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Ulumul Hadith

  • In Book one, we defined the term hadith as reports about the prophet’s sayings, actions, approvals and qualities.
  • We have learnt in Ulumul Qur’an that some Swahabas took the task of recording and compiling the Qur’an.
  • Likewise, the Hadith were recorded, compiled and preserved separately from the Qur’an.
  • In this chapter, we shall start by studying Ulumul Hadith.
  • This is the scientific study of Hadith, which involves the analysis of the components of hadith, growth and development, classification and transmission.


  • During the time of the time of the Prophet, he used to teach the Swahabas his Sunnah.
  • By the time of his death, he had left behind a number of swahabas who had learnt the Hadith from him.
  • These companions formed the main source of reference for the Muslims.
  • They thus comprised of the Muhadithun (singular Muhadith).
  • From the above explanation, we learn that a Muhadith is a Muslim who memorized a great number of Hadith from either the prophet or his close companions and narrated them.
  • Among the renown Muhadithin are the following;
    • The four raliphs
    • Aisha (RAA)
    • Abu Huraira (RA)
    • Amr bin Al ‘As (RA
    • AbdulRahamn bin Awf (RA)
    • Abdullah bin Masoud (RA)
    • Anas bin Malik (RA)
    • Abdullah bin Abass (RA)
    • Abdullah ibn Umar (RA)
    • Abu Dharr (RA)

Qualities of a Muhadith

  • Due to its importance, Hadith could not just be accepted from any person.
  • Hadith were only accepted from Muslims who met certain qualities.
  • Some of these qualities are as follows;
    • They should be persons of sound mind (.i.e. mentally upright or sane).
    • Should be exemplary in character and uphold good moral standards.
    • Should be pious and righteous (God fearing).
    • They must have good knowledge of the Qur’an and its related sciences.
    • They should be conversant with hadith and its related sciences.
    • Should be conversant with Arabic language.
    • They must possess a good and retentive memory.
    • Should be trustworthy, reliable and a have good leadership record.

Growth and Development of Hadith Literature

  • Growth is the increase in size while development is the advancement in standards or improvement in quality of something.
  • Growth of hadith refers to the increase in the number of users of Hadith as Islam expanded to other parts of the world.
  • It became very necessary for the Hadith to be studied and preserved.
  • In this subtopic, we are going to learn about the different stages through which hadith literature passed to eventually come up with different classes of hadith based on their authenticity.

First period: Time of the prophet

  • During the time of the Prophet, hadith came as instructions from the prophet himself since he was alive.
  • He used to give guidance and insight to all and would instruct the Swahabas to teach other Muslims.
  • Similar instructions were also given by the prophet when addressing public gatherings.
  • When the Islamic empire expanded, the prophet would send teachers with instructions containing his Hadith to teach new converts.
  • The mosques and Madrassas were used as learning centers.
  • We can still see this happening today where Muslim parents send their children to the Mosques and Madrassas to learn the Qur’an and Hadith.
  • Some pious Muslims among the Swahabas would also volunteer to disseminate the knowledge of hadith to others.
  • The main method used to preserve hadith was through memorization.
  • There were several methods used by the prophet to ensure that his hadith and Sunnah was learnt. These include the following;
    • He would ask his Swahaba to repeat the Hadith they had just learnt from him.
    • The prophet himself would repeat severally the instructions until the Swahabas had learnt.
    • The prophet used to receive delegations in his house and he would teach them his sunnah.
    • The prophet would carry out certain actions then ask them to repeat after him.
    • He taught his wives who in turn would teach the other women.
    • Swahabas with weak memory were allowed to write down the Hadith.

The Second Period: The Era of the Swahabas

  • This is the period after the death of the Prophet which was characterized by collection and preservation of Hadith.
  • The prophet had just passed on and the Swahabas saw the need to bring together all the teachings of the prophet.
  • Since Islam had spread far and wide and many people had embraced the religion, it was necessary for the new converts to learn about the prophet’s teachings.
  • These converts had not seen the Prophet and therefore relied on the information given to them by the Swahabas led by the first four caliphs.
  • It is during this period that different learning centers emerged.
  • The caliphs facilitated the process of teaching and learning and would send teachers to various places some of these teachers were; Abdullah ibn Masoud (RA) and Abu Huraira (RA)

Third Period: The Era of the Tabiun

  • This phase came immediately after the demise of all the Swahabas, the last one to die being Anas ibn Malik.
  • Writing of Hadith and compilation of the Qur’an took a center stage.
  • Students made the writing of hadith more vital and they included the name of the transmitter alongside the Hadith.
  • They developed the science of authenticity .i.e Abdul Malik bin Abdul Aziz started his first work known as Al- Firas.
  • Analysis of the transmitters of Hadith was thoroughly carried out with commentaries of the Qur’an.
  • Among the most notable compilers was Imam Malik who compiled his book ‘al Muwatta.’
  • Other compilers like Abu Hanifa, Shaffi, and Ahmad bin Hanbal came up with schools of thought to teach Hadith.
  • They taught Hadith as a science and each had students who emerged as his followers.
  • These scholars classified Hadith according to their authenticity.
  • However, it should be noted that hadith collected during this phase were not complete and exhaustive since they were gathered from different places or sources.
  • This period saw a transition of hadith from oral means of transmission to a more definite written form.

Fourth Period: The Era of the Tabi’ tabiun

  • This period is considered as the golden age of hadith because there was the study of the narrators of hadith and the inclusion of the chain of narrators.
  • In addition, the study of the “science of men” was done and the nature of hadith was indicated as either sahih, hasan and dhaif.
  • The hadith were arranged according to the subject matter and the scholars wrote the name of the swahaba on whose final authority the hadith laid.
  • Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and Imam Abu Hanifa were among the teachers of the key scholars during this phase.
  • This period also witnessed the compilation of the six authentic collections of hadith also known as sahihu sittah.
  • The sahihu sittah include; sahih Bukhari, sahih Muslim, sunan ibn Ma’ja, sunan Abu aawoud, sunnan AN-Nasai and sunna Attirmidhy.

Fifth Period

  • More books on hadith appeared during this period.
  • The Jamu’ (compilation) method of analysis was adopted in verifying a hadith.
  • This period closed the doors of collection and compilation of hadith.

Factors that Necessitated the Collection and Compilation of Hadith

  • There are several factors that led to collection and compilation of Hadith in the above periods.
  • These factors are as follows;
    • The death of the prophet who was the key source of knowledge.
    • The Swahabas had time to compile and write down hadith since they were not engaged in any wars at the time.
    • The need to interpret the verses of the Qur’an using hadith.
    • Many Swahabas had dispersed into the expanding Muslim empire and therefore each needed a source of reference for the new converts.
    • Emergence of false hadith.
    • Differences in opinion concerning the Islamic laws.
    • Death of most of the memorizers of Hadith.

Significance of Hadith

  • Hadith, also referred to as Sunnah, (the actions, sayings and silent permissions or disapprovals of the Prophet) is the second in rank after Qur’an words of Allah).
  • It is as important as the Qur’an in the life of Muslims.
  • Some of the significance of Hadith are as follows;
    • It is the second source of Islamic Shariah
    • They supplements and clarify the teachings of the holy Qur’an and aid in explaining the hidden meaning of Qur’anic verses.
    • Enhance the observance of fardh acts (obligatory duties) by giving guideline on their performance.
    • Moulds the character of Muslims and govern all aspects of there lives as Muslims are obliged to follow the hrophet’s behavior in words and deeds.
    • They guide Muslims in the comprehension and application of the teachings of the alorious Qur’an.
    • Through the practice of Hadith, Muslims are able to preserve their rich Islamic culture since they exclusively cover all the aspects of life.
    • They are a source of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration to the Muslim Ummah and assist in addressing the challenges of life.
    • Hadith summarizes the hrophet’s way of life thus guiding the Muslim Ummah to emulate his character in the observance of Islamic teachings.
    • A Muslim who observes and applies the teachings of Hadith receives Allah (SWT)’s blessings and rewards.

Components of Hadith

  • The term component refers to the elements, constituents or parts of an item that forms a whole.
  • If used in reference to hadith, it will include the two main parts of Hadith; Isnad and Matn.
  • Sanad or isnad is the chain of narrators of the hadith who heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying the hadith and later transmitted them to the other Muslims.
  • Matn is the text, subject matter, content or the intended message found in a given hadith.
  • Let us take the following hadith reported by Al-Bukhari as an example:
    Al-Bukhari reported that; Yahya ibn Bukayr narrated to us from Al-Layth from `Uqayl from Ibn Shuhba from `Urwah from `A'ishah who said, “Whenever the Prophet was given an option between two things, he used to select the easier of the two as long as it was not sinful; but if it was sinful, he would remain far from it.”
  • From this example, we have learnt that more than one person can report a hadith.
  • The phrase, “Al-Bukhari reported that: Yahya ibn Bukayr narrated to us from Al-Layth from `Uqayl from Ibn Shuhba from `Urwah from `A'ishah who said” represents the chain of narrators or isnad.
  • The statement “Whenever the Prophet was given an option between two things…” represents the matn of the hadith.
  • Isnad and Matn are two components that are interdependent.
  • The compilers of hadith came up with criteria of measuring the degree of their reliability through the study of Isnad and Matn.
  • As a result, they gave the qualifications, features or rather the characteristics of a sound Isnad or matn of a Hadith.
  • We shall learn more of this in Book three.
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