into English.
Fourth Stage in Collection of Hadith
The work of the collection of hadith was brought
to completion in the third century of Hijrah. Carefully compiled books
of hadith from this era have reached us in their complete form. It was
then that three kinds of collections of hadith were made: Musnad,
Jami’, and Sunan. The Musnad was the earlier type and the
Jami’ the later. The collections of hadith known as Musnads
were arranged, not according to the subject matter of the hadith, but
under the name of the companion on whose final authority the hadith
rested. The most important of the works of this class is the Musnad of
Imam Ahmad Hanbal which contains about thirty thousand narrations. Ahmad was
born in 164 A.H. and died in 241 A.H. and is one of the greatest scholars in
the history of Islam. His collection, however, contains reports of all sorts.
The Jami’ not only arranges reports according to the subject matter, but
is also more critical. Six books are recognized generally under this heading,
being the collections made by Muhammad ibn Isma’il, commonly known as Al-Bukhari
(d. 256 A.H.), Muslim (d. 261 A.H.), Abu Dawud (d. 275 A.H.). Al-Tirmidhi (d.
279 A.H.), Ibn Maja (d. 283 A.H.) and Al-Nasa’i (d. 303 A. H.). These books
classified reports according to subject matter, making hadith easy for
reference for the scholars of Islam. All these books have reached us as
written by their original authors. Some of the major works have been
translated into English.
Methods of Preserving Hadith
Throughout the stages of hadith collection, eight
methods were utilized in preserving hadith. Only the first and second
will be discussed briefly below:
(1) Sama’: that is reading by the teacher
to the students.
(2) ‘Ard: reading by the students to the
(3) Ijazah: to permit someone to transmit
the hadith or book on the authority of the scholar without reading by
(4) Munawalah: to hand someone the written
material to transmit.
(5) Kitabah: to write hadith for
(6) I’lam: to inform someone that informer
has permission to transmit certain material.
(7) Wasiyah: to entrust someone his books.
(8) Wajadah: to find some books or hadith
written by someone just as the Christian discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the
find of the oldest manuscript of the New Testament with some monks in Mt. Sinai
by Tischendorf. At no stage did Muslim scholars recognize this to be a
reliable method of transmission.
In the period of the Companions only the first method
was used. The students used to stay with their teachers, serve them, and learn
from them. A little later, the most common methods were the first and second.
Since wajadah was not recognized by the scholars, any method other than
the seven listed above was not accepted.
Sama included oral recitation, reading from
books, questions and answers, and dictation. The practice of oral recitation
of hadith by the teacher began to decline from the second half of the second
century, although it persisted for a long time. The students were attached to
one scholar for a long period of time, until they were considered authorities
on the hadith of their teacher. Only a few hadith, about four or
five were discussed in one lesson. Reading by the teacher from his own books
was preferred. Reading by the teacher from the student’s book was also done. This
was a way to test the teacher to see if he had memorized his hadith
properly. They would insert hadith into the hadith they had
learned from their teacher, and hand the book to the teacher to read, to find
out if he had a grip on his stuff. Those who failed to recognize the
additional material were denounced and deemed untrustworthy.
‘Ard was the most common practice from the
beginning of the second century. Either copies were provided by the teachers,
or made by the students from the original. They made a circular mark after
every hadith. Whenever the student read the hadith to his
teacher, he would make a mark in the circle to indicate that the hadith
had been read to the teacher. This was necessary because even though the
student knew the hadith through books, he was not allowed to use it in
teaching it to others or for his own compilation until he had obtained it
through proper means. Otherwise, he would be called hadith thief, sariq
A regular record was kept and after the complete book
was read, a note was written by the teacher or one of the famous scholars
attending the classes. These gave details of attendance, like who listened to
the complete book, who joined partly, what part they read, and what part they
missed, giving dates and places. The book was usually signed by the teacher or
a famous attending scholar, to indicate that no further additions can be made
to the book.
As a result of tremendous and meticulous efforts of
early Muslims the Sunnah and hadith of the Prophet has been
preserved accurately and reliably for us. Since Prophet Muhammad, may the
mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, is the last prophet sent by Allah to
humanity, it only makes sense that his teachings be preserved completely. If
his teachings were not preserved, another prophet would be necessary to find
out what Allah’s religion is and how Allah has to be obeyed. The teachings of
Prophet Muhammad will be preserved till the Day of Judgment and therefore no
more prophets will appear. It is upon us to learn and practice Islam as
Prophet Muhammad taught correctly and fully to earn salvation.