Difference Between History Books and Ahaadith

Chapter No.: 

It is very important for a reader of Hadith to appreciate the difference between Hadith and history in the common sense of the word and between a Muhaddith and a historian. People who have not understood this difference have drawn erroneous conclusions and hence got misled. For recording the historical events of a certain period, the method which is usually adopted by the historians is that all kinds of rumours circulating in the streets are collected and recorded. These historians are least bothered to try to ascertain the authenticity and origin of these rumours; and it is from these rumours such events are framed which are based on mere assumptions, and are stored in books which later generations take as authentic sources. Most of the European history books available these days, have been written this way. These historians had no contact whatsoever with either the period about which they were writing or the person about whom they were writing.

On the contrary, Hadith is a unique form of history, whose example world has failed to provide. On one hand, it includes to a marvelous level almost all aspects of life of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) viz., personal, social, political, administrative, domestic affairs, foreign affairs, in peace and in war, about childhood, adolescence, adulthood, even about his dress, what he wore - when and how, how he walked, how he sat, how he laughed, how he combed his hair, how he held tooth brush (Miswaak) in hand and what not, whatever he did and whatever he said is all recorded. On the other hand, it includes unique account of socio-political and other aspects of that period. To record and then pass on that information to future generation became the only mission of the lives of companions of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) who was dearest to them, dearer than their own lives, sons and wives, parents and every other thing. Once a pagan leader exclaimed: "I have seen great kings of Persia and Rome, but I have not seen anybody honouring his king more than the companions of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) honour him. They (Sahaabah) do not even allow his sputum to fall on earth but jump over one another in order to catch it". Such was the attachment of the followers of Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) with him.

Histories of other nations are written by one or few historians at a particular point of time, but here in case of Hadith, there are thousands of devoted, extremely pious people who dedicated their lives for meticulous recording of every event of that period revolving around Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and then passed that on to the next generation with absolute pristine purity by the method which is unparallel in history. No nation can show such type of attachment of its historians with its people as was shown by companions of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) with him. Whenever they used to narrate something about him, tears would come to their eyes, heart would start beating faster, blood would start becoming warmer with heat of love and the body would start shivering due to fear that was caused because of the following statement of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), who said:

من كذّب علي متعمدا فليتبوأ مقعده في النار

"One who attributes a lie towards me knowingly, should find his abode in hell". (Bukhari)

Abu Dhar (RA) one of the distinguished companions of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) would say while narrating Hadith:

"My friend (i.e., Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)) advised me such and such"

and would faint as he used to be over powered by emotions and tears.

Coming down to next generation of narrators called Taabaeen, they followed exactly the foot prints of Sahaabah in dedicating their lives for collection, preservation and onward transmission of Hadith with meticulous extraordinary care. They never learned Hadith from everybody except from most pious and reliable sources. They did not only look for piousness of narrators but also their memory power as it was quite possible that someone who is pious can err because of poor memory.

This methodology later on became routine in subsequent generations for learning Hadith. People made it a point to know first the integrity of the narrator of Hadith. It was this principle which gave rise to a marvellous science known as Fun-u-Asmae-Rijal, which is a unique thing in Islamic history in which biographies of about half a million people were written who were somehow involved in narration of Hadith.

Imam Maalik’s (RA) way of Narrating Hadith

Whenever any person wanted to ask Imam Maalik (RA) something about Islam, Imam Maalik used to tell his servant to enquire of the visitor about what he wants to ask. If the visitor wanted to ask some Mas'ala, then Imam would reply him immediately, and if that person wanted to listen Hadith, then Imam Maalik (RA) made him to wait till he put on new costly gown, sit on a dais and then narrate Hadith with full honours, saying that—“Hadith is a Royal statement and its etiquettes should also be Royal”.