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Hadith: Ilm Darayah, the Science to Understand the Hadith Text

When we hear someone narrating or quoting a hadith, we often hear terms like Aahih, Ahsan, Aziz, Gharib, Dhaeef, or Mawdhu. Those familiar with hadith terminology understand the dimensions of the narration, and those who do not usually accept all narrations at the same level without seeking any clarification. In Friday sermons and everyday discussions, you would hear people quoting hadith to prove a point. Often, they would identify their status in the eyes of traditionists. For instance, during a Friday Khutbah in one of the Masajid in Southern California, a known speaker quoted a hadith saying that the Prophet said, "anyone who combines two prayers is standing on the gate of hellfire." He did not cite any source for this hadith nor mentioned whether it was sahih, Ahsan, or Gharib. Even if he did, people would not have known the differences. After the prayer, when some people asked him to identify his source, he first said it was in Bukhari; well, there was iPhone where the inquirer ran a quick search for this hadith. It was not there. He then said that he had heard from someone.

It is how even many who claim to be knowledgeable quote ahadith.

Referring to the terminology, interestingly, most of the terms in hadith literature refer to what is known as Ilm Riwayah. As explained earlier, it is a science that enables one to study hadith in the context of narration. It enables one to determine the authenticity of the source and accuracy in the transmission and reporting of the hadith.

What is known as Ilm al-Darayah is rarely referred to in public discourse on hadith. `Ilm al-Darayah is the science that enables one to examine the meaning of the hadith critically. It deals with the accuracy of the text and pays attention to all of its nuances and any ruling it might contain. A jurist often uses it. Its branches include `Ilm Gharib al-Hadith, `Ilm Mukhtalif al-Hadith: `Ilm Ziyadat al-Thiqar, `Ilm al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh and `Ilm al-Hadith wa al-Tadlis.

Ilm Darayah is an established branch of Ilm hadith, and in fact, it opens up possibilities of inquiry and critical examination of the text, as well as influences the rules of ilm riwayah also. For instance, this science enables one to distinguish among the Prophet's companions as regards their level of narration. The narrations of Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman , and Ali are not placed at the level of the narration of a simpleton, especially if they deal with complicated or juristic issues. It also helps resolve the conflict between the two narrations. Two prominent Muslim scholars Ibn Yahya As-Saji and Imam Shafai, are credited with books about Ilm Darayah.

Scholars have developed extensive rules to determine the validity of a statement or narration attributed to the Prophet. They have concluded that if the following conditions are found in any narration, they would be rejected based on Ilm Darayah. These rules are not divinely revealed as the products of human intellect. They are influenced by the level of scholarship of the scholars. Therefore, they cannot be perceived as the final word on the subject. Some of the rules are:

1. If the narration is against facts, it should be rejected. For instance, if there is a narration that says that Abdullah bin Masood participated in the battle of Siffin. It would be rejected because he died during the time of the third Caliph, Uthman bin Affan or the narration that asserts that Muawiya ran away from the battle of Jamal as Muawiya is not reported to be present during the war.

2. Any narration that uses cussing and cursing against the family of the Prophet or against the companions whose character was well established and well known.

3. If the narration is against the known criterion of wisdom and understanding.

4. If the narration is against any established rule. For instance, if the narration says that the earth is flat, then it would be questioned in its authenticity because it is against the known principles of Allah's law of creation.

5. The narration conflicts with the Quran and its guidance.

6. The narration conflicts with the character of the Prophet.

7. The narration conflicts with a hadith that is considered mutawatir (continuous) hadith.

8. The narration is about an event that may have been witnessed by many but reported by only one. For instance, Asma bint Amees reports that once the sun returned from the course of setting in the West for Caliph Ali or that the dawn delayed its appearance because Bilal did not give azan (call to prayer).

9. The narration that uses offensive or grammatically wrong language with meaningless statements.

10. Narrations that promise bigger rewards or punishment for more minor acts. For instance the, narration that says that anyone who offers two units of prayer will get 70,000 homes with 70,000 rooms in every home, 70,000 platforms in each room, and 70,000 maidens on each of the platforms

11. Narrations that equate even a minor virtuous act with the reward of Hajj and Umra.

12. Narrations that promise the status of prophets or the reward given to the prophets for minor acts of virtue. For instance, one Noah bin Abi Aasma was exposed for concocting statements attributed to the Prophet. When asked why he did that, he admitted that the purpose of inventing these narrations was noble because "when I realized that people had forsaken the Quran, I concocted ahadith to motivate people to focus on the divine guidance and to earn the supposed reward by starting to read the Quran." Similarly, some narrations refer to prohibiting smoking tobacco or hookah, or coffee.

13. Narrations that relied on dreams to attribute statements to the Prophet without mentioning their dreams

14. Narrations reported by the courtiers of kings and rulers supporting their behavior and actions.

15. Narrations that include meaningful proverbs famous in other cultures attributed to the Prophet enhance his effectiveness.

Scholars such as Imam Abul Faraj ibn al-Jawzi, Hafiz ibn al-Qayyam, Hafiz Sakhawi, and others have compiled a list of rules used in the science of Darayat.

1. Narrations that describe the Prophet in a manner that demeans his nobility, such as 70,000 maidens or 70,000 servants in heaven.

2. Narrations that defy logic and experience. For instance, eggplant is the cure of all illnesses, or the one who eats squash is blessed. It is neither proven through experience nor logic.

3. Narrations repeated to attract the people to one. For instance, if rice were a human, it would have acted in a very graceful manner.

4. Narrations that promise the greatest reward for the minor acts of virtue.

5. Narrations that promise the worst punishment for most minor sins.

6. Narrations that describe the superiority of flowers. For instance, it is wrong to say that the rose was created from the sweat of Prophet Muhammad.

7. Narrations that describe the superiority of pigeons or chickens.

8. Narrations about the superiority of Berry trees.

9. Narrations that describe the superiority of Hina.

10. Narrations that describe that the Prophet used the public bathroom to take a bath.

11. Narrations that go against the clear sunnah, for instance, the narration that says that anyone with the name of Ahmad and Muhammad would not go to hellfire.

12. Narrations that go against the Quran. For instance, the night journey began at the home of Umm Hani.

13. Narrations that are clearly against the intellect.

14. Narrations that have no resemblance to the saying of Prophets.

15. Narrations that establish a rule in religion but are reported only by one person.

16. Narrations that specify a date or year for a specific event.

17. Narrations that describe the superiority of any city other than Makkah, Medina, and Jerusalem.

18. Narrations that describe the superiority of a mausoleum.

19. Narrations that describe the medical principles.

20. Narrations that describe the superiority of Rajab fasting.

21. Narrations that prescribe certain specific prayers during the night of power.

22. Narrations that use words below the dignity of the Prophet.

23. Narrations that condemn blacks, Turks, Sudanese, or Ethiopians.

24. Narrations that describe the dates for the doomsday.

25. Narrations that describe particular days of the week bringing bad omen.

26. Narrations that condemn castrated people.

27. Narrations that describe the superiority of a precious stone.

28. Narrations that condemn the nurturing of children.

29. Narrations that describe the virtue of visiting the grave of the Prophet.

30. Narrations that describe war with Jinns.

31. Narrations that describe the events surrounding the birth of the Prophet.

32. Narrations that describe the virtue of every sura of the Quran.

33. Narrations about the superiority or inferiority of the four Imams.

34. Narrations that condemn the companions of the Prophet.

35. Narrations that describe the virtue of virginity.

36. Narrations that condemn a child born without the identification of their father.

37. Narrations that describe the forgiveness for people belonging to a specific race or family.

38. Narrations that say that people would be identified with their mother's name on the Day of Judgment.

39. Narrations about the virtue of wheat or any bean or lentils

40. Narrations about the virtue of any oil

41. Narrations about the rulership of Banu Abbas.

42. Narrations against the known fact of history.

43. Narrations that give the superiority of certain mountains.

44. Narrations that give news about the birth of the parents of the Prophet.

45. Narrations that praise the physical beauty or ugliness of specific individuals.

46. Narrations describing the virtue of salat ul awwabeen (the supplementary prayers at the sunset prayers)

47. Narrations that support oppression, injustice, and violence

48. Narrations that describe the virtue of praying with caps or turban on the head.

49. Narrations describing Isaac as the one which Prophet Ibrahim sacrificed

50. Narrations that condemn the wives of the Prophet.

51. Narrations prescribing shade for somebody on the Day of Judgment.

52. Narrations that attribute actions to the companions they might not have done.

53. Narrations that prescribe the worldly reward for reciting Ism Azam (the most significant sacred name)

54. Narrations that describe the virtue of poverty and starvation.

55. Narrations that describe that God created intellect first.

56. Narration describing that Prophet Muhammad was the first creation of Allah.

57. Narrations that describe that God created human beings from the light.

58. Narrations that contradict the consensus.

59. Narrations that give stories about Khidhr.

Some scholars have included rules that reflect the nature of conflicts in their societies. For instance, Mulla Ali Qari, in his work on the fabrication of ahadith, contains the following rules.

The ahadith, according to him, would be rejected if it comes from the following sources or if it deals with the following subjects. First, they are a political culture with no authenticity from the Prophet of his early companions.

1. Narrations reported by Rafdhi (Shia).

2. Narrations critical to Banu Ummayya.

3. Narrations supportive of Caliph Ali's claim to Imamat or wilayat.

4. Narrations about Khawrij or Nusibi.

5. Narrations about Bidati or innovators.

6. Narrations attributed to storytellers.

7. Narrations that praise Banu Abbas.

8. Narrations about glorifying Caliph Ali and elevating him to a status higher than Prophets.

These rules emerged after the departure of the rightly guided Caliphs as they reflect the political division that the Muslim community was faced with. They revolve around Banu Ummaya, Banu Hashim, and Banu Abbas.

The scholars whose names are mentioned above reject narrations with any of the weaknesses mentioned above. Interestingly, in books of ahadith, one comes across several narrations that show the weaknesses mentioned above. It is almost impossible for an average person to memorize all these principles and then develop his critique of each hadith. Those who hear these ahadith assume that the criteria to determine the accuracy of the narration have been applied. However, one of the main issues determining the validity of narration depends on how the Quran is understood and how the other ahadith are related to the one under examination. It is a subjective criterion given the fact that scholars have differences of opinion on several Quranic verses. For instance, some scholars believe that certain verses of the Quran stand canceled while others do not accept this position. Their outlook on the validity of a particular hadith from a Quranic perspective would depend on how they interrupt a specific verse of the Quran. For instance, those who say the Quranic aya of writing a will is canceled would not approve of any hadith that give details of the virtue of writing a will, while those who believe that the ayah is not canceled would accept ahadith that deal with the subject.

One would never know what was rejected by traditionists based on these criteria.

These were the issues hadith scholars and jurists dealt with in applying the rules of Daryat in their work. Those who argue that the task of filtering the narration is complete and over perhaps need to review their position based on the changing dynamics of the scope of knowledge that we are fast gaining. Similarly, those who believe that the past scholars did not do their job properly should also realize that what the scholars did was superb within the means they had access to. Imagine they were living in a world, where paper, pen, computers, printing machines, etc., were not available. The human mind was the only machine available to them. They did their job as best as they could. Interestingly, none of them asserted that their work is the final word on the subject. Instead, they admitted that the work they compiled would be reviewed, critically examined, and based on new research that would emerge later, more strict guidelines would be developed.

Their expectations have not yet been met fully. Instead, the issue of ahadith has become a battle cry between two groups of people, one who refuses to critically view the hadith literature and the other that rejects the presumptions that the books of ahadith cannot be touched.

The purpose of the scholars was to ensure that the hadith should understand the divine message. None of them diminished the importance of the Quran. Yet, discussion on the issue has reduced both the Quran and the Sunna to a level of factional fight. It is something that both the Quran and the authentic ahadith of the Prophet prohibit. It is this polemics that is preventing Muslims from reaching some conclusive decisions on issues at hand.

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