History Of Compilation Of The Sunnah | Sahih Muslim: A Brief Look At The Author And The Work (2) | Omar Abdl-Haleem

We conclude from Part 1 our look at the work of Imam Muslim (Imâm Abû Al-±usayn Muslim ibn Al-±ajjâj ibn Muslim) in compiling authentic narrations of the Prophet œ in his work of Hadith collection and authentication. We resume comparison of Muslim’s work with that of Imam Bukhâri and present Muslim’s stated format in his work, titled ßa^î^ Muslim.

How Much of the Sahih Hadith Literature is Contained in Bukhari and Muslim?

It was not the aim of Bukhâri and Muslim to encompass the entire corpus of |a^î^ a^âdîth. Their goal was to select from the categories of |a^î^ a^âdîth that they deemed most important for people to know. Even so, it is rare to find—in one of the other four of the Six Books (|a^î^ a^âdîth collections)—a ^adîth which fulfills the conditions of either Bukhâri or Muslim that is not also to be found in either Bukhâri or Muslim. For the most part, for any topic found in the other four, one can locate in Bukhâri or Muslim a ^adîth that addresses the same topic.

The Special Place of Bukhari and Muslim

The a^âdîth in Bukhâri and Muslim hold a special rank because there is consensus that they are authentic. This consensus alone is enough to establish the narrations in the works of Bukhâri and Muslim as authentic with the highest degree of certainty. This is the reason why scholars consider the a^âdîth of Bukhâri and Muslim to be stronger than those not included in their works. A report that appears in both works solidifies even more certainty.

The Methodology of Imam Muslim in His Compilation

Muslim explained his methodology (to his students of Hadith) in the introduction to his ßa^î^ with these words:

I will, Inshâ’Allâh, begin to extract (i.e., from those sources available to me) [the a^âdîth for] the [authentic book] that you have asked me to compose upon the following condition, which I hereby state to you:

I shall attend to [whatever report] that has been narrated about the Prophet œ in its entirety. I shall subdivide this into three sections. Likewise, I shall subdivide the narrators into three sections.

Nor shall I repeat a^âdîth [as did Bukhâri], unless there is a context that demands repetition so as to give more meaning, or to support one Text with multiple chains of narrators. For if there is a ^adîth with an added meaning, that added meaning requires the place of a ^adîth on its own. Thus, a ^adîth that holds an additional meaning, as I have described it, must be repeated [in its entirety]. That added meaning can be separated out on its own from the rest of the ^adîth if that is possible; however, it may be difficult to divide it from the rest of the ^adîth. In this case, it is safer to repeat it as is….Now, if I find that this [separation] is unnecessary, and I have no need of repeating a ^adîth, then I shall take it upon myself to do just this (i.e., leave the parts unseparated), Inshâ’Allâh.

Then as for the first section, I shall proceed systematically to present the narrations that are purest and flawless, the transmitters being upright and precise in their transmission of ^adîth and having no contradictions or unacceptable confusions in their narrations, the likes of [such confusions, etc.] having been located in relation to many narrators and which are clear in their narrations.

Then, after I have thoroughly exhausted the narrations of this [first] category of narrators, I will follow it up with narrations that have in their chains of narrators some of those [reporters] who are not described as having the same level of precision and memory as the category that preceded them. Yet even though they are, as I have described, not at the level [of the preceding narrators], they are also not known to be lacking in uprightness. On the contrary, they are known to be truthful and active in their pursuit of knowledge. This shall include ¢A~a ibn Al-Sâ’ib, Yazîd ibn Abî Ziyâd, Al-Layth ibn Abî Sulaym, and the like of them who conveyed Traditions and transmitted reports.

In this manner shall I compose what you have asked for as far as the narrations about the Messenger of Allah œ from the kinds of people I mentioned. As to those narrations that have reached us on the authority of people whom the scholars of ^adîth have censured [for ungodliness, poor memory, and imprecision in narration], I shall not busy myself with the extraction of their a^âdîth.

What Imam Muslim is stating in this excerpt from his introduction is simply that he studied the body of Hadith literature in its entirety, or nearly so, and divided the narrations into three categories. This categorization is specific to him and is not the standard in Hadith literature, generally. The first category comprises the narrators of ^adîth that are at the highest level of uprightness and precision. The second category includes those who are upright but in some minor but distinct way not as strong as the previous category, though nonetheless acceptable. The third category contains the narrations of those who had problems in character or memory. Thus Muslim compiled his book from the first and second category and excluded the third.

Summarizing the Numbers

Again, excluding repeats, there are about 4,000 a^âdîth in Muslim and 12,000 all together, counting repeats.

As for the number of a^âdîth in Bukhâri and Muslim together without repetition, it differs depending on the criteria of counting. Collectively, it comes to about 6,000—2,000 from Muslim, 2,000 from Bukhâri, and 2,000 that appear in both.

All in all, the celebrated Six Books of |a^î^ ^adîth contain a little more than 10,000 a^âdîth without counting the repetitions.

The 6,000 a^âdîth of the two ßaî^s (Bukhâri and Muslim) represent almost all of the existing authentic a^âdîth that reach the higher levels of authenticity. There are, however, many authentic and acceptable a^âdîth that are at a lower level of verification besides these 6,000.

Keep in mind that there is an important terminological difference between a “^adîth” and a “narration.” One ^adîth can, and almost always does, have exponentially multiplied narrations. Thus there are hundreds and thousands of narrations which are gathered into a couple hundred ^adîth books. Yet these hundreds of thousands of narrations stem from a body of tens of thousands of a^âdîth.


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Omar Abdl-Haleem is a fourth generation Muslim in America. He has a BA from Al-Azhar University in Usul Al-Din, specializing in Hadith, and was about to finish his Master’s Degree from Al-Azhar in Hadith, when he had to leave Egypt for safety reasons in the fall of 2013. He has translated most of Ibn Al-Jawzi’s book: Sayd Al-Khatir into English, which he intends to complete (some episodes of Omar’s translation of this book have appeared in Aljumuah Website). He is also working on a Hadith book for English speakers that explains and teaches Mustalah Al-Hadith (Hadith Terminology) in common terms. His Arabic is native, having studied in Egypt since he was 14, and then full time after completion of High School in the US. He is invaluable for AlJumuah in accessing scholarly texts. He intends to complete his graduate studies in Hadith.

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