History of the Compilation of the Sunnah

• Scientific Principles Governing Scribing of the Sunnah During the Prophet’s Life (first issue)

By: Dr. Luqman bin Muhammad as-Salafi (India) - 2012-09-10

Islam has established and initiated highly scientific principles and precise methods for protecting, transferring and scribing the Prophetic Sunnah, so as to preserve it just as it was spoken by the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him.  Some of these principles are as follows.



            Firstly, Islam Prohibits Lying



            Allah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/sobhan.jpg said, “It is only those who believe not in the Ayat(proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.)of Allah, who fabricate falsehood.” [16:105]

            Allah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/sobhan.jpg also said, “Say(O Muhammad http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg ): ‘(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are al-Fawahish(great evil sins)whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners(in worship)with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” [7:33]


            Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said, “There are three distinguishing signs of hypocrites: if they speak, they lie, if they promise, they break their promise, and if they are entrusted, they betray their trust.” (Collected by al-Bukhari 33, and Muslim 211)

            Abu Hurairah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/RADI.jpg also said, “Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said, ‘Whoever intentionally tells lies and ascribes them to me, let him (or her) take his (or her) assigned seat in Hellfire.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, report number 4)

            Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Nothing prevents me from narrating ahadeeth to you in abundance, except that the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said, ‘Whoever intentionally ascribes lies to me, then let him take his assigned seat in Hellfire.’” (Collected by al-Bukhari, 108, and Muslim, 3)

            `Amir bin `Abdullah bin Az-Zubair reported that, his father said, “I said to Az-Zubair [bin al-`Awwam, Abdullah’s father], ‘I rarely hear you narrate hadeeth from Allah’s Messenger, in comparison to others.’ He responded, by saying, ‘As for myself, I rarely left his side, but I also heard him say, Whoever lies about  me should take their assigned seat in Hellfire.’ (Collected by al-Bukhari, 107)



            Secondly, Rejecting and Refuting the Narrations of Sinners, and Warning against Accepting them


            Allah, Glorified be He, ordered that we reject the narrations of sinners, and warned against accepting them, when He said,

O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.” [49:6]

            In Arabic grammar, if an improper noun is used in a sentence which also stipulates a condition, then it is all inclusive to everything the precondition is stipulated for.  This means that, this ayah orders us to verify all reports, regardless if they are ascribed to Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg or came from anyone else; but Allah’s Messenger’s statements are far more worthy to be verified, since the evil effects which ensue lying on Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg include dissolving of the most recognized signposts of Islam, and deviating the Muslim Nation, as he r said, Lying about me is not like lying on others. Whoever intentionally lies about meshould assume his seat in Hellfire.

            Abu Bakr bin al-`Arabi said, “If anyone’s sinfulness can be proven, then their reports are rejected, and this is the consensus of the scholars. This is because reports are an entrustment which relies on trustworthiness; if sinfulness is present, it nullifies trustworthiness.” (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 4/147)

            In addition, Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti said, “This ayah nullifies the narrations reported from sinners, while making trustworthiness a condition in those who convey news whether they may be a narrator, a witness or someone who gives religious verdicts (fatwa).”

            As-Si`di said, “The obligation when receiving news from a sinner is to verify and investigate. If the proofs and evidence show that they are truthful in narrating that particular news, then their statement is accepted and acted on. If the proof and evidence show that they are lying, their news will be rejected and will not be acted on. In this ayah, there is proof that the report of a trustworthy, honest person is accepted, and that the report of a liar, is rejected, but the report of a sinful individual should not be accepted or rejected [until they are established as being true or false).” (Tafsir  al-Karim Ar-Rahman, pg. 800)

            Warning from accepting narrations of sinful narrators has also come in the Sunnah; the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said, “Whoever narrates a hadeeth ascribed to me, while viewing that it is a lie, is one of the two liars (or, is among the liars).” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, report number 1)


Thirdly, Verifying Every Single Issue


            Allah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/sobhan.jpg said,

And follow not (O man i.e., say not, or do not or witness not, etc.)that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned(by Allah).” (17:36)

            Qatadah said that this means, “Do not say, ‘I saw,’ when you did not see, ‘I heard,’ when you did not hear, or, ‘I know,’ when you do not know; because Allah will ask you about all of this.” (`Umdat At-Tafsir, 2/432)


Fourthly, The Prohibition of One Narrating Everything One Hears


            The Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said, “It is enough of a lie for an individual to narrate everything one hears.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, 7)

            Al-Qurtubi said, “The meaning of this hadeeth is that whoever narrates everything one hears has indeed acquired a share of lying. This is because an individual hears useless and useful, true and false statements. Therefore, if someone narrates all of that then they will, undoubtedly, have narrated some portion of lies and incorrect statements. Then the lies will be taken from them, and thus, that person will lie himself and lies will be spread because of him.” (Al-Mufhim 1/117)

            `Umar bin al-Khattab http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/RADI.jpg said, “It is enough share of lying for one to narrate everything they hear.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, 9)

            Further, Malik said, “Know that one who narrates everything they hear will never be safe from lying. Such a person will never become an Imam while he narrates everything he hears.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, 10)

            Malik’s statement, “Such a person will never become an Imam,” means that if lies are found in what one narrates, then he is not to be trusted in his narrations.  This will discredit what one narrates, and therefore, one will not be suitable for people to be guided by him, even if he was a scholar. However, if one distinguishes between what is authentic and what is not, what is true and what is false, one will save himself from being discredited, that is, if one makes proper research as is obligated in sincerity to others.” (Al-Mufhim, 1/117)

            `Abd Ar-Rahman bin Mahdi said, “A person will never become an Imam, or someone that is looked up to, until he holds out on narrating some of what he hears.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, 12)

            Also, Sufyan bin Husain said, “Iyas bin Mu`awiyah asked me, ‘I see that you have become eager in learning the Qur’an, so read a Surah to me and then explain it, to see what you have learned.” Sufyan said, “So I did that, and then he told me, ‘Beware of narrating what is not substantiated in hadeeth, because rarely does anyone do that, but earns disgrace within himself and lies in his speech.’”


Fifthly, Warning against Accepting the Narrations of Weak Narrators and People of Innovation and Desires


            The Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said, “Towards the end of time, there will be lying deceivers, who will narrate to you ahadeeth that neither you, nor your fathers heard of, so beware of them; do not let them deviate you or put you into trial.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, 15-16)

            Imam An-Nawawi, when explaining this hadeeth and similar narrations, started a chapter with this heading, “Chapter: The Prohibition of Narrating from Weak Narrators and Exerting Care in Reporting Their Narrations.”

            The Sahabah faced this issue during their time, as did those who came after them.  As a result, they were very careful in narrating, and ordered others to be careful, as well.

            Ibn Sirin, may Allah bestow mercy on him, said, “This knowledge (hadeeth) is religion itself, so beware from whom you take your religion.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his, Sahih, 26)

            Further, al-Qurtubi said, “Since all matters of religion are referred to the Book  andSunnah, and the Sunnah is not taken from just anyone, the scholars were forced to look into the status of the narrators and examine the continuity of their chains of narration. Had this not happened, honesty would have become confused with lies, and the truth would have mixed with falsehood. Since a distinction must be made between the truth and falsehood, and honesty and lies, examining various chains of narrations to verify their authenticity became necessary. This is a clear obligation, and none differs about it. `Uqbah bin Nafi` said to his sons, ‘O my sons! Only accept narrations from trustworthy sources.’ Ibn Ma`in also said, ‘Among the things which Suhaib advised his sons with, is that he said to them, ‘O my sons! Only accept narrations ascribed to Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg through trustworthy sources.’ Also, Sulaiman bin Musa said, ‘I said to Tawus, ‘So-and-so informed me of such-and-such narration’, and he said to me, ‘If he is trustworthy who verifies what he hears, then take from him.’” (Al-Mufhim, 1/121-122)

            Once, Bishr al-`Adawi went to Ibn `Abbas and began to narrate in his presence, by saying, “Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said such-and-such,” and, “Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said such-and-such.”  Ibn `Abbas did not pay attention to him and would not even look at him.  He said to Ibn `Abbas, “O Ibn `Abbas! Why do you not pay attention to my ahadeeth? I am narrating to you from Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg, but you refuse to listen.”  Ibn `Abbas responded, “There once was a time when, if we heard a man say, ‘Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg said,’ we would look at him with our eyes and pay attention to him with our ears. But when people became lenient in the hadeeth and became reckless, we began to only take from people what we know.” (Collected by Muslim in the introduction to his, Sahih, 21)

            Ibn `Abbas’ statement indicates that when people became lenient in narrating the Prophet’s hadeeth and dared to narrate it recklessly, they became like those who ride camels, some of them riding suitable, easy animals, representing acceptable narrators, while some others riding wild animals, representing un-established and unreliable narrators.


Sixthly, Records of `Hadeethduring the Prophet’s Time


            Writing was widespread during the time of the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg.  The noble Qur’an encouraged learning, and the Sunnah made it obligatory.  Therefore, many knowledge seekers and writers of knowledge were available, since the Revelation needed to be recorded; the Prophet had scribes who recorded the Revelation for him.

            The Sunnah, however, was not recorded during the Prophet’s time as the Qur’an was whenever it was revealed to the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg.  In addition, the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg did not assign specific writers to dictate to them his statements and traditions, as he had for the Qur’an.  He had writers of the Revelation to scribe the Qur’an as soon as it was revealed to him, making good efforts in recording and preserving the Qur’an, among them Abu Bakr, `Uthman, `Ali, Mu`awiyah, Aban bin Sa`id, Khalid bin al-Walid, Ubai bin Ka`b, Zaid bin Thabit, and Thabit bin Qais.  These writers would write parts from the Qur’an on anything they could get their hands on, such as date-tree leaves, woven leaves, leather or animal hides, shoulder blades, and wide bones in general. 

            However, some of the Sahabah used to record the Sunnah, and some of them took permission from the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg to do so, among them …


`Abdullah bin `Amr bin al-`Aas


            `Abdullah bin `Amr, may Allah be pleased with him and with his father, said, “I used to write everything I heard from the Messenger of Allah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg, intending to preserve it. But some of Quraish [the Prophet’s tribe] discouraged me from doing so, saying, ‘Do you write everything you hear, when Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg is but a man who speaks while angry and while pleased?’ I stopped writing and mentioned what they said to Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg. He moved his finger towards his mouth and said, ‘Write! For by He Who owns my life, only the truth comes out of it(meaning, his mouth).’” (Collected by Abu Dawud, 3646)


`Ali bin Abi Talib http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/RADI.jpg


            `Ali bin `Abi Talib http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/RADI.jpg used to write the words of the Prophet http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg.  Abu Juhaifa once asked Ali, “Do you have a book (meaning, left for you specifically by the Prophet rcontaining aspects of the Revelation not found in the Qur’an)?”  `Ali said, “No, except the Book of Allah, and an understanding that a Muslim may be given [by Allah], and what is in this tablet.”  Abu Juhaifa said, “What is in this tablet?”  `Ali said, “Rulings of blood-money, freeing [Muslim] captives [from the hands of the enemy], and, ‘A Muslim is not executed for killing a disbeliever.’” (Collected by al-Bukhari)

            Also, Allah’s Messenger http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg used to [have someone] write letters and send messages to various kings, calling them to Islam.  Most of these letters, which were sent to kings by the Messenger of Allah http://www.alsadiqa.com/img/Prophet.jpg to call them to Islam and inform them about the religion of Allah, were collected by Muhammad bin Sa`d in his book, At-Tabaqat al-Kubra.  These letters are, indeed, proof indicating that the Sunnah was recorded during the Messenger’s time.

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