Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

August 2004 - Rajab 1425 H
Volume 17-08 No : 212
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The Period of the Sahabah : First Century Hijrah.

The Period of the Sahabah : First Century Hijrah.

Several factors contributed to the initial preservation and propagation of Ahadith by the Sahabah.

1. The Sahabah’s intense Love of and Devotion to the Prophet s.a.w.

The sahabah loved the Prophet s.a.w. more than their own selves. This was because of the Quranic injunction - “The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves” 33:6

The Quran also says : [O Muhammad], say, “If you do love Allah, follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” 3:31

The sahabah would thus constantly watch the Prophet s.a.w. and follow him carefully in all that he said, did, liked and approved. Consequently, each and every word, utterance and action of the Prophet s.a.w. was preserved and recorded in the hearts and minds of countless sahabah. This also ensured the authenticity of Ahadith and the Sunnah. So great was their attachment to their worldly master and with such intense zeal and devotion did they follow him, that if they saw someone ignoring or deviating from his practice, they would exhort him to follow it. Imam al-Bukhari reported one such incident:

“Abdullah bin Mufadhdhal once saw a man hunting with stones, and he told him that the Prophet s.a.w. had forbidden this. Later, he saw him doing the same. He then told him that since he was still acting contrary to an injunction of the Prophet s.a.w., he [i.e. Abdullah] would not speak to him again”

2. The Sahabah’s Practice of Ahadith.

The sahabah’s main interest in seeking the knowledge of ahadith was to be able to practice them. They sought guidance from ahadith in every facet of their lives, hence they took extra care to ascertain their authenticity. People like Abu Bakr and Umar would not hesitate to go to Aishah or Bilal to seek knowledge of ahadith. History has recorded numerous instances of a sahabi taking a long and arduous journey to listen to a single hadith from its original narrator. It is stated that Abu Ayyub al-Ansari undertook the long journey from Madinah to Egypt to listen to the following hadith from its original narrator Uqbah bin Amr :

“Whoever covers the faults of a believer will have his faults covered by Allah on the Day of Judgement” Al-Bukhari & Muslim.

It is also stated that after listening to this hadith, he did not stay in Egypt even to change the saddle of his camel, but rather, he immediately returned to Madinah. Similarly, Jabir bin Abdullah undertook a one-month journey from Madinah to Syria to secure the authenticity of a single hadith from Abdullah bin Amr. Likewise, Sa’eed bin Musayyab reported that he used to travel for days and nights to listen to a single hadith from its original narrator.

Because of this care and devotion, the sahabah were universally regarded as the living embodiment of ahadith. Their acts of devotion, daily prayer, and personal and social dealings thus proved to be the most effective means for the initial preservation and propagation of ahadith and the sunnah.

3. The Sahabah’s keen interest in Understanding the Quran.

Questions often arose concerning the revelation of certain verses or the meaning of certain words and phrases of the Quran. The sahabah would seek the answer to such question in ahadith. A group of sahabah devoted themselves to the understanding and explanation of the Quran. This led to the search for and collection of a vast body of related ahadith. Similarly, a group of sahabah devoted themselves to the understanding and explanation of legal matters, which is now known as Fiqh (Jurisprudence). The work led to the revival and accumulation of an enormous collection of ahadith dealing with various details of Islamic practices.

4. The Ashab us-Safah.

The Ashab us-Safah were a group of people in Madinah who virtually lived in the Prophet’s Masjid and devoted themselves to learning the religion from the Prophet s.a.w.. The Prophet s.a.w.’s Masjid in Madinah was the first open university of Islam, and they were its full-time resident students. Consequently, they became the most reliable and respected source of ahadith. Settling down later in other cities, they carried with them an immense and authentic treasury of ahadith. Several open universities for the teaching of ahadith thus became established throughout the Muslim world. Abu Hurayrah, the famous narrator of ahadith, was one of the Ashab us-Safah.

5. The Prophet’s Injunction in his Farewell Address.

In his farewell address the Prophet s.a.w. declared, “Convey to others even if it is a single verse from me.” Thus the sahabah regarded the knowledge of ahadith as a sacred trust which they must convey to others. At the same time, they were extremely cautious in narrating a hadith, for the Prophet s.a.w. had also declared that anyone intentionally attributing an incorrect statement to him would find his abode in Hell. Hence they preferred that someone else narrate the ahadith which they knew. Often it so happened that a sahabi knew a hadith, which until the approach of his death was not narrated by another sahabi. The dying sahabi would then narrate the hadith, declaring that it was a sacred trust that he was discharging from his deathbed. History has recorded numerous such incidents. In the early days of Islam a sahabi’s death was a momentous event. The news of his death would spread far and wide as well as the ahadith that he narrated from his deathbed.

Various groups of sahabah contributed their respective share of efforts to the initial preservation and propagation of ahadith and the sunnah. Thus what was done for ahadith and sunnah propagation in the second and third century Hijrah was based on the work of the sahabah.

(Extract from the book by Dr. Mazhar U.Kazi, who was the Faculty of Medicine, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah Saudi Arabia. Compiled by Shahnawaz Khan (mnfarms02@vsnl.net)

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