Usool Al-Hadeeth Principles of Hadeeth
Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi
Notes taken by: Farooq Yousuf
1. Legal Status of Sunnah – Why is the Sunnah so important? What is the proof Sunnah is a source of law? What importance does it hold?
2. Preservation of the Sunnah - Most important books written in Sunnah. History and compilation of the Sunnah.
3. Sciences of Hadeeth – What is sahih hadeeth, daeef hadeeth, etc?
The vast majority of Muslims in the west are unaware of this topic. Muslims in the west speak about Islam without going back to the Sunnah (specifically USA and Canada) because of a movement known as modernism. Modernism seeks to change or revise Islam with the times, as part of this movement they must reject, either in totality or a major portion of the Sunnah in order for them to achieve their goals. This type of mentality is rooted in the minds of the vast majority of Muslims in the west. They say that the Sunnah it is not as important as the Quran. Modern Muslims may say that the Hadeeth is not really preserved; Imam Bukhari died 250 years after the Prophet (pbuh) – if we say this we are basically saying we don’t care about the Sunnah. If we deny that the Sunnah has been preserved the end result is the denial of the Sunnah itself. Unfortunately this is the majority mentality amongst the Muslims in the USA. For example in he UK, the idea of modernism is not as firmly rooted as it is in America.
Sunnah – Linguistically means a path, a way. A simple road. From a Shari point of view it has many meanings.
The scholars of fiqh define Sunnah to be: that which is not obligatory to do but if a person does so they are rewarded.
The scholars of hadeeth define it to be: all of the statements, actions, tacit approvals (an act was done in front of the Prophet (pbuh) and he approved it), and the physical characteristics (Seerah, dress, ate, what he did with his life, etc.)
The scholars of aqeedah define it to be: what a Muslim believes. Example: Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah – following the beliefs of the Prophet (pbuh) and the companions.
Hadeeth – linguistically means something that is new. A person’s statements are called hadeeth. From a shari point of view we are talking about the statements of the Prophet (pbuh). Example: the Sunnah is the abstract concept of the Prophet’s life and the hadeeth is opening up Bukhari and Muslim and seeing it in print. The Sunnah is preserved in the hadeeth. We can not say it is a daeef or sahih Sunnah. Sunnah is what the Prophet did. We can say daeef or sahih hadeeth because hadeeth is a tangible method of how the Sunnah was preserved. The word Sunnah is more abstract than hadeeth. Sunnah was the methodology of the Prophet (pbuh). Hadeeth is a specific statement of the Prophet (pbuh) with a specific chain of narrators, it might be authentic or unauthentic, it might be of the Sunnah or it might not. The hadeeth basically preserved the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).
The Status of the Sunnah in Islam
The scholars of Islam have 3 very similar opinions:
First opinion: the Sunnah is second to the Quran in terms of legal weight. For example: if we find an ayah in the Quran and a hadeeth, we give preference to the ayah but we still take the hadeeth.
Second opinion: this is the opinion of the majority of the scholars. The Quran and Sunnah are equivalent in weight from a legal point of view, not from a blessing point of view. If we open the Quran and recite it we get blessings just for mere recitation, the Quran is the actual speech of Allah, it is preserved in word and meaning. The Quran is superior to the Sunnah in blessedness and holiness. In other words, if the Prophet (pbuh) says something is haraam or halaal, this is just as if Allah has something is haraam or halaal.
Third opinion: nobody actually explicitly states it but some scholars have hinted at it. They say that the Quran is more in need of the Sunnah than the Sunnah is in need of the Quran. In other words, we can not understand the Quran without the Sunnah. For example: Allah says in the Quran to cut off the hand of the thief but the Sunnah clarifies this issue. The Sunnah tells us that there is a minimum amount for the hand to be cut off and only the right will be cut off from the wrist according to the Sunnah. They said that that Quran is more in need of the Sunnah than the Sunnah is in need of the Quran. But no one actually explicitly said that the Sunnah is more important than the Quran, which would be disrespectful.
The correct opinion is the second opinion, which is that the Sunnah is equivalent to the Quran in legal weight and status.
The Legal Status of the Sunnah
There are seven categories or proofs of the legal status of the Sunnah. If these proofs were to be understood and memorized then no person would trivialize the status the Sunnah has in Islam. Therefore it is imperative especially; the person involved in dawah should understand and memorize these proofs and points, so that when the situation arises the person can defend the status of the Sunnah in Islam. When a person defends the Sunnah, realize that they are defending the Prophet (pbuh) because this is what we have left of him. The Sahaba were blessed that they could physically defend the Prophet (pbuh) because they were alive at his time. As for us, we have nothing left to defend except the Prophet’s (pbuh) Sunnah, honor, actions, and statements. This is why we are studying the sciences of hadeeth and making sure it is understood by the Muslims.
Seven proofs of the Importance of the Sunnah
First Proof: The prophets, in general, all of them were infallible. Infallible means they could not commit sins or mistakes. All of the prophets were infallible when it came to spreading the message of Allah. No prophet ever, out of the 124,000 prophets and 315 messengers that were sent, ever lied or made a mistake in spreading the religion of Allah. Allah (swt) says:
O Messenger proclaim the (message) which has been sent to you from your Lord. If you do not, you would not have fulfilled and proclaimed His message. And Allah will defend you from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guides not those who reject Faith. (Surah Maedah: 67)
Allah (swt) says in the last verses of Surah Haaqqah:
That this is verily the word of an honored prophet;
It is not the word of a poet: little it is ye believe!
Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is ye receive.
(This is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.
And if the prophet were to invent any sayings in Our name (Allah’s name)
We should certainly seize him by his right hand,
And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart:
Nor could any of you withhold him (from Our wrath).
Surah Haaqqah (40 - 47)
Allah revealed this verse to show us that whatever comes from the Prophet’s mouth regarding Islam, it is from Allah (swt). When it comes to spreading the message of Allah, all of the prophets are infallible; they cannot make the slightest mistake, intentionally or unintentionally.
How about the sins? As for the major sins, the prophets can never commit major sins. As for minor sins, there is some ikhtilaaf. For example Prophet Adam (as) ate of the tree but Allah (swt) forgave him. But the correct opinion that can be clearly stated is that it is not possible that any of the prophets continually committed minor sins. They might fall into one mistake once and they are reprimanded and then they leave it. The prophets have reached a certain level that makes it imperative upon us to follow them because everything they say comes from Allah (swt).
Second Proof: The actual intent of sending the prophets was to be obeyed and followed. Allah (swt) could have willed to send a book on to the mountains and it could have been a miracle and people would have discovered it and believed in it and become Muslims. But this has never happened and Allah did not will it like that. Allah has always chosen prophets and messengers to be sent to mankind. Allah has never communicated to mankind directly except through the prophets and messengers. So the role of the prophet is to be obeyed, that is why Allah sends prophets. So we look at this prophet and see what he is doing and then we put it into practice. Allah (swt) says:
(Surah An-Nisa: 64)
We sent not a prophet, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah.
Messengers have been sent so we look at them and see how they worship Allah and we put it into practice. If we don’t put it into practice then what is the point of sending the messenger. Nuh, Saleh, Shuaib and other messengers say in the Quran:
Obey Allah, have fear of Allah and obey me.
In Surah Ash-Shuraa every time a new prophet is mentioned in the ayaat, Allah says the prophets said:
Have taqwa of Allah and obey me.
So this is the second proof that the Sunnah is important in Islam, in fact there is no Islam without the Sunnah. The Prophet (pbuh) and all of the prophets were sent by Allah to be obeyed.
Third Proof: the companions during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh) would obey the Prophet (pbuh) and Allah (swt) would praise them or at least not reprimand them for the obedience. And when the Sahaba disobeyed the Prophet (pbuh), Allah (swt) revealed verses in the Quran reprimanding them and censuring them for disobeying the Prophet (pbuh). In other words, while the Quran was being revealed it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Sahaba used to obey the Prophet and Allah did not reveal any verses discouraging that. In fact, He revealed verses to the contrary when the Sahaba disobeyed the Prophet (pbuh) in the battle of Uhud, Allah revealed verses in the Quran censuring them saying that the reason they failed was that of your own sins, they disobeyed the Prophet (pbuh). Likewise, when the Sahaba followed the example of the Prophet (pbuh), Allah would praise them. Allah says:
قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا
We hear and we obey.
Allah praised the Sahaba because they obeyed the Prophet (pbuh). For example:
When the Prophet (pbuh) was in prayer, he used to pray in his shoes sometimes, once he took them off during salah and put them to his left side. All the Sahaba did the same thing when they saw him do this during salah. When the Prophet said salaam, he asked why they did what they did. The Sahaba responded saying ‘we saw you take off your shoes and put them on your left so we did the same.’ The Prophet (pbuh) responded Jibreel came to me and informed there was some najis on my shoes therefore I could not pray in them, so I took them off and put them to my left.
The Sahaba followed blindly when the Prophet (pbuh) did something and Allah (swt) approved of that. No verses were revealed censuring or reprimanding the Sahaba. Likewise when the Prophet (pbuh) took a ring of silver, all of the Sahaba took rings of silver and when the Prophet (pbuh) decided not to wear it, all the Sahaba took it off as well. If the Sahaba had been making a mistake then the purpose of the Quran is to guide them, whereas whenever they obeyed the Prophet (pbuh) nothing but praise came down or silence. Silence is approval, whenever Allah (swt) or the Prophet was silent; it was approval of the act. When the Sahaba disobeyed, then verses would come down reprimanding them. The Sunnah is of legal authority and it holds weight in Islam.
Fourth Proof: The verses in the Quran that prove to us that we must follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). There are between 50 and 70 verses concerning following the Sunnah. We will categorize and break them down into 7 categories:
Type 1: Those verses in the Quran are those that tell the Muslims to believe in the Prophet (pbuh). Verses which are about belief in the Messenger, for example:
Say oh mankind, I am the messenger of Allah sent to all of you.
(Surah Al-Araf: 158)
So therefore believe in Allah and His messenger.
(Surah Al-Araf: 158)
What is the meaning of “Muhammadur Rasullah”? When Allah says have emaan in the Prophet (pbuh), what does it mean? It means that whatever the Prophet (pbuh) says, we must believe it. When the Prophet (pbuh) tells us to do something, if we have emaan that this man is the messenger of Allah, then that emaan will necessitate to do it and follow up what he says. And the more we obey the Prophet (pbuh), the more emaan we have. The less we obey the Prophet (pbuh) then the less emaan we have.
Type 2: The verses that describe the Prophet (pbuh) as the explainer of the Quran. The Prophet’s (pbuh) main and primary role was to explain the Quran. If Allah sent him to explain the Quran then it follows that we must obey and believe him in that explanation. Allah (swt) says:
We have revealed this remembrance that you may make clear to people what has been revealed to them. (Surah An-Nahl: 44)
Type 3: The verses that show Allah (swt) revealed something along with the Quran. Along with the Quran Allah (swt) revealed something. Allah (swt) mentions this something else as “hikmah” or wisdom. This shows us that there is more than the Quran, if someone were to say what is this hikmah? Then we would only be able to think of the Sunnah, the Sunnah is the only other thing other than the Quran that we have to follow.
Allah has revealed upon you the Kitaab (Quran) and the wisdom
(Surah An-Nisa: 113)
So the Prophet (pbuh) has received inspiration not only of the Quran but also of the Sunnah. Imam Ash-Shafiee said that the hikmah that has been referred to in these verses is the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). The fact that Allah mentions that He has revealed something along with the Quran shows us that the Sunnah is part of Islam.
Type 4: The verses that explicitly and clearly mention that obedience to the Prophet (pbuh) is obligatory. There are at least 50 of these verses. Allah says:
مَّنْ يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللّهَ
Whoever obeys the Prophet has indeed obeyed Allah
If we obey the Prophet (pbuh) then we’re obeying Allah.
In at least 10 -15 verses Allah says: أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ
Obey Allah and obey the Messenger
Allah (swt) says:
“Nay by your Lord, they do not believe until they make you (Muhammad) to be a judge amongst them. Then after you have judged they don’t find any constraint or difficulty by your judgment. And they submit totally to your decision.
(Surah An-Nisa: 65)
In this verse Allah negates emaan from everyone until we make the Prophet (pbuh) a judge in matters or problems. Then afterwards we should accept willingly and openly and we don’t have a problem with the judgment. If you have a feeling of discontent and you think the judgment is unfair then Allah is saying we don’t have emaan. This is the most explicit verse because Allah has said you don’t have emaan until we make the Prophet (pbuh) our judge. Whatever difficulty or situation arises we should go back to the Prophet (pbuh) and find out what he said, we should have no problems with what he said and we should follow it.
Type 5: The verses that mention obedience to the Prophet (pbuh) is in fact a sign of truly loving Allah (swt), if we love Allah (swt), then we must follow the Prophet (pbuh). Allah says in the Quran:
“Say, if you truly love Allah, follow me, Allah will love you.”
(Surah Al-Imraan: 31)
If we truly love Allah the Prophet (pbuh) says to follow him. If we claim that we love Allah then we must follow the Prophet (pbuh). If we follow the Prophet (pbuh) then Allah will love us. To follow the Sunnah will make Allah love us. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Sunnah is an integral part of Islam.
Type 6: The verses that show the status of the Prophet (pbuh) and the etiquette that he must be shown. Allah says:
“Oh you who believe, do not go forward beyond Allah and His Messenger.”
(Surah Hujraat: 1)
Ibn Abbas said this ayah means that we should not put our statement above their statements and we don’t put our understanding above their understanding. Whatever Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) have said, we must accept it without putting our own words and speech above it.
“Oh you believe! Do not raise your voice above the Prophet’s voice”
(Surah Hujraat: 2)
If we are not allowed to raise our voice above the Prophet’s then we are not allowed to raise our opinions above his. We are prohibited from speaking loudly to the Prophet (pbuh). When this verse was revealed some of the Sahaba would only speak in whispers, so much so that other people had trouble hearing them. If we are not allowed to raise our voices above the Prophet then what is the status of the person who raises their own intellect and desires above the Quran and Sunnah.
Type 7: These verses are miscellaneous verses which don’t fall into a specific category. For example, Allah says:
“Verily Oh Muhammad you guide them (mankind) to the straight path”
(Surah Muminoon: 73)
The Prophet (pbuh) has been described as the shining light, the guider, the one who takes out of darkness into the light, all of these descriptions show us that status of the Prophet (pbuh) and show us that obedience to him is obligatory.
Fifth Proof: The hadeeth of the Prophet (pbuh) that mentions the importance of following his hadeeth. What did the Prophet say about his own Sunnah? Three points are:
1. The fact that the Prophet himself mentioned that he has been given something along with the Quran; this is the hikmah that Allah refers to. The Prophet says:
“Verily I have been given the Quran and something like it.”
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
This hadeeth means that the Sunnah is equivalent to the Quran in legal weight. The fact that he is telling us that he has been inspired more than the Quran, the Sunnah is also in inspiration from Allah in general.
2. The fact that it is obligatory to obey the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet
said in an authentic hadeeth:
“It will soon happen that a person will be sitting and reclining on his couch (lazy and content) and he will say follow the Quran and whatever comes to you from the Quran is sufficient for you. Know that everything I make halaal it is if Allah has made halaal and everything that I make haraam it is if Allah has made it haraam.”
(Ahmed, Abi Dawud, Ibn Majah)
In other words the Prophet (pbuh) is describing the exact situation we’re living in today. This is a clear explicit proof that the Sunnah is equivalent to the Quran in its weight.
3. The fact that the Prophet (pbuh) commanded the Sahaba to preserve his Sunnah and he forbade them from lying about him. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“May Allah brighten the face of someone who hears my hadeeth, memorizes it and then passes it on to someone else.”
The most narrated hadeeth and has the most chains. Out of all the hundreds and thousands of ahadeeth the most hadeeth that has the most chains is when the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Whoever lies about me will find his place in the fire of hell.”
This hadeeth has over 70 or 80 chains and it is found in all the collections of ahadeeth ever written. It is of the miracles of Allah that He made this hadeeth the most widely narrated hadeeth to show us the dangers of fabricating ahadeeth about the Prophet (pbuh).
Sixth Proof: Common sense and a practical view point. A common sense tells us that we must follow the Sunnah. Allah says in the Quran:
“Establish the prayer”
Does Allah mention how many times we have to pray? Does Allah mention we have to pray the number of rakaat for each salah? Does Allah mention the different postures of salah and that we must recite Al-Fatiha? Nothing of this is mentioned in the Quran. It is not possible to follow the Quran except by turning to the Sunnah. Likewise Allah says in the Quran to give zakah, but no where in the Quran does it tell us how much to give or how often to give. We will not find in the Quran any chapter of fiqh except that we must go to the Sunnah in order for that chapter to be complete.
There is a group among our times which started in the Indian Subcontinent around 100 years ago. This group still exists to this day; they call themselves Parvesees after their founder. This group denies the Sunnah and they believe it is shirk to follow the Prophet (pbuh). These people describe the prayer as three times a day from a verse in Surah Israa. Secondly they stand up in prayer, recite Al-Fatiha, do ruku, sujood and say salaam. The only things that are mentioned in the Quran are the ruku and sujood. This group has been declared non-Muslim because when one denies the Sunnah then one goes out of the fold of Islam. This group exists in America; they don’t call themselves Muslims but the Submitters. They’re based in Tucson, AZ and their leader was Rashaad Khaalifah. Khaalifah in the 1980s propounded the 19 theory. He said that there is miraculous nature in the Quran having to do with the number of 19. Later he declared himself to be a prophet in America. Alhumdulillah, he was assasinated in his own home.
Seventh Proof: There is unanimous consensus; there is no known difference amongst the Muslims that we must follow the Prophet (pbuh). Even the extreme groups such as the Raafidah and Shia have their ideas of Sunnah (i.e. Usool al Kaafi), they believe to follow the Prophets and their Imaams. Also the Khawaarij did not deny the validity of the Sunnah even though they didn’t study it. None of the Muslims groups in the past ever denied the fact that we must obey the Prophet (pbuh).
Two of the main doubts the people have about the Sunnah:
1. The Quran is complete.
2. The Sunnah has not been preserved.
The Submitters and many modern and progressive Muslims say the hadeeth is not mentioned in the Quran and everything we need to know is in the Quran. They say the Quran is sufficient for us and they try to cast doubts about the preservation of the Sunnah. To say that we do not have to follow the Sunnah is kufr in and of itself. To say the Sunnah has not been preserved will lead us to kufr but is not kufr in and of itself. Most modernists will say the Sunnah has not been preserved.
To refute the first point, the above seven points should be sufficient. But specifically the Quran is sufficient in and of itself to deny these points. The Quran has told us that we must go to the Sunnah. The Quran describes itself as being sufficient but it tells us we must go to the Sunnah. We say that the Quran is complete and it has told us to go to the Sunnah, therefore we go to the Sunnah.
To refute the second the point, one can take the long detailed drawn out study of science of hadeeth. We start off by telling how the Sunnah was preserved and the books that were written. But this is not something that can be told quickly. The second method to refute, which is a shortcut is we say that the fact the Sunnah is a part of our religion necessitates that it will be preserved. The fact that the Sunnah is a part of our religion is sufficient proof that Allah will preserve it. Allah says:
“We have revealed the Message and We are going to protect it.”
(Surah Al-Hijr: 9)
Some ulema say that the meaning of zhikr here is Quran and Sunnah. But even if it only refers to the Quran, because of the fact that we need the Sunnah to understand the Quran this verse also implies that Allah will preserve the Sunnah. The fact that Allah (swt) tells us that we must follow the Sunnah proves that it will be preserved because how can Allah tell us to do something when we don’t have it. How can we follow the Sunnah and obey the Prophet if the Sunnah were not preserved, the fact that Allah tells us to follow the Sunnah proves that the Sunnah has been preserved.
History of Compilation of the Sunnah
The Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) was written down during his lifetime, the process was started. The fact that the Sunnah was being written down while he was still alive is established beyond a shadow of a doubt. Once Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-As when he used to write down the ahadeeth, a doubt came to him and he thought should I write everything that the Prophet (saw) says, even when he jokes. So Abdullah asked the Prophet (saw) and the Prophet pointed to his own tongue and said “uktub” or write, for I swear by Allah nothing comes from this tongue except the truth. In other words, even when the Prophet joked, he would joke the truth. So Abdullah used to write down the ahadeeth during the Prophet’s lifetime.
The Prophet (saw) commanded certain Companions to write down his ahadeeth. For example a man came to the Prophet (saw) after a khutbah and said to the Prophet, I want this to be written down. So the Prophet commanded that the khutbah be written down for Abu Shah, the man’s name, and they gave it to him. Over 60 Companions would act as the Prophet (saw)’s scribes during the Prophet’s lifetime, either Quran or ahadeeth. After the Prophet’s death the Companions understood the responsibility in preserving the narrations and in narrating the Sunnah and we find therefore that the major Sahaba narrated 1000s of ahadeeth. The Sahaba would have halaqahs and duroos, and they would narrate ahadeeth.
There are 4 or 5 Sahaba that have narrated more than 1000 ahadeeth. Of them is:
The Prophet (saw) made a special dua for Abu Hurayah is a reason why he narrated the most. Abu Hurayrah once came to the Prophet (saw) and complained, I memorize your ahadeeth but I forget them. So he asked the Prophet to pray to Allah (swt) that he memorize them and not forget them. Once when a sahabi asked Abu Hurayrah, how come you narrate more than many Companions yet you were only a sahabi for about 3 years. Abu Hurayrah came to Madinah around 7 or 8 Hijri. Abu Hurayrah responded, the other Sahaba they have their businesses and farms and as for me I would eat, live, and sleep in the masjid. He was of the Suffa, the Prophet’s Masjid had a section in the back for poor people, Ahlus Suffah. The Ahlus Suffah didn’t have any specific job except to accompany the Prophet (saw), they just wanted to live with the Prophet and see what he did. So because Abu Hurayrah was with the Prophet so often he became the most prolific narrators of ahadeeth, and also because he passed away at a later date than other Sahaba, 57 hirjah.
The Sahaba spent their time and energy in collecting and narrating ahadeeth to the Tabieen, the generation after them. Also, each of the major Sahaba established their own school, not a physical building but they had well known students who they trained and taught. The science of ahadeeth developed primarily during the time of the Tabioon and Taba Tabioon, the second and third generations of Islam, during this time the science of ahadeeth reached its peak and flourished.
A phenomenon of the early generations of Islam it was understood that if you wanted to learn ahadeeth you would have to travel, in other words traveling for knowledge became a standard. If you wanted to become an alim or talib ul ilm, you would study with your ulema in your city then you would go to other ulema in other cities and come back to your city later in your life. For example, Imam Bukhrari and Muslim went all around the Muslim world to gain and seek knowledge. Different Sahaba went to different places, such as Madinah, Makkah, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, etc, the ahadeeth got scatterd to all these different places. So when traveling for ahadeeth came the scholars of ahadeeth could quote from all over the Muslim world.
However, the actual writing down of ahadeeth to form a book did not start until Imam Malik wrote his Al-Muwatta. Ahadeeth were written before Al-Muwatta for their own personal notebook, they didn’t intend it for mass distributed. Imam Malik was the first person to think of writing down ahadeeth for other people as a real book, Imam Malik died 179 Hijri and the Muwatta was written around 130 Hijri; so this was about 120 years after the Prophet (saw).
There is a PhD dissertation done by Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa Azami, a modern scholar done in Cambridge University. It’s called Studies in Early Hadeeth Literature and printed in English. This is one of the few works that has been translated from English to Arabic because of its benefit; it is now a standard reference for modern students of knowledge. In the book, he compiled the names of 100s people who wrote down ahadeeth in the first 200 years of Islam, before Bukari’s and Muslim’s time. He compiled the names, the authors, how their books were, the personal manuscripts, etc. The Kafir orientalists and the modern Muslims say that ahadeeth were not preserved for 250 – 300 years, so Shaykh Azami refuted this argument by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were 1000s of works that were written in the first few centuries of Islam.
The old works of ahadeeth were not preserved because they were not real books for the masses of people but these old works were absorbed into later works. The smaller works of 1 or 2 centuries of Islam were absorbed into the later works of the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Hijrah. The sahif of Hammam ibn Munabih, sahif means the manuscripts or small book. Hammam was a student of Abu Hurayrah, Hammam wrote down about 110 ahadeeth from Abu Hurayrah. Hammam died around 110 Hijri. Hammam’s collection of ahadeeth exists to this day. A modern scholar named Muhammad Hamidullah discovered Hammam’s manuscript in a museum in France around 1920s – 1930s. Every single one of Hammam’s 110 hadeeth was found in Bukhari and Muslim. Hammam wrote these ahadeeth in the 40s or 50s of the Hijrah and Bukhari and Muslim came around 250 Hijrah. So we have a physical manuscript of Hammam from Abu Hurayah that are narrated by Bukhari or Musilm or both of them. In addition when Imam Muslim narrates the hadeeth, he mentioned it is from the sahif from Hammam. Imam Ahmad also narrated Hammam’s 110 ahadeeth in his Musnad. In other words Imam Ahmad took Hammam’s book and added it to his Musnad.
This shows that the earlier works of ahadeeth were incorporated in to the later works, such that there was no need to narrate or preserve the earlier works. Most of the books of ahadeeth were written in the 3rd century (200 – 300 hijrah) of the hijrah.
The earliest to appear after the Muwatta; the Muwatta does not really fit in to a specific hadeeth categorization that the scholars of hadeeth used to categorize. The musnad works appeared first. The musnad works wished to arrange the ahadeeth according to the Sahabi that narrated them. The most famous musnad is by Imam Ahmad, Musnad Imam Ahmad. Imam Ahmad compiled over 30,000 ahadeeth; it is one of the largest collections ever to be written. Another famous musnad is the Musnad of Baqee ibn Makhlud who died 276 Hijri, this book was the largest book of ahadeeth ever written, far surpassing Imam Ahmad’s. Unfortunately ibn Makhlud’s was not preserved fully especially after the Kuffar invaded the Muslim lands and took away the manuscripts. The reason why many manuscripts are in Germany and France, it is because after WWI and WWII they were stolen from the Muslims, they can be found in Princeton, Harvard, Oxford, etc.
After the Musnad works, a category of Sahih works started to appear. Only sahih ahadeeth were included in these works. The two most famous are Al-Jamia As-Sahih of Muhammad ibn Ismaeel Bukhari who died in 256 Hirjah and As-Sahih of Imam Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj who died in 261 Hijrah. The more authentic of the two is Sahih Bukhari, but Sahih Muslim is better organized. It is more convenient to look up a hadeeth in Sahih Muslim, there are many ahadeeth repeated in Bukhari but not in Muslim. Any hadeeth in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim is authentic 110% beyond a shadow of a doubt. The vast majority of the ulema in Islamic history have accepted Bukhari and Muslim to be authentic. This is the blessings of Allah upon our Ummah that He has granted us this and a blessing upon Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim that after the Quran their names are mentioned. And these two Imams were so sincere; they had so many trials, tribulations and struggles in their lives.
Other works of sahih are Sahih of Ibn Khuzaymah, he died 311 Hirji. Much of Ibn Khuzaymah’s sahih went missing (perhaps 3/4 of it) after his death. Ibn Hajar (852 Hijri) states that he only came across ¼ of it. Amazingly Shaykh Azami found in Turkey ¼ of Ibn Hajar’s find of Ibn Khuzaymah’s Sahih in the 1970s. This work was published in 100s of years in 4 volumes. But not every hadeeth in Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah is authentic because he was not as particular as Bukhari and Muslim, but the general rule is that it is authentic but not 100%.
Another book of sahih is by Ibn Khuzaymah’s student, Ibn Hibban who died 354 Hijri. Sahih Ibn Hibban is a very large work; it is printed now in 16 volumes. Not every hadeeth in it is authentic but the majority of them are. The reason being Ibn Khuzaymah and Ibn Hibban had a unique idea, and that is that if someone is mentioned in the chain and we don’t know anything about him, he is acceptable. As long as no one said anything bad about that narrator but no one said anything good either he is acceptable. None of the ulema of ahadeeth agreed with this idea but because of this rule of theirs, they made many ahadeeth sahih which were not sahih.
After this came another concept known as sunan works. In the sunan works the authors wanted to emphasize the fiqhi aspect of the hadeeth. So they arranged it according to the chapters of fiqh. For example starting with taharah, salah, zakah, hajj, jihad, transactions, marriage, etc. In other words they tried to get a logical sequence of chapters to understand fiqh easier and they compiled the ahadeeth in the appropriate places of the fiqh. The important works are Sunan Ad-Darimi (died 255 Hijri), Sunan Abu Dawud (died 275 Hirji), Sunan Ibn Majah (died 279 Hijri), the Sunan of An-Nasaee (died 303 Hijri), the Sunan of Ad-Daraqutni (died 385 Hijri), and the Sunan of Al-Bayhaqee (died 458 Hijri). As for the Sunan of At-Thirmidee the proper name is Al-Jami but in reality it is closer to the sunans. So many of the ulema say the 4 sunan meaning, Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunan At-Thirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah and Sunan An-Nasaee.
Another category of hadeeth of literature is Mujum works. These works are arranged according to the Shaykhs we heard them from. For example, you would go to Iraq and listen to some shaykhs and write down the ahadeeth from the shaykhs you heard them from, and then you’ll go to Syria and write down what you heard there, then Yemen, so you would arrange it according to the shaykhs you heard it from. One alim, At-Tabarani (died 360 Hijrah), made this method famous, he wrote three books called Al-Mujum Al-Kabeer (big mujum), Al-Mujum Al-Awsut (medium mujum), and Al-Mujum As-Sagheer (small mujum).
These are the four main ways of compiling ahadeeth, Musnad, Sahih, Sunan, and the Mujum. There are other ways as well but these are the four main ones. The six books famous books of ahadeeth are Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Thirmidhi, An-Nasaee, and Ibn Majah. Except for Bukhari and Muslim there is no preference over the other works of ahadeeth. These are the six most important books of Sunnah and Allah (swt) has written for them acceptance in the sense that it is easy to buy a copy of At-Thirmidhi but to buy a copy of At-Tabarani would be difficult. Regarding the six books, many people have discussed them, talked about them, explained them, wrote commentaries about them, but these six aren’t the only works of the Sunnah. One of the reasons these six where so famous is because they were comprehensive, if we were to put these six works together basically we would have the Sunnah preserved in them.
*Note: The difference between Sunan and Jamia is that Jamia is more comprehensive. Sunan only talks about legal aspects, fiqh. The Jami will include Seerah, Tafseer, etc.
What NOT to quote as a reference when writing or talking about Islam
Many times in English and urdu books you’ll find references that are not source references. A source reference is a reference is when you go back to it, it is the first time that hadeeth has been compiled. Many people, who are not qualified to write, write. When they write, they reference books that are not source references. For example, they’ll reference 40 Ahadeeth Nawawi, this is not a book to reference, Imam Nawawi won’t doesn’t quote the isnad in his book. So it is not proper to reference a hadeeth to a non-source work. Another book that is commonly referenced is Riyadh us-Saliheen. Although this book is very comprehensive and beautiful book it is not a source book. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi recommends Riyadh us-Saliheen for all laymen Muslims; it is very practical and beneficial for Muslims to read. If authors reference these types of books, we should know that that author is not really scholar. Another book that is reference is Al-Mishkat Al-Masabih by At-Tabreezee, this is not a source book, and it is more of a compilation of books. Likewise another book is Al-Munziree’s At-Targheeb Wat-Tarheeb, this book is not a source book, it is a compilation of ahadeeth from the source books. Lastly, Kanzul Ummaal by Taqi-Ud-deen Al-Hindi, this book is the largest collection of ahadeeth under two covers, it consists of over 20,000 – 30,000 ahadeeth arranged by topic. Al-Hindi tried to make a encyclopedia of all the ahadeeth that came before him, but this is not a source reference. One way to tell if a book is scholarly is it will reference to classical works such as Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, etc.
How to search for ahadeeth
Realistically you have to be a real student of knowledge who knows the language of Arabic and knows the sciences of ahadeeth. Just to get an idea or a feel for it, there are four main ways to do this:
1 – By the narrator or isnad
If we know for example a specific sahabi narrated the hadeeth then there are certain books we can go to (i.e. Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, or other books that have been arranged by sahabi).
2 – Look it up by the matan (text of hadeeth) alphabetically
As-Suyooti arranged over 20,000 ahadeeth alphabetically. The matan, or the exact Arabic phrase, can be looked up.
3 – By topic (longer method)
Look up books of ahadeeth (Bukhari, Muslim, etc.) or go to certain works written by the fuquhaa. For example, Bulugh Al-Maram by Ibn Hajar, is specially meant to talk about fiqh ahadeeth. In Bulugh Al-Maram for example Ibn Hajar will tell you that At-Thirmidhi narrated the hadeeth and then you can go back and look it up.
4 – By any word in the hadeeth
There is only one book that talks about this, it is called Al-Mujimal Muhfaraas in Arabic. This book was a project started by Kaafir orientalists in the beginning of the 20th century was to compile a concordance of the words of the Propeht‘s (saw) ahadeeth. This was done so if they wanted to find a hadeeth all they needed to know was one word of the hadeeth. For example, Innamal amalu binniyaat, this can be looked up by the separate words and the concordance will tell where it is narrated. The reason these orientalists did this was to refute Islam and refute the ahadeeth of the Prophet (saw). This work took over 35 years to complete in 9 volumes. This book is so good that it is a standard reference for Muslims now, every modern student of ahadeeth should have this book because of its accuracy. This book is most benefited by Muslims; nowadays the majority of orientalists don’t know how to use it. Allah (swt) changed the kufaar plans to be used against them and the scholars and students of Islam are using it to defend Islam.
The last way to look up ahadeeth is the easy way out, to look it up by computer. CD software and programs of ahadeeth are sold and can be used to search ahadeeth. But the drawback is that these programs are written by non-scholars so they are not very accurate in the hadeeth spellings and stuff like that.
How do we know the authenticity of a hadeeth?
There is no simple way to know if it is an authentic. If the hadeeth is in Bukari or Muslim then it is authentic, if it is in other books there is no way simple way to confirm its authenticity. But there is a certain priority that the other ahadeeth books have, for example Sunan An-Nasaee is the most authentic of the Sunans, followed by Sunan Abi Dawood, Jamia At-Thirmidhi and Ibn Majah. Musnad Imam Ahmad is for the most part authentic, but it has some ahadeeth that are slightly weak. The students of the modern time need to rely upon the works of the ulema of the past, what have they said about the ahadeeth. Firstly you need to know Arabic and have the books to go back to. For an English student it is practically impossible except by asking the people of knowledge. We should rely upon literature that we know rely upon sahih ahadeeth.
This shows us the preservation of the Sunnah that Allah (swt) really has preserved the Sunnah by having these classifications so we know what ahadeeth are authentic and unauthentic. It also shows us the great care and efforts that the scholars of the past have done in preserving the Sunnah, this science of ahadeeth is unique in the history of mankind.
*Note: General Rule of Thumb – When a person attacks the Sunnah they will be the most ignorant with regards to the Sunnah. That person would have never even opened up Bukhari to read it or never even studied the basic sciences of ahadeeth.
Ibn ul-Qayyim and other ulema mention that those that deny the Sunnah have never read Bukhari and Muslim so they don’t even know what they’re denying. The more we study the Sunnah and the sciences of the Sunnah the more our eman goes up that this science has been preserved. The person who denies the preservation of the Sunnah is the one who is ignorant of the history of the Sunnah.
The first person to ever write and compile a book about the science of ahadeeth was Ar-Raama ur-Muzee (died 360 Hijri). The scholars before this still had the rudimentary sciences of ahadeeth established. Ibn Sireen (died 110 Hijri) narrates, “When the fitnah broke out we started asking the people; narrate to us where you heard it from, before the fitnah we wouldn’t ask them. The fitnah he’s talking about is the big political fight during the Umayyad period between the Muslims. Before this fitnah they would accept hadeeth from anyone because the people were innocent and weren’t capable of lying about the Prophet (saws) but when the fitnah broke out, after this we started asking people where they heard the hadeeth from. So this is the beginning of the science of isnaad (the list of names of narrators) and Ibn Sireen said this statement concerning the fitnah around 40s, 50s, or 60s of the hijrah, theres an ikhtilaaf of which fitnah he’s referring to but within his lifespan. Not only that but Ibn Sireen went on to say, we would look at the person of Ahlus-Sunnah and take his hadeeth and reject the hadeeth of Ahlul-Biddah (Khawarij, Shia, Mutazilae). Only the person who was from Ahlus-Sunnah and was trustworthy was accepted.
In the year 643 Hijrah a famous alim named Ibn-as-Salah of Damascus wrote a book that was so comprehensive and unique book about the sciences of ahadeeth that later on every single book would reference his book, Al-Muqaddama (The Introduction). All other books after this basically was an explanation, condensation, summarization, correcting mistakes, etc. Ibn Katheer, An-Nawawi, and As-Suyooti have explanations of this work.
The question arises that why is hadeeth preservation so different from that of the Quran. We have to look at this from a different prespective, with the Quran, the Prophet (saw) ordered that every single verse be written down and he personally placed in its proper place. As for the Sunnah this was not the case, no one ever supervised writing the Sunnah, the Prophet’s life was the Sunnah. When all the fitn and trials and tribulations arose in the Ummah devious people then started fabricating ahadeeth to gain acceptance amongst the people. People who were not qualified to narrate were narrating ahadeeth (people with forgetful and weak memories), once this started the scholars of ahadeeth had to come forth with a set a rules and principles to differentiate what is correct and incorrect. Nowadays the science of hadeeth is a well defined science that needs to be studied.
*Example to understand the matan and isnaad:
Hadeeth: Actions are by intentions. – narrated by Umar ibn Al-Khattab – narrated from Alqama and so on and so forth to Bukhari.
The section of the hadeeth that has the names is called the isnaad. The actual text of hadeeth is called the matan. The scholars of the hadeeth were interested in both parts of the hadeeth. But in the general the isnaad is what primarily decides the authenticity of the hadeeth. The isnaad tells us who the people narrating (their memory, their trustworthiness, etc.)
Categorization of Ahadeeth
For any hadeeth to be considered sahih or authentic it must meet five basic conditions.
Terms related to daeef (weak) hadeeth due to #1 (continuous isnaad)
Munqate – This is a general term used to refer to a hadeeth that doesn’t have a continuous hadeeth. Somewhere in the chain there is a missing link.
Mursal – This means that the Sahabi was missing from the chain. For example, Abu Hurayrah’s student, Wahib ibn Munabbih narrated directly from the Prophet (saw) without a Sahabi in between. This is the strongest type of daeef hadeeth.
Mualaq – This means suspended. The person that was missing was at the bottom of the chain, for example Bukhari’s teacher. Its as if the hadeeth is suspended meaning its suspended above the person, b/c the narrator above him wasn’t mentioned.
Mudaal – This mean confused, it is when there are two or more consecutive missing links. For example, Imam Malik who didn’t meet any of the Sahabah, if he were to narrate directly from the Prophet (saw) then this is hadeeth is confused b/c we don’t know who two of the narrators are. This type of hadeeth is of the weakest hadeeth b/c there are generations missing maybe an 80 year gap.
Mudallus – This means that we’re not sure that the narrator actually heard it from his teacher. Certain people were known to practice this act called tadlees. Tadlees means narrating on behalf of someone whom you never met, pretending as if you met them. Some of the scholars of the past fell into this mistake of tadlees that people presumed they had met but they never met.
Terms related to #2 (adaala – honesty)
Mawduu or Batil - If the person did not have honesty and integrity it depends on what he was. If he was a liar and fabricator of ahadeeth this means that the hadeeth is fabricated and it is not authenticated. The Prophet (saw) never said this b/c of the narrators did not have adaala.
Daeef Jiddan – This means very weak. Meaning one of the narrators was a major sinner (drinking, womanizing, etc). We cannot accept it and this means it is very weak. He is not a liar but he is not a good Muslim, this is one up from mawduu.
Daeef, majhool - The narrator is unknown. For example, Amr narrated to me that his father said the Prophet (saw) said so and so, we don’t know Amr or his father. There is no biographical information about the person. Amazingly most of the narrators of the ahadeeth have detailed biographies about them.
Terms related to #3 (precision and memory)
Sahih – The person has superb memory (Ex: Bukhari and his teacher Yahya ibn Maeen, Ali Al-Madeenee)
Hasan – The person has above average memory (Ex: regular student of ilm who had integrity and good memory but not as famous or well known as Bukhari)
*Note – this is the only difference between Sahih and Hasan ahadeeth, both of them are acceptable in Islamic law, aqeedah, fiqh, everything.
Daeef – The person’s memory was weak, could not trust what he narrated. He heard something and narrated something else but he is not a liar.
Daeef Jiddan – The person’s memory is very very bad.
Terms related to #4 (shadh – does not contradict something stronger than it)
Example: It is narrated in the Muwatta of Imam Malik that the Prophet (saw) said that when you pray 2 rakats of Fajr then they should lie down on the right hand side of the body. When you look at the isnaad of the hadeeth the isnaad would be hasan (the narrarators are acceptable). But when you look at the other ahadeeth in Bukhari and Muslim and other works that this was not a statement of the Prophet but it was an action reported by Aaisha. So one of the narrators accidentally (his memory failed him) made the action into a statement. All of the other chains concerning this hadeeth you find that the other narrators said it was an action but this particular narrator who made this into a statement. This hadeeth becomes shadh, a special category of daeef. Because the people in the hadeeth are good people the hadeeth is shadh.
Terms related to #5 (There can be no illahs or hidden defects)
A student of ilm would look at a hadeeth with the isnaad and would think everything is clear and fine. But when the Alim would compile all of the other ahadeeth from this person and on that topic he would be able to see a defect that the student would not see. This is where you separate the Alim from the student of knowledge (studied for 4-10 years but still not his speciality). Examples of such Ulema are Imam Bukhari, Ali Al-Madeenee, Imam Muslim, they were able to master these illal and able to point out the hidden defects.
Example of a hidden defect: One of the students of hadeeth wrote his notes with his Shaykh and walked out of the classroom. The wind blew and his notes were scattered and mixed up, so two pages ended up being reversed over. The isnaad of one hadeeth got mixed with the matan of another hadeeth. Everything looked good but Imam Bukhari was able to point out the mistake because he knew that this hadeeth has never been narrated by this isnaad.
Other Definintions concerning hadeeth:
Muttawatir – This means that the hadeeth has narrated by a large number of people in every generation. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Prophet said.
Ahad – This type of hadeeth had not narrated in a large number.
The scholars of the past didn’t care about muttawatir vs ahad because any hadeeth that comes from the Prophet is a hadeeth. But when the scholars of innovation came and tried to destroy the Sunnah by differentiating the ahadeeth by muttawatir and ahad. The scholars of innovation only wanted to accept the ahad ahadeeth but by doing this they basically rejected the Sunnah because most of the Sunnah is from ahad ahadeeth.
For example the Mutazila will not accept ahad ahadeeth but the problem arises when you reject ahad ahadeeth you end up rejecting most of the fiqh. So then the Mutazila said they’ll accept ahad ahadeeth in fiqh but not in aqeedah, but this is a contradiction. And to this day this ideology is rampant amongst many Muslim groups, a very large and famous Sunni group denies ahad ahadeeth in aqeedah – they claim themselves Sunni but they are not Sunni by saying this.
*Note - For practical purposes every Sahih hadeeth needs to be acted upon and believed in regardless if it is muttawatir of ahad. The scholars have divided it for the sake of knowledge and the scholars of innovation have done it for destroying the Sunnah. Rejecting ahad ahadeeth is not the position of Ahlus Sunnah waal Jamaah. Imam Shafiee has a few chapters in his risala about defending ahad ahadeeth and Imam Bukhari has written in his Sahih a whole chapter dedicated to show that ahad ahadeeth can be used.
Marfoo – The hadeeth that goes directly up to the Prophet (saw), meaning that a Sahabi narrated directly from the Prophet (saw). (The phrase Qawla Rasool Allah (saw) occurs)
Qudsi – If the Prophet (saw) said that Allah (swt) said something.
Mawqoof - If the Sahaba said some statement, this statement stopped right before the Prophet (saw). These statements we benefit from and we respect them but they do not have the same legal weight as the Sunnah.
Maqtoo - A statement made by a Tabiee (one generation after the Sahaba), this means cut off. The statements of the Tabieen are also important in Islam but under that of the Sahaba and both of these under the marfoo and qudsi ahadeeth of the Prophet (saw).
Ilm ul-Rijaal - Science of Rijaal (The science of Men – their biographies of hadeeth narrators)
This is the one of the earliest scienes in the Muslim ummah. The books of rijaal basically discuss the biographies of the narrators of ahadeeth. So we have books written about the people in the isnaad of the hadeeth. This is something that is unique to the Muslim ummah where we have detailed information about the first three generations of the Muslims and maybe even 1 or 2 after that. Any scholar from that time period we have books written about them, what other scholars said about him, how reliable he was, the other ulema that tested him, etc. Had it not been for this science the ahadeeth would not have been preserved. Every single narrator found in every book of hadeeth, their name is atleast mentioned in the books of rijaal. About 90% of the narrators of ahadeeth you can find a biographical sketch of that person (birth, location, teachers, his students, who tested him, what did ulema say about him, where he narrated, any problems he had, etc).
Some major works of ilm ul-Rijaal
Tadheeb al-Kamal (37 vols) written by Al-Misdi – Al-Misdi was a student and very close friend of Shaykh ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah. Tadheeb means condensation so this book was a condensed version of Al-Kamal. The original Al-Kamal talks about the narrators of the six books of ahadeeth.
Tadheeb at-Tadheeb written by Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar – Ibn Hajar, the Imam of the muhaditheen, he perfected the science of hadeeth of his time. This comes in 4 thick volumes in small print; this work is very comprehensive and is good for a beginning student of knowledge. This work deals only with the six famous books of ahadeeth.
Takreeb ut-Tadheeb writteb by Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar – Ibn Hajar’s students complained the 4 volumes were too big so he wrote this and condensed it to one volume. It basically gives each narrator 1 or 2 lines to them. It contains about the narrator: full name, full kunya, and date of death and their level of acceptance in ahadeeth. This is the standard and beginning step to go back to for ilm ul-rijaal.
What do we do with daeef ahadeeth?
We have nothing to do with mawdoo (fabricated) and daeef jiddan ahadeeth – this is unanimous consensus. We take sahih and hasan hadeeth, all of them. There is ikhtilaaf with daeef hadeeth, there are three opionions:
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