Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ḥadith at the Time of Successors and Early Successors: Successors up until 130 AH

The previous discussion led us to conclude that most of the Companions and early Successors had died before the importance of ‘standardised Ḥadith’ came into being and that ʿamal and oral-based Sunnah still
enjoyed more credence than Ḥadith. The end of the first and beginning of the second century saw a significant growth of Ḥadith as a result of the talab ul-ʿilm/rihla phenomenon so that Ḥadith acquired more currency.
As argued elsewhere, two broad mechanisms were responsible for this development. Firstly, the general perception among some influential and reputable Successors that the expanding Muslim empire would become organically detached from the Qurʾānic and Sunnahic teachings was becoming widespread. Secondly, a change in political fortunes and subsequent rise of the Abbasid dynasty (132 AH), which used the argument of being custodians of the Prophet’s Sunnah through his uncle’s cousin Abbas
to justify and legitimise their political power, along with partisan tensions that emerged within the nascent Muslim community fighting for religious legitimacy, created an ever greater impetus for a more systematic collection of, and searching for, Sunnah in any form. These two trends resulted firstly in the practice-based Sunnah being increasingly clad in the mantle of written-based Sunnah, and secondly in the development of more stringent mechanisms to establish its authenticity of written—especially in terms of the mode of its transmission, i.e. ʿulum-ul-isnād.

At this time, the largely regional character of the Ḥadith body of literature, due to increased inter-regional contact, now became ‘mixed’, that is, it consisted of local/regional and inter-regional Ḥadith. It is at this point
in time that the scattered Ḥadith were now increasingly gathered together and compiled into books. Modes of Ḥadith transmission, apart from those already in operation, included munawalah (handing book to a student without samāʿa or qirāʾa), ijazah (giving permission to teach Ḥadith contained in a book) and wasīyah (entrusting a book for transmission).

Nonetheless, while the importance of Ḥadith was slowly gaining more ground, the transmission, compilation and normalization of Ḥadith was still not widespread at this point in time. For example, the first public
statement containing a prophetic Ḥadith (without an isnād) for governmental purposes was only instituted at the time of Caliph Al-Mahdi in the year 159 AH/776 CE.1 Moreover, Motzki argues in the context of the role and importance of Ḥadith as sources of legal doctrine in Mecca during the period under examination that: “Propheten-aḥādīth spielten als Rechtsquellen nur eine bescheidene Rolle”(The hadith of the prophet played a very modest role as sources of Islamic law)   Furthermore, most of the Ḥadith during this period were still going back to the Companions and Successors rather than to the Prophet himself and had incomplete chains of transmission.

Whilst it is difficult to accurately generalise the usage of isnād in all major centres of learning, the following assertion by Motzki made in the context of the status of isnād usage in the Meccan School of jurisprudence during the first two centuries of Hijrah is likely to be indicative of the level of isnād development in general:

. . . im 1. Jahrhundert [war]die Angabe eines isnād ehe Ausnahme als die Regel [und]
dass sich seit dem Begin des 2. Jahrhunderts aber der Gebrauch des isnād mehr und
mehr durchsetzte. Das ist nur als eine Tendenz zu verstehen.

( During the first century Hijri the use of the isnad was an exception rather than a rule and that since the beginning of the 2nd century Hijri the use of isnad become increasingly prevalent. But this is to be understood as a general trend only)

Mathnee, in the context of critiquing Rahman’s living Sunnah that extended right up to the Shafiʾī period, considers this living Sunnah to have been used in an arbitrary fashion without reference to a particular authority and that it was susceptible to continuous change. He maintains furthermore that the
Sunnah could refer either to a practice or tradition or combination of both and with multiple equivalent authorities.

taken from this article ( free PDF)

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