It is not possible for us to give all the details of the critical sciences developed by the scholars of hadith. What we have stated in this chapter is only a simple example of the works undertaken by them. It can, however, help one to imagine the altitude of their academic and scientific efforts and to satisfy oneself that the task of ‘preservation of hadith’ has been performed by this Ummah with such diligence, precaution and sense of responsibility that one cannot find its parallel in the history of any other community. It was through these efforts that the divine promise of the preservation of the Holy Quran, with all its letters and meanings, was duly fulfilled.
The last, and very important, scrutiny is accompanied by the general analysis of a tradition. In this scrutiny the tradition is analyzed in the light of other relevant material available on the subject. The tradition is examined from different angles: whether the reported saying or event is at all possible; whether the reported event conforms to the established historical events; whether its text can be held as truly attributed to the Holy Prophet (SAWS); whether the chain of narrators is genuine etc.
Sometimes a tradition is reported by several narrators. All these reports about the same saying or event are said to be the “turuq” (different ways) of that tradition. While scrutinizing a tradition, the scholars undertake a combined study of all its “ways”. If it is found that the majority of the reliable reporters narrate the hadith in a particular way, but one of them reports it in a version substantially different from that of the others, his report is held to be a “Shadh” (rare) version. In such case, despite the reliability of the reporter, his version is not accepted as a “Sahih” (correct) one, and no trust is placed on it unless it is confirmed and supported by any internal or external evidence.
It is well-known that no report, in the science of hadith, is accepted unless it gives the full chain of narrators upto the Holy Prophet (SAWS). Each narrator from this chain is first scrutinized on the touch-stone of his credibility as discussed above. But even if all the narrators of a chain are found to be reliable, it is not enough to hold the tradition as authentic. It must be proved that the chain is constant and no narrator has been missed in between. If it is found that some narrator has been missed at any stage, the tradition is held to be unreliable. To ensure the constancy of the chain, it is necessary to know about each narrator whether it is possible for him historically to meet the person from whom he claims to hear the tradition.
The first and foremost test of the correctness of a hadith relates to the credibility of its narrators. This scrutiny is carried out on two scores: firstly, examination of the integrity and honesty of a narrator, and secondly, examination of his memory power.
Although the task of preserving of Ahadith through all the four ways mentioned earlier including compilations in written form, has been performed with due diligence throughout the first four centuries of Islamic history, yet it does not mean that all the traditions narrated or compiled in this period have been held as true and reliable.
The basic characteristic of the books written in the second century is that a large number of them were arranged subject wise, while the books of the first century were not. However, compilations without due arrangement continued in this century too. The list of books compiled in this period is very long. Few prominent books are referred to here.
1. Book of Abdul Malik ibn Juraij (d.150 A.H.)
2. Muwatta, of Malik ibn Anas (93-179 A.H.)
3. Muwatta, of Ibn Abi Zi’b (80-158 A.H.)
4. Maghazi of Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d.151 A.H.)
We present here a list of hadith works written by the Tabi’in in the first and second centuries. In the first century the following books of hadith were compiled by the Tabi’in.
1. Book of Khalid ibn Ma’dan (d.104 AH)
2. Books of Abu Qilabah (d.104). He bequeathed his books to his pupil, Ayyub Saktiyani (68-131 A.H.), who paid nore than ten Dirhams as a fare for them being loaded on a camel.
3. The script of Hammam ibn Munabbih, already referred to.
4. Books of Hasan al Basri(21-110 A.H.)
The history of the compilation of Ahadith after the companions is even more vast and detailed. Each companion who narrated the Ahadith had a large number of pupils who compiled what they heard from him. The pupils of the companions are called ‘Tabi’in’.
The compilations of the Tabi’in were generally not arranged subject wise, though some of them have arranged the Ahadith under subjective headings. The first known book of hadith which is so arranged is ‘Al-abwab of Imam Sha’bi (b.19 A.H.D.103A.H.). This book was divided into various chapters. Each chapter contained the Ahadith relating to the same subject like Salah, Zakah etc.
Abdullah ibn’ Abbas was the cousin of the Holy Prophet (SAWS). When the Holy Prophet (SAWS) passed away, he was yet very young. In order to preserve Ahadith, he began to compile what he himself heard from the Holy Prophet (SAWS) as well as those narrated by other companions. Whenever he came to know of any companion having some Ahadith, he would travel to him to hear them. All such Ahadith were compiled by him in several scripts. These scripts numbered so many that they could be loaded on a camel. These scripts remained with his pupil Kuraib. Musa ibn’ Uqbah, the famous historian says: