History of Hadith

Is it permissible to write and collect ahadith

Verily the ahadith enables the pious to beautify their actions through it. And it is not possible to completely moderate one’s actions and characteristics except by combining between the hadith and Quran. Allah mentions in the Quran:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ

3:21 – There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ                    

3:31 – Say (O Prophet): “If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah shall love you”.

Now if it was not for the ahadith then the blessed life of the Prophet ﷺ would not be documented and would be lost. As Allah mentions in the Quran:

وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ     

3:144 – Muhammad is but a messenger, there have been messengers before him. 

إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُم مَّيِّتُونَ

39:30 – Verily, you are to die and they are to die.

In the beginning stages the sahaba would not write the hadith down as the Prophet ﷺ forbade it[1] out of fear that it would be easily distinguished from the Quran. Secondly, during this period, memorisation was more prominent due to a lot of the people being illiterate[2].

The collecting of hadith and writing and preserving it was an act which was done during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. It can be found in the books of history, some of the names of scriptures, writings and collections which were specifically devoted for sunan[3].

  • Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas had a collection named al-Saadiqah
  • Ali ibn Abi Talib had a saheefa in which he collected ahadith[4]
  • Anas also had a saheefa
  • Abdullah ibn Abbas [5]
  • Abdullah bin Masud
  • Jabir bin Abdullah (Muslim)

They would show these writings to the people when they gathered. And the scripture of Hammam ibn Munabbih, the companion of Abu Hurayra, is from one of the oldest writings which can be found. 

Urwah ibn Zubair narrates that the leader of the believers, Umar bin al-Khattab, intended to write the hadith so he consulted with the companions of the Prophet ﷺ. They advised him to have it written down, so Umar intended to have this done immediately, however he says “Indeed I intended to have the sunan written down, however I remembered a people before you who wrote down the book of Allah and stumbled upon it, and thereafter left the book of Allah”, therefore he did not have the sunan written down[6].

Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the khalifah of the muslims in his time also intended to have the sunan written down like his grandfather Umar bin al-Khattab. During this time the fear of confusing the Quran with the hadith had been removed. There was an abundance of huffaz, and a lot of muslims had spread throughout the lands and there was certainty in that which Allah had promised and informed them.

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

15:9 – We, Ourselves, have sent down the Dhikr (the Qur’ān), and We are there to protect it.

Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote to one of the senior scholars of hadith of his time, Abu Bakr bin Muhammad bin Hazm, ordering him to write down and make a collection of ahadith. This was because he feared people leaving the sunnahas well as losing the ulama. Thus the hadith started to be formally gathered under the rule of Umar bin Abdul Aziz[7].

Towards the latter era of the taabieen the writing of athaar was found, as was akhbaar being organised into chapters. One of the foremost collectors of hadith in this manner was Rabee ibn Al-sabeeh and Saeed bin Abi Arubah[8].

There are three ways to preserve ahadith:

  1. Memory
  2. Acting upon it
  3. Writing it

[1] Sahih Muslim 3004

[2] Hadyu al-Saari vol.1 p.7

[3] Al-Madkhal p.21

[4] Bukhari, Kitab al-Ilm

[5] Tirmidhi, Kitab al-IIlal

[6] Al-Madkhal p.20

[7] Al-Madkhal p.21

[8] Hadyu al-Saari vol.1 p.7

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