Foundation of Hadith Science: Morality

Foundation of Hadith Science: Morality

The main element that put forward the study of Hadith as a critical methodology is the need to test the value of truth since the beginning of revelation. The methods that are followed to test the truth of knowledge is based on morals.  Consequently the study of Hadith which focuses primarily on transmitting the knowledge from the Prophet (pbuh) is  a principle of morals. (Çelik pp. 121-122).

The formation of Hadith science cannot be studied separately from the history of Quran. While the verses of Quran were revealed gradually, the point our Prophet (pbuh) was meticulous about was writing down the verses. When we observe the conduct of the Prophet (pbuh) during this period, we see that the validity of the revelation was sealed in three specific ways; writing down the verses by the committee of clerks, memorization of the verses by the companions of the the Prophet (pbuh) and He has actualized the verses in full behavioral integrity (forming sunnah). When it was asked to Aisha (ra) by Sa’d  Ibn Hisham how the prophet’s morals were, regarding behavioral integrity, she responded by asking “You do read Quran don’t you?” Then she continued “Prophet’s morals were Quran”. (Hadislerle İslam, pp.16) Her reply shows us that Prophet’s actions  and words (sunnah) were actually Quran being brought to actualization. We know that at this period in time while the Prophet (pbuh) was still receiving revelation it wasn’t allowed to record his words. The main issue here was not to hold Prophet’s sayings and actions completely out of record, it was a precaution to keep Quran verses and Hadith separate (İslam Düşünce Atlası. Web. 24.12.19). There are several Quranic verses that point out to the importance of the Prophet’s words and actions. For example Surah al-Ahzab verse 36 says, “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should (thereafter) have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.”[1] Hence the truth of the Hadith was verified by his companions as they memorized his words. On another account, Abdullah b. Amr said he took permission from the Prophet to write down Hadith to memorize, this tells us that verbal culture at the early period was more central than written one. (Yücel, Hadis İlminin Ortaya Çıkışı Ve Birbiriyle İlişkileri 207).

The main principle that shapes the critique in Hadith narrative is the “moral perspective”. Surah al Hujurat, verse 6 warns about untrustworthy newsbearer “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful”. During the time of companions some certain criteria applied were “acting cautious when relating hadith”, “relating few hadiths”, “correcting wrong hadiths” “writing down hadith to remember," and these have formed and applied when relaying hadith. Omar (ra) asked for a second witness when Ebu Musa Al-Ashaari’s relayed this hadith which said “When one asks for permission (to enter ) three times and he is not given he should return”. (Yücel, Hadis İlminin Ortaya Çıkışı ve Birbiriyle İlişkileri 208). Companions of the prophet were extremely meticulous when collecting and relaying hadith. The prophet (pbuh) said “Relay the (Quran that was sent upon) to people even if just one verse. You could tell people the stories of Israelites. There is no problem with that. But whomever knowingly attributes a lie upon me shall prepare his place in hellfire.” (Riyâzu’s-Sâlihîn 6, pp. 165) This hadith has directed the companions to act upon the principle of “relaying fewer hadith”. After the Prophet (pbuh) passed away Ebu Bakr (ra) has compiled around five hundred hadith but because of his accurateness he said, “I would not like to die while these hadiths are with me. Even though I have heard these from the people I trust, I am afraid of relaying hadith that are not actually in their original form or misrelaying them” (Gül – Kahraman p. 140).

Some of the social, cultural and political events that occurred after the passing of the Prophet (pbuh) has brought some differences of opinions. This situation has led new rules to be added to hadith critique system. To stop any made up activities when relaying hadith ‘isnad’ tradition has been made a prerequisite (Yücel, Hadis İlminin Ortaya Çıkışı ve Birbiriyle İlişkileri 209). Isnād, (from Arabic sanad, “support”), in Islam, a list of authorities who have transmitted a report (ḥadīth) of a statement, action, or approbation of Muhammad, one of his Companions, or of a later authority (tabīʿ); its reliability determines the validity of a ḥadīth. (Brittanica). We could claim that Isnad is a system particular to Muslim tradition (Ulu p. 20). The main principle connecting Muslims to the Prophet (pbuh) is mainly about the isnad of the hadith. That is why we need to tackle Ibn Sirin’s resolution regarding “sanad (citations, backings) is within religion” within this frame.(Islamic Düşünce Atlası. Web. 24.12.19). In the system of Isnad, the relayers have to be just, moral, trustworthy, competent, and able to record. The description of authentic hadith (sahih hadith) is that it is relayed by “just and true recording relayers in a connected chain of sanads that has no doubt or suspicion upon”. If the hadith were relayed without isnad we would not have known weak from authentic hadiths (Kaya p. 124).

Prophet (pbuh) said “May Allah brighten the face of those who have heard from us and tell it to others the way he has heard it. There are certainly those many people who understand and protect the information better than the one who has heard it” (Riyâzu’s-Sâlihîn 6, p. 165) In this framework isnad system has verified the trustworthiness, morality and competency of the relayer. Imam Shafii (204/820) said, “The weakness or authenticity of the hadith is determined by the character of relayer” (Kaya p. 125). Hadith scholars have tried to minimize the number of relayers to avoid the mistakes or exploitations that could be caused by the relayers. For this reason hearing upon the original relayer of hadith they started journeys called “rihla” to hear it from the original relayer. During the period of Tabi’un (usually translated as Successors, means the Successors of the Companions of the Prophet) a lot of famous hadith scholars started these journeys and included the hadiths that were highly likely to be original in their compilation books and they were named ‘âlî isnad’ meaning a strong chained hadith. These scholars have paid special attention to moral principles as much as the scholarly principles. In this respect a hadith in a classical source is very precious. A hadith scholar who has traveled a long way saw the man he has come for tricking his horse with an empty nosebag in the field, and he returned without talking to him, saying “I would not record a hadith from somebody tricking his horse even for necessity” (Yılmaz p. 152). As the revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) started a desire to record his words and actions authenticity has become the foundation of hadith science. This situation actualized itself as the critical inquisition of the relayer’s moral and competency and started the isnad methodology (Çelik ss. 121-122). “Certainly Islamic methodology sciences are one of the most successful methods in the world. Because of these methodologies Islam stayed as the most authentic religion in the world. We could say that if the starters of main religions returned to earth today only Prophet Muhammed would feel among his followers” (el-Fârûkî p. 290) The conclusion reached by İsmail Râcî and Luis Lâmia el-Fârûkî in Islamic Culture Atlas puts forward the originality of critical methodology sciences. The hadith methodology that was built upon the moral principles has brought the attributed actions and words of prophet in the most authentic form until today. Surah al Ahzab, verse 34 says “And remember what is recited in your houses of the verses of Allah and wisdom. Indeed, Allah is ever Subtle and Acquainted [with all things]”. The word ‘wisdom’ here points to the sunnah of the prophet and in the period of companions and after the true sunnah has been seen the true source of wisdom and knowledge. In Islam the value of true knowledge and authentic faith is highly correlated and in the emergence Islamic sciences the merit of “moral” has become a central and foundational principle. This centrality has represented itself in the most tangible form in Islamic sciences. 


Çelik, Abdullah, “Hadis Usûlü İlminin Doğuşuna Dair Fuat Sezgin’in Görüşleri”, Fuat Sezgin ve Temel İslam Bilimleri Güncel Tartışmalar - Teorik Teklifler, 1. Baskı, Divan Kitap, İstanbul: 2019, pp. 121-141.

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Kaya, Murat, “Hadislerin Tesbitinde Sened Tenkidinin Tercihi Nedenleri”, bilimname XXXVII, Sayı: 1 (2019), ss. 121-140.

Ulu, Arif, “Önceleri İsnaddan Sormazlardı…” Rivâyetinin Senedi Üzerine Bir İnceleme”, Atatürk Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, Sayı: 36 (2011), ss. 19 - 46.

Yılmaz, Orhan, “Necip Fazıl Kısakürek’in Hadis Kültürü Ve Kullandığı Bazı Hadisler”, Tokat Gaziosmanpaşa Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, Cilt: VI, Sayı: 2 ( 2018), ss. 143-168.

Yücel, Ahmet, “Hadis İlminin Ortaya Çıkışı Ve Birbiriyle İlişkileri (Rivâyet Dönemi/İlk Üç Asır)”, Tartışmalı İlmî İhtisas Toplantılar Dizisi: V İslâmî İlimlerde Metodoloji - IV Temel İslâm İlimlerinin Ortaya Çıkışı ve Birbirleriyle İlişkileri, Ensar yayınları. İstanbul: 2014.


[1] Ayrıca bknz: Haşr sûresi, 7. âyet; Ahzâb sûresi, 21-22., 36. âyet; Nisa sûresi, 113. âyet.

Berra Kepekçi

NUN Schools Religious Culture and Ethics Teacher

Head of Department