Preventing from writing down the prophetic traditions
Source: Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, Text and Interpretation
By: Allama Abdul Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi
Al-Hakim mentioned in his Tareekh a tradition narrated by Abu Bakr that the Prophet (S) had said: “He, who has written down knowledge or a tradition from me, will be granted with (divine) reward as long as that knowledge or tradition will remain.”157 In spite of that no tradition had been written down during the reign of Abu Bakr and Umar.
Abu Bakr, during his rule, had decided to write down the prophetic traditions. He had written down five hundred traditions but he had become upset. He could not sleep and he tossed about in his bed all that night. Aa’isha, his daughter, said: “I was uncomfortable because he was upset. In the morning he said to me: “O my daughter, bring me the traditions that are with you.” I brought them to him and he burnt them…” 158
Az-Zuhri mentioned from Urwa that once Umar bin al-Khattab wanted to write down the prophetic traditions. He consulted with the Prophet’s companions about the subject and they counseled him to write them down. He went asking Allah to inspire him with the best decision. He kept on that for a month and then he said: “I wanted to write down the prophetic traditions but I remembered some peoples before you who had written some books and then they kept to their books and ignored the Book of Allah. By Allah, I will not corrupt the Book of Allah with anything at all.” 159
Abu Wahab said: “I have heard Malik (bin Anas) saying that Umar wanted to write down the prophetic traditions or he had already written them down but then he (Umar) said: “There is no book with the Book of Allah.” 160
Yahya bin Ju’da said: “Once Umar wanted to write down the Sunna but then he changed his mind and decided not to write it down. He sent a decree to the countries saying: “Whoever has written down some of the Sunna, has to delete it.” 161
Al-Qasim bin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr said: “The (writing down of) traditions had been increased during the reign of Umar so he asked the people to bring him those (written) traditions. When the people brought him the traditions, he ordered to burn them.” 162
Ibn Umar said: “Once Umar wanted to write down the traditions. He prayed to Allah for a month to inspire him with the best choice. Then he said: “I remembered that there were peoples before you who had written some books and they kept to those books and ignored the book of Allah.” 163
During the rule of Umar one of his companions came and said to him: “O Ameerul Mo’mineen, when we have conquered the different countries, we have got some books of the Persian sciences and other wonderful subjects.” Umar began striking those books with his stick until they were torn. Then he recited: “We narrate to you the best of narratives, by Our revealing to you this Qur'an” (Qur’an 12:3)
and then he said to the man: “Woe unto you! Are these stories better than the Book of Allah?” 164
The news showing that Umar had prevented people from writing and collecting the prophetic traditions and everything of the Sunna were certain and recurrent. He might have prevented them from narrating any prophetic tradition at all and he might have detained the great figures in Medina so that they would not spread the traditions in the other countries. 165
No doubt that many corruptions had happened because of the decisions of the two caliphs (when preventing from writing down the Sunna) and those corruptions could not be avoided. Would that the two caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, had tried with Imam ‘Ali (as) and Ahlul Bayt (as) to collect the Prophet’s traditions and Sunna and to write them down in a special book that the later Muslims and their successors of every generation in this umma would inherit!
The holy Qur'an has analogous and ambiguous meanings. The Sunna explains the analogous and ambiguous meanings of the Qur'an and it details many of its special verdicts. It makes the scholars perceive the essence of the Qur'an and so it saves many verdicts of the Qur'an from being lost. It would have been better for the two caliphs if they had written down the Sunna because in doing that they would have saved the umma and the Sunna from the fabricators who had fabricated many lies against the Prophet (S).
If the Sunna had been written down at that time in a book, which the umma would have sanctified, fabricators and liars would refrain from distorting or inserting any lie in the Sunna. And since the Sunna had not been collected in a special book, so the fabricators, who fabricated lies against the Prophet (S), were too active and politics played a great rule in distorting the Sunna especially during the reign of Mu’awiya and his oppressive party until imposture spread everywhere and vanities and trifles sold well.
The two caliphs and their followers could have saved the umma from the evil of those people if they had written down the Sunna. In fact they had known the great use of that and they had known that it was very necessary but their greed and tendencies, which they had prepared and got ready to achieve, did not meet with many of those clear prophetic traditions.
As for the Prophet (S), he had entrusted the Book, the Sunna and the heritage of the prophets with his guardian Ali bin Abu Talib (S) and hence he had recorded them in a clear book which falsehood should not come to from before nor from behind. He asked Imam ‘Ali (as) to entrust the infallible Imams after him with this trust. Hence this trust, the Qur'an, the Sunna and the prophet’s heritage, would be guarded by the infallible Imams (S) one after the other until they would come to the Prophet (S) at the pond (in Paradise) on the Day of Resurrection.
The Prophet (S) has said: “Ali is with the Qur'an and the Qur'an is with Ali. They will not separate until they will come to me at the pond.” 166
157. The prophetic traditions that the umma has narrated from Abu Bakr are one hundred and forty-two which have been mentioned in a special chapter by as-Sayooti in his book Tareekh al-Khulafa’. This tradition is the eighty-ninth one among them. The narrators have confirmed its content by the traditions they have narrated from Imam ‘Ali (as), Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Mas’ood, Abu Sa’eed al-Khidri, Abud Darda’, Anass bin Malik, Ma’ath bin Jabal and Abu Hurayra that the Prophet (S) had said: “Whoever has kept forty traditions for my umma, Allah will resurrect him on the Day of Resurrection among the jurisprudents and ulama.” In another tradition “…Allah will resurrect him as a jurisprudent and as an aalim.” In the tradition narrated by Abud Darda’ it has been mentioned as “…I will be his witness and his intercessor.” In the tradition of Ibn Mas’ood “…he will enter into Paradise from any gate he likes.” In the tradition of Ibn Umar “…he will be considered as one of the ulama and he will be resurrected with the martyrs.” They might have confirmed this tradition by the tradition in which the Prophet (S) had said: “Let the present of you inform the absent…may Allah have mercy on one who has heard my saying and he perceived it and spread it as he has heard it.”
158. Mentioned by Imadudeen bin Katheer in Musnad as-Siddeeq from al-Hakim bin Abu Abdullah an-Naysaboori and mentioned by Abu Umayya al-Ahwas bin al-Mufadhdhal al-Ghilabi. It has been mentioned in Kanzol Ummal, vol.5 p.237.
159. Kanzol Ummal, vol.5 p.239, al-Mukhtasar by Ibn Abdul Birr, p.33, it also has been mentioned by Ibn Sa’d from az-Zuhri as in Kanzol Ummal, vol.5 p.239.
160. Kanzol Ummal, vol.5 p.239, al-Mukhtasar by Ibn Abdul Birr, p.32.
161. Al-Mukhtasar by Ibn Abdul Birr, narrated by Ibn Khaythama as in Kanzol Ummal, vol. 5 p.239.
162. Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat, vol. 5 p.140.
163. As-Salafi in his book at-Tuyooriyyat and as-Sayooti in his Tareekh al-Khulafa’.
164. This tradition has been mentioned in the books of Hadith. Ibn Abul Hadeed has mentioned in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 3 p.122. The caliph Umar should have checked those books to see which of them was useful and which was not and then tear the useless ones. This was the right of the umma and the right of the books themselves. Islam never permits tearing the useful books such as those of medicine, mathematics, geology and history of the previous and ancient nations. Imam ‘Ali (as) has said: “Knowledge is the long-sought aim of the believers. Try to gain knowledge even from the polytheists.” He also has said: “Wisdom is the long-sought goal of the believers. They are to look for it even it is in the policemen’s hands.” These two traditions of Imam ‘Ali (as) have been mentioned by Ibn Abdul Birr in al-Mukhtasar, p.51
165. Abdurrahman bin Awf said: “By Allah, Umar, before he died, had sent for the Prophet’s companions who were in the different countries. He sent for Abdullah bin Huthayfa, Abu Darda’, Abu Dharr and Uqba bin Aamir and said to them: “What are these traditions of the Prophet (S) that you have spread throughout the countries?” They said: “Do you prevent us from doing that?” He said: “No! You stay here! You will never be away from me as long as I am alive.” Refer to Kanzol Ummal, vol.5 p.239.
166. Al-Hakim’s Mustadrak, vol.3 p.124 and ath-Thahabi’s Talkhees. We would like to attract the reader’s attention that this sacred accompaniment between Imam ‘Ali (as) and the Qur'an has been continuous every moment until they will come to the Prophet (S) at the pond in Paradise without a moment of separation between them at all. Imam ‘Ali (as) has died hundreds of years before coming with the Qur'an to the pond in Paradise so how would the inseparability between him and the Qur'an be valid?
“Most surely, it is the Word brought by an honored Messenger. And it is not the word of a poet; little is it that you believe. Nor the word of a soothsayer; little is it that you mind. It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds”. (Qur'an, 69:40-43).