Hadith Sciences in Islam
By: Rasoul Imani Khoshkhu
After the Glorious Qur’an, the conduct (sunnah) of the noble Prophet(s) and the Infallibles (a) is the main reference for Islamic rulings andbeliefs. The Infallible Imams (a) are the true heirs to the Prophet’s (s) knowledge, and their hadiths reflect the Prophet’s (s) conduct.
After the Prophet (s) passed away, the necessity of referring to Prophetic hadiths became inevitable to Muslims; thus, since then they began collecting and organizing hadiths. Although narrating and registering hadiths were banned by the first three caliphs and this ban continued in the Sunni world until the reign of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, Shi’a narrators from the onset were involved in narration and compiling collections of hadiths1.
The History of Hadith among the Shi‘a
The history of hadiths among Shi’a underwent different stages as any other discipline, though two major periods are generally referred to: the period of early scholars of hadith and the period of later scholars.The former period includes the first five centuries. In this period, the Imams (a) initially issued hadiths as their companions and transmitters of hadith wrote them.
Those hadiths were classified and organized by scholars of later centuries and were finally included in the Four Books2 by the first three scholars of hadith3: Sheikh Kulayni, Sheikh Saduq, and Sheikh Tusi.Most hadiths in this period are received from Imam Baqir (a) and Imam Sadiq (a). Tens of thousands of hadiths were accurately recorded from them by their companions and students and transmitted to later scholars.
The later period is when complementary collections of hadiths were compiled by Shi’a scholars. This period began from the early sixth century AH and continued until the time of the contemporary scholars.
In that period, great scholars of hadith emerged who compiled valuable works in hadith. The most eminent scholars of that period were Sheikh Hurr Amili, author of Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Feyd; Kashani, author of Al-Wafi, and Allamah Majlisi, author of Bihar al-Anwar. Bycomparing the two mentioned periods, it is understood that the hadiths among the Shi’a is the fruit of the former period in one sense, and the works of the later period is a classification, completion, and analysis of the works of the earlier period.
The Phenomenon of Fabricating Hadiths and the Necessity of Knowing Authentic Hadiths.
One of the factors that increased the importance of hadith studies in Islamic sciences was the phenomenon of fabricating hadiths. This was the insertion of forged hadiths fabricated and attributed to the Prophet(s) or any of the Infallibles (a). The history of fabricating hadiths goes back to the time of the Prophet (s) when he (s) introduced the Qur’an as the main factor for finding genuine hadiths.
The issue of recognizing genuine hadiths from fabricated ones became more important during the time of Imam Baqir (a) and Imam Sadiq (a) due to factors such as the expansion of the Islamic world, interest in narrating hadiths, freedom of writing [i.e. recording hadiths] after the period of prohibition, and the activities of Ghulat4 and Taqiyyah5.That was when Imam Baqir (a) and Imam Sadiq (a) introduced the examination criteria in recognition of genuine hadiths, most importantly to check the hadiths with the Qur’an and the Prophet’s (s) Sunnah6.
Knowing the mechanisms of recognizing genuine hadiths and removing fabricated hadiths are very important in hadith studies; thus, hadith scholars have long been adopting criteria to distinguish genuine hadith from fabricated hadiths and have written accordingly such as Al-Du‘afa’ by Bukhari (d. 256 AH), Al-Mawdu‘at by Naqqash (d. 414 AH), Al-Mawdu‘at by Ibn Jawzi (d. 543 AH), Al-Luma‘ fi Asma’ man wad‘a by Suyuti (d. 911 AH) and Tustari’s Al-Akhbar al-Dakhilah.
The followings are among the most important criteria introduced by hadith scholars to distinguish fabricated hadiths7:
Confession of the transmitter to fabricating hadiths or existence of evidence that can serve as his confession
Contradiction of a hadith with the indisputable and frequently mentioned sunnah of the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (a)
Contradiction of a hadith with self-evident intellectual propositions
Contradiction of a hadith with rules agreed by the Islamic Nation(Ummah)
Different Branches of Hadith Studies
The following introduces the different branches of Hadith Studies:
This discipline studies the trustworthiness of the transmitters in the chain of the hadith. In The criteria, which approve the transmitters’ reports, are also studied. They include: Reliability of the transmitters, their capability in recording hadiths, and their commitment to religious laws. Various of the biographical details such as the dates of births and deaths, or the land and clan of the transmitter are usually not considered. Such issues are discussed in another discipline i.e. Tarajim (Writing Biographies)8.
Most important works
Shi’a scholars have long been examining the transmitters of hadiths and wrote about them accordingly, although those works are currently unavailable. The oldest related available work is al-Rijal by Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid Barqi (d. 274 AH). Among other
important works in this field are Rijal Kashi written by Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz Kashi contemporary with Sheikh Kulayni, Sheikh Tusi’s Al-Fihrist9, Najashi’s Al-Fihrist10 which mostly introduces Shi’a authors, and Sheikh Tusi’s Rijal which introduces and describes the Infallibles’ companions and their contemporaries.
This branch of hadith studies a) the methods of recognizing genuine hadiths from fabricated ones and b) the criteria in accepting or rejecting hadiths. The subject matter of this discipline is the narrator of the hadith and the narrated text to see if it can be accepted or not11.
After hadith scholars know the transmitters of hadiths in Rijal studies, they examine the criteria to evaluate the authenticity of hadiths and classify them accordingly. Early Shi‘a scholars classified hadiths into two groups: genuine (sahih) and not genuine (ghayr sahih). They verified genuine hadiths by locating them in the authentic books of hadiths. They also verified the reliability and trustworthiness of each author.
Since the time of Ahmad ibn Tawus12 or Allamah Hilli13, Shi‘a scholars have been examining the criteria for judging the various hadiths by classifying them according to their transmitters. They defined the hadiths as follows:
Sahihah: The transmitters of a sahih hadith are reliable Twelver Shi‘as whose trustworthiness has been expressly confirmed, and the chain of transmitters is unbroken.
Hasanah: The transmitters of this hadith are reliable Twelver Shi‘as although their reliability has not been expressly verified. Muwathaqah: The transmitters of this hadith are described to be reliable, although at least one of them is not a Twelver Shi‘a14.
Da‘if: Contrary to the above hadiths, this type of hadiths is not acceptable by scholars and cannot be considered as a valid evidence. However, if such a hadith enjoys popularity among the narrators (shuhrat-e riva’i) or popularity among jurists in issuing fatwa accordingly (shuhrat-e fatwa’i) its validity is reinforced, the same way that if scholars have not acted upon a hadith that can be technically authenticated the validity of that hadith will be decreased.
The criteria for weak hadiths are as follows:
a) A person in the chain of the transmitters of the hadith has been accused of lying
b) The transmitter is accused of fabricating hadiths
c) The transmitter is known for making mistakes
d) The transmitter is known for his lewdness
e) The transmitter is unknown or revealed in some sources as reliable and elsewhere as an unreliable15.
Among the most important works in the branch of hadith studies is Shahid Thani’s16 Al-Ri’ayah Libal al-Bidayah fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah and Sheikh Bahai’s17 Al-Wajizah. Moreover, great works have been written by contemporary scholars. For example, one may refer to Ja’farSubhani’sUsul al-Hadith waAhkamuhu fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah.
Fiqh al-Hadith studies the interpretation of hadiths. Consequently, commentaries on the Four Books of Shi’a and Sahi Bukhari are written accordingly. Among the most famous commentaries writtenon the Four Books of Shi‘a are Mir’at al-Uqul by Allamah Majlisi18 and Rawdah al-Muttaqin by Muhammad Taqi Majlisi19.
This branch focuses on lexicological studies and hadith terminology. Tahiri’s20 Majma‘ al-Bahrayn is one of the most important references among the Shi’a scholars.
This branch of hadith studies the contradictions and disagreements between hadiths. One important work in this field is Sheikh Tusi’s21 Istibsar.
This branch of hadith analyses the decrease in the validity and authenticity of some hadiths22.
1. Ma’arif Majid, Tarikh Umumi Hadith.
2. The four most important Shi’a reference books of hadiths.
3. A hadith scholar and/or transmitter.
4. Literary meaning: exaggerators. Referring to those exaggerating about the Imams (a)
5. The principle of preservation, which suggests hiding one’s belief in case of danger, or other reasons.
6. Rafi’ i Muhammadi, Nasir, Darsnameh Vaz hadith, p. 302.
7. Ibid.. pp. 195-259.
8. Jamshidi, Asadullah, Tarikh Hadith, p. 374
9. Contains information about written works of Shi’a and also names of more than 900 Shi’a authors.
10. D. 450 AH
11. Shahid Thani, Al-Ri’ayah Lihal, al-Bidayah fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah, p. 51.
12. D. 673 AH
13. D. 726 AH
14. Tarikh Hadith, pp. 390-392.
15. Rabbani, Mohammad Hasan, Danesh Dirayah al-Hadith, p. 98
16. 911-965 AH
17. 935-1030 AH
18. d. 1111 AH
19. d. 1070 AH
20. 907-1085 AH
21. d. 460 AH
22. Rabbani, Mohammad Hasan, Ibid, pp. 13-14.