Figure 1A: The monumental text of Imam Ash-Shami

I thought long and hard about how to best do a book review on this particular work and I knew no better way to do it other than going out of the box. This is a hadith text that filled me with wonder.

I began studying with a teacher in the area of hadith some 19 years ago and it has been a fulfilling journey. The discussion on the terminology, the people, the books, the breakdown of the gradings and such was simply amazing.

Hadith literature cannot be read like one reads and ordinary book. There are some five things that have to be kept in mind:

(1) Hadith literature is not fiction. This is historical data that is supposed to present a point to the reader or listener that sheds further light on detailed matters of the Revealed Law.

(2) Hadith literature has revelation within it. There are parts of the hadith literature that are revelation, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, makes a statement, does an action, approves of a particular code of conduct or commands people with advice.

(3) Hadith literature is not casually read. I can read the Iliad and the Odyssey as a fun read before going to bed as these works are parables given through story form along with metaphors and tragic heroes. Hadith literature has morals mentioned and the like but there are also narratives, individual narrators, language being used to which one has to be particularly attuned and alert to at the time of reading.

(4) Hadith literature is collected under certain categories for a purpose. When one picks up any hadith text, there is a particular genre or class that it belongs to and there is a certain way they are to be read. Some are extracts while others are long narratives listing the reason for the actual statements or commands.

(5) Hadith literature provides context to the revelation of the Qur’an. This is both useful and imperative for the one that would like to study. The Qur’an was implemented in the lifetime of the recipient and carried out and this has been left for posterity to gaze upon, comment upon, understand and then put into practice for later generations.

It is for this reason that so much attention was put on this area by the scholars, particularly those coming out of Al-Basrah. Their entire business was the recording, examining, discussing of hadith.

For the people of Al-Basrah, passing rulings or making theoretical principles were not enough. We needed to know each narrator of the hadith, the history of the hadith, the reason it was spoken, the background, the language used, the audience being addressed and so much more.

These and so many other reasons drove the method in collecting hadith. Al-Basrah as a school developed two principles for hadith and the knowledge around them:

Hadith Majlis – these were scholars that concerned themselves with hadith according to all of the above and more and then put them in books based upon the needs of the audience addressed, students and scholars.

Fiqh Majlis – these were scholars that took the knowledge from and with the hadith majlis and gathered the books together than would strengthen the knowledge of fiqh.

There would be obvious overlap between the two categories – where some scholars would be both categories – but the scholars would always be particularly weighted towards one area. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241) paid such careful attention to this that the students of his madhhab after him dedicated their sweet time to the process.

This included people such as: Imams Abu Dawud As-Sijistani,[1] Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari,[2] Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj An-Naisaburi,[3] Abu Bakr Al-Athram,[4] Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi,[5] Harb ibn Isma`il Al-Kirmani,[6] Abu Bakr Al-Marwazi[7] and others.

Books would be collected together and each needed area had hadith texts put together for that purpose. Scholars organised hadith books to be read under:

(a) names of the narrators in alphabetical order

(b)  chapters and books of subjects

(c) rulings that are needed by students or scholars that will be making judgements

(d) historical epochs

(e) extracts of the beginning of the text

This process was used by laity, student and scholar alike for the better part of 1400 years until an attempt was made at a numbering system.

Figure 2A: Fu’ad `Abdul Baqi (1299-1388), the poet and hadith aficionado that tried to carry out the monumental task of numbering the collections.

A man bearing the name Fu’ad `Abdul Baqi[8] attempted to number the collections but it was haphazard and not consistent enough to be uniform throughout. Printing houses took this on board and once they started printing books of hadith, the confusion spread. He would never live to complete the monumental task that he had set up.

In light of this, one of today’s living marja` people and a large figure in the Hadith Majlis, decided to try to simplify and make things easier.

Imam Salih Ash-Shami, coming from a family of marja` people himself, decided to bring all of this together and try to resolve affairs. He made the numbers in Al-Bukhari and Muslim to match up and then introduced his own coding system that had the texts run in line with the fiqh books of the Hanbali School, which Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud were based upon in the very first place anyway.

Figure 3: The marja` and hadith scholar of Sham, Imam Salih Ash-Shami

Imam Salih Ash-Shami took Al-Bukhari and Muslim and combined them both together and then took the Ahadith in common and marked them. Those unique to each collection were marked and kept as so.

As for the hadith and notes that these two Imams put in the margins, these were included in the footnotes rather than having to be read in the commentaries.

Regarding this monumental task, Imam Salih Ash-Shami himself said, “I believe this is perhaps the first time this has been done regarding this matter.”

The Imam then went to the other collections and set about putting together a proper number sequence in addition to the fact that he used the same meticulous nature he did on Al-Jami`. He spoke of his beginning this monumental task here and it really deserves an amazing consideration.

So far the Imam has completed the task of proper organisation for the Hadith Majlis in the School on more than 10 hadith books. This is a monumental task and may ultimately have to be shared between him and his brother (in the Fiqh Majlis) on account of the advanced age.

What Al-Jami` Bain As-Sahihain accomplishes

(1) It joins between both collections and presents an easy enumeration and tracking system. Those that have studied the school of Imam Ahmad in any real detail will find this fine and a good organiser.

(2) If one has ever memorised hadith before, this will help with the task and the Imam has put it on golden paper for just this task.

(3) The text has few comments from the print house and intrusive notes. Too many print houses feel they must inject their ideology and useless fancy into the work. This has had very little discussion or presentation by the house.

(4) This is an inside look at how the marja` people organise and grasp hadith from a scholar of the highest level and probably the largest living authority on the topic.

(5) The reference section in the back forces people who are students to look for narrators and filters out time wasters and cheaters who aren’t truly appreciating the radiance of the work.

As said previously Imam Ash-Shami organised this text according to the books of the school of Imam Ahmad and then made 9 units with fresh headings for the chapters.

He then went through yet another process that you will appreciate. Upon examination, the reader can see that he has taken his simplification of the hadith collections based upon the difficulty of books recommended in the curriculum of Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620).

So the sets of books that need to be studied in fiqh (from simplest to most advanced) along with their equivalent hadith works are listed below:

Al-`Umdah      Al-Jami` bain As-Sahihain (3,896 hadith)

Al-Muqni`        Zawa’id us-Sunan `al as-Sahihain (7,688 hadith)

Al-Kafi             Zawa’id ul-Muwatta’ wal-Musnad `al Kutub is-Sittah (3,753 hadith)

Al-Mughni       Kutub ut-Tasi` (16,290 hadith)

The Imam did such a masterful job that it is difficult to fully put into words what he has done. I remember when I started Al-Jami` us-Saghir in 18 years ago and one of my teachers saying, “If something easier comes out besides this, then you should cling to it.”

Now here we are. So what can I say in closing about this matter? If you are a student of knowledge, you will need to familiarise yourself with Al-`Umdah, Al-Muqni` or the Zad ul-Mustaqni` and review the knowledge in the commentaries and extract these hadith for memorisation if you have not already.

If you have I would advise employing this new system for use as it is easier, more streamlined and actually facilitates your studies. The book you are already studying in fiqh fits like a glove with the equivalent text of hadith.

As for non-students, this can be used as a source for hadith with the index. It can also help you to learn the narrators and chapter headings for use. The book is broken into three areas for hadith use:

(a) the Ahadith that are particular to Imam Al-Bukhari’s collection

(b) the Ahadith that are particular to Imam Muslim’s collection

(c) the Ahadith that are present in both collections

These markings and differentiations should be an invaluable assistance to (1) the family that would like to learn together, especially when teaching at home and dispensing lessons and (2) the student that is building his knowledge and going forward.

May Allah reward the Imam, his brother and the great family that raised him to love the science of hadith and its related affairs! Amin!

Until next time.

Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far Al-Hanbali


[1] 210-275 AH (AD 824-889). He is Abu Dawud Sulaiman ibn Ash`ath As-Sijistani. One of the great Imams of Hadith and one of the main scholars of the school after the Imam, his As-Sunan is one of the most important books of hadith for its authenticity, brevity and discussion on the transmitters. Please see the oldest collected biography on Abu Dawud: Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 153-155

[2] 195-256 (AD 809-870). He is Muhammad ibn Isma`il ibn Ibrahim ibn Al-Mughirah Al-Bukhari. Major Imam in Hadith, he was in later life tested with the accusation of believing the Qur’an to be created. He would go to his Imam and state his entire theology as proof of the opposite and be buried next to him in the cemetery of Hanbali scholars. Regarding the fiqh scholars of the madhhab, he said of them: “I heard some of my companions in the school saying, ‘When he discussed his birth, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: My mother was pregnant with me when she moved from Marw to Baghdad.’ ”  Please see the oldest collected biography of Al-Bukhari: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 254-259; Salih Al-Baghdadi’s (the eldest son of Imam Ahmad) Sirat ul-Imam, pp. 24-26; Muhammad ibn Muhammad As-Sa`di’s Al-Jawhar ul-Muhassal, pp. 4-5

[3] d. 261 (AD 875). He is Muslim ibn Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj Al-Qushairi An-Naisaburi. One of the premier students of Imam Ahmad and a source for his madhhab, he authored his text Al-Jami` us-Sahih text that became the second most popular hadith book after his death. Please see the oldest collected biography of Muslim: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 311-314

[4] d. 260 AH (AD 874). He is Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hani’ Al-Iskafi. Please see the oldest collected biography of Abu Bakr Al-Athram: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 65-71

[5] 275 AH (AD 888) He is Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Al-Hajjaj ibn `Abdul `Aziz Al-Marrudhi. One of the students of Imam Ahmad that narrated theology, hadith, fiqh and many other affairs, he witnessed the Inquisition launched by the Abbasids against Orthodox theology and witnessed the victory of the Imam. Please see the oldest collected biography of Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 57-62

[6] d. 280 (AD 893). He is Harb ibn Isma`il ibn Khalaf Al-Kirmani.  Please see the oldest collected biography of Al-Kirmani: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 136-137

[7] d. 292 AH (AD 905). He is Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn Sa`id ibn Ibrahim. Please see the oldest collected biography of Abu Bakr Al-Marwazi: Abul Hussain Muhammad ibn Muhammad’s Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 52-53

[8] 1299-1388 (AD 1882-1968). He is Muhammad Fu’ad ibn `Abdul Baqi ibn Salih ibn Muhammad. Born in one of the villages in northern Egypt and raised in Cairo, he studied hadith, poetry, Qur’an, French and English. He came with the novel idea of numbering the Ahadith and chapters of Al-Jami` us-Sahih of Al-Bukhari. This was followed by printing houses when disseminating Al-Bukhari’s Al-Jami` and commentaries on it and then it began to be done on the collection of Muslim. Please see Az-Zirkali’s Al-A`lam

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