Hadith

The Science of al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dīl: Separating Wheat from Chaff

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The Science of al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dīl: Separating Wheat from Chaff

By Muntasir Zaman

“And true virtue is what critics cannot help but acknowledge” goes the popular adage.[1] A case in point is where the renowned Orientalist Aloys Sprenger (d. 1893 CE) humbles his pen to write, “There is no nation, nor has there been any which like them [Muslims] has during twelve centuries recorded the life of every man of letters.”[2] The exclusivity of Muslims vis-à-vis the isnādimage system, as explained earlier, lies in their detailed evaluations of the transmitters who form the chains of transmission, better known as al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dīl (lit. criticism and accreditation). In this article, we will briefly outline the origins and development, basic nomenclature, procedures, and relevant literature in the science of al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dīl (henceforth narrator criticism).

To ensure the accurate transmission of the Prophet’s teachings, the science of narrator criticism inherently involves an exposition of a narrator’s personal details. [3] Disclosing a narrator’s faults for a greater need can be justified by verses from the Qur’ān,[4] the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him),[5] and the higher objectives of Islamic law.[6] Since this permission was granted as an exception, it is limited to disclosing relevant information that has a direct bearing on transmission.[7] Consequently, when a narrator’s status can be made apparent by highlighting one flaw, it is unlawful to mention a second.[8]

Narrator criticism began early in Islamic history.[9] Among the Companions, the names of ‘Umar, ‘Alī, Ibn ‘Abbās, and ‘A’ishah (Allāh be pleased with them) feature prominently among the first group of narrator critics.[10] This practice was then inherited by the subsequent generation of senior Successors, such as Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyab (d. 94 AH),[11] ‘Amir al-Sha‘bī (d. 103 AH), and Ibn Sīrīn (d. 110 AH).[12] Like other Islamic disciplines, the material on narrator criticism during the first century is fairly minimal. This owes itself to the fact that transmitters at the time were either Companions, who were collectively upright, or senior Successors, among whom were relatively few impugned transmitters.[13] Read the rest of this entry »

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The Isnād System: An Unbroken Link to The Prophet

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The Isnād System: An Unbroken Link to The Prophet

By Muntasir Zaman

Pause for a moment, and ask yourself: what are the greatest accomplishments of the Muslim civilization? At first thought, a number of things will probably come to mind, ranging from mathematics to medicine to architecture—perhaps even coffee.[1] But unfortunately we tend to overlook one of the greatest accomplishments, if not the greatest: the isnād system. That a person, till this day, can attribute a hadīth to the Prophet and then follow it with a list of authorities reaching back successively to the source is what scholars as early as Abū Bakr al-Thaqafī (d. 309 AH)[2] described as an exclusive accomplishment of the Muslim civilization.[3]DSCN9800

The word sanad (lit. base)[4] refers to the chain of transmitters leading to the text of a hadīth while isnād refers to the mentioning of the chain.[5] Majority of scholars, however, use both terms interchangeably.[6] Al-Bukhārī (d. 256 AH), for instance, mentions, “Makkī ibn Ibrahīm—Yazīd ibn Abī ‘Ubayd Allāh—Salamah: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) say, ‘Whoever lies about me should prepare his abode in the fire.’”[7] In this example, the names leading to the text form the sanad of the hadith.[8]

The usage of isnād began simultaneously with the transmission of the Prophet’s hadiths. Companions like Abū Salamah al-Makhzūmī (d. 3 AH),[9] and Ja‘far ibn Abī Tālib (d. 8 AH),[10] who passed away during the Prophet’s lifetime,[11] transmitted hadiths citing the Prophet as their source.[12] Furthermore, Companions who were preoccupied with their daily responsibilities would take turns to attend the gathering of the Prophet. When the present partner would relate the day’s teachings to the absent partner, he would obviously preface his words with “The Prophet said so and so.”[13] The shortness of the chain­, i.e. direct transmission from the Prophet, makes this first rudimentary usage of isnād unnoticeable. During this time, transmitters were not required to disclose their sources. That is why we find Companions like Anas ibn Mālik, who lived during the Medinan period, relate incidents from the Meccan period without citing their sources.[14] This was not an issue because even the thought of lying about the Prophet was inconceivable to the Companions.[15] Read the rest of this entry »

Sixty Years in The Making: A Closer Look at Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s Edition of Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī

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Sixty Years in The Making: A Closer Look at Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s Edition of Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī

By Muntasir Zaman

When an expert assures you that he invested sixty years of experience in a given project, it should come as no surprise that such a work deserves undivided attention. That is the case with the latest edition of Imām Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī’s (d. 911 AH) magnum opus Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī, which was critically edited by the Syrian Hadīth scholar Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah. Shaykh ‘Awwāmah prefaces the work by saying, “I have written therein the crux of sixty years of dedication to thisislamic field.”[1] In this article, we will take a closer look at this new edition by going through a general overview of the work and by highlighting three salient aspects of it, namely, the editor’s style of writing, method of tracing sources, and personal insights.

Overview

This edition was jointly published by Dār al-Yusr and Dār al-Minhāj in five volumes. The first volume comprises of a forward by Shaykh ‘Awwāmah, a description of the manuscripts used for Tadrīb al-Rāwī (the commentary) and al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr (the text),[2] the thabat of Ahmad Ibn al-‘Ajamī,[3] detailed indices for the entire book,[4] and the bibliography. The remaining four volumes comprise of the text of al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr and its commentary Tadrīb al-Rāwī, Ibn al-‘Ajamī’s marginalia, and Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s footnotes, and each volume has its own table of contents. Read the rest of this entry »

Give It a Second Thought: Guidelines on How to Approach Seemingly Problematic Hadīth

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Give It a Second Thought: Guidelines on How to Approach Seemingly Problematic Hadīth

By Muntasir Zaman

“The example of the intellect is sight free of defects and illnesses, and the example of the Qur’ān is the sun with rays spread-out. Hence, the seeker of guidance that dispenses with one of them in lieu of the other is most fit to be included in the deluge of fools. The one turning away from the intellect, sufficing with the light of the Qur’ān, his example is one exposed to the light of the sun, while closing the eyelids, so there is no difference between him and the blind. Thus, the intellect with the sharī‘ah is light upon light. The onlooker with an eye blind to one of them specifically is drawn in by a deceptive rope.”

– Imām al-Ghazālī (d. 505 AH) [1]

In numerous places, the Qur’ān calls on man to use his intellect and to contemplate over the perfection of Allah’s creation. Allah says, “We have certainly sent down to you a Book in which is your mention. Then will you not reason?”[2] In other verses, the Qur’ān reprimands those who do not use their reasoning, such as, “But those who disbelieve invent falsehood about Allah, and most of them do not reason.”[3] Therefore, there exists no incongruity between reason and revelation; rather, reason leads one to appreciate and understand revelation.[4] But it should be ensured that the reasoning is sound and the revelation is authentic.[5]

From the formative period of Islamic history, scholars have written books to address apparently contradictory hadīths, a field known as Mukhtalif al-Hadīth,[6] and hadīths that seem to imagesconflict with other evidences or external realities, a field known as Mushkil al-Hadīth.[7] In this regard, Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi’ī (d. 204 AH) authored Ikhtilāf al-Hadīth,[8] regarded as one of the earliest works on the subject, Ibn Qutaybah al-Dīnawarī (d. 276 AH) authored his pioneering monograph Ta’wīl Mukhtalif al-Hadīth, Abū Ja‘far al-Tahāwī (d. 321 AH) authored his peerless compendium Sharh Mushkil al-Āthār,[9] and Abū Bakr Ibn Fūrak (d. 406 AH) authored his masterpiece Mushkil al-Hadīth wa Bayānuhū (Allah have mercy on them all). Scholars have also dealt with narrations of this nature in their Hadīth commentaries. Abū Bakr Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311 AH), a leading authority in Hadīth, states, “I am unaware of any two authentic narrations of the Prophet that are contradictory. If anyone comes across such narrations, let him bring it to me so that I can reconcile between them.”[10]

The surge of criticism in recent times towards supposedly problematic hadīths has arisen because critics claim that these reports are absurd, unscientific, impossible, or contradictory. Many of the narrations that have been cast into the spotlight for allegedly problematic content were already discussed in detail by the greatest Islāmic minds. The difference, however, between classical Muslim scholars and modern critics is the perspective with which the two groups view the objection. Traditional scholars were not oblivious to scientific realities nor were they blind to logical fallacies. They were simply more charitable in their readings of scriptural texts whereas modern critics are not willing to do so.[11]

It will be beneficial to keep a few broad guidelines in mind when dealing with narrations of this nature. By no means are these guidelines meant to be exhaustive. But keeping them in mind can help to provide a more charitable reading of hadiths that may appear problematic. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Reward of Performing Two Sajdahs after the Witr Prayer Followed by the Recitation of “Subbūh Quddūs Rabb al-Malā’ikah wa al-Rūh” and Ayāt al-Kursī

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On the Reward of Performing Two Sajdahs after the Witr Prayer Followed by the Recitation of “Subbūh Quddūs Rabb al-Malā’ikah wa al-Rūh” and Ayāt al-Kursī

By Ibrāhim ibn Muhammad al-Halabī

Translated by Muntasir Zaman

[Translator’s Preface: The following is an analysis of a hadith concerning the supposed virtue of performing two sajdahs after the Witr prayer followed by the recitation of “subbūh quddūs rabb al-malā’ikah wa al-rūh” and Ayāt al-Kursī. This narration has been cited in Yūsuf ibn ‘Umar al-Kādūrī’s (d. c.700 AH) commentary of Mukhtasar al-Qudūrī entitled Jāmi‘ al-Mudmarāt wa al-Mushkilāt more simply known as “al-Mudmarāt.” [1]It was then quoted by ‘Ālim ibn ‘Alā’ al-Andarpatī (d. 786 AH) in al-Fatāwā al-Tātarkhāniyyah.[2]

This excerpt was extracted from Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad al-Halabī’s (d. 956 AH) work Ghunyat al-Mutamallī, a commentary on Sadīd al-Dīn al-Kāshgharī’s (d. 705 AH) primer Munyat al-Musallī wa Ghunyat al-Mubtadī.[3] In addition to being a great Hanafī jurist, Ibrāhīm al-Halabī was an expert in the sciences of Hadīth as well. Among his works in ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth, is a commentary on Alfiyyat al-Hadīth of Zayn al-Dīn al-‘Irāqī (d. 806 AH).[4]]


Ibrāhīm al-Halabī writes:[5]

As for what is mentioned in al-Tātarkhāniyyah[6] quoting al-Mudmarāt that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told Fātimah (Allah be pleased with her):

No believing man or believing woman performs two sajdahs [after the Witr prayer][7]: he recites the following in his [first] sajdah five times: Read the rest of this entry »

The Contribution of the Scholars of Deoband in the Field of Hadīth: Reviving a Forgotten Legacy

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Preface

In accordance with His promise to preserve the true teachings of Islām, Allāh has selected certain individuals ordownload groups throughout Islām’s history to carry out the task of preserving the noble Islāmic legacy. At times of creedal turmoil, the likes of Ahmad ibn Hanbal stood against the Mu’tazilī heresy; at times of political instability, personalities such as Salāh al-Dīn al-Ayyūbī mobilized the Muslim armies for combat; and at times of spiritual degradation, reformers like al-Ghazālī let the ink of their pens flow to revive the true spirit of scholarship and worship. Thus manifested Allāh’s undertaking mentioned in the verse: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it.” (Qur’ān, 15:9)

The founding of an institution in Deoband, India, in the year 1866, was not the inception of a yet another sect. Rather, it was an extension of this continuous effort to preserve the noble Islāmic legacy. The scholars of Deoband have played a pivotal role in preserving Islām, be it the Qur’ān, the Sunnah and their connected sciences or Islām’s prestigious history. It is sad to witness such a noble legacy and rich heritage go largely unnoticed by many students and scholars of Islām. They have contributed tremendously in various fields of Islām, from Qurā’nic exegesis, to jurisprudence, to Arabic, to political reform. However, their contribution towards the revival and preservation of the blessed Sunnah is most noteworthy.

As a token of acknowledgment and a means of creating awareness, the following article was prepared to highlight their most important contributions in the field of Hadīth. More emphasis has been given to earlier scholars, although contemporary scholars are also occasionally cited. Among other sources, the book Dār al-Ulūm Deoband by Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ubayd Allāh al-Qāsīmī and a list published in a monthly newsletter by Dār al-Ulūm Deoband (Rajab, 1432 AH) were consulted. Honorific titles such as Shaykh, Mawlānā, Muftī, etc. were omitted from the lists.

Click here for the pdf file of this article

Muntasir Zamān Read the rest of this entry »

Chronological List of Prominent Hadīth Scholars-English

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Chronological List of Prominent Hadīth Scholars

The importance of knowing the dates of birth/death of the scholars cannot be stressed enough, for it holds a high status in Islāmic knowledge in general and in theimages 3 science of Hadīth in particular. Thus, Imām ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī mentions, “Comprehension of the meaning of Hadīth is half of knowledge and knowing the transmitters is the other half.” To illustrate this point, let us look at the following incident:

A group of Jews presented a letter from the Messenger of Allāh that supposedly absolves the inhabitants of Khaybar from paying jizyah. This letter contained the testimony of the Companions and had the signature of ‘Alī (Allāh be pleased with him). When it was brought to the head of state, he gave it to al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī to examine it. After examining it, al-Khatīb concluded that the letter was forged. When asked how he came to that conclusion, he replied, “It contains the testimony of Mu‘āwiyah (Allāh be pleased with him) who only accepted Islām during the conquest of Makkah whereas Khaybar was conquered on the seventh year of Hijrah. Further, it contains the testimony of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘ādh (Allāh be pleased with him) who passed away during the battle of Banū Qurayżah, which was two years prior to the conquest of Khaybar.”

In view of this importance, we prepared the following chart, which contains the names, dates of birth/death, and works of prominent hadith scholars, starting from the second century AH until the present century. In this chart, we have sufficed on the relatively prominent hadith scholars; as otherwise, there would be no end to the list. Wherever possible, both the dates of birth and death were mentioned. Otherwise, only the date of death was mentioned, preceded by the abbreviation, “d.” When an approximate date is mentioned, it is preceded by “c.” (circa). The abbreviation “p.” means “post.”

It should be noted that the purpose of this chart is to serve as an easy reference for those searching for the names and dates of birth/death of major hadith scholars. Those who are interested in detailed biographical entries of these scholars should refer to the relevant works, such as Wafayāt al-A‘yān of Ibn Khallikān, Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’ of al-Dhahabī, Tabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyyah al-Kubrā of Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī, Shadharāt al-Dhahab of Ibn al-‘Imād, and al-A‘lām of al-Ziriklī etc.. To facilitate easy referencing, relevant works for further details have been cited under each entry in the Arabic chart.

  Muntasir Zaman   -Click here for the Pdf version of Chronological List of Prominent Hadīth Scholars-EnglishClick here for the Arabic List Read the rest of this entry »