Do we have to act in compliance with every hadith? We read and hear many hadiths as the statements of the Prophet. Are they really his statements?

The Details of the Question
As Muslims, we read and hear many hadiths as the statements of the Prophet. However, I sometimes doubt whether they are the statements uttered by that blessed person or not. If I definitely know that they belong to the Prophet, I will definitely believe in them. For, the Messenger of Allah always tells the truth. Can you explain this issue?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Madhhab imams informed us about the hadiths that are necessary to act in compliance with. When madhhab imams deduced decrees from hadiths, they acted carefully about the degree of soundness of the hadiths they used as evidence. They did not use every hadith while making decrees. This issue is explained in detail in hadith and fiqh usul (methodology) books. 

The hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) are always valid in terms of decree. However, the circumstances of the community are determinative for the application of that decree. For instance, the Prophet (pbuh) prohibited visiting graves in the first years of Islam. Afterwards, when the belief of oneness settled, he allowed people to visit graves. Nowadays, if there are idolatrous societies that regard graves as holy, and if they embrace Islam, the same method will be applied for them. First, these people will be prohibited from visiting graves; it will be allowed after the belief of oneness settles in that community.

In addition, once, the Prophet (pbuh) prohibited people from keeping the flesh of the sacrificed animals at home for more than three days. For, there was a famine in that year and many people could not find food. However, when the famine ended the following year, he allowed people to keep the flesh of the sacrificed animals at home as long as they wanted.

All of these examples show that the decree of no hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) was annulled; every statement and deed of the Prophet (pbuh) will be practiced if the circumstances are appropriate.  

If it is certain that a statement attributed to the Prophet (pbuh) is a hadith, it must not be denied. Mutawatir hadiths are like that. A person who denies a mutawatir hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) becomes an unbeliever. For, to deny such a hadith means to deny the Prophet. It is definitely unbelief.

(Ahmed Naim, Tecrid-i Sarîh Tercemesi, Ankara 1976, Mukaddime, p. 102).



It means a hadith that has the criteria of mutawatir khabar. The hadiths of the Prophet are generally divided into two in terms of the number of the narrators, that is, whether very few people or a lot of people narrated them: Mutawatir and Ahad. Mutawatir hadith is a hadith that is narrated by groups of people that cannot be rationally thought to have agreed on a lie beginning from the period of the Companions and the periods after them. In other words, it is a hadith that has the criteria of mutawatir news.   

A hadith needs to have the following criteria so as to be regarded as mutawatir:

I) A mutawatir hadith must be narrated by many people in each period. However, there is no need for determining a minimum number for the narrators in each level. There are some people who say that the number of people who will not agree on something lie must be at least 4, 5, 10, 12, 20, 40, 70 and more than 300, but none of them base their claim on serious evidence. (Subhi as-Salih, Hadis İlimleri ve Hadis Istılahları, Ankara 1973, p. 120-122). What matters is that the hadith must be reported by a group of people that is impossible to agree on a lie whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

2) There must not be an decrease in the number of the narrators in any generation. On the contrary, an increase in the number confirms the trueness of the news. 

3) Those who report the incident or the news first must see or hear the incident. The thing that is reported must be something possible, not impossible. (Abdullah Sirajuddin, Sharhul-Manzumatil-Bayquniyya, Aleppo 1372, p. 40)

Mutawatir hadiths are divided into two as "mutawatir lafzi" (words) and "mutawatir manawi" (meaning).

a) Mutawatir Lafzi is a hadith that is reported with the same words by all narrators in all levels from the beginning to the end. It is not possible for the statements of the Prophet to be reported word for word by many people in all periods. If such a criterion had been obligatory, all of the hadiths would have been forgotten. The number of mutawatir lafzi hadiths is very few because it is permissible to narrate hadiths with meaning. The following hadiths are examples for mutawatir lafzi hadiths:   

"Whoever tells a lie about me let him take his place in Hell." "Every intoxicant is haram." "Whoever builds a mosque for Allah’s sake, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise." "The Quran was sent down in the form of seven letters."

b) Mutawatir manawi: An issue or incident that is reported with various words by the narrators is regarded as mutawatir manawi. In those kinds of narrations, the common part is regarded as mutawatir. There are a lot of hadiths that are mutawatir manawi. The deeds of worshipping like prayers, fasting, zakah and hajj are all mutawatir manawi. For instance, about one hundred hadiths were reported related to the Prophet’s raising his hands while saying prayers. However, what is common in those narrations is raising hands; and this aspect is mutawatir. 

According to hadith scholars, it is not necessary to examine the narrators of mutawatir hadiths one by one. The multitude of the narrators is taken into consideration. For, it is agreed that they would not agree on something that was a lie. Therefore, all hadith scholars agree that mutawatir hadiths that are both lafzi and manawi give correct information. (Nuraddin al-Itr, Manhajun-Naqd fi Ulumil-Hadith, Damascus 1392/1972, p. 382; Subhi as-Salih, ibid, p. 124).

Mutawatir hadiths are regarded as evidence in aqaid (creed) issues alone. Therefore, a person who denies a mutawatir hadith of the Prophet is regarded to become an unbeliever because denying such a hadiths means denying the Prophet, which is definitely unbelief. (Ahmed Naim, Tecrid-i Sarîh Tercemesi, Ankara 1976, Mukaddime, p. 102).

Jalaladdin as-Suyuti (911/1505) compiled the hadiths that he decided to be mutawatir after his researches in his book called "al-Azharul-Mutanasira fil-Akhbaril-Mutawatira", classifying and arranging them based on their topics and giving the resources and various sanads (chains of transmission or narrators). (Ahmed Naim, ibid, p. 104).




It is a branch of science that examines the chain of narrators (sanad) and text of the hadith. 

The science of hadith is basically divided into two main branches as riwayatul-hadith and dirayatul-hadith. The science of riwayatul-hadith is a branch of hadith that deals with the words, deeds, consent (keeping silent hence approving) and attitudes of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), their recording and their transmission (riwayah) to the following generations in due form.

The science of dirayatul-hadith, which is also known as mustalahul-hadith and usulul-hadith, is defined as the science of rules that enables understanding the states of the chains of narrators and the texts of the hadiths. As it can be clearly understood from this definition, the science of dirayatul-hadith imposes general and theoretical rules, enabling the examination and criticism of the issues of narrators, narration and what is narrated. The literature of this science is the literature of principles. (İsmail Lütfü Çakan, Hadis Edebiyatı, İstanbul 1985, 162)

In fact, usul is the plural form of asl and it means principles, roots and sources. Usul, which terminologically means way, method, rule and system, means the principles, initial knowledge and techniques that are necessary to be learned before the real topic of a science. Accordingly, usul al-hadith means the principles that the science of hadith is based on, and hadith methodology. The term hadith methodologists means the scholars who study the principles of the science of hadith that are based on dirayah.

The science of dirayatul-hadith and hence the literature of hadith methodology are based on the science and literature of riwayatul-hadith, and also the meticulousness, research (tathabbut-taharri) and checking activities shown by the Companions in reporting and narrating hadiths. Along with having a very high level of carefulness and meticulousness, it is known that the Companions also examined the hadiths that they heard from one another and asked those who knew about them better. Badraddin az-Zarkashi included about twenty hadiths that were reported by the Companions and that were corrected by Hz. Aisha in his work called "al-Ijaba". On the other hand, Khatib Baghdadi narrates the Companions that set out on long journeys in order to learn hadiths and to check the hadiths that they knew in his book called "ar-Rihla fi Talabil-Hadith".

These efforts of searching and checking, which started with the Companions, paved the way for the preparation of the rules related to dirayatul-hadith. The duty of conveying the message of Islam and the carefulness of not attributing lies to the Prophet form the basis for all of the activities related to the science of hadith; they are also the main reasons that enabled the methodology of hadith to move to the field of practice beginning from a very early period. However, we can find the independent literature about hadith methodology in a period after the literature of riwayatul-hadith. (İsmail Lütfü Çakan, ibid, 162).

The main reason for putting hadith texts together in hadith books is the aim of determining “sound” hadiths. These works of determination were carried out based on certain rules. Some hadiths were accepted but others were not found to be reliable and they were rejected. However, these rules (usul), which were used as a basis for the determination, rejection and acceptance, were not compiled in certain books. The fact that the rules were known and applied was found enough. After the determination of the hadith texts based on these living rules, which were applied, the duty of explaining based on which rules the literature of hadith was formed would be fulfilled. As a matter of fact, this was not delayed very much; in the years after Kutub as-Sittah, the literature of methodology produced independent works.  

However, there is something that should be remembered here: Some rules of hadith methodology were included in the previous books of rules – though not independently. For instance, ar-Risala of Imam Shafii, Ahmad b. Hanbal's answers to the questions he was asked, Muslim's introduction he wrote in Sahih, the letter Abu Dawud wrote to the people of Makkah, Tirmidhi’s Jami’ and the chapter called Kitabul-Ilal at the end of it are among them. Bukhari’s three books of Tarikh, the information he gives about jarh and tadil are sub-resources of the rules of hadith methodology. (İsmail Lütfi Çakan, ibid, 162)

It is possible to list the works written independently about hadith methodology as follows:

1- Abu Muhammad al-Hasan b. Abdirrahman b. Khallad ar-Ramahurmuzi's work called "al-Muhaddithul Fasil Baynar-Rawi wal-Wai".

2- Al-Hakim Abu Abdillah an-Naysaburi's "Ma'rifatu Ulumil Hadith".

3- Abu Nuaym al-Isfahani's "al-Mustakhraj".

4- Al-Hatib Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's "al-Kifaya fi Ilmir-Riwaya".

5- Qadi Iyad’s work called "al-Ilma' ila Ma'rifati Usulir-Riwaya wa Taqyidis-Sama".

6- Abu Hafs Umar b. Abdulmajid al-Mayanji's booklet called "Ma'la Yasaul Muhadditha Jahluhu".

7- Ibn Salah's "Ulumul-hadith" and the works of the following writers in which they shortened this book are very important works:

a) An-Nawawi's "at-Taqrib wa't-Taysir",

b) Ibn Kathir's "Ikhtisaru Ulumi'l-Hadith",

c) Ibn Hajar's "Nukhbatul-Fikar fi Mustalahi Ahlil-Athar".

8- Suyuti's work called "Tadribur-Rawi fi Sharhi Taqribin-Nawawi".

9- Jamaluddin al-Qasimis "Qawaidut-Tahdith".

10- Tahir al-Jazairi's "Tawjihun-Nazar ila Usulil-Athar".

Those books are the most important ones on hadith methodology.

Doubtlessly, they are not the only books on hadith methodology. In the course of time, the issues of hadith methodology started to be examined and studied in the books written in the form of ta'lif, ikhtisar, sharh and nazm. The works of hadith methodology that revived in the Islamic world especially at beginning of the fourteen century H have been developing in a positive way. The works written on hadith methodology show us, first of all, the level of the extraordinary scientific seriousness shown by Muslims in order to have sound hadith texts. As it is seen here, Muslims have given great importance to hadiths and the issues need to be known related to hadiths. Although this is the scientific and historical fact, the claims by some writers that scholars did not give the necessary importance to hadiths are understood to be unserious statements that are contrary to the truth.

Sabahattin YILDIRIM

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