This chapter comprises of two sections:
Section One: The Origins of the Sciences of Hadith Amongst the Ahlus Sunnah.
Section Two: The Origins of the Sciences of Hadith Amongst the Shia.
Every nation has something which it prides itself on in its past and in its present, whether it be in the field of academics on in any other field.
From the many fields wherein the Muslim Ummah surpassed all others during its golden era, and wherein it vanquished all the nations of the world, is the academic field with its various branches.
The most important of these branches, to which the scholars of Islam lent much importance, were the sciences related to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
The Muslim Ummah has, since the era of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam lent the Qur’an importance which is unmatched in the entire world. That is in terms of its transmission from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, its compilation, its documentation, and its memorization. Also in terms of writing it meticulously, interpreting it, expounding on its sciences and the various readings in which it can be read, to the extent that all of this has been recorded in thousands of books.
Furthermore, because the Pristine Sunnah qualifies the absolute of the Qur’an, clarifies its equivocal, details its vague, specifies its general, etc., the Ahlus Sunnah realized its value and its stature, and hence laid down very intricate academic principles to ensure its preservation. As a result, the science of Hadith terminology and its principles came into existence, a science which history despite its longevity, since Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala created the earth and its inhabitants till now, has not known the likes of; a science which founded principles for the authentication of narrations and the verification of attributing them to their advancers.
One of the Orientalists has very aptly said, and the truth is always that to which even the enemies attest, “Let the Muslims be proud of the sciences of their Hadith.”
So, the Ahlus Sunnah are the people who enjoy this feat. They are the erectors of this eternal structure and the key holders of its various palaces. Why not, when they are the heirs of the Prophets ‘alayhim al Salam and their vicegerents, the bearers of the Shari’ah, the custodians of the religion, and the protectors of the Din. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reward the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah with the best of rewards.
The initial traces of this science of the Ahlus Sunnah—the experts of this phenomenon— appeared at a very early stage. In fact, it would be apt to aver that it started during the era of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam due to the injunction of the Qur’an which demands that we should verify the reports that reach us, check the integrity of those who report them, and that we should not be hasty in passing rulings before confirming their veracity. Hence, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done regretful.
The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, thus, exercised caution and acted stringently in the matter of narrations in order to preserve the Din and protect the Shari’ah. In their transmission of the Hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam they abided by such principles of transmission which later formed the basis of this science in subsequent times. They implemented the principles of the Qur’anic method which is based on the impermissibility of lying, on rejecting the narration of a liar, deeming integrity to be a prerequisite for the acceptance of the report of a narrator, verification in every matter, and the impermissibility of transmitting a false narration. They also mitigated the transmission of narrations, verified their authenticity and meticulously narrated them, as well as critiqued them by juxtaposing them against the texts of the Shari’ah and its principles.
Similarly, this science developed mixed with other sciences like the science of Fiqh (jurisprudence), and there was no specific and comprehensive book written regarding it until the fourth century. Whatever had appeared before that, were snippets and scattered statements and segments regarding certain issues which came along within discussions of jurisprudence and the principles of Shari’ah. This is discernible in al Risalah of al Shafi’i (d. 204 A.H.). Thus, in his books al Risalah and al Umm, al Shafi’i elaborated on issues like drawing evidence from the Sunnah, the narration of a lone narrator being proof, the requisite of memorization in a narrator, the accepting of the narration of a Mudallis, one who intentionally omits the narrator above him, if he explicitly states that he heard it from the link above, etc.
We will also find scattered aspects of this science in the statements and the writings of Yahya ibn Ma’in (d. 233 A.H.), ‘Ali ibn al Madini (d. 234 A.H.), Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Numair (d. 234 A.H.), Ahmed ibn Hambal (d. 241 A.H.), Abu Jafar al Makhrami (d. 242 A.H.), al Bukhari (d. 256 A.H.), Muslim (d. 261 A.H.), al ‘Ijli (d. 261 A.H.), al Tirmidhi (d. 279 A.H.), and al Nasa’i (d. 303 A.H).
Thereafter, in the beginning of the fourth century some scholars decided to gather the various discussions on hadith and its principles in a book. Hence:
Then, after Ibn al Salah the era of rendering in poetry, abridging, commentating, annotating and adding on begun. Here under is a list of the books of this era:
There are many contemporary books as well regarding Hadith terminology like: al Manhaj al Hadith fi ‘Ulum al Hadith of Muhammad al Sammahi, al Wasit fi ‘Ulum wa Mustalah al Hadith of Muhammad Abu Shuhbah, Taysir Mustalah al Hadith of Mahmud al Tahhan, and Manhaj al Naqd fi ‘Ulum al Hadith of Nur al Din ‘Itr, etc.
This is a brief glimpse of the development of the sciences of Hadith by the Ahlus Sunnah. From the above it is evident that the first scholar to author a book regarding it was al Ramahurmuzi (d. 360), i.e. his book: al Muhaddith al Fasil Bayn al Rawi wa al Wa’i. Although there were books authored before him, but they were books dedicated to scattered topics, as has passed, whereas this book was the most comprehensive books in its time. Thereafter this science expanded tremendously in the times that followed.
We also learnt that this science originated since the first era of Islam and continued to endure side by side with the pristine Sunnah of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam till this day as its protector and guardian against any lies, forgeries, fraud, distortion; owing to which that would be attributed to Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam which he did not say or that would make its way into the Din which is not actually part of it. Hence, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, by way of this science and all its accompanying sciences protected his Din and his Shari’ah in general, and the Hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam more specifically.
 Surah al Hujurat: 6.
 See some examples of this in our treatise: Nash’ah al Jarh wa al Ta’dil ‘ind Ahlus Sunnah.
 See: Nuzhat al Nazr of Ibn Hajar, its introduction; Tadrib al Rawi, 1/15; Qawa’id al Tahdith, p. 6; Qafw al Athar, 1/40; ‘Ulum al Hadith Asiluha wa Mu’asiruha, p. 14.Back to top