Development of Ḥadīth and its sciences

In the first century the emphasis placed on the memorisation of aḥādīth, its documentation and compilation was unlike that of the latter generations. Given that this was a time when Islām was spreading, naturally there was more emphasis on calling others towards Islām, jihād, busying oneself in learning the Qur’ān and Sunnah, learning the matters of ḥalāl and ḥarām, learning and listening to aḥādīth, acting upon the teachings of Islām and encouraging others to do so. Due to this continuous practice of the teachings of Islām, the people held on to and memorised the transmitted knowledge with great accuracy and precision. This was due to their naturally gifted ability to memorise as well as the barakah (blessings) of true imān. During this period, the need for the documentation and compilation of aḥādīth was dissimilar to the need found in subsequent eras.

Thereafter, the documentation and writing of aḥādīth took place through the command of ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-Azīz at the beginning of the second century. The second century was thus the period of composition and writing of aḥādīth, and it was in this period the taḥqīq (authentication) of aḥādīth also started to increase. This taḥqīq of aḥādīth, carried on until the end of the second century, and it was the third century which was the main period for the taḥqīq of aḥādīth. The majority of the scholars in the field of taḥqīq were from this time period, such as Yaḥya bin Ma’īn, ‘Ali bin al-Madīnī,[1] Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal among others.[2]

Imām al-Dhahabī mentions in his Risālah regarding those who did jarḥ (criticised) and ta’dīl (praised) of narrators, that there were 715 such scholars from the beginning (era of the ṣaḥābah) until his time.[3] Approximately 300 of those mentioned by Imām al-Dhahabi were from the third century. 

The taḥqīq of aḥādīth continued into the fourth century producing scholars such as Ibn Ḥibbān, Dar al-Quṭnī, al-Ḥākim, Abū Nu’aym and others. This carried on into the fifth century with the likes of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Khatīb, al-Bayḥāqi, Ibn al-Qaṭṭān, Ibn Ḥazm and others. However, the muta`akhirīn (scholars of the latter era) relied primarily on the statement of the mutaqaddimīn (scholars of the earlier generations) from the third century and those before. The muta`akhirīn adopted the terminology of their predecessors and thus began the authorship and documentation of terminology used by the mutaqaddimīn in the fourth century.

3 Stages for the development of the science of Ulūm al-Ḥadīth

1Scholars wrote about the ulūm (science) of Ḥadīth but not completely, such as at the beginning or end of the books.[4]
2Books started to be written about the ulūm. One of the first to do so was al-Qāḍī Ramāhurmuzī.
3Books were organised and summarised by reference to the principles set by earlier scholars. 

[1] ‘Ali bin al-Madīnī (161-234AH) was the teacher of Imām Bukhāri. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghudda writes in his Lamḥāt min Ta’rīkh al-Sunnah wa Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, pg. 201, that ‘Alī bin al-Madīnī was the first who wrote on Ulūm al-Ḥadīth independently.

[2] Such as Muḥammad bin Sa’d, Abū Khaythamah, al-Nufaylī, Ibn Numayr, Abū Bakr bin Abī Shaybah, Isḥāq bin Rāhawayh, Abū Hafṣ al-Fallās, Abū ‘Ubayd al-Qāsim bin Sallām,  Aḥmad bin Manī’, Aḥmad bin Ṣāliḥ, al-Dārimī, al-Dhuhali, al-‘Ijli, al-Bukhāri, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd, al-Tirmidhī, al- Nasā`ī, Ibn Mājah, Abū Zur’ah, Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī, ‘Abū Zur’ah al-Dimashqī, Baqī bin Khallād, Ṣaliḥ Jazrah, Muḥammad bin Naṣr al-Marwāzī, al-Bazzār, Abū Ya’la, Ya’qub bin Shaybah, Ya’qub bin Sufyān al-Fasawi, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, al-Ṭaḥāwī, al-Duwlabī etc.

[3] The eighth century.

[4] For example, the introduction to the Ṣaḥīḥ of Imām Muslim, the sunan of Imām Tirmidhī and al-Risālah of Imām Shāfi’ī.

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