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Introduction to and History of the Sunnah

Introduction to and History of the Sunnah (The Sunnah as seen by most orthodox Muslims)

1. What is the Sunnah?

Definition: Sunnah in Arabic means "a way to be followed" or "an example to be imitated". However, in Islamic terminology the word sunnah can have several meanings depending on the subject being discussed, as shown below:

1) Every saying and action of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), every situation where he approved of an action or saying by someone else, and his personal traits and manners.

2) For fiqh scholars, the word Sunnah is sometimes used to describe recommended (mustahab) actions as opposed to obligatory (fardh) actions.

In general, when the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) does a certain action regularly, or gives glad tidings to those who do a certain action, it is considered by fiqh scholars to be recommended. An example of this would be praying 2 rak'at  before Fajr  prayer. The Prophet used to always pray these 2 rak'at, and he promised great rewards for anyone who prayed them. However, the Prophet never ordered anyone to pray these 2 rak'at. Therefore, fiqh scholars said that these 2 rak'at are to be considered recommended and not obligatory. However, when the Prophet orders the believers to do something, such as ordering men to grow their beards, this is considered to be wajib (required), and not doing that action is considered prohibited or haram.

However, in this article we are discussing the Sunnah in the first sense. We are talking about the Sunnah in general as a source of legislation and Shariah. We will try to prove that Allah (swt) has commanded Muslims to follow the Sunnah in the holy Qur'an, and that Allah (swt) has made the Sunnah a source of Shariah.

It is obligatory for all Muslims to follow the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), and it is obligatory to follow all the orders of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and refrain from all what he asked us to stay away from. This will be proven in this article and the next one about the authority of the Sunnah (please see link at the end of this article).

One last thing to note: the term Hadith is sometimes used interchangeably with the term Sunnah. Hadith simply means speech. The Hadith usually refers to all the sayings and actions of the Prophet. The Sunnah is a broader term, since it includes the Hadith and also the Prophets way of life, his manners, his personality and his biography.

2. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as a Teacher:

The Sunnah as mentioned earlier is a term that is used to describe the actions and sayings of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Therefore, when we talk about the history of the Sunnah we must first quickly discuss the source of this Sunnah, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) himself.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was the best example of a teacher and mentor. This is because he used to teach people with the utmost kindness and leniency, and he used to stay away from harshness and scolding. He, peace be upon him, used to teach Islam in a way to make people's lives easier, and to give them glad tidings. He used to refrain from making matters difficult for people, or doing anything that would push people away from Islam.

Unfortunately, many people, especially non-Muslims, have an image of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as promoting Islam by force or by violence. This could not be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, those people also include some Muslims who simply believe anything that comes from the west.

However, for anyone who has spent the least amount of time studying the biography (seerah) of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and his Sunnah, they would know that he was the kindest and most lenient of teachers. He used to treat all Muslims as if they were his own children. And he never shouted at anyone in his life. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) also rarely got angry in his life, and when he did he only got angry for the sake of Allah (swt).

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) used to live for delivering the message of Islam. He spent every waking moment of his life in the service of Islam, and he was subjected to many kinds of pressure and physical harm, which he took with patience and steadfastness. May Allah (swt) shower his peace and blessings on Mohammad, who went through much suffering to bring us the beautiful message of Islam.

Our discussion here is not about the biography (seerah) of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), however this brief introduction was required as background information to the rest of our discussion. There is much to learn from the biography and manners of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), for both non-Muslims and also Muslims as well. We will leave this for another discussion Insha' Allah (God Willing).

3. The Companions of the Prophet and the Sunnah:

The second issue we must discuss is that of the companions of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). After all, they are the ones who heard his sayings and saw his actions, and they are the ones who transmitted all of this to us. The companions methodology of learning the Sunnah was to believe that it is the only hope for salvation in this life and the hereafter. Therefore, they were keen on being with the Prophet in most of his gatherings and lectures.

In order not to miss anything said or done by the Prophet, some companions used to alternate in attending the gatherings of the Prophet, and then exchange notes in order to have a complete picture of what he said. They also used to study the sayings of the Prophet and memorize them, and many companions used to write the Sunnah in order to preserve it as well. The companions were indeed an excellent example for us on how to learn and follow the Sunnah, and regard this as our top priority in life.

After the death of the Prophet, the companions were very careful in preserving the Sunnah. They ensured not to mention a hadith unless it is verified that it is a true saying of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). They also used to verify the hadith amongst each other, and prevent people who have little knowledge from saying hadith because they will probably make mistakes in it. They also used to be careful to use the same wording as the original hadith by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

4. Traveling to Collect the Sunnah:

As Islam spread through the world, many companions and then the followers of the companions traveled to different parts of the world to spread the message of Islam. Therefore, the Sunnah also spread with them across many parts of the world. This meant that those among the companions who wanted to collect and learn the Sunnah would have to travel to various cities to take the Sunnah from the companions at those cities.

This is indeed what happened, and this continued for the students of knowledge and especially those who specialized in studying the Sunnah. Every scholar of Hadith used to travel to many different cities to learn the Sunnah from it's original sources. After the death of the companions, people used to get the Sunnah from the students of the companions, and so on.

This travel in search of the Hadith also had other benefits in addition to simply collecting and learning Hadith of various cities. It also helped the spread of the Sunnah, and it added more paths to the sanad (chain of transmission) of the Hadith. In addition, it allowed Hadith scholars to exchange views, books and ideas, and it allowed them to study the situations of the rawi (transmitter) of the Hadith in order to check his reliability.

5. The Sunnah was written during the time of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh):

This is a major issue of concern to many people, including Muslims. Some non-Muslims, in their vain attempts to weaken Muslims' belief in Islam, have launched a major campaign against the Sunnah. Since they know that no Muslim would doubt the holy Qur'an, they thought that the Sunnah would be an easy target. However, they did not know that their attempts would only work on people with very little knowledge of Islam and people who simply believe any statement that comes from a westerner.

Unfortunately, most Muslims today do not study very much about Islam and the history of Islam. Most Muslim countries prefer to teach only a few fiqh issues in their schools, such as how to pray and how to fast. They rarely discuss issues such as aqeedah and the Sunnah for example. We hope that the following quick overview will help Muslims to discover the truth about the Sunnah.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) had over 60 "writers" during his life. These "writers" used to write for the Prophet everything he ordered them such as the holy Qur'an, letters to other leaders and to Muslims governors, agreements with other nations or tribes and other such documents. Therefore, a large part of the Sunnah was written officially in this format during the life of the Prophet. In addition to this, individuals used to also write the Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, in order to help them memorize these Hadith.

Many Muslims believe that the Prophet ordered the companions not to write the Hadith, and some deviant groups use this as a basis for them to disregard the entire Sunnah. There is only one sahih (correct) hadith about this from the Prophet which says the following:

"لا تكتبوا عني, و من كتب عني شيئا غير القرآن فليمحه" و زاد في رواية: "و حدثوا عني و لا حرج, و من كذب علي فليتبوأ مقعده من النار". (صحيح مسلم 8/229, تقييد العلم 29 � 32).

This hadith can be translated as: "Do not write about (or from) me, and whoever wrote anything from me other than the Qur'an he should erase it", and in one narration the following statement is added: "and say the hadith about me with no restrictions, and whoever lies on my behalf should be ready to take his place in the hell fire". The hadith is narrated in Sahih Muslim.

This hadith is the only hadith that is sahih where the Prophet orders the companions not to write the Sunnah. On the other hand, there are many hadith where the Prophet orders his companions to write the Sunnah. The following are two examples:

قوله صلى الله عليه و سلم في حجة الوداع: "اكتبوا عني لأبي شاه" (البخاري من الفتح 1/279 ح 113).

قوله صلى الله عليه و سلم لعبد الله بن عمرو مشيرا بإصبعه إلى فمه: "اكتب فوالذي نفسي بيده ما خرج منه إلا الحق" (أخرجه الإمام أحمد 2/205, و أبو داوود 3/318, و الدرامي 1/125, و هو صحيح الإسناد, انظر تقييد العلم 82).

The first hadith is narrated in sahih Bukhari, where the Prophet orders his companions to write his sayings for a person named "Abi Shah". This occurred during the final hajj season before the death of the Prophet. The second hadith occurred when one companion asked the Prophet whether he should write the Sunnah, and the Prophet replied by pointing to his mouth and saying: "Write, for by Allah, nothing comes out of this except the truth". This hadith is also sahih, and is narrated by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Addrami.

Muslim scholars have explain these hadith in several ways, we mention 2 below:

1. That the order not to write the Sunnah was early in Islam, when the Prophet was afraid that his sayings would get mixed with the holy Qur'an. But once Muslims were able to recognize the style of the holy Qur'an, which is unique from any other style, the Prophet allowed the writing of the hadith. This is especially strengthened by the fact that we know that the Prophet ordered the companions to write his sayings during the last hajj he performed.

2. That the Prophet forbid writing the Sunnah during the time the holy Qur'an was being revealed and written, or that he forbid writing the Sunnah in the same papers or books as the holy Qur'an.

There are other opinions by various scholars, but the important thing is that the scholars of Islam have agreed by consensus that the Prophet did indeed allow and in fact ordered the companions to write the Sunnah. This consensus is reported by, among others, the well known scholars of Hadith:
الخطيب البغدادي و الحافظ ابن صلاح

Now that we know that the Prophet did ask the companions to write the Sunnah, and he definitely asked them to transmit it orally, we ask what are some examples of the Sunnah written during the life of the Prophet? These include some documents written by the "writers" of the Prophet upon his order, such as his letters to the kings and leaders of various nations, his letters to other tribes inviting them to Islam, his letters to the Muslim governors, judges and zakat workers to guide them in their work, and a number of agreements, treaties and contracts and so on.

In addition to the official documents mentioned earlier, which were written by the order of the Prophet, there were other writings by the individual efforts of the companions. These include the following: "Assaheefa Assadiqa", written by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-'as, and it contained one thousand hadith. Also, there were the books of Sa'ad ibn Obada, Mo'ath ibn Jabal and Abi Rafi'. In addition, there was the writings of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Jaber ibn Abd Allah Al-Ansari.

All of these are the books and writings of the companions of the Prophet, who heard the hadith directly from him peace be upon him. Many of these documents, both the official ones and the individual writings by the companions, are preserved until today in the books of Sunnah, history and seerah. Therefore, it is clear that there is no place for anyone to claim that the Sunnah was not written during the time of the Prophet.

In addition to all this, Muslims also used to memorize the hadith of the Prophet. In fact, some scholars when collecting the hadith used to prefer to take hadith from one who memorizes it over one who has the hadith written. This is because the one who memorized the hadith is less likely to make a mistake, and is more likely to have understood the hadith and worked based on it's teachings.

6. The Official Collection and Organization of the Sunnah:

As mentioned in the previous section, thousands of hadith, documents and agreements were written by the companions during the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). These documents and books of hadith remained with the companions who wrote them after the death of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). These books were scattered amongst the companions and were not collected in large collections. In addition to that, many hadith were memorized by the companions, and were transmitted to their students during halaqa (classes) of studying Islam orally.

During this time, the Muslims did not see a great need to collect the hadith into organized books. After all, the companions were available, and they used to memorize the hadith and teach it to their students who used to memorize it as well. And since writing was not easy at the time, after all every book would have to be written by hand, most people depended on memorization in their teaching and not writing. It is true till this day: a student who memorizes the hadith perfectly can benefit from it much more than one who hears the hadith once and writes it in his notes never to remember it again.

The hadith continued to be memorized by the hearts, and much of it also written in the books of individual companions. It was also being taught to the next generation of Muslims, the followers of the companions, and to the vast numbers of people who were entering Islam every year.

The first collection of hadith officially sanctioned by a leader of the Muslims, that we know of, was done by the Ameer of Misr (Misr is also known by its un-Islamic name egypt). His name was Abdul Aziz ibn Marwan, and he was the Ameer of Misr around the year of 80 after the hijra. He wrote to Katheer ibn Morra Al-Hadrami telling him to send him all the hadith he can collect, except the hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra, since he already had it collected. Katheer had met with over 70 of the companions who had fought in the battle of badr, so he had a wealth of hadith from them.

Of course, from this historical record we can also deduce that the Ameer had already begun to collect the hadith before that, since he already had the hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra. Therefore, the action pointed to by this historical record is in fact that the Ameer wanted to build up and increase his existing collection of hadith.

Another major effort to collect the hadith was made during the rule of the fifth guided khalifah, Omar ibn Abdul Aziz, around the year 100 after the hijra. This was a widespread and concerted effort that was started by the Khalifah, top leader of the Muslims. This effort to collect the hadith was special because it had the following qualities:

  1. All governors of the Muslim nation were asked to send the hadith that they have in their provinces to the Khalifah.

  2. The scholars of Islam were gathered in order to help verify and write the Sunnah, and help to spread it across the Muslim world.

  3. The extraordinary effort put into ensuring the accuracy of all that was written. This was done by gathering the best scholars who memorized the Sunnah in order to verify everything that is written.

  4. After the Sunnah was collected and written, copies of it were made and sent to all Muslim lands and nations.

After this action by Omar ibn Abdul Aziz, Muslim scholars continued to spend a lot of efforts to continue gathering, verifying, classifying and writing books about the Sunnah. They developed sciences on how to verify the hadith, and how to classify it and so on.

Therefore, from what we have mentioned above, it is clear to anyone who studied Islam and the history of Islam that the Sunnah was preserved by both memorization and by writing since the time of Prophet Mohammad. However, some of the anti-Islamic elements try to shake Muslims belief in the Sunnah by saying that the Sunnah was not written until 200 or even 300 years after the death of Prophet Mohammad! It is obvious to everyone who has spent some time to study the issue that these claims are blatant lies!

Muslims should not be surprised that these people who have no religion, or those who have distorted their own religion, would have no problem in lying. Muslims should fear Allah (swt) and not take any news or information from non-Muslims, especially when this information is about our own religion of Islam or about a group of Muslims. We all know how hard the enemies of Islam work in the media and in their books in order to tarnish the images of certain groups of Muslims, or Islam in general, and we should not believe anything they say without clear and incontrovertible evidence.

7. Methods for Transmitting the Sunnah:

Now that we have some historical background about the Sunnah, we should devote some time to talk about how the Sunnah was transmitted to us today. In fact, the method of transmitting the Sunnah is a truly ingenious and unique method invented and used only by the Islamic Ummah. No other civilization was able to come up with similar methods to accurately transmit their claimed holy texts.

Muslims put a huge amount of effort in order to protect and preserve the Sunnah, and to keep it clean from any inaccuracies or fabrications. This effort was made by thousands of Hadith scholars, who spent their lives in the service of the Sunnah. Their efforts in combating fabrications and preserving the Sunnah are discussed later on.

In order to ensure the accuracy of every sentence in the Sunnah, the Hadith scholars devised a system where every hadith contains two parts. A sanad (chain or narrators) and a matn (the actual words said by the Prophet). The sanad is the chain of narrators of the hadith. When the hadith scholars came across a hadith, they required the person saying the hadith to say who he learned this hadith from, and who that person learned it from, and so on, up to the companion who heard it directly from the Prophet.

By requiring this sanad with every single hadith, the scholars were able to check this chain of narrators and decide on whether this hadith is authentic or not. They developed books, still available today, that describe all these narrators, their dates of birth, where they lived, their level of memorization, their character and so on. The hadith scholars, before declaring a hadith to be sahih or accurate, intensively check the sanad of the hadith.

This includes historical checks to ensure that each 2 narrators lived at the same time and in the same place. It also includes checking for the character and level of memorization of that person. This science was called ilm al-rijal or aljarh wal ta'deel, which means science of men. The scholars collected information about each narrator from people who know him or people who did some business with him etc. They collected this information in order to allow them to judge the reliability of each narrator.

For example, if a narrator is known to have lied once in his life, during a business transaction, marriage, to his friends etc. he is rejected and the hadith narrated by him is considered weak or fabricated. If a narrator is known to occasionally make mistakes, this is taken into account. If he missed some prayers, or was known to have deviant beliefs etc. all this was taken into account.

All these books are still available today. We also still have the books where the scholars ranked each narrator depending on their reliability. All this information was then used to rank the hadith as being: sahih, hasan, da'eef or mawdoo'. In order for a hadith to be deemed sahih, the chain of narrators must be continuous with no gaps, every narrator must have excellent character and excellent memorization, and the matn is checked to make sure it doesn't contradict the Qur'an or other known hadith and so on.

The sciences of hadith are some of the most complicated in Islam, and it honestly cannot be fully explained here. However, we hope that we were able to give an overview of how the hadith was transmitted in order to give readers strong confidence about the scholars who performed this task. If someone is interested to learn more, there are hundereds of books about aljarh wal ta'deel and mostalah al hadeeth and so on. For others, you should have some confidence and trust in the work done by the scholars and trust their word when they say a hadith is sahih or daee'f etc.

8. Classification of Hadith:

It may be useful here to mention briefly some of the classes of hadith. The hadith can be classified in two ways:

1) Classification based on number of narrators in each generation:

  • Motawatir. These are hadith where a large number of people narrated the same hadith in each generation of the chain of narrators.

  • Ahaad. These are hadith that are narrated by only a few people in each generation.

We know that the motawatir hadith are indeed the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). This is because of the large number of people who heard the prophet say the hadith, and then it was transmitted through many different chains of narrators and it ended up to be still exactly the same hadith.

The Ahaad hadith must be studied in detail, as mentioned above, in order to prove them and they are classified as follows:

2) Classification based on studying the narrators:

  • Sahih and hasan. These are hadith which were judged to be truly the words of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) by the scholars who specialize in Hadith. Sahih are a higher class than hasan.

  • Da'eef. These are weak hadith, which are not proven to be from the Prophet.

  • Mawdoo'. These are hadith known to be fabricated.

Scholars of hadith, such as Bukhari and Muslim, collected sahih hadith only and put them in their books of: Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. However, they did not attempt nor claim to have collected all sahih hadith. There are many other books of hadith such as Musnad Ahmad, Mowatta' Malik and so on which contain many sahih hadith as well.

9. The Efforts of the Scholars to Preserve the Sunnah:

For many reasons, some people invariably tried to lie about the Prophet and make up hadith and say they heard it from the Prophet. These people had various motivations, but their final destination was clearly mentioned to us by the Prophet, that they should be ready to take their seat in the hell fire.

One of the biggest sources of liars about the Prophet were the deviant groups, who tried to re-enforce their deviant ideas by producing fake hadith. Some scholars have reported that the first deviant group to start producing fake hadith was the Shia, who had no evidence from the Qur'an or Sunnah and so they tried to fake hadith. In any case, we will try to mention some of the efforts of how the scholars tried to combat these deviant groups and their fake hadith:

1. Requiring a full isnad (chain of narrators) for each hadith before accepting it. As we all know every hadith is composed of two parts: sanad and matn. The sanad means the chain of narrators, which starts with the person who heard the hadith from the Prophet, then the person who heard from him and so on. The matn is the actual wording that the Prophet said. Before adding a hadith to their collection, the scholars required that they hear the entire chain of narrators for it up to the person saying the hadith.

2. After hearing the sanad, the scholars used historical evidence to expose liars who had just invented the hadith. This is because the scholars had books detailing narrators of hadith, which were of course mostly scholars and their students. They knew during what years they lived, and in what cities they lived and so on. Therefore, they can expose inaccuracies in the sanad which prove that the person is lying.

3. The books about the narrators also included information about each narrator such as: how religious he was, if he attended prayers, if his beliefs were correct, if he belonged to any deviant groups, if he was ever known to lie etc. Therefore, after checking the historical accuracy of the sanad (to ensure that every narrator met with the previous one in the chain and so on), the scholars also checked to ensure the character of each narrator.

4. The scholars developed the science of "Al-Jarh wal Ta'deel", also known as "Ilm Ar-Rijal" (the knowledge of men). This basically included the books mentioned earlier which contain a listing of narrators, and information about them. This science allowed scholars to classify narrators into classes based on the strength of their memorization and their Islamic character. Therefore, hadith would be taken only from people with good character who have good memorization. If someone has good memorization but sometimes makes mistakes in memorization, the hadith may be taken but is put into a lower class.

5. Classifying hadith into classes. This includes "motawatir" hadith (narrated by a large number of people in every generation of the chain of narrators), then sahih, hasan, da'eef and finally mawdoo' (fabricated). They depended on the following factors in this classification:

  • Having a continuous sanad (chain of narrators) with no gaps.

  • The character of the narrators

  • The quality of the memorization of the narrators

  • The matn (wording) of the hadith does not contradict the Qur'an or other sahih hadith.

  • The hadith does not have any subtle reasons in the sanad that makes it weak (called 'illa in Arabic).

  • Having other hadith with the same meaning to back the hadith up.

6. Exposing liars and fabricators by letting all Muslims know that they are liars and warning people not to listen to any hadith from them or take their word for anything.

7. Writing books that include "mawdoo' hadith", or fabricated hadith, and proving why they are fabricated. These books are written to warn Muslims from taking such hadith as true.

8. Checking for signs of fabrication in the wording of the hadith. This can include the style of the wording, as the Prophet was known to be extremely eloquent in his wording. It also includes checking that the wording does not contradict the basics of Islam, and that it doesn't contradict things known for sure by the human mind. It also includes checking for historical accuracy if the hadith is reporting an action during a certain time and so on.

10. Conclusion:

In conclusion, after the very quick and brief discussion in this article, we hope that it will be clear to all Muslims that the Sunnah was memorized and written during the time of the Prophet Mohammad, and that it was officially collected very early in Islam. We also hope that Muslims now have a better idea about some of the efforts of the scholars of Islam in ensuring the accuracy of the hadith that they have reported in their books.

Imam Muslim (202 - 261H)

The full name of Imam Muslim is Abu'l-Husain 'Asakir-ud-Din Muslim b. Hajjaj al-Qushayri al-Naisaburi. "Muslim," as his nasba shows, belonged to the Qushayr tribe of the Arabs, an offshoot of the great clan of Rabi'a. He was born in Naisabur (Nishapur) in 202/817 or 206/821. His parents were religiously minded persons and as such he was brought up in a pious atmosphere. This left such an indelible impression on his mind that he spent the whole of his life as a God-fearing person and always adhered to the path of Righteousness. He was in fact a saint of high calibre. His excellent moral character can be well judged from the simple fact that he never indulged in backbiting, a very common human failing.

Imam Muslim travelled widely to collect traditions in Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, where he attended the lectures of some of the prominent Traditionists of his time: Ishaq b. Rahwaih, Ahmad b. Hanbal, 'Ubaydullah al-Qawariri, Qutaiba b. Sa’id, 'Abdullah b. Maslama, Harmalah b. Yahya, and others.

Having finished his studies, be settled down at Nishapur. There he came into contact with Imam Bukhari, and was so much impressed by his vast knowledge of Hadith and his deep insight into it that he kept himself attached to him up to the end of his life. He was an ardent admirer of another great-teacher of Hadith, Muhammad b.Yahya al-Dhuhali and attended his lectures regularly, but when the difference of opinion between Muhammad b. Yahya and Imam Bukhari, on the issue of the creation of the Holy Qur'an, sharpened into hostility, Imam Muslim sided with Imam Bukhari and abandoned Muhammad b. Yahya altogether. He was thus a true disciple of Imam Bukhari.

He wrote many books and treatises on Hadith, but the most important of his works is the collection (Jami’) of his Sahih Some of the commentators of Ahadith are of the opinion that in certain respects it is the best and most authentic work on the subject. Imam Muslim took great pains in collecting 300,000 Traditions, and then after a thorough examination of them retained only 4000, the genuineness of which is fully established.1

He prefixed to his compilation a very illuminating introduction, in which he specified some of the principles which he had followed in the choice of his material.

Imam Muslim has to his credit many other valuable contributions to different branches of Hadith literature, and most of them retain their eminence even to the present day. Amongst these Kitab al-Musnad al-Kabir 'Ala al-Rijal, Jami' Kabir, Kitab, al-Asma' wa'l-Kuna, Kitab al-Ilal, Kitab al- Wijdan are very important.

His Methods of Classification and Annotation

Muslim's Sahih comes next to it. However, in certain respects the latter is considered superior to the former. Imam Muslim strictly observed many principles of the science of Hadith which had been slightly ignored by his great teacher Imam Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on both of them). Imam Muslim considered only such traditions to be genuine and authentic as had been transmitted to him by an unbroken chain of reliable authorities and were in perfect harmony with what had, (been related by other narrators whose trustworthiness was unanimously accepted and who were free from all defects.

Moreover, Imam Bukhari, while describing the chain of narrators, sometimes mentions their kunya and sometimes gives their names. This is particularly true in case of the narrators of Syria. This creates a sort of confusion, which Imam Muslim has avoided.

Imam Muslim takes particular care in according the exact words of the narrators and points out even the minutest difference in the wording of their reports.

Imam Muslim has also constantly kept in view the difference between the two well-known modes of narration, haddathana (he narrated to us) and akhbarana (he informed us). He is of the opinion that the first mode is used only when the teacher is narrating the hadith and the student is listening to it, while the second mode of expression implies that the student is reading the hadith before the teacher. This reflects his utmost care in the transmission of a hadith.

Imam Muslim has taken great pains in connecting the chain of narrators. He has recorded only that hadith which, at least, two reliable tabi'in (successors) had heard from two Companions and this principle is observed throughout the subsequent chain of narrators.

His Students

Imam Muslim had a very wide circle of students, who learnt Hadith from him. Some of them occupy a very prominent position in Islamic history, e.g. Abu Hatim Razi, Musa b. Harun, Ahmad b. Salama, Abu 'Isa Tirmidhi, Abu Bakr b. Khusaima, Abu ‘Awana and Hafiz Dhahabi.

His Death

Imam Muslim lived for fifty-five years in this world. Of this short span of his life he spent most of his time in learning Hadith, in Its compilation, in its teaching and transmission. He always remained absorbed in this single pursuit and nothing could distract his attention from this pious task. He died in 261/875, and was buried in the suburbs of Nishapur.

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