The Science of Hadith


Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Science of Hadith

Sciences that have reached a certain level of development require the individual study of some of the subjects. The science of hadith (sayings of the Prophet) is a treasury of learning that demands such a study. Therefore, we believe it will be helpful if several of the existing disciplines in the science of hadith that are worth studying separately are presented; whether they are related to the text or if the chain of transmission is sound will not be investigated.


The discipline of hadith aims to find out the reasons for the hadith, that is, the reason why each hadith was uttered by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the same way that it is very important to understand the nuzul (knowledge about the reason for the revelations) in order to understand the verses of Qur'an, it is also important to know the reasons for the hadith if one is to understand and assess them correctly.

Another aspect is that this discipline enlightens the chronology of the hadith as well.

The reason for a hadith sometimes exists within the text of the hadith, as with the jibril hadith (, which was concerned with questions asked to Prophet Muhammad about the faith, Islam and beneficence.

Sometimes the reason can be found in the chain of narration. For example, in a famous hadith known as the Intention (Niyyah) hadith, the reason for the hadith was a question asked to the Prophet (pbuh) about the status of a man who had emigrated to Medina to marry Ummu Kays, a woman from Medina.  

Suyuti (911/1505) wrote a work entitled Al-Luma concerned with this matter. Al-Bayan wa'l-ta`rif  fi Asbab Vurud Al-Hadith Sharif by Ibrahim bin Muhammed ad-Dimashki, also known as Ibn Hamza (1120/1708), is the most voluminous work about the reasons for hadith.


This discipline deals with explaining the use of unusual words in hadith texts.

The subject of this discipline is to explain the words in hadith texts which are rarely used, and therefore, difficult to understand. This is a kind of hadith glossary, and provides a better understanding of the implicit meaning of the hadith.

Ignoring this significant branch constitutes a major fault in hadith science. Hence, Islamic scientists have attached importance to studying the uncommon words in hadith. When Ahmed bin Hanbel was asked about an uncommon word, he answered: "Go and ask it to the gharib al-hadith scientists. I don't like explaining Prophet's hadith based on assumptions." Thus, he indicated that explaining uncommon words requires expertise.

To show the value of his work on uncommon words in hadiths, Abu Ubayd Kasım b. Sallam (224/839), one of the authors of the gharib al-hadith, stated that it had taken him forty years to write the book, and it was the most important work of his life.

Ebu Ubeyde Ma'mer b. Al-Musanna (210/825) was the author of the first book -a compendious tome - written in this field. Abu Ubayd Kasım b. Sallam (224/839) then wrote his famous Gharib Al-hadith, and Ibn Kutayba followed him. Zamahshari (538/1143) composed al-Faik fi al--hadith al-gharib. Additionally, Ibnu'1-Athir (606/1209) wrote the famous an-Nihaye fi gharib al-hadith.


This discipline studies the hidden deficiencies found in hadiths which may harm the veracity of a hadith. Deficiencies can exist in the text or the chain, or in both.

 Abdurrahman b. al-Mahdi was asked: "You are saying that a hadith is reliable, but you deny another hadith. How do you make such a claim?" He answered:

"Tell me, if you take your silver coins to a moneychanger and he tells you that one is pure silver, the other is fake, would you ask him how does he know? Or, would you accept whatever he tells you? This is a result of similarly long work, skill, art and expertise."

Ali b. al-Madini (234/848), Ahmad b. Hanbal (241/855) Darekutni (375/985) Hakim al-Naysaburi (405/1014) and Ibnu'l-Jawzi (597/1200) wrote works in this field.


This discipline studies the contradictions of meaning in hadith. Some of the contradictions can be resolved, but some cannot. The solutions of such contradictions are subjects of this branch. Even contradictions between hadith and other proofs can be reconciled in this discipline.

This discipline has been identified as the most complicated branch of the science of hadith and it is so significant that every Islamic scientist should know it.

Imam Shafi 204/819), Ibn Kutayba (276/889), Ibn Huzayma (311/923), Tahavi (321/933) Ibn Furak (406/1015) wrote works in this field. Ismail Lütfi Çakan studied this subject in his doctoral dissertation and published it under the title "Contradictions in Hadith and Solutions."  


This is a discipline which studies contradictory hadiths that are not possible to reconcile. Although this method is a solution for reconciling contradictions in hadiths, it is studied as a separate discipline due to its importance.

In almost every hadith book written there is information about this field. Al-Itibar fi an-nasah wa al-mansuk mama al-atsar by Al-Hazimi is a well known work in this field.

F. STUDY OF SHARH AL-HADITH (Commentary of the Hadith)

Study of commentary on hadith is a discipline that aims to explain the intentions Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had when saying a hadith, to the extent permitted by the Arabic language and Islamic religious laws. This discipline includes rules that can be deducted from the texts of hadith in commentaries. It is a branch of `Ilm dirayat al-hadith that is based on fiqh al-hadith (comprehending hadith). There are many commentaries in hadith books that vary in scope written by different Islamic scientists.

G. STUDY OF ILM JARH WA TA’DIL (Verifying the reliability of transmitters)

In this discipline, the deficiencies and virtues of narrators are studied with special terms. That is, the validity and reliability of narrators are investigated.

This branch is the most developed one among the studies of the science of hadith. Since the time of the Companions of the Prophet, many hadith scholars have criticized and evaluated hadith based on the study of jarh wa ta'dil.

Some authors have categorized the narrators based on the assessments of this discipline in their books. However, there are also some books in which the narrators are treated one by one, without any categorization.


This discipline introduces the transmitters in terms of narration of hadiths. In one sense, this discipline is the history of the narrators. It subsumes biographies, categories of narrators, etc. Tarih by Bukhari and Kitab at-Tabaqat by Ibn Sa'd are among the important works in this discipline.

عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه قَالَ:
قَبَّلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْحَسَنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ وَعِنْدَهُ الأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ التَّمِيمِيُّ جَالِسًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ الأَقْرَعُ إِنَّ لِي عَشَرَةً مِنَ الْوَلَدِ مَا قَبَّلْتُ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا‏.‏ فَنَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ ‏"‏‏
God's Messenger kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (his grandchild) while Al-Aqra' bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said, "I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them", God's Messenger cast a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 18)

Title: Tracks from Neyzen Sadreddin Özçimi's album, Sufi Rhythms - Sultan-i Ask Artist: Sadreddin Özçimi