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Ḥadīth Sciences; Past, Present, Future

Author : Mahdi Mehrizi
Subject : Hadith Sciences
Translator : Ahmad Rezwani
Editor : Mahdi Baqi

25 Oct 2011
Hadith Sciences 3


Key Words


Study of the historical background of sciences indicates that the sciences have not come into being all at once; rather, they have joined the human culture and knowledge in the course of time and in the light of various causes and factors. Many a time encountering a question or facing a problem has paved the way for the emergence of a science. That is to say, an attempt in answering a question or solving a problem has led to the formation of an issue and a science has emerged by combination of several issues.

Research, in-depth analysis, and education would help sciences in their development and exuberance in the stage following their emergence. Therefore, definition of sciences evolves in a gradual process, which starts from primary and simple definitions and develops into accurate and elaborate ones. This is what all sciences are destined to go through, and Islamic sciences are naturally no exception, as in all of them this rule and process can be easily demonstrated.

One of the Islamic sciences addressed by the present article is ‘ilm al-ḥadīth or ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth (ḥadīth science – or sciences). However, it is to be noted that the history of ḥadīth is different from ḥadīth sciences and that the latter is intended to be dealt with in this article.[1]

In this article, an attempt has been made to prepare the ground for finding answers to questions like the following:

Since when was the ḥadīth science or sciences recognized as a branch of learning?

How was it initially defined?

What stages or evolutions did it go through?

What is the status quo of ḥadīth sciences and its definition?

Can the past and the present definitions be criticized?

What is the criterion for the criticism of these definitions?

What new models and definitions are to be formed in this science?

These are serious questions requiring historical studies and scrutiny to help logically organize this science.

Evolutionary Stages of Ḥadīth Sciences

There is no doubt that what was in the Muslims’ disposal after the Qur’an was ḥadīth and tradition. The problems that ḥadīth encountered regarding chain of transmission (sanad) and text, as well as the nature of human knowledge, prepared the ground for the formation of ḥadīth sciences. Some scholars have rightly viewed the emergence of ḥadīth sciences as an outcome of natural and conventional causes.[2] What they meant by natural causes was the nature of human knowledge and what they referred to as conventional causes was indeed the fabrication, devising, difference, and conflict of the traditions.

In our opinion, to display what has befallen ḥadīth sciences, four stages can be followed up in their evolution.

First Stage: Codification of Ḥadīth Sciences

In this stage ḥadīth sciences were intended to solve the problems of ḥadīth, and such sciences as rijāl (transmission authorities); al-jarḥ wa al-ta‘dīl (disparaging and declaring trustworthy); mukhtalaf al-ḥadīth (inconsistency in ḥadīth); ‘ilal al- ḥadīth (defects of ḥadīth); and gharīb al-ḥadīth (peculiar ḥadīth) have been developed with this intention.

The beginning era of these sciences is the third/ninth century. Dr. Ṭaḥḥān wrote:

With the beginning of the third century, ḥadīth sciences were developed, each one of which appeared independent and separate from the other ones. Sciences such as nāsikh wa al-mansūkh (the abrogating and the abrogated); al-jarḥ wa al-ta‘dīl

For each one of these sciences specific books were written.[3]

Referring to the indexes would confirm this opinion. In what follows, we present examples of each one of the above-mentioned sciences from the Shī‘ī and Sunnī books:

1. Science of Rijāl al-Ḥadīth[4]

From Shī‘ī books:

Kitāb al-Rijāl, ‘Abd Allāh b. Jibillat al-Kinānī (d. 219/834)

Kitāb al-Rijāl, Ḥasan b. Faḍḍāl (d. 224/838)

Kitāb al-Rijāl, Aḥmad b. Ḥasan b. Faḍḍāl (d. 260/873)

Kitāb al-Rijāl, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Khālid Barqī (d. 280/893)

Kitāb al-Rijāl, Ibn ‘Uqda (249-330/863-944)

From Sunnī books:

Rijālī works from such writers as: Muḥammad b. Ismā‘īl Bukhārī (d. 256/870); Y‘qūb b. Sufyān (d. 277/890); Abū Bakr Khaythama (d. 279/892); Ḥāfiẓ Baghawī (d. 330/941), et al.

2. Science of Al-Jarḥ wa al-Ta‘dīl:[5]

From Shī‘ī bools:

Kitāb Ma‘rifat Ruwāt al-Akhbār, Ḥasan b. Maḥbūb (149-224/766-838);

Kitāb Manāqib Ruwāt al-Ḥadīth was Mathālibuhum, Sa‘d b. Abd Allāh Ash‘arī (d. 299/911);

Kitāb al-Mamdūḥīn wa al-Madhmūmīn, Aḥmad b. ‘Ammār b. Kūfī (d. 346/957);

Kitāb al-Mamdūḥīn wa al-Madhmūmīn, Aḥmad b. Aḥmad b. Qummī (d. 368/976);

From Sunnī books:

Al-Jarḥ wa al-Ta‘dīl works by such writers as: Yaḥyā b. Mu‘īn (d. 233/847); Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 241/885); Ibn Sa‘d (d. 230/844); Abū Khaythama (d. 234/848); Ibn al-Madīnī (d. 234/848).

3. Science of Mukhtalaf al-Ḥadīth:[6]

From Shī‘ī bools:

Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, Muḥammad b. Abī ‘Umayr (d. 217/832);

Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, Yūnis b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān (3rd/9th century);

Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, Aḥmad b. Khālid Barqī (d. 280/893);

Kitāb al-Ḥadīthayn al-Mukhtalifayn, ‘Abd Allāh b. Ja‘far Ḥimyarī (d. 290/902).

From Sunnī books:

Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, Ibn Idrīs Shāfi‘ī (d. 204/819);

Ta’wīl Mukhtalaf al-Ḥadīth, Ibn Qutayba Dīnawarī (d. 276/889);

Tahdhīb al-Āthār, Muḥammad b. Jarīr Ṭabarī (d. 310/922);

Sharḥ Ma‘ānī al-Āthār, Abū Ja‘far Ṭaḥāwī (d. 321/933);

Al-Mu’talaf wa al-Mukhtalaf, Ibn Bishr Āmidī (d. 370/980).

4. Science of ‘Ilal al-Ḥadīth:[7]

From Shī‘ī books:

Kitāb ‘Ilal al-Ḥadīth, Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān (3rd/9th century);

Kitāb ‘Ilal al-Ḥadīth, Aḥmad b. Khālid Barqī (d. 280/893).

From the Sunnī books:

Al-Ta’rīkh wa al-‘Ilal, Yaḥyā b. Mu‘īn (158-233/774-847);

Kitāb ‘Ilal al-Ḥadīth, Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, (164-241/780-855);

Al-Musnad al-Mu‘allal, Ibn Shayba (182-262/798-875);

Kitāb al-‘Ilal, Muḥammad b. ‘Īsā Tirmidhī (209-279/824-892).

5. Science of Garīb al-Ḥadīth:[8]

From Shī‘ī books:

Gharīb Ḥadīth al-Nabī (SAW), Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 381/991).

From the Sunnī books:

Gharīb al-Ḥadīth, Abū ‘Ubayd Qāsim b. Sallām (d. 224/838);

Iṣlāḥ Ghalaṭ Abī ‘Ubayd, Ibn Qutayba, (d. 276/889);

And the works on gharīb al-ḥadīth by other writers such as: Ibn A‘rābī (d. 231/845), Shaybānī (d. 231/845), and Athram (d. 232/846).

Few works are extant from the first stage (compilation), and mainly their titles have been recorded in indexes. Thus, obviously there is no clear and comprehension definition of ‘ilm al-ḥadīth, or ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth extant from this era.

The characteristics of this era can be listed as follows: 1. Comparativeness of the works in the field of ḥadīth sciences; 2. Destruction of most of these writings; 3. Equal attention accorded by the Shī‘īs and Sunnīs to these sciences.

Second Stage: Prevailing of Sciences

In the second stage, a widespread perspective on ḥadīth sciences became prevalent among the scholars of ḥadīth. These comprehensive outlooks resulted in authoring books entitled as ḥadīth sciences or similar phrases. This movement, of course, coincided with the comparative works whose authoring had begun since the earlier period and was still keeping on.

Dr. Maḥmūd Ṭaḥḥān describes the second stage of the evolutions of ḥadīth sciences that had started since the fourth/tenth century as follows:

In the fourth century, the scholars of ḥadīth figured out that the third century writings contained special rules and expressions specific to ḥadīth experts, in the light of which the transmitter and the transmitted (i.e. the sanad and the text) are recognized and thereupon, the accepted or rejected ḥadīth would be obtained. Therefore, they made every endeavor to abstract those rules and expressions and compile them in dependent books under the heading of ḥadīth sciences, namely the rules and expressions covering all branches of knowledge on ḥadīth. In later periods, this same appellation was distinguished for this field of knowledge (ḥadīth studies). However, sometimes such terms as muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth, ‘ilm uṣūl al-ḥadīth, and ‘ilm al-ḥadīth dirāyatan are applied to ‘ilm al-ḥadīth (ḥadīth sciences) instead.[9]

The comprehensive works of this period are dedicated to the writings of the Sunnī scholars. In this stage, the following outstanding works can be mentioned:

Al-Muḥaddith al-Fāḍil bayn al-Rāwī wa al-Wā‘ī, Ḥasan b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Rāmhurmuzī (d. 360/970);[10]

Ma‘rifa ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, al-Ḥākim al-Nayshābūrī (d. 405/1014);

Al-Mustakhraj ‘alā Ma‘rifa ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, Būnu‘aym Iṣfahānī (d. 430/1038);

Al-Kifāya fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya, Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (392-463/1001-1070);

Al-Jāmi‘ li-Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmi‘, Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (392-463/1001-1070);

Al-Ilmā‘ ilā Ma‘rifa Uṣūl al-Riwāya wa Taqyīd al-Samā‘, Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ b. Mūsā (479-546/1086-1151);

Mā lā Yasa‘u al-Muḥaddith Jahlahū, Abū Ḥafṣ al-Miyānijī (d. 581/1185);

‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d. 643/1245).

Dr. Maḥmūd Ṭaḥḥān, based on Ibn Ḥajar’s view, does not regard other books on ḥadīth sciences (apart from the above eight books) as having any initiatives; rather, he maintains that they are either selections of these eight volumes, commentaries on them, or new arrangements of them.[11] This comment can partly be confirmed, as up to the tenth/sixteen century the majority of works on dirāyat al-ḥadīth had been pivoted around Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’s book. The following are among those works:[12]

Al-Khulāṣa, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭayyibī (d. 676/1277);

Al-Manhal al-Rawī fī al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī, Qāḍī Badr al-Dīn b. Jamā‘a (d. 733/1332);

Al-Manhaj al-Sawā fī Sharḥ al-Manhal al-Rawī, ‘Izz al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Jamā‘a (d. 819/1416);

Maḥāsin al-Iṣṭilāḥ fī Ta‘yīn Kitāb Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ, ‘Umar b. Raslān al-Bulqīnī (d. 805/1402);

Taqrīb al-Irshād ilā ‘Ilm al-Isnād, Muḥy al-Dīn al-Nawāwī (d. 976/1568);

Al-Ifṣāḥ bi-Takmīl Nukat ‘alā Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ, Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī(d. 852/1448);

Al-Taqyīd wa al-Īḍāḥ li-mā Uṭluq wa Ughliq min Kitāb Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ, Zayn al-Dīn al-‘Arāqī (d. 852/1403);

Nẓm al-Durar fī ‘Ilm al-Athar (versified version of Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’s book), Zayn al-Dīn al-‘Arāqī (d. 852/1403);

Fatḥ al-Mughīth (a commentary on Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’s Alfiyya), al-Sakhāwī (d. 902/1515);

Qaṭr al-Durar (a commentary on Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’s Alfiyya), Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī (d. 921/1496).


In this period’s comprehensive works, no clear and distinct definition of ḥadīth sciences is presented.

In the following, we would briefly review thie period’s works from this perspective.

Al-Ḥākim al-Nayshābūrī (d. 405/1014) enumerates 52 types of ḥadīth sciences in his book and thus points out each one of them in brief:

The first type of these sciences is learning about ‘ālī al-isnād (a ḥadīth provided with eminent sanad).

The second type of science (ma‘rifa) of ḥadīth is knowledge of the low in isnād [13]

He does not provide any clear and distinct definition for ḥadīth sciences.

Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (392-463/1001-1070) writes:

With the will of Allah and success from Him, I would relate in this book what the seeker of ḥadīth needs to know and the seeker of fiqh requires to observe and to search into, by explicating the principles of ‘ilm al-ḥadīth (science of ḥadīth) and its prerequisites; and I would expound the teachings of the early transmitters and traditionists in this regard, which provide great benefits and general uses, and by which the excellence of the traditionists and their endeavors in preserving the religion are reasoned. Also, I would explain what is referred to as evidence for understanding the zealots’ distortions and impersonations of the people of falsehood by explaining the principles of jarḥ wa al-ta‘dīl (disparaging and declaring trustworthy), acquiring knowledge, modification, and the sayings of the preservers of ḥadīth concerning adherence to the wording of ḥadīth[14]

Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ (479-544/1089-1149), in his al-Ilmā‘, after calling ‘ilm al-ḥadīth as the foundation for religious law (sharī‘a), enumerates its main topics as follows:

Manners of learning ḥadīth, recognition of the generations of ḥadīth transmitters; peculiar ḥadīth; the abrogating and the abrogated; ḥadīth comprehension (fiqh al-ḥadīth); the way to extract rulings out of ḥadīth texts; and the manners of dissemination and promotion of narrations.[15]

Then he proceeds to write:

Every chapter of these chapters has its own specific science.[16]

Ibn Ṣalāḥ (d. 643/1245) writes in the opening chapter of his book:

The Blessed and Exalted Allah – to Whom belongs all praise – bestowed favor upon me to compile the book on the recognition of different types of sciences of ḥadīth.[17]

After that, he enumerates 64 sciences and then writes:

This is the last of them, but not the last conceivable, since there is the possibility of subdividing them up to the innumerable when the states and qualities of the narrators of ḥadīth as well as the texts of the ḥadīth and their features are innumerable; and no state and feature will be mentioned except in its matchlessness.[18]

As it is noted, in this evolution, we do not see any clear definition yet, though the intentions and purposes of these sciences are well introduced and the examination of what relates to the texts and sanads is the quintessence of all these sciences.

It is to be borne in mind that the second stage of the history of ḥadīth sciences that started from the fourth/tenth to the tenth/sixteenth centuries is dedicated to the Sunnīs in the field of comprehensive and theoretical works; but, in the comparative sciences of ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth, namely, dealing with: rijāl, mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, etc. the Shī‘īs and the Sunnīs both carried on the endeavors of the first period.[19] For instance, the book al-Istibṣār fī Mukhtalif al-Akhbār on the the science of mukhtalif al-Akhbār and the books al-Rijāl and al-Fihrist by al-Shaykh al-Ṭūsī, al-Fihrist by al-Najāshī, al-Rijāl by ‘Allāma, etc. can be pointed out concerning ‘Ilm al-rijāl.

The features of the second stage can be summarized as follows:

1. Comparative works of ḥadīth sciences is common among the Sunnīs and Shī‘īs;

2. Theoretical or comprehensive works develop among the Sunnīs;

3. No accurate and clear definition of ḥadīth sciences is obtained.

Third Stage: Definition and Description of Ḥadīth Sciences

The third stage of the ḥadīth sciences evolutions begins in tenth/sixteenth century and continues to date. In this period, the Shī‘ī scholars undertake to compile theoretical and comprehensive books on ḥadīth sciences. However, the works of previous stage continues among the Sunnīs too, although a kind of inactivity is noticed in this stage among the Sunnīs and according to some, it is regarded as a period of summarization, exposition, and annotation on the earlier works and, particularly, impressionability from Ibn Ṣāliḥ’s Muqaddima.

Among the Shī‘ī works, the following books can be pointed out:

Bidāyat al-Dirāya, al-Shahīd al-Thānī (946/1539);

Al-Ri‘āya fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya (compound [mazjī] commentary on Bidāyat al-Dirāya), al-Shahīd al-Thānī (946/1539);

Wuṣūl al-Akhbār, Ḥusayn b. ‘Abd al-Ṣamad al-Ḥārithī (d. 948/1541);

Al-Wajīza, al-Shaykh al-Bahā’ī Muḥammad b. Ḥusayn b. ‘Abd Al-Ṣamad (d. 1003/1594);[20]

Al-Rawāshiḥ al-Samāwiyya, Mīrdāmād (d. 1041/1631);

Lub al-Lubāb, Muḥammad Ja‘far Sharī‘atmadār Istarābādī (d. 1263/1846);

Subul al-Hidāya fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya, Mullā ‘Alī Khalīlī Tihrānī (d. 1296/1878);

Manẓūmat al-Dirāya, Mīrzā Muḥammad Tunikābunī (d. 1302/1884);

Tawḍīḥ al-Maqāl, Mullā ‘Alī Kanī (d. 1306/1888);

Mabda‘ al-Āmāl fī Qawā‘id al-Ḥadīth wa al-Dirāyat wa al-Rijāl, ‘Alī b. Muḥammad Ja‘far Sharī‘atmadār Istarābādī (d. 1315/1897);

Al-Kifāya fī al-Dirāya, Mīrzā Abū Ṭālib Zanjānī Tihrānī (d. 1329/1911);

Al-Durrat al-Fākhira, Mullā Ḥabīb Allāh Sharīf Kāshānī (1262-1340/1846-1921);

Miqbās al-Hidāya, ‘Abd Allāh Māmaqānī (1290-1351);

Nihāyat al-Dirāya (Sharḥ al-Wajīza), Al-Sayyid Ḥasan al-Ṣadr (1272/1935);

Amān al-Ḥathīth fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya, Muḥammad Mahdī ‘Imād Tihrānī (d. 1348/1929).

It is to be noted that apart from the above, there are other unpublished works on dirāyat al-ḥadīth by Shī‘ī scholars mentioned in indexes.

Among the Sunnīs, the following works may be listed:

Ṣu‘ūd al-Marāqī, Quṭb al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Khayḍarī (d. 894/1488);

Tadrīb al-Rāwī, al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505);

Fatḥ al-Bāqī, Abū Yaḥyā Zakariyyā al-Miṣrī (d. 928/1521);

Al-Manẓūmat al-Bayqūniyya, al-Bayqūnī al-Damishqī (d. 1080/1668);

Qawā‘id al-Ḥadīth, Muḥammad Jamāl al-Dīn al-Qāsimī (d. 1332/1913).

In this period, we encounter some relatively clear definitions of ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth. Both Shī‘ī and Sunnī scholars have undertaken to define and describe this field of knowledge in the above mentioned period.

Now, we take a look at these definitions:

Al-Shahīd al-Thānī (d. 946-1556) has said concerning the definition of ‘ilm al-dirāya:

A science treating of the text, sanad, and turuq (ways of transmission) of the authentic, weak, and invalid ḥadīth and what is required to distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable.[21]

Al-Shaykh al-Bahā’ī (d. 1003/1594) has also put it this way in his definition:

‘Ilm al-dirāya is a science treating of the sanad of ḥadīth, its text, the way it is transmitted, and the manner of its transmission.[22]

In his Manẓūma, Mullā Ḥabīb Allāh Sharīf Kāshānī (d. 1340/1921) mentions:

Science of the text and ṭarīq of ḥadīth, O friend, is dirāyat al-ḥadīth.[23]

The late Māmaqānī (d. 1351/1932) prefers al-Shaykh al-Bahā’ī’s definition of dirāyat al-ḥadīth to that of al-Shahīd al-Thānī and accepts it.[24] Meanwhile, viewing rijāl and dirāya as two sciences,[25] he believes that talking of the sanad of ḥadīth in ‘ilm al-dirāya does not interfere at all with rijālī discourses and describes it as follows:

In other words, in ‘ilm al-rijāl, minor issues are discussed; whereas in ‘ilm al-dirāya, major issues are discussed.[26]

Al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505) has related the following definition from Ibn al-Akfānī (d. 794/1391):

Science of ḥadīth, which concerns riwāya (narrating), is a science consisting of the Prophet’s (SAW) sayings and deeds and relating them, preserving them, and putting them in writing. And the science of ḥadīth, which concerns dirāya (contextual study), is a science, through which the truth of the tradition, its conditions, its types, its rules, and the status of its transmitters, their conditions, and categories of traditions and whatever related to them are clarified.[27]

He has also related the following definition from Ibn Jamā‘a (d. 819/1416):

Science of ḥadīth is a science concerning the rules by which the conditions of the sanad and text are recognized and its subject is sanad and text and its purpose is to distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic.[28]

Jamāl al-Dīn Qāsimī (1332/1913) has also related the same definitions.[29]


Obviously, in this stage of the history of ḥadīth sciences, the Shī‘ī and Sunnī scholars have both presented closely similar definitions for ḥadīth sciences. With these definitions, it is indicated that the theoretical and general discourses of sanad and text of ḥadīth fit into ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth. Similarly, the comparative and minor discourses of sanad fit into ‘ilm al-rijāl, the comparative and minor discourses of text fit into gharīb al-ḥadīth, mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, and ‘ilal al-ḥadīth. Of course, exposition, translation, and interpretation of ḥadīth follow and use these and lie on the base of the pyramid.

The following diagram represents the status of these sciences and their interrelationship:

‘Ulūm al-ḥadīth (theoretical discourses of sanad and text)

‘Ilm al-Rijāl

‘Ilm al-Jarḥ wa al-Ta‘dīl

Comparative discourses of sanad

Comparative discourses of text

Commentary, interpretation, and translation of ḥadīth

Mukhtalif al-ḥadīth

Gharīb al-ḥadīth

‘Ilal al-ḥadīth

Fourth Stage: A Critical Review

The contemporary era can be regarded as the time for critical review of the definitions presented on ḥadīth sciences. In this stage, writings in the above-mentioned field, whether in theoretical or comparative discourses, are abundant, although some ups and downs in certain branches are obvious.

In this stage, the Shī‘ī and Sunnī scholars undertake to analyze the definitions. However, no considerable development is witnessed. Now, let us take a look at these viewpoints:

The scholars, from among the Shī‘īs, who have dealt with ḥadīth sciences and have written in this regard are the following:

1. Ustad Kāẓim Mudīrshānachī, with ‘Ilm al-Ḥadīth and ‘Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth,

2. Ustad Ja‘far Subḥānī, with Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth wa Aḥkāmahū,

3. Ustad ‘Abd al-Hādī Faḍlī, with Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth,

In his two books ‘Ilm al-Ḥadīth and ‘Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth, published separately in 1344 AHS/1965 and later on, published in a single volume, Ustad Kāẓim Mudīrshānachī maintains:

‘Ilm al-Ḥadīth is a science in which the sayings and deeds of the Prophet and the Imams are discussed … ‘ilm al-ḥadīth usually falls into two categories:

First, the science of riwāyat al-ḥadīth treating of the quality of the connection of the ḥadīth to the Infallible in terms of narrators’ positions, quality of the sanad, etc., and is terminologically called the science of uṣūl al-ḥadīth.

Second, the science of dirāyat al-ḥadīth dealing with the meanings and concepts of the words mentioned in aḥādīth.

Similarly, the first part is divided into two parts, as it sometimes treats of the positions of the transmission authorities in terms of justice and reliability, which is termed the ‘lm al-rijāl, and sometimes treats of the quality of ḥadīth transmission by the narrators in terms of soundness, weakness, and the expressions concerning these features, which is known as muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth.[30]

He has displayed his statements by the following diagram:

‘Ilm al-ḥadīth

Riwāyat al-ḥadīth or uṣūl al-ḥadīth

Dirāyat al-ḥadīth or fiqh al-ḥadīth

The science of rijāl al-sanad or ta’rīkh al-rijāl

The science of muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth or dirāya

On the one hand, he criticizes those who have erroneously termed riwāyat al-ḥadīth as dirāyat al-ḥadīth and says that it would be better to term it as muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth;[31] and on the other hand, suggests that the science of riwāyat al-ḥadīth be named as fiqh al-ḥadīth.[32]

Ustad Ja‘far Subḥānī, whose book was appeared in 1412/1991, has deemed al-Shaykh al-Bahā’ī’s definition in identifying dirāyat al-ḥadith as more appropriate and rendered it in other words as follows:

It is a science that talks about the states happening to ḥadīth through the sanad and text.[33]

Having expanded on this definition, he criticizes those who have regarded the science of rijāl and dirāya as equal (one of which discusses the sanad and the other talks about the texts), and says dirāya talks about both sanad and text and rijāl talks about trivial issues of the sanad of the narrations.

Professor ‘Abd al-Hādī al-Faḍlī, whose book appeared in 1416/1995, says this science (dirāya) has various names such as: ‘ilm al-īadīth, dirāyat al-ḥadīth, muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth, qawā‘id al-ḥadīth,and uṣūl al-ḥadīth, and proceeds to add:

All of them have the same meaning.[34]

In his definition of this science, he accepts and quotes ‘Allāma Shaykh Āqā Buzurg Tihrānī as saying:

It is a science treating of the states and happenings overtaking the sanad of ḥadīth.[35]

And the difference that he makes between this science and ‘lm al-rijāl is the following:

‘Ilm al-rijāl studies the position of the transmitter in terms of authenticity, whereas ‘ilm al-ḥadīth studies the position of the transmitter of ḥadīth in terms of validity.[36]

There are many new writings among the Sunnīs, too. Here, we review the definition of ḥadīth sciences only in two examples of these writings.

In his ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth wa Muṣṭalaḥuhū (1378/1958), Ṣubḥī Ṣāliḥ says that ‘ilm al-ḥadīth has two sections: ‘ilm al-ḥadīth riwāyatan dealing with the transmission, preservation, and compilation of aḥādīth; and ‘ilm al-ḥadīth dirāyatan (or dirāyat al-ḥadīth), which is:

… a collection of discourses and issues, by which the narrator’s position as well as the narrations are perceived in terms of acceptability and unacceptability.[37]

After expounding the definition, he says:

The scholars of ḥadīth apply the term science of uṣūl al-ḥadīth to the science of dirāyat al-ḥadīth.[38]

Dr. Muḥammad ‘Ajjāj al-Khaṭīb (1387/1967), like his predecessors, has divided the science of ḥadīth into riwāyatan (narrative) and dirāyatan (perceptive) and has chosen the same definitions.[39] What he has added, however, is the following:

The scholars of ḥadīth apply the terms ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth, muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth, and uṣūl al-ḥadīth to the science of dirāyat al-ḥadīth, which are all the same for one designation, namely a collection of rules and issues by which the position of the narrator and the narration are recognized in terms of acceptance and rejection.[40]

What has been mentioned so far indicates a part of the developments in the review of the definition and description of ‘ilm al-ḥadīth. What was obvious in this review is as follows:

1. Some of the Shī‘ī and Sunnī writers, such as ‘Abd al-Hādī Faḍlī and Muḥammad ‘Ajjāj al-Khaṭīb, have taken the terms ‘ilm al-ḥadīth, uṣūl al-ḥadīth, dirāyat al-ḥadīth, ‘ilm al-ḥadīth dirāyatan, qawā‘id al-ḥadīth, and muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth as having the same meaning; whereas, others, like Ustad Mudīrshānachī, criticize this view and regard it as a kind of confusion of the borders of science.

2. The definitions of this period among the Sunnīs stabilize the definitions of the third period, though the Shī‘īs, besides, entertain some disconcertion.

New Phenomena in the Field of Ḥadīth Studies

Furthermore, in the present era, we encounter other phenomena in the field of ḥadīth studies, which were not much discussed in the past and the contemporary scholars have accorded attention to them:

One: Systematic Attempt in Research and Codification of the History of Ḥadīth. Study of the developments affecting ḥadīth, the causes of and reasons for the decrease and increase in ḥadīth, research methodology, and the traditionists’ specific methods, etc. are instances which have been fully attended in this period. Some of the works that can be pointed out in this respect are the following:

Ta’rīkh al-Ḥadīth wa Manāhij al-Muḥaddithīn, Muḥammad Nādī ‘Ubaydāt;

Ta’rīkh al-Sunnat al-Musharrifa, Akram Ḍiyā’ al-‘Umarī;

Tārīkh-i Ḥadīth-i Shī‘ī, Majīd Ma‘ārif;

Tārīkh-i Umūmī-yi Ḥadīth;Majīd Ma‘ārif;

Musnad-nivīsī dar Tārīkh-i Ḥadīth, Sayyid Kāẓim Ṭabāṭabā’ī;

Sayr-i Ḥadīth dar Islām, Sayyid Aḥmad Mīrkhānī;

Two: Research and Investigation into the History of Ḥadīth Sciences. In this field, Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth written by Muḥammad ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Khawlī, can be mentioned.

Three: Compilation of Books under the Heading of Muṣṭalaḥ al-Ḥadīth, which are in fact lexicons of the terms used in the field of ḥadīth sciences. Such works study the terms used in fields concerning ḥadīth in an alphabetical or thematic order, either in isolation or comparatively.

The following works may be mentioned in this respect:

Mu‘jam Muṣṭalaḥāt al-Ḥadīth, Sulaymān Muslim al-Ḥarash;

Naẓm al-Durar fī Muṣṭalaḥ ‘Ilm al-Athar, Aḥmad Farīd;

Taysīr Muṣṭalaḥ al-Ḥadīth, Maḥmūd al-Ṭaḥḥān.

Four: Compilation and Codification of the Written Authorizations of Ḥadīth Transmitters. In this field, the following works may be mentioned:

Ijāzāt al-Kabīra,al-Sayyid ‘Abd Allāh al-Mūsawī al-Jazā’irī;

Ijāzāt al-Ḥadīth issued by Shaykh al-Muḥaddithīn al-Majlisī; Al-Sayyid Aḥmad al-Ḥusaynī;

Al-Musalsalāt fī al-Ijāzāt, al-Sayyid Maḥmūd al-Mar‘ashī;

Al-Wajīz fī Dhikr al-Mujāz wa al-Mujīz, Abū Ṭāhir Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Salafī;

Al-Wajāza fī al-Ijāza, Muḥammad Shams al-Ḥaqq al-‘Aẓīmābādī.

Five: Other than the Above. Serious and new questions encountered concerning ḥadīth and sunna are also to be taken into consideration; questions dealing with ḥadīth in general and naturally deserving to be placed in an exclusive science, such as:

1. The relation between the Qur’an and ḥadīth

2. The relation between ḥadīth sciences with other Islamic sciences

3. The methodology of ḥadīth studies

4. Limits and domain of ḥadīth sciences

5. The impression of sunna on other cultures and being impressed by them

6. The cause of difference in aḥādīth, etc.

Now, given the arena opened before ḥadīth as well as the sciences of the past and present, how should ḥadīth sciences be devised so that while keeping a logical relation between the branches and components, their comprehensiveness may also be preserved? It is required to deal with the question.

The Future of Ḥadīth Sciences

Obviously, it is not easy to step into this arena; however, since every new project has to start from some point anyway so that the researchers may undertake to correct and complete it, we present our initial suggestion for ḥadīth sciences as follows:

One: History of Ḥadīth

Two: Philosophy of Ḥadīth Sciences

Three: Theoretical Sciences of Ḥadīth

1. Evaluation of the chain of transmitters (sanad)

2. Fiqh al-ḥadīth (text)

Four: Comparative Sciences of Ḥadīth

1. Sciences of sanad (rijāl, al-jarḥ wa al-ta‘dīl)

2. Textual sciences: gharīb al-ḥadīth, mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, ‘ilal al-ḥadīth

Five: Supporting Sciences

1. Terminology (muṣṭalaḥāt)

2. Written authorizations (ijāzāt)

3. Learning and spread of ḥadīth

Now, we give a brief explanation for each of the above:

One: History of Ḥadīth

In this field, the course of development of ḥadīth to the present, the way to compile, codify, and divide into chapters (tabwīb), spread of ḥadīth, schools of ḥadīth, and similar issues are studied.

Also in this field the history of the sciences and techniques concerning ḥadīth and the way they have developed are analyzed.

Two: Philosophy of Ḥadīth Sciences

In this field, ḥadīth and the related sciences are studied and explored from an external perspective. This field seeks to find answers to the questions like the following:

1. The relation between the Qur’an and ḥadīth

2. The relation of ḥadīth and ḥadīth science to other Islamic Sciences

3. The methodology of ḥadīth studies

4. Limits and domain of ḥadīth sciences

5. The impression of sunna on other cultures and being impressed by them.

Three: Theoretical Sciences of Ḥadīth

In this field, ancillary sciences of ḥadīth with respect to sanad and text are studied and evaluated.

This field has two general areas: sanad evaluation and fiqh al-ḥadīth. In the science of sanad evaluation, the approach to evaluate sanadsof the narrations and ḥadīth origins are studied. New methods of sanad evaluation, evaluation of sanads on the basis of criticizing the text, and similar issues lie in this area.

In fiqh al-ḥadīth, the general and specific rules of understanding and interpreting traditions are studied.

Four: Comparative Sciences of Ḥadīth

What was said in section three, if carried out by comparing the traditions, is called comparative science of ḥadīth. As stated in previous pages, this section of ḥadīth sciences is the longest in history.

This field, too, is researchable in two areas of sanad and text. The former consists of the science of rijāl and al-jarḥ wa al-ta‘dīl, and the latter includes gharīb al-ḥadīth, mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, and ‘ilal al-ḥadīth.

Five: Supporting Sciences

These sciences lie beside the main areas of ḥadīth and can be helpful in achieving or complementing them, like terminology, written authorizations, etc.


It is hoped that the researchers would contribute to the completion of the project so that the future of ḥadīth sciences may further develop in a logical and sound procedure.

[1] For further details on the history of ḥadīth sciences, see: Muḥammad ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Khawlī, Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, pp. 189-228; Maḥmūd Ṭaḥḥān, Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī wa Atharuhū fī ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, pp. 376-391; Nihāyat al-Dirāya fī Sharḥ al-Wajīza li-’l-Shaykh al-Bahā’ī, pp. 25-34; Muḥammad ‘Ajjāj al-Khaṭīb, Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 223-295; Kāẓim Mudīrshānachī, Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth, pp. xvi-xxiv.

[2] Nihāyat al-Dirāya, pp. 14-18.

[3] Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī wa atharuhū fī ‘ulūm al-ḥadīth, p. 386.

[4] Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, pp. 197-198; Nihāyat al-Dirāya, pp. 25-26.

[5] Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, pp. 197-198; Nihāyat al-Dirāya, pp. 25-26; Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 277-279.

[6] Nihāyat al-Dirāya, p. 28; Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 284-286; ‘Ulūm Ḥadīth Quarterly, No. 9, pp. 3-6.

[7] On this issue, see: Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, p. 214; Nihāyat al-Dirāya, p. 29; Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 295-297.

[8] On this issue, see: Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, pp. 191-193; Nihāyat al-Dirāya, p. 31; Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 281-282; ‘Ulūm Ḥadīth Quarterly, No. 13, pp. 92-110.

[9] Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī wa Atharuhū fī ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, pp. 386-387.

[10] Dr. Muḥammad ‘Ajjāj al-Khaṭīb maintains that such works had also been authored before Rāmhurmuzī, e.g. Uṣūl al-Sunna wa Madhāhib al-Muḥaddithīn, ‘Alī b. ‘Abd Allāh Madīnī (161-234/777-848); Ma‘rifat al-Muttaṣil min al-Ḥadīth wa al-Mursal wa al-Maqṭū‘ wa Bayān al-Ṭarīq al-Ṣaḥīḥiyya wa Ma‘rifat Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, Aḥmad b. Hārūn b. Rūḥ al-Badījī (d. 301/913; See: Uṣūl al-Ḥadīh, pp. 452-453)

[11] Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī wa Atharuhū fī ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, p. 389.

[12] Kāẓim Mudīrshānachī, Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth, pp. xvi-xx.

[13] Ma‘rifat ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth.

[14] Al-Kifāya fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya, p. 37.

[15] Al-Ilmā‘ ilā Ma‘rifat Uṣūl al-Riwāya wa Taqyīd al-Samā‘, pp. 4-5.

[16] Ibid.

[17] ‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth, p. 4.

[18] Ibid., p. 10.

[19] See: Ta’rīkh Funūn al-Ḥadīth, pp. 189-228.

[20] It is worth mentioning that there are many commentaries on al-Wajīza, including:

al-Durrat al-‘Azīza fī Sharḥ al-Wajīza, Mīrzā Muḥammad ‘Alī Mar‘ashī Shahristānī (1280-1344/1863-1925);

Al-Jawharat al-‘Azīza fī Sharḥ Wasīṭ al-Wajīza, Sayyid ‘Alī Muḥammad b. Dildār ‘Alī Naqawī (d. 1313/1895);

Sharḥ al-Wajīza, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Nabī Baḥrānī Shīrāzī (d. 1187/1773);

Sharḥ al-Wajīza, Mīrzā Muḥammad Sulaymān Tunakābunī (d. 1302/1884);

Ṣanā’i‘ al-Athar fī Sharḥ al-Wajīza, Sayyid Amjad Ḥusayn Allāhābādī;

Nihāyat al-Dirāya fī Sharḥ al-Wajīza, Mīrzā Muḥammad Kashmīrī;

(See: Al-Dharī‘a, vol. 14, pp. 168-169)

[21] Al-Ri‘āya fī ‘Ilm al-Dirāya, p. 45.

[22] Nihāyat al-Dirāya, p. 79.

[23] ‘Ulūm Ḥadīth Biannual, No. 1, p. 342.

[24] Miqyās al-Hidāya, vol. 1, p. 42.

[25] Ibid., pp. 35-36.

[26] Ibid., p. 42; Tanqīḥ al-Maqāl, vol. 1, p. 172-185.

[27] Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol. 1, p. 21.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Qwā‘id al-Taḥdīth, p. 75.

[30] ‘Ilm al-Ḥadīth, pp. 7-8; Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth, pp. 1-4.

[31] ‘Ilm al-Ḥadīth, p. 7.

[32] Dirāyat al-Ḥadīth, p. 2.

[33] Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth wa Aḥkāmuhū, pp. 11-12.

[34] Ibid., p. 9.

[35] Ibid., p. 11.

[36] Ibid., p. 13.

[37]‘Ulūm al-Ḥadīth wa Muṣṭalaḥuhū, p. 106.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth, pp. 7-8.

[40] Ibid., p. 9.

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