Have We Surpassed the Classical Scholars of Islām?

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Translator’s Preface

The following is an excerpt from our abridged translation of Athar al-Hadīth al-Sharīf fī Ikhtilāf al-A’immah al-Fuqahā’. In this excerpt, the author addresses a misconception, which has plagued many academic circles in recent times, i.e. the idea that we have surpassed the classicalMasjid scholars of Islām, due to the abundant availability of hadīth literature and means of acquiring knowledge.

The superficiality of such a notion is  quite apparent to those who have impartially studied the works of our early scholars. ‘Allāmah al-Dhahabi (d. 748 AH), one of the greatest historians and scholars of hadith, explains the stark contrast between the early and latter-day scholars and the inability of the latter to ever reach the ranks of the former. While discussing a particular work of Imām Abū Bakr al-Ismā‘īlī (d. 371 AH), he states, “I was amazed by the memory of this Imām and was convinced that the latter-day scholars have no hope in reaching the ranks of the early scholars in memorization and knowledge.”[1] It is important to note that he made this assessment in an era filled with great scholars of hadith, such as Ibn Daqīq al-‘Īd (d. 702 AH) and Jamāl al-Dīn al-Mizzzī (d. 742 AH), whose knowledge and expertise in hadith is undisputedly beyond the reach of modern day scholars!

The following is only an abridged translation and therefore several sections have been omitted and others were summarized. To make the article more-reader friendly, an idiomatic translation was adopted in many places.

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