Richness of the Books of Hadith


Aqeel al-Hindi


One of the charges against the people of hadith is that their role within Islamic scholastics is one of compilation and transcription of the Sunnah for its benefit as a legislative source for those with the tools who fully understand it and can use it. Those who follow this line of thought argue that the one-dimensional role of the scholars of Hadith can be juxtaposed with the more complex, intricate and cognitive role of the Fuqaha. While it is true that it can be the case that a memoriser of Ahadith may not have complete understanding of what they convey[1], to tar the people of hadith in their entirety with such a brush is an injustice at best and libellous at worst. As will be demonstrated in this article, the well-known scholars of Hadith were individuals whose faculties for memorisation and understanding of the narrations they conveyed were gifts from Allah, as their works attest to.

Another result of this fallacy is the assertion that the books of Ahadith are purportedly too complex for anyone other than a scholar of fiqh to benefit from and the layperson is to be warned against reading them, for fear of misunderstanding and going astray. This categorisation of the books of the Sunnah as such lowers their status to one of repositories of information, to be accessed by the elite few who have understanding. While it is true that the people of knowledge will appreciate and gain more from the books of hadith than the layperson, the success that Allah has granted the scholars of hadith in their works, in terms of their practical abilities to compile their works, as well as the thought that went in to their works, means that their books are far more than stores of Ahadith and that the layperson can pick up one of these books and learn about the religion of Islam.

As demonstrated in the article in issue no.4, >>> Imam al-Bukhari was a Muwahhid and Salafi in his Aqidah and Manhaj. One of the sources of his Aqidah is his book, the Sahih. The oft-cited principle when reading the Sahih of Imam Bukhari is that his fiqh is understood through his chapter headings. So chapter headings and the titles of books within the Sahih give an understanding as relates to his Aqidah, which he based upon the Athar. Al-Mustamla narrated in his report of the Sahih adds to the chapter heading of the book of Tawhid, ‘The Book of Tawhid; a Rebuttal of the Jahmiyyah and other than them’. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar comments, under the chapter heading of Tawhid:

The intent behind the narration of al-Mustamla: and other than them” is the Qadariyyah. As for the Khawarij, that which relates to them proceeded in the Book of Fitan and the Rafidah in the Book of Ahkam. And these four groups are the heads of innovation.

Al-Hafiz’s words show that the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari is rich in terms of its Aqidah-based content that rebuts the fundamentals of the major groups of deviation. This richness is not, however, restricted to Aqidah. Matters relating to the relaying of Ahadith[2], fiqh[3], the virtues of righteous actions[4] and other than this can be derived from the Sahih. Some of the scholars have taken this a step further by compiling works that that have been derived from the two Sahihs, al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The books of Sunan, particularly Abu Dawud’s and at Tirmidhi’s, also demonstrate the understanding and the compiler’s had of the implications Ahadith carried, their relevance to the sciences of fiqh and the relative stances of the people of knowledge relating to them. Abu Dawud, for example, states in his Sunan after reporting the Hadith of Uthman relating the wudhu of the Prophet ﷺ,

The authentic Ahadith of Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, all indicate that wiping over the head is done once, for they (the narrators) mentioned the actions of wudhu thrice and mentioned the wiping of the head without mentioning the number of times, as they did for the other actions.[5]

He also clarifies some meanings contained in Ahadith; ‘…give her food when you eat, clothe her when clothe yourself, do not strike her on the face, do not revile her or leave her except in the house’ Abu Dawud stated:

The meaning of ‘Do not revile her’ is to say [to her] ‘May Allah revile you.’[6]

In addition to fiqh-based intricacies and clarifying meanings, he also explains the meanings of terminology that is not often used in Arabic (Ghara’ib) in numerous Ahadith[7].

The scholastic weight of Imam at Tirmidhi is equally evident in his Jam’i, as attested to by Ibn al-Athir, where he mentions its distinguishing features among the books of Ahadith, namely: its ordering and lack of repetition; mentioning the views of the fiqhi Madhahib and how they respectively deduce rulings; explanation of the Ahadith, in terms of their grade of authentic, sound, weak, gharib and mu’alal; explaining the names of the narrators, their monikers and kunyas, and additional points of benefit that pertain to the sciences of rijal and the book of Ellal at the end of the Jami[8].

Having established the richness of the books of Hadith, we can now focus on how to benefit from them. This has been outlined by countless scholars when discussing the Manhaj of the student of knowledge in acquiring knowledge. A fitting example here would be the Muhaddith of Yemen, Shaykh Muqbil b. Hadi al-Wadi’, a scholar whose call to the Quran and the Sunnah, and particular emphasis on Ahadith, caused changes on a societal level in his native lands. He states:

The fact that some beginner seekers of knowledge in the field of Ahadith err [in their endeavours] is taken up by their antagonists, who use the errors to justify driving them away from their Manhaj [that of the people of hadith]. However, I advise my brothers to acquire what they can from the books of Ahadith and dedicate themselves to reading them – and as for the one who says that whoever’s Shaykh is a book will err more than they are correct, this is only if they do not choose the most fitting book and do not refer to the statements of the scholars relating to the hadith – and acting upon knowledge that has been found [al-Wijadah] is permissible. They should refer to the explanations that the people of the Sunnah have given and if they see in the books of Hadith something that contradicts what the people around them are upon, they should look to see what the people of knowledge have said about the Ahadith in terms of its authenticity and in terms of its meanings. If the Hadith is authentic and the meaning has been understood correctly, it has not been abrogated and you have checked in the explanations that it is not a general hadith that has been made specific elsewhere, or an unrestricted hadith that has been restricted elsewhere, do so if you can. If they are in an environment in which the community have an acceptance of the Sunnah and have trust in them, they should teach them with statements and actions. If they are in an environment in which the community do not have acceptance of the Sunnah, nor do they have trust in them, they should strive to encourage them to act in accordance to the Sunnah and request evidences [for practices].[9]


[1] As indicated by the statement of the Prophet ﷺ ‘…and it may be that a carrier of knowledge is not a person of understanding.’ Reported by Abu Dawud in his Sunan no.3660 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albani.

[2] Chapter: When is the Narration of the Youngster Accepted? (The Book of Knowledge: Chapter 18).

[3] Chapter: The Salah is not accepted without Wudhu (The Book of Wudhu: Chapter 2).

[4] Chapter: The Virtues of Wudhu and the White Marks of Illumination that are the After-effects of Wudhu (The Book of Wudhu: Chapter 3)

[5] Sunan Abi Dawud, no.108.

[6] Sunan Abi Dawud, no.2142.

[7] See Sunan Abi Dawūd no’s, 2103, 2833, 4503, 4766, to cite but a few examples.

[8] Ibn al-Athir, as cited by Shaykh Siddiq Hasan Khan in al-Hitta fi Zikr al-Sihah al-Sittah, p. 207, Dar al Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 1985.

[9] Al-Makhraj Min al-Fitan, p.129, Dar al-Athar, Sana, 2005.

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