The Mastery of Hadith according to Shaykh Hatim al-Awni

Shaykh Hatim al-Awni al-Sharif of Makka gives valuable advice in his booklet, Nasa’ih Manhajiyah li-Talib ‘Ilm al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyah.

Obsessively read the Sahihayn,

  • al-Bukhari
  • Muslim

devoting a period each day for their study so that one can complete reading them in a year. One should aim at a minimum to do this over four years, during high school or university, so that one graduates having read them several times. Thereafter, one should read the works which strove to include only sahih narrations:

  • al-Muwatta
  • Ibn Hibban
  • Ibn Khuzaymah

Thereafter one should read the sunan works carefully, checking and researching the veracity of their ahadith:

  • Abi Dawud
  • al-Nasa’i
  • al-Tirmidhi
  • al-Darimi
  • al-Daraqutni
  • Sunan al-Kubra li’l-Bayhaqi

If one has aspiration then one should memorise hadith, utilising the following books in order:

  • al-Arba’in al-Nawawiyah (with zawa’id Ibn Rajab)
  • Umdat al-Ahkam
  • Bulugh al-Maram
  • al-Lu’lu wa al-Marjan
  • al-Sahihayn

One should also read commentaries on the hadith collections, beginning with easier ones:

  • al-Nawawi – Sharh Sahih Muslim
  • al-Qurtubi – Sharh Sahih Muslim
  • al-Tibi – Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih
  • al-Munawi – Fayd al-Qadir

One should always have Ibn al-Athir’s Al-Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith at hand as it explains the difficult vocabulary. It is easier to read this alongside the hadith instead of the commentaries, in order to get a general understanding of the hadith. Beware, however, of narrating hadiths which you do not understand.

Thereafter one should read the expansive commentaries:

  • Ibn Hajar – Fath al-Bari
  • al-Tahawi – Sharh Mushkil al-Athar
  • al-Iraqi – Tarh al-Tathrib Sharh al-Taqrib
  • Ibn Abd al-Barr – al-Tamhid

Ulum al-Hadith should begin as young as intermediate school (aged twelve) with the following:

  • Taysir Mustalah al-Hadith by al-Tahan or
  • Taysir Ulum al-Hadith by Amr Saleem or
  • Sharh Lughat al-Muhadith by Tariq Awad Allah or
  • Nukhbat al-Fikar (the best text at this level) with an easy contemporary sharh such as that by Abd al-Karim al-Khudayr

After that, at high school level (aged fifteen or so):

  • Nuzhat al-Nazar (the best text at this level) or Al-Ba’ith al-Hathith or al-Ghayah Sharh al-Hidayah by al-Sakhawi

Thereafter, one should study:

  • Muqadimah Ibn al-Salah with Nukat Ibn Hajar, al-Iraqi, and al-Zarkashi as well as shaykh Hatim’s own audio commentary, which is the most detailed available

This should be followed by:

  • al-Iqtirah by Ibn Daqiq al-Eid and its versification by al-Iraqi for memorisation
  • al-Mawqizah by al-Dhahabi, which shaykh Hatim has explained in a printed sharh based on his audio lectures

Then one should move on to the encyclopaedic works such as:

  • Tadrib al-Rawi by al-Suyuti
  • Fath al-Mughith by al-Sakhawi
  • al-San’ani – Tawdih al-Afkar
  • al-Khatib – al-Kifayah
  • al-Hakim – Ma’rifat Ulum al-Haith
  • Ibn Rajab – Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhi (upon which shaykh Hatim has audio commentary)
  • Ibn Abd al-Barr – Muqadimah al-Tamhid
  • al-Khalili – Muqadimah al-Irshad

After this one ends with comprehending and studying the methodology of the Mutaqqimin:

  • al-Shafi’i – al-Risalah
  • Muslim – Muqadimah
  • Abi Dawud – Risalah ila Ahl Makka

After Nuzhat al-Nazr or whilst studying the Muqadimah of Ibn al-Salah one should begin to extensively read the following takhrij works in order to see how the theory of mustalah is practically applied:

  • Mahmud al-Tahan – Usul al-Takhrij wa Dirasat al-Asanid
  • Shaykh Hatim’s audio class on takhrij as well as its mudhakkirah, which the shaykh highly recommends
  • Ibn al-Mulaqqin – Badr al-Munir
  • Ibn Hajar – Talkhis al-Habir
  • Nasb al-Rayah by al-Zayla’i
  • Tanqih al-Tahqiq by Ibn Abd al-Hadi
  • Silsilatayn by al-Albani
  • Irwa al-Ghalil by al-Albani

Then one should study one or more books which deal specifically with the methodology of al-jarh wa al-ta’dil:

  • Dawabit al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil by Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Latif
  • Dawabit al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil ‘ind al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi
  • al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil by Ibrahim al-Lahim
  • Khulasat al-Ta’sil by Hatim al-Awni
  • al-Laknawi – al-Raf’ wa al-Takmil
  • Abu al-Hasan al-Masri – Shifa’ al-‘Ilil

One should read books which deal with the sources of the Sunnah:

  • al-Kattani – Risalat al-Mustatrifah
  • Akram Diya’ al-‘Umari – Buhuth fi Tarikh al-Sunnah al-Musharifah

At this stage one should analyse chains of transmission independently. It is crucial to remember that each chain needs to be analysed individually and in context, understanding the methodology of the early hadith masters. One should be very careful in grading hadith and should strive to understand rather than innovate. If one begins this stage as early as possible, after Muqaddimat Ibn al-Salah or whilst studying takhrij works such as Talkhis al-Habir, one will reap immense benefits later on. The following books should be referred to often:

  • al-Mizzi – Tahdhib al-Kamal
  • Ibn Hajar – Tahdhib al-Tahdib
  • al-Dhahabi – Mizan al-I’tidal (abridged from Ibn ‘Adi’s al-Kamil)

These works derive from the following early sources:

  • Ibn Abi Hatim – Al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil
  • al-‘Uqayli – Al-Du’afa
  • Ibn Hibban – al-Majruhin
  • Ibn ‘Adi – Al-Kamil

The final word will be with the following master critics:

  • Yahya b. Mu’in
  • Ahmad b. Hanbal
  • Al-Bukhari – al-Tarikh al-Kabir

Read through all the imams’ words on a narrator will give one great perspectives and one should strive to study this in detail. When one finds much difference of opinion about a narrator, one should research his status extensively. One must also study deeply, and in immense detail, the books which deal with hidden defects (‘Ilal):

  • Ali b. al-Madini – Al-‘Ilal
  • al-Tirmidhi – Al-‘Ilal al-Kabir
  • Ibn Abi Hatim – Al-‘Ilal
  • Al-Daraqutni – ‘Ilal al-Ahadith (the most expansive work)

At this stage one will have reached a high degree of mastery and proficiency in hadith. One should then embark upon research projects in service of the Sunnah. One must know the rank of the critics as one knows the status of the critiqued, especially when verdicts differ, in order to give preponderance to one view over an other:

  1. al-Mutashaddidun (the strict)
  2. al-Mutasahilun (the lenient)
  3. al-Mu’addilun (the fair)

1. The Mutashaddidun are the critics with strict verdicts of disparagement. However, if they appraise a narrator, his standing is respected. Examples follow with the hadith scholar who deemed them so in brackets:

  • Shu’ba b. al-Hajjaj (Ibn Hajar)
  • Sufyan al-Thawri (Ibn Hajar)
  • Yahya b. Sa’id al-Qatan (al-Dhahabi)
  • ‘Affan b. Muslim (al-Dhahabi)
  • Abu Nu’aym (al-Dhahabi)
  • Yahya b. Ma’in (al-Dhahabi, also said to be fair)
  • ‘Ali b. al-Madini (al-Dhahabi – highly respected master critic whose appraisal alone almost assures validity)
  • Abu Hatim al-Razi (al-Dhahabi)
  • ‘Uthman b. Abi Shaybah
  • Ibn Khirash (al-Dhahabi)
  • al-Nasa’i (Ibn Hajar)
  • Abu’l-Fath al-Azdi (al-Dhahabi)
  • al-‘Uqayli
  • Ibn Shahin (contadictory at times)
  • Ibn Hibban (al-Dhahabi, but from the lenient when it comes to unknown narrators)
  • Malik b. Anas
  • Ibn Hazm

2. The Mutasahilun are the ones with leniency in expressing verdicts of al-Jarh & al-Ta’dil:

  • al-Tirmidhi (though this assessment is being reassessed by contemporary scholars of the mutaqaddimun movement)
  • Ibn Khuzaymah
  • al-Tabari
  • al-Bazzar
  • Ibn Shahin (contradictory at times)
  • Ibn Hibban (al-Dhahabi – but from the strict when it comes to reliable narrators)
  • al-Hakim al-Nisaburi
  • al-Bayhaqi

3. The Mu’addilun or the Mutawassitun are the just/moderate critics with the soundest scale of disparaging and appraising narrators. Their verdicts are of the first rank and take precedence over others when their is difference:

  • Abd al-Rahman b. Mahdi (al-Dhahabi – with a bit of strictness)
  • Ibn Sa’d (al-Dhahabi – with some leniency)
  • Ahmad b. Hanbal (with a little leniency)
  • Yahya b. Ma’in (with a little strictness)
  • al-Bukhari
  • Muslim
  • Abu Dawud (with a little leniency)
  • Abu Zur’ah al-Razi (his verdicts are praised alot by al-Dhahabi)
  • al-Nasa’i (with a touch of strictness)
  • Ibn ‘Adi
  • al-Daraqutni (al-Dhahabi)
  • al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (with some leniency)
  • al-Dhahabi
  • Ibn Hajar (with a touch of leniency according to some contemporary scholars)

The following are considered to be the master critics due to their fair verdicts and extensive criticism:

  • ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Mahdi
  • Ibn Sa’d
  • Ahmad b. Hanbal
  • al-Bukhari
  • Muslim
  • Abu Zur’ah
  • Ibn ‘Adi
  • al-Daraqutni
  • al-Dhahabi

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