translated from Persian by A.Q. Qara'i
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 of hadith. 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 is hadith - 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 the Sahabah (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 by hadith 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 term hadith to the sayings of the Sahabah and Tabi`un in addition. Accordingly, every hadith is also a khabar, though every khabar 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 considers athar 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 the hadith-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 to hadith-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 without taharah (the condition of bodily purity as prescribed by the Shari'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 hadith so 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`ah writes:
...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's Rijal. 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:
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, the Tabi`un. It was during the generation of the Tabi`un that the Sahabah 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:
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 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:
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 of hadith; 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:
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 Musnad classified 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 the Sunan 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 combined al-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 the ahadith 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 repetitive ahadith 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.
al-hadith, Al-Sunnah qabl al-tadwin,
p. 16. See also Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh,
vol. V, p.398; Tadrib al-rawi, pp.4-5.
. Ibid, p.6;
see also Kashf al-zunun
and Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh, vol. V,
al-dirayah, p.7; Al-Sunnah qabl al-tadwin, p. 16; Dehkhuda,
Loghatnameh vol. V.p. 399.
. Ibid; see
also Dehkhuda, Loghatnameh,
vol. V, 399; see also Tadrib al-rawi,
al-hadith, p. 4.
Loghatnameh, vol V, 398; see also The Encyclopedia of Islam,
al-Shi`ah, p. 279. See also Husayn ibn Muhammad Taqi Nuri al-Tabarsi,
Fasl al-khitab, pp.5-7; 1298.
al-shi`ah, vol. I, p.274; Da'irat al-ma'arif al-Imamiyyah, p.70;
Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-huffaz, p.10.
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
p.7. See also Fajr al-Islam,
p.265, Parto-e Islam, 245.
p.69. Tadrib al-rawi. Kashf al-zunun, p.
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.
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,
vol.1, p. 14.
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.
p. 70. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, pp.280-287.
See also Tadrib al-rawi
and Kashf al-zunun, p. 637-638.
Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.278. See also Tadrib
al-rawi, Kashf al-zunun,
al-hadith, p.13. Maktab-e Tashayyu', Ordibehesht 1339, pp.58-61.
See also Fajr al-Islam,
p.265 and Parto-e Islam, p.264.
See also Fajr al-Islam,
p.262 and `Ilm al-hadith.
vol.11, pp 125-135 The Catalogue of the Library of the University of
Tehran, p.1088 See also
Nihayat al dirayah p 12.
catalogue of the Library of University of Tehran, pp. 1089-1095 See also
Al-Dhari`ah which mentions 117 Usul.
p. 70; Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p. 288. `Ilm
See `Ilm al-hadith, p. 56.
al-shi`ah, p.288. Tusi, al-Fihrist, `Ilm al-hadith, p.
p. 70. Ta'sis al-shi`ah, p.
289; `Ilm al-hadith, p.57.
al-hadith, p.52. See also Da'irat al-ma`arif al-Imamiyyah.
vol.11, pp.17-19. See also the Catalogue of the University of Tehran
pp.82-100-154-1277. Also refer to Ta'sis al-shi`ah. p.290.
catalogue of the Library of the University of Tehran, p.1628.
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,
Khaldun, Tariq, p.798.
Khaldun, Tariq, p. 798.
. Ibid, p. 637-639.