“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Prophet and
those charged with authority among you. Therefore, if there is a difference of
opinion among you in any matter, refer it back to Allah and His Prophet,
if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (4:5)
This verse of the Qur’ān clearly indicates that the
original sources of knowledge on Islam are only two: The Holy Qur’ān and the
Sunnah of the Prophet (sws).
The first addressees of this verse were the Companions
of the Prophet (sws). It was they who were the first to be told that they should
refer to the Qur’ān (refer it back to Allah) and the Sunnah (and His Prophet) in
case they had a difference of opinion in any matter pertaining to religion.
Therefore, only these two can be considered as original sources of religious
knowledge by the Muslims. All other sources of religious guidance are
subservient to them.
The problem is that today many people regard the Sunnah
and the Hadīth as synonymous terms, whereas the two are quite distinct from each
other. The Sunnah (or Sunnat-i-Thaabitah)
refers to ‘those established customs of the Prophet (sws) that were passed on as
religion to the Muslim Ummah
by the Companions of the Prophet (sws) through their practical consensus
on these customs or through their perpetual adherence
Therefore, there is no doubt about the authenticity of the Sunnah as an original
source. Just as the Qur’ān was perpetuated by oral transmission, the Sunnah was
passed on by perpetual adherence. Hence, the authenticity of the Sunnah does not
epend on the narratives told by a few individuals; the entire society in the
Prophet’s time adopted and transmitted the Sunnah, thereby making it an
established fact of history.
A Hadīth on the other hand, refers to a short narrative
which describes a statement or an action or a tacit approval of the Prophet (sws).
Most of these narratives were told by a few individuals at each link of the
chain of narrators and, therefore, are very appropriately called Akhbaar-i-Ahaad.
As the transmission of Ahādīth
went on, it became evident that the Hadīth
was being invaded by many forgeries. Therefore, scholars of Hadīth formulated
numerous methods of evaluation by which genuine Ahādīth could be sifted out of
the mass of forgeries. These methods belong to either of the two disciplines
essential for investigating the authenticity of Ahādīth: Fann-i-Riwaayat and
which has many branches, involves investigation of the complete chain of
going back to the original narrator of a particular version
of the Hadīth in question. This science, thus, investigates the bonafides, the
moral character, truthfulness, and power of memory of the narrators.
Fann-i-Daraayat, on the other hand, investigates the authenticity of a Hadīth by
determining whether or not its subject-matter is acceptable.
A Hadīth is accepted only when its authenticity has been
established on the basis of both Fann-i-Riwaayat and Fann-i-Daraayat. Therefore,
a Hadīth can be regarded as a source of religious guidance only ‘if the basis of
that Hadīth exists in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah or the established principles of
human nature and intellect. Moreover, it should not be contradictory to any of
these bases, and should have been transmitted by reliable sources’.
A Hadīth which meets these criteria is accepted as a bonafide record of the
Sunnah and of information pertaining to Islam. However, the following points
must be kept in mind which stem from these criteria:
1. No Hadīth can present anything as religion which does
not have its basis in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah or the established principles of
human nature and intellect. Therefore, whatever a Hadīth presents would either
be an explanation of a principle found in these sources or a branch emanating
from that principle.
2. A Hadīth must not be against the Qur’ān or the Sunnah
or the established principles of human nature and intellect. In short, the
Hadīth in question must conform with the entire fabric of Islam.
3. A Hadīth must have been transmitted by reliable
The first two of these points relate to Fann-i-Daraayat
and the last to Fann-i-Riwaayat.
Unfortunately, the scholars competent to analyse Ahādīth
on the basis of these criteria are few, and the untrained eye is often confused
while studying the Hadīth. There are three mawjor reasons for this confusion:
1. Almost all the available written collections of Ahādīth,
including the most revered ones, contain those Ahādīth which were analysed
primarily on the basis of Riwaayat. Most Ahādīth, therefore, have to be analysed
further on the basis of Fann-i-Daraayat before they can be accepted or rejected.
2. In most cases the context of a Hadīth is not clear or
is even left out. The reason is that a typical Hadīth is what is called
Riwaayat-bil-Maa’naa, which refers to such a Hadīth the narrators of which had
not transmitted its exact subject-matter but had used their own words to convey
Riwaayat-bil-Maa’naa has also led to complete distortion
of the actual subject-matter in many cases. Occasional alteration in the text by
mistakes in copying has also added to these problems.
3. Placing a Hadīth in its right context is not the job of
a layman. It requires a sound understanding and appreciation of the classics of
Arabic literature of the Prophet’s time and training in various disciplines
necessary for understanding and analyzing any segment of the whole corpus of the
sources of religious knowledge. In short, analysis, in the true sense of the
word, of this historical record---the Hadīth---is the job of a scholar.
Unfortunately, this confusion pertaining to Ahādīth has given rise to some
adverse reactions. People who have shown such reactions can be classified into
1. There are those who have reacted by formulating the
erroneous premise that the Hadīth can in no way be a reliable source of
religious knowledge. This reaction went beyond all proportion when they confused
the Hadīth with the Sunnah and then refused to accept even the Sunnah as an
2. On the other hand are those who tried to defend the
status of the Sunnah as an original source but in the process lost sight of what
they were actually defending. They too have come to regard the Sunnah and the
Hadīth as one and the same thing. Therefore, they consider those Ahādīth which
have already been evaluated on the basis of Fann-i-Riwaayat as an
unchallengeable source of knowledge even where the possibility of further
analysis on the basis of Fann-i-Daraayat clearly exists.
As far as the former group is concerned, the very premise
it has formulated is incorrect. Many Ahādīth were fabricated; there is no doubt
about that; but it does not imply that all Ahādīth are false. A Hadīth can
neither be considered as genuine nor as fabricated until proper analysis on the
basis of both Fann-i-Riwaayat and Fann-i-Daraayat has been made.
Moreover, it must be remembered that the Sunnah relates to
that part of religion which the Prophet (sws) taught as the instructor of divine
law and as a model for mankind so that his followers should mould their lives in
accordance with the wishes of the Almighty by performing the rituals and
following the injunctions found in Islam. Transmission of the Sunnah was his
duty and, therefore, it was not passed on to a few narrators merely but to the
whole society at that time and was transmitted to the Muslim Ummah by the
perpetual adherence of the Companions of the Prophet (sws). For example, the
exact significance of thd Qur’ānic term Al-Salaat
is not something which the Prophet (sws) explained to a few narrators only---who
might or might not have passed on the information to someone like Imam Bokhari,
who might or might not have accepted it as genuine---but
something which the Prophet (sws) explained to the whole Muslim community in his
time orally and through demonstration. Therefore, Al-Salaat, as the Prophet (sws)
defined it, became so much a part of the daily routine of those people that it
is now an established historical fact. It is also natural that in the case of
the Sunnah---which relates to the performance of rituals and execution of
injunctions and not to articles of faith---some variations should emerge. Such
variations as do not distort the broader structure of the Sunnah are acceptable.
The Prophet’s reply ‘La Ba’s’ (no problem) on a certain occasion when some
people were not certain whether they had correctly made the Haj owing to such
minor variations also corroborates this principle. Questions as ‘should the
hands be clasped together above or below the navel in Al-Salaat’ are hardly
important and minor variations on their account do not impair the position of
the Sunnah as an original source. Therefore, this position of the Sunnah cannot
be denied on the grounds that some Ahādīth had been fabricated. Take a crude
example---that of circumcision. For centuries, Muslims have been circumcising
the male child. They still regard it as part of the Sunnah passed on from
generation to generation. Few parents need a Hadīth from Al-Bukhari or Al-Muslim
before circumcising their child. Today, those who deny the Sunnah would find, on
close inspection, that they too had been circumcised by their people. They would
be lying if they denied that more often than not their parents did not have to
bother about finding a Hadīth to justify that ‘terrible act of cruelty’ to their
The latter group has great contempt for those those
scholars who use Fann-i-Daraayat for making further analyses of a Hadīth which
had already been confirmed as genuine on the basis of Fann-i-Riwaayat by earlier
scholars. In the following paragraphs we present a translation of a portion from
by Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman Kandhalvi. This portion of his book discusses
Fann-i-Daraayat and highlights its importance. It clearly points out that
Fann-i-Daraayat is essential for confirming the authenticity of Ahādīth and that
the option of using this approach is still available to Hadīth scholars of today
as much as it was to the scholars of earlier times.
The translation begins thus:
“Although books on these two disciplines: [Fann-i-Daraayat
and Fann-i-Riwaayat] have been available in the sub-continent
for a long time, few scholars have made use of Fann-i-Daraayat and that too for
merely solving problems in Fiqh.
If Fann-i-Daraayat was limited to a small number of
scholars in an age when learning was in its prime, its virtual non-existence in
the present age of blind acquiescence in conventions must come as no surprise.
However, it is important to discuss the significance of Fann-i-Daraayat.
The Foundations of Daraayat
The basis of Fann-i-Daraayat can be found in the Qur’ān.
When some hypocrites tried to cast aspersions on the honour of Aa’isha (may
Allah be pleased with her), one of the Prophet’s wives, some of his Companions
were also misled. She was accused of adultery on one occasion, and it is
recorded in Al-Bukhārī and Al-Muslim that even Hasan Bin Thaabit and Mistaih Bin
Athaathah were among the accusers. Thus, both of them were punished for calumny
when the Qur’ān declared the accusation to be baseless, though they were
faithful Companions of the Prophet (sws). The Qur’ān giving its judgement on the
issue says, ‘As to the party among you who have published this falsehood...’
(24:11). According to Tafsīr-i-Jalaalain, a well-known exegesis of the Qur’ān,
‘a party among the faithful’ is the interpretation of the Arabic word ‘minkum’
used in the verse. This interpretation indicates that not only the hypocrites
but also some faithful Companions of the Prophet (sws) were involved in
spreading the scandal. Therefore, the Qur’ān was addressing the Companions of
the Prophet (sws) when it said:
‘Did not the faithful men and the faithful women, when
they heard this, judge in their own minds for the best; and say, this is a
manifest falsehood.’ (24:16)
Now, in accordance with the principles of Fann-i-Riwaayat,
the names, reliability and trustworthiness of all those who testified against
Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) should have been investigated and the
testimonies accepted or rejected on that simply basis; however, God Almighty
chose to reject all the testimonies without giving any such justification for
this decision. God said that since all the testimonies were against reason, the
faithful should have refused to accept them at the outset of the matter.
It is clear from this discussion that a statement which is
fundamentally against reason, deserves nothing but an outright denial. There is
no need in that case for further investigation. This manner of thinking is
closely associated with Fann-i-Daraayat, the foundations of which, as that of
Fann-i-Riwaayat, can be traced back to the times of the Prophet’s Companions.
Once, some Companions of the Prophet (sws) had a
difference of opinion over whether eating cooked food necessitated performing
again for Al-Salaat. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that
the Holy Prophet (sws) had once said that eating cooked food did necessitate
performing Wadhu again for Al-Salaat. On hearing that, Abdullah-bin-Abbaas (may
Allah be pleased with him) rebuked him by saying that then even hot water [ie,
heated by placing under fire] should necessitate Wadhu. Now, Abdullah-bin-Abbaas
did not doubt Abu Hurairah’s sincerity, but since he found the narrative
contrary to common sense, he rejected it. Owing to such complications, when the
compilation of the Hadīth began, the leading scholars of that time, realizing
the significance of Fann-i-Daraayat, postulated principles along with those of
Fann-i-Daraayat to check the infiltration of forgeries.
Imam Ibni Ali Jauzee is reported to have said:
‘If you find a Hadīth against the dictates of common sense
or contrary to a universal rule, consider it a fabrication; discussions about
the trustworthiness of its narrators are needless. Similarly, such Ahādīth
should be suspected as are beyond comprehension to the extent that they leave no
room for any possible explanation. Also, a Hadīth in which colossal recompense
is promised for a minor deed and a Hadīth which is absurd in meaning are
suspect. For example take this one: “Do not eat a pumpkin that has not been
halaled.” Therefore, many Hadīth scholars consider absurdity in a Hadīth as a
clear evidence of the narrators’ prevarication.
All these principles relate to the text of Hadīth.
However, in certain cases, they are applicable to the investigation of a
narrator’s reliability as well, for example in the following cases:
When a person narrates a Hadīth not reported by anyone
else and he had not even met the authority he is quoting.
When, as Khateeb points out in his book “Al-Kifaaya”, only
one narrator reports a Hadīth whereas the situation described in it is of such a
nature that it should have attracted the attention of many others.
When a Hadīth is reported by only one person whereas the
incident reported is so extraordinary that scores of people should have reported
it; for example, if it were reported by somebody that in a certain year someone
had kept the Hajjis from making the Haj, a ritual of great importance, it would
be an incident which, if it had occurred, would have been reported by many
From the passage quoted above, it can be concluded that
such Ahādīth as the following cannot be accepted and there is no need for
investigating the reliability of their narrators:
1. A Hadīth which is fundamentally against the dictates of
2. A Hadīth contrary to a universally accepted principle;
for example, there is a general tendency among human beings to regard urine,
faeces and all such excreta as filth; now, if a narrator were to report that
someone tasted the Prophet’s urine with his tacit approval and conclude that
even such excreta of the Prophet (sws) are to be hallowed by the believers, it
would only be assumed that the narrator possessed a mind full of nothing but
3. A Hadīth relating something which is against common
4. A Hadīth contrary to the Qur’ān or Hadīth-i-Mutawaatir
especially when no possible explanation for this contradiction exists; for
example, a narration which approves of drinking of blood, whereas the practice
is not only forbidden by the Qur’ān but also by the Sunnah and is held in
abomination by a majority of Muslim scholars. Such a Hadīth is bound to be a
5. A Hadīth in which enormous reward is promised for a
relatively minor deed.
6. A Hadīth which warns of an extremely severe punishment
for a relatively minor deed; for example, take this one; ‘He who cuts down a
jujube tree shall be thrown upside down into Hell.’
7. A Hadīth which is meaningless; for example, ‘Do not eat
a pumpkin that has not halaled.’
8. A Hadīth in which the narrator quotes an authority he
had never met, and no one else confirms his narrative.
9. A Hadīth which should have been in the knowledge of
numerous authorities, but only one narrator reports it.
10. A Hadīth relating an incident which, if it had occurred,
would have been reported by hundreds of people; yet only one narrator reports
it; for example, the sun re-ascending itself for the sake of a Companion of the
Prophet (sws).” (“Mazhabi Daastanain aur un kee Haqeeqat”, Pgs 9-12)