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Various Issues About Hadiths

by Sh. G. F. Haddad


In response to the following message by MHE:



Compilation of Quran and Hadith

When the Prophet died, only the Quran was compiled at AbuBakr's time, then unified and canonized in Othman's time. The sayings of Mohammed were not written down.

This is not true. Several hadiths in the Sahihs and Sunan show that the Prophet ordered certains Companions to write down something or everything he said.


The Prophet first forbade the writing of hadith so that people not confuse it with the Qur'an. He then allowed or ordered some Companions to write hadith when there was no risk of confusion.


These hadiths take precedence over the reports that mention an accross-the-board prohibition of writing for several reasons: the "write" reports are of a higher order of authenticity; the "do not write" reports are abrogated; the "write" reports are confirmed by the abundance of written reports from the Companion-generation manuscripted by their first-century students.


See below, the documentation on several first-century collections.



Invented sayings?

A hundred years later, it was noticed by pious Muslims that certain sayings attributed to the prophet are being invented and used for personal agendas.

The writer is confusing isnad-criticism with the writing of hadith. Isnad-criticism began in the time of Muhammad ibn Sirin (d. 110) and is unrelated to the writing of hadith, which began much earlier.



Early Hadith collections

So the first book of Hadith collections was written down, I believe by Abu Dawood. Later Bukhari, a Persian scholar in the second century wrote down another collection, followed by his student "Muslim" [a guy's name] who also wrote a book.

First, both the dates and the chronology are wrong. Second, the writer is confusing the writing of hadith with its first comprehensive or fiqh-oriented collections.


Abu Dawud died in 275, al-Bukhari in 256 and Muslim in 261. For one, Malik and Ahmad's collections preceded all of them but the writing of hadith began long before all five.


Among the manuscripted hadith collections of the first Hijri century are:


1. `Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As (d. 63), al-Sahifa al- Sadiqa, originally containing about 1,000 hadiths of which 500 reached us, copied down by `Abd Allah directly from the Prophet - upon him blessings and peace - and transmitted to us by his great-grandson `Amr ibn Shu`ayb (d. 118);


2. Hammam ibn Munabbih's (d. 101 or 131) al-Sahifa al- Sahiha which has reached us complete in two manuscripts containing 138 hadiths narrated by Hammam from Abu Hurayra (d. 60), from the Prophet - upon him blessings and peace;


3. The lost folios of Aban ibn `Uthman (d. 105) the son of `Uthman ibn `Affan (d. 35), from whom Muhammad ibn Ishaq (80-150/152) narrated;


4. The accomplished works of `Urwa (d. ~92-95) - the son of al-Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam and grandson of Asma' and `A'isha the learned daughters of Abu Bakr the Truthful. `Urwa ordered them burnt, after a lifetime of teaching from them, during the sack of Madina by the armies of Syro-Palestine under Yazid ibn Mu`awiya in 63;


5. Muhammad ibn Shihab al-Zuhri's (d. 120) Sira, from which Ibn Ishaq also borrowed much;


6. `Asim ibn `Umar ibn Qatada ibn al-Nu`man al-Ansari's (d. 120 or 129) Maghazi and Manaqib al-Sahaba, another principal thiqa source for Ibn Ishaq and others;


7. `Abd Allah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn `Amr ibn Hazm al-Ansari's (d. 135) tome, another main source for Ibn Ishaq Ibn Sa`d, and others;


8. The most reliable Sira of the Madinan Musa ibn `Uqba al-Asadi (d. 141), praised by Imam Malik and used by Ibn Sa`d and others.



Main Hadith collections

Hadith collections were written down until the third or fourth century of Hijra [Islamic calendar]. There are six major Hadith collections: "Sahih Bukhari", "Sahih Muslim", "Ibn Malek", "ElTermezi", "Masnad Ahmed" (Ibn Hanbal) and "Sunnan Abu Dawood" in order of degrees of authenticity.

The above order and the "Ibn Malik" collection are unheard of.


It is similar to the following blunder on soc.religion.islam a couple of months ago: "Ibn Saeed Al-Khudry reported that the messenger of God had said..." People who probe issues of hadith reliability in those anti-hadith posts are themselves incapable, in a mere speech of forty lines, not to make mistake after mistake that expose thorough ignorance of the issues they raise.


The "six major hadith collections" are, in order of strength:


- Al-Bukhari's Sahih

- Muslim's Sahih

- al-Nasa'i's Sunan

- Abu Dawud's Sunan

- Al-Tirmidhi's Sunan

- Ibn Majah's Sunan




1. Malik's Muwatta' comes right after the two Sahihs in strength but is not generally included among the Six Books.


2. Ahmad's Musnad is a comprehensive collection that is not included among the Six Books although it is reliable.


3. Al-Darimi's Sunan are deemed more reliable than Ibn Majah according to a number of Scholars.



Bukhari's meticulousness

Now the first four are generally called Sahih, because their authors have been the most meticulous in collecting Hadith. They relied on the method of chain of narration "Isnad" which means that say Bukhari heard Mr. A saying he heard Mr. B saying he heard Mr. C .... who heard the prophet say it. Bukhari would investigate the life of each of these people, establish that they actually lived at the same times AND met each other and talked about this Hadith. He would establish that ALL of them were people of good repute and honesty (although he missed some, like Ibn Abbass who was an embezzler of public money). Only then would he include the Hadith in his collection. "Muslim" was less meticulous, he would establish that two of these people lived at the same times but would not look into whether or not they actually met. And so on.

Ibn `Abbas was no more an embezzler of public money than the writer of the above is a knowledgeable, honest person.


{No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin} (42:23).



Sahih classification

So, is the Sahih classification enough to make a Hadith authentic? Hardly, because of several reasons: (1) Sahih only depends on the Isnad method,

This is false. The Sahih classification is not what was mentioned above nor does it depend on isnad exclusively. Even with the isnad method alone, al-Bukhari was not working in a vacuum and his rulings on narrators are only those of one man in a sea of experts.



About Hadith-criticism

but does not investigate the Hadith and show whether or not it agrees with the Quran, or whether or not it is contradicted by other Sahih hadiths, or whether or not it fits the character of the prophet, or whether or not it even fits common sense (the Sahih hadiths about dipping the fly, or drinking the camel's urine come to mind). This is called the "Matn" [Content] method. It has been abandoned by most scholars on the pretext that the hadiths collectors must have used it already. Obviously they didn't. Bukhari never claimed he investigated the Matn, he was only concerned with the Isnad. Now, within Isnad itself

The above is all false. Hadith-criticism relies heavily on both isnad-criticism and matn-criticism. NO hadith was ever judged authentic or otherwise on the sole basis of the isnad in violation of an established principle of the Religion. Countless criteria are extra-isnadic in nature such as currency in the Umma, confirmation by the Qur'an and/or other hadiths, and many other criteria.


As for the two hadiths mentioned, as I replied to another objector: It is natural that one be the enemy of what one is ignorant of. See my forthcoming posts in sha' Allah:


"Hadith of the fly"

"Camel urine hadith."





mutawatir hadiths

Also, there is yet another way of classifying Hadiths which most people seem to ignore. They are classified as follows: 1) Mutawatter/Mawtoor [Propagated] which says that a Hadith was used by a large group of Muslims of the First generation after the prophet, such that all of them agree they heard it first hand from the prophet himself, AND that they are of such a number as to exclude the possibility of they all being liars. Then this is of such strength that it is considered almost certain. The Sunnah of the prophet lies in this category.

The Sunna of the Prophet is all mutawatir? Where else has anyone in all the sects of Islam ever made such a claim, even a non-Scholar?




sahih ahad hadiths

3) Hadith Ahad [Ones, from Wahid: One] which is a Hadith that has been attributed to one or maybe a handful of the prophet's companions, i.e. it is not corroborated by enough people to exclude the possibility of error. 95% of all written Hadiths (never mind their Isnad or Matn) fall within this category.

This is false. A sahih ahad hadith can well be corroborated by enough people and other factors so as to exclude the possibility of error. Because of this, some of them are even considered proofs in credal matters let alone law.


However, this is moot, as the yardstick in practice is the exclusion of the *likelihood* of error. As for the possibility of error, it is not excluded even from the laws of physics, as shown by our abandonment of previous laws for relativity. Ahad Hadiths proved more reliable than Newton.



non-mutawatir hadiths

Early Hadith scholars have agreed that due to this classification, the Hadiths and Sunnah belonging to the first category and the FIRST only, should be taken to enforce divine rulings. So there is no dispute between scholars on how to pray for example. The Hadiths belonging to the second and third categories, because there is less evidence of their authenticities, should be taken under ADVISEMENT only. Enforced Laws, punishments, halals and harams should NOT be taken from these two Hadiths categories. In another post, I will discuss particular examples of Hadiths.

This is painfully inaccurate, the non-mutawatir hadiths that are indisputable, non-optional, agreed-upon proofs in "enforced laws, punishments, halals and harams" are countless.


Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad

[4 Apr 2003]

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