Chapter 3, Hadith & Seerah, The Authority of Sunnah / Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

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.

This proves that the first book of Ahadith arranged in a regular manner appeared in the very first century. Another book was written by Hasan Al Basri (d.1 10) in which he compiled Ahadith containing any explanations or commentaries of the Holy Quran. This was also a regular book written on a particular subject which appeared in the first century.

In the era of the Tabi’in the compilation of Ahadith was undertaken officially by the famous khalifah, ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (99-101 A.H.). He issued an official order to all governors under his domain that they should gather the knowledgeable persons from among the companions of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) and their pupils and write down the Ahadith found with them (Fath-ul-Bari).

The result of this official decree was that several books of Ahadith were prepared and spread all over the country. Ibn Shihab Al Zuhri was one of the pioneers of the compilation of hadith in this period. He has written a number of books.

All these books and scripts written in this period were afterwards included in the larger books of hadith written later on, as is usual in the evolution of every science. The separate entity of these books and scripts, being uncalled for, was not much attended to. Thus, the larger books written in the second and third centuries gradually took their place, and being more comprehensive, detailed and sufficient, they were so widely spread and studied that the books of the Tabi’in no longer remained on the scene.

However, some manuscripts of these books were preserved. Later books were compared and confirmed by such preserved manuscripts.

One of the books written in the days of the Tabi’in was the script of Hammam ibn Munabbih, a pupil of Abu Hurairah who prepared a book containing Ahadith he heard from Abu Huraira (RA).This book is also known as “Al-Sahfah al Sahihah”. All the Ahadith of this book were included in later compilations. The full text of it is also found in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed. The original script of this book was thus not attended to and was lost for a considerable time.

In 1373 A.H. (i.e. 1954 A.D.) two manuscripts of this book were discovered in the libraries of Berlin and Damascus, and were published by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah with a detailed introduction.

Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah edited these manuscripts which were written centuries ago. He has also compared their text with the one narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed. He could not find any material difference between the two texts. There are few very minor differences of negligible words which always exist between two manuscripts of the same book.

It proves that the books of the Tabi’in were included and were thus made part of the later books of hadith, with all necessary precautions by which they can safely be relied upon.

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