to and History of the Sunnah (The Sunnah as seen by most orthodox Muslims)
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.
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.
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as a
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)
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.
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
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).
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).
Traveling to Collect the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
governors of the Muslim nation
were asked to send the hadith that they have in their provinces to the
scholars of Islam were gathered in
order to help verify and write the Sunnah, and help to spread it across
the Muslim world.
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.
Sunnah was collected and
written, copies of it were made and sent to all Muslim lands and
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.
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!
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.
Methods for Transmitting the
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Classification of Hadith:
It may be
useful here to mention briefly
some of the classes of hadith. The hadith can be classified in two
Classification based on number of
narrators in each generation:
are hadith where a large number of people narrated the same hadith in
each generation of the chain of narrators.
hadith that are narrated by only a few people in each generation.
We know that
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.
be studied in detail, as mentioned above, in order to prove them and
they are classified as follows:
Classification based on studying the
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.
weak hadith, which are not proven to be from the Prophet.
are hadith known to be fabricated.
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.
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
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.
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:
continuous sanad (chain of
narrators) with no gaps.
character of the narrators
quality of the memorization of the
(wording) of the hadith does
not contradict the Qur'an or other sahih hadith.
does not have any subtle
reasons in the sanad that makes it weak (called 'illa in Arabic).
other hadith with the same
meaning to back the hadith up.
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.
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.
(202 - 261H)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Methods of Classification and
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.