Lecture for 1st year medical students on 3rd November 2000 by professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.


1.0 SCIENCES OF THE QUR’AN, uluum al Qur’an

A. Description Of The Qur'an

B. Definition And Classification Of Qur'anic Sciences

C. 'Ilm Tafsir Al Qur'an

D. Classification Of Ilm Al Tafsir

E. Other Aspects Of Tafsir


2.0 SCIENCES OF HADITH, ‘uluum al hadith

A. Description Of Hadith

B. Transmission And Collection Of Hadith

C. Description Of Sunnat

D. Hadith Sciences

E. The Criteria For Accepting A Report, Khabar:



A. Definition

B. Importance

C. Sources

D. Main Authors And Their Books: Ancient Period

E. Main Authors And Their Books: Modern Period


4.0 SCIENCES OF THEOLOGY, 'uluum usul al ddiin)

A. Definition

B. History

C. Main Scholars Of Usul Al Ddiin

D. Main Issues Of Usul Al Ddiin

E. Contemporary Situation


5.0 SCIENCES OF THE LAW & ITS FUNDAMENTALS, uluum al fiqh wa usulihi

Fiqh, The Academic Study Of The Law

B. Schools Of Fiqh:  

C. Usul Al Fiqh

D. Ijtihad

E. Contemporary Challenges

1.0 SCIENCES OF THE QUR’AN, uluum al Qur’an



The Qur'an is technically defined as 'Allah’s words revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) in the Arabic language, transmitted to us in continuity, written in the mashaf, whose recitation is worship, commencing with surat al fatihat and ends with surat al nas (‘kalaam al llaah al munazzal ala sayyidina Muhammad (SAW) bi al lafdh al ‘arabi al manquul ilaina bi al tawaatir al maktuub bi al masahif al muta’abbadu bi tilaawatihi al mu’ujiz bi aqsar surat minhu al mabdu bi surat al fatihat al makhtuum bi surat al naas).



The Qur’an is a book that emphasizes deed. The Qur’an is a practical work-plan and a guide for the individual, the family and the society. Each verse has practical implications. Verses on historical events are in the Qur’an for the instruction of the living and not just providing historical information. Verses of legal rulings, ayat al ahkam, regulate the daily lives of individuals and communities. Many verses deal with the universe, ayat kawniyyat, and are a basis for developments in science and technology. Other verses are for moral guidance or teaching the upright aqidat.


RATIONAL APPROACH, al istidlaal al aqli

The Qur’an uses rational approaches that are akin to scientific enquiry. The Qur'an uses the following tools that are also used in rational or empirical sciences: similarity, tashabuhu & imtithaal, specialization, tajzi’at, generalization and particularization, ta’amiim & takhsiis, definition, ta’areef, apposition, muqabalat, examples and similitudes, amthaal, stories, qisas, argument and debate, jadal & munadharat, and induction, istiqra.



The Qur'an is a miracle (p. 925 2:23-24, 10:38, 11:1, 11:13-14, 16:101, 17:88, 25:5, 28:48-50, 29:48, 52:33-34). The Qur’an is an intellectual, scientific and linguistic miracle. Deep study reveals to an open and incisive mind that this is not a product of the human mind. It defies and challenges human intellect. The Qur’an will continue as a standing miracle and challenge down the centuries to the last day.



The Qur’an was revealed in bits and pieces, nuzuul al Qur’an munajjaman (KS436: Bukhari K66 B6; p. 932 17:106, 25:32). The great wisdom behind this was to make sure that the first Muslims learned the teachings of the Qur’an in a practical context so that their understanding of the message would be perfect and thus ensure correct transmission to the later generations. Each verse was therefore revealed to coincide with an occasion to which it was related.



During the life of the prophet: The companions of the prophet learned the Qur’an by heart. People in that simple society were largely illiterate had good memory because their minds were not crowded with other extraneous information as is found in more complex societies. Some companions who were literate wrote the Qur’an down. The prophet had official scribes who wrote down every verse as soon as it was revealed, kaifa kaana al nabiyy yumli al Qur’an (KS436: Bukhari K65 S4 B18; Bukhari K66 B2, 3; Bukhari K93 B37; Tirmidhi K44 S4 H19; Ibn Sa’ad J3 Q2 P50; Ahmad 3:120, 245; Ahmad 4:381). They also noted its location by chapter and position in the chapter, kaifa kaan al nabiyy ya amur bi tartiib al suwar wa al ayaat (KS430: Abudaud K2 B121, Ahmad 1:57, 67; Ahmad 4:218). Writing of hadith at the time of the prophet was discouraged for fear of confusion with the Qur’an, kitaabat al Qur’an wa ‘adam kitaabat al hadiith (KS437: Darimi Intr B41). The prophet recited the Qur’an often so that the companions could learn and remember. He used to sit down on occasions and listen to their recitation to make sure they were reciting correctly. Jibril used to come to earth once a year to review the entire Qur'an with the prophet. In the year of his death, Jibril came twice.


In the era of the rightly guided khilafat: Abubakr collected all writings of the Qur’an that had been made at the time of the prophet and kept them safely. It was the third Khalifah Othman bin Affan who undertook the major task of collating all the existent writings into one standard volume written in the Quraishi dialect. This volume known as mushaf Othmani is what is read today throughout the Muslim world. The original style of writing has been preserved as much as possible and it differs from that of modern Arabic in some details.


Subsequent historical eras: The earliest mushafs were written without dots on letters which could cause confusion between some letters like ‘b’ and ‘t’; it was Yusuf bin al Hajjaj al Thaqafi who introduced the dots. The Qur’an unlike common Arabic text has vowels to make sure there are no mistakes in reading. The vowels were not written at the beginning but when many non-native speakers of Arabic started entered Islam and started reading the Qur'an, vowels were introduced. There are also many marks and instructions that guide the reader.


Modern era: technological developments have introduced new and effective methods of recording and transmitting Qur'anic text. The Qur'an can be recorded on audio and videotapes. It has also been put in the computer.


Memorization of the Qur'an. hifdh al Qur'an: In addition to the written mushaf there are thousands of Muslims who have learned the Qur’an by heart and this will continue until the last day, yawm al qiyamat. Throughout history, Muslims have valued the learning of the Qur'an by heart. Specialized institutions teach hifdh al Qur'an from the earliest ages. All Islamic education involves starting with memorization of at least some of the Qur'an. In its heydays, Azhar University admitted only those students who had memorized the Qur'an. Both scholars and non-scholars memorized the Qur'an. A lot of respect is accorded those who know the entire Qur'an by heart.


Preservation of the Qur'an: The Qur’an enjoys the distinction among all revelations of being the only scripture that has been preserved in its original form and has been transmitted in an unbroken chain by a large number of people, manqul bi al tawatir, until the present day



Recitation of the Qur’an is a form of worship, tilawat al Qur’an ‘ibadat (p 927 17:78-79) and has its own etiquette, adab al tilawat (p 929). The prophet read the Qur’an in 7 different ways, qira’at al Qur’an ‘ala al ahruf al sab’a. All are valid and have been preserved. They differ in the enunciation of some letters and words. Some types of recitation have become common in some countries for example the recitation by Warsh is common in the maghreb countries. The Qur’an can be recited as tartiil or as tajwid.. The former is straightforward whereas the latter involves using a more pleasant voice. There are special rules for tajwid, ahkam al tajwid..



Proper understanding and interpretation of a verse requires knowing the circumstances of its revelation. The Qur’an was revealed in a dynamically changing society. The verses revealed related to events actually taking place. Thus the present order of the verses is different from the chronological order in which they were revealed. Arranging the verses in their chronological order is like writing the history of the Islamic dawa during the 23 years during which the Qur’an was revealed.



Chapters: The Qur’an is divided into 114 chapters each called a surat. The first surat is al Fatihat also called the opening or mother of the book. The remaining surats are arranged in roughly a descending order on the basis of their length. Surat al Baqarat is the longest surat and it follows surat al fatiha. The last surat, al nas, is one of the shortest. Each surat starts with the basmalah except surat al baraa.


Other divisions of the Qur'an: The Qur’an is sub-divided for purposes of recitation, tahziib al Qur’an li al tilawat (KS444: Abudaud K6 B8, Ibn Majah K5 B178, Ahmad 4:9, 343; Tayalisi 1108). The Qur'an is divided into 30 parts each called juz u. Their demarcations do not coincide with those of surats. Each juz'u is divided into 2 sections each called hizb. Each hizb is divided into quarters, rub'u; and eighths, thumun. The sub-division into juz'u, hizb, rub'u, and thumun is based on the number of letters.


Madanese and Makkan chapters: The verses and chapters revealed in Makka differ in many ways from those revealed in Madina. This reflects the historical experiences. Muslims in Makka were weak and their main concern was to call others to the din, to preserve and strengthen their aqidat. Muslims in Madina were strong and were building a state. The Makkan verses are short, poetic, and powerful. They deal mostly with issues of aqidat. Verses revealed in Madina are longer and deal with details of societal organisation.




Qur’anic sciences deal with general matters relating to the revelation, arrangement, collection, writing, recitation, interpretation, miracles, and abrogation of the Qur’an, al mabaahith al kulliyat allati tata’allaqu bi al Qur’an al karim min nahiyat nuzuulihi, wa tartibihi, wa jamuhu, wa kitaabatuhu, wa qiraatuhu, wa tafsiiruhu, wa ijazuhu, wa nasikhuhu wa mansuukhukhu.



Qur'anic sciences are interrelated and share the characteristic of being methodological in approach. The following are the major ones:

Interpretation, ‘ilm tafsir al Qur’an

Circumstances of revelation, ‘ilm asbaab al nuzuul

Miracles of the Qur’an, ‘ilm i’ijaz al Qur’an

Abrogating and abrogated verses in the Qur’an, ‘ilm naasikh al Qur’an wa mansuukhuhu

Legal rulings in the Qur’an, ‘ilm ahkaam al Qur’an,

Excellence of the Qur’an, ‘ilm fadhail al Qur’an

Elucidating the complex in the Qur’an, ‘ilm ta’wiil mushkil al Qur’an,

Clear and allegorical verses in the Qur’an, ‘ilm al muhkam wa al mutashhabih

History of the writing of the Qur’an, ‘ilm taarikh al Qur’an wa tadwwinuhu wa naskhihi wa kuttabihi wa rasmihi

Grammar of the Qur’an, ‘ilm i’iraab al Qur’an

Different recitations of the Qur’an, ‘ilm al Qira’aat




'Ilm tafsir al Qur'an was defined by Zarkashi as the science that deals with elucidating the indication intended by Allah in the Qur’an to the best of human capacity, ‘ilm yubhathu fiihi ‘an ahwaal al Qur’an al Majeed min haithu dalaalatihi ‘ala muraad al llah ta’ala bi qadr al taqat al bashariyyat. ‘Ilm tafsir al Qur’an is the most important of the ‘uluum al Qur’an. It has a basis in the Qur’an (Sad: 29, nisa: 82). The major issue in tafsir is to reconcile the holiness of the text with the humanness of the mufassir. The mufassir, being human, has limitations and weaknesses and may make mistakes in the interpretation of the text. Extreme care must be taken in the interpretation of the Qur’an. It is prohibited to say anything about the Qur’an without specific knowledge, al nahyu ‘an al qawl fi al Qur’an bi ghayr ‘ilm (KS436: Abudaud K20 B5; Ahmad 1:269, 4:155).



The tafsir of clear verses, ayat muhakamat, is easier and more straightforward than that of allegorical verses, ayat mutashabihat.  A clear verse, ayat muhakkamat, is defined as one whose literal meaning is the same as the actual meaning; is clear; and is not possibly abrogated, ‘al dalaalat al dhaahiru alladhi la yatahammalu al naskh’ (p 55 3:7, 11:1, 22:52). The allegorical verse is defined as one whose actual meaning can not be elucidated from its literal meaning and can not be understood if it stands by itself without interpretation, ma lam yutalaqqa ma’anhu min lafdhihi, wa la yastaqillu bi nafsihi bal yahtaaju ila bayaan’.



The evolution of tafsir went through many stages: The Prophet’s tafsir was to explain the details and explain the meaning. A major portion of tafsir was through the actions of the prophet because his life was a reflection of the Qur’an in practice, kaana khulquhu al Qur’an. The tafsir of the companions, sahabat, was either transmitted from the prophet, naqli,  or was based on their own judgment, ijtihadi. The most famous mufassiriin among the companions were according to al Suyuti: Abubakr, Omar, Othman, Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abbaas, Ubayy bin Ka’ab, Zayd bin Thabit, Abu Musa al Ash’ari, and Abdullah bin al Zubayr (Hadidi 1983). The discipline of tafsir grew when differences started to appear and there was a need to look for solutions to the problems that arose in the community. Tafsir remains a dynamic and growing discipline to our day because the Qur’an is a continuing challenge and every generation understands it in its own way.



There are 2 primary sources of tafsir: the Qur’an and the sunnat. The Qur’an explains itself. Sunnat explains the Qur’an. Ijtihad and inference, istinbaat, are additional sources of tafsir.

The Qur’an can explain itself because of its internal unity such that one part can elaborate and not contradict another. Methods of the Qur’an interpreting itself, tafsir al Qur’an bi al Qur’an, include:  a detailed verse interpreting a brief concise verse, sharh al mujaz bi al mubassat;  an open-ended verse being interpreted by a restrictive one, sharh al mutlaq bi al muqayyad; the general being interpreted by the specific, sharh al aam bi al mukhassas; reconciling what are apparently different assertions, al jamu bayn ma yatawahhamu annahu mukhtalif) (Hadid 1983).


Methods the sunnat interpreting the Qur’an, tafsir al Qur’an bi al sunnat, include: explaining the general; clarifying the complicated, mushkil, making the general particular, restricting the open-ended, mutlaq; explaining terminology, lafdh;  explaining abrogation, naskh;  and emphasizing Qur’anic legal rulings, hukm. (Hadid 1983).



The science of linguistics, ‘ilm al lugha wa al nahawu wa al saraf

Science of Qur’anic readings, ilm al qiraat

Theology, ‘ilm usul al ddiin

Science of the principles of jurisprudence, ilm usul al fiqh

Science of the occasions of revelation, ‘ilm asbaab al nuzuul

Others: There are disciplines not yet described today that will push ‘ilm al tafsir to new heights of achievement in the future.



Each mufassir uses a different methodology. It is worth studying the methodology before reading the tafsir. Famous mufassirin like Ibn Abbas and Abu Jarir al Tabari had each a different approach.


Tafsir Ibn Abbas: The methodology of Ibn Abbas, the father of tafsir, included: use of sabab al nuzuul (occasion, time, and place), identifying the abrogating, naasikh,  and abrogated, mansuukh,  verses, use of poetry to understand meanings of Arabic words and expressions, using the Qur’an to interpreter itself, tafsir al Qur’an bi al Qur’an, and considering the personal and human dimension. 


Tafsir al Tabari: Al Tabari’s tafsir methodology included: using precedence, tafsir bi al mathuur;  interpreting stories using evidence, tafsir al qisas bi al hujjat;  refusal of rationalist interpretation, rafdh al tafsir bi al ray; literal interpretation of the text, tafsir al nass dhahiriyat; and use of linguistic tools.




by approach: linguistic, literal

by source: Qur’an, sunnat, ijtihad, istiqra, isitinbat

by method: precedence, tafsir bi al mathur,  tafsir bi al ra’ay

by subject matter, tafsir mawdhu’i

by terms and words, tafsir bi al alfadh & al kalimaat;

by jurisprudence, tafsir fiqhi

by the sufi approach, tafsir sufi

by the philosophical approach, tafsir falsafi

by the scientific methods, tafsir ‘ilmi

by linguistics,  tafsir lughawi

by methods of literature, tafsir adabi

by methods of social sciences, tafsir ijtimae

by empirical methods, tafsir tajriibi

sectarian, tafsir aqdi,  such as sunnite or shiite.



Tafsir bi al mathuur refers to explanations that are from the Qur’an, the sunnat, the companions and the followers. The three most important authors of this method were: Muhammad bin Jariir bin Yaziid bin Kathir Abu Ja’afar al Tabari (224 - 310 AH), Ismail bin Omar bin Kathiir al Qurashi al Basrawi al Dimashqi (701 - 774 AH), and Abd al Rahman bin Abi Bakr bin Muhamad bin Sabiq al Ddiin al Khudhairi al Suyuuti (849 - 911 AH).



Tafsir based on human reason can be praiseworthy, mahmuud, or blameworthy, madhmuum. The praiseworthy uses opinion guided by valid general principles from the Qur’an and sunnat. The blameworthy is based purely on rational reasoning and could lead to wrong conclusions. The main field of tafsir bi al ra’ay are the allegorical verses. Tafsir bi al ra’ay has been controversial throughout the ages because of its use reason and rationality. Ibn Taymiyyat considered tafsir bi al ra’ay forbidden, haraam. There are supporters and opponents of tafsir bi al ra’ay in the ancient and modern periods. The balanced view is that use of reason or rationality within limits is not bad. The general principles and fundamentals of the creed, aqidat, and the purposes of the law, maqasid al shariat, should define these limits.



Definition: Tafsir ‘ilmi is empirical and scientific; it related to empirical sciences, uluum kawniyyat, and the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, ijaz al Qur’an. The main assertion of tafsir ilmi is that there is no contradiction between science and the Qur’an. Tafsir ilmi is defined as the intellectual effort of the interpreter to discover the link between the verses of the Holy Qur’an dealing with the empirical world on one hand and the discoveries of empirical science on the other hand such that the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is exposed; this proves that the Qur’an is indeed a word of Allah and is suitable for every place and every time, Ijtihad al mufassir fi kashf al silat bayn ayaat al Qur’an al kareem al kawniyyat wa muktashafaat al ilm al tajriibi ala wajh yadh’hiru bi ijaz li al Qur’an yadullu ala masdarihi wa salahiyatihi li kulli zamaan wa makaan (Rumi pt 3, p 549, 1987).


Examples of tafsir ilmi are: finding scientific explanations for Qur’anic verses on creation of everything from water, prohibition of coitus during menstruation, haidh; and exemption from salat and saum during menstruation.


Controversies: In both ancient and modern times tafsir ‘ilmi has had proponents and opponents. Ancient supporters of tafsir ‘ilmi: al Ghazzali (d. 505 AH), al Fakhr al Razi (d. 606 AH), al Zarkashi (d. 794 AH), Ibn Abi Fadl al Mursi, and al Suyuti (d. 911 AH). Ancient opponents of tafsir ‘ilmi: al Shatibi (d. 790), and Ibn Hayyaan al Andalusi (d. 745 AH). Modern supporters of tafsir ‘ilmi are: Abd Rahman al Kawakibi in tabaiu al istibdaad wa masariu al istibaad, Muhammad Abduh, Abd al Hamid bin Badees in tafsir Ibn Badees - majalis al tadhakkur min kalaam al hakiim al khabiir, Muhammad Mutawalli Sha’araawi, Hasan al Banna, al Tantawi in al jawahor fi tafsir al Qur’an al karim, Abdul Aziz Ismail in al islam wa al tibb al hadith, Hanafi Ahmad in: al tafsiir al ilmi li al ayaat al kawniyyat fi al Qur’an, Muhammad Bakhiit al Mutie in: tanbiihu al ‘uquul al insaniyyat lima fi ayat al Qur’an min al ‘uluum al kawniyyat, Mustafa Maraghi, Muhammad Abdullah Darraaz in: madkhal ila al Qur’an al kareem, Wahidu al Ddiin Khan in: al Islam yatahadda, Mustafa Sadiq al  Rafie in: ‘ijaz al Qur’an wa al balaghat al nabawiyyat, Muhammad Ahmad al Ghamrawi, Muhammad Jamaluddin al Fandi in al Qur’an wa al ‘ilm,  and  Muhammad al Tahir bin Ashour in al Tahriir wa al tanwiir. Modern opposes of tafsir ‘ilmi: Mahmud Shaltuut, Amin al Kholi, Abbas al Aqaad, Syed Qutb, Muhammad Rashid Ridha, Abbas Mahmoud al Akkad, Muhammad Izzat, Muhammad Abd al Rahiim al Zarqani (in: manahil al irfaan fi uluum al Qur’an).




The concept of ta’awil can be used in a positive sense or in a negative one. In the positive sense it is similar to tafsir but there are technical differences that experts can explain. In a negative sense it can be used to refer to attempts to interpret the holy text to support pre-conceived views or personal or parochial interests. The Qur’an condemned this type of ta’awil (p 221 3:7).



The concept of abrogation, naskh,  has already been discussed at length before in the unit on methodology.



Some mufassirin have borrowed from judaic folklore to provide details about some Qur’anic stories. This reflects misunderstanding of the purposes of the Qur’an. The stories told by the Qur’an are for moral teaching of the living; they have no historical value since the Qur’an is not a textbook of history. The Qur’an therefore did not tell all the details of each story and the prophet did likewise not feel the need to do so. Recourse to israiliyaat is an attempt to get the historical details complete, which is unnecessary.



Indexation of the Qur’an: All down the centuries students of the Qur’an have always wanted to index it so that it is easier to look for verses relevant to a certain subject or topic. Several indices were published and more will continue to be published. Since the Qur’an is a living miracle, new developments in knowledge always lead to new insights in its interpretation. It is therefore inevitable that the indices are reviewed regularly.

The index can be based on words, al mu'ujam al mufahras liu alfaadh al Qur'an. It can also be based on meanings, al mu'ujam al mufahras li ma'aani al Qur'an..


2.0 SCIENCES OF HADITH, ‘uluum al hadith



Hadith can be words of the prophets, qawl al rasul, actions, fi’ilu al rasul, or tacit approval, iqrar, of actions performed in front of him or which he knew about and he did not indicate disapproval. Hadith also embraces the words and actions of the companions of the prophet and the general events and phenomena that occurred during the period of prophet hood, ‘ahd al risalat, and the era immediately after it. 



A hadith consists of 2 main parts: the chain of transmitters, sanad, and the text, matn.



Hadith methodology is derived from the Qur’an. What has been discussed previously about Qur’anic methodology applies to hadith as well.



Hadith can be classified by sanad, number of narrators, or grade of authenticity. There is no unanimity of classification among hadith scholars but the differences are relatively minor. Hadith can be classified according to sanad as: muttasil, munqatiu, mursal, mu’udhal, mudlas, mawquuf, marfuu’. Each of these terms has a technical definition used by hadith scholars that will be explained later. Hadith can be classified according to number of narrators as: famous, mashhur, reported by an overwhelming number of narrators, mutawatir, or reported by a single narrator, hadith al ahad.. The number of narrators reporting the same hadith indicates authenticity. It is most unlikely that a large number of people who do not live together can concur in error. Hadith reported by a single narrator, hadith al ahad, should always be suspected and should never be accepted in fundamental matters like aqidat. A hadith can be classified by grade as: authentic, sahih; good, hasan; weak, dhaif; strange, shaadh, ie different from others in text and chain of transmission; faulty, mu’allal, ie has a hidden reason for not being sahih even if it is apparently correct.


Hadith nabawi is part of unrecitable revelation, wahy ghair matlu’. The content and meaning are from Allah (SWT) but unlike the Qur’an, the sentence structure, language and words used are from the prophet (PBUH). Unlike the Qur’an the reporting of hadith from the prophet by the companions and the followers was partly by meaning (paraphrasing); in some cases it is not the exact words or linguistic expressions that the prophet used.


Hadith qudsi is similar to the Qur’an in that the language and words are directly from Allah (SWT) and all the prophet did was to convey them. There are very few hadith qudsi.




Hadith scholars are very particular about the method of transmission to ensure accuracy. The reporter can listen to the Sheikh reading the hadith, qiraat al Sheikh alayhi. The reporter can read a hadith to the Sheikh who either approves by saying yes or just keeps quiet signifying consent, an yaqra ala al sheikh fayaqulu na’am aw yaskut. The sheikh can after a period of teaching give the reporter a written or oral authorisation to report hadith from the sheikh, al ijaazat. The sheikh can give a written document to the reporter and tell him to report its contents, al munawalat: khudh hadha al kitaab fa a’rwiihi anni. The reporter can report a hadith by meaning or can use the exact words he heard. The following words are used in hadith reporting: haddathana, akhbarana, anba’ana.



Both Qur’an and hadith are revelations. The former is recitable revelation, wahy matluw, and the latter is non-recitable revelation, wahy ghair matluw. The Qur’an is direct speech of Allah. The meaning of the hadith is from Allah but the words are those of the prophet (PBUH). In some hadiths the meaning is from the prophet but the words are those of the narrators. Hadiths, unlike Qur’an, were not all transmitted as in continuity and by many people, mutawaatir.



The number of hadith reported from different companions varies; some reported heavily, some reported only a few whereas some have no hadith reported from them at all. The older companions who died earlier reported fewer hadith; this is because they died before great interest in reporting hadith arose. Those who stayed close to the prophet all the time like Abu Hurairat and Ibn Abbas reported more hadith than others.



Hadith was not written down during the era of the prophet (PBUH) and the 4 companions. Reporting of hadith was limited. The few documented hadiths at the time of the prophet and the 4 rightly guided khulafa were the exception and not the rule. Writing of hadith was actively discouraged because it was feared that hadith and Qur'an would be confused. Omar Ibn Abd al Aziz was the first to order systematic collection and the writing of hadith (Sadi 1408 AH, p 67). Systematic efforts of hadith collection became necessary during the great fitna due to death of many narrators and the appearance of hadith fabrication to justify partisan stands. Most of hadith collection was in the era of the followers of the followers, tabiu al tabiin. That is why most hadith narration chains include a follower who heard the hadith from the companion.



The collectors of hadith each developed a methodology. Those with the most rigorous methodology have the most authoritative collections. However too rigorous criteria for hadith acceptance left out many authentic hadiths that other collectors with less rigorous criteria have preserved for us. The methodology of Imaam Malik in al muwatta was characterised by the following: reliance only on trusted narrators, use of mubalaghaat (using the formula the ‘report reached us’ ablaghana), use of mursalaat (     ), use of athaar that stopped at tabiin and tabiu al tabiin, and mixing  hadith with fiqh al hadith. The method of Bukhari in his sahih was very rigorous. He searched widely for hadith and accepted only the most authentic. He accepted only 4000 hadiths (with repetitions) and  2761 hadith (with no repetition) out of 600,000 hadiths initially collected. He reported one hadith using several chains of transmitters as further proof of authenticity. Muslim was a student of Bukhari and adopted much of the former’s methodology. He recorded 4000 hadiths (with no repetitions) selected from 300,000 initially collected. Abudaud collected 4800 hadiths.



The most important hadith collections are indicated below in chronological order by date of death of the author:

Malik (d. 179 H): al Muwatta;

Ahmad (d. 241 AH): Musnad Ahmad;

al Daarimi (d. 255 AH): Sunan al Daarimi;

al Bukhari (d. 256 H): Sahiih al Bukhari

Muslim (d. 261 H): Sahiih Muslim-

Ibn Majah (d. 273 AH): Sunan Ibn Majah;

Abu Daud (d. 275 H): Sunan Abu Daud  4800 hadiths;

al Tarmidhi (d. 279H  ); al Jamiu al Sahiih;

Al Nisae (d. 303 H): Sunan al Nisae;

al Tabrani (d. 360 AH): al Mu’jam al kabiir;

Al Hakim (d. 405 AH): al Mustadrak;

al Bayhaqi (d. 458 AH): al Sunan al Kubra;

al Mundhiri (d. 656 AH): al Targhiib wa al Tarhiib;

al Nawawi (d. 767 AH): Riyaadh al Saalihiin;

al Haythami (d. 807 AH): Majmau al Zawaid;

al Suyuuti (d. 911 AH): al Jamiu al Kabiir;

Ibn Abi Shaybat (d.   ): Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybat;

Ibn al Athiir (d.  ); Jamiu al Usuul;

Some were primary collectors like Bukhari and Muslim. Some of the later collectors like Imam al Nawawi put together their collections from hadiths already reported in the primary collections.




Sunnat is a type of hadith but is restricted to words, actions, and tacit approval of the prophet (PBUH) from the start of the revelation to his death, ma sadara ani al rasuuli min qawli, aw fi’ili, aw iqrar min mabdai al wahy hatta wafaatihi. There is a difference between sunnat that is a basis for law, sunnat tashriyat, and that, which is not, sunnat ghair tashri'iyat. The former is part of revelation and is legally binding. The latter is not legally binding on all people all the time. It is however recommended to follow sunnat ghair tashri'iyat as much as practicable because all what the prophet did or said is guidance to the good and the moral. Another reason for following sunnat ghair tashri'iyat is that the demarcation from sunnat tashrei may not be clear and it is better to err on the right than or the wrong.



The term hadith has a wider scope that the term sunnat. Hadith includes even rulings that were abrogated. It embraces the prophet's personal human attributes (sifaat khilqiyyat), food habits, food preferences,  health conditions, illness,  and medical treatment.


SUNNAT AS A SOURCE OF LAW, hujjiyat al sunnat:  The sunnat is the second most important source of legislation in Islam coming only next to the Qur’an. Direct proof of this is found in the Qur'an. A similar conclusion can be reached by considering that the words and actions of the prophet PBUH) were needed to interpret the Qur’an. That was the purpose for sending a human messenger. As discussed before Allah had the power to reveal His message to humans in some other way.


D. HADITH SCIENCES, ‘uluum al hadith


al Suyuuti defined ‘ilm al hadith as the science of the principles by which the status of the chain of transmitters, sanad, and the text, matn, are ascertained, ;ilm bi qawannin yu’urafu biha ahwaal al sanad wa al matn’. The main aim of hadith sciences is to make sure that transmission of information, naql, is correct.



‘Uluum al hadith are classified into 2 broad categories: sciences of transmission of hadith, ‘uluum riwayat al hadith, and sciences of understanding hadith, uluum dirayat al hadith. There are many sub-disciplines under each of the 2 categories above. The science of critique of hadith, ‘ilm naqd al hadith, Involves critiquing the internal structure of the hadith and its meaning. The hadith can be critiqued as text, matn, or chain of transmission, sanad. Critique of text, matn, involves identifying defects, ‘illat, establishing if the text is different from the report of other trustworthy narrators, and finding problems in the text itself such as logical inconsistencies. Hadith scholars have over the centuries developed criteria that can enable them distinguish an authentic from an unauthentic hadith or to grade it. In order to deal with false positive and false negative, criteria are set in such a way that it is easier to reject a true hadith than accept a false one. These same criteria are employed to grade a particular hadith text according to degree of its authenticity. The criteria for accepting a hadith are more stringent than laws of evidence in court.



Criteria used in relation to any report fall under three categories: personal integrity of the narrator, ‘adaalat al raawi; mental and intellectual capacity of the narrator, dhabt al rraawi; and the integrity of the chain of transmitters, ittisal al sanad. A narrator must fulfil the following conditions of personal integrity, ‘adaalat. He or she must be a Muslim, adult, not a sinner, fasiq, and has social respectability, muru’at. This personal integrity can be nullified by: disbelief, kufr, minority report, sinning, fisq, innovations in religion, bid’a, lying in ordinary conversation, getting reward from reporting hadiths, fanaticism about a madhhab or a sect. Mental and intellectual integrity is assessed by the following attributes: good memory, being careful, no experiencing of illusions, and not reporting what is radically different from the trustworthy reporters.


Go to Part II

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. November 2000