الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، أما بعد
As salam mu alaikum wa rahmat Ullah wa barakataHu
By the permission and grace of Allah and further to the request of many, I embark on this endeavour to write short easy-to-read-and-comprehend articles on the Science of Hadith. I have seen that there is a genuine necessity for this owing to a pervasive ignorance in the science of Hadith which can be witnessed today both within the ranks of scholars and the laity. I ask Allah to accept this feeble effort and to count me amongst those who proceeded me in this field even if I am a nonentity in comparison to them.
In this short article, I will discuss the importance of seeking the high isnaad (chain of narration) for there may be some amongst you who question the stress that I consistently put on students at Cordoba Academy to not suffice with simply obtaining an isnaad in the classical scholarly works, but to obtain the highest and best aural isnaad that one can possibly acquire.
Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (RA) famously said,“Seeking the high Isnaad is a Sunnah of our predecessors”
Sadly in the past year or so, we have seen a sudden increase in the Hadith Majalis in the western world and this no doubt is a source of blessing for which CA is entitled to a share for we have been consulted and helped many of these organizations. However, what we find is that the people that are organizing such majalis are not honouring the tradition of this Sacred Science. Instead of creating a serious environment for study with the senior scholars in this field, they are making fun and games, sufficing with young inexperienced scholars (possessing very low asaneed) and they simultaneously over-commercialise the tradition. All this plays into the hands of those within the ranks of the Muslims who find it easy to pour scorn and reject this tradition.
Imam al-Dhahabi (RA) stated in his famous text in Hadith Nomenclature “al-Mowqidha” in the chapter entitled, “The etiquette of the muhaddith”.“And from the adab of the muhaddith is that he should not narrate hadith when there are people who are more deserving of this due to their old age or superior understanding. He should also not narrate something that others narrate with a higher chain and he should not deceive the beginners in this field, but he should introduce them to the important (scholars) for the deen is indeed based on good counsel (nasiha).”[i]
Here Imam al-Dhahabi clearly states that the scholars should not ‘deceive the beginners in this field” but introduce them to those more deserving such as the senior scholars. In fact, what Imam al-Dhahabi is discussing here is something that most of the muhadditheen have spoken about because it very common in the field of riwayah. Many scholars past and present, would prefer that those who are new to the field remain ignorant of the scholars with high asaneed so that they may continue to boast about their asaneed being the highest in the world and also ensure that others become their students; since when the scholar with the high isnaad passes away, by default one is required to go to those who took from that scholar to obtain the sanad.
They forget that there is no barakah in such intentions as we learn from our elders in this science.
The Shaykh of Imam al-Bukhari (RA,) Ishaq ibn Rahaway (RA) was asked about people who were aware of a Shaykh (with a high isnaad) and they made it difficult for others to take hadith from these scholars. He said,“Verily they will not succeed. We have seen people obstructing others from hearing from (the shaykh) and they did not succeed nor prevail.”
This same sentiment is discussed by Sufyan al-Thawri (RA) when he said:“Oh youth, make haste in obtaining the barakah of this Sacred Science for indeed you do not know that you will obtain that which you desire. Therefore, let each of you benefit the other for it is known that this deen is based on good counsel.
What al-Thawri (RA) was referring to here when he used the word ‘desire’ was the desire that these young people possessed to become old with the highest asaneed so that they could enjoy the company of thousands of students flocking to them to take hadith from them.
The great Imam Yahya ibn Ma’een stated“Whoever is miserly and conceals the aural transmission (high chains) they will not succeed
For this reason, we at Cordoba Academy have every intention of following the principles of the Hadith Sciences and make every endeavour to introduce you to those more deserving then ourselves, therefore ensuring that that Allah continues to give us barakah in our actions. About this Imam Malik (RA) would say:“The barakah of Hadith is that people should benefit each other.”
Ibn al-Qasim (RA) stated, “When we would leave the presence of Imam Malik (RA) he would say to us:‘Fear Allah and spread this knowledge and teach the people and do not conceal.’
Alhamdulillah, at the Sahih al-Bukhari Majlis conducted in South Africa a few months ago, we were able to host two of the world’s leading senior scholars from Yemen and Egypt who granted their isnaad to all those who participated through Cordoba Academy.[ii] This month we started Cordoba Academy Readers’ Society through which we have provided access a very high and noble isnaad in the Muwatta of Imam Malik through a family embedded in scholarship of the Maliki madhab going back hundreds of years. In March, we look forward to conducting the Sahih Muslim Majlis and hosting the undisputed holder of the highest Isnaad in the world in the text Shaikh Zaheeruddin al-Mubarakpuri al-Rahmani.[iii] He was honored to study the complete Sahih from Shaykh AhmedUllah Partagabri and there is no one alive today who has this privilege. He is also the only living student of Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Mubarapuri (RA) the famous author of Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi the exegesis of Sunan al-Tirmidhi.
[i] For this reason and also out of the adab towards my elderly shoyoukh, I refrain from entering into the arena of Hadith recitals were I am the sole scholar requested to supervise and grant isnaad to those attending unless there is a no other alternative. The Muwatta Majlis that we conducted in Rotterdam is one such example as we were unable to obtain visas for the senior scholars to attend. The Muhaditheen have stated that if there is a necessity then it becomes permissible for the junior scholars to recite.
[ii] Namely Shaykh Suliman al-Ahdal and Shaykh Ali al-Nahaas both of whom are my teachers, but through their humility and in recognition of the scores of aural asaneed that I have managed to obtain worldwide, they both repeatedly requested that I grant them Ijazah and provide them with my chains of narration so that they could also narrate through me. Upon seeing their persistence and being reminded by them of the tradition in which senior muhaditheen narrate from those who are junior to them, I bashfully acceded their request and still lament my inability to refuse their request as I am undeserving of this.
[iii] This will be the fourth time that I will start the reading of Sahih Muslim with Shaikh Zaheer (HA)The first time I read with him I was dissuaded from visiting him by some scholars who said that he was very sick and bed-ridden. After traveling on at least 5 modes of transport over 2000 KM in one day, I finally reached his house in the villages of South India and his children allowed me to read some ahadith with him and respond to various questions asked by him and another accompanying scholar. After informing the Shaikh that my intention was to read the Sahih of Imam Muslim the Shaikh’s children said that this would be extremely difficult and apologised. By the grace of Allah and contrary to the belief of everyone, Shaikh permitted me to start reading with him the following day for a maximum period of one hour, but when the Shaikh tasted the sweetness of hearing the blessed words of our Beloved (salahu alayhi wasalam) after several years of retiring from over 70 years of teaching Hadith, he became revitalized and asked me to increase the time of our reading and discussions. Upon my departure from him less than a week later, he became very sad that I would leave, but I promised that I would invite him to Umrah so that I could continue to benefit from him… Insha Allah, this upcoming trip will be the third invitation thathe has accepted from this feeble one.