- Study a classical primer on the discipline of mustalah al-hadith (hadith terminology)
- Work with the actual hadiths and their chains of transmission
- Understand the complexity of classical hadith criticism
- Learn how to differentiate between real hadith scholarship and voluminous citations devoid of understanding
- Understand contemporary hadith debates
What exactly does it mean for a hadith to be authentic (sahih)? Is it true that past scholars cited weak (da`if) hadiths in their books? If so, what can we do today to guard ourselves from the effects of fabrications? And how can we judge the reliability of hadith narrators who lived a thousand years ago?
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “May Allah illuminate the face of whoever hears something I say, remembers it, understands it, and then conveys it.” (Tirmidhi)
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and women labored to guard and transmit the legacy of their beloved prophet. The fruits of their efforts are distilled in the books of the great hadith scholars such as Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Darimi, Bayhaqi, and others.
These books of hadith form the foundation of our religion: they have been used by scholars of sacred law (fiqh), tafsir, theology, and all other religious disciplines to define important points of religion and practice. Hadiths are used to determine points of law, to explain Quranic verses, to nurture one’s relationship with one’s Lord, to learn about the details of the next life, to infer principles of legal interpretation, even to derive rules of Arabic grammar.
Recent times have witnessed widespread criticism of Muslim hadith scholarship, particularly by followers of the Salafi and Ahl-e-Hadith movements. Because of the centrality of hadith to so many religious disciplines, the effects of this criticism have shaken the foundations of classical Muslim scholarship. Many contemporary religious controversies revolve around hadith, and understanding the science of hadith is vital to understanding what these controversies are about and how we should navigate them.
Using the Bayquniyya, the classical primer in the science of hadith (mustalah al-hadith), this course will introduce the methods of hadith criticism used by the classical hadith scholars, while paying particular attention to modern controversies through practical application and numerous well-designed case-studies.
Students will learn how to diagram and analyze chains of transmission (isnad). They will then use this skill along with their knowledge of the science of hadith to see the great hadith-masters (huffaz) of the past at work. In particular, students will analyze and interpret selections from the books of the Maliki hadith-master Ibn `Abd al-Barr (d. 463 AH), the Hanafi hadith-master al-Zayla`i (d. 726 AH), and the Shafi`i hadith-master Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (d. 852 AH). They will then compare this to the methods of the recent and controversial hadith scholar Nasir al-Din Albani (d. 1999). This will allow them to come to a first-hand appreciation of contemporary debates in the science of hadith.
Since this course will work with real chains of transmission, students must be able to read Arabic script, although an understanding of Arabic is not required.
About the Bayquniyya: The Bayquniyya is a 34-line poem in the terminology of the scholars of hadith (mustalah al-hadith). Although the little is known about its author `Umar al-Bayquniyy, who seems to have preferred obscurity to fame, the book has won acceptance throughout the Muslim lands since it was written and has been the subject of many scholarly commentaries, both classical and recent. A translation of Bayquniyya along with selected notes will be provided as part of the course package.
1. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith
2. Analyzing and Diagramming Chains of Transmission
3. Sahih Hadiths
4. Hasan Hadiths
5. Da`if Hadiths
6. Missing Links in Chains of Transmission
7. Working with Multiple Chains of Transmission
8. Hidden Defects in Hadith
9. Mursal Hadiths
10. Analyzing Hadith Narrators
11. Fabricated Hadiths
12. Methods of Hadith Acquisition and Transmission