The word hadith, according to the dictionary, has several meanings such as "new," "novel," "recent," "modern," and "speech", "report," "account," and "narrative." However, in Islamic context, the term hadith means "Prophetic tradition" or "narrative relating deeds and utterances of the Prophet (S)." According to some, even the account of a dream linked with the Holy Prophet (S) is also included in the category of hadith.
In most cases, the words sunnah and hadith are used as interchangeable synonyms by the scholars of the science ofhadith. The author of the book Talwih says: "Sunnah is a more general term than hadith, and includes everything related to the Prophet (S) except the Qur'an: his speech - which ishadith - and his behaviour and character."According to another opinion, since the majority of Sunni Muslims believe in Qur'an's being sempiternal (qadim), everything else except the Qur'an from the Prophet (S) came to be called hadith, a word closely related with hadith meaning "incidental" as opposed to "eternal".Some are of the opinion that the sayings of theSahabah (the Companions of the Prophet) and the Tabi`un(the second generation after the Holy Prophet (S)) can also be included under the term hadith.On the other hand, for the Shi`ah authorities on hadith, the term can properly include only the narratives relating the speech, biographical details and deeds of the Prophet (S) and the Imams (A).
Here, we consider it necessary first to explain certain terms related to our discussion.
Sunnah: The term in general means "habitual practice" or "customary procedure," and in particular applies to the sayings and doings of the religious leaders who are ma`sum (i.e. the Prophet and the Imams, who are considered as being free of sin and error). Accordingly, the term is employed by the side of the Book (Qur'an). Sunnah is used in a sense that is wider than that of hadith, although in some of the Sunni texts of tradition, such as of Ibn Maja, al-Bayhaqi and others, the term signifies hadith. The authorities of hadith differ as to meanings covered byhadith and khabar (report). While some consider the terms as being synonymous, others are of the opinion that khabar is a term which is more general than hadith. According to them,khabar applies to every narrative regarding the Prophet (S), while hadith is taken to mean a narration quoting the Prophet (S) himself.Some, as pointed out above, apply the termhadith to the sayings of the Sahabah and Tabi`un in addition. Accordingly, every hadith is also a khabar, though everykhabar is not a hadith; though some regard the terms as being inter-changeable synonyms.
Riwayah: This term is synonymous with hadith. According to the author of Majma` al-bahrayn, "Riwayah is a khabar that is traceable through a series of narrators to a ma`sum."
Athar: Shaykh Baha'i in his Nihayat al-dirayah considersathar as being identical with hadith. Others impute to it a wider meaning. Still others confine its meaning to narrations that go back to the Sahabah.
Hadith-i Qudsi: Hadith-i qudsi is defined as the Divine communication whose revelation is not the part of the Qur'anic miracle. Sayyid Sharif Jurjani says: " [Hadith-i qudsi] is from God, the Most Exalted, from the point of view of meaning, and from the Prophet (S) from the viewpoint of actual wording. It constitutes what God has communicated to the Prophet through revelation or in dreams. The Prophet - upon whom be peace - informed others of its meaning in his own words. Accordingly, the Qur'an is superior to the hadith-i qudsi, because it is the actual Word of God."
There are six points of differences between the Qur'an and thehadith-i qudsi: Firstly, the Qur'an is a Divine miracle; this does not necessarily apply to the hadith-i qudsi. Secondly, salat(prayer) is not valid without recitation of parts of the Qur'an; this is not so in the case of the hadith-i qudsi. Thirdly, one who rejects the Qur'an is regarded as a kafir (an unbeliever); this does not hold true in the case of the hadith-i qudsi. Fourthly, whole of the Qur'an was communicated to the Prophet (S) through the agency of the Angel Gabriel; this does not apply tohadith-i qudsi. Fifthly, every word of the Qur'an is the Word of God, but the wordings of the hadith-i qudsi may be ascribed to the Prophet (S). Sixthly, the Qur'an cannot be touched withouttaharah (the condition of bodily purity as prescribed by theShari'ah) and this condition does not apply to the hadith-i qudsi.
Origins of the Science of Hadith
The Holy Prophet of Islam (S), for a period of 23 years from the beginning of his prophetic mission to the moment of his death, was directly involved in the process of guidance and leadership of the people. The multifarious kinds of questions that arose for the Muslims in relation with their needs converged upon the Holy Prophet. The Prophet responded to their questions through explanations and discussions whose variety increased with the progress of Islam to the extent of enveloping all aspects of the moral, social and civic affairs of Muslims. The new society that emerged during this period was significant and important from every aspect. The Muslims who were the contemporaries of the Prophet had the advantage of personal recourse to him and chance of putting to him various questions regarding their social life. However, as long as the Prophet lived, and the source of Divine Revelation was in the midst of the Muslims, the great importance of recording his words was not fully realized. Nevertheless, soon after the Prophet's death, the Muslims realized the imminent need of recording the hadithso as to avoid the problems that would arise in the future generations. Accordingly, from the time of the first caliph, the need for recording of hadith was distinctly felt by the Muslim society. It should not remain unsaid that `Ali (A), the first Imam of the Shi`ah Muslims, had with characteristic foresight, pioneered the task of recording the Prophet's sayings during the Prophet's lifetime itself. Word for word, he wrote down what he had heard from the Prophet (S). The author of Ta'sis al-shi`ahwrites:
...Know that the Shi`ah were the first to embark on collecting the records of the acts and sayings of the Prophet (S) during the era of the caliphs. They followed in the footsteps of their Imam `Ali, Amir al-Mu'minin (A), for, he had recorded and categorized the hadith during the times of the Holy Prophet. Al-Shaykh Abu al-Abbas al-Najashi, in the translation of Muhammad Ibn `Adhafar, said: "I was with Hakam ibn `Ayyinah by the side of Abu Ja`far Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Baqir (A). Hakam started asking questions with Abu Ja`far reluctantly answering them. There was a disagreement between them about one thing. Then Abu Ja`far said: "Son, get up and bring `Ali's book." He brought a big voluminous book and opened it. He looked closely in it for a while until he found the problem (which was under debate). Abu Ja`far (A) said: "This is the handwriting of `Ali and the dictation of the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be God's peace and benedictions."
This tradition is in agreement with what I found in Najashi'sRijal. In addition, two other sources confirm the contents of the abovementioned hadith.
Another narration that confirms the attention devoted by the Shi`ah to recording of hadith is that of an incident from the life of Fatimah al-Zahra'(A). One day Fatimah (A) could not find a manuscript in which hadith was recorded. She reportedly urged her housemaid to search for it, saying, "Look for it. It is as precious to me as my sons Hasan and Husayn."
Among the Ahl al-Sunnah, the recording of hadith started after the Holy Prophet's death, and that too after prolonged controversies between groups who favoured and opposed it.In this connection, `A'ishah reports: "My father Abu Bakr had collected five-hundred hadith of the Messenger of Allah and one day he burnt them all."
There are several narrations regarding the second caliph which indicate that he stopped people from relating the Holy Prophet's traditions.
The recording of hadith among the Sunnis started from the early second century when the Umayyad caliph `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz ordered their collection and compilation. As is widely accepted, Ibn Jurayj was the first person to record and compile hadith among the Sunnis.
Here it is worth mentioning that apart from the Household of the Prophet (S), their Shi`ah followers preceded the Sunnis in their effort to record the hadith. Abu Rafi` was the first man to begin the task along with the members of the Prophet's Household (A).However, there were also several others who took up this task at the time of Abu Rafi`, or after him. Among them were: `Ubayd Allah ibn Abi Rafi`, `Ali ibn Abi Rafi`, Salman al-Farisi, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Asbagh ibn Nubatah and others.
The Shi`ah recorders of hadith can be divided into four groups:
The pioneers in recording of the hadith among the Sunnis were Ibn Jurayj in Mecca; Ibn Ishaq and Malik in Medina; Rabi` ibn Sabih, Sa`id ibn Abi `Urubah, Hammad ibn Salamah in Basra; Sufyan ibn Thawri in Kufa; al-Awza`i in Syria, Haytham in Wasit; Mu`ammar in Yemen, Jarir ibn `Abd al-Hamid in Rey, and Ibn Mubarak in Harran.However, there is a disagreement among the Sunni scholars about who first started recording hadith. According to Ibn Hajr, Rabi` ibn Sabih (died 160/777) and Sa`id ibn Abi `Urubah (died 156/773) were pioneers in this field; they were followed by Malik in Medina and `Abd al-Malik ibn Jurayj in Mecca, who pursued the task of recording hadith.But according to Haji Khalifah, `Abd al-Malik ibn Jurayj and Malik ibn Anas were the first ones to do so, and the first man to classify them and divide them into chapters was Rabi` ibn Sabih.In any case, regardless of who it was to first record hadith among the Ahl al-Sunnah, whether Rabi` ibn Sabih or Malik or Sa`id ibn Abi `Urubah, all of them belong to the second century of Hijra, and lived one hundred years after the Shi`ah had already started this work.
As we mentioned above, the Muslims recognized the need to record the words of the Prophet (S) right after his demise; because they knew that it was the only way to safeguard the future generations against various problems. The realization of the significance of this work grew gradually. After the Prophet (S) his close companions formed the primary source of hadith.During their lifetimes, the solution of various problems that arose could still be found and the narrations of the Sahabah served as the guiding torch for the generation that followed them, theTabi`un. It was during the generation of the Tabi`un that theSahabah were questioned about various issues and their narrations were committed to writing. This was the beginning of the science of hadith. Hadith served as the key to the understanding of the Qur'an, and became an addendum to the Book for the Muslims. However, as pointed out earlier, the Shi`ah had felt this need earlier during the lifetime of the Prophet himself.
From the time that Muslims began to realize the need for collection and recording of ahadith, they took great pains in this regard. A man like Jabir ibn `Abd Allah al-Ansari would cover months on camel-back to hear a hadith.
The number of the Companions of the Prophet from whom traditions have been related is put somewhere near 114 in some books. The most important of them were: `Ali ibn Abi-Talib (A), `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud, Salman al-Farisi, Ubayy ibn Ka`ab, `Ammar ibn Yasir, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf, Anas ibn Malik, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, `A'ishah, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, Abu Hurayrah, `Abd Allah ibn al-`Abbas, `Ubadah ibn Samit, Jabir ibn `Abd Allah al-Ansari, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri.
Among the Tabi`un, there were such as Sha`bi, Ibn Musayyab, Ibn Sirin, and others.
The author of Tadrib al-rawi puts the number of traditions narrated from each of the Companions in the diminishing order as follows:
There is none among the rest of companions to be accredited with narration of more than one thousand traditions. Evidently, the political conditions prevalent during the Umayyad rule did not permit narration of ahadith from `Ali (A) and his followers. It is worth mentioning that not all of the first narrators of hadithwere equally reliable. This issue will be discussed later in the chapter on dirayat al-hadith (critical examination of hadith).But before we enter the discussion on dirayat al-hadith, its origin and development, it is necessary to study the course of development of the science of hadith among the Shi`ah and the Ahl al-Sunnah from the point of view of style of compilation of the texts during various periods.
Hadith Among the Shi`ah: The Four-hundred Usul
As said above, the work of compilation of hadith among the Shi`ah started during the life of the Prophet (S). The texts which were compiled by the early Shi`ah scholars were called "Usul."It should however be admitted that these texts were not without defect from the point of view of the art of writing and compilation; for, most of the authors of these texts were those who had heard the ahadith from one of the Imams, in particular, from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir and Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (A), writing them down in notebooks. These notebooks composed by the Shi`ah scholars, containing the traditions heard from one of the Imams, or heard from someone who had heard the Imam, came to be called "Usul." Out of these texts compiled from the era of `Ali (A) to the time of Imam Hasan al-`Askari, the eleventh Imam, the popular ones were four-hundred in number by different authors. Each of them contained a number of ahadith written without any attention being paid to the sequence or classification according to the subject. Most of these traditions exist in the al-Mahasin al-Barqi, al-Kafi, Man la Yahduruhu al-faqih. Some of them are found in Tahdhib. It appears that most of these notebooks existed in the Shahpur Karkh Library of Baghdad and were lost when Tughrul the Turk burnt the city on conquering it in the year 448/1056. Others which escaped this calamity, and other disasters, were preserved until the time of Ibn Idris and Ibn Ta'wus and were available to them. Some, more than two-hundred of them, have survived to our own times.These notebooks usually go with the prefix "kitab" and often "nawadir". Thirteen of them exist in the library of the Tehran University in the manuscript file number 962. Twelve of them are "kitab" and one is"nawadir". These are:
The Four Books:
The later Shi`ah scholars of hadith compiled four great collections from the aforementioned notebooks or Usul which became the most important texts of hadith in the Shi`ah world receiving hitherto unprecedented popularity. These four books were the following:
It is necessary to mention here that the four hundred "Usul"were widely quoted and narrated by the Shi`ah muhaddithin(scholars of hadith) until a comprehensive compilation calledal-Mahasin was done by Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid al-Barqi, who died in the second half of the third century of Hijra. His book contained a large number of ahaditharranged in numerous chapters. The al-Mahasin set an example which opened a new era in the history of the science of Shi`ahhadith;because it was after him that others took up the task of collection, compilation and classification of ahadith,which were until then scattered in hundreds of Usul. This trend led to the emergence of the four authoritative compilations ofhadith during the fourth and fifth centuries. Since then, they have been considered the greatest sources of hadith for the Shi`ah and served as the primary sources for the later day writers.
The Age of Exposition:
After the compilation of the four great texts of hadith, the next stage was that of exposition. During this period, the attention of most of the scholars was devoted to writing of commentaries and exposition of these texts. A large number of commentaries were written on each of these texts. In spite of the fact that most of these commentaries have, in the course of time, been forgotten and lie buried in libraries, more than 120 of these commentaries and exegeses have come down to our times.
However, this phase of exposition should be regarded as a period of langour in the history of development of the science ofhadith; because, instead of a gradual growth, it marked a stage when most of the discussions went round and round in a definite circle without any progress or breakthrough. This situation lasted until the time of Safavid rule. With the formal recognition of the Shi`ah faith as the state religion from the early times of the Safavis, the study of hadith commenced growth once again.
The Age of Great Scholars and Great Books:
Great scholars of hadith appeared in the Shi`ah world during the period of Safavid rule. These men restored the leading role of the Shi`ah in this field, with the result that after ages of neglect and stagnation, the study of hadith entered its golden age. At the close of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelveth, for once again, the study of hadith received the attention of great scholars. The most prominent among them were Muhammad ibn Murtada Mulla Muhsin Fayd al-Kashani (died 1091/1680), Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Hurr al-`Amili (died 1104/1692-93) and Mulla Muhammad Baqir ibn Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi (died 1111/1699-1700). Each of them has left behind a precious scholarly work. These works are the following:
The Age of Further Research:
After the age of al-Majlisi, another age followed in which the study of hadith made valuable progress. The scholars of this period did not abandon the pursuits of such men as Fayd al-Kashani, al-Hurr al-`Amili, and al-`Allamah al-Majlisi; rather they adhered to this path with greater care and attention to the new sophisticated criteria of authorship. Among those who have left worthy books in the field of the science of hadith can be named `Allamah Muhammad Husayn ibn `Allamah al-Taqi, and Muhammad Nuri al-Mazandarani al-Tabarsi, the latter of whom wrote the Kitab mustadrak al-wasa'il wa mustanbat al-masa'il, which was finished in 1319/1901, adding several chapters to the Kitab al-wasa'il al-shi`ah. This book is the greatest compilation of the ahadith of the Shi`ah faith. `Allamah Nuri died in the year 1320/1902 in the city of Najaf. In this brilliant period there lived such great men as the late Ayatullah Haj Aqa Husayn Burujardi, whose work changed the status of several thousand hadith. It is hoped that the Shi`ite and Sunni scholars of our times, working together, may be able to make greater achievements in this field.
Hadith Among the Ahl Al-Sunnah - The First Recorders:
According to Kashf al-Zunun, when the Companions of the Prophet (S) began to die one after another, the need to record the hadith became evident. It is also maintained that the first person to compose a book in Islam was Ibn Jurayj. The next to be compiled was the al-Muwatta' of Imam Malik (died 179/795), and Rabi` ibn Sabih of Basra was the first man to compile a book with different chapters.
Al-Sihah al-Sittah or the 'Six Authentic Texts'
The work of compilation of hadith continued until the time of Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim, who were followed by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud al-Sijistani, al-Nasa'i and others. Imam Malik, who lived in Mecca in his al-Muwatta' compiled the ahadith with a sequence based on the principles of jurisprudence. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, in his Musnadclassified the ahadith in various chapters each devoted to a separate Companion of the Prophet (S) from whom the narration was quoted. After them Imam al-Bukhari classified the traditions according to region: he devoted separate sections to ahadith narrated by people of Hijaz, Iraq and Syria. Imam Muslim deleted the repetitive ahadith and put them in various chapters corresponding with various aspects of fiqh and other chapters dealing with biographical details. After them, Abu Da'ud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa'i extended the scope of the work devoting greater attention to classification of the material.
Works Based on Al-Sihah Al-Sittah
The period of the first compilers of hadith was followed by those who compiled their own collections from al-Sihah al-Sittah, summarizing and rearranging the ahadith such as `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Hamid ibn Abu Bakr, Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Raqani and Abu Mas`ud Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Dimashqi who combined the books of al-Bukhari and Muslim.
After them, Abu al-Hasan Zarin ibn Mu`awiyah combined the books of al-Muwatta' and al-Jami` of al-Tirmidhi and theSunan of Abu Da'ud and al-Nasa'i and the works of Muslim and Bukhari. After him Ibn Athir combined the six classical texts(al-sihah al-sittah) and the book of Zarin, producing a work more organized than that of Zarin. After that al-Suyuti combinedal-sihah al-sittah and the ten masanid (plural of musnad) and called his book Jam` al-Jawami', which however retains several weak ahadith.
To sum up, it may be said that the primary purpose of the first compilers of hadith was to record the narrations without any attention to the principles and techniques of compilation and bookwriting. It may even be said that in the beginning the purpose was not even that of composing a book; rather the aim was to record and preserve the ahadith in individual notebooks.
During the second stage, though there was a conscious purpose of composing books, the works had many defects; for theahadith lacked order and classification forcing the reader to go through the whole book while searching for a certain hadith.
The third phase was that of classification of the ahadith in which every author divided them into chapters in his own way: one would classify them on the basis of fiqhi issues and another preferred classification according to the land of origin of the narrators.
During the fourth phase, the compilers deleted the repetitiveahadith making the job of the reader a bit easier.
In the fifth phase, the experts of hadith began to examine the traditions from various angles, such as studying them from the point of view of various jurists and for discovery of new points - a matter which we shall discuss in greater detail in a proper chapter. During this stage the whole bulk of hadith came under critical study and endeavour was made to collect them in a single work.
. `Ilm al-hadith, Al-Sunnah qabl al-tadwin, p. 16. See also Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, vol. V, p.398; Tadrib al-rawi, pp.4-5.
. Tadrib al-rawi.
. Ibid, p.6; see also Kashf al-zunun and Dehkhuda,Loghatnameh, vol. V, p. 398.
. `Ilm al-hadith, p.9.
. Nihayat al-dirayah, p.7; Al-Sunnah qabl al-tadwin, p. 16; Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh vol. V.p. 399.
. Tadrib al-rawi, p.6.
. Ibid; see also Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, vol. V, 399; see also Tadrib al-rawi, p.6.
. `Ilm al-hadith, p. 4.
. Nihayat ai-dirayah.
. Dehkhudi, Loghatnameh, vol V, 398; see also The Encyclopedia of Islam, p.28.
. Ta'sis al-Shi`ah, p. 279. See also Husayn ibn Muhammad Taqi Nuri al-Tabarsi, Fasl al-khitab, pp.5-7; 1298.
. A`yan al-shi`ah, vol. I, p.274; Da'irat al-ma'arif al-Imamiyyah, p.70; `Ilm al-hadith; Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-huffaz, p.10.
. There is no doubt that the "Four-hundred Usul", which will be mentioned later in our discussion, were based on the traditions conveyed by the Ahl al-Bayt.
. Tadrib al-rawi, p.285.
. Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, p.5.
. Ibid. p.7. See also Fajr al-Islam, p.265, Parto-e Islam,245.
. Da'irat al-ma'arif al-Imamiyyah, p.69. Tadrib al-rawi. Kashf al-zunun, p. 637.
. Kashf al-zunun, p.637. Ta'ssi al-shi`ah, pp.278-279. Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, p.298. Taqrib al-tahdhib , p. 333.Wafayat al-a`yan, p.338. Fjr al-Islam, p. 265.
. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.280. Najashi, kitab al-Rijal, pp.23,Da'irat al ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, pp.69-70. Dehkhuda,Loghatnameh, vol.1, p.298. Al-Dhari`ah, vol.1, p. 14.
. A`yan al-shi`ah, vol. I, p.274. Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, p.69. Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, vol. IV, pp.73-74.
. Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, p. 70. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, pp.280-287. See also Tadrib al-rawi and Kashf al-zunun, p. 637-638.
. Fajr al-Islam, pp.265-267. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.278. See also Tadrib al-rawi, Kashf al-zunun, pp.637-638.
. Ibid, pp.266-268.
. Kashf al-zunun, p.637.
. `Ilm al-hadith, p.13. Maktab-e Tashayyu', Ordibehesht 1339, pp.58-61.
. Ibid. See also Fajr al-Islam, p.265 and Parto-e Islam,p.264.
. Tadrib al-rawi, "Introduction", `Ilm al-hadith.
. Ibid. See also Fajr al-Islam, p.262 and `Ilm al-hadith.
. Al-Dhari`ah, vol.11, pp 125-135 The Catalogue of the Library of the University of Tehran, p.1088 See also Nihayat al dirayah p 12.
. The catalogue of the Library of University of Tehran, pp. 1089-1095 See also Al-Dhari`ah which mentions 117 Usul.
. Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, p. 70; Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p. 288. `Ilm al-hadith.
. Ibid. See `Ilm al-hadith, p. 56.
. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.288. Tusi, al-Fihrist, `Ilm al-hadith,p. 57.
. Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, p. 70. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p. 289; `Ilm al-hadith, p.57.
. `Ilm al-hadith, p.52. See also Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah.
. Al-Dhari`ah, vol.11, pp.17-19. See also the Catalogue of the University of Tehran pp.82-100-154-1277. Also refer toTa'sis al-shi`ah. p.290.
. The catalogue of the Library of the University of Tehran, p.1628.
. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.289.
. This is a Sunni viewpoint not accepted by the Shi`ah as being historically correct. Nevertheless, Ibn Jurayj and/or Rabi` ibn Sabih are considered pioneers among the Ahl al-Sunnah by themselves. According to the Shi`ah, Abu Rafi`, after the Household of the Prophet, was the first man to record and compile ahadith. See Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.280, Najashi, Rijal,pp. 2-3; Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah, pp. 69-70; Al-Dhari`ah, vol. I, p.14; Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, vol.1. p.298.
. Kashf al-zunun, p.637.
. Ibn Khaldun, Tariq, p.798.
. Kashf al-zunun, p.637.
. Ibn Khaldun, Tariq, p. 798.
. Kashf al-zunun, p.639.
. Ibid, p. 637-639.
Unfortunately on account of various reasons, some of which we shall mention shortly, the hadith did not remain immune from forgery and other problems. A great number of incorrect traditions found way into collections of prophetic sayings. The task of separating genuine traditions from apocryphal material was as necessary as that of removing weeds from a flower bed; as in case of weeds, their identification and removal was not an easy task, nor could they be left to flourish untouched, threatening the genuine material itself. This was the reason why religious scholars, in their capacity as vigilant gardeners of the Faith, began to look for ways of separating forged material from genuine hadith. They needed new tools for this task, which was not an easy one, as is evident from the fact that despite centuries of scholarly efforts the remnants of these dangerous and destructive weeds have continued to survive.
As to how these weeds found their way into the flower beds of prophetic tradition, here are some of the important reasons:
Due to the above-mentioned and other reasons besides, a critical examination of hadith was necessary. As a result of the efforts made by Muslim scholars in this regard, a new branch was created in the science of hadith; it came to be called"dirayat al-hadith".
The Nihayat al-dirayah defines dirayat al-hadith in these words: "It is a science which investigates the isnad, contents, subject and the mode of transmission of ahadith, so that acceptable traditions can be separated from unacceptable ones."
The emergence of `ilm dirayat al-hadith was followed by its division into numerous branches. Certain rules and guidelines were evolved for distinguishing reliable from unreliable ahadith.The body of such rules came to be called "mustalah al-hadith", which together with `ilm al-rijal (lit. science of men), formed the means of scrutinizing hadith material. However, for this purpose, knowledge of other preliminaries such as Arabic grammar and syntax, familiarity with literary style and form, knowledge of abrogated (mansukh) and the abrogating(nasikh) verses of the Qur'an, knowledge of the history of Islam and that of various Islamic sects and their beliefs, and other details regarding hadith, is necessary.
Haji Khalifah, in his Kashf al-zunun defines `ilm al-dirayah in this manner: "`Ilm dirayat al-hadith, which discusses the content and meaning of the words of hadith on the basis of Arabic grammar and syntax, and shar`i criteria, and examines their correspondence with the circumstances of the Messenger of Allah (S), linguistic standards of Arabic sciences and reports about the Messenger (S), consists of `ilm al-rijal, (the science of narrators, their names, genealogical lineages, lifetimes, their dates of death, their characters and circumstances of reception and transmission of hadith, as well as its topic or subject) and aims to distinguish acceptable from unacceptable traditions. It entails classification of various modes of transmission, linguistic background of narrators, their remarks and criticism about what they have narrated, their connection with the prior source from whom they have received, knowledge of possession of permission (ijazah) by a narrator, and knowledge of various classifications of hadith, such as sahih, hasan, da`if, etc."
The following verse of the Qur'an made it incumbent upon al-muhaddithin (scholars of hadith) to make a thorough enquiry into details of narrators of ahadith:
O believers, if an ungodly man comes to you with a report, investigate, lest you afflict a people unwittingly and then repent of what you have done. (49:6)
As to who were pioneers in this field, it must be admitted that the Shi`ah had taken a lead in this field. The first writer to compile a book on this subject was Abu Muhammad `Abd Allah ibn Jibillah ibn Hayyan al-Kanani (died 219/834).But according to Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti in his Kitab al-'awa'il, the first writer on `ilm al-rijal was Shu`bah (died 260/87374).However, it is clear that the statement of Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti does not correspond with historical fact, for `Abd Allah ibn Jibillah died forty years before Shu`bah.
Another important point that should be noted here is that writing of chronicles of persons or biographical accounts was current amongst the Shi`ah from the very early days of Islam. If this is taken into account, Abu Rafi` and his desendents took a lead before all others.
Some books on `ilm al-rijal give biographical accounts of narrators without giving the dates of their death, such as Ta'rikhof Ibn Jarir, Muruj al-dhahab of al-Mas`udi, aI-Kamjl fi al-ta'rikh of Ibn al-Athir. Some give dates of death without biographical accounts. Others, being more comprehensive, give almost all essential details, such as the works of Abu al-Faraj Jawzi and al-Dhahabi.
Five Important Shi'ite Works
The most important books compiled by Shi`ah scholars on `ilm al-rijal are five. They are:
Important Books Composed by Scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah
The most important books compiled in the field of `ilm al-rijalby scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah are four:
After the above four works, other writings on `ilm al-rijal by Sunni scholars were primarily based on them. `Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Athir al-Jazari (died 630/1132-3) brought them together in his Usd al-ghabah. AI-Dhahabi produced a summarized version of Usd al-ghabah in his Tajrid Asma' al-Sahabah, adding some new entries. Badr al-Din Muhammad al-Qudsi and Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Kashghari, too, produced their own condensed versions of the Usd al-ghabah.
A point worthy of notice here is that Shi`ah scholars of `ilm al-rijal, in the fifth and sixth centuries, named such books as were exclusively related to Shi`ite narrators of hadith as "rijal",calling accounts of others, including both Shi`ah and Sunni narrators, as "ta'rikh".Another notable point is that, in the past, there existed a mutual, inseparable link between the three disciplines of dirayat al-hadith, `ilm rijal al-hadith and bibliography. Works dealing with one of the topics, invariably discussed issues connected with the other disciplines.
Important Scholars of al-Rijal
The most important authors who have compiled works on `ilm al-rijal are following:
. See Muhaqqiq's introduction to al-Suyuti's Tadrib al-rawi;al-Madinah 1379/1959. One instance of this case is the"hadith" which was forged regarding the following verse of the Holy Qur'an on the orders of Mu`awiyah:
And among men is he who sells himself in exchange for God's good pleasure....(2:207)
Through this forgery, an attempt was made to relate this verse to Ibn Muljam, the assassin of Imam `Ali (A); whereas, in reality, this verse is related to `Ali (A) himself, who exposed himself to the danger of death by lying in the Prophet's (S) bed on the night of his hijrah to al-Madinah. See also Kazim Mudir Shanehchi, `IIm al-hadith, p. 66; Mashhad University 1964-65
. See Muhaqqiq's introduction to al-Suyuti's Tadrib al rawial Madinah 1379/1959. See also Ahmad Amin Fajral Islam,p. 255; Egypt 1347/1928.
Ahmad ibn Nasr says: "The Prophet in reply [to a question that he had put] said, 'Hold on to al-Shafi`i for he is from me and God is with him and his followers."' See Kazim Mudir Shanehchi `IIm al hadith, p. 69, Mashhad University 1964-65.
. The Encyclopedia of Islam, pp. 24, 25. Ahmad Amin,Fajr al Islam, p.256; Egypt 1347/1928. See also Parto e Islam vol I p. 258. An instance of this is the case of Abi `Ismah Nuh ibn Abi Maryam whose practice was to forge a tradition in relation to every surah of the Qur'an. Once when asked about the source of his narrations, he said, "Since people started turning towards the fiqh of Abi Hanifah and the chronicles of Muhammad ibn Ishaq they have been neglecting to memorize the Qur'an by heart. I have fabricated these traditions only for the sake of God's good pleasure." See Parto e Islam p. 258 and Fajral Islam p. 256.
. Partoe Islam, vol.11, pp. 356, 385.
. An instance of this is the case of Ghiyath ibn Ibrahim, who once on visiting the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur saw him playing with pigeons. On the spur of the moment, he fabricated a"hadith" for the caliph's good pleasure: The Prophet said, "No racing is better than that of hoofs and feathers." See Fajr al-'Islam, p. 255, and Partoe Islam, vol. I, p.258. Abu Hurayrah once fabricated a "hadith" about onions of Akka (seaport in Palestine). Asked by Mu'awiyah as to where the Prophet said such a thing, he answered, "there where he said, 'Mu'awiyah is the maternal uncle of the faithful (khal al-mu'minin)'."
. Kazim Mudir Shanehchi, `Ilm al-hadith, pp.74,75, Mashhad University, 1344 A.H. According to Ibn al-Jawzi, once Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Ma`in were in the mosque of al-Rasifah (in Baghdad) for prayers. In the meanwhile, a storyteller gathered around himself some people and began to recite a tradition, citing as his sources Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Ma`in, that the Prophet said, "whoever says, 'La ilaha illa Allah', God will reward him with a bird whose beak is of gold and feathers of coral." Then he proceeded to describe the bird and the reward of the recipient in such a detail as can not be contained even in twenty pages. On hearing him, Yahya and ibn Hanbal looked at each other while the "muhaddith" started collecting tips from the people. Yahya approached the man and asked him as to who had told him this tradition. "Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Ma`in," was his reply. "I am Yahya and this is Ahmad ibn Hanbal", said Yahya pointing to Ibn Hanbal, "we ourselve have never heard of such a tradition." The storyteller replied, 'I had heard that Yahya ibn Ma`in is an idiot I didn't believe it. You talk as if you two are the only Yahya and Ibn Hanbal in the whole world! I have written traditions from seventeen Yahya ibn Ma`ins and Ahmad ibn Hanbal's." Then he promptly slipped out of the mosque. See Hafiz Nishaburi Hakim Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Abd Allah, Ma`rifat ulum al hadith, p. 289; Egypt 1937.
. Shaykh al-Bahi'i, Nihayat al-dirayah p. 7; `Imad al Islam Press, 1324. See also al-Suyuti's Tadrib al-rawi, pp. 4, 5; al Madinah 1379/1959.
. During the earliest times the traditions were transmitted orally by teachers to students of hadith. One who had leant traditions in this way under the direction of a teacher could, in his turn, again communicate them to others. Ijazah (lit. permit) was the term for a teacher's sanction granted to those considered reliable by him for further transmission of traditions to others.
. Haji Khalifah, Mustafa ibn `Abd Allah, Kashf al-zunun `an asami al-kutub wa al-funun, pp.635-636; 1360/1941.
. Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, Ta'sis al-Shi`ah, p.233; see also al-Najashi's Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, p.340; Bombay 1317.
. Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, Ta'sis al-Shi`ah.
. Al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal. See Shaykh Aqa Buzurg al-Tehrani, Muhammad Muhsin, al-Dhari`ah ila tasanif al-Shi`ah, vol. III, p. 224. See also Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, Ta'sis al-Shi`ah, p.232.
. Haji Khalifah, Kashf al-zunun `an asami al-kutub wa al-funun, p.834, 1360.
. See the Catalogue of the Library of University of Tehran, p.503.
. Shaykh Aqa Buzurg al-Tehrani, al-Dhari`ah ila tasanif al-Shi`ah, vol.111, p. 224.
. The names in this list are of those who have worked on history or `ilm al-rijal, regardless of whether they were merely chroniclers or those whose work was aimed at distinguishing reliable from unreliable narrators. The names in the list have been taken from the Catalogue of the Library of University of Tehran.
. Al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, p.235; Bombay 1317.
. Al-Tusi, Kitab al-fihrist, p.47; Najaf 1359/1937.
. Tawdih al-maqal, p.65.
. Al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, 248; Bombay 1317.
. AI-Tusi, Kitab al-fihrist, p.119; Najaf 1359/1937.
. Al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, p.309; Bombay 1317.
. Ibid., p.283.
. Ibid., p. 282.
. Ibid., p.302.
. Tawdih al-maqal, p.65.
. Al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, p.59.
. Ibid., p.267.
. Al-Tusi, Kitab al-fihrist, p.116.
. Ibid., p. 28; al-Najashi, Ma`rifat ahwal al-rijal, pp.68, 69; See also the Catalogue of the Library of Tehran University.
. Al-Tusi, Kitab al-fihrist, 75; al-Najashi, Ma'rifat ahwal al-rijal, p. 126.
. Al-Najashi, Ma'rifat ahwal al-rijal, p.23.
. Ibid., pp. 276, 278.
. Ibid., p.283.
. Ibid., p.63; al-Tusi, Kitab al-fihrist, p.37.
. Shaykh Aqa Buzurg al-Tehrani, al-Dhari`ah ila tasanif al-Shi`ah, vol.111, p. 222.
. Ibid., vol. VII, p.64.
At the time of its emergence, there was a difference of opinion among men of eminence among Muslims about the very necessity of hadith. The first two caliphs, for example, exhibited a complete lack of interest in it. Nevertheless, after the death of the Prophet (S), its importance was gradually realized. This realization grew with time, to the extent that it became necessary for religious scholars to consider hadith as the second authoritative source after the Qur'an for solution of their canonical problems. The importance of hadith grew steadily with time, until it took the shape of a vast science with numerous disciplines.
Al-Suyuti, in introduction to his Tadrib al-rawi, writes that at the beginning of the second century of Hijrah, the sciences related to hadith consisted of three disciplines: `ilm tadwin al-hadith, `ilm al-hadith, and `ilm usul al-hadith. However, during the third century, according to Ibn al-Mulaqqin, the science of hadith came to consist of more than two hundred disciplines. Abu Hatam, according to a more simple classification, has mentioned the existence of fifty separate disciplines. Ibn Hajar describes the various disciplines more simply in this fashion: `ilm usul al-hadith, `ulum al-hadith, `ilm mustalah al-hadith, and `ilm dirayat al-hadith (which also includes `ilm al-rijal).
Ahmad Amin, in his Fajr al-Islam, says: "The study of hadith was followed by the birth of various disciplines, such as chronicles of history, wars, and merits of peoples and persons. This was followed by writing of biographies, such as the work of Ibn Hisham. According to Ibn Jarir, Ibn Ishaq and al-Baladhuri, their style and method was that of hadith narration. The anecdotes of the lives and times of former prophets, together with the hadith and the anecdotes mentioned in the Qur'an, helped to expand the literature dealing with the former prophets. The interest in hadith stimulated the study of Greek, Indian and Persian philosophy and ethics. `Ilm al-hadithstimulated popular interest in all sciences, and itself became a religious and canonical source, and, above all, the source of civil and penal codes. All this, avoiding further elaboration, bears testimony to the role played by `ilm al-hadith in expansion of the sciences."
According to al-Suyuti, al-Hazimi considered `ilm al-hadith to consist of more than a hundred disciplines; Ibn Salah has mentioned 65 of these various disciplines. Ibn Khaldun, in his work on history, mentions the following branches of `ilm al-hadith: the study of the nasikh and mansukh verses of the Qur'an, `ilm al-rijal, `ilm istilahat al-hadith, study of the text of hadith and its peculiarities, study of the qualifications necessary for a narrator to transmit hadith, knowledge of veracity of transmitters, and `ilm fiqh al-hadith.
However, Hakim Abi `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah Hafiz al-Nishaburi, in his book Ma`rifat `ulum al-hadith,mentions fifty-two disciplines in the science of hadith. In view of its importance, we mention them here:
Know your genealogies, so as to fulfil your duties to your kin.
In addition to the above, there are other disciplines linked with the study of Arabic morphology, syntax, and philology, as mentioned by al-Suyuti in his al-'Itqan.In this regard, it may be mentioned that Ibn al-Nadim in his Kitab al-Fihrist, quoting Muhammad ibn Ishaq and other scholars, says that Abu al-'Aswad al-Du'ali, the first Arab grammarian, acquired it from `Ali ibn Abi Talib (A).Following this, he quotes a statement from Abu Nasr that `Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz is the foundation layer of Arabic studies and that Abu Sa`id al-Sirafi had confirmed this. Furthermore, Ibn al-Nadim explaining the origin of the name 'nahw' for Arabic syntax says that Abu al-'Aswad had asked for `Ali's (A) permission to formulate rules of Arabic grammar similar (nahw) to what `Ali (A) had done in his discourses.
Those who had learnt Arabic grammar from Abu al-'Aswad al-Du'ali, according to Ibn al-Nadim, are: Yahya ibn Ya'mur, 'Anbasah ibn Ma'dan and Maymun ibn Aqran.
Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, in his Ta'sis al-Shi`ah, writing about the origins of `Ilm dirayat al-hadith, says that the first to compile a work on this subject was Abu `Abd Allah Hakim al-Nishaburi, a Shi'ite (d. 405/1014-15), and Ibn Salah, who came after him, was his follower. However, al-Suyuti, in his Kitab al-wasa'il fi awa'il, states that Ibn Salah, Abu 'Amr `Uthman ibn `Abd al-Rahman (d. 643/1051-52), a Shafi'i from Damascus, was the first to work on `ilm dirayat a-hadith. Evidently, al-Suyuti has shown complete indifference to the work of Abu `Abd Allah Hakim al-Nishaburi, who lived about two hundred years before Ibn Salah.
In Ta'sis al-Shi`ah, it is stated that the first to compile a book on the study of Islamic sects was al-Hasan ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti, a prominent scholar of the third century, who lived before Abu Mansur `Abd al-Qadir ibn Zahir al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037-38), Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 403/1012-13), Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1062-63), and al-Shahristani (d. 548/1153-54).The author of al-Adab al-Farisi not only confirms this, he also explicitly states that al-Hasan ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti was a Shi'ite:
Several men of the house of Nawbakht excelled in the Islamic sciences and became (great) scholars of the Imamiyyah Shi'ite sect and forerunners of itsmutakallimin. To them goes the great credit of providing support for this sect on the basis of its kalam. Among them was Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti (d. 300 or 301 A.H.), the author of the bookFiraq al-Shi`ah and al-'Ara' wa al-diyanat; also he was the first to write a book on the subject of al-milal wa al-nihal (study of nations and sects):
The author of Tadrib al-rawi writing about the origins of `ilm 'istilahat al-hadith, says that the first to compile a work on this subject was Qadi Abu Muhammad al-Ramhurmuzi, the author of Kitab muhaddith al-fadil, followed by Hakim Abu `Abd Allah al-Nishaburi, Abu Nu'aym al-'Isfahani, and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi.
In regard to the history of the military campaigns (al-maghazi)of the Prophet (S), which is a part of `ilm al-rijal, the author ofTa'sis al-Shi`ah says that the first to write on this subject was Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Matlabi. Elsewhere, he quotes a statement from Khulasat al-'aqwal relating to `Ubayd Allah ibn Abi Rafi', who was 'Ali's scribe, as being the first to write on the Prophet's battles.This is also confirmed by al-Najashi in hisal-Rijal.Al-Suyuti, however, in his Kitab al-wasa'il fi al-awa'il considers 'Urwah ibn al-Zubayr (d. 94/712-13) as being the pioneer in writing on al-maghazi.
With regard to historiography, according to Kash al-zunun, the first to write on this subject was Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151/768) the forerunner among the writers of al-maghazi.
According to al-Suyuti, the first to compile a musnad was Sulayman ibn Dawud Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi. As to `ilm dirayat al-hadith, the first to write on this subject was Sayyid Jamal al-Din Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Tawus Abu al-Fada'il (d. 673/1274-75), the teacher of `Allamah ibn Mutahhar al-Hilli. He formulated new Shi'ite terms in hadith (such as al-sahih, al-hasan, al-muwaththaq, and al-da'if).
Kinds of Hadith
In general, there are three basic kinds of hadith from the viewpoint of the Ahl al-Sunnah (al-Sahih, al-hasan, and al-da'if), and four basic kinds from the viewpoint of the Shi`ah (al-sahih, al-hasan, al-muwaththaq, and al-da'if). These are further classified both by the Shi`ah and the Ahl al-Sunnah. Following are some of these general classifications:
Al-hasan is a hadith whose transmitters are reputed for their veracity and trustworthiness; however, it does not reach the station of al-hadith al-sahih.
a. Gharib al-'alfaz is a tradition containing problematic words. b. Gharib al-matn is a tradition narrated by a single narrator belonging to the earliest narrators. c. Gharib al-sanad is a tradition whose content is otherwise well-known.
. Mawali (sing. mawla), or clients, is a term that was used to indicate inferior social standing. The term was originally used for freed slaves by Arab Muslims and after Muslim conquests it was extended to a variety of non Arab peoples (Tr).
. The description of the fifty two disciplines of ulum al-hadith mentioned here is a brief adoption from Ma'rifat 'ulum al-hadith by Hafiz al Nishaburi, Hakim Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Abd Allah.
. About the classification of hadith see Al-Suyuti, Tadrib al-rawi, pp.21 ff.; Hafiz al-Nishaburi, Kitab Ma'rifat 'ulum al-hadith, pp. 108-123; see also The Encyclopedia of Islam,pp.23-28, Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, vol. (ha') pp. 395-399; al-Shaykh al-Baha'i, Nihayat al-dirayah, pp.4 ff.