Hadith Collection And Authentication is a modern-time obsession. How can we be sure that anything is real? What can lead us to certainty and conviction?

Hadith Collection – Was Hadith And Sunnah Compiled And Preserved From Corruption?

Hadith Collection And Authentication is a modern-time obsession. How can we be sure that anything is real? What

Hadith Collection And Authentication is a modern-time obsession. We all worry about the forgery of money, credit cards, legal papers, and even falsified research methods and conclusions. We doubt everything nowadays. So, how can we be sure that anything is real? What can lead us to certainty and conviction?

To be certain of anything we must be convinced of its authenticity, and that it has not been altered or tampered with. 

In this article, we will show the extensive, thorough, and precise ways that were created by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), his companions, and the following Muslims to ensure the Hadith (teachings of the Prophet) perfectly reaches us and remains for all times unaltered.

What Is the difference between Hadith and Sunnah?

The main difference between Hadith and sunnah is that hadith refers to the sayings of the Prophet (saw), while sunnah is the whole compilation of his sayings, acts, approvals, way of life ..etc.

Check the full discussion here: What Does “Sunnah” Mean?

To start with, Hadith is defined as The prophetic traditions which are whatever is transmitted from Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) including his actions, sayings, and tacit approvals. In fact, the Prophet’s sayings, actions, and tacit approvals were primarily based on Allah’s revelation but in the Prophet’s words (PBUH) and, as such, Hadith must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second to the Qur’an.

The two terms Hadith and Sunnah often are used as synonyms for the prophet’s traditions. As defined earlier, Sunnah is the entire twenty or so years of the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) ever since revelation started until His passing away.

Hadith Criticism – Are Hadiths Authentic?

In fact, Hadiths have passed through several tests to examine their authenticity by genuine Muslim Scholars specified in the field of hadith. They have put a set of special hard conditions for a hadith to check if it really goes back to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 

They divided hadiths into categories according to the level of authenticity in which the highest levels are Sahih, and then Hasan while the lowest one is the Mawdou’. Thus, if by any means you met a Sahih Hadith or even a Hasan one, you would be sure it really goes back to the prophet (PBUH).

However, some people may have wondered about the process of compilation and preservation of hadith. They would ask how was the sunnah complied with and transferred through hundreds of years. Naturally, Muslims were busy learning their religion, spreading the words of God, and establishing their state. So, how was it possible to document that important source of legislation? We will further discuss that in the following paragraphs.

The Preservation and Compilation of Hadith 

The preservation of hadith was done through memorizing, teaching, writing, and compilation. People in the early stages of Islam used to memorize whatever was said by the prophet (PBUH). Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have also chosen certain people to write down the hadiths. 

Companions of Prophet Muhammad taught the hadiths to the generation next to them and so did the later generations. This created for each hadith an officially approved chain of people called ‘sanad’ which precisely relate the Hadith to its specific source. This helped Muslim scholars trace each hadith back to its true original source.

In fact, the process of preservation and compilation of hadiths was not only at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, it was extended afterward to later times when these preserved hadiths were compiled in the great books of Sunnah which further preserved the hadiths in well-known authentic references.

What Are The Five Stages Of The Compilation Of Hadith ?

The five stages of compilation of Hadiths occurred starting from the lifetime of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) till the third Hijri Century. These stages are: 

  1. Hadith Collection during the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH).
  2. Hadith Collection during the time of the Caliphs.
  3. The first official command to compile all the Sunnah  
  4. A new phase of development in the documentation of hadith during the third-century Hijri.
  5. The final stage of Haith collection and Sunnah compilation.

1. Hadith Collection During The Lifetime Of The Prophet (PBUH)

As we previously mentioned, the companions of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to sit with him and learn his teachings. They memorized his sayings; namely the hadiths and Sunnah. 

It is generally known that the Prophet (PBUH) discouraged documentation of his own sayings and Sunnah at the early stages of his mission in order to preserve the purity of the Qur’an and prevent the possibility of confusion between the Qur’an and his Sunnah, but later on, he gave his permission to some wise companions to do so. 

We have references to papers written by some of the Companions, the content of which found its place in the Major books of Hadith.   

2. Hadith Collection During The Time Of The Caliphs

After the Prophet’s death, the Companions learned the hadiths from one another which primarily paved the way for a greater Hadiths collection.  

The Companions had different views concerning writing down the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). Some were against it fearing that it may be confused with the Quran, such as: ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, ‘Abd Allah Ibn Masud, Zayd Ibn Thabit, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari, and Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri. While others were for it such as Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Al-Hasan Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Anas Ibn Malik, and Abd Allah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-‘As

Later on, things changed. It was narrated That when the Islamic state was widened and some people made false innovations and claims in Islam, Muslims feared the Sunnah may be lost, corrupted, or confused with people’s fabricated hadiths. This is when the authentication process started. Very strict conditions were put on whom should be accepted as a narrator of Sunnah, and detailed biographies were written about each man in each chain of each Hadith. Fabricators of Hadith were known; their narrations were refused and excluded.

3. The First Official Command To Compile All The Sunnah

The Umayyad Caliph, Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (d. 101 H) was the first to take up the issue and assigned to the governor of Madina, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Hazm (d. 117 H) the task to collect and document the Sunnah of the Prophet and to “Accept nothing other than the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH)”. 

Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri (d. 124 H) responded to the call and attempted what proved to be the first major collection of Hadith,  but the Caliph passed away and didn’t see the fruits of his important initiative.

Al-Zuhri started compiling an extensive Hadith collection that was later accomplished during the second and third centuries of Hijra.  His method of writing was “subject-oriented”, consisting of separate books each on Sunnah pertaining to an individual subject.

4. A New Phase Of Development In The Documentation Of Hadith 

One of the distinctive features of the writings of this period was the isolation of the Sunnah of the Prophet from the sayings of the Companions and fatwas (opinions) of the learned figures among the Follower and scholars.  

The earliest works of this period were:

Musnad of Abu Dawud Al-Tayallsi (d 204 H)

Musnad of Imam Ahmad h Hanbal (d, 241 H)

5. The Final Stage Of Hadith Collection And Compiling The Sunnah:

By the end of the second and beginning of the third Hijri century, the science of Hadith took form.  Several new ways of sorting Hadith in books were introduced and more branches of this science emerged where more scholars studied Sunnah and worked on authentication techniques.

The last stage in the development of hadith literature was the third-century compilations through the works mainly of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, referred to as Al-Sahihan (the two authentic collections). It is said that Al-Bukhari’s Sahih is the most authentic book in hand second only to the Quran.

Conclusion | What Is The History of the Compilation Of Hadith? 

It is amazing, the extensive effort, dedication, patience, sincerity, and intellect that was invested in authenticating the Sunnah. Its text is preserved as pure and original as the day it was revealed more than 1400 years ago. 

Hadith have passed through several stages of compilation starting from the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) til the third Hijri Century.

Muslims have developed a set of rules and conditions to check the authenticity of a hadith and trace it back to its origin. This science has been known in Islamic studies as ‘The Science of Hadith’ which is taught all over the Islamic world.

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About Abeer Eltahan

Abeer El Tahhan is a pediatrician and a Quran and Arabic tutor. Abeer is deeply involved in Islamic studies and dawah activities. She is fluent in Arabic and English.