RLG204H5 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Ibn Majah, Abu Dawood, Hadith Studies

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12 Mar 2018
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Week 4
Schimmel, pgs. 51-57
Early on Muslims discovered that the Koran did not explain all the details in an
individuals or community’s life, some were briefly explain and some mentioned at all
Since the revelations stopped with the Prophet’s death, they had to find a way to fill the
gaps while remaining faithful to the spirit of the revelation
They therefore clung to the Prophet’s own words and actions, his sunna, “custom”
Already in pre-Islamic Arabia tradition was highly valued, so just like the Bedouin
closely followed their ancestors, or elders’ way of life, after Islam, the believers tried to
imitate the Prophet’s example in each and every detail and way.
The Prophet’s custom thus in itself became a kind of interpretation of the Koran
A single report of what he said or did is called a hadith, “saying, tale”
A good number of non-authentic sayings infiltrated the text in the first centuries, so we
consider the hadith an infallible source for our understanding of the Prophet’s original
teaching and his actual behaviors
However, in the ninth century, Bukhari (d.870) selected and classified the most reliable
ones in his comprehensive collection which contains around 7,300 hadith, which however
appear under different headings, so that the total number is near 3000.
Bukhari’s contemporary, Muslim (d.875) under took a similar task
The collections produced by these two scholars are called sahih, “sound, without flaw”
and they are regarded as second only to the Koran
The four other collections produced by Abu Da’ud, Nassa’i, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Maja
around the same time and ranked somewhat lower
Scholars traveled widely in search of reliable hadith
Each hadith consists of the text, matn, and the isnad, the chain of those who have heard
the text in question
This chain has to continue without interruptions to Muhammad or one of his companions
A typical short isnad: “I heard from A that he said: ‘I heard from B that he was told by C
that his father said: “I heard the Prophet say….”
One has to find out whether or not the person mentioned in the isnad (among whom are a
considerable number of women) really knew the one from whom he relates the hadith or
whether time, age, and local distance make their relation improbable if not impossible
There are several more criteria as well
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