The Authenticity of the Hadith and the Sunnah

Lest anyone should suggest the sources of the foregoing discussion on the believers’ way are historical exposition written down after the lifetime of the Companions, and therefore unreliable, we would argue as follows. It is beyond doubt that the Qur’an and its injunctions and the commandments to believe in and act to according to it is valid and continue to be propagated. The only question is whether or not the believers’ way can be actually ascertained. To entertain any doubts amounts to an abrogation of the Qur’an, and no sane and educated non-believer would venture to suggest to a Muslim its rejection.

As long as the path of following the Qur’an remains open, access to the believers’ way (that is, the presence of the Qur’anic injunctions) must also remain open. Likewise the means to obtain complete knowledge of it must remain unchanged. That being so, what other course is there to acquire detailed information regarding the practice of the earliest Muslims than to refer to the compilations of Traditions and the books on Tabaqat, Asma’ ar-Rijal, history and the life-record of the reporters of Seerah, Hadith and Islamic history?

To declare these sources of knowledge unreliable, false or fictitious would mean shutting the door on practical adherence to the Qur’an. Moreover, the superiority that Islam and the Muslims enjoy over all other faiths and religious communities would also be destroyed. For it would necessarily mean that the Muslims had no history, no intellectual or practical achievements to their credit, since there is no dependable way of knowing about those achievements. Surely, no Muslim could accept such a position.

How strangely inconsistent is the behaviour of some of the deniers of the Traditions. For they believe history to be true but hold the Hadith to be untrustworthy. Yet these historians neither make effort to indicate how and through what source they came by their knowledge of any particular event, nor observe the conditions prescribed and adopted by the traditionalists for testing the authenticity of those reports. Is it not absurd that chronological narratives of past events should be acceptable, but not the standard collections of the Traditions even though it was strictly laid down for the compilers of the Traditions that they must indicate in unbroken succession the sources and authorities for every single report that came to their knowledge of the sayings and deeds of the Prophet (saws) or of events and circumstances relating to the Companions, and further, that there must be conclusive evidence available as to the veracity, integrity and reliability of those sources and authorities?

To reject the Traditions as unreliable, despite solid and irrefutable proofs of their truth and authenticity, is to say that their collectors and compilers recorded incorrect and imaginary reports together with spurious references and a concocted chain of narrators! These critics and fault-finders should ask themselves whether it is possible that no "genuine" Muslim was present at the time of the collection of ahadeeth to challenge the fraud and condemn it?

Take al-Muwatta, for example. According to Abu Taalib this volume of Traditions was compiled in 120 or 130 AH i.e. 110 or 120 years after the death of the Prophet (saws). Until about twelve or twenty-three years before its compilation venerable Companions who had had the good fortune to see or hear the Prophet (saws) in person were alive, while the number of Taabi’een (those who immediately followed the Companions and profited from their company) who lived throughout the Islamic territories of the Hijaaz, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, and in Madeenah itself, where the book (al-Muwatta) took shape, was very considerable indeed. We give the names of a few of them:

(I) Ishaaq b. ‘Abd Allah b. Abu Talhah (d. 136 AH)

(ii) Ismaa’eel b. Muhammad b. Zuhree (d. 134 AH)

(iii) Rabee’ah b. Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman (d. 129 AH)

(iv) Zayd b. Aslam (d. 136 AH)

(v) Saalim b. Abu Umayyah (d. 129 AH)

(vi) Sa’d b. Ishaaq (d. after 140 AH)

(vii) Sa’eed b. Abu Sa’eed al-Maqburee (d. 123 AH)

(viii) Salmah b. Dinar (d. after 140 AH)

(ix) Shareek b. ‘Abd Allah b. Abu Nimr (d. after 140 AH)

(x) Saalih b. Kaysaan (d. after 140 AH)

(xi) Safwaan b. Sulaym (d. 124 AH)

(xii) ‘Abd Allaah b. Abu Bakr b. Abu Hazm (d. 135 AH)

(xiii) ‘Abd Allaah b. Dinaar (d. 127 AH)

(xiv) Abu az-Zinaad (d. 130 AH)

(xv) ‘Abd ar-Rabb b. Sa’eed (d. 139 AH)

(xvi) Muhammad b. al-Munkadir (d. 131 AH)

(xvii) Makhramah b. Sulaymaan (d. 130 AH)

(xviii) Moosaa b. ‘Uqbah (d. 141 AH)

(xix) Wahb b. Kaysaan (d. 127 AH)

(xx) Yahyaa b. Sa’eed, the Qaadi of Madeenah (d. 143 AH)

(xxi) Yazeed b. ‘Abd Allaah al-Laythee (d. 139 AH)

(xxii) Yazeed b. Rumaan (d. 130 AH)

(xxiii) Hishaam b. ‘Urwah (d. 145 AH)

(xxiv) Miswar b. Rifaa’ah (d. 138 AH)

(xxv) Abu Tuwalaah, the Qaadi of Madeenah (d. 132 AH)

Leaving aside the bonds created through direct instruction and training, the period of time between the generation of the Tabi’en and the Prophet (saws) was the same as that between grandfather and grandchildren. Thus, even if the deliberate effort of teaching and instruction had not been made, the people of that generation would have become acquainted, in the normal course of things, with numerous details of the Prophet’s (saws) life, as all grandchildren are about the character, habits and actions of their grandparents.

Now, consider the collection of the Prophet’s (saws) sayings made by Imam Maalik. These were made in the very place where the Prophet (saws) had spent the last ten years of his life, where there was hardly a home that had not come under his influence or did not have some association with him. Imam Malik read these out openly - in that very town - and thousands of people came from all over the Islamic world and listened to what he said, many of them also making copies, taking them home and thereby transmitting their contents to tens of thousands of other men. Is it conceivable then that not one single Muslim should say that all these Traditions or a large part of them were false or fabricated?

Even if Imam Maalik had not been the man of integrity and calibre that he was, could he have dared to make such a fabrication in those circumstances? Even supposing that he had done so, is it possible that the people of Madeenah could have passively accepted such a fabrication, and remained silent spectators to the making of a fraudulent addition to Faith which would be propagated to the end of time?

Imam Maalik, moreover, indicated the names of twenty-five of the afore-mentioned Taabi’een and a few other Madeenans as the sources who had related the Traditions to him. If it is accepted, for mere argument’s sake, that the Imam himself was guilty of falsehood and misrepresentation, surely these persons, who were alive at that time, would not have allowed him to get away with it.

In sum, to condemn al-Muwatta or the other standard compilations of the traditions and their chain of transmitters as wholly inaccurate is not only to sink to the depths of perdition but also to indicate one’s stupidity and ignorance.

For that reason, no one before the present era ventured to make such a charge. On the contrary, these collections have, from the time of their compilation, consistently been recognized as correct and authentic. A very large number of learned men have heard them from their seniors and also related them to others. Al-Muwatta, too, was read out by Imam Malik to nearly a thousand persons, as Shaah ‘Abd al-Azez Dihlawe says in his book Bustan al-Muhaddithen. Suyote also, in the preface of Tanwer al-Hawalik has mentioned the names of about fifty people who narrated al-Muwatta after hearing it directly from Imam Malik. The process has been going on without interruption up to the present time and people have been narrating it from their predecessors in the same way, but on an even larger scale.

Again, it is hard to understand why people who so want only to reject the Traditions, do not realize that every living community naturally inclines towards safeguarding its heritage and does its utmost to preserve the relics and the memory of the attainments of its illustrious ancestors. This being the case, how could it be that the Muslims who are the best of peoples and distinguished in the world for their love of learning and other commendable qualities of mind and character, should not have taken steps to preserve the life-record and sayings of their own Prophet (saws)?

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