Rejecting Hadiths: The Fitnah of the Quranists

Hadiths

There are some “Muslims” in our times who follow a recent new movement (19th-20th century) which rejects hadiths, hence, deviating from the path of mainstream Islam. They pose and comment on many issues related to Islam from their viewpoint and reject many fundamental aspects of our religion.  Worst of all, they try to present their views as the mainstream opinion. It should be made clear that they do not represent mainstream Islam or Muslims in any way or form. The ummah (nation) of Muhammad (pbuh) accepts the Qur’an and hadiths as legitimate forms of sources for deriving Islamic laws. We, the mainstream Muslims, acknowledge that both, the Qur’an and hadiths, are a guidance from Allah.

Their History:

During the colonial period, when most of the Muslim world came under the subjugation of the West, some “scholars” arose in places like Egypt (Taha Hussein), India (Abdullah Chakralawi and Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz), and Turkey (Zia Gogelup), who began questioning the authenticity and relevance of hadith. It was not that some genius had found flaws in the hadith study that had eluded the entire ummah for thirteen centuries. It was simply that the pressures from the dominant Western civilization to conform were too strong for them to withstand. They buckled. Prophetic teachings and life example — Hadith — was the obstacle in this process and so it became the target. (Source)

About their movement:

It is a movement that holds the Qur’an to be the most authentic criterion in Islam. Quranists (a common name for them) generally reject the religious authority of Hadith (cataloged narratives of what the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said and done), as they consider it inconsistent with the Qur’an. This in contrast to the Sunni, Shia and Ibadi doctrines which consider hadiths essential for the Islamic faith. (Source)

However, we the mainstream Muslims (whose ideology has existed since the time of the Prophet) believe that hadiths are necessary and are a legitimate form of extraction for divine guidance. We believe that Qur’an and hadiths go hand in hand and one explains the other. The Qur’an is general and the sunnah is specific and detailed. Hadiths are the interpretation of the Qur’an by the Prophet (pbuh). The Quranists’ rejection of hadiths have led them to turn the Qur’an into a toy which they interpret based on their own intellect and desires. The hadiths, the mainstream Muslims say, preserve the meaning of the Qur’an. This is why Allah tells us in the Qur’an [meaning of which is]:

And We revealed to you [O Muhammad] the message [Qur’an] that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought. [Qur’an 16:44]

His HADITHS are that clarification!

This is how the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) understood the religion as well. They understood that not everything is in the Qur’an. For example, it is narrated from Abdullah bin Khalid that he said to Abdullah bin Umar, the son of the second caliph of Islam:

“We find (mention of) the prayer of the resident and the prayer in a state of fear in the Qur’an, but we do not find any mention of the prayer of the traveler. Abdullah said to him: ‘Allah sent Muhammad (pbuh) to us, and we did not know anything, rather we do what we saw Muhammad (pbuh) doing.”  (Reported by Ibn Majah, Ibn Qayyim said it is authentic)

The prophet (pbuh) warned us against them in a hadith (which they heretically deny as one would expect):

“Soon there will come a time that a man will be reclining on his pillow, and when one of my hadiths is narrated he will say: ‘The Book of Allah is (sufficient) between us and you. Whatever it states is permissible, we will take as permissible, and whatever it states is forbidden, we will take as forbidden.’ Verily, whatever the Messenger of Allah has forbidden is like that which Allah has forbidden.”  (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daawood, Ibn Maajah and at-Tirmidhee, who declared it hasan. Al-Albaanee declared it saheeh in Saheehul-Jaami’ (no.8186))

Their Hypocrisies:

These hadith rejectors will criticize the sunnis for relying on hadiths while it was these same sunnis who preserved the Qur’an generation after generation! For some reason, they have trouble understanding the fact that if they do not trust our preservation methods when it comes to hadiths, then why do they trust our preservation method when it comes to the Qur’an?! An ignorant among them once responded to me with: “because the Qur’an was compiled during the time of the Prophet (pbuh).” This is completely false! It was compiled after the time of the Prophet by the same people who today call themselves Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’ah (a.k.a SUNNI)! The ironic thing is if one were to ask them about the history of the Qur’an, they would have to go to hadiths else there is no other way. The Qur’an itself does not give its history. Hence, they will go to hadiths when it suits their agenda and ideology.

There are numerous verses which cannot be understood without hadiths, for example:

Why [is it that] when a disaster struck you, although you had struck with one twice as great, you said, “From where is this?” Say, “It is from yourselves.” Indeed, Allah is over all things competent. [Qur’an 3:165]

When did this verse come down? What disaster is this verse talking about? What was struck twice as great?

Another verse:

And what struck you on the day the two armies met was by permission of Allah that He might make evident the [true] believers. [Qur’an 3:166]

What two armies? And on what day? Where is this information in the Qur’an?

And there are so many other examples.

Refutations against them:

Alhamdulillah, they have been refuted profoundly throughout the Muslim world. Following is a list of some refutations against them:

Questions that the Quranites Have No Good Logical Responses To

Objections of the Rejecters of Hadith and a response to them

A Look at Hadith Rejecters’ Claims

Hadiths: False Tales or Authentic Narrations? – A small article proving that hadiths were in fact written down in the first three generations, a fact that hadith rejectors and orientalists deny.

Book: Studies in Early Hadith Literature – This is an excellent work that refutes many of their claims. It was such a slap in the face of the hadith deniers that it was actually translated into Arabic. This is really rare in Islamic scholarship because usually Arabic works are translated into English.

Book: The Authority and Importance of the Sunnah

Book: A Critical Analysis of the Modernists and Hadeeth Rejecters

Problems With Hadith Rejection – Nouman Ali Khan

The Quran Defends the Sunnah – Nouman Ali Khan

Hadith: Between Muslim Conviction & Western Criticism – Dr. Jonathan Brown

And there is so much more stuff out there!

Studying Hadith: Tips and Resources

The Arabic word hadith basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’. However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salaah, zakaah), its meaning changed in Islaam. From the time of the Prophet (ρ), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadith began to be used almost exclusively for reports which spoke of his actions and sayings.

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 4

During the life of the Prophet (ρ) there was no pressing need to write down all of his various statements or record his actions because he was present and could be consulted at any time. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (ρ) himself made a general prohibition against writing down his statements which were other than the Qur’aan itself. This was to prevent the possibility of mixing up the Qur’aan with his own words during the era of revelation. Consequently, the greatest stress regarding writing was placed on recording the Qur’aanic verses. However, there are many authentic narrations collected by the Scholars of Hadith, that prove that Hadith were recorded in writing even during the lifetime of the Prophet (ρ). For example, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr said: “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) with the intention of memorizing it. However, some Qurayshites forbade me from doing so saying, ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him, while the Messenger of Allaah is a human being who speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah (ρ). He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said: ‘Write! By Him in whose hand is my soul, only truth comes out from it.’

Aboo Hurayrah said: When Makkah was conquered, the Prophet (ρ) stood up and gave a sermon [Aboo Hurayrah then mentioned the sermon]. A man from Yemen, called Aboo Shaah got up and said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Write it down for me.” The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) replied, “Write it for Aboo Shaah.”14 Al-Waleed asked Aboo ‘Amr, “What are they writing?” He replied, “The sermon which he heard that day.”

Aboo Qaabeel said: We were with ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So ‘Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said, “Take out the book from it.” Then ‘Abdullaah said, “While we were with the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) writing, The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) was asked, “Which city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Rome?” So Allaah’s Messenger (ρ) said: “The city of Heracilius will be conquered first.” meaning Constantinople.”

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 8

Hadith Classification

Hadith Saheeh (authentic; sound)

Conditions of Sihhah

A hadith must meet the following five criteria in order to be accepted according to Islamic law as a source of legal ordinance.

1. Ittisaal as-Sanad (Continuity of the chain of transmitters)

The chain of Rawwaah (narrators or transmitters) who are relating the Matn (text), has to be unbroken for the hadith to be considered. That is none of the transmittors must be missing from the chain and each narrator, Raawi, has to have met the transmitter directly preceding him as well as the one directly following him. Each Raawi has to be a known individual also, otherwise he is classified as majhool (unknown) and the sanad is considered broken.

2. ‘Adaalah (integrity)

The integrity of the narrators is the second key condition for a hadith to be considered valid. By integrity we mean that the narrator was a practicing Muslim and was not known to have done any of the major (forbidden things) if he was a known liar he is classified as kaththaab and the hadith which he has transmitted is classified as da‘eef. These are the conditions verified through the biographical science of hadith Kutub ar-Rijaal.

3. Dabt (accuracy)

The accuracy of the text is determined by two factors either of which is sufficient by itself

(a) Dabt as-Sadr (Soundness of memory)

Each narrator must be known for his ability to memorize and repeat with a high degree of accuracy if he had a tendency to repeat hadith in a number of different ways such a hadith in classified as Mudtarib (confused) and any other hadith which he may narrate will be classified ad Da‘eef.

(b) Dabt al-Kitaabah (Written accuracy)

Each narrator who does not fulfill precondition “a”, must be known for recording his haetth in books accurately and his narrations only be from his books, these two preconditions (a,b) are also verified by Kutub ar-Rijaal.

4. Ghayr Shaathth (conformity)

It is critical that the hadith confirmed with similar hadith narrated on the same topic whose chains are stronger. If the test of a hadith contradicts that of other well-known texts whose chain of narration is stronger, it is classified (exceptional) which is one of the categories of hadith dae’ef.

5. Laa ‘Illah (absence of hidden defect)

The hidden defect is one that causes the hadith to appear to be sound and only become evident after deep investigation. For a hadith to be considered sound (saheeh) it has to be free of hidden defects.

A hadith which fulfills all the five conditions of sihhah is referred to as a hadith Saheeh. Such a hadith can be used to establish points of Islaamic law and, if it isn’t abrogated, it must be accepted and applied. The ruling of a hadith saheeh can only be superceded by that of another hadith saheeh stronger than it.

The hadith Saheeh may be further subdivided into Saheeh li Thaatih and Saheeh li Ghayrih. Hadiths fulfilling the five conditions completely were also referred to as Saheeh li Thaatih. That is, it is saheeh by itself, without any external considerations. The Saheeh li Ghayrih is a hadith hasan which has been elevated to the status of saheeh due to supporting narrations.

Hadith Hasan (good)

A hadith is considered Hasan if it fulfills all the requirements of Saheeh except Dabt (accuracy). If the memory of a narrator was only considered fair (sadooq), that is, he was known to make a few mistakes. The hadith is lowered from the level of saheeh to the level of Hasan. In the early days, there was no distinction made between the hadith saheeh and the hadith hasan. The hadith hasan is valid for establishing points of Islaamic law and should not be rejected unless abrogated or superseded by a hadith saheeh. This category is also called Hasan li Thaatih as distinct from a second category of hasan hadiths called Hasan li Ghayrih.

Hadith Hasan li Ghayrih

If the narrator belonged to a lower grade (i.e. grades 5 or 6 rendering the hadith da‘eef) and there are other hadiths supporting it in form or sense, it would be reclassified as hasan li ghayrih. It should be noted that the overall acceptability of an isnaad is based on its weakest link. Consequently, if all of the narrators were highly reliable (thiqah) and one, anywhere in the chain was classified as a liar (kaththaab), the hadith would be classified as fabricated, even if proved authentic by other isnaads.

Hadith Da‘eef (weak)

This is a hadith in which any one or more of the five conditions of Sihhah have not been met. It is also referred to in classical works as al-Khabar al-Mardood (Rejected Narrations). The inauthentic hadith is one in which the truth of the report is highly unlikely due to the loss of one or more of the conditions for the acceptance. Some da‘eef hadiths may be reclassified due to supportive factors while others are totally rejected. The inauthentic hadith may be further subdivided into different categories based on which of the five criteria has not been met.

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 24-25

Resources on Hadith:

Audio/Video

  1. Sciences of Hadith by Suhaib Hasan (audio)
  2. The Sciences Of Hadith by Bilal Philips (audio)
  3. Usool ul Hadith by Yasir Qadhi (audio)

Articles

  1. Terminology of Hadith and Methodology of Hadith Scholars by Tariq Abdelhaleem
  2. Notes on Science of Hadith Extracted from “Tayseer Mustalahil Hadith” by Mahmood at-Tahhaan
  3. Notes on Ibn Hajar’s Nukhbatul Fikr
  4. Hadiths: False Tales or Authentic Narrations?
  5. Ulum al-Hadith Curriculum by islamclass.wordpress.com

Books

  1. An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith : In the Light of the Sahifah of Hammam ibn Munabbih by Muhammad Hamidullah
  2. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Suhaib Hassan
  3. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri
  4. Usool al-Hadeeth : The Methodology of Hadith Evaluation by Bilal Philips
  5. Studies in Early Hadith Literature by M.M. Azami
  6. Studies in Hadith Methodology & Literature by M.M. Azami
  7. Imam Nawawi 40 Hadith with Explanation by Ibn Daqîq al-‘îd’s

Ruling on Acting on Weak Hadiths

Weak Chain

Following is mostly a summary of Sh. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo’s writing on the topic.

In Islam, there is no dispute among the scholars that Qur’an and hadiths are the primary sources of Islamic law.  All issues related to the religion, particularly theology and legal rulings, must be in accordance to these two vital sources.  Any type of ruling, worship or belief that has no basis in the Qur’an or hadiths is rejected in Islam.  There is no dispute when it comes to the content of the Qur’an, however, hadiths have been scrutinized throughout Islamic history by scholars of hadith in an attempt to separate the authentically narrated reports of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) from the unauthentic.  While the Qur’an was untouchable with regards to tampering, mainly due to it being compiled in one book within the lifetime of the companions, the hadiths have come under attack throughout history by various people trying falsely to attribute statements and actions to the Prophet for personal and worldly reasons.  Some examples of these reasons include: promoting one’s own ideology, giving one’s own tribe superiority over others, hypocrites tampering with the religion to destroy it from within, and even some righteous people who did it with the intention of promoting good in society and forbidding evil.

The scholars of hadith took on the task to thoroughly research the chain and the text of every hadith they came across and identify elements within it which can help determine to the masses whether a particular hadith is reliable or not.  They categorized the grading of hadiths into four main categories: sahih (authentic), hasan (good), da’if (weak), and mawduu’ (fabricated).  They have sub-categories underneath them as well but these four are the general categories under which hadiths are placed.  There is a consensus with the scholars when it comes to not acting in any way or form with regards to mawduu’ (fabricated) hadiths.  However, when it comes to da’if (weak) hadiths, there is a difference of opinion “concerning the relating of and acting in accordance with weak hadith.”[1]

Shaykh Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo points out that there are three opinions on this matter:[2]

  1. The first opinion states that weak hadith may be used with virtually no restrictions on their use.  This opinion has been attributed to Ahmad and Abu Dawood.
  2. The second opinion states that weak hadith may be acted upon given certain conditions…This is the view of a large number of scholars, in fact, it is the majority view.
  3. The third opinion states that weak hadith are never to be acted upon.

Afterwards, Shaykh Zarabozo delves into the arguments of each opinion by those who held those opinions and concludes that the strongest opinion is the third one.  According to him the first opinion is a misunderstanding and the scholars of the past who held that position were not referring to hadiths which are today classified as da’if (weak).  Rather, he suggests, they were referring to hasan (good) level hadiths.  He uses quotes of Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Shaatibi to back his claim.[3]

As for the second opinion, this is the opinion of the majority of the scholars.  They allowed acting on it provided the following four conditions as stated by Ibn Hajr:[4]

  1. The hadith in question must not be very weak…[it may] only have minor defects.
  2. The hadith is taken as subservient to the confirmed sources, that is the Qur’an and accepted hadith.  Therefore, it may not be used to establish something that has no basis in the confirmed sources.
  3. The reward that is stated in the hadith should not be expected…deed should be done more out of safety and a hope for some type of reward.
  4. The doer of the act should not make the act public so that no one else may act upon that hadith and think something is sanctioned while it is not sanctioned or so that no ignorant people might see the person doing the act and think that the act is an authentic sunnah.

Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri in his famous work on the introduction of the sciences of hadith also pointed out about this second opinion:

“This applies in topics other than the characteristics of God (He is exalted) and legal rulings concerning the permitted and forbidden, and so forth.  It is valid, for instance, for sermons, stories, the descriptions of the rewards associated with the performance of various religious acts…and the hadith on other matters having no connection to legal rulings and theological issues.”[5]

Shaykh Zarabozo’s reasons for rejecting this opinion as well, in summary, are as follows:[6]

  1. He states, “this is based on the presumption that virtuosity of acts somehow differs from laws in the religion of Islam.  There is no reason or proof for that presumption…statements concerning the virtuousness of an act must be based on the same types of evidence as any other deed in Islam.”[7]
  2. Weak hadiths are doubtful in nature and there is acceptable number of hadiths available and there is no need to refer to these doubtful hadiths.  Muslims should act according to knowledge and not conjecture.
  3. People who narrate such hadiths do not assure to make sure that it is not very weak; rather, they even narrate fabricated hadiths using the logic provided in this opinion that it is permissible as long as it is related to virtuous acts.  This understanding makes people too lax and they are not careful in determining if a hadith actually qualifies to be used for this purpose.  Thus, this view is not being put into practice with its proper conditions as stated by those scholars who hold this view.
  4. It is not easy to distinguish weak hadiths from very weak hadiths for even the scholars and is a very tedious task.

The third opinion, which Shaykh Zarabozo considers as the strongest, is that one should not act in accordance to any type of weak hadith no matter what be it subject matter.  He suggests that this is the opinion of Yahya ibn Maeen, Abu Haatim, Abu Zakariya al-Naisaboori, Abu Zarah, al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Hibban, al-Khattabi, al-Shawkani, Sideeq Hasan Khan, Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Ahmad Shaakir, Subhi al-Saalih, Ibn Uthaymeen, al-Albaani, and others.[8]  Mohammad Hashim Kamali states, “A weak or da’if hadith does not constitute a shar’i proof (hujjah) and is generally rejected.”[9]  Among the reasons listed by Shaykh Zarabozo for this opinion to be the strongest include:[10]

  1. Due to the numerous hadiths of authentic nature, there is no need to turn to these doubtful hadiths.
  2. There are strict warnings against attributing something to the Prophet which he did not say.  The companions use to start sweating when they narrated hadiths out of fear that they may attribute a lie to the Prophet.  As for some of the statements of the Prophet himself in this regard, following are a few examples:
    1. One of the worst lies is to claim falsely to be the son of someone other than one’s real father, or to claim to have had a dream one has not had, or to attribute to me what I have not said.” (Bukhari)
    2. Whoever falsely attributes something to me shall take his seat in the Fire.” (Bukhari)
    3. Telling lies about me is not like telling lies about anyone else. Whoever tells lies about me deliberately let him take his place in Hell.” (Bukhari)
    4. Whoever narrates a hadeeth from me that he thinks is false is one of the liars.” (Muslim)
    5. Beware of the hadith related on my authority, except for what you are knowledgeable of.” (Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Ibn Abu Shaiba)[11]
  3. In the terminology of hadith scholars, a weak hadith is basically a type of hadith in which there is a great possibility that the Prophet never made that statement and most likely it has not been properly preserved.  And “Allah has promised to preserve the sunnah.  Obviously, the preservation of the sunnah must imply that Allah will preserve it in such a way that the Muslim scholars can distinguish what is preserved from what is not preserved.  With respect to weak hadith, the evidence in front of the scholars is that they are not preserved.”[12]

A final point to mention about this issue is that some of the scholars, such as Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri, had indicated that when “you want to relate a weak hadith without an isnad, do not use, ‘The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said such and such,’ or similar phrases that definitively indicate that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said the words.  Instead, you should say for it, ‘It is related from the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him), such and such,’ ‘We read from him such and such,’…or something similar to that.”[13]  They said this in order to avoid attributing something to the Prophet which he did not say.  However, Shaykh Zarabozo makes a good point in that most people nowadays, due to lack of knowledge, are not able to determine through such phrases that the hadith is weak, hence, it is necessary to explicitly point out that the hadith is weak.

 

Bibliography

  1. Kamali, Mohammad Hashim.  Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.  Cambridge:  The Islamic Texts Society, 2003.
  2. Al-Shahrazuri, Ibn al-Salah. An Introduction to the Science of the Hadith. Trans. Dr. Eerik Dickinson.  Reading: Garnet Publishing Limited, 2006.
  3. Zarabozo, Jamaal al-Din M.  Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi. vol. 1.  Denver:  Al-Basheer Company for Publications and Translations, 2008.

[1] Zarabozo, pg. 70

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid, pg. 71-72

[4] Ibid, pg. 74-75

[5] Al-Shahrazuri, pg. 80

[6] Zarabozo, pg. 78-82

[7] Ibid, pg. 78

[8] Ibid, pg. 83-84

[9] Kamali, pg. 111

[10] Zarabozo, pg. 84-86

[11] Sahih according to Al-Albaani, as cited in Ibid, pg. 86

[12] Ibid, pg. 85

[13] Al-Shahrazuri, pg. 80

Hadiths: False Tales or Authentic Narrations?

sahih-muslim

Hadiths have come under lots of scrutiny and criticism during our times and many doubts have been raised against its validity.  The orientalists in particular have raised a number of doubts about its true origin and whether they truly are the words of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh).  One of the most common criticisms of hadith used to establish the hadiths as just false tales, as they claim, is that it was not written down during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad.  They argue that hadiths were not written down until generations after the Prophet’s death, hence, they cannot be accurate.  This is the main crux of their arguments and the main reason, they claim, for their rejection of hadiths.

However, when we open the books of those who have researched this topic thoroughly, we find a different story.  M.M. Azami writes in his infamous work Studies In Early Hadith Literature, refuting the claim that hadiths were not written down until the mid-second or the later half of the 2nd century after the Prophet’s migration to Madinah:

“It is not clear who was the first who furnished this information, but later on all the scholars, even al-Dhahabi and Ibn Hajar, repeated the old statement without scrutinizing it, even though they themselves had provided ample evidence in their writings against this common belief.”1

Azami further elaborates and points out that this understanding is a result of the following misconceptions:2

  1. Misinterpretation of the words: Tadwin, Tasnif and Kitabah (mentioned in hadith literature) which were understood in the sense of recording.
  2. The terms Haddathana, Akhbarana, ‘An, etc., (mentioned in hadith literature) which were generally believed to be used for oral transmissions.
  3. The claim of the powers of unique memory of the Arabs so that they had no need to write down anything.
  4. Hadiths against recording hadiths.

He then spends the next few pages clarifying the above misconceptions.  And these misunderstandings are mainly a result of orientalists not being familiar with the culture and history of the muhadditheen (scholars of hadith) and how they use to deal with the Prophet’s hadiths.  Language was another barrier for the orientalists.  They tend to understand certain words of the muhadditheen in a way not intended by them.  This is common in language where certain words have one meaning in a particular context and another meaning in a different context.  For example, the word Haddathana mentioned in the chains of transmission by the scholars of hadith was understood by the orientalists to mean only oral transmission.  But this assumption is false.  Azami clarifies this understanding by stating:

“The word Haddathana was used in a very wide sense.  If a man read a book of traditions to his teacher, he could use this word.  If the teacher read to his students from a book or from memory, the same word was used to describe the channel of knowledge.  Some scholars applied different terms to these two different methods of learning.  If the teacher read to his students, then the students could use the word Haddathana whenever they transmitted that particular tradition, but if the student read to his teacher then he would use the term Akhbarana.  In general this difference was not strictly observed.”3

Azami further proves this, in the next few pages, through examples of various hadiths mentioned in the classical works that use the word Haddathana and other such words in their text and points out clearly that those scholars many times were referring to actual written records and not just oral transmissions.

Writing was a common tool used not only during the Prophet’s life but rather after it as well.  Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah in his An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith points out many examples from the Prophet’s life in which written documents were created and have been recorded in books of history.  The most important of these written records was the constitution.  Hamidullah writes:

“After the Muslims of Mekkah migrated to Madinah, they laid there the foundations of a government and a city-state.  They Holy Prophet called for consultation of all the inhabitants of the place, Mekkan immigrants, Madinan converts, Jews and the Arabs who had not yet embraced Islam, and promulgated a state constitution.  This is the first written constitution of any state in the history of the world.”4

Among other written records he points out in his book during the Prophet’s life include a census, letters-patent, letters of proselytism, correspondence with the Jews, instruction to governors, rules and tariffs of taxes, etc.  There were also a number of companions who use to write down the prophet’s hadiths during his lifetime. They include Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, Abu Rafi’, Anas ibn Malik, and ‘Amr ibn Hazm.5  This, of course, is a partial list and not a complete one.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, many of his companions had their own personal copies of his hadiths written down.  One of the most prominent amongst the companions who is well known to have a large collection of his own writings was Abdullah ibn Abbas.  It is reported that, “when he died, he left as many of his writings as could constitute a camel-load.”6  One of the maidservants of the Prophet, Salma, said about him:

“I saw Abdullah ibn Abbas coming with tablets to (my husband) Abu Rafi’, and writing down something about the practice of the Holy Prophet.”7

It is well known that Abdullah ibn Abbas, when young, use to go to the elder companions and ask them about religious issues due to his love for seeking knowledge.  And he passed on this knowledge to his students in his own life.  For example, it is reported that, “certain men of Ta’if came to Abdullah ibn Abbas together with his books.  He began to read them out to them…Another pupil of his relates, ‘I came to Abdullah ibn Abbas and it so happened sometimes that I exhausted in writing all my stock of paper, then I wrote on (the sole of) my sandal to fill even that up, and then I wrote on my palm.’”8  As for after his death, it is well recorded that his students had access to his books.

As for other companions who either wrote the Prophet’s hadiths, had them written, or had a strong intention to do so, thereby, indicating that they did not consider it prohibited as some orientalists try to make the ignorant believe, then it includes: Jabir ibn Abdullah, Aisha, Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, Samurah ibn Jundub, Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah, Abdullah ibn Umar, Mughirah ibn Shu’bah, Abu Bakrah, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, and Abu Hurayrah.9

A great discovery was made recently when one of the oldest manuscripts of hadith was found compiled by one of the students of the great companion Abu Hurayrah, Hammam ibn Munabbih.  It contained about 140 hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad on moral behavior.  It was dictated by Abu Hurayrah to his student Hammam and was named al-Sahifah al-Sahihah.  It serves a great historical purpose and proves that the hadiths use to be written down during the lifetime of the companions.  What is perhaps the most intriguing discovery of this manuscript is that when it was compared to the later works of hadiths by Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, etc., it was discovered that, “every hadith of (this) Sahifah Hammam is not only found in the six canonical books of hadith, narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, but the sense of each of these sayings of the Prophet is found narrated on the authority of other companions of the Prophet too.”10  And the authors of these later famous hadith works had not changed even a single word of the hadiths, rather, it was similar in word and meaning exactly as the original manuscript.  Dr. Hamidullah presents the sahifah in the Arabic at the end of his book with its translation and also shows where those hadiths can be found in the well-known books of hadith.  All this affirms that the hadiths mentioned in the books of hadith are neither fictional nor baseless.  Azami put it best when he said:

“The pattern of composing books changed from the mere recording of hadiths at random or composing of booklets on a single topic, to cumulative writings incorporating scores of topics in one book…In later periods, this material was utilized by the classical authors, and edited with the utmost care, as is clear from the style of Muslim, Bukhari, etc.”11


1 Azami, M.M. Studies In Early Hadith Literature, p. 19.

2 Ibid

3 Ibid, p. 293-294.

4 Hamidullah, Muhammad. An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith, p. 20.

5 Ibid, p. 29-35.  All the relevant references for these companions can be found in these pages in Hamidullah’s book.

6 Ibid, p. 45.

7 Ibid, p. 45-46.

8 Ibid

9 Ibid, p. 35-47.

10 Ibid, p. 54

11 Azami, M.M. Studies In Early Hadith Literature, p. 31-32.