Chapter Three – Section One: Documentation of the Ahlus Sunnah

Chapter Two – The Sunnah according to the Rawafid
October 1, 2021
Section Two – Documentation according to the Rawafid
October 1, 2021

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Chapter Three

The Documentation of the Sunnah by the Rawafid

 

Herein there are two sections:

Section One: Documentation of the Ahlus Sunnah.

Section Two: Documentation of the Rawafid.

Before we delve into the documentation of the Sunnah by the Rawafid, it is crucial to explicate its documentation according to the Ahlus Sunnah so that the greatness of the Ahlus Sunnah becomes clear, and so that it be evident that the Rawafid have not resorted to anything other than lies and fabrication.

 

Section One

The Documentation of the Sunnah by the Ahlus Sunnah

 

Al Bukhari narrates the following in his Sahih with a suspended transmission:

 

وكتب عمر بن عبد العزيز إلى أبي بكر بن حزم :انظر ما كان من حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فاكتبه فإني خفت دروس العلم وذهاب العلماء ولا تقبل إلا حديث النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وليفشوا العلم وليجلسوا حتى يعلم من لا يعلم فإن العلم لا يهلك حتى يكون سرا

And ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz wrote to Abu Bakr in Hazm, “See whatever is available of the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and document it. For I fear the vanishing of knowledge and the death of the scholars.  Do not accept anything but the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, so that you spread knowledge, and sit so that the one that does not know gets to learn. For knowledge does not vanish but when it is secret.[1]

 

A group of the Shia and some of the Orientalists have latched on to this narration and have on the basis of it claimed that the Sunnah was not documented but in the beginning of the second century of the Hijri Calendar. Because, according to them, the first person to order its documentation was the Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, who assumed the Caliphate in 99 A.H. and passed away in 101 A.H. This means that the documentation of the Sunnah was delayed a century or close to a century.

The only reason these people have latched onto this narration is that they intend thereby to achieve their sinister motive of creating suspicion around the Noble Sunnah. These people and their cohorts, the enemies of Islam, pose a question and say: “If the documentation of the Sunnah was delayed till the beginning of the second century, so where was it during the entire duration of the first century Hijri?”

And if you tell them: “It was preserved in the hearts,” they will say to you: “Memorizing is disloyal and we do not trust it. For it can be overtaken by forgetfulness, doubt, and error, all of which engender the possibilities of increase and decrease.” But the reality is that the Sunnah was preserved both in the hearts and in the scripts.

At the very outset, we acknowledge the authenticity of the narration with which we initiated this chapter which states that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was the first person to order the documentation of the Sunnah. We acknowledge its authenticity because it features in the most reliable and most authentic of our sources after the Book of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, i.e., Sahih al Bukhari. However, we intend beyond that to establish a very pivotal reality, which is that when ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ordered the documenting of the Sunnah he did not start from a vacuum, but he relied upon already written collections which were scattered all over the Muslim world; collections which were the fruit of the academic spirit which Islam had kindled in the hearts of its followers. Thus, we find that people would seek proximity to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala by increasing daily in knowledge, the best of which without doubt is that which is related to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

And, in establishing that the documentation of the Sunnah started at a very early time, during the lifetime of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and with his personal permission, we will not be subjective to reach the desired conclusion. Whatever we will claim in this regard we will bolster it with robust evidence drawn from the most reliable and most authentic sources.

Notwithstanding, the claim that the documentation of the Sunnah started during the era of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has become a categorical academic reality which is established through incontrovertible evidence and by way of the views and statements of a large group of credible researchers and scholars.

Now we head to the books and accumulate for you therefrom the essence of the views of the scholars so that the greatness of the Ahlus Sunnah comes to the fore.

 

The Sunnah in the Prophetic Era

 

 

1. Writing the Sunnah in the lifetime of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam

The Arabs before Islam did not rely upon writing to record their poems, sermons, stories of their bygone days, feats, and pedigrees. Instead they relied entirely upon memory in which they had become very advanced and, consequently, earned acclaim for the strength of their memories and the swiftness of their retention.

But this does not entail the absence of those who knew how to write amongst them. This is because the business-oriented society of Makkah required people who were adept at writing and math. However, the number of writers was very small, which is why Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in the Qur’an describes them as Ummiyyun (unlettered) in the following verse:

 

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ

It is he who has sent amongst the unlettered a prophet from amongst them.[2]

 

Likewise, it comes in a hadith from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu that Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

 

إنا أمة أمية، لا نكتب ولا نحسب

We are an unlettered people. We do not write nor do we calculate.[3]

 

Islam, however, encouraged the seeking of knowledge and Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam lent special importance to teaching the Muslims the skill of writing. Hence, he allowed the captives of Badr to ransom themselves by teaching ten children of the Ansar the skills of reading and writing. On the other hand, some Muslims would learn how to read and write in the Masjid of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam where some individuals like: ‘Abdullah ibn Sa’id ibn ‘As, Sa’d ibn al Rabi’ al Khazraji, Bashir ibn Tha’labah, and Aban ibn Sa’id ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhum had volunteered to teach them. As a result, the number of the scribes of revelation reached forty, that is besides the writers of the charities, letters, and covenants.

 

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2. Writing of Hadith in the lifetime of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam

Despite the presence of scribes during the lifetime of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and their involvement in the recording of the Qur’an, they did not embark on collating the hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and documenting it exhaustively and with comprehension. Rather they relied mostly on memorization due to Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam not ordering them to do so.

This is, probably, because Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanted them to secure their skill of memorization, especially considering the fact that rendering the purport of a narration is permissible (even if the words are slightly changed); unlike the Qur’an whose words and purport both are considered an incapacitating miracle due to which it could not be rendered like that. Hence, wisdom dictated that the efforts of the scribes be confined to the documentation of the Qur’an.

Another reason for this was the possibility of confusion occurring to the common Muslims who would consequently conflate the Qur’an with the hadith if the scripts and records got mixed. Especially in the early stages when the revelation of the Qur’an was descending and had not reached culmination and the general Muslim populace was not as yet well acquainted with the style of the Qur’an.

Also, in certain narrations Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam forbade the writing of hadith and in certain others he allowed it.

The narrations of prohibition are the following:

  1. Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

 

لا تكتبوا عني، ومن كتب عني غير القرآن فليمحه

Do not write from me. And whoever has written anything besides the Qur’an he should erase it.[4]

 

  1. He also narrates:

استأذنا النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فلم يأذن لنا

We sought permission from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but he did not give us permission.[5]

 

  1. And Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

كنا قعودا نكتب ما نسمع من النبى صلى الله عليه وسلم فخرج علينا فقال ما هذا تكتبون فقلنا ما نسمع منك.فقال أكتاب مع كتاب الله فقلنا ما نسمع. فقال اكتبوا كتاب الله أمحضوا كتاب الله وأخلصوه أكتاب غير كتاب الله أمحضوا كتاب الله أو خلصوه قال فجمعنا ما كتبنا فى صعيد واحد ثم أحرقناه بالنار

We were sitting and writing what we heard from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He came out to us and said, “What are you writing?”

We said, “What we heard from you.”

He said, “Another written record with the Book of Allah?”

We again replied, “It is what we hear from you.”

He said again, “Another written record with the Book of Allah.”

We said (again), “It is what we hear from you.”

He replied, “Another written record with the Book of Allah? Keep the Book of Allah pure and keep it unmingled.”

He says, “We, thus, gathered what we wrote on one platform and thereafter burnt it with fire.”[6]

 

This prophetic prohibition was for several reasons:

  1. Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam lived amidst the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum after receiving prophethood for twenty-three years. Hence, documenting all his words, statements, and actions would be very strenuous, due to it requiring complete dedication from many Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. And we know that not all the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were adept at writing, instead those who wrote among them were very few. So the expertise of these scribes was channeled into documenting the Qur’an and not the Sunnah so that they could dispense it to the next generation with complete precision, without the omission of even a letter.
  2. Guarding against anything being conflated with the Qur’an. For the Qur’an was still new to them and they were not as yet familiar with its style. So, if permission was granted to them to document anything besides it there was a possibility of that which was not part of it becoming mixed with it.
  3. Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanted the spirit of the Muslims to be devoted to the Qur’an which came as revelation from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and was the first source of legislation. Therefore, it was crucial that the efforts of the Muslims be dedicated to its memorization and documentation.
  4. The scarcity of writing tools and materials and the small number of writers in that era. This prompted Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to deploy them for the documentation of the Qur’an firstly. He did not want to scatter their efforts, which were little in the first place, between the Qur’an and something else.
  5. The prohibition was specific to those whose memory could be trusted, owing to the fear that he might rely complacently upon writing. And the permission to write was for he whose memory could not be trusted.
  6. Some have suggested that the prohibition is specific to writing the hadith with the Qur’an in one scripture. This is because they would hear the interpretation of the verses and probably would want to write it with them. So they were prevented from doing that due to the fear of confusion.
  7. So that the Muslims do not become completely reliant upon writing and give up memorizing. This is why Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked them not to write the hadith and to rather rely upon their memories to preserve the noble hadith in that early stage.

Thereafter, during the lifetime of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam there came a period wherein new catalysts came about which engendered the end of the aforementioned causes. The Muslims had become familiar with the format of the Qur’an and accustomed to it. Due to the Qur’an having its own distinct style and specialities, they became such that they could differentiate between it and between other styles of speech. Likewise, the number of writers had increased and the obsession of the Muslims with it had increased. Primarily because Islam advocated the seeking of knowledge since the beginning of the first verse of the Qur’an, and the ransom stipulated by Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for a captive was that he teach ten children of the Muslims the skills of reading and writing. And when the number of writers increased automatically the tools and instruments required for writing also increased; for the community was now active in the acquisition of knowledge and the learning of reading and writing, so necessarily they would be passionate to acquire their tools as well, especially with the unceasing revelation of legal rulings. As a result, the prophetic narrations increased (due to them explicating the Qur’an) and their documentation became a necessity. Thus, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum lent much importance to documentation, especially after the increase of narrations.

All of the above (which the scholars have explored at length) and other reasons were the secrets due to which the Sunnah was not documented in the Prophetic era. From this we can also understand the underlying reasons for the prohibition of its documentation.

 

The narrations of permission are the following:

When all these reasons came to an end, i.e., the reasons for the prohibition of writing hadith, Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave permission to whoever wanted to write hadith. This permission is found in a number of proofs some of which we will briefly present henceforth:

  1. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

 

كنت أكتب كل شيء أسمعه من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أريد حفظة فنهتني قريش وقالوا أتكتب كل شيء تسمعه ورسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بشر يتكلم في الغضب والرضا فأمسكت عن الكتاب فذكرت ذلك لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فأومأ بأصبعه إلى فيه فقال أكتب فوالذي نفسي بيده ما يخرج منه إلا حق

I would write everything I heard from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanting to memorize it, but the Quraysh prevented me and said, “Do you write everything you hear, whereas Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is a human who speaks in anger and in happiness?” I, thus, desisted from writing and made mention of that to Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He indicated with his finger to his mouth and said, “Write, for by the one in whose control is my life, nothing beside the truth emanates from it.[7]

 

  1. Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

 

ما من أصحاب النبي أحد أكثر حديثا منى إلا ما كان من عبد الله بن عمرو، فقد كان يكتب ولا أكتب

There is no one among the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who assimilated more narrations than me, besides ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, for he used to write and I would not write.[8]

 

  1. The narration of Abu Shah:

 

قام رجل من أهل اليمن يقال له أبو شاه. فقال: اكتب لي يا رسول الله. فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: اكتبوا لأبي شاه

A person from Yemen by the name Abu Shah stood up and said, “Write for me, O Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.” So Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Write for Abu Shah.”[9]

 

  1. Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

 

قيدوا العلم بالكتاب

Record knowledge by writing.[10]

 

  1. Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma narrates:

 

لما اشتد بالنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وجعه قال: ائتوني بكتاب أكتب لكم كتابا لا تضلوا من بعده

When the sickness of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam became severe he said, “Bring me writing material so that I may write for you a that after which you will never deviate.[11]

 

  1. Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wrote the document of the charities, shares of inheritance, and various laws for ‘Amr ibn Hazm radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
  2. Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wrote an agreement between the Muhajirin and the Ansar, and between the Muslims and the Jews.

 

The opinions of the scholars have differed regarding the correlation between the narrations of permission and the narrations of prohibition which were mentioned previously.

The strongest of opinions in this regard and the most preferred is that the narrations of consent abrogated the narrations of prohibition. This opinion does not contradict the specific permission granted to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhu at the time of general prohibition. Because the cancelling of the abrogated by way of the abrogator has no link or impact in the specifying of certain individuals of the general before the abrogation.

In essence, we can say that Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away and the Sunnah was not completely documented as the Qur’an had been documented.

 

The Sunnah in the era of the Sahabah

After Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away the dedication of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to the studying of the Sunnah did not decrease. Instead, they remained dedicated to it, even if, hypothetically, they did not increase their efforts. Most certainly they fulfilled their responsibility, because clarifying the Din for the people, especially those nations that embraced Islam after the demise of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who were now entrusted to them. For revelation had ended and, added to that, Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was no more amidst them.

Likewise, there were other catalysts which propelled them to intensify their efforts in the promulgation of the Sunnah and its preservation. From among them is the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

 

فليبلغ الشاهد منكم الغائب

The present should convey to the absent.[12]

 

And also, the following hadith:

 

نضر الله امرأ سمع منا حديثا فحفظه حتى يبلغه غيره، فرب حامل فقه إلى من هو أفقه منه، ورب حامل فقه ليس بفقيه

May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala cause a person to prosper who hears from us a hadith and preserves it till he coveys it to another. For many a bearers of understanding convey it to he who is more understanding than him. And many a bearer of understanding is not in himself understanding.[13]

 

Therefore, we assert that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum perpetuated their strenuous efforts after the demise of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in order to preserve the Sunnah and propagate it. This dedication manifested itself in various ways:

 

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1. Stringency in the issue of narrations

An example of this is what transpired between ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Abu Musa al Ash’ari radiya Llahu ‘anhu in the matter of seeking permission. Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

 

كنت في مجلس من مجالس الأنصار إذ جاء أبو موسى كأنه مذعور فقال استأذنت على عمر ثلاثا فلم يؤذن لي فرجعت فقال ما منعك قلت استأذنت ثلاثا فلم يؤذن لي فرجعت وقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا استأذن أحدكم ثلاثا فلم يؤذن له فليرجع. فقال والله لتقيمن عليه بينة أمنكم أحد سمعه من النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال أبي بن كعب والله لا يقوم معك إلا أصغر القوم فكنت أصغر القوم فقمت معه فأخبرت عمر أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ذلك

I was in a gathering from the gatherings of the Ansar when Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu suddenly appeared and seemed troubled. He said, “I sought permission from ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu three times and he did not give me permission so I returned.

He later asked, ‘What prevented you?’

I said, ‘I sought permission three times, permission was not granted, and so I returned. For Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “If one of you seeks permission three times and permission is not granted to him, then he should return.”’

‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, ‘By Allah, you will furnish evidence for this.’

So, is there anyone who heard this from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as well?”

Ubay ibn Ka’b radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, “By Allah, only the youngest of us will accompany you.”

I was the youngest and so I accompanied him and informed ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu that Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had indeed said that.[14]

 

This was not because of them being sceptical about the statements of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, for that never occurred to them. But they intended to establish a clear methodology of verification in the hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Because his words are Din, by way of implementing which we worship Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.

 

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2. Preserving the Sunnah in the hearts

The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum would absorb from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam everything that emanated from him. They would memorise it and practice upon the rulings contained within it. Their immense zeal to pursue the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was such that they would strive to make sure that nothing misses them. To the extent that even when chores and duties would withhold them from Nabi’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gatherings, they would alternate in attending; i.e., some would attend today, and others would attend tomorrow, so that they could share with another what they heard from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu says:

 

كنت أنا وجار لي من الأنصار في بني أمية بن زيد وهي من عوالي المدينة وكنا نتناوب النزول على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ينزل يوما وأنزل يوما فإذا نزلت جئته بخبر ذلك اليوم من الوحي وغيره وإذا نزل فعل مثل ذلك

I and my Ansari neighbour from the family of Umayyah ibn Zaid, a clan that resided in the northern upper-side of Madinah, would take turns in going down to Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He would descend one day and I would descend one day. When I would go, I would come to him with the information of that day, revelation and otherwise, and when he would go, he would do the same…[15]

 

One of the greatest motivators for them to preserve the Sunnah was what we mentioned previously of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam encouraging them to memorize his hadith and transmit them to the coming generations. For in certain instances, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala inspired them (the later generations) to understand them and grasp its treasures more than he inspired the previous generations.

Together with this, they knew that Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the one who explicated the Qur’an and expounded on its rulings, coupled with him legislating laws for them as well.

 

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3. Documenting the Sunnah in collections

This was also one of the manifestations of the dedication of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to the Sunnah. For many of them had hasted to document it in books in order to guard against forgetting it.

Hence, we find that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu would hang on the side of his sword a page which contained a few narrations. Abu Juhayfah one day asked him:

هل عندكم كتاب قال لا إلا كتاب الله أو فهم أعطيه رجل مسلم أو ما في هذه الصحيفة قال قلت فما في هذه الصحيفة قال العقل وفكاك الأسير ولا يقتل مسلم بكافر

“Do you have a book?”

He replied, “No, except the Book of Allah, understanding which Allah grants a Muslim, and what is in this script.”

I asked, “So what is in this script?”

He replied, “Bloodwite, ransom of a captive, and that a Muslim will not be killed in lieu of a disbeliever.”[16]

 

Likewise, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al ‘As also had a collection. Abu Rashid al Hayrani says:

 

أتيت عبد الله بن عمرو بن العاص فقلتُ له: حدّثنا ما سمعت عن رسول الله، فألقى بين يدي صحيفة، فقال: هذا ما كتب لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، فنظرت فيها، فإذا فيها: إن أبا بكر الصديق قال: يا رسول الله علمني ما أ قول إذا اصبحت وإذا أمسيت،

I came to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al ‘As and said to him, “Narrate to us what you heard from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.”

He, thus, presented the collection before me and said, “This is what Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wrote for me.”

He says, “I looked into it and in it was the narration that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu asked, “O Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, teach me something I can say in the morning and in the evening…”[17]

 

And Ibn Sa’d mentions in his Tabaqat that Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma left behind a camel-load of books, most of which comprised of what he heard from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[18]

And there is also the scripture which Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent to ‘Amr ibn Hazm radiya Llahu ‘anhu in Yemen.[19]

 

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4. The efforts of the Sahabah to propagate the Sunnah to the generations that succeeded them

Many Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum dedicated themselves to dispensing the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, like Abu Hurairah, Anas, Jabir, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, and many others radiya Llahu ‘anhum. Consequently, a very large group of the Tabi’in (successors) graduated at their hands and went on to become thereafter the faithful soldiers of the Sunnah; which they narrated, defended, dispensed to those who came after them, and from which they averted the ploys of the critics.

 

The Sunnah in the era of the Tabi’in

The most salient features of the documentation of the Sunnah in the era of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were: stringency in the acceptance of narrations, preserving the Sunnah in the hearts and in books, coupled with striving to propagate it and teaching it to those that followed, and also formulating academic schools and undertaking academic journeys.

Now, if we move on to the era of the Tabi’in we will find a continuation of these specialities, in fact, even an increase in them in terms of becoming more enforced and grounded, notwithstanding the expansion of the movement of writing amongst them.

Hence, some Tabi’in who documented hadith are: ‘Urwah ibn al Zubair, al Zuhri, Hammam ibn Munabbih,[20] Mujahid ibn Jabr, Abu al Zubair al Makki, Khalid ibn Ma’dan al Kala’i, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, al Hassan al Basri, ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Hurmuz al A’raj, and others.

So, the generation of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum wrote the Sunnah and likewise the Tabi’in after them. And the documentation of the Sunnah at a very early stage is, thus, a reality which no denier can deny. This reality does not contradict what al Bukhari and others have narrated that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was the one who ordered the formal documentation of the Sunnah in the beginning of the second century due to him fearing the vanishing of knowledge and the departure of the scholars. This is because when he passed the order, the scholars did not start from a vacuum; rather they relied upon those collections which were already previously written, which were in the possession of many of the scholars of the Ummah. However, all merit is due to ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz who collated all those works and collections which were scattered in the Islamic world. As a result, the documentation of the Sunnah took the form of an organised collective effort, which primarily rested upon earlier efforts which were dedicated to documenting the firsts collections.

 

The Sunnah in the era of the followers of the Tabi’in and those after them

Thereafter, if we move on to the second century, wherein lived many Tabi’in and their followers, we will find that documentation had spread expansively, and that the number of documenters had reached and innumerable level. In fact, they all coincidentally started documenting at round about the same time, due to which it is difficult to ascertain who of them was first. Hence, in the second century the following scholars documented: ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn Jurayj, Malik ibn Anas, Musa ibn ‘Uqbah, Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Rabi’ ibn Sabih, Sufyan al Thawri, Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah, ‘Abdullah ibn al Mubarak, al Awza’i, ‘Abdur Razzaq al San’ani, Ma’mar ibn Rashid, Hushaym, Abu Dawood al Tayalisi, and al Shafi’i (the last two passed away in the beginning of the third century, but most of their academic work was achieved in the second century). Also, the second century also enjoyed the same specialities which we discussed in the eras of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the successors with an increase in the documentation movement. And an added distinction of this century was the emergence of books about various sciences of Islam, some of those in the field of Sunnah were: Mawatta’ Malik, Musnad al Tayalisi, and the books of al Shafi’i, amongst others.

Based on what has passed, it would be possible for us to confirm the following facts:

  • The Sunnah was documented during the eras of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and the early Tabi’in. Yes, although it was scattered in scriptures and different volumes, but, nonetheless, it was still documented.
  • This was followed by the second phase, which was the natural result and immediate outcome of the first. This phase was the phase of collation and formulation, i.e., the accumulation of all those scattered efforts in archives.
  • Thereafter, we entered the phase of dedicated works which emerged in the middle and tail-end of the second century Hijri.

 

The Sunnah in the Third Century Hijri

This blessed century dawned upon us, and it be would fine to consider it, as the scholars have considered it, the golden era of the Sunnah. Because it was the era in which the Sahih of the Sunnah was distinguished from its Da’if, just as it was the era in which the Sunnah was meticulously recorded in the books we now have today, primary amongst them are the six canonical works, the Musnad of Ahmed, etc. In this manner, the phases of the Sunnah followed each other with continuity and undertook this noble journey wherein it was surrounded by scrupulous care, protection, and preservation owing to the extraordinary efforts of the scholars, from its first teacher, Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, till its documentation in the books which have at our disposal.

The Sunnah lived in the hearts of these noble men and their books till they rendered this invaluable trust to us free from every suspicion and far from every doubt. Protected, firstly, by the grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and then by the efforts of these noble and pious men. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reward the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah on behalf of Islam and the Muslims with the best of rewards.

 

NEXT⇒ Section Two – Documentation according to the Rawafid


[1] Sahih al Bukhari: chapter of knowledge: sub-chapter: How knowledge will be taken away.

[2] Surah al Jumu’ah: 2.

[3] Sahih Muslim: chapter of fasting: sub-chapter: the obligation of fasting upon sighting the moon: hadith no. 15.

[4] Sahih Muslim: chapter of asceticism and heart softening narrations: sub-chapter: verifying hadith and the ruling of writing hadith: hadith no. 72.

[5] Sunan al Tirmidhi: chapter of knowledge: sub-chapter about the dislike of writing knowledge: hadith no. 2665. The narration has been deemed Sahih by al Albani in Sahih al Tirmidhi.

[6] Musnad Ahmed, 3/12, hadith no. 11107. Its annotator Shu’ayb al Arna’ut has deemed it Sahih.

[7] Sunan Abi Dawood, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter regarding the writing of knowledge, hadith no. 1532. Al Albani has deemed this narration Sahih, as in al Silsilah.

[8] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter writing of knowledge, hadith no. 113.

[9] Ibid., chapter of Diyat (blood-money), sub-chapter a person who family member is killed has the best of two options, hadith no. 6486.

[10] Sahih al Darimi, introduction, chapter those who permitted writing knowledge, hadith no. 497 (as the statement of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab); al Tabarani: al Mujam al Kabir, 1/246 (as the statement of Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu; Mustadrak Hakim, 1/188 (as the statement of Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu; Musnad al Quda’i (as the statement of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam narrated by Anas), and al Albani has deemed it Sahih as appears in al Silsilah al Sahihah, hadith no. 2026, and he says, “Sahih cumulatively. And it is corroborated by the statement of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, “Write, for by the one in whose hand is my soul, nothing but the truth emanates from it.”

[11] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter writing of knowledge, hadith no. 114.

[12] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of Hajj, the sermon in the days of Mina, hadith no. 1652.

[13] Sunan Abi Dawood, chapter of knowledge, chapter on the virtue of spreading knowledge, hadith no. 3660; Sunan al Tirmidhi, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter encouragement to convey that which was heard, hadith no. 2656; the hadith has been deemed Sahih by al Albani in al Jami’ al Saghir, hadith no. 11709.

[14] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of seeking permission, sub-chapter regarding greeting and seeking permission thrice, hadith no. 5891; Sahih Muslim, chapter of etiquettes, sub-chapter seeking permission, hadith no. 33.

[15] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter taking turns in seeking knowledge, hadith no. 89.

[16] Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of knowledge, sub-chapter writing of knowledge, hadith no. 111.

[17] Sunan al Tirmidhi, Chapter of supplications, sub-chapter regarding enumerating the Tasbih with the hand, hadith no. 3529; and al Albani has deemed it Sahih in Sahih al Tirmidhi, hadith no. 2798.

[18] Al Tabaqat al Kubra, 5/293.

[19] Sunan al Nasa’i, chapter of Qasamah (oaths that are taken from the people of a community when the killer of dead person is unknown), sub-chapter mention of the hadith of ‘Amr ibn Hazm regarding bloodwite, hadith no. 4853); Sunan al Darimi, chapter of Zakat, sub-chapter Zakat of sheep and goats, hadith no. 1621; and al Albani has deemed it Sahih in Irwa’ al Ghali, hadith no. 2238.

[20] He has a famous collection which is known as the collection of Hammam ibn Munabbih.

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