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History of Compilation of Hadith

                                     History, importance and authority of Hadith in Islam- Part I

For centuries hadith has been viewed as an essential part of Islamic law and learning. It is perceived of as a complement to Quran. The common belief among the muslim community all around the world is that hadith is an obligation to be followed. The muslims consider hadith to be the sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is considered a sin to talk against all these sayings which are in the prominent ahadis books and whom the muslims all over the world consider authentic. The main reason for this belief is the traditions that have been passed on to muslims for centuries generation by generation. But for the betterment of muslim community we need to take a critical look at all our beliefs. In this way we can find out the root causes of failure of Islam as a system and muslims as a community.

Compilation of Hadith:

This is a very important thing to remember that all those six authentic books of hadith were compiled some two hundred years after Prophet’s demise. They were compiled as following:

1. Al-Jami as Sahih Bukhari by Imam Muhammad bin Ismail Al- Bukhari (826 AD-888 AD)

2. Sahih Muslim by Imam Muslim bin Hajjaj Al-Nishapuri (836 AD-894 AD)

3. Al-Jami Al Tirmidhi by Imam Muhammad Bin Isa Al-Tirmidhi (841 AD-911AD) 

4. Sunan Abu Daud by Imam Suleiman bin Shoaib (834 AD-907AD)

5. Sunan Ibn Majah by Imam Muhammad bin Yazid (841 AD-905 AD)

6. Sunan Nasai by Imam Ahmed bin Shuaib (842 AD-939 AD).

These are the six most authentic collection of ahadith as told by the scholars. But talking logically how the content of these books can be 100 percent true when they were compiled almost two centuries after Prophet’s death. The compilation of hadith is a long chapter of Islamic history which can be summarized as following:

1. The companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) learned his teachings by heart and applied them in there real life. Many of them compiled their own collections of ahadith.

2. The next generation learned these traditions from the companions of the prophet who lived at that time. The founders of the four school of laws

were among this generation. They were called Tabaein (successors) . Many of them compiled their own collections of ahadith such as Muta of Imam Malik or Musnad of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.

3. The third generation learned these sayings from the succesors and developed the learning of hadith into a separate science of religion. Huge literature was produced during this period.

4. By the end of eigth century AD and beginning of ninth century hadith had become a separate science of its own. A fear grew in the Islamic world that many fabricated hadith would be compiled along with the authentic ones and would do huge damage to the cause of Islam. This led to a huge literature been produced about narrators of hadith. Certain rules and requirements were set down for an hadith to be authentic and for a narrator to be considered as trust worthy.

( Note: The last three phases of ahadith compilation were the period of Ummayad and Abbasid rule.)

Now we shall analyze all these phases one by one.

Abu Saeed Khudri narrates a hadith from Prophet (PBUH) which states:

” Don not write anything from me except the Quran. Whoever wrote must destroy it.” (Sahih Muslim)

Caliph Abu Bakr and Caliph Umar are reported to have said that they were not willing to write ahadith as muslims might consider them an authority. Hazrat Abu Bakr is reported to have burnt his compilation of ahadith. Hazrat Umar himself asked all the people to bring out their collection of ahadith. He brought it all together and burnt it. Hazrat Abu Huraira was once beaten up by Umar for telling a hadith which promoted idleness among people. Hazrat Abu Huraira himself said ” There are certain traditions which I didnot told to the people during Umar’s time or he would have beaten me up.” Similarly many prominent sahahba such as Anas bin Malik, Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar and Abdullah bin Maud were punished on narrating ahadith.This is just a sample. All these events are recorded just like all the ahahdith are.

If this was the attitude of Prophet’s companions towards ahadith then how come they would transfer it to others. The fabrication of hadith had begun during the lifetime of Sahaba.

Another very important point to notice is about the major narrators of ahadith. Some of the major narrators of ahadith are Ibn Abbas, Anas bin Malik and Abu Huraira.

Abu Huraira is narrator of more than 5000 ahadith. But he accepted Islam in 7A.H three years before the death of Holy Prophet(PBUH).

Even if he stayed in the company of the Prophet all  the time he cannot get to know such ahuge no. of sayings. And how can he remeber all of those sayings word by word. No doubt Arabs of that itme had excellent memory but even then it is impossible for ahuman brain to remember all those sayings and events exactly as they are.