Could you describe the care the companions showed in relating the
Whether of the Companions or the succeeding generations, those who
constituted the first two or three links in the chains of the Traditions,
were quite meticulous in the narration or transmission of ahadith. As
will be elaborated below, they showed the utmost care and exactness in
distinguishing the sound from the fabricated ones and, after committing to
memory word for word, transmitted the sound ones to the following
generations. The following examples show the motives for this exactness:
The warning of the Prophet, upon be peace and blessings
Islam is based on truthfulness which distinguishes between Islam and
unbelief. A Muslim refrains from lying to the utmost degree. The first
generations of Islam, the Companions and their successors, proved their
utmost attachment to Islam by the world-admired sacrifices they made in
order to spread Islam. Also, they feared God very much and lived austerely,
not indulging in the comforts of life. Many great scholars and saints
appeared among them and the examples they set have been followed by
succeeding generations up to the present day.
Along with the emphasis Islam puts on truthfulness, God’s Messenger
severely warned people not to lie against him: Whoever lies against me,
should prepare his abode in the Fire.54 He also warned: Whoever relates from
me falsely is a liar.55
Is it at all conceivable then, in the face of such severe warnings, that
the Companions, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Islam, which is
based on truthfulness, should have lied against the Messenger?
54. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 38; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 72; Abu Dawud, “‘Ilm,” 4;
Tirmidhi, “Fitan,” 70.
55. Muslim, “Muqaddima,” 1.
The self-control of the Companions in narrating the
Because of the important place the Tradition has in Islam and due to the
warnings of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Companions
were very careful in narrating Traditions. They feared lest they should fail
to narrate them word for word and thereby cause misunderstandings. For
example, the fourth Caliph ‘Ali, who was the cousin and son-in-law of the
Prophet and who was always with him, used to say: ‘I fear to narrate a
Tradition from God’s Messenger so much that I would rather fall from heaven
than speak a lie on his behalf.’56
‘Abdullah ibn al-Mas‘ud was among the foremost in nearness to God’s
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He was also one of the most
knowledgeable among the Companions. When he was asked to report from God’s
Messenger, he began with ‘The Messenger of God said’; then he stopped, bowed
his head, took in a deep breath, unbuttoned his collar and his eyes filled
with tears. After the narration, he added: ‘The Messenger of God said this,
or something like this, or something more or less like this.’57
Zubayr ibn ‘Awwam was one of the ten Companions who were assured of entry
to Paradise. He narrated only a few Traditions from God’s Messenger. When
his son asked him why he did not narrate Traditions from the Messenger,
Zubayr replied: ‘I feared very much lest I should utter a word contrary to
what God’s Messenger really said. For he declared: Whoever lies against me
intentionally, should prepare his abode in the Fire.’58
Anas ibn Malik, who served God’s Messenger for ten years, said: ‘Were it
not for fear of making a mistake, I would make many more narrations from
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Layla met 500 Companions. When he visited a place,
people would say: ‘The man who met 500 Companions has come to our town.’ He
had great influence on Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf. He reports: ‘I was
personally familiar with 120 Companions. It sometimes happened that all of
them were in the same mosque. When they were asked about something, each
waited for the other to answer, and if they were to narrate a Tradition, no
one would dare to. At last, one of them made the narration trusting in God
and added: ‘The Messenger said this, or something like this, or something
more or less like this.’60
Zayd ibn Arqam was among the first to convert to Islam. In the early days
of his mission, God’s Messenger came together with the Muslims secretly in
his house. He was the superintendent of the Public Treasury during the
caliphates of ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. When he witnessed ‘Uthman give out from the
treasury to his relatives, he went to him and said: ‘O Commander of the
Faithful! People will feel suspicious of you, and they will no longer trust
me. Please permit me to resign.’ When ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Layla asked
this honest man to narrate a Tradition, he answered: ‘My son! I have be-come
old and forgetful. Narration from God’s Messenger is something very hard to
There is a matter in the science of Tradition, namely whether it s
absolutely necessary to narrate a Tradition word for word. Although literal
narration is better and always preferable, narration of mean-ing is
permissible on condition that the narrator is expert in the language, and
the word used to give the meaning is well-fitted to the context, and the
original has been completely forgotten. However, the Companions were very
careful in narrating Traditions literally despite this permission. For
example, one day ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr narrated: The like of a hypocrite is like
sheep left between ‘rabidayn’ (two flocks). ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, who was
present, objected: ‘He did not say so. I heard God’s Messenger say: The like
of a hypocrite is like a sheep between ‘ghanamayn’ (two flocks).62 The
meaning is the same; the difference is only between the words rabidayn and
The same care the Companions showed in literal narration was also shown
by the scholars or narrators belonging to the generation following the
Companions. For instance, in the presence of Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna someone
narrated: ‘God’s Messenger forbade leaving to fermentation (an yuntabadha)
the juice (of grapes, dates and the like) in the bowls made of pumpkin and
lined with pitch’. Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna objected and said: ‘I heard Zuhri
narrate it: “God’s Messenger forbade leaving to fermentation (an yunbadha)
the juice (of grapes and dates and the like) in the bowls made of pumpkin
and lined with pitch.’63 Though of exactly the same meaning, the difference
is that as conjugation.
Bara ibn ‘Adhib related: ‘God’s Messenger advised me: Do ritual ablution
before going to bed. Then lie on your right side and say this prayer: ‘O
God, I have submitted myself to You and I have committed my affair to You; I
have sheltered in You, in fear of You and in quest of You. There is no
shelter from you except in You. I believed in Your Book You sent down and
Your Prophet You raised.’ In order to memorize the prayer immediately, I
repeated to the Messenger and said at the end of it: “and Your Messenger You
raised”. Our master corrected me, saying: and Your Prophet You raised.’64
A man has dreams in sleep, and true dreams constitute a forty-sixth of
Prophethood, since God’s Messenger had true dreams in the first six months’
period of his Prophethood, which lasted twenty-three years. Since dreams are
therefore related to Prophethood, the Messenger corrected Bara ibn ‘Adhib.
This care was shown by almost all of the Companions, who studied the
Traditions they heard from God’s Messenger and discussed them, their meaning
and connotations. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, commanded
them: Commit Traditions to memory and study them. Some of them are
associated with some others. Therefore, come together and discuss them.65
56. Bukhari, “Istitaba,” 6; Abu Dawud, “Sunna,” 28.
57. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 3.
58. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 38; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 72.
59. Darimi, “Muqaddima,” 25.
60. Dhahabi, Siyaru A’lam al-Nubala’, 4.263.
61. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 3.
62. Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Musnad, 248.
63. Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm al-Riwaya, 178.
64. Bukhari, “Da‘awat,” 6.
65. Darimi, “Muqaddima,” 51.