Part 4 - The Preservation of the Sayings of the Prophet (PBUH)
Assalamaleykum Arahmatullahi va Barakatu, All praise is due to Allah, we praise him, we seek his help & we ask for his forgiveness, we take refuge with Allah from the evil in ourselves & from the evil consequence of our evil actions.
Now today we are going to be talking about the preservation of the Hadeeth & the saying of the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam, may God's peace & blessings be upon him. And in the last article we talked about the remarkable oral transmission & memorization of the Quran. How children as young as seven years old, even younger than that have memorised the entire Quran & by the way some of them don't even speak Arabic. There's no book in the world like that. But the Quran is not the only source of guidance for Muslims.
We also need the Sunna & the living example of the Prophet Muhammad in order to fully comprehend & understand the religion of Islam. And we are going to examine today how the scholars of Islam have painstakingly preserved & authenticated the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. So that's our task for today to talk about that. Just to remind ourselves about the ancient times when the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam & his companions were living, as Michael Zwettler, he notes that: "In ancient times when writing was scarcely used, memory & oral transmission was exercised & strengthened to a degree now almost unknown." It was very common in those day for people to memorise & to transmit the sayings of the ancestors in an oral form much more so than in written form & therefore the ability to memorise accurately was much strongly formed than it is today. Many people today don't really fully comprehend because we are not really used to that method of retaining information & therefore in terms of memory & training our memory it tends to be very weak. We prefer to record things on our hard disk for example or on bits of paper. But in those days people tended to memorise things in their minds.
Now first of all sometimes we find that people have not fully comprehended the importance of the Sunna of the Prophet. What is this Sunna of the Prophet? What do we mean by Sunna? Well the word "Sunna" in Arabic means "way", it's the prophetic way, the way that the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam may God's peace & blessings be upon him, the things that he said, the things that he did & the things that he approved of. All of this is called the Sunna. And the Sunna is preserved in what is called the Hadeeth. Hadeeth means literally "story". the Quran is also referred to as a Hadeeth, in fact it is the best Hadeeth, the best story, the best narration. But generally in Islamic law the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad is recorded in the Hadeeth. So the Hadeeth is the term for those things or those writings in which the actions, the sayings, the approvals of the Prophet Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam, the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him, were recorded.
Now there are numerous books of Hadeeth. Because of course there are so many things that the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him said & so many things he did. We have to remember that the message, the Messengership & the Prophethood of Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him lasted a period of 23 years. So that's a lot of stuff. 23 years of what the Prophet did, what he said, what he approved of. So there are of course so many narrations, so many Hadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad, & the whole issue of the Hadeeth is compounded by the fact that many people after the death of the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him began to fabricate, began to invent lies about the Prophet. And they began to say that the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him said this, the Prophet Muhammad said that.
You can imagine, every person who sold rice for example realised that well you know good way to sell more rice is by saying the Prophet said to eat rice, rice is good for you. So if everyone thinks rice is good for you & that the Prophet said that then more & more people are going to buy rice. So also rulers tried to justify their actions, sometimes their wrong actions by inventing Hadeeth & sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. So what developed in the Muslim world & we are going to talk about that is a science. A very amazing science through which & by which we could distinguish what are the true & what are the false sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. And all of this gives us added conviction that when we talk about the religion of Islam, we are talking about something verifiable, we are talking about something authentic, we are talking about something about which we have a scientific verifiable process through which & by which we can know what the Prophet Muhammad said & what he didn't say. By the way people were able to do this with the Hadeeth or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in a way that they were never able to do with the Quran.
First of all the Quran was memorised in its entirety by thousands of Muslims from the earliest days of Islam. Also in terms of its text as we've already mentioned it was compiled & collected & collated from the earliest days of Islam. So if anyone wanted to make a different interpretation of Islam, if any deviant sect or group or ruler or individual wanted to justify something by the Quran they were never able to invent a new verse or introduce a new ayat or verse of the Quran. It was impossible to do that because the text of the Quran had been established from the very earliest days of Muslim history & it was agreed upon unanimously by everybody. This was not the case with the Hadeeth or the sayings of the Prophet. And we can say actually it is true until today. We still have numerous books of the Hadeeth of the Prophet & we do not have any single book where all of the authentic Hadeeth of the Prophet have been compiled in one place. We do have a collection of the Hadeeth that is rigorously & highly authenticated & it is considered to be the most authentic textual reference in the religion of Islam after the Quran.
And that is known as Sahih Al Buhari. "Sahih" means "good", "sound", "authentic" & Al Bukhari is the name of the Imam or the Scholar who collected these various traditions & saying of the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him. the next most authentic collection of Prophetic traditions after Sahih Al Bukhari is Sahih Muslim. Again that means the authentic & sound collection but this time it was a collection that was compiled by Imam Muslim. He was also a very great scholar. The Quran says many times: "Ya ayuhallatheena aminu Ati Allaha wa ati al Rasul" which means: "Oh, you who believe obey Allah & obey the Messenger.
As earlier mention today we are talking about the preservation of the Hadeeth or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad & we were talking about how important the Sunna & the example of the Prophet Muhammad is in understanding the religion of Islam. It's really essential to it. In fact we find that many of the most important & essential basic acts of worship in Islam would not be fully defined just by reference to the Quran. For example lets take the five daily prayers. If you wanted to know how to pray five times a day, what are the times of the prayers? How should we say the prayers? How many units are there for each particular prayer? What do we say for each position in the prayer? What are the positions? What are the orders of the positions in the prayer? These things are not mentioned in the Quran. the only way that we know about these things is through the preservation of the example of the Prophet Muhammad may Allah's peace & blessings be upon him.
So the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him said "pray as you have seen me pray." So Muslims therefore are trying to emulate & follow the example of the Prophet. the Quran says: "Akki mus Allah" - establish the ritual prayer, but the details of it - it is not given in the Quran. Similarly, there are many things in the Quran that we would not be able to understand it unless the life story, the life history of the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him had been preserved. For example the 80th sura of the Quran in the very first ayat, it says: "Abas sawata wala" which means "he frowned & turned away". Who frowned? Who turned away from who? What is this talking about? Unless we know the sura & the life history of the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him we will be clueless about what it's actually referring to. And I'm only giving one of many-many examples in the Quran.
In fact the Quran itself stresses the importance of referring to the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him many-many times. Indeed in one particular verse Allah swears by himself. "Nay, no by Allah, they can have no faith", their faith is not true, it's not real, "unless they make you Muhammad a Judge in all disputes between them, & find no resistance in their hearts & submit with the fullest submission. In this verse Allah is making it very clear that if a person is truly a believer in Allah & a believer in the Last Day they will make the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him a judge in their disputes & they will be happy with his decisions. Also Allah Subhana Wa Ta Allah tells us in the Quran that whatever the Prophet gives you - you must take it, whatever the Prophet orders you to leave - you must leave it. The Quran tells us that the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him did not speak from his own desires, it nothing except a revelation that has been revealed. So these references in the Quran make it absolutely clear that the Sunna, the example of the Prophet Muhammad is an intrinsic part of understanding the religion of Islam.
Now let’s look at some of the ways in which the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad has been preserved. First of all the Sunna or the example of the Prophet is a very practical thing. Let’s remember this. For Muslims the Prophet Muhammad is the best example of how to be as a human being. In fact the Quran references that in the thirty third chapter of the Quran in the twenty first ayat the Quran tells us the meaning of which is: "Verily, most certainly, in the Messenger of God is a most excellent example for anyone who believes in God & the Last day." So the Quran is telling us that in the example, in the life, in the pattern of the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him is a good example, a way to follow for anyone who believes in God & the Last Day. So Muslims of course they believe in Allah, & they believe in the Last Day, the Day of Judgement, the accountability, the Hellfire, the Paradise, they believe in that. So therefore they try their best to emulate the example, the manners, the behaviour of the blessed Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam. So the Sunna, the example of the Prophet was applied in people's lives. It was not only memorised in the sense that: "I heard the Prophet say this, I saw the Prophet do that", they themselves applied it practically.
For example, the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him said: "If it wasn't a burden, if it wasn't going to be such a difficult thing for my nation I would have made the use of the tooth stick, brushing the teeth an obligation upon the Muslim nation." And the Prophet used to frequently use the tooth stick. He used to use it in the morning, in the evening, before he came out of the house, before he prayed, & his companions practically followed that example. And that practical example was followed by their children. And that was followed by their children & so they would say: "Well we saw the Prophet Muhammad do this & we saw the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam do this & this is what he told us to do." So it is not, remember, it is not merely memorising some academic thing, it's an actual practical application in one's everyday life. So this is one of the ways in which the Sunna of the Prophet was preserved.
And just in reference to this I remember that my dad always taught me to say, my dad Gavin Green, he taught me to say that his dad taught him & probably his dad taught him & that was a little phrase he uses: "R", "A", "U". R.A.U. is an acronym for "return after use" meaning when you have used something make sure you put it back where you found it in the first place "return after use". So actually what we find is that he is a chain of transmission. I learnt from my father, Gavin Green, who learnt from his father, so actually this chain stretches back over a hundred years, if you count, my father is 86, & you count back to his dad, that is really nearly, you know, 70-80 years. That's quite a long time. And if I inculcate my children with the same thing & then they narrate it to their children, this is what we call a chain of transmission. This has a special term in Islamic terminology. It's called the "Isnad".
And the isnad is a very-very important thing in the preservation of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, because the people began to invent things, they began to invent sayings about the Prophet. So some of the companions they said: "Ok. We will not accept anymore anyone coming along & saying "I heard the Prophet said this, I heard the Prophet said that." No. We want to know which companion of the Prophet Muhammad did you hear this from." And then they would go & check from this companion: "Did you say this? Did you hear the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam say that?" And if they discovered that the person was a liar, & they had invented a lie they would tell everybody. They would make it known publicly: "This man lied against the Prophet, don't believe him, he is a liar, he is a kathab, he is an inventor of Hadeeth of the Prophet." And one of the most strong Hadeeth of the Prophet, that is through a Mutawatr transmission, & we mentioned what Mutawatr is previously, is that "whoever lies about me intentionally, let them put their seat in the Hellfire." Whoever intentionally invents a lie against the Prophet - they are going to be destined to be burnt in Hell. It's a very-very severe thing.
So nobody should go around inventing things, & saying: "the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam said this & the Prophet Muhammad said that." Well some people did start doing that even to the extent that Aisha was commenting about this: "Fake coins" that she called, the fake coins were not real fake coins they were the Hadeeth of the Prophet that people were inventing, so the companions, they said: "No. We want to know who said it. Where did you learn it from? Give us the isna. In this is where the chain of narrators developed & from that the scholars started to study: "Did this person meet that person? Was he truthful? Was he honest? Did he have a good memory? Was he a pious person?" They began to check the character & the personality of every single person this chain of narrators. And they did this in order to authenticate & make sure that every person in this chain was trustworthy, that either these people in the chain had met each other & had learnt this Hadeeth from each other. And they did all of this to insure that there was a process in place through which & by which we could determine who & what were the things that the Prophet Muhammad may God's peace & blessings be upon him, what did he really say, & what other things that we have some doubts about whether he said it or not, & what things, you know, have been invented & lies have been attributed to the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alleyhem Va Salam. Of course this is really a very huge & extensive subject. It's really a science, it's something that people have dedicated their whole lives to, to studying the science of the transmission, & the accurate & authentic transmission of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
But of course there have been scholars throughout the ages, Muslim scholars who have dedicated their lives to the science, & they have compiled books, authentic books, like those I have already mentioned, like Sahih Al Bukhari & Sahih Al Muslim & the Sunna of Abu Daud & the Sunna of Nasai, there are anyway a number of collection of books. When I say collections, but they are books where the Hadeeth of the Prophet have been collected & they have been authenticated by the scholars of the Hadeeth. So like I say, it is a very extensive subject but all of this is to assure us, that when we say "Hadeeth of the Prophet is authentic, it's Sahih" you can be sure that it is something that the Prophet Muhammad really did say or he really did do. That's it - This episode "the Preservation of the Hadeeth of the Prophet. I hope you are going to join us next time for our "Proof that Islam is the Truth."