Fabricated Traditions were Picked out and Removed
Traditionists picked out fabricated Traditions in many ways. One of those ways was the confession of fabricators. It frequently happened that those following deviant sects were guided to truth and acknowledged the Traditions they had fabricated.
Secondly, Traditionists were extremely sensitive to lying. They did not receive a Tradition from one who told even a single lie during his life. Besides truthfulness, they also stipulated that a narrator should have a keen memory and be very careful in practicing Islam. Also, he should not be a fanatical sectarian. Further, if forgetfulness and similar kinds of mental difficulty befell a reliable narrator, they no longer received Traditions from him either. For example, when Ibn Abi Lahi‘a, famous for austerity and God-fearing, lost his notebook from which he used to relate Traditions, Imam Bukhari restricted himself to those of his narrations confirmed or reinforced by other reliable narrators.
There is a wise saying that a man’s literary style is identical with himself. That is, if you are a careful reader, you can distinguish a literary man by his style from others. Muslim Traditionists dedicated themselves to Hadith wholly and were so familiar with the literature of Hadith that they could easily distinguish the sayings of the Prophet from those of even the most eminent literary men.
Another way of distinguishing authentic Traditions from fabricated ones was to judge them according to the Qur’an and the mutawatir hadith. If a hadith or Tradition was reported from the Prophet by three or more Companions and then handed down by several chains of transmission composed of reliable narrators, it is called mutawatir. Traditions reported from the Prophet by one Companion only are called ahadi. Ahadi Traditions were usually accepted as authentic after they were judged according to the Qur’an and mutawatir Traditions.
Although not an objective method, some saintly scholars saw God’s Messenger while awake and received directly from the Prophet himself the hadith qudsi, I was a hidden treasure. I wished to be known and therefore created the universe.85 Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti is reported to have met with God’s Messenger several times while awake. Before writing down a hadith which he concluded to be authentic, Imam Bukhari performed ritual ablution and referred it to God’s Messenger in a way particular to him. It was only after getting the approval of the Messenger that he wrote down the hadith in his notebook.86 There were some who saw the Companion who had narrated the hadith from the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.
Books written to judge the Traditions and those narrating them
The critics of Hadith formed compendious books giving detailed information about narrators. They explained the character and life-history of each: where and when he was born, where he emigrated and lived, whom he was taught by, from whom he received Traditions and to whom he narrated them and where he died. The first who wrote on this topic is ‘Ali ibn al-Madini, whose book is called Kitab al-Ma‘rifat al-Sahaba (The Book of Knowledge about the Companions). Among others, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab (The Comprehensive Book of Knowledge about the Companions) by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahaba (Finding the Truth in Judging the Companions) by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Usd al-Ghaba (The Lions of the Forest) by Ibn al-Athir, Tabaqat al-Kubra’ (which is a most comprehensive biographical dictionary of the leading Companions and of the scholars of the following generation) by Ibn Sa‘d, and Tarikh Ibn Asakir (History by Ibn Asakir), Tarikh al-Bukhari (History by Bukhari) and al-Tarikh al-Kabir (The Great History) by Yahya ibn Ma‘in, are the most significant.
Great Traditionists and criticizers of the Traditions
The greatest Traditionists such as Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal collected authentic Traditions and formed voluminous books of them. Some others like Maqdisi collected fabricated Traditions, and great critics of Hadith coming later tested once more the authenticity of all the Traditions collected by the Traditionists mentioned above. Among them, Ibn al-Jawzi judged several of the Traditions included in Musnad of Ibn Hanbal to be either weakly transmitted or even fabricated, although Ibn Jawzi himself belonged to the Hanbali School of law founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. However, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani made a new, thorough and detailed examination of those Traditions judged by Ibn al-Jawzi to be weakly transmitted or fabricated and, with the exception of thirteen, proved them all to be authentic. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, who lived in the fifteenth century, scrutinized those Traditions once more and concluded that none of them were fabricated, although a few may be weakly transmitted. Suyuti also reviewed al-Mavdu‘at al-Kubra’ (A Great Collection of Fabricated Traditions)by Ibn al-Jawzi and sorted out authentic ones among them. Thinking that the rest might not be fabricated either, he wrote al-Laa’li l-Masnu‘a (The Artificial Pearls).
Other great Traditionists compiled additional compendia to the collections of authentic Traditions. Because of their exactitude, leading Traditionists such as Bukhari and Muslim did not include many Traditions in their collections. Hakim compiled a voluminous appendix to Bukhari and Muslim, which is called al-Mustadrak ala’l-Sahihayn (Addendum to The Two Collections of Authentic Traditions). This Addendum was closely reviewed by Hafiz Dhahabi, who was famous for his keen memory.
In later centuries, books were written on maxims, wise sayings or proverbs which have a wide circulation among people and are regarded as Hadith. Sakhawi, in Maqasid al-Hasana, and Ajluni, in Kashf al-Khafa’, examined them one by one and explained which of them are truly ahadith and which are not. For example, apart from many authentic Traditions and Qur’anic verses which encourage people to learn, there are sayings widely circulated among people as ahadith such as ‘Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave’; or ‘Seek knowledge even if it is in China’. Traditionists tested these sayings according to the principles of the science of Hadith and proved that they are not Hadith.
It should be beyond question, after all such tremendous studies and detailed examinations and exacting verifications, that there are no longer fabricated Traditions in the collections of authentic Traditions. And it is sheer prejudice, religious, political and ideological, on the part of orientalists, and betrayal of Islam on the part of some so-called Muslim researchers who act as the spokesmen of orientalists in Muslim countries, to cast doubts on authentic Traditions and the Sunna, which is the second source of Islam and of vital importance for the life of Muslims.
85. Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1.132; ‘Ali al-Qari, “al-Asrar al-Marfu‘a,” 269.
86. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, 9.49.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.