Traditions of

An Introduction to the study of the



IT is a curious fact that an empire containing more than a hundred million Muslims has not produced a book in the English language dealing with and explaining a great branch of Muhammadan literature which stands beside the Quran as a source of Muslim belief and practice. The lack of such a book on the traditions of Islam is difficult to explain, because the everyday life of Muslims throughout the world is governed and directed by these traditions. But, at any rate, it absolves the author from the necessity for an apology for venturing to treat of so vast a subject.

I need not point out my indebtedness to the work of older scholars, particularly the late Ignaz Goldziher, whose Muhammedanische Studien must form the basis of any work on the hadith literature. Scholars will recognize that I have drawn freely from his writings, and this acknowledgement of my indebtedness must suffice. I have not, however, shirked the obvious duty of studying the literature at first hand, especially in the Kanzu-l-'Ummal compiled by Ala-al-Din b. Muttaqi of Burhanpur, who died in 975 A.H., and in the Mishkatu-l-Masabih, 'The Niche of the Lamps, an anthology of tradition selected by Waliu-l-Din Abu 'Abd Allah (fl. 737), and based on the Masabihu-l-Sunna of Muhammad Abu Muhammad Al Baghawi (d. 516). It would be difficult to over-estimate the


value of the Mishkat as a synopsis of the hadith literature. The author has (a) omitted the isnad chain of narrators of each tradition, (b) arranged his material according to the subject-matter with sub-divisions of 'genuine', 'good', and 'weak' authority, (c) ranged almost the whole field of the literature, and (d) given a representative selection of the tradition free from the constant repetitions occurring in almost all the original collections. I have not always been careful to cite the individual author from whom the anthologist has culled his hadith, because a most laborious search would be necessary to determine whether a parallel hadith was preserved by other writers, and the point is often of no importance. Moreover, when the great concordance to hadith which is now being prepared by Professor Wensinck of Leyden, with the assistance of many British and Continental Arabists, has been published the curious will be able at a glance to determine such question for themselves. Nor do I propose to notice the prolific growth of compendia and commentaries to hadith which form excrescences on the original literature.

The Shi'a collections of traditions deserve a separate treatise, and are not dealt with in these pages.

I cannot hope my work of this size to have given more than an outline of a vast territory which has not yet been opened to the Western student.

Experience as a political officer in the Arab Bureau during the war convinced me of the importance of hadith. I have, for instance, seen it invoked by doctors to settle the question as to whether the faithful might eat horseflesh, and by Bolshevists to persuade Muhammadans that republics are of divine appointment.


My thanks are due to my friend Sir Thomas Arnold, who first suggested this undertaking to me, and who has constantly assisted me with helpful criticism; and to Professor Margoliouth, without whose advice no old pupil of his would venture to write on matters Arabian. Finally, I desire to express my deep gratitude to the Librarians and sub-Librarians of the India Office and the Indian Institute, Oxford, who lent me for long periods books which were otherwise inaccessible.


I. The Evolution of Hadith ... 9
II. The Umayyad Period ... 37
III. The Abbasid Period ... 56
IV. Criticism of Hadith by Muslims ... 77
V. Selections from Hadith ... 98
VI. Borrowing from Christian Documents and Tradition ... 132
VII. Some Aspects of the Prophet Muhammad in Tradition ... 150

Appendix A. The Caliphate in Tradition ... 159
Appendix B. A Translation of the Kitabu-l-Qadar from the Sahih of Al-Bukhari ... 171
Bibliography of Works cited ... 179
A Glossary of the more Common Technical Terms used in the Hadith Literature ... 181

Addenda ... 182
Index ... 183

Citation template for bibliographies:— Guillaume, Alfred. The Traditions of Islam - An Introduction to the Study of Hadith Literature. Khayats, Beirut, 1966 (
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