Reviewed by Sumaira Dada
Author: Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi
Publisher: Goodword Books Pvt. Ltd
Availability: Paramount Books and http://www.goodwordbooks.com
“How reliable is Hadeeth literature?” is a question that has sown seeds of doubt in a lot of minds. The book “The Hadith for Beginners” is a highly informative, adequately referenced work that weeds out these roots of doubt. Serious readers will find this work a helpful guide on Hadeeth literature. Although the book is aimed at beginners, it will be helpful to have a teacher to guide one through. Previous knowledge of Hadeeth sciences will also come to good use.
The book is divided into eight chapters beginning with the importance, origin and development of Hadeeth. The periods of development in Hadeeth literature have been divided into two parts: the period of the Companions and the period after the death of the Companions. Short introductions of various works of Hadeeth literature, such as the Six Canonical Collections and various Sunnahs (for instance, the Sunnah of Said Ibn Mansur and the Sunnah of Al-Bayhaqi), have been included.
The author has also written on the sciences of tradition (Ulum Al-Hadeeth) and has included short introductions to the books written on Asma Al-Rijal (biography and criticism of the narrators of Hadeeth). A point to note is the interest taken by Western scholars in these works. For instance, the extant manuscripts of the Tabaqat of Ibn Sad were edited by a group of German scholars and published in eight volumes over a period of twenty years by the Prussian Academy of Sciences!
Due coverage has also been given to the contribution of women scholars of Hadeeth. In fact, the author has cited works of Asma Al-Rijal, where the writers have included articles on women traditionists. The author also notes, perhaps with some sadness, that the interest of women in Hadeeth sciences seems to have declined from 10 AH onwards.
The book is an eye-opener for those unaware of the great efforts and sacrifices made by scholars in collecting, compiling and disseminating Hadeeth literature. For instance, we are told of Al-Bukhari, the famous traditionist, who lived on grass and herbs for three days during his travels in search of Hadeeth. We also learn that Imam Al-Shafi (the founder of one of the schools of Islamic law) wrote the Hadeeth on pieces of bones, because he was too poor to buy paper.
On one hand, there were those, who put in great efforts to maintain the authenticity of Hadeeth, while, on the other hand, there were people like Muhammad Ibn Ukkasha and Muhammad Ibn Tamim, who forged more than ten thousand traditions. Nuh Ibn Abi Maryam, a theologian of great reputation, admitted having forged Hadeeth for the sake of God and in order to attract people to His Book.
It is evident that Dr. Siddiqi has put in long years of hard work in composing this book. Although the work was begun in 1930, it was not until thirty-one years later that the necessary funds were obtained to publish the book. The book dispells the doubts cast on Hadeeth literature with force that the reader will appreciate.