The Authentication of Hadith
In the second century of Hijrah, the Muhaddithun paid complete attention to compile the Hadiths. This was so because some hypocrites and non-Muslims wanted to fabricate the Hadiths. Imam Bukhari and other scholars took this seriously and introduced some principles to ensure the authenticity of the Hadith. A Hadith is divided into 2 parts the first part is the Sand and the second is the Matn. For e.g. A hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari is as follows “It is reported to us by Ubaidullah saying he heard Hanzalah who came to know from Ikramah saying he heard Ibn-e-Umar who narrates from the Prophet (PBUH):
“ISLAM HAS BEEN BASED UPON FIVE PILLARS BEARING THE WITNESS THAT ALLAH IS ONE AND MUHAMMAD IS HIS MESSENGER, ESTABLISHING THE REGULAR PRAYER, PAYING THE REGULAR CHARITY, FASTING IN THE MONTH OF RAMADAN AND THE ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE.”
The first part which mentions the chain of transmitters is the Isnad and the second part which the body or text is the Matn.
The Muhaddithun assessed both parts of the Hadith in a highly meticulous way. For the Isnad, the chain of narrators was carefully studied and observed. Through the art of Asma-Ur-Rijal (Names of Men) their biographies were collected and investigated in detail. Each transmitter had to be in possession of firm faith, sound mind, an excellent memory and an upright character. So much so, if the transmitter had ever cheated anyone or even lied to anyone in the matter of joke the Hadith was rejected. The compilers also ensured that the transmitter was present from the time he collected or heard the Hadith till the time he transmitted it. In addition, the first transmitter had to be the companion of the Holy Prophet (SAW), for this the Muhaddithun compared the place and birth of the transmitter, the places and the people he met. Lastly, the chain of transmitters had to be totally and perfectly uninterrupted.
Similarly, the Matn was checked thoroughly. They ensured it was in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah and was not conflicting with any of those two. For e.g. The Hadith will not be accepted if it says to offer 6 daily prayers. Moreover, it should also not contradict with human reason and logic. Example fasting the whole month without eating anything is outside human capability. Matn also shouldn’t praise or condemn any person or tribe from the future or history by calling its name. Finally, Matn should not contain details in a precise way about any future event. The six tradition books are the most authentic and reliable books of all the books on the traditions. They are called Sihah sitta. The books among Sihah sitta are Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Daud, Jam’e Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasai and Sunan Ibn-e-Majah
Compilation of Hadith
During the life of Prophet (PBUH), Muslims did not feel the need to write the Ahadith, as the Prophet (PBUH) was present in their midst. The companions could easily refer Prophet (PBUH) on any issue. Muslims were a small band in Makka without any system of regular teaching. The time of companions was mostly occupied in holy wars and struggles against the enemies or for the propagation of Islam. Moreover, Holy Quran was being revealed so Holy Prophet (PBUH) prevented his companions from writing down the Ahadith. Later he allowed them when he became confident that these companions were able to distinguish between Quran and Hadith. The Hadith literature was preserved mainly in the memories and the hearts of the companions. A number of traditions provide an evidence to the fact that Prophet (PBUH) encouraged the memorization and spreading of Hadith.
“MAY ALLAH BE PLEASED WITH A SERVANT WHO HEARD A THING FROM ME AND THEN BROADCASTED IT JUST AS HE HEARD IT.”
Prophet (PBUH) also remarked:
“HE WHO IS PRESENT HERE SHALL CARRY THIS MESSAGE TO THE ONE WHO IS ABSENT.”
During the age of companions, Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz (R.A) wrote to the governor of Medina to write down all the traditions of Prophet (PBUH) as they know them. A formal system of education of Quran, Sunnah, Fiqqah, and Tafseer started during Umar’s (R.A) caliphate period. With the expansion of Islamic empire, the companions went to all corners of the Islamic world to teach Quran and Hadith. Many scholars came from far off areas to learn from these companions. Jabir bin Abdullah traveled from Makka to Syria for the sake of hearing a single Hadith. The first most authentic compilation of Hadith in this period was Al Muwatta, which was collected by Imam Malik bin Ans in 94 A.H. The works of Shihab al Zuheri, collections of Abu Bakr (R.A) and Al Hazim are important works of that period.
During the age of followers of companions, the matter was taken earnestly and spared no pain in collecting traditions from different centers of learning. During this period, not only the traditions of Holy Prophet (PBUH) were collected but also the verdicts and sayings of the house of the family of the Prophet (PBUH) were compiled too. Outstanding works include Al Muwatta by Imam Malik bin Ans, Kitab al-Akhtar by Imam Abu Hanifa and Musnad by Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal. The Hanifi and Maliki school of legal thoughts were formulated during this period in the light of the Hadith.
The age of followers of the followers proved to be the golden time of traditions and Hadith literature as they flourished under the laborious and critical research of the Hadith experts of that time. Six authentic books of traditions known as Sahah-e-Sitta were written. They were the most reliable books on the traditions of Prophet (PBUH).
Musnad and Musnaf Collection
Soon after the demise of Holy Prophet (PBUH), huge volumes of Hadith literature were in circulation and a need was felt to compile the Ahadith in book form. Two methodologies were adopted. First, one was to trace back the Ahadith to any companion of the Prophet (PBUH). The Ahadith were compiled under the names of their transmitters and narrators. This form of compilation was known as Musnad. These compilations ensured a thorough and contemplate study of the narrator as well. However, these Ahadith were compiled indiscriminately, regardless of the content of Ahadith. It made this compilation of little use when a detailed study of a particular topic as required. The newly compiled book was mainly divided like this: Musnad of Ayesha (R.A), Musnad of Abu Hurraira (R.A), Musnad of Abu Bakr (R.A) etc. a famous and exhaustive compilation of this category was the Musnad-e-Ahmed of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal. He collected about 30 thousand Ahadith from an actual stock of 75 thousand Ahadith. In such collection, traditions revolved around the primary source, no matter whether they are authentic or not or whether they cast light upon one topic or various issues. In Musnad, female companions are listed mostly after the men.
As the Musnad form of compilation did not discriminate between the content of Ahadith, the little study could be done on a particular topic. Therefore, another form of compilation also became popular. This was the Musnaf form of compilation. In Musnaf, the Ahadith were arranged content wise and placed under the topic. They discussed e.g. Zakat, marriage, fasting, financial dealings etc. This form of compilation was a reliable source and was significant in having a detailed study on any specific topic. Some examples of this type of compilation are Al-Muwatta by Imam Malik bin Anas. It contains 1720 Ahadith. Another example is that of Musnaf of Imam Bukhari which consisted of 7397 Ahadith under 3450 chapters. A further example is that of Imam Abdul Razzaq al-Sanani which consists of 11063 Ahadith. The Sahah-al-Sitta, Sahih of Bukhari and Muslim, Sunan of Ibn-e-Maja, Abu Daud, Al Nasai and Jam’i of Tirmizi are also Musnaf.
Qualities required for transmitting Hadith
The qualities which are required to check the individual Narrator in the chain of the transmitter of a Hadith are that the narrator of the Hadith must be of firm faith and honesty. He must be known for truthfulness in whatever he reports. The narrator must be trustworthy, reliable and righteous. He should understand what he reports and know how a change of word can change the ideas in it. He should report exactly what he has learned from his teacher and not to use his own words. The narrator must have a very sound memory. He should report what agrees with the reporters of others known to have good memories. A narrator cannot criticize someone that the Ummah has accepted. Examples are Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. Anyone who criticizes these great scholars would be considered to be a false narrator. The two significant parts of a Hadith are Isnad and Matn. Isnad refers to the chain of narrators that have reported any given Hadith. In the sciences of Hadith, the Muslim Scholars agreed that the chain must begin from the Muhaddis of the Hadith and must end at the Prophet (PBUH) or in the case of Hadith-e-Qudsi ends at Allah. One of the most famous Muslim scholar Abdullah bin Al-Mubarak said
“THE ISNAD TO ME IS PART OF THE DEEN. IF IT WAS NOT FOR THE ISNAD ANYONE WOULD SAY ANYTHING HE WANTED”
Isnad basically a rigorous testing of the links between individuals and transmitting the Hadith from the Muhaddis till it reaches Prophet (PBUH) and through this testing Muslims are certain of the authenticity of the Hadith.
The Matan refers to the actual text of Hadith which is authentic when compared with the actual Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH). It is the text of the tradition or what the Prophet (PBUH) actually said or did. The Matan of the Hadith must not conflict or contradict with the Holy Quran nor should it conflict with other reliable or authentic Hadith. For example, the Holy Quran says
“ESTABLISH PRAYER” AND THE HADITH OF THE HOLY PROPHET (S.A.W) EXPLAINS IT AS “PRAY AS YOU SEE ME PRAYING”
so this Matan of Hadith explains us the rules of praying Salah.
With these rules the compilers of authentic books of A Hadith were able to classify Hadith into types:
- Sahih (the authentic)
- Hassan (fair, about which little doubt
- Zaeef (weak, which raises many doubts concerning authenticity)
- Maudu (fabricated, un-Islamic)
Main collections of Sunni and Shi’a
Sahih Al-Bukhari (194-256 A.H): It was compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Ismail Al-Bukhari. It is considered to be the most authentic book of Hadith after the Holy Quran. In the compilation of this book of Sahih Al-Bukhari, Imam Bukhari displayed a great critical ability and scrupulous accuracy. The total number of Ahadis in this book is 9082 (which was selected from 600000 Ahadis). However many of them were repeated with different Isnad. Without repetition, the number goes down to 2602 Ahadis. His criteria for acceptance into the collection were amongst the most stringent of all the scholars of Ahadith.
Sahih Muslim (204-264 A.H): It was compiled by Imam Muslim bin Hajjah and this is considered second only to the Sahih al-Bukhari. These two collections Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are collectively called Al-Sahihain, the two most authentic collections. Any tradition accepted by both Bukhari and Muslim has been termed as Agreed Upon. Imam Muslim, he traveled widely to gather his collection of Ahadith (plural of Hadith), including to Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, and Egypt. Out of 300,000 Hadith which he evaluated, approximately 4,000 were extracted for inclusion into his collection based on stringent acceptance criteria.
Sunan Abu Daud (202-275 A.H): Abu Da’ud was another important compiler of hadith. Before writing his Sunan he examined five lakhs of traditions and selected from them only 4800 to be put in his book. The whole task took him 20 years to complete. He kept up the scrupulous exactitude of his predecessors in reproducing the traditions, which he had collected. But he differed from them in the standard of his choice. He included in his Sunan not only the ‘genuine’ traditions (as al-Bukhari and Muslim had done) but also such traditions as had been pronounced by some traditionists to be weak and doubtful.
Sunan Tirmizi (209-279 A.H): It was compiled by Abu Isa al-Tirmizi. He was the first man to determine the names, surnames, and title of the narrators of traditions and tide to fix the degree of their reliability by inventing peculiar means of each tradition. His work is divided into 50 chapters (Kutub) and contains 3956 Ahadis.Abu Isa al Tirmizi was a student of Abu Da’ud and his collection follows and improves upon the techniques of classifying the hadith as proposed by his master. Jame of Tirmizi contains all the traditions – legal, dogmatic and historical – that had been accepted by the Muslim jurists of one school or another, as the basis of Islamic law.
Sunan Ibne Majah (209-273 A.H): Ibn Majah travelled widely to collect traditions from the well-known Traditionists of his time. He compiled several works of Hadith of which the most important is the Sunan. In this work, Ibn Majah collected together 4000 traditions in 32 books divided into 1500 chapters. The number of weak (dhaif) traditions it contains is not very large, just about 30. But it does contain some traditions, which are considered by the authorities on the subject to be forged (maudu’).
Sunan Nasai (214-303 A.H): Al Nasai’ collected hadith in his work Sunan He entirely ignored the point of view of his senior contemporary, al-Tirmizi on the question of the application of traditions to various problems that might have been made by different schools of the Muslim jurisprudence. His main object was to establish the text of traditions and the differences between their various versions, which he quotes extensively. In many places, he gives headings to the differences between the various narrators. This book contains 5662 Ahadis and is divided well into chapters. Imam Nasai is the best evaluator of the narrators of his time.
1. Kitab Al-Kafi: Compiled by Muhammad Yaqub Kulayni in the third century Hijra, it is divided into three sections:
Usulal-Kafi which is concerned with the principle of religion.
• Furual-Kafi which is concerned with religious laws.
• Rawadatal-Kafi which is concerned with the various religious aspects and includes some writings of the Imams in total. Al-Kafi comprises of about 16000 narrations. The author states that this book would be sufficient for all the needs of the believers as it included all branched of religious knowledge. 2. Manla Yahduruhula-
- Faqih: Compiled by Muhammad ibne Ali al-Qummi in the 4th century Hijri contains over 9000 Hadis. The literal translation of the title Manla Yah duruhu Al-Faqih is “For him not in the presence of Jurisprudence”. The book is meant to be a reference book to help ordinary Shia Muslims in the practice of the legal requirements of Islam. In this book Isnads are absent
- Tahdhibal-Ahkamfi Sharhal-Muqni’a: Compiled by Sheikh Tusi in the 5th century Hijri contain over 13000 narrations means “The Refinement of the laws in terms of explanation of the sufficiently”. It contains not only traditions but also lengthy discussions about the legal standing and implications of each Hadis. The chapters are well divided and contain the commentaries by some earlier scholars.
4. Istibsarfima’ Khatalafal-Akhbar: Compiled by Sheikh Tusi in the 5th century Hijri and contains over 5000 narrations. Its methods are similar but briefer: there are not so many traditions used in the work and the explanations are more concise. It is similar to Man la Yahdurulual Faqih, but gives full Isnads for the traditions quoted intended to be used as ready reference works for students and scholars
Collections of Hadith
Sahih al Bukhari: Abu Abdullah bin Ismail was born in Bukhara, Uzbekistan in 194 A.H. He visited Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Makka, and Medina. He was the first one to conceive the idea of compiling the authentic Ahadith. He devoted 16 precious years to compile his Sahih collection, which is considered by the Muslims, as an authority second to the Holy Quran. At only the age of 16, he had mastered all the traditions of Bukhara and everything contained in his book Sahih al-Bukhari was already stored in his memory. He is known to have questioned about more than 1000 masters of Ahadith who lived in far off places. Abu Abdullah is recognized as the greatest tradition transmitter of his time as he collected almost 600,000 Ahadith, out of which Sahih al-Bukhari contains only 7397. The collection of Abu Abdullah is compiled in 97 books according to the teachings and topics they contain. Each of his compilation provides an easy and clear source of guidance. His main objective was to collect only the sound and authentic traditions. Abu Abdullah followed the most precise and scientific guidelines in his research to test the Isnad and Matn of Ahadith and also established the rule that the chain should be unbroken and continuous. Along with Sahih al-Bukhari, he also wrote At-Tariqah and Ad-Du’afah. Abu Abdullah bin Ismail deceased in 265 A.H at Khartank, Uzbekistan.
Sahih Muslim: Abdul Hussain Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj was born in Neshapur, Iran in 204 A.H. He went to Hijaz, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Out of his one-third million Ahadith, he only recorded about 12000 Ahadith. He passed an Ahadith after strict testing of its content like Bukhari and his collection of Sahih Muslim is known to be most authentic one, after Sahih Bukhari. Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari are both taken together as Al Sahihain (two most authentic collections). Ahadith contained in both compilations are Muttafaqun Alayhi (one agreed upon). Abdul Hussain began his research and study about Hadith at only the age of 15. He is also credited for writing Al Musnad, Al Kabir, Al Jami and Al Kumawal-Asma. He passed away in Neshapur, Iran in 261 A.H.
Sunan Abu Daud: Abu Daud was born in Sijistan, Afghanistan in 202 A.H. He visited Baghdad, Basra and a number of Islamic capitals including Hijaz, Syria, and Egypt. Abu Daud met Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in Baghdad. Al Nosai and Al Tirmizi narrated Ahadith from Abu Daud. He collected half a million Ahadith and selected only 4800 authentic ones. Abu Daud also adopted the method of arranging Ahadith under different topics. He also wrote Al Murasil and Kitab Az-Zuhd. Abu Daud passed away in Basra in 275 A.H.
Jami of Tirmizi: Imam Muhammad bin Isa was born in Tirmez, Uzbekistan in 209 A.H. He visited Khuzaran, Iraq, and Hijaz. He was educated under the supervision of Al-Bukhari. He is credited for the compilation of Al-Jami. Imam Muhammad examined the Ahadith in detail, which benefited the students of Fiqh. He also explained the people among the Fuqaha who accepted the Ahadith and who did not. One of his compilation known as Al-Jami is one of the most comprehensive books among Al-Sunan and the is the most significant for the Muhaddith and Faqeen. The work of Imam Muhammad is divided into 50 chapters and contains about 3956 Ahadith. He passed away in Tirmez in 279 A.H.
Hadith as source of guidance
Hadith is a primary source of Islamic jurisprudence and is to be used in correspondence with Holy Quran to fully understand the Divine message. The Quran emphasizes on the fact that the last messenger of Allah is to be obeyed and that he stands at a prominent status hence his guidance is immensely significant.
“HE WHO OBEYS MESSENGER, OBEYS ALLAH.”
Quran also says:
“OBEY GOD AND OBEY THE MESSENGER”
“I BELIEVE IN GOD, HIS ANGELS, HIS MESSENGERS, HIS BOOKS AND IN THE FACT THAT EVERYTHING GOOD AND BAD IS DIVIDED BY ALLAH ALMIGHTY AND IN LIFE AFTER DEATH.”
Therefore, the Quranic injunctions lay down clear principles that Prophet’s (PBUH) instructions should be referred to very carefully in every aspect of life. Quran says:
“YE HAVE INDEED IN THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH, A BEAUTIFUL PATTERN OF CONDUCT.”
The teachings contained in the Hadith elaborate the message of Holy Quran whenever it remains brief or silent. It contains detailed material about Muslims’ belief in articles of faith, pillars of Islam, matrimonial issues, purity, trade and business, adultery and the payment of Zakat etc. Therefore, it guides the Muslims in cases where Quran does not cover up a point extensively. Hadith guides Muslims in the contemporary world about Allah’s mercy and wrath. Also the methods of offering prayer, observing fast and giving Zakat. Hadith Qudsi says:
“SURELY MY MERCY OVERCOMES MY WRATH”
Another tradition of Prophet (PBUH) says:
“O ALLAH! FORGIVE MY PEOPLE FOR THEY KNEW NOT.”
In this Hadith, Holy Prophet (PBUH) defined Muslims as vulnerable to sins because of a man’s free will. He asks for God’s mercy and forgiveness and therefore makes the Muslims realize to try hard and avoid wrongdoings to the maximum possible extent. Similarly, Holy Quran says:
“IF ANYONE INVOLVES ME, I WILL ANSWER HIS PRAYER. IF ANYONE ASKS ME FOR SOMETHING, I WILL GRANT IT TO HIM. IF ANYONE ASKS FORGIVENESS , I WILL FORGIVE HIM.”
Hadith also guides the Muslims about the offering of prayer:
“LOOK AT ME, SEE HOW I WORSHIP AND FOLLOW ME.”
“THERE IS NO PRAYER FOR THE ONE WHO DOES NOT THE RECITE THE OPENING CHAPTER.”
“WHEN A PERSON IS DROWSY IN HIS PRAYERS, LET HIM GO TO SLEEP UNTIL HE KNOWS WHAT HE RECITES.”
Similarly, Hadith guides Muslims in individual and communal conduct. Hadith also teaches us about our behavior in general life dealings i.e.:
“WHEN ONE OF YOU DRINKS, HE SHOULD NOT BLOW INTO THE VESSEL.”
Prophet (PBUH) has also emphasized on the rights of women in society and have promised of rewards for those who fulfill their rights without reluctance:
“I AND THE MAN WHO BRINGS UP AN ORPHAN WILL BE IN PARADISE LIKE THIS”
and he pointed with his two fingers, the middle finger and the index finger. About community rights and Muslims Ummah, Prophet (PBUH) hadith is as follows:
“BELIEVERS ARE LIKE A SINGLE BROTHERHOOD, IF HIS EYE IS AFFECTED, HE IS AFFECTED AND IF HIS HEAD IS AFFECTED, HE IS ALL AFFECTED”.
“NONE OF YOU BELIEVES UNTIL HE WANTS FOR HIS BROTHER WHAT HE WANTS FOR HIMSELF.”
Similarly, the Ahadith also prohibits a man from anti-social acts that could harm the society. It guides Muslims towards the ways of carrying out trade and financial transaction. Hadith of Holy Prophet (PBUH) teaches us about many of the sinful acts and commands against their consumption:
“ALL INTOXICANTS ARE KHAMR, THEREFORE ALL ARE HARAM.”
“THE BARTERING OF GOLD FOR GOLD IS RIBAH EXCEPT WHEN IT IS FROM HAND TO HAND AND EQUALS IN AMOUNT, AND FOR WHEAT FOR WHEAT GRAIN EXCEPT FROM WHEN IT IS FROM HAND TO HAND AND EQUAL IN AMOUNT.”
Also, the Hadith lay down the principles concerning other matters like the treatment of relatives, Jihad etc. Hence the words and actions of Holy Prophet (PBUH) stand on an exalted status in guiding Muslims towards their approach to Islamic faith and its fundamentals.