Were there fabricated traditions in circulation?
How did the companions and the following generation treat them?
Traditionists picked out fabricated Traditions in many ways. One of those
ways was the confession of fabricators. It frequently happened that those
following deviant sects were guided to truth and acknowledged the Traditions
they had fabricated.
Secondly, Traditionists were extremely sensitive to lying. They did not
receive a Tradition from one who told even a single lie during his life.
Besides truthfulness, they also stipulated that a narrator should have a
keen memory and be very careful in practicing Islam. Also, he should not be
a fanatical sectarian. Further, if forgetfulness and similar kinds of mental
difficulty befell a reliable narrator, they no longer received Traditions
from him either. For example, when Ibn Abi Lahi‘a, famous for austerity and
God-fearing, lost his notebook from which he used to relate Traditions, Imam
Bukhari restricted himself to those of his narrations confirmed or
reinforced by other reliable narrators.
There is a wise saying that a man’s literary style is identical with
himself. That is, if you are a careful reader, you can distinguish a
literary man by his style from others. Muslim Traditionists dedicated
themselves to Hadith wholly and were so familiar with the literature of
Hadith that they could easily distinguish the sayings of the Prophet from
those of even the most eminent literary men.
Another way of distinguishing authentic Traditions from fabricated ones
was to judge them ac-cording to the Qur’an and the mutawatir hadith. If a
hadith or Tradition was reported from the Prophet by three or more
Companions and then handed down by several chains of transmission composed
of reliable narrators, it is called mutawatir. Traditions reported from the
Prophet by one Companion only are called ahadi. Ahadi Traditions were
usually accepted as authentic after they were judged according to the Qur’an
and mutawatir Traditions.
Although not an objective method, some saintly scholars saw God’s
Messenger while awake and received directly from the Prophet himself the
hadith qudsi, I was a hidden treasure. I wished to be known and therefore
created the universe.85 Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti is reported to have met with
God’s Messenger several times while awake. Before writing down a hadith
which he concluded to be authentic, Imam Bukhari performed ritual ablution
and referred it to God’s Messenger in a way particular to him. It was only
after getting the approval of the Messenger that he wrote down the hadith in
his note-book.86 There were some who saw the Companion who had narrated the
hadith from the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.
Books written to judge the Traditions and those narrating
The critics of Hadith formed compendious books giving detailed
information about narrators. They explained the character and life-history
of each: where and when he was born, where he emi-grated and lived, whom he
was taught by, from whom he received Traditions and to whom he narrated them
and where he died. The first who wrote on this topic is ‘Ali ibn al-Madini,
whose book is called Kitab al-Ma‘rifat al-Sahaba (The Book of Knowledge
about the Companions). Among others, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab (The
Comprehensive Book of Knowledge about the Companions) by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr,
al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahaba (Finding the Truth in Judging the Companions)
by Ibn Ha-jar al-Asqalani, Usd al-Ghaba (The Lions of the Forest) by Ibn al-Athir,
Tabaqat al-Kubra’ (which is a most comprehensive biographical dictionary of
the leading Companions and of the scholars of the following generation) by
Ibn Sa‘d, and Tarikh Ibn Asakir (History by Ibn Asakir), Tarikh al-Bukhari
(History by Bukhari) and al-Tarikh al-Kabir (The Great History) by Yahya ibn
Ma‘in, are the most significant.
Great Traditionists and criticizers of the Traditions
The greatest Traditionists such as Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud,
Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal collected authentic Traditions and
formed voluminous books of them. Some others like Maqdisi collected
fabricated Traditions, and great critics of Hadith coming later tested once
more the authenticity of all the Traditions collected by the Traditionists
mentioned above. Among them, Ibn al-Jawzi judged several of the Traditions
included in Musnad of Ibn Hanbal to be either weakly trans-mitted or even
fabricated, although Ibn Jawzi himself belonged to the Hanbali School of law
founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. However, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani made a new,
thorough and detailed examina-tion of those Traditions judged by Ibn al-Jawzi
to be weakly transmitted or fabricated and, with the exception of thirteen,
proved them all to be authentic. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, who lived in the
fifteenth century, scrutinized those Traditions once more and concluded that
none of them were fabricated, al-though a few may be weakly transmitted.
Suyuti also reviewed al-Mavdu‘at al-Kubra’ (A Great Collection of Fabricated
Traditions)by Ibn al-Jawzi and sorted out authentic ones among them.
Thinking that the rest might not be fabricated either, he wrote al-Laa’li l-Masnu‘a
(The Artifical Pearls).
Other great Traditionists compiled additional compendia to the
collections of authentic Tradi-tions. Because of their exactitude, leading
Traditionists such as Bukhari and Muslim did not include many Traditions in
their collections. Hakim compiled a voluminous appendix to Bukhari and
Muslim, which is called al-Mustadrak ala’l-Sahihayn (Addendum to The Two
Collections of Authentic Tradi-tions). This Addendum was closely reviewed by
Hafiz Dhahabi, who was famous for his keen mem-ory.
In later centuries, books were written on maxims, wise sayings or
proverbs which have a wide circulation among people and are regarded as
Hadith. Sakhawi, in Maqasid al-Hasana, and Ajluni, in Kashf al-Khafa’,
examined them one by one and explained which of them are truly ahadith and
which are not. For example, apart from many authentic Traditions and
Qur’anic verses which encourage peo-ple to learn, there are sayings widely
circulated among people as ahadith such as ‘Seek knowledge from the cradle
to the grave’; or ‘Seek knowledge even if it is in China’. Traditionists
tested these say-ings according to the principles of the science of Hadith
and proved that they are not Hadith.
It should be beyond question, after all such tremendous studies and
detailed examinations and exacting verifications, that there are no longer
fabricated Traditions in the collections of authentic Traditions. And it is
sheer prejudice, religious, political and ideological, on the part of
orientalists, and betrayal of Islam on the part of some so-called Muslim
researchers who act as the spokesmen of orientalists in Muslim countries, to
cast doubts on authentic Traditions and the Sunna, which is the second
source of Islam and of vital importance for the life of Muslims.
85. Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1.132; ‘Ali al-Qari, “al-Asrar al-Marfu‘a,”
86. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, 9.49.