Kutub Al-Sitta (The Six Books)


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kutub Al-Sitta (The Six Books)

The hadith (sayings of the Prophet) literature has developed in the following stages:

a) The Kitabat al-Hadith, that is the recording of a hadith on paper during the period of the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet) and the early Tabiin (Successors of Companions of the Prophet).

b) The Tedvin al-hadith (collection of hadith), the compilation of scattered materials over the last quarter of the first century and the first quarter of the second century.

c) The Tasnif al-hadith (classification of hadith), the categorization of hadith according to content in chapters (babs) after around 125 AH. Toward the end of the second century of the Hegira another kind of classification of hadith, musnad, in which the hadith was categorized according to the name of the Companion of the Prophet who reported it, emerged.

Before the third century of the Hijrah, there were systematically written works and collections classified by fiqh subject (Islamic jurisprudence), which were called jâmi. These collections were reviewed by Goldziher as "the first systematically compiled hadith books."

The understanding we have about the development of hadith literature is based on information given that at the beginning of such enterprises the hadiths were written on paper, as well as from documents of that period, and by reviewing the written documents, which prove that the authors of the hadiths took the narration from one another via written documents, even though their work was mostly transmitted orally.

A.V. Kremer, Sprenger, and Goldziher were aware of the information about the earlier period, the accuracy of which is not in question. However, Goldziher, who studied subsequent development in this field, tried to disprove the information about the collection and classification of hadith. When his work is examined in detail, it is clear that he could not really perceive the difference between collection and classification, and he confused the information.

It is known that some of the Umayyad rulers helped to write hadiths down on paper. Umar b. Abdulaziz (101/720) paid careful attention to the writing of hadiths, and he ordered Abu Bakr b. Muhammad b. Hazm (120/737): "Look, write down everything from the Prophet's hadith or sunnah (practices of the Prophet) or hadith narrated by Amra or others because I am not a scholar and I am worried that we will lose the scholars we have." According to Malik, he passed away before seeing Abu Bakr b. Hazm's work. Abu Bakr b. Hazm's son complained about the loss of his father's journals. However, his contemporary Zuhri (125/742) was proud of compiling hadith instead of Abu Bakr b. Muhammad b. Hazm. Written documents in different fields and information about the development of the chain and the narrators of the chain in hadith convince us that the scribes in this period were mature enough to undertake recording and that Zuhri played a significant role in collecting hadiths.

Tasnif al-hadith, that is, the classification of hadiths in chapters, should be seen as a subsequent development of the monograph style in the period of the Umayyads. Tasnif al-hadith appeared in the period in which mosques first appeared in Islamic sciences. Abu Talib al-Makki (386/996) identified that classification first began around 120-130 AH. Ibn Jurayj (150/767) in Mecca, Ma'mar b. Rashid (153/770) in Yemen, Hisham b. Hassan (148/765) and Said b. Abi Aruba in Basra and Sufyan al-Thawri in Kufah can be cited as the first classifiers of hadith. The oldest works of that period that are extant today are the Jami‘  by Ma'mar b. Rashid, Kitab al-Manasik by Katada with the narration of Said b. Abi Aruba, and Al-Jami by Habib al-Basri (170/786).{mospagebreak title=The First Written Sources of Hadith}

The First Written Sources of Hadith:

The first and most important issue related to the sources of hadith literature is the argument that is nearly as old as the hadiths themselves, that is, whether it is permissible or not to identify hadiths through writing, and the conclusions drawn from this argument.

Many of the Companions of the Prophet reported that the Prophet forbade the recording of hadith or ordered that hadiths that had been written down be destroyed. However, the same Companions or many other Companions of the Prophet also reported that the Prophet suggested that people who were worried about the impotence of their memory to "use their writing hands". Despite all the narrations against writing down hadiths, from a comparatively early time the need for recording hadiths resulted in an interpretive activity that aims to abate the contradictions which were present. Ibn Kutayba interprets this contradiction by suggesting that the Companions differed in their information level, therefore some of them were allowed to write the hadiths down, while others were forbidden to do so. Al-Hatib Al-Baghdadi (463) was the first scholar who criticized this issue in detail. In his book Taqyid al-ilm, he systematically collected conflicting documents. Through the chronological categorization of information in favor or against the collection, he was able to analyze and present the course of the natural development that favored the recording of hadiths. He stated his thoughts about the reconciliation of the issue as:

"That is, in the first periods of Islam, it was not acceptable to compare things other than Quran with the Quran, or to discard the Quran and become involved in other things."

Contrary to the many incidents in favor of recording hadiths, there are narratives in opposition recorded even by the writers of hadith, and this continued for several centuries. Thus, this fact shows us another side of the prohibition. The narrators put forward such narrations to warn the people who kept the information only on paper instead of keeping it in their minds.

However, in addition to the scholars who hesitated to record hadiths, there are others who cite kitabat (writing down on paper) as being one of the sciences. Even in the time of the tabiin (successors of the Companions of the Prophet), there were people who stated that any unwritten science cannot be a science. But, there was also an insignificant number of people who criticized the recording of hadith in the period of the tabiin and even in subsequent periods.

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)


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