Are There Any Early Hadiths?

M S M Saifullah & Imtiaz Damiel

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 8th August 2000

Last Updated: 18th November 2000


Assalamu-`alaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

It is frequently claimed by the Christian missionaries that there are no hadith collections from the first century of hijra. According to them the first hadith collections were written around 250 years after hijra.

We will show the evidence of existence of hadith collections from first century of hijra.

2. Examples Of First Century Hadith Collections

The Sahifa Of Hammam bin Munabbih: This is perhaps one of the earliest known hadith collections. Hammam bin Munabbih was a student of Abu Hurrairah and well-known among the scholars of the hadith to be trustworthy. According to the book Arabic Literature To The End of Ummayyad Periodt:

An example is the Sahifah of Hammam bin Munabbih, (d. 110/719), a Yemenite follower and a disciple of companion Abu Hurrayrah, (d. 58/677), from whom Hammam wrote this Sahifah, which comprises 138 hadith and is believed to have been written around the mid-first AH/seventh century.[1]

The author went on to say:

It is significant that Hammam introduces his text with the words: "Abu Hurrayrah told us in the course of what he related from the Prophet", thus giving the source of his information in the manner which became known as "sanad" or "isnad", i.e., the teacher of chain of teachers through whom an author reaches the Prophet, a practice invariably and systematically followed in Hadith compilations.[2]

We can see that of the 138 narrations in the Sahifa, 98 of them are faithfully witnessed in the later collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim, both through narrations of Abu Hurrairah and witnessing narrations from other Companions.

We also see that all but two of the narrations are found in one section of the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, again witnessing the preservation of hadith and that earlier works were faithfully rendered in later documents.[3]

Using the first century Sahifa of Hammam bin Munabbih as a "control group" Marston Speight compared it (i.e., the Sahifa) with about the 1500 variant readings of the same ahadith found in the collections of Ibn Hanbal (Musnad), al-Bukhari (Sahih) and Muslim (Sahih); the last three collections date from 3rd/9th century. Speight says:

... the texts in Hammam and those recorded in Ibn Hanbal, Bukhari and Muslim with the same isnad show almost complete identity, except for a few omissions and interpolations which do not affect the sense of the reports. On the other hand, the same ahadith as told by other transmitters in the three collections studied show a rich variety of wording, again without changing the meaning of the reports.[4]

Further he comments about the reports of Hammam found in the later compilations of Ibn Hanbal, al-Bukhari and Muslim by saying that:

... I have found practically no sign of careless or deceptive practices in the variant texts common to the Sahifa of Hammam bin Munabbih.[5]

In other words, it shows the meticuluous nature of hadith transmission as well as high moral and upright characters of the transmitters as well as collectors of the hadith; a fact that Islamic traditions had always asserted and now the western scholarship endorses it.

The Musannaf of `Abd al-Razzaq al-San`ani:[6] An article by Harald Motzki appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies that mentioned about the the Musannaf of `Abd al-Razzaq al-San`ani as a source of authentic ahadith of the first century AH. Since the article is quite huge (21 pages), we will deal with only the conclusions of the author.

While studying the Musannaf of `Abd al-Razzaq, I came to the conclusion that the theory championed by Goldziher, Schacht, and in their footsteps, many others - myself included - which in general, reject hadith literature as a historically reliable sources for the first century AH, deprives the historical study of early Islam of an important and a useful type of source.[7]

Some important hadith collections from second century of hijra are the following:[8]

The Muwatta' of Malik bin Anas: Malik bin Anas (d. 179/795) was the founder of Maliki school of jurisprudence. The Muwatta' of Malik was compiled in mid-second century AH. It is not a corpus of hadith in a true sense but a collection of practices of people of Madinah.

Musannaf of Ibn Jurayj (d. 150 AH)

Musannaf of Ma`mar bin Rashid (d. 153 AH)

A detailed report on hadith can be seen at `Abdur Rahim Green's Debate Material.

And Allah knows best!


References

[1] A. F. L. Beeston, T. M. Johnstone, R. B. Serjeant and G. R. Smith (Ed.), Arabic Literature To The End of Ummayyad Period, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p. 272.

[2] ibid.

[3] More information can be obtained from the book Sahifa Hammam bin Munabbih: The Earliest Extant Work On The Hadith, 1979, M. Hamidullah, Centre Cultural Islamique.

[4] R. M. Speight, "A Look At Variant Readings In The Hadith", Der Islam, 2000, Band 77, Heft 1, p. 170.

[5] ibid., p. 175.

[6] `Abd al-Razzaq b. Hammam al-San`ani (ed. Habib al-Rahman al-A`zami), Al-Musannaf, 1970-72, 11 Volumes, Beirut.

[7] H. Motzki, "The Musannaf Of `Abd al-Razzaq Al-San`ani As A Source of Authentic Ahadith of The First Century A.H.", Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 1991, Volume 50, p. 21.

[8] Beeston et al., Arabic Literature To The End of Ummayyad Period, op.cit, pp. 272-273.

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