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Compilation of the Sunnah

Published: 27/08/2011 05:23:00 PM GMT
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I am studying law in college and I am studying a subject entitled Islamic jurisprudence. I read in that subject that the Qur’ân was collected under the authority of the Orthodox caliphs but the hadîth were not collected under their authority. I have read that `Umar, the second orthodox caliph, did not encourage the collection of hadîth. How and when were the hadith collected?

Answered by

Sheikh Nâsir al-Mâjid, professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh

When we look at the history of how the Sunnah was compiled and recorded, we can see the falsehood of the claim made by some Orientalists that the Sunnah was not recorded until a century or two after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The truth of the matter is that the recording of the Sunnah began during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) by his own order. One example of this is the document that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent to his deputy in Yemen explaining matters relating to Zakâh. He also commanded Abû Shâmah to write down his statement during the conquest of Mecca.

Some of the Companions were well known for their recording of every statement that they heard from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Some of the more famous compilations were those of `Ali, Sa`d b. `Ubâdah, and `Abd Alah b. `Amr b. al-`As.

It is authentically established that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave his Companions his express permission to write down everything that he said. `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`As relates that he used to write down everything that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say. Members of the tribe of Quraysh told him that he should not do so, saying: “Do you write down everything that you hear from Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) while he is a man who speaks in happiness and anger?” `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`As tells us that he stopped and then mentioned this to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), upon which Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) told him: “Write. For I swear by him in whose hand is my soul, nothing emanates from this except the truth.” And he pointed to his mouth. [Related by al-Hâkim and others]

Allah says basically the same thing in the Qur’ân: “He does not speak of his own desire. It is but revelation that is revealed to him.”

We are not claiming that the Sunnah in its entirety was set down in writing during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, we are saying that the recording of the Sunnah was definitely going on at that time.

We must keep in mind that the written word is not the only way that information is preserved and disseminated. Many nations have preserved their experiences and knowledge by word of mouth alone. Oral preservation and transmission had reached its height of accuracy and advancement with respect to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It has been transmitted to us by the best of people of the best of generations under the most stringent conditions. Whoever acquaints himself with the conditions that the scholars employed for accepting the narrations of others will have no doubt that the Sunnah has been transmitted to us with the utmost accuracy in a way that is unprecedented in history.

The Muslim Ummah has unanimously accepted a good portion of what has been related from our Prophet (peace be upon him), including all the mutawâtir transmissions and all the hadîth recorded in Sahîh Muslim and Sahîh al-Bukhârî.

Source: Islam Today

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