In order to talk about any science, it is crucial to have an explicit methodology for discussing subjects on a particular ground besides a common language. In fact, the methodology of a science is the entire method that scholars follow in the communication process they built with their individual views in their individual areas of interest. Until the modernization process which started with the European enlightenment movement, the focus was more on the purpose of science rather than the importance of having a methodology due to the existential relationship of scholars and Muslims with classic Islamic sciences. In the modernization period, as an inevitable result of a crisis of chain as the continuation of the tradition, it is needed to work on the importance of methodology of sciences. This is essential to bring together the pursuits of hadith methodology which are unaware of each other even though they share the same field or at least to make them speak the same language.
First, it should be emphasized that analyzing approaches of different schools and bringing together these methods in a common ground may not be perceived as a proper step in terms of methodology. Therefore, without trying to develop an eclectic hadith methodology, the best approach is to determine and support the aspects of different methodologies which are open to development, let each school preserve its own system of methodology, and create a common ground in which different schools will understand each other accurately. On the other hand, a proposal for a new systematic methodology should have internal consistency and its own ethical position. Any approach rejecting important parts of the methodology it relies on, interpreting the data there, proposing approaches, and seeming to be influenced by ideologies are problematic. Moreover, new methodology proposals should not be put forward by oppressions of the time, or they should neither be supported by certain sections of the society nor have temporary dimension. A “selective” method would not be long-lasting or applicable at least in the search for a new hadith methodology.
Basic Characteristics of Modern Hadith Methodologies
The demands for developing a new hadith methodology are based on the following thesis: “The classic hadith methodology is no longer valid because it has been untouched for centuries. The majority of Islamic societies believe that hadiths, the subbranchs of hadith science, its terms and methodology reached to the possible highest and unchangeable point. Thus, all issues about hadiths have already been resolved with the efforts of old scholars, and there is not any unresolved issue.” However, even if these claims were true, they are superficial perceptions. As an intellectual activity, talking on methodology should not be based on such uninformed interpretations of the society. Scholars should theoretically discuss significance of methodology. In this framework, charging Ibn as-Salah with the presuppositional standstill in methodology is a groundless claim. In order to understand the hadith methodology properly first it is essential to give up seeing hadith methodology as the source of problems.
Demands for modern methodologies stand as an effort to gain legitimize the clear out the classical methodology. In this process, the second most significant argument is that the classic methodology is not a useful methodology at all. However, using the classic methodology, Islamic societies has had a healthy communication with existing resources until the last two centuries. Since the last two centuries, which were the most stressful periods, a need for change has been felt for some reasons, and there have been efforts to create a decay scenario and to dispraise the classic literature. Whether such efforts were an issue came out as a result of the priorities of the society or as a result of some superior plans. In other words, first considering the claims that all methods suggested to the Islamic world during the enlightenment period were originated from the West, all the following questions should be answered: Are the goals of Muslims, references or resources, or values any different from the ones in the past? How has the resurrection in the classic period, which was interpreted as returning to resources, become the process for ‘questioning the tradition’? In this context, it is necessary to clearly lay out the relationship and interaction between the new methodology propositions which ignore the traditional methodology and the politics of eastern tradition to retain the chaos environment for Muslims.
On the other hand, clear and justifiable views are necessary to review the value of new methodologies to find out whether they would replace the function of the classic hadith methodology. In other words, are the new methodology proposals a revisionist attitude to totally clear out the tradition? Are they a renovation? Or, are they an effort to legitimize the modern approach? Additionally, none of the answers to these questions should have a potential to let demands for a change in methodology ignoring basic rules. If the purpose of the existing or new methodology is to determine the validity of narrations, first it is crucial to analyze the relation between the teacher and student of hadith in terms of narration. Without analyzing explainers of the hadith meanings and narrators, there would be many drawbacks of doing interpretations and evaluations in a fictional context. In this respect, the new methodology should focus on rijal science (knowledge of narrators of hadith).
In order to have a permanent methodology which is also open to development, avoiding sentimentality and bias are preconditions. However, new methodology proposals have had an aggressive attitude to tradition, which reflects an unreasonable position. Also, in criticizing the classic methodology, the whole methodology should be taken into consideration, and criticisms should be conducted within the logic of the system and literature.