Praise be to Allaah.
We may sum up our
advice concerning the methodology of seeking knowledge of hadeeth as
Paying a great
deal of attention to memorising the texts of the Prophet’s Sunnah, because
this is the aim and purpose for which the scholars established all the
sciences of hadeeth. So it is not permissible for the seeker of knowledge to
be distracted from the aim by the means.
texts of the Prophet’s Sunnah begins with memorising the hadeeths on which
there is agreement between the two Saheehs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim),
then by memorising those which were narrated only by al-Bukhaari, then by
memorising those that were narrated only by Muslim. This will lead to
accomplishing the first and most important stage in forming the hadeeth
mentality in the one who is seeking knowledge of hadeeth.
After that, he
moves on to memorising hadeeths that are extra to those of the two Saheehs,
which are to be found in the six books and the well-known Musnads. He may
seek help in doing so by means of many books in which these extra reports (zawaa’id)
are compiled and classified.
The best ways of
memorising include repeating the text to be memorised for a few days after
the day on which he memorises it. This method was recommended by
az-Zarnooshi (may Allah have mercy on him) when he said:
The seeker of
knowledge should recite the text repeatedly because he will not be able to
memorise properly until he dies that. He should repeat what he memorised on
the previous day five times, and repeat what he memorised the day before
that four times, and repeat what he memorised on the day before that three
times, and what he memorised on the day before that two times, and what he
memorised before that one time. This will help him to memorise and repeat.
If the student is
not able to memorise completely, then he should do no less than reading
these hadeeths often, so that he will be able to call them to mind and have
a full comprehension of them.
This topic has
been discussed in detail previously in the answer to question no.
It is essential
for the seeker of hadeeth knowledge to memorise different types of isnaads
and whatever he can memorise of the names and biographies of narrators. The
isnaads of the Prophet’s Sunnah can be divided – in terms of how well known
they are – into three categories:
isnaads, through any of which hundreds of hadeeths were narrated and they
are regarded as one of the main channels through which the Prophet’s Sunnah
came to us. Indeed there is no book among the six books that did not rely on
them and narrate from many of them. Examples include:
The isnaad of
al-A‘mash from Dhakwaan Abu Saalih al-Sammaan, from Abu Hurayrah
The isnaad of
az-Zuhri from Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan from Abu Hurayrah.
The isnaad of
Hammaad ibn Salamah, from Thaabit ibn Aslam, from Anas.
The isnaad of
‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Umar al-‘Umari, from Naafi‘, from Ibn ‘Umar.
It is possible to
find out about these chains of narration, through which hundreds of reports
were narrated, from the book Tuhfat al-Ashraaf by Imam al-Mazzi.
The student may
also seek help in memorising the narrators of these isnaads from the book
Tabaqaat al-Mukthireena min Riwaayat al-Hadeeth by Shaykh ‘Aadil
az-Zarqi, with a introduction by ‘Abdullah as-Sa‘d (published by Dar Tuwayq).
If the seeker of
hadeeth knowledge pays attention to these isnaads and memorises them, then
start to connect these isnaads to the texts that he has previously memorised
from the books of Sunnah, he will thus have instilled in his mind hundreds
of hadeeths with their isnaads. In this way he will have started a new stage
of acquiring deep knowledge of this noble science.
category is isnaads that are less well-known, through which dozens of
reports were narrated, but they include some well-known issues such as
interruptions in the chain of narration, ambiguity, omission of the name of
the Sahaabi (mural report) and so on. The student may study some of these
isnaads in the book Tuhfat al-Tahseel by al-‘Alaa’i.
If the seeker of
knowledge pays attention to these isnaads too, and learns the problems
associated with these types of isnaads, then he will achieved a great deal
in this branch of knowledge.
The third category
is the isnaads of mawdoo‘ (fabricated) and da‘eef (weak) isnaads, through
which many hadeeths were also narrated, and which the seeker of knowledge
must pay attention to, because it is not appropriate for the specialist to
be unaware of reports that are well known among the scholars of hadeeth to
be weak, faulty or fabricated. To achieve this, it is essential to persist
in reading the books Meezan al-I‘tidaal by Imam adh-Dhahabi,
al-Kaamil fi Du‘afa’ ar-Rijaal by Ibn ‘Adiyy, and al-Mawdoo‘aat
by Ibn al-Jawzi.
When the seeker of
knowledge of the Prophet’s Sunnah has memorised a great deal of Sunnah
texts, after that he may start to examine these texts more closely, finding
out about ambiguous or difficult texts (ghareeb al-hadeeth) and the
different ways in which they are interpreted. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi (may
Allah have mercy on him) said: Knowledge is understanding and cognizance,
not memorizing and narrating a great deal.
End quote from
al-Jaami‘ li Akhlaaq ar-Raawi, p. 174
But the seeker of
knowledge must be aware of the necessity of limiting himself – at the
beginning of his pursuit of knowledge – to the abridged commentaries that
will explain the difficult texts, and not engage in lengthy study of fiqhi
and other issues, which may be too difficult and too time-consuming for the
student. He would do well to read an abridged commentary such as
al-Mufhim lima Ashkila min Talkhees Saheeh Muslim by Imam al-Qurtubi,
al-Minhaaj Sharh Saheeh Muslim ibn al-Hajjaaj by Imam an-Nawawi. He can
sum up the meaning of the hadeeth and explanations of its vocabulary from
these books in notes written in his own copy from which he is memorising the
hadeeth, so that when he reviews what he has memorised of the Prophet’s
Sunnah, he will also be able to read this summarised explanation of the
hadeeth, thus attaining two benefits at the same time.
With regard to
studying fiqhi issues that are derived from the hadeeths, that is another
matter altogether which he should not seek to learn from the commentaries on
hadeeth; rather he should learn that from the books of fiqh which organise
fiqhi issues into basic essentials and minor issues, according to one of the
With regard to
sciences of hadeeth terminology (mustalah al-hadeeth), we advise the seeker
of knowledge to obtain a copy of the book Tahreer ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth
by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Juday‘ and read it, study it and memorise its
contents, because it is a pioneering book in its field which is
distinguished by its highlighting the principles of the hadeeth sciences
through examination of the different ways of hadeeth critics and through
examination of all the principles that are mentioned in the books of
biography. This is in addition to other books of mustalah al-hadeeth.
If the book is too
difficult for the student or he is a beginner, he should limit himself to
Nuzhat an-Nazr Sharh Tuhfat al-Fikr by al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar, or write a
summary of the book of Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Juday‘ and study his summary, so
that when he understands it properly, he may move on to study of other books
to increase his knowledge, the most important of which are an-Nukat ‘ala
Ibn as-Salaah by al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar and Fath al-Mugheeth by
It is essential to
give sufficient time to reading two other types of books too:
Books on ‘ilal wa
takhreej, which represent the practical application of hadeeth sciences,
from which the student may examine many examples of the rulings on and
evaluation of hadeeths and isnaads; this will open up to him more areas of
research and study.
studies by specialists in the area of hadeeth, such as the books of
al-‘Allaamah ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan al-Mu‘allimi (may Allah have mercy on him) and
specialist academic essays. We are living in a time – praise be to Allah –
when there is a revival of interest in hadeeth sciences the like of which
you can hardly find in later periods of the history of Islamic knowledge.
Many of these studies include academic debates and important research on
essential topics, which the seeker of hadeeth knowledge should not ignore or
fail to pay attention to. By reading these contemporary studies he will find
that he will increase in knowledge and understanding, and new ideas will
come to his mind that require further research and examination, and perhaps
he will play a part in achieving that.
Over and above
all that, he has to remind himself to fear Allah, may He be exalted, for
this is the purpose of all knowledge, and the one who is distracted by the
pursuit of knowledge from acting has gone astray and is doomed. Rather the
effect of acquiring knowledge has to be seen in the humility of the student
and his good manners and attitude towards people.
It was narrated
that al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
A man would seek
knowledge, and soon that would be seen in his humility, his conduct, and the
way he spoke and acted. End quote.
by ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak, no. 79
Ibn al-Salaah (may
Allah have mercy on him) says:
If a person wants
to start seeking knowledge of hadeeth or to learn any of the hadeeth
sciences, let him first ensure that his intention is correct and sincere and
purify his heart of any worldly aims, and let him beware of the trial of
love of leadership. End quote.
And Allah knows best.