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The Prohibition of Reporting, Writing Down, and Recording the Hadith

By: Sayyid Ali Al-Shahristani
It is unfeasible that the prohibition of reporting, writing down, and recording the Hadīth was simultaneous or ascribed to one factor only. As a matter of fact, there must be a number of factors and introductions that contributed in the rise of such decision. In my conception, these factors and introductions can be summarized in the following four factors, yet there must have been more factors:

First Factor
The first factor is the aforesaid discussion of the seventh reason, yet in the sense that the prohibition of spreading the exegesis, explanation, and explication of the Hadīths demonstrating the actual status of the Ahl al-Bayt, especially the Hadīths that have definite dimensions striking the other School of Caliphate (i.e. School of Ijtihād and Opinionism) in the depth. To a great extent, the reporting of the Ahl al-Bayt’s merits without enlightenment was not intended by the decision of the comprehensive prohibition from reporting and recording the Hadīth. In the same point, the prohibition from spreading the flaws and shortcomings of the famous personalities of Quraysh is included, since the Holy Qur'ān and the Holy Prophet have praised certain persons and condemned others.
Hence, the Sahābah’s explanatory interpretation of the Holy Qur'ān, the expounding recitations of the Qur'ānic texts,[221]and the merits and flaws of certain persons[222]—all these matters were prohibited or, at least, reduced under the claim that they would be confused with the Holy Qur'ān or it was anticipated that they would be falsely reported.

Second Factor
As the rulers did not have full acquaintance with the religious laws, they had to, step by step, create for themselves a trend in the Islamic legislation although many people would disagree with them about it. In the first, the caliphs used to refer to the Sahābah as regards what they had not known from the religious laws mentioned in the Holy Qur'ān and Sunnah and had to submit to the answers without showing any apparent embarrassment. However, by passage of days, these answers were characterized by finding faults with the rulers and disputing with them on the matters involved, as will be detailedly discussed later on in this book. For instance, it has been narrated that `Umar ibn al-Khattāb, once, recited the verse, “The vanguard (of Islam)—the first of those who forsook (their homes), and of those who gave them aid, and those who follow them in (all) good deeds.” [Holy Qur’ān: 9/100] in an erroneous manner; therefore, Zayd ibn Thābit recited the accurate form before him in order to show him his mistake. However, `Umar insisted on his mistake, and Zayd said, “Amīr al-Mu'minīn (i.e. `Umar) must be more knowledgeable!” Yet, `Umar summoned Ubayy ibn Ka`b (the expert in the recitation of the Holy Qur'ān) and presented the question before him. Ubayy said, “Indeed, I recited this verse in the very form recited by Zayd ibn Thābit before the Messenger of Allah while you were abiding in Baqī` al-Gharqad (a place far away from the abode of the Holy Prophet).” `Umar thus commented, “You have memorized while I have forgotten, and you devoted yourself to learning this while I was engaged with other affairs, and you witnessed while I was absent...”[223]
In order to evade such troubles and to lock the door of objections and embarrassments, the best way was to prohibit the reporting, writing down, and recording of the Hadīth. Accordingly, the caliphs began to threat and arrest the reporters of Hadīth after they had ordered to reduce reporting it.

Third Factor
On later stages, the caliphs permitted themselves to be semi-sources of the religious legislation. As a result, the conducts of the two Shaykhs, namely Abū-Bakr and `Umar, were legislated to be the partner of the Holy Qur'ān and Sunnah, as a first stage, and then other legislations were enacted—all for purpose of corroborating the legislative rulership of the caliphs besides the political authority. As examples on this legislative authority, `Umar ibn al-Khattāb said about the enactment of the Salāt al-Tarāwīh, “Excellent is this heresy,”[224] and about the prohibition of the temporary marriage, “Two issues were allowed during the age of Allah’s Messenger, but now I deem them forbidden and will punish anyone who will violate this prohibition. These are the temporary marriage and the allowable period (Mut`at) during the Hajj.”[225] Afterward, these laws have been called ‘Ijtihād’ and thus the caliph was given the same position of the Holy Prophet and, in the intervening time, they reduced the position of the Holy Prophet to the level of those who issue religious verdicts according to their personal conjectures! This process called for locking the door of reporting, writing down, and recording the Hadīth lest contradiction between the caliph’s opinion and the Holy Qur'ān and Sunnah would be manifestly clear.

Fourth Factor
The factors of environment and society influenced the mentalities and cultures. Those who prohibited the reporting and recording of the Hadīth grew up in a society that had not paid any attention to the recordation and writing; rather it had concentrated on poetry, history of campaigns, and pomposity. In fact, this was another motive that led to the issuance of the decision of prohibiting reporting and recording the Hadīth. It goes without saying that the exaggeration in such matters, by virtue of historical necessity, cut across the general culture of Islam.
The seven reasons previously discussed have not been convincing enough to stand as perfect motives for the prohibition of reporting and recording the Hadīth. To explore the actual motives of the decision, we have to, first of all, pass through two introductions that will be useful in the discussion involved:
[221] The Sahābah used to recite certain Qur'ānic texts with explanation, such as that it has been narrated that the copies of the Holy Qur'ān kept by `Ā'ishah, Hafsah, and Ummu-Salamah comprised the following verse, “Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer;” with the addition, “the `Asr Prayer.” Similarly, it has been narrated that `Abdullāh ibn `Abbās, Ubay ibn Ka`b, `Abdullāh ibn Mas`ūd, and Imam `Alī ibn Abī-Tālib used to add the statement, “to a fixed period’ whenever they recited the holy verse, “…seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed. 4/24” Books of Hadīth and history have comprised many alike examples.
[222] For instance, it has been recorded in al-Suyūtiy’s al-Durr al-Manthūr 2:298 on the authority of `Abdullāh ibn Mas`ūd that during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, the Muslims used to add the statement, “that `Alī is the master of the believers,” to the following holy verse, “O Messenger! Proclaim that which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men who mean mischief. For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith. 5/67”
Similar narrations have been recorded about the holy verses,
“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. 49/6”
“O ye who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk, as ye may speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not. 49/2”
“If ye two turn in repentance to Him, your hearts are indeed so inclined; But if ye back up each other against him, truly Allah is his Protector, and Gabriel, and (every) righteous one among those who believe,- and furthermore, the angels - will back (him) up. 66/4”
“Behold! We told thee that thy Lord doth encompass mankind round about: We granted the vision which We showed thee, but as a trial for men,- as also the Cursed Tree (mentioned) in the Qur'an: We put terror (and warning) into them, but it only increases their inordinate transgression. 17/60”
[223] Ibn `Abd al-Rabb al-Qurtubiy: Jāmi`u Bayān al-`Ilm wa-Fadlih(i) 11:7; al-Hakīm al-Nīsāpūriy: al-Mustadrak `Alā’l-Sahīhayn 3:305; al-Suyūtiy: al-Durr al-Manthūr 3:269; al-Tha`labiy: al-Kashf wa’l-Bayān 5:183 (with a further addition); Ibn Jinnī: al-Muhtasib 1:300. Later on in this book, many narrations regarding finding faults with `Umar ibn al-Khattāb will be cited.
[224] Sahīh al-Bukhāriy 2:707 H. 1906; Sahīh ibn Khuzaymah 2:155 H. 1100; al-Bayhaqiy: al-Sunan al-Sughrā 1:481 H. 847; al-Bayhaqiy: al-Sunan al-Kubrā 2:493 H. 4379.
[225] Sharh Ma`ānī al-Akhbār 2:146; Sa`īd ibn Mansūr: Kitāb al-Sunan 1:352 H. 852; Ibn `Abd al-Barr: al-Tamhīd 8:355, 10:113, 23:365; Ibn Hazm: al-Muhallā 7:107; al-Dhahbiy: Tadhkirat al-Huffādh 1:366; al-Jassās:Ahkām al-Qur'ān 2:153.

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