Part 2: Hadeeth Science and Literature: Isnaad, Matn, Hadeeth, Khabr and Athar

BISMILLAH

In part 1 we began the topic ‘An Introduction to the Sciences of Hadith and Early Hadith Literature,’ which was an introduction to the various knowledge-based sciences that are connected to the hadith of Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam). And it was, in essence, to show the importance of this affair, and its foundations in the Book of Allah, and in the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam), with the Sahaabah and with the Taabi’een and in every generation, from that generation through to the times that we live in, and, in fact, up until the Last Hour. The sciences of hadeeth and the isnaad are from the religion and it is from the particular characteristics of this Ummah.

`Ilm al-Hadeeth (The Science of Hadeeth)

So today we are going to begin with some definitions: The definition of ‘ilm-ul-hadeeth is that it is ‘the knowledge of the principles by way of which one arrives at the knowledge of the narrator and that which he has narrated.’ And this definition is taken from ‘An-Nukat `alaa Kitaab ibnis-Salah (d. 643H)’ by Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalaaneen (d. 852) and we mentioned that Ibn Salaah was one of the great scholars who compiled the definitions of the terminologies used in hadeeth and its sciences. Some of the scholars, such as Imam As-Suyootee (d. 911H) in ‘Tadreebur-Raawee’, have mentioned that `ilmul-hadeeth is ‘the knowledge of the rules by which one comes to know the chains of narration (isnaad), and the text (matn) it leads to.’

The term “sanad,” (and this term is interchangeable with the term isnaad) means the chain of narration. And it is the chain of narration of men leading back to a text, and that text is referred to as the matan” – i.e. the narration or report. So the matan is where the sanad finishes and the source of the speech (or action) is found. Here is an example:

That which has been reported by Imaam Al-Bukhaaree (d. 256H) in his Saheeh, under the chapter: ‘How the Divine Revelation started being revealed to Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam).’ Bukhaaree (rahimahullaah) said:

“Al-Humaydee `Abdullaah ibn Az-Zubayr narrated to us saying:

Sufyaan narrated to us, who said:

Yahyaa ibn Sa`eed Al-Ansaree narrated to us:

Muhammad Ibn Ibraaheem At-Taymee informed me:

That he heard `Alqamah Ibn Waqaas Al-Laythee saying:

I heard `Umar ibn Al-Khattaab whilst he was upon the pulpit saying:

I heard Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) saying:

إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ

“Indeed actions are upon their intentions, and every person shall receive only that which he intended. And whomsoever migrated for Allah and his Messenger, then his migration was for Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrated for a worldly affair or for a woman’s hand in marriage, then his migration was for that which he migrated (i.e. a worldly gain).”

So now there are two affairs in that which we have read: the sanad and the matan.

The sanad is where Imaam Al-Bukhaaree said:

“Al-Humaydee `Abdullaah ibn Az-Zubayr narrated to us saying:

Sufyaan narrated to us, who said:

Yahyaa ibn Sa`eed Al-Ansaree narrated to us:

Muhammad Ibn Ibraaheem At-Taymee informed me:

That he heard `Alqamah Ibn Waqaas Al-Laythee saying:

I heard `Umar ibn Al-Khattaab whilst he was upon the pulpit saying:

I heard Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) saying:

That is the isnaad.

And as for the Matan then that is:

إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ

“Indeed actions are upon their intentions, and every person shall receive only that which he intended. And whomsoever migrated for Allah and his Messenger, then his migration was for Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrated for a worldly affair or for a woman’s hand in marriage, then his migration was for that which he migrated (i.e. a worldly gain).”

So the matan here are the words of Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam): “Indeed actions are upon their intentions…” until the end of the hadeeth. So now, in essence, you have that which the sciences of hadeeth are discussing, and that is the sanad and the matan.

`Ilmul-Hadeeth’ is therefore, the knowledge of the principles by way of which one arrives at the knowledge of the narrator and what he is narrating. And the principles here rotate around the matan the isnaad – and the rules that govern the establishment of the weakness or the authenticity and reliability of the narrators and the narrations.

The goal of this science is to come to know that which is authentic from that which is not from the reported narrations. In this manner we can ascertain what was revealed by Allaah to Muhammad (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) and act in accordance to that as worship and nearness to Allaah.

Now, let us move one step further. We need to recognise the usage of the terminologies such as hadeeth (prophetic narration), khabar (a report), athar (a narration) and so on.

Hadeeth (pl. Ahaadeeth): It is that which comes from Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) whether it be statements, actions, tacit approval, or attributes and characteristics, meaning either his outward appearance or his inner character. Inner character such as his shyness or the way that he would behave – his modesty, humbleness, generous nature and so on. And likewise his outward appearance such as his hair, his beard, the broadness of his shoulders, his height, his colour, the way he would walk and so on. So that is what is intended by hadeeth – the term revolves around the Prophetic traditions.

Khabar (pl. Akhbaar): Khabar included the meaning of hadeeth, but in addition to this it also refers to that which is narrated from other than the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) such as the Companions, the taabi`een (the generation after the Companions), the atbaa`ut-taabi`een (the generation after the taabi`een), or other than them from the early generations. So we can say, for example, that such and such a khabar came from `Umar, or this khabar came from Sa`eed ibn Al-Musayyib (from the taabi`een), or this khabar came from Sufyaan, or from Az-Zuhree (both from are the atbaa`ut-taabi`een).

Athar (pl. Aathaar): An athar is that which comes from other than the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) such as the Sahaabah, or from the taabi’een, or other than them.

An example of a hadith is that which we have already mentioned: “Indeed actions are upon their intentions.” When Umar (radiyallaahu `anhu) said that Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) said: “Indeed actions are upon their intentions.” What was he narrating? A hadeeth, because these are the words of the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) – and that is referred to as a hadeeth qawlee, i.e. a hadeeth reporting a statement.

An example of a hadeeth fi`lee (a hadith narrating a action of the Prophet) is that which `Aa’ishah (radiyallaahu `anhaa) narrated:

“If Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) wished to go to sleep in a state of sexual impurity (after having sexual intercourse) he would wash his private parts and he would make wudhoo’ like the wudhoo’ for prayer.”

This is a hadeeth fi`lee or a Sunnah fi`liyyah because `Aa’ishah is narrating the actions of Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam).

As for a hadeeth taqreeree, i.e. denoting silent approval, then there are many examples and one of them is the hadith of Ibn `Abbaas (radiyallaahu `anahumaa) reported by An-Nasaa’ee. He mentions that his aunt sent some gifts to Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) consisting of cooking fat, a lizard and some cottage cheese. So he ate the fat and the cheese, but he did not eat the lizard, as he found it to be distasteful. Yet, as Ibn Abbas said, it was eaten in front of him upon the table spread of Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam), and were it haraam it would not have been eaten in front of Allah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam). This is because it is not possible that something haraam would take place in front of him and he would remain silent. He would not remain silent. So this was something that was done in his presence and he did not criticise it, therefore making it a hadeeth taqreeree (or Sunnah taqreeriyyah).

An example of a hadith wasfee (a hadith describing the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam)) is the hadith reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhee from Anas ibn Maalik (radiyallaahu `anhu) who said:

“Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) was of medium height; not very tall nor very short. He had a good handsome build. He was brown in complexion, his hair was not curly nor very straight, but slightly wavy. And when he walked he swayed slightly.”

This is clearly a hadeeth wasfee because now we are talking about the attributes of Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam). Also Imaam Al-Bukhaaree mentions from Anas ibn Maalik (radiyallaahu `anhu), that when he (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) died, he had scarcely twenty white hairs in his beard and hair. This is again a descriptive hadeeth from Allaah’s Messenger. Imaam Al-Bukhaaree narrates from Rabee`ah (radiyallaahu `anhu) who said:

“I saw some of his hairs were red and when I asked regarding them, I was told that this was because of him applying teeb (scent).”

So the terms athar and khabar can be used for the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) and for other than him, but the term hadeeth is generally only used for the Prophet.

The term musnad in hadeeth terminology has two meanings:

  • It is any book that gathers the narrations under the headings of the Companion who narrated it. For example, the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullaah, d. 241H). So if we say the ahaadeeth are being collected in musnad form then we are saying that they are being collected under the name of the Companion who narrated them. For example there would be a chapter containing all the ahaadeeth narrated by `Umar, or all the ahaadith narrated by `Uthmaan, or all the ahaadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah, or all the ahaadith narrated by `Aa’ishah or Abu Bakr and so on.
  • It is any hadith that has a connected chain of narration that reaches the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam). So if a person says: “This hadith is musnad,” then it means that the hadith’s isnaad is musnad. And it is marfoo’ (which is a term that literally means ‘elevated’) and the intent of marfoo` is that it is ascribed to the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam), or muttasil sanadan (i.e. a fully connected chain of narration). So it is a hadeeth which is elevated and reaches right back to the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) through a connected chain of narration. And we will come back to these additional terminologies later on, inshaa’Allaah.

As for the terms that we use for the scholars of hadeeth, then they are not absolute definitions but they do help us to gauge the level of the scholar. Sometimes you hear that such-and-such a scholar is a muhaddith, or a haafidh, or a haakim. For example you will hear: “Al-Muhaddith Al-Albaanee” or “Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar” and so on. So some of the terms include:

  • Muhaddith – In general the term ‘muhaddith’ refers to a person who occupies himself with the knowledge of hadeeth; the sayings, the actions, the tacit approvals, the attributes and so on. He occupies himself with narrating them and verifying them, compiling them, and investigating them and their chains. They become acquainted with each hadith, from the aspect of whether they are accepted or rejected, and they become acquainted with their explanations and meanings as well as with that which can be derived of benefits from those ahaadeeth. They know the sciences and the knowledge of hadeeth; thereby coming to know the condition of the chains of narration, and the rules needed to know the condition of a narrator. This is the role of the muhaddith, this is what he does. And he knows a large number of narrations and the condition of their narrators. And the narrations here refer to the actual mutoon (plural of matan) of the hadith and the aathaar (plural of athar).
  • Haafidh – A haafidh is the same as a muhaddith according to the speech of many of the scholars. Others have said that a haafidh has a higher standing than a muhaddith, and what he knows at every level of a chain of narration is more than what he does not know. So he is of a higher level than a muhaddith.
  • Haakim ­– Some of the scholars say that a haakim’s knowledge has encompassed all of the Prophetic ahaadeeth, and they say that nothing has escaped him except a small amount.

And there are still yet more terms that they use for people who have truly excelled. For example Imaam Al-Bukhaaree was referred to ‘Ameerul-Mu’mineen fil-Hadeeth’ (The Leader of the Faithful in Hadeeth) because he is, of course, considered to be the greatest scholar of Hadeeth.

So this is just us entering into some terminologies, and next time we will begin with the definitions of the grades of ahaadith themselves such as al-mutaawatir, aahaad, saheeh, and so on.

End.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *