Hadīth Literature: Its Development and Preservation

Hadīth Literature: Its Development and Preservation

By Shaykh Muntasir Zaman



At this moment, a person can effortlessly search for a hadith of his choice as he has at his disposal a plethora of literature to consult. From strictly authentic hadiths, to hadiths on legal injunctions, to even fabricated hadiths, Islamic libraries boast a wide and impressive selection of Hadīth books—not to mention the vast prosopographical literature on Hadīth transmitters. This rich literary heritage was not written over-night. The concentrated effort of Muslim scholars across the Islamic landscape over the span of several centuries coalesced into what we now know as the Hadīth genre. In this article, we will outline the development of the Hadīth literature from the 1st until the 4th century AH, which can broadly be categorized into five stages: (1) Sahīfah, (2) Musannaf, (3) Musnad, (4) Sunan/Sahīh, and (5) the analytical stages.[1] Before concluding, we will briefly discuss an integral yet forgotten chapter in the history of the Hadīth literature, that is, its preservation over the centuries.

The Five Stages

The first stage, spanning from the first to the early second century, was in the form of manuscripts known then as Sahīfahs [2] (lit. one sheet), i.e. a collection of hadiths often via an identical chain of transmission.[3] Companions like ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib,[4] Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr,[5] and ‘Amr ibn Hazm[6] (Allah be pleased with them) wrote Sahīfahs during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The practice of writing Sahīfahs continued into the generation of the Successors.[7] The Sahīfahs from this phase, however, for theMost Beautiful Museum of Islamic Art most part are lost. Few have survived as secondary copies, such as the Sahīfahs of Hammām ibn Munabbih (d. 131 AH)[8] and Suhayl ibn Abī Sālih (d. 138 AH) [via his father][9] from Abū Hurayrah. Fortunately, many of these Sahīfahs were incorporated into literature from the subsequent stages.[10] Apart from select collections, written works in this phase were primarily meant to serve as memory aids and not formal books.[11] Although the literary activity in this era is noteworthy, it was relatively minimal in comparison to the following centuries. As mentioned elsewhere, this was due to a number of factors, like illiteracy, a paucity of papyrus, and a dislike for writing.[12]

The second stage, beginning from the mid second century, took the form of Musannafs (lit. topically organized book) where hadiths were grouped into chapters by subject.[13] In simple terms, these collections were transcripts of the legal discussions that ensued among early Muslim scholars ‘as it had developed during the first two centuries of Islam.’[14] As such, they were not restricted to prophetic hadiths, but included the opinions of the Companions and Successors. Works from this phase include the Jāmi‘ of Ma‘mar ibn Rāshīd (d. 153 AH),[15] the Muwatta‘ of Imām Mālik (d. 179 AH),[16] the Musannaf of Wakī‘ ibn al-Jarrāh (d. c.197 AH),[17] and the Musannaf of ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-San‘ānī (d. 211 AH).[18]

That Imām Abū Hanīfah (d. 150 AH) was probably the first scholar to take up the task of compiling a topically organized collection has, until recently, gone unnoticed.[19] He authored his famous Kitāb al-Āthār according to what later became the conventional legal order, collecting therein both prophetic and non-prophetic reports.[20] However, Ya‘qūb ibn Shaybah al-Sadūsī (d. 262 AH) states, “They say the first to compile topically organized collections in Kūfah was Yahyā ibn Zakariyyā ibn Abī Zā’idah (d. 183 AH), and in Basrah it was Hammād ibn Salamah (d. 167 AH).”[21] From this statement, we infer that a more cautious approach would be to specify “the first compiler” in relation to particular cities.[22] Moreover, by the words ‘they say,’ al-Sadūsī seems to be indicating that any claim of being the first is not definite, but simply an opinion,[23] particularly when the early compilers lived and wrote during the same time.[24]

In the late second century,[25] unlike Musannafs which contained a variety of reports, certain scholars called for the compilation of strictly prophetic hadiths; thus, the third stage took the form of Musnads.[26] The impetus behind gathering only Hadīth proper was to ensure the preservation of prophetic reports and to prevent them from getting diluted with legal opinions.[27] The methodology of the Musnad genre was fairly simple. Scholars like Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH)[28] collected the hadiths of one Companion into one chapter, then the hadiths of another Companion into the next chapter, and so forth. Others like Abū Dāwūd al-Tayālisī (d. 204 AH) [29] further arranged the hadiths of each Companion according to the narrators from him/her.[30] Straying from the common trend of compiling inclusive Musnads, some scholars like Abū Bakr al-Marwazī (d. 292 AH) devoted books to the hadiths of individual Companions, e.g. the Musnad of Abū Bakr.[31]

Musannafs were easy to navigate through since they were arranged by subject while Musnads had the advantage of providing strictly prophetic hadiths. From the third century, scholars merged both methodologies into what constituted the fourth stage: the Sunan and Sahīh books.[32] Sunan works were organized topically— as per the conventional legal order—and generally focused on prophetic reports with unbroken chains of transmission.[33] The earliest extant books from this genre are the Sunans of Sa‘īd ibn Mansūr (d. 227) and ‘Abd Allah al-Dārimī (d. 255 AH),[34] which contain an unusual number of non-prophetic hadiths. The renowned Sunans of Abū ‘Abd al-Rahmān al-Nasa’ī (d. 303 AH),[35] Abū Dāwūd al-Sijistānī (d. 275 AH),[36] Abū ‘Īsā al-Tirmidhī (d. 279 AH),[37] and Abū ‘Abd Allāh Ibn Mājah (d. 273 AH) form part of this category.[38] The practice of compiling Sunans continued into the following centuries with the Sunan of Abū al-Hasan al-Dāraqutnī (d. 385 AH)[39] and the three Sunans of al-Bayhaqī (d. 458 AH).[40]

Scholars until the third stage did not exclusively collect authentic hadiths. Even in the case of Musnads, authenticity was not conditional.[41] Driven by the need to gather only authentic hadiths, [42] Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī (d. 256 AH) set out to compile his famous “al-Jāmi‘ al-Musnad al-Sahīh al-Mukhtasar min ‘Umūr Rasūl Allāh wa Sunanihī wa Ayyāmihī” commonly referred to as Sahīh al-Bukhārī. Al-Bukhārī’s masterpiece, the result of sixteen years of relentless effort, was more than just a Hadīth compilation; “it was a massive expression of al-Bukhārī’s vision of Islamic law and dogma” supported by rigorously authentic hadiths. [43] Following in the steps of his beloved teacher, Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj (d. 261 AH) compiled his “al-Musnad al-Sahīh al-Mukhtasar min al-Sunan bi Naql al-‘Adl ‘an al-‘Adl ‘an Rasūl Allah” also known as Sahīh Muslim,[44] which was considered Sahīh al-Bukhārī’s “superior by some, its equal by others, and second to it by most.”[45] Thus, Imāms al-Bukhārī and Muslim pioneered the Sahīh only movement.[46] A number of scholars followed their example, such as Abū Bakr Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311 AH) who wrote “Mukhtasar al-Mukhtasar min al-Musnad al-Sahīh ‘an al-Nabī”[47] and his student Abū Hātim Ibn Hibbān (d. 354 AH) who wrote “al-Musnad al-Sahīh ‘alā al-Taqāsīm wa al-Anwā‘,”[48] the former commonly known as Sahīh Ibn Khuzaymah and the latter as Sahīh Ibn Hibbān.

With the close of the third century, the sun set upon the golden era of the Sunnah wherein the most significant contributions to the Hadīth literature were made, such as the compilation of the six canonical books.[49] In the centuries that followed, scholars turned their attention to the literary wealth they inherited from their predecessors.[50] Their contributions took a number of forms, like supplementary works, digests,[51] commentaries,[52] and indices,[53] just to name a few.[54] And thereby the final stage commenced: the analytical age. For the sake of brevity, we will highlight three important contributions in this stage, namely, the Mustadrak, Mustakhraj, and Mu‘jam genres.

The Mustadrak genre consisted of supplementary works where scholars gathered hadiths they felt met the requirements of certain books but were not included therein,[55] such as al-Darāqutnī’s al-Ilzāmāt[56] and al-Hākīm’s al-Mustadrak ‘alā al-Sahīhayn[57] where the respective authors collected hadīths they felt met the criteria of Sahīhayn. The Mustakhraj genre consisted of books whose authors used an existing Hadith collection as a template to narrate hadīths via personal transmission until it met with the chain of the author of the template collection.[58] Abū Bakr al-Ismā‘īlī (d. 371 AH) wrote a Mustakhraj on Sahīh al-Bukhārī while Abū ‘Awānah (d. 316 AH) wrote one on Sahīh Muslim.[59] The Mu‘jam genre consisted of books whose authors chose a particular theme, e.g. ones teachers or hometown, and then provided hadiths that correspond to that theme, generally in alphabetical order.[60] Al-Tabarānī’s (d. 360 AH) al-Mu‘jam al-Saghīr and al-Mu‘jam al-Awsat and al-Baghawī’s (d. 317 AH) Mu‘jam al-Sahābah are from this category. The former is arranged according to the author’s teachers while the latter is arranged according Companion entries.[61]

The Next Chapter

It is paramount we address a topic that unfortunately has received minimal attention: the preservation of the Hadīth literature. After its compilation, how has this rich literary heritage been received by the following generations? What guarantee do we have that these collections were not tampered with? You can rest assured that history testifies to the precision and care scholars gave to this vast literature to ensure that the efforts of those before them were not in vain.

Scholars were methodical in their treatment of the Hadīth literature to the point that they laid out guidelines on issues like book authorization, auditions, and the handling of manuscripts and registers. The most featured title in this respect is Qādī ‘Iyād’s (d. 544 AH) “al-Ilmā‘ ilā Ma‘rifat Usūl al-Riwāyah wa Taqyīd al-Samā‘.”[62] Furthermore, just as scholars wrote biographical dictionaries on the lives of the transmitters of hadīths, they wrote similar books on the lives of those who transmitted the literature that contained these hadiths.[63] To this end, Abū Bakr Ibn Nuqtah (d. 629 AH) penned his seminal work “al-Taqyīd li Ma‘rifat Ruwwāt al-Sunan wa al-Masānīd”[64] where he gathered biographical details of the major transmitters of the Hadīth literature.[65]

To transmit a book for which one did not have oral/aural transmission (samā‘) was an offence not taken lightly in hadith circles.[66] Muhammad ibn Tāhir al-Maqdisī (d. 507 AH) impugned Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Kāmikhī because he transmitted the Musnad of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī from a non-samā‘ copy.[67] Abū Bakr al-Qatī‘ī’s (d. 368 AH) copy of a particular book was destroyed in a flood, so he rewrote it from another copy. Despite having heard the original from a teacher, he was criticized for transmitting the second copy simply because it lacked oral transmission.[68] Al-Hākim al-Naysābūrī announces that he has a copy al-Nadr ibn Shumayl’s Gharīb al-Hadīth, but dutifully adds that it lacks oral transmission.[69]

Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī’s multi-volume compendium, al-Sunan al-Kubrā, is a prime example of their thoroughness vis-à-vis Hadīth books. Abū ‘Amr Ibn al-Salāh (d. 643 AH) dictated the entire book to a congregation of scholars over 757 sessions. The following are some of the points that were noted after he dictated the eighth volume: the amount of sessions held;[70] personal details of the attendees, such as names, lineages, and honorifics; the state of the attendees, e.g. who spoke during the dictation; the date of completion;[71] the venue;[72] and the name of the registrar.[73] That al-Sunan al-Kabrā is not from the six canonical books is significant as it allows one to gauge the care given to more important and/or smaller collections.

Another fascinating example of their precision is when Shu‘bah narrated the hadīth of Abū al-Hawrā’ to a student who wrote the hadith and further added the word ‘hūr ‘īn’ (wide-eyed damsels) as a note beneath the name Abū al-Hawrā’. The reason for this peculiar note was the presence of a narrator by the name Abū al-Jawzā’ in the same generation as Abū al-Hawrā’. To avoid confusing the two similar yet distinct narrators, the student diligently wrote “hūr” to remind him of al-Hawrā’, which is the singular form of hūr.[74]


It is hoped that the reader now has a better understanding of the stages the Hadīth literature went through during the first four centuries of Islamic history. Far from being exhaustive, this article shed light on the most significant stages and the literary activities that had taken place therein. After the fourth century, scholars continued to expand their efforts in the field of Hadīth, but that study is beyond the scope of the present article. An important chapter in the history of the Hadīth literature, often gone unnoticed, is the preservation of these books over the centuries. We can rest assured that scholars have systematically ensured the transmission of this rich literary heritage down the generations as accurately as possible.

[1] Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature—1: The Development of the Science of Hadīth [in The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Arabic Literature until the End of the Umayyad Period], p.271.

[2] Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.271; Siddiqi, Hadīth Literature: Its Origins Development and Special Features, p.9; al-Zahrānī, Tadwīn al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah, pp.78-80.

[3] Ma‘bad, Kitābat al-Hadīth, p.15.

[4] Al-Bukhārī, al-Jāmi‘ al-Musnad al-Sahīh, vol.4, p.102; cf. Sahīfat ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib ed. Rif‘at Fawzī.

[5] His collection was known as al-Sahīfah al-Sādiqah.

[6] Al-Nasa’ī, al-Mujtabā, vol.8, p.57. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr writes, “This letter is well-known among historians and recognized by scholars. Its prominence makes it independent of a chain of transmission. It resembles tawātur in transmission due to widespread acceptance and recognition.” (Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd, vol.17. pp.338-339).

[7] See, for instance, al-Baghdādī, Taqyīd al-‘Ilm, p.101, 105.

[8] On the Sahīfah of Hammām ibn Munabih, see: Hamīdullah, Sahīfat Hammām ibn Munabbih, p. 19 ff.; Fawzī, Sahīfat Hammām ibn Munabbih, pp.5 ff. One of the manuscripts Rif‘at Fawzī used to edit the text contained an additional hadith thus making the total number of hadiths in the Sahīfah of Hammām 139.

[9] On the Sahīfah [nuskhah] of Suyahl ibn Sālih, see: al-A‘żamī, Studies in Early Hadīth literature, pp.271-275.

[10] For instance, the Sahīfah of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr, known as al-Sādīqah, was transmitted through ‘Amr ibn Shu‘ayb—his father—his grandfather. Hadīths from this Sahīfah via the aforementioned chain can be found in larger compilations like the four Sunans; see: al-Mizzī, Tuhfat al-Ashrāf, no.8654-8823. On the chain “‘Amr ibn Shu‘ayb—his father—his grandfather,” see: al-Suyūtī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī [with editor’s annotation], vol.5, pp.300-307; Abū Ghuddah, Addendum to Bulghat al-Arīb fī Mustalah Āthār al-Hadīth, pp.210-217.

[11] Ibn Rajab, Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī, vol.1, p.37; al-‘Awnī, Idā’āt Bahthiyyah, pp.283; Shamsy, The Canonization of Islamic Law, p.36; Brown, Hadīth, p.22. Collections written as formal books include Abū al-‘Āliyah’s (d. 93 AH) and al-Sha‘bī’s (d. c. 103) respective collections on divorce; see al-Rāmahurmuzī, al-Muhaddith al-Fāsil, p.609; al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Adāb al-Sāmi‘, vol.2, p.285.

[12] For more on this, see the previous article ‘A Preserved Legacy: The Early Muslim Community and the Preservation of Hadīth.’

[13] Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.272; Motzki, The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence, p.51. These collections were given a number of titles, such as Musannaf, Muwatta’, and Jāmi. See: al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.301.

[14] Brown, Hadīth, p.25.

[15] Ma‘mar’s Jāmi‘ can be found in the 10th volume (p.379) of Habīb al-Rahmān al-A‘żamī’s edition of Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq.

[16] On the Muwatta’ of Ibn Abī Dhi‘b (d. 159 AH), a contemporary of Imām Mālik, see: ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, pp.271-273.

[17] Although the original Musnnaf of Waki‘ did not survive the ravages of time, his student Abū Bakr ibn Abī Shaybah (d.235 AH) in his own Musnnnaf incorporated 7507 reports from Wakī‘s Musannaf. See: ‘Awwāmh, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, p.45. Ibn Abī Shaybah also incorporated a number of hadiths from the Jāmi‘ of Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 161 AH) via Wakī‘. See: ibid., pp.269-270.

[18] On the methodology of ‘Abd al-Razzāq in his Musannaf, see: ‘Ajīn, Manhaj al-Hāfiż ‘Abd al-Razzāq. For a discussion on whether the Jāmi‘ of ‘Abd al-Razzāq, regarded as a separate book by some, is actually another title for his Musannaf, see: ibid., pp.94-97.

[19] Al-Suyūtī, Tabyīd al-Sahīfah, p.36; al-Nu‘mānī, al-Imām Ibn Mājah wa Kitābuhū al-Sunan, p.58.

[20] It was earlier thought that Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybānī authored Kitāb al-Āthār. But in reality it was the work of Abū Hanīfah later transmitted by his students among whom was al-Shaybānī. Kitāb al-Āthār is akin to the Muwatta’ which was transmitted by Mālik’s students, such as Yahyā al-Laythī, ‘Abd Allah al-Qa‘nabī, and al-Shaybānī. See: al-Nu‘mānī, Tārīkh Tadwīn-e Hadīth, p.109; cf. Abbott, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri II, p.2. It is said that the arrangement of Mālik and others for the chapters of their respective books was influenced by the arrangement of Kitāb al-Āthār. See: al-Nu‘mānī, Tārīkh Tadwīn-e Hadīth, p.121.

[21] Ibn Rajab, Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī, vol.1, p.38. For other opinions on who compiled organized works first, see: Ibn Rajab, Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī, vol.1, pp.37-39. On the significance of Kūfah and Basrah in the development of the science of Hadīth, see: al-Kawtharī, Fiqh Ahl al-‘Irāq wa Hadīthuhum; Lucas, Constructive Critics, pp.67-73, 352-362.

[22] Al-Sayyāh, al-Mawsū‘ah al-‘Ilmiyyah al-Shāmilah ‘an al-Hāfiż Ya‘qūb ibn Shaybah, vol.1, p.263. Abū Muhammad al-Rāmahurmuzī (d. 360 AH) expresses this more clearly where he describes the first scholars to compile organized collections in different regions of the Muslim world. See al-Rāmahurzī, al-Muhaddith al-Fāsil, pp.611-613.

[23] Al-Sayyāh, al-Mawsū‘ah al-‘Ilmiyyah, vol.1, p.266

[24] The two examples al-Sudūsī provided cannot be used as evidence for the existence of Musannafs that predate Kitāb al-Athār, because Abū Hanīfah passed away much before Yahyā and Hammād. But in the case of, say, Ibn Jurayj who passed way in the same year as Abū Hanīfah and is said to have compiled a Mussannaf (al-Muhaddith al-Fāsil, p.612), it becomes difficult to hold a definite position.

[25] During the lifetime of ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Mahdī (d. 198), there was a growing desire among hadith scholars to compile Musnads. Bakr ibn Khalaf says, “When people requested for Musnads, ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Mahdī said ‘What a great idea! But I fear this will drive people to write [hadiths] from those who are unreliable.” See: al-Fasawī, al-Ma‘rifah wa al-Tārīkh, vol.3, p.60. Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, “When did we [Ahmad and Yahyā al-Himmānī] meet at the door of Ibn ‘Ulayyah? We would only discuss jurisprudence and chapters. Those days we never discussed Musnads.” Ibn ‘Ulayyah passed away in 193 AH, so the Musnad movement was not underway until after, or shortly before, that period. See: Ahmad, al-’Ilal wa Ma‘rifat al-Rijāl, vol.3, p.40; cf. al-‘Awnī, Idā’āt Bahthiyyah, p.291. Ibn Hajar simply says that it began at the close of the second century. See: Ibn Hajar, Hady al-Sārī, p.8.

[26] Ibn Hajar, Hady al-Sārī, p.6; cf. al-‘Awnī, Idā’āt Bahthiyyah, p.291; Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.273.

[27] Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.273; al-‘Awnī, Idā’āt Bahthiyyah, p.291. For more on why the Musnad movement began, see: Brown, Hadīth pp.28-30.

[28] On Imām Ahmad’s Musnad, see: al-Madīnī, Khasā’is Musnad al-Imām Ahmad; Melchert, The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: How it Was Composed and What Distinguishes it from the Six Book.

[29] On al-Tayālisī’s Musnad, see: Siddiqi, Hadīth Literature, pp.44-46. Al-Hākim al-Naysābūrī writes that ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Mūsā al-‘Absī (d. 213 AH) and Abū Dāwūd al-Tayālisī (d. 204 AH) were the first to write on the Musnad genre. See: al-Hākim, al-Madkhal ilā Ma‘rifat Kitāb al-Iklīl, p.62. Al-Kattānī writes, “And this is said to be the first Musnad. But this [claim] has been refuted because had he been the compiler this would be correct. However, it was compiled by a prolific Hadīth memorizer from Khurāsān, who specifically gathered what Yūnus ibn Habīb narrated from him.” See: al-Kattānī, al-Risālah al-Mustatrafah, p.61; Ibn Hajar, al-Mu‘jam al-Mufahras, vol.1, p.133; al-Biqā‘ī, al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah, vol.1, p.281; ‘Awwāmah Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.3, pp.64-65. Al-Dāraqutnī (d. 385 AH) says that Nu‘aym ibn Hammād was the first. See: al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmi‘, vol.2 , p.290. Ibn ‘Adī’s (d. 365 AH) description of who compiled a Musnad first is more nuanced. He explains that the first to write a Musnad in Kūfah is said to be Yahyā al-Himmānī, in Basrah it was Musaddad, and in Egypt it was Asad ibn Mūsā. See: Ibn ‘Adī, al-Kāmil fī Du‘afā’ al-Rijāl, vol.9, p.98; cf. al-Khalīlī, al-Irshād ilā Ma‘rifat ‘Ulamā’ al-Hadīth, pp.512-513. Ibn ‘Adī’s explanation again highlights the importance of declaring the first compiler according to location.

[30] To illustrate this point: Ahmad would collect all the hadiths of Abū Bakr in one chapter without any particular arrangement, whereas al-Tayālisī would first mention all the hadiths of Abū Bakr via ‘Ā’ishah and then his hadiths via Qays ibn Abī Hāzim, et cetera. See: ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2. pp.274-275.

[31] Brown, Hadīth, p.30. It is interesting to note that Marwān ibn al-Hakam had already recorded all the hadiths of Abū Hurayrah in what can be regarded as a Musnad, which later came into the possession of his son ‘Abd al-‘Azīz. For more on this, see the previous article “Outdated Clichés: Revisiting the Compilation of Hadīth.”

[32] Brown, Hadīth, p.31.

[33] Al-Kattānī, al-Risālah al-Mustatrafah, p.32; Brown, Hadīth p.31.

[34] On the correct title of al-Dārimī’s work, see al-‘Awnī, al-‘Unwān al-Sahīh li al-Kitāb, pp.62-64; Abū ‘Āsim al-Nabīl, Fath al-Mannān, vol.1, p.106. Regardless of the title, al-Dārimī’s compilation was written according to the conventional legal order, so it will be categorized as a Sunan work. A possible meaning of the term Musnad in reference to al-Dārimī’s book is that it contains hadiths alongside their chains. See: ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.3, p.55.

[35] Al-Nasa’ī first authored a compilation entitled al-Sunan (al-Kubrā), and then authored a shorter work entitled al-Mujtabā. Alternatively, he—or his student Ibn al-Sunnī (d.364 AH)—extracted al-Mujtabā from al-Sunan al-Kubrā. See: al-Ishbīlī, Fihrist Ibn Khayr, p.155; al-Subkī, Tabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyyah al-Kubrā, vol.3, p.39; al-Dhahabī, Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, vol.14, pp.131, 133; the introduction to both works by Dār al-Ta‘sīl [al-Kubrā, vol.1, pp.85-86; al-Mujtabā, vol.1, pp.74-78].

[36] On Abū Dāwūd’s methodology in his Sunan, see his epistle to the people of Makkah printed in Thalāth Rasā’il fī ‘Ilm al-Hadīth by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah.

[37] On al-Tirmidhī’s methodology in his Sunan, see his al-‘Ilal al-Saghīr preferably with Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalī’s monumental commentary. The title of al-Tirmidhī’s work is “al-Jāmi‘ al-Mukhtasar min al-Sunan ‘an Rasūl Allah sallallāhū ‘alayhī wa sallam wa Ma‘rifat al-Sahīh wa al-Ma‘lūl wa Mā ‘alahī al-‘Amal.” See: Abū Ghuddah, Tahqīq Ismay al-Sahīhayn wa Ism Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhī, pp.55, 76.

[38] For more on al-Nasa’ī’s Sunan, see Abū Bakr, al-Imām al-Nasa’ī wa Kitābuhū al-Mujtabā; on al-Tirmidhī’s Sunan, see ‘Itr, al-Imām al-Tirmidhī wa al-Muwāzanah bayn Jāmi‘īhī wa al-Sahīhayn; on Abū Dāwūd’s Sunan, see al-Sahāranfūrī, Muqaddimat Badhl al-Majhūd; and on Ibn Mājah’s Sunan, see al-Nu‘mānī, al-Imām Ibn Mājah wa Kitābuhu al-Sunan.

[39] For an important clarification on the nature of al-Dāraqutnī’s Sunan, see Abū Ghuddah, Addendum to Tuhfat al-Akhyār, pp138-163.

[40] Al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.351.

[41] Al-Hākim, al-Madkhal ilā Kitāb al-Iklīl, p.30.

[42] Ibn Hajar mentions two other factors that motivated Imām al-Bukhārī to compile his Sahīh. One was the request of his teacher Ishāq ibn Rāhway (d. 238 AH) to compile a concise book on authentic hadiths, and the other was a dream where al-Bukhārī saw the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). See: Ibn Hajar, Hady al-Sārī, pp.6-7. In al-Wajh al-Sabīh fī Khatm al-Jami‘ al-Sahīh, Ibn ‘Allān (d. 1057 AH) opines that all three factors collectively motivated him. See: ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, p.266.

[43] Brown, Hadīth, p.32. This brings to mind the proverbial statement of Mawlānā Anwar Shāh al-Kashmīrī “their jurisprudence permeated Hadīth” (sarā fiqhuhum ilā al-hadīth). See: Footnotes on Nasb al-Rāyah, vol.2, p.17; cf. al-Bannūrī, Ma‘ārif al-Sunan, vol.6 pp.379-380; ‘Awwāmah, Athar al-Hadīth al-Sharīf, pp.152-153.

[44] On the titles of both Sahīhs, see: Abū Ghuddah, Tahqīq Ismay al-Sahīhayn wa Ism Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhī, pp.11, 46.

[45] Siddiqi, Hadīth Literature, p.59.

[46] Ibn al-Salāh, Ma‘rifat Anwā‘ ‘Ilm al-Hadīth, p.18; Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.274. For more on the Sahīhs of al-Bukhārī and Muslim, see Mullā Khātir, Makānat al-Sahīhayn; Brown, The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim. Some have argued that the Muwatta’ of Imām Mālik was the first compilation of purely authentic narrations. See: ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, pp.278-282; Mughlatāy, Islāh Kitāb Ibn al-Salāh, vol.2, p.62; al-Ghumārī, Forward to Risālah fī wasl al-Balāghāt, pp.184-186.

[47] For more on Ibn Khuzaymah’s work, see al-Kabīsī, al-Imām Ibn Khuzaymah wa Manhajuhū fī Kitābihī al-Sahīh. For the most part, Ibn Khuzaymah’s Sahīh is a compilation of authentic hadiths. But he occasionally expresses reservations on the authenticity of certain narrations he included therein. See: al-Suyūtī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, p.396. The entire title of Ibn Khuzaymah’s Sahīh is “Mukhtasar al-Mukhtasar min al-Musnad al-Sahīh ‘an al-Nabī bi Naql al-‘Adl ‘an al-‘Adl Mawsūlan ilayh min ghayr Qat‘ fī Athnā’ al-Sanad wa lā Jarh fī Nāqilī al-Akhbār allatī Nadhkuruhā bi Mashī’at Allāh Ta‘ālā. See al-‘Awnī, al-‘Unwān al-Sahīh li al-Kitāb, p.66; al-Kabīsī, al-Imām Ibn Khuzaymah, vol.1, pp.266-268.

[48] Al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.348. Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī ibn Balabān al-Fārisī (d. 739 AH) put a topical arrangement to al-Taqāsīm wa al-Anwā’s otherwise perplexing arrangement. al-Suyūtī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, p.393. Mughlatāy ibn Qalīj (d. 762 AH) and Nāsir al-Dīn ibn Zurayq al-Dimashqī (d. 803 AH) are said to have also rearranged Sahīh Ibn Hibbān. See: Ibn Fahd, Lahż al-Alhāż, pp.139, 196; cf. ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, p.393. The entire title of Ibn Hibbān’s Sahīh is, “al-Musnad al-Sahīh ‘alā al-Taqāsīm wa al-Anwā‘ min ghayr Wujūd Qat‘ fī Sanadihā wa lā Thubūt Jarh fī Nāqilīhā.” See al-‘Awnī, al-‘Unwān al-Sahīh li al-Kitāb, p.67.

[49] On the formation of the canonical Hadīth literature, see al-Nu‘mānī, al-Imām Ibn Mājah, pp.180-187; Brown, The Canonization of Ibn Mājah: Authenticity vs. Utility in the Formation of the Sunni Hadīth Canon, pp.171-175. On the use of the term ‘al-Sihāh al-Sittah’ for the six books, see: al-Suyūtī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī [with editor’s annotation], vol.3, pp.34-35. On the six books, al-Sakhāwī’s (d. 902 AH) ‘khatm’ collection is a beneficial read. These are a series of treatises he wrote after completing the respective books. To the best of my knowledge, only four are in print: (1) ‘Umdat al-Qārī’ wa al-Sāmi‘ [Bukhārī] (2) Ghunyat al-Muhtāj [Muslim] (3) Badhl al-Majhūd [Abū Dāwūd] (4) Bughyat al-Rāghib al-Mutamannī [Ibn al-Sunnī—al-Nasa’ī]/ al-Qawl al-Mu‘tabar [Ibn al-Ahmar—al-Nasa’ī]. Other scholars have also written on the khatm genre, such as Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833 AH) on Musnad Ahmad; Shihāb al-Dīn al-Būsīrī (d. 840 AH) on Sunan Ibn Mājah; and ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sālim al-Basrī (d. 1134 AH) on Muwatta’ Mālik.

[50] Abd al-Rauf, Hadīth Literature, p.279; al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.348.

[51] Such as Muhammad ibn Futūh al-Humaydī’s (d. 488 AH) al-Jam‘ bayn al-Sahīhayn.

[52] Such as al-Khattābī’s (d. 388 AH) commentaries on Sahīh al-Bukhārī (A‘lām al-Hadīth) and Sunan Abī Dāwūd (Ma‘ālim al-Sunan).

[53] Abū Mas‘ūd al-Dimashqī (d. 401 AH) and Abū Muhammad al-Wāsitī (d. 401 AH) authored indices on the Sahīhs of al-Bukhārī and Muslim entitled “Atrāf al-Sahīhayn.”

[54] Scholars as early as Imām al-Shāfi‘ī have addressed contradictory hadiths, a field known as Mukhtalif al-Hadīth or Mushkil al-Hadīth. In the analytical age, Abū Ja‘far al-Tahāwī (d. 321 AH) wrote his magnum opus Sharh Mushkil al-thār, the largest extant work on the subject.

[55] Al-Mubārakfūrī, Fawā’id fī ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth, p.232.

[56] Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, vol.17, p.559; al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.353, 355. On al-Dāraqutnī’s book, see: Brown, Criticism of The Proto-Hadīth Canon: Al-Dāraqutnī’s Adjustment of the Sahīhayn.

[57] On al-Hākim’s Mustadrak, see: Mahmūd Mīrah, al-Hākim al-Naysāpūrī; ‘Awwāmah, Footnotes on Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2 pp.329-341, 373-88; Qā’id, Footnotes on Muntakhab al-Manthūr min al-Hikāyāt wa al-Su’ālāt, pp.356-365; Brown, The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim, pp.170-183.

[58] Al-Kattānī, al-Risālah al-Mustatrafah, p.31. On the benefits of Mustakhraj works, see: al-Suyūtī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī. vol.2, pp.421-427; Mullā Khātir, Makānat al-Sahīhayn, p.167 ff.

[59] Al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.356

[60] Al-Kattānī, al-Risālah al-Mustatrafah, p.135.

[61] Al-‘Umarī, Buhūth fī Tārīkh al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, p.353

[62] Although an oft-cited authority on the subject, Qādī ‘Iyād was not the first to address this topic. He draws extensively from earlier works, such as al-Rāmahurmuzī’s al-Muhaddith al-Fāsil and al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī’s al-Kifāyah fī‘ ‘Ilm al-Riwāyah and al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa dāb al-Sāmi‘. See: Saqar, Introduction to al-Ilmā‘, p.22. In chapters 24-6 of his Muqaddimah, Ibn al-Salāh expands on the subject, and those who wrote glosses—or related projects—on his book further built upon his observations. See: Ibn al-Salāh, Ma‘rifat Anwā‘ ‘Ilm al-Hadīth, pp.128-236

[63] Jonathan Bloom writes, “Just as the authenticity of a hadith rested on the chain of its transmitters, the guarantee of the authenticity of a copy rested on a chain of authorizations going back to the author himself.” See: Bloom, Paper before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World, p.115.

[64] Ibn Nuqtah writes that it is nearly impossible for anyone to encompass all the transmitters of Hadīth books, so he will only mention the most prominent among them. Ibn Nuqtah, al-Taqyīd, vol.1, p.130. Taqī al-Dīn al-Fāsī (d. 832 AH) wrote an addendum to Ibn Nuqtah’s book.

[65] Other resources include the athbāt, fahārīs, and ma‘ājim catalogues, which ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Kattānī (d. 1382 AH) describes in the following words, “mashyakhah is a catalogue wherein a scholar of Hadith gathers the names of his teachers and his narrations from them. People later began referring to it as mu‘jam when they would gather the names of the teachers separately in alphabetical order; thus, the usage of mu’jams gained currency alongside mashyakhas. The Andalusians use the term barnāmaj.” See: al-Kattānī, Fahras al-Fahāris, vol.1, p.67; cf. ‘Awwāmah, Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol.2, pp.420-421, 564; cf. vol.4, p.267 [for the vowelization of these terms, see: ibid.].

[66] This was carried out mainly through one of three modes: (1) hearing a narrator read/recite hadiths aloud (2) reading a text aloud to a teacher (3) being present while a text was read aloud. See: Davidson, Carrying on the Tradition: An Intellectual and Social History of Post-Canonical Hadīth Transmission, p.80.

[67] Ibn Nuqtah, Ikmāl al-Ikmāl, vol.3, p.283; cf. al-Dhahabī, al-Mughnī fī al-Du‘afā’, vol.2, p.500.

[68] Al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, vol.5, p.116; Brown, Hadīth, p.43.

[69] Al-Hākim, Ma‘rifat ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth, p.88. On the importance Hadīth scholars gave to aural/oral transmission, see: Abū Ghuddah, Safhah Mushriqah, pp.99-102, 144-149. Overtime scholars became relatively lenient on the stringent conditions and importance early scholars gave to the oral/aural transmission of hadith collections. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when this shift took place, an incident involving Abū Tāhir al-Silafī (d. 576 AH) and ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Maqdīsī (d. 600 AH) hints to this transition. See: Ibn Nuqtah, al-Taqyīd, vol.1, p.328; cf. Davidson, Carrying on the Tradition: An Intellectual and Social History of Post-Canonical Hadīth Transmission, pp.92-94.

[70] A total of ninety sessions were held, i.e. sessions no.527-617.

[71] They completed the 8th volume on 15/16, Jumādā al-Ūlā, 634 AH.

[72] Dār al-Hadīth al-Ashrafiyyah in Damascus.

[73] His name is ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Alī al-Dimashqī. See the addendum to the 8th volume of al-Sunan al-Kubrā {Hyderabad Deccan edition], pp.346-350; cf. Abū Ghuddah, Safhah Mushriqah, p.103.

[74] ‘Iyād, al-Ilmā’, p.155; cf. ‘Awwāmah, Introduction to Sunan Abī Dawūd, p.114.

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