The Preservation of the Ḥadīth Literature
By Muntasir Zaman
“Marks of ink on one’s mouth and clothes are emblems of honor.”
– Ibrāhīm al-Nakha‘ī
How has the Islamic civilization maintained the rich literary heritage of Ḥadīth developed by early Muslim scholars? What guarantee is there that the collections of ḥadīths in our possession have reached us accurately or that they were compiled by their purported authors? Far from being exhaustive, this article intends to provide answers to these questions. It begins by examining the procedures scholars instituted to ensure accurate transmission of Ḥadīth books. It then proceeds to study the practice of oral/aural transmission (samā‘) and public reading sessions and their influence in preserving the Ḥadīth literature. Thereafter, the article builds on three arguments that Ibn al-Wazīr al-Yamānī (d. 840 AH) posits in response to those who doubt the authorship of the major Ḥadīth collections. Before concluding, it sheds light on the usage of wijādah in terms of transmission and practice. The appendix contains diagrams on the transmission of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
Procedures for Preservation
The attention and care scholars gave to the vast literature of Ḥadīth to ensure that the efforts of their predecessors were not in vain is truly awe-inspiring. They were methodical in their treatment of the Ḥadīth literature. They laid out guidelines on issues like book authorization, auditions, and the handling of manuscripts and registers. Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ’s (d. 544 AH) al-Ilmā‘ ilā Ma‘rifat Uṣūl al-Riwāyah wa Taqyīd al-Samā‘ is among the most prominent titles on the subject. Although an oft-cited authority on the subject, Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ was by no means the first to address this topic. He drew extensively from earlier works like al-Rāmahurmuzī’s (d. 360 AH) al-Muḥaddith al-Fāṣil and al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s (d. 462 AH) al-Kifāyah fī‘ ‘Ilm al-Riwāyah and al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmi‘. At times, scribes would devise creative techniques to prevent confusion when reading their manuscripts. For instance, Shu‘bah ibn al-Ḥajjāj (d. 160 AH) narrated the ḥadīth of Abū al-Ḥawrā’ to a student who wrote the ḥadīth and further added the word “ḥūr ‘īn” (wide-eyed damsel) as a note beneath the name Abū al-Ḥawrā’. The reason for this peculiar note was the presence of a narrator by the name Abū al-Jawzā’ in the same generation as Abū al-Ḥawrā’. To avoid confusing the two similar yet distinct narrators, the student diligently wrote ḥūr as a note to remind him of al-Hawrā’, which is the singular form of ḥūr. Read the rest of this entry »
The Life and Works of the Hanafī Jurist and Hadīth Scholar Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā
By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
His name is Zayn al-Dīn Abū al-‘Adl Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā al-Jamālī al-Hanafī, better known as ‘Allāmah Qāsim. He was born in Cairo in 802 AH where he lived until his demise in Rabī‘ al-Ākhir 879 AH. Growing up as an orphan, he began his studies at a tender age and would occupy himself with tailoring, but eventually focused on acquiring knowledge – after exerting himself therein, he shone and showed brilliance. He began his literary career early, authoring his first book at the age of 18 on inheritance. From a galaxy of teachers, his most prominent teacher in Hadīth was Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar and in Fiqh and legal theory Sirāj al-Dīn Qāri’ al-Hidāyah and al-Kamāl Ibn al-Humām. His student Hāfiẓ al-Sakhāwī said:
His dedication increased by frequenting the company of Ibn al-Humām. From 825 AH to Ibn al-Humām’s demise in 861 AH, he studied every book that was taught in his circle and learnt the most from him. The books he studied include the first quarter of his commentary on al-Hidāyah, part of Tawdīh of Sadr al-Sharī‘ah, and the entire al-Musāyarah (of Ibn al-Humām). […] He also studied books of Arabic literature and poetry, memorizing a significant portion thereof.
His teachers respected him due to his academic excellence. For instance, Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar authored al-Īthār bi Ma‘rifat Rijāl al-Āthār upon his request to compile a book on the transmitters in Imām Muhammad’s Kitāb al-Āthār. He then – at the age of 33 – studied it under Ibn Hajar, who authorized and described him as, “The eminent Shaykh, the qualified and unique Hadīth scholar. He contributed [to the class] and shared his observations on several places that were noted down and further illuminated the book.” Later on in another occasion, he described him as “The authority, the learned, the Hadīth scholar, the jurist, and the prolific memorizer.” Bear in mind that the one conferring these accolades is Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar, who requires no introduction. Al-Sakhāwī said: Read the rest of this entry »
Guidelines on Evaluating Historical Reports
By Shaykh Sharīf Hātim al-‘Awnī
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
[Translator’s preface: The following paper outlines an approach to evaluating the authenticity of historical reports. The author begins by emphasizing the merits of the Hadīth methodology, but makes sure to point out that not every science is obliged to adopt such a rigorous method. Drawing on statements from Hadīth experts like Ibn al-Mubarak and al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, he proves that Hadīth scholars themselves were nuanced in their treatment of non-prophetic reports.
After a lengthy preamble, he presents a maxim that can be applied to such reports: every report that, directly or indirectly, forms the basis of a religious ruling will be accepted only through the rigorous methods of the Hadīth scholars used for the Sunnah; otherwise, their methods will not be applied. He then explains the theoretical application of this maxim in all areas from Sīrah to Companion statements to stories of the following generations; to illustrate its practical application, he provides two case studies.
To be sure, this paper is not a license to cite unsubstantiated stories. As the author himself explains, “Taking certain liberties when assessing transmitted information besides Hadīth is not tantamount to authenticating what is inauthentic; instead, every transmitted information is to be evaluated with a relevant scale.” Note: a paraphrased translation was adopted and subtitles were added to facilitate an easier read.]
There has been an increasing demand to refine Hadīth studies in the fields of Sīrah, history, and prosopography. These demands have been made for a diverse set of methodologies, the most pure and cautious being the methodology of the Hadīth scholars. As a result, numerous research projects and books were produced, which is a blessed endeavor and a sign of great good. These studies have corrected many academic errors and refined some of the most integral primary sources. Nonetheless, these were human endeavors and therefore prone to error. An error in a peripheral issue is a light matter that can be easily resolved, but a methodological error is dangerous and its findings are difficult to remedy. Read the rest of this entry »
The Life and Works of Hāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī, Author of Nasb al-Rāyah
By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
Name and lineage
He is the Imām, prolific Hadith memorizer, and authority, Jamāl al-Dīn Abū Muhammad ‘Abd Allāh ibn Yūsuf ibn Yūnus Ibn Muhammad al-Zayla‘ī al-Hanafī, one of the leading Hadīth experts of the 8th century, which brimmed with experts of Hadīth who revived the path of the earlier scholars vis-à-vis memorization, scope, and analytics. Biographers disagree on his name and his father’s name: is it ‘Abd Allāh ibn Yūsuf or Yūsuf ibn ‘Abd Allāh? The first opinion is more preferred, and Allāh knows best.
Biographers have not specified the year of his birth, and neither have I come across any information to specify it either, but it is, nonetheless, safe to provide a rough estimation. Hāfiẓ al-Suyūtī writes, “the place of his entry is in the following generation. I mentioned him earlier only because his demise was earlier.” The “following generation” referred to in the quotation is the generation of Hāfiẓ Ibn Rajab (736-795 AH), Ibn Musallam (724-792 AH), Ibn Sayyid al-Nās (729-792 AH), and others. It is therefore not farfetched to assume that Hāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī was born in the vicinity of 720 AH. A further indication of this estimation is that Hāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī would accompany him in research while sourcing the hadīths of al-Ihyā, and they would even assist one another; al-‘Irāqī was born in 725 AH.
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. 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) described as an exclusive accomplishment of the Muslim civilization.
The word sanad (lit. base) refers to the chain of transmitters leading to the text of a hadīth while isnād refers to the mentioning of the chain. Majority of scholars, however, use both terms interchangeably. 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.’” In this example, the names leading to the text form the sanad of the hadith.
The usage of isnād began simultaneously with the transmission of the Prophet’s hadiths. Companions like Abū Salamah al-Makhzūmī (d. 3 AH), and Ja‘far ibn Abī Tālib (d. 8 AH), who passed away during the Prophet’s lifetime, transmitted hadiths citing the Prophet as their source. 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.” 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. This was not an issue because even the thought of lying about the Prophet was inconceivable to the Companions. Read the rest of this entry »
Insights on the Usage of Computer Programs to Locate and Grade Hadīth
By Muftī ‘Abd al-Mālik al-Kumillā’ī
[Translator’s Preface: The following is an excerpt from Muftī ‘Abd al-Mālik’s book “al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth al-Sharīf” on the use of computer programs to locate and grade hadīths. In this excerpt, Muftī ‘Abd al-Malik, seeing the abuse of these programs, sets out to clarify several misconceptions regarding them. Although the author’s contention lies mainly in the usage of computer programs to locate and grade Hadith, his insights are equally applicable to internet searches, printed books, and computer searches in other sciences as well. No doubt computer programs have immense benefit and can open many avenues when searching for hadīth, but everything needs to be put into perspective, and that is what this article hopes to achieve. An idiomatic translation was adopted to make the article more reader-friendly. – Muntasir Zaman]
In accordance with His promise to preserve the true teachings of Islām, Allāh has selected certain individuals or 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.
Muntasir Zamān Read the rest of this entry »