who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Prophet and those charged with authority
among you. Therefore, if there is a difference of opinion among you in
any matter, refer it back to Allah and His Prophet1,
if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day." (4:59)
verse of the Quran clearly indicates that the original sources of knowledge
on Islam are only two: The Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws2).
The first addressees of this verse were the Companions3
of the Prophet (sws). It was they who were the first to be told that they
should refer to the Quran (refer it back to Allah) and the Sunnah (and
His Prophet) in case they had a difference of opinion in any matter pertaining
to religion. Therefore, only these two can be considered as original sources
of religious knowledge by the Muslims. All other sources of religious guidance
are subservient to them.
problem is that today many people regard the Sunnah and the Hadith as synonymous
terms, whereas the two are quite distinct from each other. The Sunnah (or
to `those established customs of the Prophet (sws) that were passed on
as religion to the Muslim Ummah5
by the Companions of the Prophet (sws) through their practical consensus6
on these customs or through their perpetual adherence7
to them'8. Therefore, there
is no doubt about the authenticity of the Sunnah as an original source.
Just as the Quran was perpetuated by oral transmission, the Sunnah was
passed on by perpetual adherence. Hence, the authenticity of the Sunnah
does not epend on the narratives told by a few individuals; the entire
society in the Prophet's time adopted and transmitted the Sunnah, thereby
making it an established fact of history.
on the other hand, refers to a short narrative which describes a statement
or an action or a tacit approval of the Prophet (sws). Most of these narratives
were told by a few individuals at each link of the chain of narrators and,
therefore, are very appropriately called Akhbaar-i-Ahaad9.
transmission of Ahaadith10
went on, it became evident that the Hadith11
was being invaded by many forgeries. Therefore, scholars of Hadith formulated
numerous methods of evaluation by which genuine Ahaadith could be sifted
out of the mass of forgeries. These methods belong to either of the two
disciplines essential for investigating the authenticity of Ahaadith: Fann-i-Riwaayat
and Fann-i-Daraayat. Fann-i-Riwaayat12,
which has many branches, involves investigation of the complete chain of
narrators13 going back to
the original narrator of a particular version14
of the Hadith in question. This science, thus, investigates the bonafides,
the moral character, truthfulness, and power of memory of the narrators.
Fann-i-Daraayat, on the other hand, investigates the authenticity of a
Hadith by determining whether or not its subject-matter is acceptable.
is accepted only when its authenticity has been established on the basis
of both Fann-i-Riwaayat and Fann-i-Daraayat. Therefore, a Hadith can be
regarded as a source of religious guidance only `if the basis of that Hadith
exists in the Quran or the Sunnah or the established principles of human
nature and intellect. Moreover, it should not be contradictory to any of
these bases, and should have been transmitted by reliable sources'15.
A Hadith which meets these criteria is accepted as a bonafide record of
the Sunnah and of information pertaining to Islam. However, the following
points must be kept in mind which stem from these criteria:
1. No Hadith
can present anything as religion which does not have its basis in the Quran
or the Sunnah or the established principles of human nature and intellect.
Therefore, whatever a Hadith presents would either be an explanation of
a principle found in these sources or a branch emanating from that principle.
2. A Hadith
must not be against the Quran or the Sunnah or the established principles
of human nature and intellect. In short, the Hadith in question must conform
with the entire fabric of Islam.
3. A Hadith
must have been transmitted by reliable sources.
first two of these points relate to Fann-i-Daraayat and the last to Fann-i-Riwaayat.
the scholars competent to analyse Ahaadith on the basis of these criteria
are few, and the untrained eye is often confused while studying the Hadith.
There are three mawjor reasons for this confusion:
all the available written collections of Ahaadith, including the most revered
ones, contain those Ahaadith which were analysed primarily on the basis
of Riwaayat. Most Ahaadith, therefore, have to be analysed further on the
basis of Fann-i-Daraayat before they can be accepted or rejected.
2. In most
cases the context of a Hadith is not clear or is even left out. The reason
is that a typical Hadith is what is called Riwaayat-bil-Maa'naa, which
refers to such a Hadith the narrators of which had not transmitted its
exact subject-matter but had used their own words to convey the meaning.
has also led to complete distortion of the actual subject-matter in many
cases. Occasional alteration in the text by mistakes in copying has also
added to these problems.
a Hadith in its right context is not the job of a layman. It requires a
sound understanding and appreciation of the classics of Arabic literature
of the Prophet's time and training in various disciplines necessary for
understanding and analyzing any segment of the whole corpus of the sources
of religious knowledge. In short, analysis, in the true sense of the word,
of this historical record---the Hadith---is the job of a scholar. Unfortunately,
this confusion pertaining to Ahaadith has given rise to some adverse reactions.
People who have shown such reactions can be classified into two categories:
1. There are
those who have reacted by formulating the erroneous premise that the Hadith
can in no way be a reliable source of religious knowledge. This reaction
went beyond all proportion when they confused the Hadith with the Sunnah
and then refused to accept even the Sunnah as an original source.
2. On the
other hand are those who tried to defend the status of the Sunnah as an
original source but in the process lost sight of what they were actually
defending. They too have come to regard the Sunnah and the Hadith as one
and the same thing. Therefore, they consider those Ahaadith which have
already been evaluated on the basis of Fann-i-Riwaayat as an unchallengeable
source of knowledge even where the possibility of further analysis on the
basis of Fann-i-Daraayat clearly exists.
As far as
the former group is concerned, the very premise it has formulated is incorrect.
Many Ahaadith were fabricated; there is no doubt about that; but it does
not imply that all Ahaadith are false. A Hadith can neither be considered
as genuine nor as fabricated until proper analysis on the basis of both
Fann-i-Riwaayat and Fann-i-Daraayat has been made.
it must be remembered that the Sunnah relates to that part of religion
which the Prophet (sws) taught as the instructor of divine law and as a
model for mankind so that his followers should mould their lives in accordance
with the wishes of the Almighty by performing the rituals and following
the injunctions found in Islam. Transmission of the Sunnah was his duty
and, therefore, it was not passed on to a few narrators merely but to the
whole society at that time and was transmitted to the Muslim Ummah by the
perpetual adherence of the Companions of the Prophet (sws). For example,
the exact significance of thd Quranic term Al-Salaat16
is not something which the Prophet (sws) explained to a few narrators only---who
might or might not have passed on the information to someone like Imam
Bokhari17, who might or might not have
accepted it as genuine18---but
something which the Prophet (sws) explained to the whole Muslim community
in his time orally and through demonstration. Therefore, Al-Salaat, as
the Prophet (sws) defined it, became so much a part of the daily routine
of those people that it is now an established historical fact. It is also
natural that in the case of the Sunnah---which relates to the performance
of rituals and execution of injunctions and not to articles of faith---some
variations should emerge. Such variations as do not distort the broader
structure of the Sunnah are acceptable. The Prophet's reply `La Ba's' (no
problem) on a certain occasion when some people were not certain whether
they had correctly made the Haj owing to such minor variations also corroborates
this principle. Questions as `should the hands be clasped together above
or below the navel in Al-Salaat' are hardly important and minor variations
on their account do not impair the position of the Sunnah as an original
source. Therefore, this position of the Sunnah cannot be denied on the
grounds that some Ahaadith had been fabricated. Take a crude example---that
of circumcision. For centuries, Muslims have been circumcising the male
child. They still regard it as part of the Sunnah passed on from generation
to generation. Few parents need a Hadith from Al-Bukhari or Al-Muslim19
before circumcising their child. Today, those who deny the Sunnah would
find, on close inspection, that they too had been circumcised by their
people. They would be lying if they denied that more often than not their
parents did not have to bother about finding a Hadith to justify that `terrible
act of cruelty' to their child.
latter group has great contempt for those those scholars who use Fann-i-Daraayat
for making further analyses of a Hadith which had already been confirmed
as genuine on the basis of Fann-i-Riwaayat by earlier scholars. In the
following paragraphs we present a translation of a portion from a book20
by Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman Kandhalvi. This portion of his book discusses
Fann-i-Daraayat and highlights its importance. It clearly points out that
Fann-i-Daraayat is essential for confirming the authenticity of Ahaadith
and that the option of using this approach is still available to Hadith
scholars of today as much as it was to the scholars of earlier times.
translation begins thus:
books on these two disciplines: [Fann-i-Daraayat and Fann-i-Riwaayat] have
been available in the sub-continent21
for a long time, few scholars have made use of Fann-i-Daraayat and that
too for merely solving problems in Fiqh22.
was limited to a small number of scholars in an age when learning was in
its prime, its virtual non-existence in the present age of blind acquiescence
in conventions must come as no surprise. However, it is important to discuss
the significance of Fann-i-Daraayat.
The Foundations of Daraayat
basis of Fann-i-Daraayat can be found in the Quran. When some hypocrites
tried to cast aspersions on the honour of Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased
with her), one of the Prophet's wives, some of his Companions were also
misled. She was accused of adultery on one occasion, and it is recorded
in Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim that even Hasan Bin Thaabit and Mistaih Bin
Athaathah were among the accusers. Thus, both of them were punished for
calumny when the Quran declared the accusation to be baseless, though they
were faithful Companions of the Prophet (sws). The Quran giving its judgement
on the issue says, `As to the party among you who have published this falsehood...'
(24:11). According to Tafseer-i-Jalaalain, a well-known exegesis of the
Quran, `a party among the faithful' is the interpretation of the Arabic
word `minkum' used in the verse. This interpretation indicates that not
only the hypocrites but also some faithful Companions of the Prophet (sws)
were involved in spreading the scandal. Therefore, the Quran was addressing
the Companions of the Prophet (sws) when it said:
not the faithful men and the faithful women, when they heard this, judge
in their own minds for the best; and say, this is a manifest falsehood.'
in accordance with the principles of Fann-i-Riwaayat, the names, reliability
and trustworthiness of all those who testified against Aa'isha (may Allah
be pleased with her) should have been investigated and the testimonies
accepted or rejected on that simply basis; however, God Almighty chose
to reject all the testimonies without giving any such justification for
this decision. God said that since all the testimonies were against reason,
the faithful should have refused to accept them at the outset of the matter.
clear from this discussion that a statement which is fundamentally against
reason, deserves nothing but an outright denial. There is no need in that
case for further investigation. This manner of thinking is closely associated
with Fann-i-Daraayat, the foundations of which, as that of Fann-i-Riwaayat,
can be traced back to the times of the Prophet's Companions.
some Companions of the Prophet (sws) had a difference of opinion over whether
eating cooked food necessitated performing Wadhu23
again for Al-Salaat. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported
that the Holy Prophet (sws) had once said that eating cooked food did necessitate
performing Wadhu again for Al-Salaat. On hearing that, Abdullah-bin-Abbaas
(may Allah be pleased with him) rebuked him by saying that then even hot
water [ie, heated by placing under fire] should necessitate Wadhu. Now,
Abdullah-bin-Abbaas did not doubt Abu Hurairah's sincerity, but since he
found the narrative contrary to common sense, he rejected it. Owing to
such complications, when the compilation of the Hadith began, the leading
scholars of that time, realizing the significance of Fann-i-Daraayat, postulated
principles along with those of Fann-i-Daraayat to check the infiltration
Ibni Ali Jauzee is reported to have said:
you find a Hadith against the dictates of common sense or contrary to a
universal rule, consider it a fabrication; discussions about the trustworthiness
of its narrators are needless. Similarly, such Ahaadith should be suspected
as are beyond comprehension to the extent that they leave no room for any
possible explanation. Also, a Hadith in which colossal recompense is promised
for a minor deed and a Hadith which is absurd in meaning are suspect. For
example take this one: "Do not eat a pumpkin that has not been halaled."
Therefore, many Hadith scholars consider absurdity in a Hadith as a clear
evidence of the narrators' prevarication.
these principles relate to the text of Hadith. However, in certain cases,
they are applicable to the investigation of a narrator's reliability as
well, for example in the following cases:
a person narrates a Hadith not reported by anyone else and he had not even
met the authority he is quoting.
as Khateeb points out in his book "Al-Kifaaya", only one narrator reports
a Hadith whereas the situation described in it is of such a nature that
it should have attracted the attention of many others.
a Hadith is reported by only one person whereas the incident reported is
so extraordinary that scores of people should have reported it; for example,
if it were reported by somebody that in a certain year someone had kept
the Hajjis from making the Haj, a ritual of great importance, it would
be an incident which, if it had occured, would have been reported by many
the passage quoted above, it can be concluded that such Ahaadith as the
following cannot be accepted and there is no need for investigating the
reliability of their narrators:
1. A Hadith
which is fundamentally against the dictates of common sense.
2. A Hadith
contrary to a universally accepted principle; for example, there is a general
tendency among human beings to regard urine, faeces and all such excreta
as filth; now, if a narrator were to report that someone tasted the Prophet's
urine with his tacit approval and conclude that even such excreta of the
Prophet (sws) are to be hallowed by the believers, it would only be assumed
that the narrator possessed a mind full of nothing but nonsense.
3. A Hadith
relating something which is against common human experience.
4. A Hadith
contrary to the Quran or Hadith-i-Mutawaatir24
especially when no possible explanation for this contradiction exists;
for example, a narration which approves of drinking of blood, whereas the
practice is not only forbidden by the Quran but also by the Sunnah and
is held in abomination by a majority of Muslim scholars. Such a Hadith
is bound to be a fabrication.
5. A Hadith
in which enormous reward is promised for a relatively minor deed.
6. A Hadith
which warns of an extremely severe punishment for a relatively minor deed;
for example, take this one; `He who cuts down a jujube tree shall be thrown
upside down into Hell.'
7. A Hadith
which is meaningless; for example, `Do not eat a pumpkin that has not halaled.'
8. A Hadith
in which the narrator quotes an authority he had never met, and no one
else confirms his narrative.
9. A Hadith
which should have been in the knowledge of numerous authorities, but only
one narrator reports it.
10. A Hadith
relating an incident which, if it had occured, would have been reported
by hundreds of people; yet only one narrator reports it; for example, the
sun re-ascending itself for the sake of a Companion of the Prophet (sws)."
("Mazhabi Daastanain aur un kee Haqeeqat", Pgs 9-12)
1. The word Prophet has
been used for Muhammad (peace be upon him) for two reasons: a) The Oxford
Dictionary (A S Hornby, Advanced Learner's) now uses the term `the Prophet'
specifically for Muhammad (peace be upon him), and b) In the Quran, the
word Rasul has quite a different connotation from the one implied by the
word Nabi. Owing to various reasons, too lengthy to be discussed here,
we think that the word Prophet in English is a better synonym than Messenger
for Rasul. For a detailed discussion on the difference between Rasul and
Nabi, see Javaid Ahmad Ghamidi, `Nabuwwat-o-Risaalat', "Ishraaq" (Urdu),
(Oct. 1988), page 27.
2. sws has been used as
an abbreviation for sallalaahu `alaihi wasallam (May God bless him and
may peace be upon him).
3. `The Companions' has
been used as a specific term, ie, as a synonym for Al-Sahaabah. Many people
use Al-Sahaabah for all those who, after embracing Islam, had the opportunity
of seeing the Prophet (sws) even if only once. In our opinion this is an
erroneous interpretation of the term. It should refer merely to those Companions
of the Prophet (sws) who were the foremost converts to Islam and who had
in times of ease, as well as in times of difficulty, supported the Prophet
(sws) in his cause and had generously spent out of their wealth in the
way of Allah and had taken an active part in the Ghazwaat (those Holy battles
which were fought under the Prophet's command and in which he had taken
For a detailed exposition
see Maulana Amin Ahsan Islaahi," Mubaadi-i-Tadabbur-i-Hadith" (Urdu), (Lahore
Faraan Foundation, 1989), pages 76-86.
4. Established Sunnah
about which there is no doubt.
5. The whole Muslim Community.
6. This has been used
as a synonym for a specific term ie, Ijma' Generally, Ijma' is used to
refer to a consensus on an interpretation. In our opinion this connotation
of the term is ambiguous. There has never even been a consensus on this
sense of consensus. We have used the term to refer to the consensus of
the Companions of the Prophet (sws) through their adherence to the Sunnah.
Therefore, in this sense Ijma' refers to their `practice' of the Sunnah
not to its interpretation.
7. This (perpetual adherence)
has been used a synonym for tawaatur-i-amalee.
8. It must be remembered,
as we have also pointed out in the article, that the Sunnah relates to
the performance of rituals and execution of injunctions and not to articles
of faith as such.
9. (Singular: Khabr-i-Waahid).
It is often claimed that many of the Ahaadith as recorded in the well-known
collections of Ahadith are Akhbar-i-Mutawaatir (Singular: Khabr-i- Muttawaatir).
Khateeb Baghdadi has defined Khabr-i-Mutawaatir as `a Khabr (Version of
Hadith) that had been narrated by so many people that it is not possible
to believe that so many people would have agreed to lie, all at the same
time, about an open matter, especially when there is no evidence to believe
that they had been coerced.'
Maulana Amin Ahsan
Islaahi says about Khabr-i-Mutawaatir: `It should be clearly borne in mind
that although the definition of Khabr-i-Mutawaatir exists, that which it
defines, does not. Often a Hadith is given the status of Khabr-i-Mash hoor
[a well-known Khabr) but on inspection one finds that its narrators were
one or two till the third stage [in the chain of narrators], whereas at
the fourth or fifth stage, the number of narrators had increased. Therefore,
in our opinion, such Ahaadith as are generally called Akhbaar-i-Mutawaatir
require further investigation after which, if they are found to be in accordance
with the definition mentioned above [Khateeb Baghdadi's], they would be
accepted as Mutawaatir. But it is not correct to give something the status
of Mutawaatir artificially. However, it must be remembered that the Sunnah
has.... the status of Mutawaatir and this status is on the basis of perpetual
adherence not on the basis of oral transmission [by a few individuals].'
("Mubaadi-i-Tadabbur-i-Hadith", Lahore, Faraan Foundation, 1989; pages
20 and 21).
10. Plural of Hadith.
11. `The Hadith' has
been used, where the context permits, as a term to denote the whole corpus
12. Two of the major
branches are: i) Asmaa-ur-Rijaal: Compilation, analysis, and use of the
dictionaries of the narrators' biographies. ii) Jarah-o-Ta`deel: The science
of impugnment and justification of the bonafides of the narrators.
13. Such a chain of
narrators is called Sanad (plural: Asnaad).
14. Quite often, a Hadith
has different Asnaad. Therefore, the same Hadith may have various `versions'
(Riwaayaat; singular: Riwaayat).
15. See, Javaid Ahmad
Ghamidi, Ishraq, March 1990, page 6.
16. Al-Salat refers
to a form of prayers which was specified by the Prophet (sws).
17. A well-known compiler
of Ahaadith (194-256 AH). His `Sahih' is one of the most venerated collections
18. It is said that
Bokhari alone sifted around 7,000 Ahadith from approximately 200,000 for
inclusion in his Sahih.
19. Another well-known
compiler of Ahaadith. His collection is also known as Sahih (of Imam Muslim).
20. "Mazhabi Dastaanain
aur un kee Haqeeqat" (Urdu) (Karachi, Anjumani-Uswa-i-Hasanah, 1987).
This translation is of a portion from the second volume of the
book (pages 9-12). The book is very useful in the sense that it has brought
out the truth behind such stories and parables as have found their way
into religious literature and have served to create a religion entirely
different from Islam. Although one may disagree with Maulana's approach
to Hadith analysis and his style of criticism and his research methodology,
one has to concede that, on the whole, the book is an excellent piece of
For a comparison of
Maulana Kandhalvi's approach with that of some other scholars see the following:
i) Maulana Amin Ahsan
Islahi, "Mubaadi-Tadabur-i-Hadith" (Lahore, Faraan Foundation, 1989).
ii) Javaid Ahmad Ghamidi,
Ishraq, March 1990, pages 4-6.
iii) Javaid Ahmad
Ghamidi, "Rajam Ki Sazaa" (4 parts), Ishraq, May-Aug, 1990.
21. India and Pakistan.
22. Islamic law.
23. Wadhu refers to
a form of ablutions specified by the Prophet (sws). Wadhu is necessary
is another name for Khabr-i-Mutawaatir (see note 9).
25. Often, the word
Ijma' is used quite vaguely (see note 6). Therefore, it must be remembered
that Maulana Kandhalvi may have used the terms ijma` and the Companions
(Al-Sahaabah; see note 3) in a sense entirely different from the sense
in which we have used them.