Considering that hadiths reached us through many narrators, why should we trust hadiths and why should we not deny hadiths?

The Details of the Question

- Hadiths passed through many narrators; therefore, we should not always trust the narrators of sound hadiths. The narrators were examined by a certain number of hadith scholars; to what extent could those examinations produce realistic results? About 40 000 hadiths probably means hundreds of thousands of narrators; the number of the imams who examined whether they were reliable or not is not more than a few thousands probably; the imams I have mentioned are imams collecting hadiths. How can a few thousand imams know what hundreds of thousands of narrators did in their lives well enough to say that such and such a narrator is reliable? How can we be sure of the trustworthiness of the imams? And considering that we do not have the original copies of some hadith books, why should we not deny hadiths?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

- In no period in human history was the system of news with chain of narrators that was used for hadiths used. Anyone who does not believe the news in this system should not believe any other historical information.

- There are important RIJAL sources that wrote about the short lives, births and deaths of the narrators in that chain of narrators, from whom they narrated hadiths, and their opinions about the scholars accepted as the authority. Those sources were printed and they are available today. What source of knowledge can a person who does not trust those works of the great Islamic scholars who have taqwa, who worked day and night in order to show the soundness or weakness of hadiths with such a special effort believe?

- One narrator narrated more than one hadith; therefore, one cannot complain about the large number of narrators and the difficulty of determining their lives. A single narrator is sometimes included in the chain of narrators of dozens of hadiths. For example; hundreds and thousands of hadiths were narrated from the Companions like Hz. Abu Hurayra, Hz. Aisha, Hz. Ibn Masud, Hz. Ibn Umar, Hz. Ibn Amr b. As, Hz. Anas and Hz. Ibn Abbas; there are also scholars who narrated hundreds of hadiths from the Companions like among the scholars of Tabiun and Tabau Tabiin.  

- In every century, certain people are known as great scholars, very honest, never telling lies, and fearing Allah very much. And this acceptance of the society is generally correct at a rate close to one hundred percent. For example: People like the Imams of the four madhhabs, Abdulqadir Ghaylani, Shah Naqshband were known as great, righteous, pious people both in their own centuries and in the following centuries; and they did not anything wrong to refute that opinion. Similarly, it cannot be accepted by the common sense that Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi and similar great people could slander the Prophet knowingly believe.

- Is it possible for hadith scholars, who were experts of the words of the Prophet (pbuh), who feared Allah very much and worshipped a lot with the witnessing of their lives, to slander the Messenger of Allah deliberately or to say that some narrators whom they knew to be bad were good?

- One of the most famous hadiths in hadith sources is as follows:

 "Whoever deliberately attributes a false statement to me should get ready for his place in Hell." (Bukhari, Anbiya, 50; Muslim, Zuhd, 72)

Is it possible for the pious scholars who always see this hadith to deliberately act contrarily to it?

- It is stated in the Quran that the Prophet (pbuh) was given the duty of explaining the meaning of the Quran in addition to conveying the text of it to people.

"(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought." (an-Nahl, 16/44),

"And We sent down the Book to thee for the express purpose, that thou shouldst make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe." (an-Nahl, 16/64)

The issue is clearly emphasized in the verses above.

Accordingly, in addition to the duty of the Prophet (pbuh) to convey the Quran to people, he also had an obligatory duty: to explain - the necessary issues by clearly mentioning the relevant verses or by not mentioning them.

The explanations made by the Prophet, be it actual, verbal or giving approval, formed the literature of the sunnah; and the sunnah formed the hadith literature. The lives of the people in this literature were examined down to the last detail in order to determine whether they were reliable or not. When they saw the slightest blemish related to the memory or justice of the narrator, they would reject that person without paying attention to their scholarly reputation.

- There is no explanation for not accepting a fact that is accepted by thousands of Islamic scholars who are famous for being the wisest, smartest, most knowledgeable, devoted, pious and honest people of the ummah. It is great injustice to deny the existence of sound hadiths that are clear like the sun by being affected by the delusions of the soul.

- We should not forget that just as it is very bad to deliberately attribute a statement that the Prophet (pbuh) did not make to him so too is it very bad to deny a statement he made - without accepting it as it true.

Answer 2:

The determination and preservation of the hadiths started during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and was preserved both by memorizing, writing, and by being practiced and applied:

Hadith is a term that expresses the words, deeds and consent of the Prophet (pbuh). It is also a branch of science aimed at determining, transferring and understanding hadiths.

Etymology and Scope

It is understood that the Messenger of Allah himself used the word hadith for his statements. When Abu Hurayra asked the Messenger of Allah who would attain his intercession first on the Day of Judgment, he answered as follows:

"O Abu Hurayra! I know about your interest in hadith; therefore, I guessed that you would ask the first question about that hadith." (Bukhari, "Ilm", 33; "Riqaq", 51)

The female Companions said to the Prophet (pbuh)

"Only men benefit from your word (bi hadithika)." (Bukhari, "Itisam", 9)

Thus, they wanted him to allocate one day to them for religious talk; the Prophet approved their use of the word hadith; That word was used in the sense of the news giving information about the words and deeds of the Messenger of Allah and his approval.

There are different views about the scope of hadith and the sunnah but it is generally approved by hadith scholars the use of those two words synonymously for the words, deeds and approval of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). 

The Importance of Hadiths

Hadiths are very valuable as the words of the Prophet to whom the Quran was sent down (an-Nahl, 16/44, 64), who enlightened people regarding the issues that they disagreed and hence became a source of guidance and mercy for them and they are of great significance as the views the Messenger of Allah, who understands the Quran better than everybody else and who knows what the divine purpose in the verses is in the best way.   

The primary divine orders that the Prophet (pbuh) explained to people with his words and showed them how to perform them with his practice are the deeds of worship like prayer, fasting, zakah and hajj. The issues such as when to perform prayers as how many rak’ahs and how, how to perform fasting, how much zakah to give and from what goods, and how to perform hajj are not included in the Quran; they are clarified by hadiths. Many issues in Islamic law have been solved through the information given in hadiths.  

In addition, the verses of the Quran that cannot be easily understood (mushkil verses) because they can be interpreted differently like the interpretation of polytheism (shirk) with the word "zulm (oppression/wrongdoing)", verses with comprehensive expressions and verses in which narrower meanings are meant can be interpreted thanks to hadith narrations.

Hadiths also clarify many issues that do not exist in the Quran and show the forms of their practice. For example, issues such as whether a woman who cannot perform prayers during menstruation needs to perform them later as qada, whether a man can marry the aunt of her wife when she is still married with her, the people who are haram to marry due to being close relatives also being haram due to milk kinship, decrees related to pre-emptive right and right of inheritance of a grandmother and paternal relatives were solved by the Prophet (pbuh).

The issues that are mentioned in the Quran but that are not explained very much such as issues regarding life in the hereafter, life in the grave, resurrection, gathering place, reckoning, scales (mizan), life in Paradise and Hell can be learned thanks to hadiths. There is detailed information in hadiths related to issues such as ethical virtues, rules that will ensure spiritual development, ways of behaving necessary for a regular family life, decrees arranging social and commercial relationships among people, and relationships between administrators and people.  

We are ordered to obey the Prophet (pbuh) in more than thirty verses.

 "So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you." (al-Hashr, 59/7)

The definite command in the verse above in particular shows that it is necessary to adopt the practice of the Messenger of Allah regarding the issues that are not clearly expressed in the Quran. 

The verses stating that Muslims do not have any option to act contrarily to the decisions made by Allah and His Messenger (al-Ahzab, 33/36), that they will not be regarded as believers unless they make the Prophet judge in all disputes between them and accept those decisions with the fullest conviction (an-Nisa, 4/65) and that the Messenger of Allah is a beautiful pattern of conduct for those who hope to reach Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah (al-Ahzab, 33/ 21) show that the words and deeds of the Prophet (pbuh) are indispensable and very important. 

“Allah hath sent down to thee the Book and wisdom and taught thee what thou Knewest not (before)." (an-Nisa, 4/113)

"And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the Signs of Allah and His Wisdom." (al-Ahzab, 33/34)

It is accepted that the word wisdom mentioned in the verses above together with the Quran, especially when it is mentioned immediately after the Quran, means the actual and verbal sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). (Shafii, ar-Risala, p. 78, 93, 103)

That it is laid as a condition to believe in and obey the Messenger of Allah in the verses that order belief in and obedience to Allah strengthens that view of the scholars. 

The phrases "Allah stated the following" or "My Lord ordered me" show that some hadiths of the Messenger of Allah are products of divine revelation. That the phrase "Allah stated the following" existing at the beginning of the narrations called "qudsi (sacred) hadith" does not exist when those narrations are repeated in some other chapters of the same hadith books or in another hadith book suggest the idea that there are too many sacred hadiths to determine. (Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 1, 174) 

It is known that the view that hadiths are also products of divine revelation along with the Quran dates back at least to Hassan b. Atiyya (d. 130/748). (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 49)

Imam Shafii, who holds the same view as most of the Islamic scholars, regards the Quran as wahy matluww (recited revelation); on the other hand, the sunnah or hadiths are called wahy ghayr matluww (unrecited revelation). However, hadiths differ from the Quran in that their words do not belong to Allah along with the meaning, they are not miraculous in terms of both words and meaning, all of them were not written down based on the order of the Prophet and they are not memorized and recited with the purpose of worship.

According to the great majority of the Islamic scholars, the words of the hadiths belong to the Prophet (pbuh) and the meanings and concepts of them belong to Allah. Therefore, sacred and prophetic hadiths were also called "wahy khafiyy (hidden revelation)" along with wahy ghayr matluww. According to Muhammad Hamidullah, since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a messenger sent by Allah, he has to speak and act in accordance with the instructions of the one that sent him regarding the issues of his duty like all messengers.  

 "So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you." (al-Hashr, 59/7)

As a matter of fact, the verse above proves it. (IA, XI, 243)

In fact, when Imam Shafii stated that Allah gave the Prophet two kinds of orders and mentioned the first one as "divine revelation" (the Quran) and the second as "prophethood", he probably acted upon the same logic. (al-Umm, V, 127)

Those who argue that the meanings and concepts of hadiths are based on divine revelation say that they were informed by Jibril (Gabriel) (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 49; Shatibi, IV, 24) or were inspired while the Prophet was asleep or awake. That Jibril sometimes came disguised as a human being and made explanations to the Prophet (pbuh) about the nature and forms of deeds of worship (Musnad, II, 325; IV, 129,161, Muslim, "Masajid", 166, 167), that Allah taught the Messenger of Allah when Jewish scholars asked him questions or informed him about the questions they would ask (Musnad, III, 108, 113) and that Allah taught him some answers to the questions asked by some Muslims (Bukhari, Fadailul-Quran, 2) show the close relationship of hadiths and the sunnah with divine revelation.   

Scholars state that it is indicated in some verses that the Prophet (pbuh) received revelation other than the revelation of the Quran from Allah. For instance, the Messenger of Allah gave a secret to Hz. Hafsa and told her not tell anyone about it but she told Hz. Aisha about it; thereupon, Allah informed His Messenger about it and that incident was narrated in the Quran afterwards (at-Tahrim, 66/3); in the month of Dhulqada of the 6th year of the Migration (March 628), before setting off for Makkah  with the purpose of performing umrah, the Messenger of Allah saw in his dream that he went to Makkah and circumambulated the Kaaba and told his Companions about it but when he could not go further than Hudaybiyyah and had to sign a treaty with Makkans there, some Companions expressed their sorrow and reminded the Messenger of Allah that his promise could not be realized; thereupon, the verse stating that the dream of the Prophet was true (al-Fath, 48/27); in addition, some other examples show that the Messenger of Allah was given some information by Allah other than the revelation of the Quran

In that case, the role of the Prophet related to hadiths is to express the message with his own words or to show it with his deeds and acts.

On the other hand, according to the classification of revelation by Hanafi imams (Erdoğan, pp. 77-78), the views and ijtihads of the Messenger of Allah also play a role in hadiths. However, since he was always under the control of revelation and since his wrong views and ijtihads that rarely occurred related to prophethood were corrected by revelation (for instance, see al-Anfal, 8/67; at-Tawba, 9/43; at-Tahrim; Abasa, 80/1-10), such hadiths were regarded as a kind of revelation.  

When this last view, which is also related to the "ismah (protection, innocence, infallibility)" attribute of the Messenger of Allah, and which is understood to be originating from the view that he makes correct ijtihads thanks to his great mental faculty and vast experience, is taken into consideration, the disagreements about regarding hadiths as products of revelation or the views and ijtihads of the Prophet are not practically very important in terms of the value of hadiths. For, that the words, deeds and approvals of the Messenger of Allah related to the religion in the broad sense were kept under divine control and were corrected when necessary requires us to accept that hadiths are generally in accordance with the purpose of revelation and that the decrees of hadiths are binding.    

All those issues show the value that hadiths and sunnah carry legally.

The verses indicating the respectability of the Messenger of Allah and the importance of the decrees he gives show that his words, orders and prohibitions cannot be regarded as different form the decrees of the Quran and that it is necessary to accept them as part of Islamic decrees. (Shatibi, IV, 14-15)

The Prophet expresses it with his statement, ‘I have been given the Qur'an and something like it’ (Abu Dawud, "Sunnah", 5). That when Muadh b. Jabal, who was about to be sent as the governor to Yemen, was asked by the Prophet how he would judge there, the answer given by Muadh that he would refer to the sunnah of the Prophet related to the issues he could not find in the Quran pleased the Messenger of Allah and that Hz. Abu Bakr and Umar referred to hadiths related to the issues they could not find in the Quran throughout their caliphate show that the sunnah and hadiths are the second source to be referred to after the Quran. 

All madhhab imams gave up their personal views and adopted the hadith when their views turned out to be contrary to a sound hadith. Imam Shafii's statement "Who can have another evidence in the face of the word of the Messenger of Allah?" shows the viewpoints of the first imams related to hadiths.  

Determination of Hadiths

Arabs, who had the tradition of transferring their culture consisting of poetry, rhetoric, war stories (ayyam al-Arab) and pedigree, had a very advanced ability to memorize.

In addition, the number of those who could read and write in Makkah, which was an important trade center during the emergence of Islam, was higher than those in Madinah. The ones who became Muslims among them were engaged in writing the Quran upon the order of the Prophet. 

On the other hand, considering the possibility of his words being mixed with the divine book or the fact that the Quran could be neglected while being busy with writing the hadiths, the Messenger of Allah allowed the hadiths to be narrated only verbally. (Muslim, "Zuhd", 72) 

In fact, the Companions sincerely believed in the Prophet, whom they knew to be in contact with Allah all the time, and were loyal to him; therefore, they followed each order and deed of him very carefully and memorized them. Contrary to the contemporary mindset, which attaches importance to written sources, the people living at that time had extraordinarily good memories. (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, p. 89) Those people had clear minds due to their plain and natural lifestyle; among them were some people who had such a strong memory as to memorize a long poem or speech they heard immediately. Since the Prophet (pbuh) repeated some important words three times (Bukhari, '"Ilm", 30) and pronounced words so slowly that it was possible to count them (Bukhari, "Manaqib", 23), the listeners could easily learn what he said.   

The Companions who could not be with the Messenger of Allah due to being busy with agriculture, trade, etc. tried to learn what he said as soon as possible. The Companions who joined the assemblies of the Messenger of Allah in turns and tried to memorize his orders by listening to them (Bukhari, "Ilm", 27) taught them to one another and studied them together. (Khatib, al-Jami’ li-Akhlaqir-Rawi, I, 236-239) This tradition of mudhakara (studying hadiths together), which was attached great importance by the Companions, continued after them too. (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 51)

That the Prophet (pbuh) ordered the Companions to listen to his words and to learn them and that he prayed for those who conveyed what they learned to others (Bukhari, "Ilm", 9) enabled them to learn hadiths with the enthusiasm of worshipping and to convey them to others.   

In addition, Ahl as-Suffa, who lived next to Masjid an-Nabawi and who were about seventy people (Bukhari, "Salah", 58) learned hadiths from the Messenger of Allah. The reason why some hadiths are narrated by a different number of Companions is due to the number of the people in his presence when he said something or something happened. 

The Companions’ efforts to learn the hadiths that they themselves did not hear from the Messenger of Allah continued after his death too. It is known that Jabir b. Abdullah went to Damascus from Madinah in order to learn a hadith from Abdullah b. Unays (Bukhari, "IIm", 19) and that Abu Ayyub al-Ansari went to Egypt from Madinah in order to talk to Uqba b. Amir al-Juhani to check a hadith he heard from the Messenger of Allah (Musnad, IV, 159).

It is known that the Prophet (pbuh) did not allow everybody who wanted to write hadiths but it is not possible to say that he definitely prohibited writing hadiths. As a matter of fact, he allowed the young Companions who could read and write and who were careful like Abdullah b. Amr b. As (Musnad, II, 403; Ibn Qutayba, p. 365-366) and those who complained that they had a weak memory (Tirmidhi, "Ilm", 12) to write hadiths; he did not reject the requests of the people like Abu Shah of Yemen, who once wanted his speech to be written and given to him (Bukhari, "Luqata", 7, "Diyar, 8). 

In later years, the Prophet gave permission to those who wanted to write hadiths   since most of the verses of the Quran had been revealed, they were written very carefully, the number of the hafizes of the Quran increased, the majority of the Muslims understood the style of the Quran, and the anxiety that his words would be mixed with the Quran or that being busy with hadiths could cause people to neglect the Quran ended. (Tirmidhi, "Ilm", 12; Darimi, "Muqaddima", 43) That the Messenger of Allah wanted to write a letter a little while before his death to tell the Muslims not to deviate from the true path (Bukhari, "Ilm", 39) and that he allowed his words to be written for Abu Shah show that he did not object to his hadiths being written in later years.

The Companions who got permission from the Messenger of Allah regarding the issue both memorized and wrote the hadiths that they heard and learned (Musnad, II, 403). Among the Companions who wrote those documents called "Sahifa (Page)" are Abdullah b. Amr b. As, who wrote as-Sahifatus-Sadiqa, which includes about 1.000 hadiths, Sa'd b. Ubada, Muadh b. Jabal, Ali b. Abu Talib, Amr b. Hazm al-Ansari, Samura b. Jundab, Abdullah b. Abbas, Jabir b. Abdullah. Abdullah b. Abu Awfa and Anas b. Malik. 

Sahifatu Hammam b. Munabbih (as-Sahifatus-Sahiha), which is one of the first written sources, which was dictated by Abu Hurayra to his student Hammam b. Munabbih and which includes 138 hadiths, was first published by Muhammad Hamidullah. 

The booklet of forty hadith called Musnadu Burayd, which was reported from Abu Musa al-Ash'ari by his son and from him by his grandson, should be mentioned here. (Süleymaniye Ktp., Şehid Ali Paşa, nr. 541, vr. 136a- i 74b)

Those who were worried that if hadiths were compiled in the form of books, they would be regarded as equal to the Book of Allah or people would be busy with them instead of the Quran advised people only to memorize the hadiths; those who were more tolerant stated that they could be written before being memorized but that the written texts should be eliminated after being memorized. (Khatib al-Baghdadi, Taqyidul-Ilm, pp. 58-63)

It is known that the Companions who were in different cities wanted the hadiths that they themselves did not hear from the Prophet from one another and that Mughira b. Shu'ba wrote some hadiths upon the demand of Muawiya and sent them to him. (For examples, see Imtiyaz Ahmed, pp. 299-302, 500-540)

Among the Companions who objected to the hadiths being written at first thinking that the Quran would be neglected were Abdullah b. Mas'ud, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, Abu Hurayra, Abdullah b. Abbas, Abu Said al-Khudri and Abdullah b. Umar. However, when they saw the careless and insincere narrators afterwards, almost all of them gave up their view and advised that hadiths should be written, dictated hadiths to their students and they themselves obtained texts in which hadiths were written.  

Narration of Hadiths

It is not appropriate to conclude that some administrators like Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar did not rely on hadiths or hadith narrators acting upon their attitude against narration of many hadiths. It is known that the Rightly-Guided Caliphs referred to hadiths related to many issues whose solutions they could not find in the Quran and that they even consulted the Companions to determine whether there were hadiths to solve the problems that arose. (Bukhari, "Tibb", 30; Muslim, "Salam", 98; Abu Dawud, "Fara'id", 5; Tirmidhi, "Talaq", 23; Darimi, "Muqaddima", 20) 

The meticulousness of the first caliphs about hadith narrations may have arisen from the anxiety of neglecting meditation on the issues included in the narration by attaching importance to narrations based on memory. It is due to the same anxiety that Hz. Umar walked together with his men whom he sent to Iraq until they reached out of Madinah, told them that the people in the place they would go had just become Muslims and hence could not read the Quran correctly; he warned his men that they should narrate those people only the hadiths that would meet their needs in important issues and avoid narrating them more hadiths (Ibn Majah, "Muqaddima", 3, Darimi, "Muqaddima", 28)

It is not possible to think that Hz. Umar, who advised people to learn faraid and sunnah as if they learn the Quran (Darimi, "Fara'id", 1), who ordered Qadi Shurayh to refer to the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah for an issue whose solution he could not find in the Quran (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 20), to oppose hadith narration. One of the reasons why he wanted the Companions to narrate few hadiths was to make them act as meticulously as possible regarding narration of hadiths.

Some Companions felt worried because they thought narrating a lot of hadiths could cause mistakes in hadith texts like adding or skipping some words and hence wrong words could be attributed to the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, the hadith stating that narrating anything one hears could make him a liar (Muslim, "Muqaddima", 5) caused them to act cautiously and narrate few hadiths. 

As a matter of fact, the first four caliphs, and the Companions such as Zubayr b. Awwam, Abu Ubayda b. Jarrah, Zayd b. Arqam and Abdullah b. Umar acted very cautiously regarding the issue and tried to narrate hadith using the exact words.

The Companions such as Hz. Aisha, Anas b. Malik, Abdullah b. Mas'ud, Abu Said al-Khudri and Abu Hurayra acted very cautiously regarding hadith narrations but due to the effect of the verses of the Quran and hadiths blaming those who do not teach others what they know (al-Baqara, 2/159-160, 174-176; Bukhari, "Ilm", 42; Ibn Majah, "Muqaddima", 24; Musnad, 11, 296, 499, 508), they acted more tolerantly and did not object to hadiths being narrated in terms of meaning.  

The Muslims living during the era of the Prophet (pbuh) did not think that mistakes and forgetting would occur in hadith narrations. "The hypocrites are afraid lest a Sura should be sent down about them, showing them what is (really passing) in their hearts." (at-Tawba, 9/64) The hypocrites avoided attributing a word that the Messenger of Allah did not say to him due to the verse above.    

The Rightly-Guided Caliphs and notables of the Companions acted more meticulously related to accepting hadiths after the death of the Prophet (pbuh); when they heard somebody narrate a hadith that they themselves did not hear, they either wanted that person to bring a witness who heard that hadith from the Messenger of Allah like Hz. Umar did (Bukhari, "Istidhan", 13) or made that person swear an oath that he heard that hadith from the Prophet like Hz. Ali did (Musnad, 1, 2. 10), or asked that person to tell that hadith again after a long time passed to check whether the narrator learned the hadith well or not like Hz. Aisha did (Muslim, "Ilm", 14).

That Hz. Abu Bakr burnt the 500 hadiths that he collected from the Companions who heard them from the Messenger of Allah and that he wrote was due to his fear that a mistake might have been made during narration. (Dhahabi, Tadhkiratul-Huffaz, p. 5) The reason why Hz. Umar first thought about writing hadiths but gave up his thought after consulting the Companions for a month was due to the fear that it could cause the Quran to be neglected. (Khatib, Taqyidul-Ilm, pp. 50-51) 

The reasons that justified those who wanted to compile hadiths in books increased in the course of time. The increase of conquests beginning from the caliphate of Hz. Umar, the death of the Companions who knew the hadiths of the Prophet, Hz. Uthman’s allowing the Companions to leave Madinah after the death of Hz. Umar, who did not allow them to leave Madinah made it necessary to take measures regarding the issue.

The attempts of the some ill-intentioned people of the newly conquered countries to distort the religion especially after the martyrdom of the last two caliphs necessitated preserving the hadiths by writing them; therefore, most of those who objected to the hadiths being written at first accepted it afterwards; the students of the well-known Companions attached so much importance to it that when they could not find paper to write the hadiths they heard from those Companions, they wrote them on their garments, at the back of the saddles and even on the walls. (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 43)

Thus, hadiths were saved from being lost thanks to the efforts of the people who regarded narrating hadiths a deed of worship. According to a determination, the number of the Companions who dictated hadiths to their students from Tabiun reached 50 in the first century of the Migration. (M. Mustafa al-A'zami, İlk Devir Hadis Edebiyatı, p. 34-58)

The number of Tabiun who were busy with hadith narration is much more than the Companions. Among them were hadith scholars like Said b. Musayyab, who travelled for days for a single hadith, Said b. Jubayr and Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri, who wrote down the narrations they heard immediately.  

There were many people among Tabiun who objected to the hadiths being written at first but who gave up that view and regretted not writing them in the early years of their lives; it shows that the deed of writing hadiths was approved greatly by Tabiun.

The Compilation and Classification of Hadiths

One of the causes that quickened the compilation of hadiths was the emergence of political groups like Khawarij and Ghaliyya immediately after the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman, of madhhabs of creed like Qadariyya and Murji’a beginning from the end of the first century of the Migration (7th century AD) and Jahmiyya and Mushabbiha after a while. 

That the followers of those groups and madhhabs who were against the conservative majority denied the hadiths that they did not like and that they fabricated hadiths in order to strengthen their views caused the people who were busy with compiling hadiths to think about the issue and to take measures. The hadiths scholars who objected to the hadiths being compiled at first changed their attitude when they saw that Shiites fabricated narrations in favor of their own groups, and the followers of Abbasids afterwards in favor of their caliphs, that some people who pursued their own interests, some ignorant people affected by the bigotry of their races and madhhabs, and enemies of Islam fabricated hadiths in line with their own thoughts and spread them and that some people with good intentions reacted by fabricating hadiths. 

In addition, such developments caused the hadith scholars to act more cautiously related to careless and insincere narrators, to ask them from whom they heard the hadiths they narrated and to avoid the narrations of the people of bid’ah (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 38); beginning from the first half of the first century, the issue of chain of narrators emerged.

After the system of chain of narrators started, the narrations of the narrators belonging to Ahl as-Sunnah were accepted and the narrators of the people of bid’ah were not accepted. (Muslim,"Muqaddima", 5)

Consequently, narrators were searched very carefully by the scholars who were specialized in hadith; the lifestyles, religiousness and honesty of the narrators were examined; it was checked whether they had any connection with bid’ahs, whether they told lies and whether their memory was weak; thus, the science of jarh and ta’dil (criticism and praise) emerged in the first century; and as a result, a large collection about the lives of narrators formed.    

A letter written by Abdulaziz b. Marwan, who was one of the governors of Egypt during the era of Umayyads, shows that statesmen were interested in the compilation of hadiths, though not officially, beginning from the early periods in order to protect hadiths from ill-intentioned people. In that letter, which Abdulaziz b. Marwan wrote to Kathir b. Murra al-Hadrami, who was a hadith scholar who was said to have talked to seventy Companions who took part in the Battle of Badr, Marwan stated that he had the narrations of Abu Hurayra and wanted him to write and send him the hadiths he heard from the other Companions.    

What happened after that letter is not known but when the caliph Umar b. Abdulaziz understood that the notables of the scholars would no longer object to hadiths being written, he decided to start the deed of compilation officially in order to prevent insincere people from harming hadiths and to save the hadiths that had not been compiled up to that time from getting lost. The caliph sent a letter to governors, people of Madinah, well-known scholars and Abu Bakr b. Hazm, who was the governor and qadi of Madinah, and stated in the letter that he was worried that hadiths would disappear as the scholars died and hence wanted them to search and write the hadiths and sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). (Darimi, "Muqaddima", 43; Bukhari, '"Ilm", 34; Khatib, Taqyidul-Ilm, p. 106)

Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri (d. 124/742), who wrote the fatwas of the Companions thinking that they were sunnah and who had many books in which he wrote every narration he heard became the first hadith scholar who fulfilled the order of the caliph by compiling the hadiths and sending them to the caliph. Umar b. Abdulaziz reproduced those hadiths and sent them to various regions. (Ibn Abdulbar, I, 331)

Along with the sahifas written by the Companions, it is known based on documents that hadiths were written by about 400 hadith scholars in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century of the Migration according to a determination. (M. Mustafa al-A'zami, İlk Devir Hadis Edebiyatı, p. 58-161; Imtiyaz Ahmed, p. 416-590)

When the compilation of hadiths was completed, works and methods aiming at arranging them in systemized books and hence making it easy to find the hadiths that are sought gained importance.   

Some scholars tried to classify hadiths according to their topics, writing types of books called "musannaf” while others preferred listing the hadiths according to the names of the Companions who were the first narrators of the hadiths, writing types of books called "Musnad"

Kutub as-Sitta, which were classified in the third century of the Migration, are regarded as the most important hadith books. Bukhari and Muslim's books called al-Jami'us-Sahih are regarded as the two most reliable books of Islam after the Quran since they aimed to include only sound hadiths. Although some scholars regard al-Muwatta of Malik b. Anas or as-Sunan (al-Musnad) of Abdullah b. Abdurrahman ad-Darimi as the sixth book, according to the most widespread view, the sixth book is as-Sunan of Ibn Majah. The others are Abu Davud's as-Sunan, Tirmidhi’s as-Sunan, which is also called al-Jami'us-Sahih and Nasai's as-Sunan, which is also known as al-Mujtaba. 

Learning/Teaching Hadiths

The inclusion of vast lands from Spain to Central Asia to the Islamic land even before the end of the first century as a result of the military conquests that were started with the purpose of conveying the message of Islam to more people caused the Companions to move to different parts of the Islamic geography. Some of the Companions remained there for a certain period of time or settled there permanently. Those geographic centers, where the Companions, who were the students of the Prophet (pbuh), settled, and Tabiun, who were the students of the Companions, settled became very important.   

However, Madinah, which was the first center of Islam, had a special place. The first four caliphs, and Abu Hurayra, Hz. Aisha, Abdullah b. Umar and Abu Said al-Khudri, who were the Companions that narrated the most hadiths, lived there. The seven great fiqh scholars of Tabiun generation called "fuqaha sab'a" and Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri, who is well known for his service to the science of hadith, are among the great scholars brought up in Madinah. 

Among other centers of knowledge, in Makkah the Companions such as Abdullah b. Abbas, Attab b. Asid, Ikrima b. Abu Jahl and Uthman b. Talha and Tabiun such as Mujahid b. Jabr, Ata b. Abu Rabah, Amr b. Dinar; in the region of Damascus, where 10.000 Companions are reported to have lived, the Companions such as Muadh b. Jabal. Ubada b. Samit and Abud-Darda, Tabiun such as Abu Idris al-Hawlani and Umar b. Abdulaziz; in Kufa, where seventy Companions from the Battle of Badr and 300 people from Bay'atur-Ridwan settled (Ibn Sa'd, VI, 9), the Companions such as Hz. Ali, Sa'd b. Abu Waqqas and Abdullah b. Mas'ud, Tabiun like Alqama b. Qays, Ibrahim an-Nahai and Sha'bi; and in Basra, the Companions such as Anas b. Malik, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari and Imran b. Husayn, Tabiun such as Hasan al-Basri, Ibn Shirin, Qatada b. Diama served hadith education.

Among other centers of knowledge, in Egypt, Abdullah b. Amr b. As; in Maghrib and Andalusia, Miqdad b. Aswad, Miswar b. Mahrama and Salama b. Akwa'; in the region of Khorasan and Mawarannahr, which included the cities like Bukhara, Samarqand, Marw, Herat, Rey and Isfahan, the Companions like Burayda b. Husayb, Abu Barza al-Aslami and Hakam b. Amr al-Ghifari transformed the cities in which they settled into centers of hadith teaching.

The journeys the Companions made in order to learn the hadiths that they themselves did not hear from the Prophet (pbuh) from other Companions continued in the periods after them with the name "talabul-hadith" or "rihla"; meanwhile, strong hafizes of hadiths, who learned and memorized all of the hadiths in the centers of knowledge that they went to, were brought up. Makhul b. Abu Muslim (d. 112/ 730), who was a hafiz of hadith and a fiqh scholar, went to Egypt, Iraq, Hejaz (Madinah) and Damascus after being freed from slavery; according to his own statement, he learned all of the hadiths narrated in those regions. (Abu Dawud, "Jihad", 146)

Baqi b. Makhlad, the Andalusian hadith scholar, spent thirty-four years of his seventy-five-year life in the centers of knowledge learning hadiths; there were many hadith students like him. It became a tradition for hadith students to travel to the important centers of knowledge in order to narrate hadiths from the famous hadith scholars of that time even if there were many hadith scholars in their own hometowns. Even if the hadith scholar from whom students were to learn hadiths had collected all of his narrations in one book, writing a copy of that book, then listening to it from the scholar himself or reading it to him, and the tradition of receiving a diploma/license for the narration of a certain book or several books, which developed in later periods, lengthened the period of education.

Despite those hard circumstances, the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) were collected thanks to the inexhaustible efforts of the hadith scholars; the differences of narrations among hadiths were lessened; needless lengthening of chain of narrators was prevented; in the meantime, the lives, personalities and degree of soundness of their knowledge and memory were determined down to the last detail.  

To sum up, hadiths were preserved by being memorized, written and, what is more important, practiced beginning from the era of the Prophet (pbuh); they were recorded in the hadiths sources we have now. There is nothing to doubt about the issue. (see TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, Hadith item)

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