By Huda Shaka`
Hadith during the time of the Companions and their followers (may Allah be please with them)
This section of the book has amazing stories which were my motivation behind starting this whole series of posts. It took a while to get here, but alhamdulillah, I hope the posts so far have been somewhat beneficial.
After the death of the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), the Companions realized the great responsibility on their shoulders of preserving the primary sources of Shari`ah: the Qur’an and Sunnah.
With regards to the Sunnah, a great deal of time and effort was devoted to collecting, learning, and teaching hadith.
Abdullah Ibn Abbas narrates that after the death of the Prophet (s) – `Abdullah was around twelve years old at that time – that he said to one of the Ansar: “Let us go and ask the companions of the Prophet of Allah [about hadith], for they are many today. ” The man replied in wonder: “[I am] surprised at you Ibn Abbas…Do you think people are in need of you, and amongst them are the many companions of Prophet?” Nevertheless, Ibn Abbas pursued the knowledge of Hadith from the companions of the Prophet of Allah. He would hear of a man [who knows Hadith] and would go to his door while he is having his afternoon nap, and would stay at the doorstep with the winds throwing sand at him until the man comes out at says: “Oh cousin of the Prophet of Allah, what has brought you here? Why did you not call for me and I would have come to you?” Ibn Abbas would reply: “It is more befitting that I come to you and ask you about Hadith.”
– Al Jami` li Akhlaq ar-Rawi wa Adab as-Sami`, page 24
This story made me stop and think. We often hear the name of Ibn `Abbas when it comes to narrating hadith, but I never thought of what he had to go through to learn that hadith. And although there were many older companions living in Medinah at the time, rather than allow himself to take a back seat and rely on their knowledge, he was deeply motivated to learn hadith from them.
The companions, may Allah be pleased with them, did their best to pass on the love of Hadith to the next generation and stress the importance of learning and sharing Hadith from an early age, and their followers did the same with the next generation.
There are many stories of the unparalleled dedication and passion of the teachers of Hadith, which allowed this science to spread and flourish. An example is this story:
Al-Waleed bin `Utbah would teach Hadith at Masjid Al-Jabiyah (in Damascus), and there was a man who would join the class after a quarter or a third of it was over, so he would repeat what he said for him. When this happened several times, Al-Waleed asked the man about the reason for his delay and the man answered: “I am a man with the responsibility of spending on my family, and I have a small shop in Beit Lihya [a town near Damascus]. If I do not buy the necessities for it early [in the day], close the store and come running, I risk losing my source of income. ” Al-Waleed replied: “I do not [want to] see you here again.” Al-Waleed would teach his class at the masjid, and then take his book and go to Beit Lahiya to re-teach the lesson to the man at his shop.
– Al Jami` li Akhlaq ar-Rawi wa Adab as-Sami`, page 36
Not everyone would be allowed to become a student of Hadith; it was an honor and privilege reserved to those students who had proven themselves by studying and memorizing all or most of the Qur’an. There were also manners and etiquettes to be observed when studying Hadith , attending a class, or even asking a question. For example, most scholars would not discuss Hadith without being in a state of ritual purity (wudu`).
The journey in pursuit of Hadith
During the time of the companions and the two generations after them, students and scholars of hadith would travel thousands of miles to hear one hadith from a companion who heard it directly from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him).
Al `Ata’ ibn Rabi` narrates:
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari set out to ask `Uqbah bin `Amir about a hadith he had heard from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), and `Uqbah was the only remaining companion who had heard it with him. When Abu Ayyub reached the house of Maslamah ibn Mukhlad al-Ansari, who was the ruler of Egypt at the time…Maslamah came out and hugged him. Then he said: “What has brought you here Oh Abu Ayyub?” He replied, “A hadith I heard from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), and none of the people who heard it from the Prophet of Allah remain except myself and `Uqbah. So, send someone to show me his house.” He sent someone to show him `Uqbah’s house, and informed `Uqbah. `Uqbah came running out, hugged Abu Ayyub and asked: “What brought you here Oh Abu Ayyub?” He replied: “A hadith I heard from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) [about concealing for a believer], and none of the people who heard it from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) remain except myself and yourself.” `Uqbah said: “Yes, I heard the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) say:
“من ستر مؤمنا في الدنيا على خزيه ستره الله يوم القيامة”
“Whoever conceals a believer’s disgraceful (deeds) in this world, Allah will conceal [his] on the Day of Judgment.”
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari responded, “You said the truth.” Then he…left for Madinah, [so quickly that] an envoy which Maslamah ibn Mukhlad had sent did not catch up with him until al-`Areesh [on the borders of Egypt].
– Ma’rifat Uloom al-Hadith, pg 8
The journeys in pursuit of Hadith played a central role in the spread and preservation of Hadith, especially until the time when the main collections of hadith were complied, as will be the topic of the next post inshaAllah.