Studies in Hadith and Islamic Law

Consulting Primary Sources: A Biographical Note by al-Suyūṭī

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Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī (d. 911 AH) shares a remarkable exchange with his teacher Taqī al-Dīn al-Shumunnī (d. 872 AH). In al-Shifā, Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d. 544 AH) mentions a particular hadith about the Prophet’s ascension on the authority of Abū al-Ḥamrāʾ, for which he cites the Baghdadi judge Ibn Qāniʿ (d. 351 AH).[1] In his gloss on al-Shifā titled Muzīl al-khafā, al-Shumunnī adds that the hadith is also recorded in Ibn Mājah’s Sunan.[2] Sometime after reading al-Shumunnī’s comments, al-Suyūṭī searched for the hadith in Sunan Ibn Mājah. To ensure that no stone was left unturned, he went through the entire Sunan three times, yet he could not locate the hadith in question. He eventually found it in Ibn Qāniʿ’s Muʿjam al-Ṣaḥāba.[3] Al-Suyūṭī then presented this information to al-Shumunnī, who...

From Khurasan to al-Andalus: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in the Maghreb in Light of Two Early Manuscripts

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Students of hadith are well aware that many Maghrebi scholars preferred Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim over Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī for aesthetic and structural reasons. This preference, however, should not detract from their laudable efforts in studying, explicating, and transmitting the latter. Despite being geographically distant from the hadith networks of “the long fourth century AH,” Maghrebi scholars from the fifth century onwards were responsible for some of the most important recensions (e.g., al-Aṣīlī’s), manuscripts (e.g., Ibn Manẓūr’s), commentaries (e.g., Ibn Baṭṭāl’s), abridgments (e.g., al-Muhallab’s al-Mukhtaṣar al-naṣīḥ), and supplementary works (e.g., al-Jayyānī’s Taqyīd al-muhmal) on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. In the tenth century, the Wattasid Sultan Abū al-ʿAbbās (d. 960 AH) endowed a chair in the...

An Ottoman Proposal to Reform al-Azhar’s Hadith Curriculum

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An Ottoman Proposal to Reform al-Azhar’s Hadith Curriculum: Kawtharī’s Letter to the Shaykh al-Azhar Though he is widely recognized for his remarkable grasp of didactic theology, Shaykh Muḥammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī (d. 1952), the last deputy of the Ottoman Shaykh al-Islam, was a master of many sciences, particularly hadith. His annotations on ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī’s acclaimed catalogue of hadith transmission, Fihris al-Fahāris, speaks volumes about his erudition in the hadith sciences. In the mid-twentieth century, Kawtharī wrote a letter to the then Shaykh al-Azhar, Muṣṭafā ʿAbd al-Rāziq (d. 1947), detailing his vision of how the study of hadith should be reformed at one of the most prestigious seats of Islamic learning. Having spent the last decades of his life in Cairo—after fleeing...

When Less is More: On the Chapter Headings and Organization of Ḥadīths in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim

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The Ṣaḥīḥs of Imām al-Bukhārī (d. 256 AH) and Imām Muslim (d. 261 AH) occupy a sacrosanct space in the hearts of Muslims and are justifiably considered the most reliable collections after the Qurʾān. While each of these two works possesses features that have persuaded scholars over the centuries to prefer one over the other, al-Bukhārī’s literary genius truly shines in his chapter headings (tarājim). Chapter headings are a useful way for authors to guide their readers. They provide clarity on their contents, operate as a platform to respond to interlocutors, and present the authors’ personal views. From this angle, chapter headings serve as the earliest instance of textual commentaries by the compilers themselves. Although Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim’s astonishing structure and systematic presentation...

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Kattānī, the Living Legend of Morocco

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“I am from the partisans of Ḥadīth, and they are the best party. I hope to reach a hundred, having already passed the age of ninety.”  – Abū Ṭāhir al-Silafī (d. 576 AH) The epithet ruḥla is an interesting designation coined for someone who is considered a destination for academic travel. At the turn of the 8th century AH, when news spread that the Damascene Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Ḥajjār (d. 730 AH) had attended an audition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri under al-Ḥusayn al-Zabīdī (d. 631 AH) as a child, he quickly rose through the ranks of stardom: no longer an ordinary stonemason, he became one of the most highly sought-after transmitters of Ḥadīth in the Mamluk realm. The fascination of Ḥadīth scholarship with elevated chains for over a millennium is encapsulated in Yaḥyā b. Maʿīn’s (d. 233 AH)...

Prophetic Medicine Between Revelation and Traditional Knowledge

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By Dr. Jamīl Farīd Translated by Muntasir Zaman [Translator’s preface: In today’s intellectually turbulent climate, many Muslims are increasingly finding it difficult to reconcile ḥadīths that conflict with modern sensibilities and are consequently dismissing them summarily. This crisis of faith is nothing new. As early as the second century AH, scholars like al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204 AH) and later al-Ṭaḥāwī (d. 321 AH) realized this phenomenon and dedicated volumes to address it. The present article is an excerpt from Dr. Jamīl Farīd’s landmark thesis “Athar al-ʿIlm al-Tajrībī fī Kashf Naqd al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī” on the application of experimental science in grading ḥadīths. Here the author answers the pressing questions of what religious and medical authority prophetic medicine wields and how to...

An Overview of Ten Manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

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With at least 400 scholarly works and 2000 extant manuscripts written over a millennium to its name, there is hardly a book in history that has received as much scholarly attention as Imām Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿil al-Bukhārī’s magnum opus, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. To acquaint readers with some of the most authoritative surviving manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥ, Markaz al-Sunnah wa al-Turāth al-Nabawī published a treatise detailing nine manuscripts. I used the aforementioned treatise as a template to prepare the following article. I substantially edited and annotated the descriptions and added an entry for a recently discovered manuscript. Further details on some of these manuscripts (e.g. al-Ṣaghānī’s and al-Yūnīnī’s) or questions left unanswered have been addressed in my previous articles on the subject.

A Gem Among Stones: al-Ṣaghānī’s Manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

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Modern concerns surrounding the disappearance of al-Bukhārī’s exemplar stem from a failure to grasp the nuances of Ḥadīth transmission. Consequently, Alphonse Mingana (d. 1937 CE), for one, has erroneously criticized the authorship of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.[1] In general, Ḥadīth scholars deemed oral transmission as the most authoritative method of establishing ḥadīths and were, therefore, not as concerned with the disappearance of original manuscripts.2 The transmission of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, al-Qasṭāllānī (d. 932 AH) explains, rests primarily on the medium of oral transmission, not on manuscripts. However, these concerns can be relatively assuaged by the presence of a valuable manuscript that was cross-referenced with al-Firabrī’s (d. 320 AH) holograph: Raḍī al-Dīn al-Ṣaghānī’s (d. 650 AH)...

A Timeless Tale of Erudition: al-Yūnīnī and his Proverbial Manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

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While mapping out his genealogy of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852 AH) identifies nine routes of transmission from Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf al-Firabrī (d. 320 AH), the primary transmitter of the Ṣaḥīḥ from its author. These routes further multiply as the transmission spreads out in every successive generation.[1] [ref] [/ref]The invention of the printing press has allowed for the production of countless identical copies of a book with ease, but that is a privilege unheard of not too long ago. Hence, due to a range of factors related to methodology, memory, comprehension, attendance, and scribal oversight, the recensions of the Ṣaḥīḥ naturally differed in their details.[2] In the 7th century AH, one Levantine scholar set out to collate the variants of the major recensions to...

On the Manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: Discrepancies and Disappearance of the Original Copy

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On the Manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: Discrepancies and Disappearance of the Original Copy By ʿAbd al-Qādir Jalāl Translated by Muntasir Zaman Translator’s Preface Orientalist studies on Ḥadīth were part of a broader investigation into Islamic history. Their criticism on the reliability of Ḥadīth started as early as the nineteenth century; by 1848, Gustav Weil (d. 1889) had already criticized a substantial number of ḥadīths. The Hungarian Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) was the first to write a fundamental study on Ḥadīth, and his teachings deeply influenced subsequent critics, notable among whom was Joseph Schacht (d. 1969).[1] Their contentions quickly found their way into the Muslim world, due in part to the writings of Aḥmad Amīn (d. 1954) and Maḥmūd Abū Rayyah (d. 1970), who did little...

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