Lesser Known Hadith Compilations: Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah and Sahih Ibn Hibban

Ibn Khuzaymah (223-311 h)  of Naysâpûr in Central Asia and his book, Kitâb Al-ßa^î^, The Authentic Book,  is compared with Ibn ±ibbân (275-354 h) from Khorâsân (northeastern Iran and large areas north and east) and his work Al-Taqâsim wa’l-Anwâ¢.


1. Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah

The Compiler

THE SCHOLAR BEHIND this ^adîth collection is Abû Bakr Mu^ammad ibn Is^âq ibn Khuzaymah (223-311 h) of Naysâbûr in Central Asia. His work is commonly known as ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah. According to Ibn ±ajar, the actual title of the book is Kitâb Al-ßa^î^, The Authentic Book. Its virtue, according to Ibn ±ajar, is that every narration in it is supported by a continuous linkage of upright narrators without any breaks in the chain or any narrators that have been deemed unreliable.

Ibn Khuzaymah’s Criteria

Ibn Khuzaymah required that every narration in his book be authentic, as is apparent from its formal title. Ibn Khuzaymah’s definition of |a^î^, however, differs slightly from that of the majority of muhâddithîn. This difference emerges because Ibn Khuzaymah includes the ^asan hadîth (second-grade of acceptable a^adîth) as part of the |a^î^ category. However, this difference in terminology is of little practical consequence, since both ^asan and |a^î^ hadîth are authentic and require the acceptance and acquiescence of a Muslim.

The Structure and Methodology of Ibn Khuzaymah’s Book

  1. He organized the narrations into chapters and subchapters in accordance with the prominent organization of ^adîth books during his time. Hence, he begins with the chapter of wudû’, followed by |alah, and so forth. In the chapter (kitâb al-wudû’), he nests subchapters known as “abwâb,” literally “doors” or “gates.”
  2. The a^adîth of his book are supported by chains of narrators that go from him back to the Prophet œ. If a ^adîth has more than one narration, he mentions them all.
  3. He generally follows up the narration with a short, scholarly discussion about the chain of narrators (sanad) and the Text (matn). He pays meticulous attention to the wording of the Text, to the degree that he makes sure to distinguish the short vowels of a word (in an undiacriticized Text) that he deems to require emphasis or greater clarify. Clarifying the unwritten vowels is known among scholars as “\abt al-alfâ·.” It is not achieved by applying the diacritical marks to the Text, such as by adding fat^a and \ammah, because these marks are highly subject to error during transcription. Rather, scholars wrote out in their explications, for example, such and such letter of such and such word has a \amma on it, or such and such letter has two dots over it.
  4. If there are varying narrations of the same ^adîth, Ibn Khuzaymah takes care to make clear the variations and distinguish between them.
  5. Ibn Khuzaymah often begins his explanatory discussions that follow the ^adîth with the phrase: “Ibn Khuzaymah said….”
  6. Oftentimes, Ibn Khuzaymah mentions his fiqhî (juristic) opinions about an issue in the form of a subtitle preceding the ^adîth that has elicited from him his opinion—as is common in other ^adîth

The Station of Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah Among the Compilations of the Sunnah

Ibn Al-Ṣalâ^ writes in his Muqaddima, or Introduction:

Then as for the authentic a^adîth that are not narrated by Bukhârî or Muslim, the researcher of these a^âdîth can find them in the other reliable compilations….If the ^adîth is found in a book in which the compiler has made it a condition that the ^adîth be authentic, such as ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah, then this is enough to prove the authenticity of the ^adîth.

Al-Ṣuyû~î writes:

ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah is more authentic on the whole than ßa^î^ Ibn ±ibbân because Ibn Khuzaymah investigated his narrations very thoroughly, to the degree that he refused to accept a narration if there existed the slightest doubt about its authenticity.

Al-Thahabî states:

“Imam Ibn Khuzaymah was one of the great imams who had insight when it came to rijâl (the science of determining the reliability of narrators).”

Al-Dhahabî  adds that Ibn Khuzaymah writes in his book: “I do not view as reliable: [so and so, and so and so…],” whereupon Ibn Khuzaymah catalogues a lengthy list of narrators about whom there was scholarly disagreement regarding their reliability. The fact that Ibn Khuzaymah excluded these narrators shows how selective he was about his a^adîth.

The Work of Scholars on the Book: Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah

The earlier generations of Muslims, in the centuries following Ibn Khuzaymah’s, took care to narrate, listen to, and transcribe many copies of ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah so that it would reach us accurately and intact. As for later generations, the 9th-century scholar Ibn Al-Mulaqqîn served Ibn Khuzaymah’s work. Ibn Mulaqqîn, furthermore it should be noted, summarized Al-Mizzî’s important Tahthîb Al-Kamâl, which contains moderate, reliable judgments on each of the narrators that are found in the “six books” of sound ^adîth (Bukhârî, Muslim, Tirmithî, Abû Dâwûd, Nasâ’î, and Ibn Mâjah).

In that summary, Ibn Mulaqqîn also presented the narrators found in six additional books, one of them being ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah. The complete list of books whose narrators Ibn Al-Mulaqqîn scrutinized in his book is as follows: The six above-mentioned books, along with ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah, and also Musnad A^mad, ßa^î^ Ibn ±ibbân, Al-Mustadrak (±âkim Al- Naysâbûrî), Sunan Al-Dâraqu, and Sunan Al-Bay^aqî. Thus, Ibn Al-Mulaqqîn named this book Al-Ikmâl, Completions.

Ibn ±ajar, also a scholar of the ninth century, compiled a book in which he organized a^adîth  in an alphabetical order based on their first few words, including all the narrations found in 10 books, as well as some fourth of the narrations of ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah.


2. Sahih Ibn Hibban

The Compiler

THE AUTHOR OF this work is Abû ±âtim Mu^ammad ibn ±ibbân (275-354 h) from Khorasan (today comprised mostly of northeastern Iran, part of Afghanistan contiguous with it and modern Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), an area renowned in Islamic history for producing ^adîth scholars. Ibn ±ibbân mentioned the actual title of his work in his introduction as Al-Taqâsim wa’l-Anwâ¢. The title reflects its structure of arranging a^adîth by unique Divisions and Types, or Categories and Kinds–not according to the standard chapter sequences of ^adîth collections, nor by way of listing the ^adîth’ Companion narrators (in musnad fashion). The a^adîth of ßa^î^ Ibn ±ibbân are supported by chains of narrators that have no missing links, and against whom no meaningful evidence exists to impute weakness to these transmitters.

Ibn Hibban’s Criteria

Ibn ±ibbân said in his substantial introduction to his book: “As for our conditions regarding the transmitters of the Traditions placed in this book of ours, indeed, we have not placed in this book other than narrations in which every narrator has met five requirements:

  1. [Agreed upon] uprightness of religion and lack of [any kind of real] evidence against the narrator is sufficient to establish a narrator’s reliability [as opposed to the ^adîth school of thought that requires testimony to the narrator’s uprightness in addition to the absence of testimony against him or her].
  2. The narrator is known as a student of ^adîth [as opposed to a random narrator].
  3. The narrator is rational when it comes to transmitting the ^adîth he relates. [Thus, a ^adîth cannot be narrated, for example, while the transmitter is dozing off into sleep, or if a transmitter is not familiar with Arabic.]
  4. The narrator understands the meaning of what he is narrating.
  5. The narrator cannot be mudallis [a narrator known to stealthily omit other narrators from his chain].

Hence, every person possessed of these five characteristics we deem reliable. Then upon the likes of these does our book rest. Anyone that lacks a characteristic from these five we deemed unreliable.”

Ibn Hibban’s Rationale for His Collection

Ibn ±ibbân states his objective in compiling his collection in his introduction:

I saw that…narrations had grown to have many pathways [chain of narrations], while the knowledge of what is |a^î^ had become scarce among people. This occurred because [the focus of students of ^adîth] had turned to preoccupation with studying those compilations that specified for people a^adîth that are fabricated [kutub al-mawdu¢ât]. Also, they engaged themselves in the memorization of narrations that had mistakes in them…so much so that the authentic narrations were being abandoned and not transcribed [for wider dissemination and preservation], while…strange reports became valuable for their oddness.

The Structure of Sahih Ibn Hibban 

Ibn ±ibbân divides the Sunnah into five categories:

  1. commands: 110 subcategories
  2. prohibitions: 110 subcategories
  3. formative: 80 subcategories
  4. permissible (mubâ^): 50 subcategory
  5. prophetic actions œ: 50 subcategories

This ordering of the sunnah is unique to Ibn ±ibbân and gives his work an added value. Not only is Ibn ±ibbân’s ßa^î^ a compilation of ^adîth, it is also an extensive encyclopedia of fiqh. In the heading of every ^adîth, Ibn ±ibbân captions the fiqh positions he has derived from the ^adîth. Moreover, at the end of most every ^adiith, Ibn ±ibbân includes useful commentary about the narrators or about the Text. He also illuminates fine points of meaning that may be otherwise liable to misunderstanding.

The Reliability of Sahih Ibn Hibban

ßa^î^ Ibn ±ibbân is an extensive and reliable firsthand source of ^adîth. Like ßa^î^ Ibn Khuzaymah, his book contains authentic a^adîth of both the first and second-grade (|a^î^ and ^asan). Because Ibn ±ibbân relaxed his criteria regarding narrators as he explained, most of the mu^addithîn (scholars of ^adîth) deem Ibn Khuzaymah’s work more authentic owing to Ibn Khuzaymah’s special rigor in terms of narrators. Indeed, weak narrations do make their way into ßa^î^ Ibn ±ibbân as a result of his passive criteria with regard to establishing narrator reliability, but the overwhelming majority of his reports are |a^î^ or ^asan.

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Written By

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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