Authority and Significance of Hadith in Islam [A Point for Hadith-Rejectors to Ponder]

The Example of Allah’s Messenger is part of Islam and will be  protected  till  the  Last  Day.  Allah  says, 

Indeed,  in  the Messenger of Allah  (Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) you have a good example to follow,  for  him  who  hopes  in  (the  Meeting  with)  Allah  and  the Last Day and remembers Allah much.”  [Surah al-Ahzab 33:21]

Islam  is  a  universal  religion,  and  its  teachings  are  for  all mankind  and  for  all  ages;  and  as  long  as  people  need  to  be guided,  the  example  of  the  Prophet  will  be  preserved. 

“We  have not  sent  you  (O  Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  except  as  a  Messenger  to  all mankind,  giving  them  glad  tidings  and  warning  them  against sin.” [Surah Saba 34:28]

Rather,  the  very  purpose of  sending a  human Messenger was for  people  to  take  him  as  an  example  in  their  day  to  day  lives,

“Say,  ‘If  there  were  on  the  earth,  angels  walking  about  in  peace and security,  We should certainly  have  sent down for them from the heaven, an angel as a Messenger.” [Surah al-Isra 17: 95]

Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam received revelations besides the Qur’an. Allah says, 

“Verily,  it  is  We  who  have  sent  down  the Dhikr (revelation), and surely We will guard it.” [Surah Hijr 15:9]

Anyone who believes in Allah  as the Supreme Rabb, must agree that the guidance which Allah has sent  will be  protected  as  long  as there  is  a need for it which in case of Islam is until the last day. The question remains –  Is Qur’aan the only guidance that has been revealed by Allah  as  the  hadeeth-rejecters  contend  or  has  the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  received revelation  from Allah  that  is not part of the Qur’aan??

The  Qur’aan itself  refers  to  revelation  being  received  from Allah  that  is  not  found  in  the  Qur’aan  and  hereunder  are  few examples:

i)  Allah says in the Qur’aan,

“And We made the Qiblah (prayer direction  towards Jerusalem) which you used to face, only to  test  those  who  followed  the  Messenger  (Muhammad).” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:143]

This verse shows that Allah had  assigned the previous Qiblah of the Muslims but there is no verse in the Qur’aan designating Jerusalem as the previous Qibla. This means  that  there  has  to  be  an  alternative  form  of  ‘Wahy’ (revelation)  apart  from  the  Qur’aan  through which  Allah  revealed  the  previous command  of  facing  towards Jerusalem.

ii)  “And  (remember)  when  the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  disclosed  a matter in confidence to one of his wives (Hafsah), so when she  told  it  (to  another  i.e.  Aa’isha),  and  Allah  made  it known  to  him,  he  informed  part  thereof  and  left  a  part. Then  when  he  told  her  (Hafsah)  thereof,  she  said,  ‘Who told  you  this?’  He  said,  ‘The  All-Knower,  the  All-Aware (Allah) has told me.” [Surah at-Tahrim (66): 3]

The  verse  says,  “Allah  made  it  known  to  him,”  and yet,  there  is  no  verse  in  the  Qur’aan  that  makes mentions this.

iii) “It  is  for  Us to collect it (i.e. the Qur’aan) and to give you (O Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  the  ability  to  recite  it  (the  Qur’aan).”  [Surah al-Qiyamah 75:17]

The Qur’aan as it has been collected is not in the same order  in  which  it  was  revealed,  and  while  it  is  for  Allah  to collect  the  Qur’aan  there are  no  verses  in the Qur’aan that mention the  arrangement  of  the  verses. This  information is found in the Sunnah.

iv)  The Qur’aan mentions the call to the prayer (adhan), “And when you proclaim the call for Salaat, they take it (but) as a mockery  and  fun.” [Surah al-Maidah 5:58] and, 

“O  you  who believe!  When  the  call  is  proclaimed  for  the  Salaat  on  the day of Friday, come to the remembrance of Allah.” [Surah al-Jumu’ah 62:9] 

These  verses  testify  that  Adhan  is  part  of  the  religion of  Islam  but  there  is  no  verse  in  the  Qur’aan  that prescribes  the Adhan for the believers. This order is found in the other revelation – the Sunnah.

These are some proofs that show that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) did indeed receive revelation apart from the Qur’aan; and since this  revelation  constitutes  beneficial  guidance,  it  will  be preserved.

The Sunnah is in itself a Revelation from Allah

Allah  repeatedly  makes  mention  of  the  revealed  ‘al-Hikmah‘ in  the  Qur’aan.  He  said,  “Allah  has  sent  down  to  you  the  Book (the  Qur’aan),  and  al-Hikmah,  and  taught  you  that  which  you knew not.” [Surah an-Nisa 4:113]

“He,  it  is  Who,  sent  among  the  unlettered  ones  a  Messenger from  among  themselves,  reciting  to  them  His  Ayaat,  purifying them,  and  teaching  them  the  Book  and  the  Hikmah.” [Surah  al-Jumu’ah 62:2]

“And  remember  (O  you  members  of  the  Prophet’s  family), that  which  is  recited  in  your  houses of  the Ayaat of  Allah  and  the Hikmah.” [Surah al-Ahzab 33:34]

These verses show;

(i)  Al-Hikmah is revealed by Allah

(ii)  It is part of the Messenger’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) duty to teach the Hikmah

(iii)  It  is  something  recited  and  remembered  in  the Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) household.

There  is  nothing  in  status  and  position  that  can  be  mentioned alongside  the  Qur’aan  apart  from  the  Sunnah  of  Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).  This  honor  cannot  be  given  to  conventional wisdom  inherited  from  the  past  or  even  to  the  books  given  to previous  nations.  At  the  time  of  the  Sahabah, such  ‘wisdom’  was not given any consideration as the following incidents testify…

Imran bin Hussain said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, ‘Haya’ does not bring  anything  except  good.”    Thereupon,  Bashir  bin  Ka’b  said, “It is written in the wisdom paper: Haya leads to solemnity; Haya leads to tranquility (peace of mind).”

Imran said to him, “I am narrating to you the saying of Allah’s Messenger  and  you  are  speaking  about  your  paper  (wisdom book)?” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (8/138)]

When Umar (radhiyallahu anhu)  came to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), he said, “We hear the narrations  from the Jews, which sound pleasing to  us, so should we not write some of them?” Whereupon he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Do you want to be baffled as the  Jews and the Christians  were baffled? I have brought to you (guidance) bright and pure and if Prophet Moosa (alayhissalaam) was  alive  now  there  would  have  been  no  alternative  left for him  but to follow me.” [at-Tirimidhi]

Therefore,  Imam  Ash-Shafiee  (rahimahullah)  says explaining the verse about Hikmah,

“So Allah  mentioned His Book, i.e.,  the  Qur’aan  and  (He also mentioned)  Hikmah. I have heard  that those who are learned in the  Qur’aan  –  whom I approve – hold that Hikmah is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah.

This  is  like  what  [Allah  Himself]  said  but  Allah knows  best! For the Qur’aan is mentioned [first], followed by Wisdom; [then] Allah  mentioned  His  favor  to  mankind  by  teaching  them  the Qur’aan  and  Wisdom.  So  it  is  not  permissible  for  Hikmah  to  be called  here  [anything]  save  the  Sunnah  of  the  Messenger  of Allah.  For  [Hikmah]  is  closely  linked  to  the  Book  of  Allah,  and Allah has  imposed  the  duty  of  obedience  to His Messenger,  and imposed on men the obligation to obey his orders.

So,  it  is  not  permissible to regard  anything  as  a duty save that set  forth  in  the  Qur’aan  and  the  Sunnah  of  His  Messenger. For [Allah],  as  we  have [just] stated, prescribed  that the belief in His Messenger shall be associated with the belief in Him.” [Ar-Risala]

Furthermore, Book and Hikmah are not the same because at no  place  is  the  word  ‘Hikmah’ used  for  the  Book  or  the  word ‘Book’  used  for ‘Hikmah’.  They  are  two  separate  and  distinct entities.

The  Qur’aan  needs  to  be understood as  Allah meant it to be  understood. Allah  says, 

“It  is  for  Us  to  collect  it  and  to  give you  (O Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) the ability to  recite  it  (the  Qur’aan).  And when We have recited it to you, then follow you its recital. Then it is  for  Us (Allah) to make it clear to you.” [Surah al-Qiyamah 75:17-19]

This verse indicates that both the text of the Qur’aan as well as its explanation have been sent from Allah.

Allah  also  says,  “And  We  have  also  sent  down  unto  you  (O Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam )  the  reminder  and  the  advice,  that  you  may explain  clearly  to  men  what  is  sent  down  to  them  and  that  they may give thought.” [Surah an-Nahl 16:44]

This  verse  mentions  that  the message requires explanation,  and  the  Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  is  the  one  assigned  to provide  it.  This  explanation  is  not  only  needed  by  people  at  the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), but by all subsequent generations until the last  day. Rather, the more the distance in age from the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  the  more  the  need  to  solve  differences  in understanding by reference to the original state of affairs.

Furthermore,  this  verse  also  gives  instructions  about  the order  in  which  the  Qur’aan  should  be  understood.  First  the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) explains  Allah’s  revelation  clearly  to  mankind  and then  they  give  thought.  People  are  not  free  to  let  loose  their thoughts  and speculate  about  the  message of the  Qur’aan whilst ignoring the teachings of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).

According  to  Hadeeth-rejecters,  ‘God  Himself  states  in  the Qur’aan  that it  is He  Who explains the Qur’aan. This means that the  Qur’aan  explains  itself.’  But why  then  have  the  Hadeeth-rejectors not sufficed themselves with the text of the Qur’aan and have  written  huge  volumes  discussing  and  explaining  the Qur’aan?

Because there are  verses in  the Qur’aan that explain each  other,  and  there  are  verses  that  require explanation from the Sunnah.

The  Qur’aan  can  only  be  correctly  understood  in  light  of the  Sunnah. One  of  the  most  important  duties  with  which Allah’s  Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was  sent with was  to  convey  the  Qur’aan to mankind and to teach it.  Allah  says, 

“Indeed,  Allah  conferred  a great  favor  on  the  believers  when  He  sent  among  them  a Messenger  (Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  from  among  themselves,  reciting unto  them  His  Verses,  and  purifying  them,  and  teaching  them the Book (Qur’aan) and Hikmah while before that they had been in manifest error.”  [Surah aal-Imran 3:164]

“And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) the Reminder  and  the  Advice  that  you  may  explain  clearly  to  men what is sent down to them.”  [Surah an-Nahl (16): 44]

i)  The  Sunnah  explains  the  commands  of  the Qur’aan  in  details.  For  example,  Allah  commands  His believing  slaves  in  Surah  al-Baqarah 2: 43, “…establish As-Salaat and give Zakaat…” 

Details of the command to establish the Salaat are not found in the Qur’aan such as the required number of daily prayers,  the  units  of  prayers  (rak’ah)  and  the  recitation  in each  mode of  prayer  as  well  as  the  manner  of  performing the  prayer  from  the  beginning  to  the  end,  etc.  All  these guidelines are to be taken from the Sunnah. Similarly,  Allah  commands  in  Surah al-Jumuah 62: verse 9,  “When  the  call  is  proclaimed  for  the  Salaat on the day of Friday…”

The  words  of  the  call  to  prayer  (Adhaan)  is  known from  the  Hadith.  Likewise,  all  issues  of  Zakaat  e.g.,  the minimum amount on which Zakaat becomes payable, the percentage paid, the kind of wealth, goods and animals on which Zakaat is obligatory, etc. are clearly explained by the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).

Other important acts  of  worship like fasting and Hajj are  touched  upon  briefly  in  the  Qur’aan  and  for  detailed injunctions Muslims are to refer to the Hadith and the Sunnah of the Messenger and the rightly guided Caliphs.

Another example is the Qur’aanic punishment for the thief.  “Cut  off  the  hand  of  the  thief,  male  or  female,  as  a recompense  for  that  which  they  committed…” [Surah al-Maidah 5:38]

This  verse  prescribes  the  punishment,  but  the  Sunnah designates  what  is  the  minimum  amount  when  it  is applied.  The  Messenger  of  Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam    said,  “The  hand  of  the thief  shall  be  cut  off  if  he  steals  a  quarter  of  a  Dinar  or more.”  [Saheeh al- Bukhari]

Note: The manner in which the hadeeth-rejectors explain this verse  provides  beneficial  insight  into  their  methodology and contradictions.

Rashad Khalifa (the Hadith-rejector) translates this verse as,
The thief,  male or female, you shall mark their hands as a  punishment  for  their  crime,”  and  then  comments,
“The practice of cutting off the thief’s hand as decreed by  the  false  Muslims  is  a  satanic  practice  without Qur’aanic basis.”    [Rashad Khalifa’s Translation]

Therefore,  the Qur’aan itself does not have Qur’aanic basis (!) when  the  hadeeth-rejectors  dislike  something  in  it. Rashad  Khaleefah  used  mathematical  calculations to interpret cutting as marking.

Ghulam Perwez (another Hadith-rejector says about this verse, “As to a thief, man or woman, such restrictions should be imposed  on  them  which  render  them  incapable  of committing such crime.”

He comments, “The literal  meaning  of  the  text  is ‘cutting off the  hands.’ When the Divine Order of Rabubiyyat is established, every  person  will  be  guaranteed  means of livelihood.

If  anyone  commits  a theft  under  such circumstances  he deserves  the  highest punishment.” [Perwez’s Translation]

We  can  see  that  after  all  the prolonged  argument  by  the  Hadeeth-rejecters that  the  Qur’aan  explains  itself  and  is  in  no  need  of the Hadith and Sunnah  to  clarify  it,  we  find  Perwez  adding  non-Qur’aanic  clauses  to  the  Qur’aanic  law  to  limit  the circumstance  under  which  this  punishment  is applied.

ii)  The  Sunnah  establishes  a  meaning,  when  a number  of  meanings  are  possible. The  Qur’aan prescribes, “Cut off the hand of the thief, male or female…” but  does  not  clarify  what  hand  means.  The Hadith and the Sunnah explains the hand to mean ‘from the wrist down’.

The  Qur’aan  explains  the  ruling  and  manner  of Tayammum as, “…But if you are ill  or  on  a journey or any of  you  comes  from  answering  the  call  of  nature,  or  you have  been  in  contact  with  women  and  you  find  no  water, then  perform Tayammum (dry ablution) with clean earth and rub there with your faces and hands.”

The  Sunnah  explains  that  hands  in  this  verse  mean only  the  palms.  The  word  ‘hand’  could  have  multiple meanings  but  the  Sunnah  specifies  the  appropriate meaning for each ruling.

Another  example  is  the  Saying  of  Allah,  “And  those (means hoarding up) gold and silver, and spend it not in the Way of Allah, announce unto them a painful torment.”

Apparently,  this  verse  means  that  any  kind  of  hoarding  or collection  of  money  that  is  not  spent  in  the  Way  of  Allah will  doom  one  to  the  painful  torment  but  the  Sunnah clarifies  that  Kanz  refers  to  the  wealth  on  which  Zakaat has not been paid.

iii)  The  Sunnah  can  specify  exceptions  to  a  general rule. In  Surah  al-Maida 5: 3,  Allah  says,  “Forbidden  to you  (for  food)  are:  al-Maytatah  (the  un-slaughtered  dead animals), blood…” 

The  general  rule  in  this  verse  prohibits  all  Maytatah and all forms  of  blood but the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)   made exceptions to this rule. He    said, “We were allowed two dead animals and two (kinds of) blood. As for the two dead animals, they are fish and locust. As for the two bloods, they are liver and spleen.” [Quoted from Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

iv)  The Sunnah also gives additional injunctions in a number of issues. Allah  says,  “Those  who  follow  the  Messenger,  the Prophet  who  can  neither  read  nor  write  –  he  commands them  for al-Ma’roof  (the  prescribed);  and  forbids  them from al-Munkar (the prohibited); he allows them as lawful at-Taiyibaat (i.e. all good), and prohibits them as unlawful al-Khabaaith  (i.e.  all  evil),  he releases  them  from  their heavy  burdens  (of  Allah’s Covenant),  and  from  the  fetters (bindings)  that  were  upon  them. So  those  who  believe  in  him (Muhammad  sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  honor  him,  help  him, and follow  the  light  which has  been  sent down with him, it is they who will be successful.”  [Surah al-A’raf 7:157]

A  number  of  religious  injunction  thus  emanate  from the Sunnah like the prohibition of the flesh of the donkeys, dogs,  beasts  with  canine  teeth  and  birds  of  prey.  He  made  wearing  gold  and  silk  Halaal  for  the  women  and Haraam for the men, etc.

v)  Inadequacy  of  language  alone  to  understand Qur’aan. There  is  no  scope  for  anyone  with  all  his  Arabic scholarship  to  understand  the  glorious  Qur’aan  without Hadith and Sunnah. The Sahabah were the most knowledgeable in the language  in  which  the  Qur’aan  was  revealed  at  a  time when Arabic was not blemished by the incorrectness of the colloquial  language  or  their  grammatical  mistakes.  Yet, they  erred  in  understanding  the  verses  when  they  relied on language alone, and following are some examples…

a)  Allah  says  in  the  Qur’aan,  “It  is  those  who  believe and confuse not their belief with Dhulm (wrongdoing), for them  (only)  there  is  security  and  they  are  the  guided.” [Surah al-An’am 6:82]

When  this  verse  was  revealed,  the  Sahabah understood  ‘Dhulm‘  in  its  wider  sense  meaning  ‘all wrongdoing’  and  this  caused  much  concern  because  no one  is  free  from  wrongdoing.  The  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  explained that ‘Dhulm‘ in this verse refers to Shirk.

b) “…eat and drink  until  the white  thread  of  dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread.” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:187]

This  verse  describes  the  time  when  the  fast  begins.  A companion  understood  this  verse  literally  and  slept  with two  threads  under  his  pillow  to  determine  when  the  fast should  begin.  The  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) explained that the black and white  thread  actually  refers  to  the  white  streak  of  dawn and the darkness of night.

Detailed book?

The  hadeeth-rejecters  maintain  that  the  Qur’aan  is  a detailed  Book  that  does  not  require  any  other  source  to supplement  it  –  not  even  Sunnah.  Despite  this  we  have seen  how  Ghulam Parwez added additional clauses to the order  of  cutting  the  thief’s  hand.  Furthermore,  the Hadeeth-rejecters  seriously  contradict  themselves  when they  author  detailed  volumes  explaining  and  deliberating upon  the  Qur’aan  and  propose  additional  clauses  and conditions to the Qur’aan’s orders.

Another  example  of  this  is  Rashad  Khaleefah’s comment  on  the  verse,  “Those  who  eat  Riba  (usury)  will not  stand  (on  the  Day  of  Resurrection)  except  like  the standing  of  a  person  beaten by  Shaytan  leading  him  to insanity.”

Rashad Khaleefah says,

“It  is  an  established economic  principle  that  excessive interest  on loans can utterly destroy a whole country. During  the  last  few  years  we  have  witnessed  the devastation  of  the  economies  of  many nations  where excessive  interest  is  charged.  Normal  interest  –  less than  20%  –  where  no  one  is  victimized  and  everyone is satisfied is not usury.”

The 20% condition is not mentioned in the Qur’aan.

To  emphasize  that  the  Qur’an  does  not  need supplementary  explanations,  the  Hadeeth-rejecters quote, “We have neglected nothing  in  the Book,  then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered.” [Surah  al-An’am 6:38]

“And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’aan) as an exposition of everything…” [Surah an-Nahl 16:89]

For  the  correct  understanding,  we  refer  to  the complete  verse,  i.e., “There  is  not  a  moving  (living) creature  on  earth,  nor  a  bird  that  flies  with  its  two  wings, but  are  communities like  you.  We have neglected nothing in  the  Book,  then  unto  their  Lord  they  (all)  shall  be gathered.” [Surah al-An’aam 6:38]
One  interpretation  is  that  ‘the  Book’  in  this  verse refers  to  the  preserved  tablet  in  which  Allah has  recorded everything that occurs, and this is similar to another verse,

“And  no (moving)  living  creature  is  there  on  earth but  its provision  is  due  from  Allah.  And  He  knows  its  dwelling place  and  its  deposit  all  is  in  a  Clear  Book  (al-Lawh  al-Mahfoodh).” [Surah Hud 11:6]

Even  if  one  interprets  ‘the  Book’  to  be  the  Qur’aan then Allah has not neglected to mention in it the Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) duty as  the  example, teacher  and explainer  of  the  Qur’aan and obedience to him is ordered in seventy verses. 

While  ‘the  Book’  does  not  contain  details  of  the prayers  and  fasting,  it  did  not  neglect  to  direct  the believers  towards  the  example  of  the  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  where  it can be found. And the same explanation holds good for the other  similar  verse,  i.e.,   

“We  have  sent  down  to  you  the Book (the Qur’aan) as an exposition of everything…”

Allah’s  Protection  for  the  Dhikr  includes  all  the  Deen

Allah  says, 

“Verily,  it  is  We  who  have  sent  down  the  Dhikr (revelation), and surely We will guard it.” [Surah Hijr 15:9]

The  word, ‘Dhikr‘  has  been used in the  Book  of  Allah to  refer  to the  Qur’aan,  the Deen  in  general, the remembrance of Allah, the  Friday prayer (62:9) and Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) as in the verse, 

“Allah  has  indeed  sent  down  to  you a Dhikr (reminder). A Messenger who recites to you the verses of Allah.” [Surah  at-Talaaq 65:10-11)]

Therefore,  Allah  promised  to  protect  the  Qur’aan,  its understanding, the  example  of  His Messenger, the actions of the Khulafa e Rashidin, the examples of the Imams of the Madhabs, the Ijma’ of the scholars the Prayer and all  aspects of  the Deen which collectively are ‘the Dhikr‘. The text of the Qur’aan will not be protected if its understanding which is contained  in  the  Sunnah  is  not protected.

Furthermore,  if  anyone  wants  to restrict  the  meaning  of  ‘Dhikr‘  to  the Qur’aan  then  they  need  to  present  a proof.  A  segment  of  Munkireen  al-Hadeeth argues  that  Qur’aan  was  the  only  revelation  and hence  Dhikr  exclusively  refers  to  the  Qur’aan.  This argument has  already been  replied to  earlier with  examples  that the Qur’aan itself refers to a revelation apart from it.

Another  group  of  Munkareen  al-Hadeeth  claims  that  the additional  guidance  received  by  the  Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was  for  his period  only.  This  is  a  false  argument  because  the  latter generations  who  do  not  have  a  living  Messenger  amongst  themselves  are  more  in  need  of  the  guidance  and  explanations that was revealed apart from the Qur’aan. This group also claims that the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) himself did not undertake any measures to preserve  the  hadeeth,  the  like  of  which  was  undertaken  to preserve  the  Qur’aan.  We  will  shed  light  on  the  issue  in  the following pages.

To  summarize,  the  insistence  of  Munkareen  al-Hadeeth  that  the Dhikr which Allah had Promised to protect, is only the Qur’aan is not based on any sound proof but upon their assumption and conjecture.

Preservation of Hadith

From what has preceded, we have seen the significance of the Hadeeth and Sunnah as  a  source  of  the  Deen  and  it  is  only  a  natural  consequence  that  the study  of  Hadeeth  has  been  a  constant  pursuit  since  the  beginning  of Islam to the present time.

The Companions of the Prophet    eagerly observed what he said  and  did,  and  memorized  it  faithfully. Some of  them  even recorded Hadeeth by writing in ‘saheefahs’.

The  Ahadeeth  were  passed  down  from  generation  to generation  among  the  most  trustworthy  of  individuals  in  a tremendous  effort  that  not  only  preserved  the  exact  words  of  the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), but also the entire chain of narration and the condition of the narrators (memory, period, beliefs, etc.).

This  manner  and  meticulousness  by  which  Ahadeeth  have been  preserved  is  unique  and  unparallel  in  literary  history,  and  one needs  to  study  the  science  of  hadeeth-verification  in  order  to  truly appreciate it.

To  get  a  good  overview  of  how  Islamic  texts  were  preserved we start  by  understanding  the  methodology of the compilation  of  the Qur’aan  so  that  it  can  be  compared to the  methodology of Hadeeth compilation.

Compiliation of the Qur’an

Allah  says,  “He,  it  is  Who,  sent  among  the  unlettered  ones  a Messenger  (Muhammad)  from  among  themselves.” [Surah  al-Munafiqun 63:2]

Being  mostly  unlettered,  the  primary  mode  by  which  the Arabs  preserved  their  knowledge  like  poetry  and  history  was  by memorization. When the Qur’aan was revealed it too, was memorized by the Sahabah and in addition some of the sahabah were assigned by the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi was   to write down the Qur’aan.

At  the  time  of  the  Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) death,  all  of  the  Qur’aan  had been verified  and written  on  various  materials  like  cloth,  stone,  date-palm  leaves,  etc.,  and  remained  scattered  as  loose  fragments  in  the possession of various Sahabah. 

It  had not been compiled in the form of a book because during the  lifetime  of  the  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) the  Qur’aan  was  continually  being revealed,  and  the  order  of  the  verses  is  not  chronological.  There  was also  no  pressing  need  for  it  because  of  the  large  number  of  accurate memorizers and reciters of the Qur’aan.

During  the  Caliphate  of  Abu  Bakr  as-Siddeeq (radhiyallahu anhu),  many memorizers  of  the  Qur’aan  were  killed  in  battles  and  a  collective decision  was taken to compile the Qur’aan in a single book  in order to preserve  it.  The  enormously  significant  task  was  given  to  Zayd  ibn Thaabit (radhiyallahu anhu)  who began to collect the Qur’aan from what was written on palm  stalks,  thin  white  stones  and  also  from  the  men  who knew it  by heart.

Zayd  ibn  Thaabit (radhiyallahu anhu),  despite  being  a  memorizer  of  the  Qur’aan himself,  was  methodical  in  his  compilation  and  would  not  agree  to write  down any verse until  two of the  Sahabah testified  that  they  had heard  it  from  the  Messenger  of  Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).  In  this  manner,  the  entire Qur’aan  was  verified  and  written  on  leather,  and  remained  with  Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) until his  death  and  then  with  Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) until  the  end  of  his  life,  and then with Hafsah (radhiyallahu anha) the daughter of Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) and the wife of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).

At  the  time  of  Uthmaan  ibn  Affan (radhiyallahu anhu),  the  Islamic  empire  had spread  far  and  wide  and  people  were  being  taught  to  recite  the Qur’aan in seven different dialects (the Qur’aan was revealed in seven dialects).  This  began  to  cause  confusion  in  far  off  provinces,  and  a decision  was  taken  to  make  an  official  standardized  copy  from  the manuscript of Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) and limit the people to its recitation.

More  copies  were  made  from  this  copy  known  as  ‘Mushaf Uthmaan,‘  and  sent  to  different  parts  of  the  Islamic  empire. 

This Mushaf was unpointed (i.e., it had no diacritical marks). The addition of diacritical marks to the Mushaf happened in the era of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwaan to ease recitation.

Compiliation of the Hadith

Like  the  Qur’aan,  the  sayings  and  actions  of  the  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  were preserved  primarily  at  the  time  of  the  Sahabah  by  memorization  and they  were  also  noted  down.  This  was  due  to  encouragement  and direction  by  the  Messenger  of  Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)    himself,  who  said, “May  Allah make radiant the man who has heard what I said and has preserved it in  his  memory  until  he  conveys  it  to  another.  Perhaps,  the  one  he conveyed  it  to  has  a  better  understanding  than  him.” [At-Tirmidhi] He (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) also said, “Convey from me even a single verse. You may relate from the  Children  of  Israel  without  objection.  Anyone  who  deliberately tells a lie against me will have prepared his seat in Hellfire.” [Bukhari]

The  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  also  made  clear  the  necessity  of  accurately preserving  and  transmitting  Hadeeth  when  he  warned,  “Lying  about me is not like lying about anybody else. Whoever lies about me let him take  his  place  in  Hell.” [Agreed upon] So  serious  was  this  matter  that  at the  time  of  the  Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  lying  about  him  was  punishable  by death.

Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “People say that I  have narrated many Ahadeeth. Had  it  not  been  for  two  verses  in  the  Qur’aan  I  would  not  have narrated  a  single  Hadeeth  and  the  verses  are, “Verily,  those  who conceal  the  clear  sign  and  the  guidance  which  We  have sent  down…” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:159-160]

No doubt, our Muhajir (emigrant) brothers used to be busy in the  market  with  their  business  (bargains);  and  our  Ansari  brothers used to be busy with their property (agriculture). But I used to stick to Allah’s Messenger    content with what will fill my stomach and I used to  attend  that  which  they  used  not  to  attend  and  I  used  to  memorize that which they used not to memorize.” [Saheeh al-Bukhari (3/118)]

Famous  Memorizers  of  Hadeeth  amongst  the  Sahaba h included  Abu  Hurayrah,  Abdullah  Ibn  Abbas,  Aa’isha  Siddeeqa, Abdullah  Ibn  Umar,  Jabir  Ibn  Abdullah,  Anas  Ibn  Maalik  and  Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (radhiyallahu anhum). Each of them memorized over a 1000 Ahadeeth.

Famous  Memorizers  of  Hadeeth  amongst  the  Tabieen included  Sa’eed  Ibn  al-Mussayab,  Urwah  Ibn  Zubayr,  Saalim  Ibn Abdullah  Ibn  Umar  (the  son  of  Abdullah  Ibn  Umar)  and  Naaf’i  (the servant  of  Abdullah  Ibn  Umar).

Writing Hadith

References to writing the Hadeeth can be found in various narrations some examples are mentioned below:

1.  Abdullah  ibn  Umar  ibn  al-As  stated  that  they  used  to  record everything  they heard  from  the  Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) until  they  were  warned that  the  Prophet  was a  human  being  who  may be  angry at  times and  pleased  at  times.  Abdullah  stopped  writing  Ahadeeth  until he asked the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) about it, who said, “Write (my hadeeth),  by  the  One,  in  Whose Hand is my soul, nothing leaves it  (the  Prophet’s  mouth)  save  the  truth.” [Saheeh  Sunan Abu  Dawood (2/695)]

2.  Al-Bukhari recorded  in  his  Saheeh  that  Abu  Hurayrah (rashoyallahu anhu)   said, “One  can  find  none  of  the  Companions  of  the Messenger  of  Allah  relating  more  Ahadeeth than  me,  except  Abdullah  ibn  Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) because  he  used  to  record  the  hadeeth while I did not do so.”

3.  Al-Bukhari  recorded  that a man from Yemen came to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  on the day  of  the  conquest  of  Makkah  and asked him if he could get the Prophet’s speech  recorded  and  the  Prophet  approved  and  told  someone,  “Write  it  for the father of so and so.”

Al-Azami  in  his  work  Studies  in  Early  Hadeeth Literature  (p.34-60)  has  listed  and  discussed  some  fifty Companions  of  the  Prophet  who  wrote  Ahadeeth.  He  listed eighty-seven  of  the  scholars  covering  the  late  first  and  early second centuries who recorded hadeeth.

Then  he  listed  from  the  early  second  century  scholars,  251 people  who  collected  and  recorded  hadeeth.  Thus  al-Azami  has produced  a  list  of  437  scholars  who  had  recorded  Ahadeeth  and all  of  them lived and died before the year 250 A.H. Many of them are  from  before  the  time  of  Umar  ibn  Abdul-Azeez (rahimahullah) who  is credited  with  having  been  the  first  person  to  ask  for  the compilation/collection of hadeeth.

Al-Azami said,

“I  have established in my doctoral thesis Studies in  early  Hadeeth Literature that even in the first century of  the  Hijra  many hundreds of booklets of hadeeth were in circulation.  If we  add another hundred years, it would be  difficult  to  enumerate  the  quantity  of  booklets  and books,  which  were  in  circulation.  Even  by  the  most conservative estimate they were many thousands.” [Studies  in  Hadeeth  Methodology  and  Literature  (p.64)]

He also demonstrated in his Ph.D. thesis the reason why none or very few of them are still in existence today “These  books  were  not  destroyed  nor  did  they perish,  but  (they)  were  absorbed  into  the  work  of  later authors.  When  the  encyclopedia-type  books  were produced  scholars  did  not  feel  the  necessity  to  keep  the early books or booklets and so slowly they disappeared.” [Studies  in  Hadeeth  Methodology  and  Literature,  p.64]

Saheefah Hammaam ibn Munabbih

“Of the earliest collections of hadeeth one in particular deserves closer attention.  This  is  the  Saheefah  of  Hammaam  ibn  Munabbih (rahimahullah).  It  is actually  a  written  collection  of  hadeeth  that  the  Companion  Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) dictated to his student Hammaam.

Since  Abu  Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu)  died  around  58  A.H.  (or  some  48  years after the  death of the Prophet) this collection must have been dictated to Hammaam sometime from that date…

Imam  Ahmad  Ibn  Hambal (rahimahullah) incorporated  the  entire  work except two hadeeth into his famous Musnad.

Al-Sulami  (a  muhaddith),  on  the  other  hand,  continued  the passing  on  of  this  collection  as  an  independent  work.  It  was continually  passed  on  until  the  9th  century  which  is  the  date  of  the Berlin manuscript, one of the four manuscripts of this work that is still in existence.

Since  Ahadeeth  in  Ahmad’s  Musnad  are arranged  according  to  the  Companions  who narrated  the  Hadeeth.  It  is  very  easy  to  find all  of  the  hadeeth  from  Hammam  on  the authority  of  Abu  Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) in  that collection.

Other  books where  the Ahadeeth are arranged according to Fiqh topics also incorporated a great deal of this Saheefah.

A  study  of  Saheeh  al-Bukhari  and Saheeh  Muslim will  demonstrate  the following.  Out  of  the  137  Ahadeeth  in  the Saheefah of Hammaam: 29 are recorded by both al-Bukhari and Muslim 22 others are recorded by only al-Bukhari 48 other are recorded only by Muslim. Thus  99  of  the  137  hadeeth  may  be  found  in  either  Saheeh  al-Bukharee or Saheeh Muslim

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  all  of  the  following  works  that contain  many,  if  not  all,  of  the  hadeeth  of  this  saheefah  are  now published:  al-Bukhari’s  al-Jaami  al-Saheeh,  Muslim’s  Saheeh, Ahmad’s  Musnad,  Abdul  Razzaq’s  Musannaf,  Ma’mars  Jami  and even  Hammam’s Saheefah.  All of  these collections  may be  studied  to see that even the wordings of the hadeeth have not been changed from the time of Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) to the time of al-Bukharee.”

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