The Hadith: Articulating the Beliefs and Constructs of Classical Islam (Hardback) book cover

The Hadith

Articulating the Beliefs and Constructs of Classical Islam

Edited by Mustafa Shah

© 2010 – Routledge

1,704 pages

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Hardback: 9780415473989
pub: 2009-10-29

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The Prophetic traditions of Islam, which are commonly referred to as the hadiths (literally: ‘reports’), preserve the sum and substance of the utterances, deeds, directives, and descriptive anecdotes connected with the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions. Together with the Qur’an, the hadiths provide the religion of Islam with its principal scriptural sources.

The collection features an accessible and informative introduction which presents an outline of the significance of the hadiths within the religious tradition while also reviewing classical scholarship devoted to the literature of the traditions; moreover, the introduction decisively sets into context the academic debates and arguments which are fleshed out in the articles selected. It also charts developments in the academic study of hadiths, summing up the current state of the field and features a detailed bibliography listing primary classical sources germane to the field of Prophetic traditions together with recent research monographs and articles devoted to the subject.

This Major Work provides an authoritative collection of the seminal research articles produced by western academic scholarship on the subject of the hadith over the past century, including recent papers on the subject. In bringing together the finest examples of scholarship devoted to the hadith and the classical literature that surrounds it, these volumes provide an indispensable reference resource for academics, research institutions, governmental organizations, and those with a general interest in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Religious Studies, Arabic Cultural Studies, and Middle East History.


The ?adith. Edited by Mustafa Shah. Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies. London:

Routledge, 2009. Pp. 1,704. £650.00.

This is a magnificent collection of essays on the subject of ?adith scholarship. The

Routledge series of ‘Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies’, for those who are

unfamiliar with the format, marks an important new initiative in the publication of

material on the subject. Unlike the Variorum presentation with which most of us have

long been familiar, the articles in these volumes are completely re-typeset in a

common format and each volume is continuously paginated, all of which gives a

much greater homogeneity and elegance to the whole. All the collections amount to

between three and six full-length volumes. Among the other collections in the series

which are likely to be of interest to students of early Islamic studies are Colin Turner’s

collection on The Koran, Paul Luft and Colin Turner on Shi’ism, and Lloyd Ridgeon’s

two collections on Sufism and Islam and Religious Diversity.

In four volumes Mustafa Shah has collected no fewer than 61 papers reflecting many

different approaches to the subject. All the papers come from the Western academic

tradition and all of them are in English. The editor stresses that they are all peer

reviewed, though quite how far the term ‘peer review’ can really be used of

Goldziher’s work is debatable. Suffice it to say that all the articles and chapters (for

some of the pieces chosen are particularly important sections from full-length books)

are by established scholars in the field, and I think it is fair to say that every single one

of them makes important and relevant points. There are, so to speak, no weak links.

The material is arranged by topic and themes, though, as Shah points out, many of the

themes overlap and many of the articles deal with more than one of them. Volume I is

concerned with ‘Codification, Authenticity’, Volume II with ‘Isnads: Transmission,

Terminology and the Issue of Dating’, Volume III with ‘Scholarship, Perspectives and

Criticism’ and Volume IV with ‘Narrative, Context and Content’. In addition to the

‘Introduction’, there is also a chronological table which arranges all the articles by

date of publication, ranging from Goldziher in 1889–90 (although his ‘?adith and

Sunna’ is presented in Stern’s 1967 English translation) to Jonathan Brown’s ‘How do

we know early ?adith critics did matn criticism and why is it so hard to find?’ of 2008.

This is a long time span, though it is worth noting that Goldziher’s contribution is the

only one which dates from before 1950, and the collection as a whole demonstrates

the vast explosion of scholarly interest in ?adith studies which was characteristic of

the second half of the twentieth century and shows no signs of diminishing in the


The book opens with a substantial introduction by the editor. Considering the wealth

and variety of material in the four volumes, his summary is a masterpiece of clarity

and erudition, introducing the reader to all the main themes of the collection. In

particular, he takes Albert Berg’s division of scholars of ?adith into two separate

camps, the sceptical and the sanguine, and sees how different scholars fit into it.

There can be no doubt that the overriding theme in the collection, and indeed in the

whole scholarly discussion, is the question of dating and authenticity. The first paper

sets the agenda. It is often said that all Western philosophy is essentially footnotes to

Plato: it sometimes seems as if all of academic Islamic studies are essentially footnotes

to Goldziher. It was his essay, reproduced here, which raised for the first time the idea

that the ?adith as we have them now were essentially generated in the second/eighth

and third/ninth centuries to propagate a vision of Islam which had little if anything, to

do with the Islam of the time of the Prophet. Few now would accept his image of the

Umayyads as arrogant and godless tyrants, indeed recent scholarship has tended to

enhance the reputation of ?Abd al-Malik, among others, as a serious figure in the

development of Islamic law, but his view of the elaboration of ?adith as a deliberate

construct of learned men still commands some support. And in the footsteps of

Goldziher comes, of course, Schacht with his almost blanket dismissal of Prophetic


In the other, sanguine, camp Shah places Nabia Abbott, a brilliant textual historian

whose work is sometimes underestimated, Fuat Sezgin and Mustafa Azami, all of

whom stress the antiquity of the earliest written ?adith. At the same time he points out

that the debate has in many ways moved beyond this sharp polarisation: Harald

Motzki, for example, seeing the apparent dichotomy as far too clear cut to reflect the

reality of many much more nuanced points of view. At the same time Gregor

Schoeler’s work on the complex interaction between the oral and the written has

added a whole new element to the discussion.

One of the great strengths of a collection like this is that it enables the student or the

scholar approaching the subject for the first time to gain an overview of the whole

question or rather of all the questions. Shah’s choice of papers means that we can see

all the great names at their most cogent, staking out their territory clearly, without the

reader having to track down rare and obscure articles in hard-to-find periodicals. And

there are pieces on subjects that are all too easily overlooked, like Maribel Fierro’s

essay on the introduction of ?adith into Andalusia. The final volume moves away

from issues of dating and reliability into interesting discussions of the more literary

aspects of ?adith narratives, with chapters on narrative discourse and modern literary

theory, ethics and aesthetics in ?adith, dreams as means to evaluate ?adith and a

feminist interpretation of knowledge, women and gender in the ?adith.

This is an excellently chosen and carefully edited selection of papers. In many ways it

is a much better introduction to ?adith studies than any single text book could be,

because it gives an insight into the whole scope of the subject, not just the well

rehearsed variety of opinions on dating and authenticity, but the wide variety of

different approaches with which people come to the subject.


Journal of Quranic Studies, volume 13, no 1, 2011

Table of Contents

VOLUME I: Hadith: Codification, Authenticity

1. Ignaz Goldziher, ‘Hadith and Sunna’, in S. M. Stern (ed.), Muslim Studies, Vol. 2, trans. C. R. Barber and S. M. Stern (Aldine, Atherson), pp. 17–37.

2. Nabia Abbott, ‘Early Development of Written Tradition’, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri II: Qur’anic Commentary and Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 5–32.

3. Gregor Schoeler, ‘Oral Torah and Hadith: Transmission, Prohibition of Writing, Redaction’, The Oral and the Written in Early Islam, trans. Uwe Vagelpohl (Routledge, 2006), pp. 111–41.

4. Michael Cook, ‘The Opponents of the Writing of Tradition in Early Islam’, Arabica, 1997, 44, 437–530.

5. Meir J. Kister, ‘Lataqraul-Qurana ala mushafiyyin wa-la tahmilu l-ilma ani l-sahafiyyin: Some Notes on the Transmission of Hadith’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1998, 22, 127–62.

6. Paul Heck, ‘The Epistemological Problem of Writing in Islamic Civilization: Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s (d. 463/1071) Taqyid al-ilm’, Studia Islamica, 2002, 94, 85–114.

7. Harald Motzki, ‘The Author and his Work in the Islamic Literature of the First Centuries: The Case of Abd al-Razzaq’s Musannaf’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 2003, 28, 1–31.

8. James Robson, ‘Muslim Tradition: The Question of Authenticity’, Memoires and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 1951–2, 93, 84–102.

9. Wael Hallaq, ‘The Authenticity of Prophetic Hadith: A Pseudo-Problem’, Studia Islamica, 1999, 89, 75–90.

10. Herbert Berg, ‘Competing Paradigms in the Study of Islamic Origins: Qur’an 15: 89–91 and the Value of Isnads’, Method and Theory in the Study of Islamic Origins (E. J. Brill, 2003), pp. 259–90.

11. John Burton, ‘Notes Towards a Fresh Perspective on the Islamic Sunna’, Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 1984, 11, 1, 3–17.

VOLUME II: Isnads: Transmission, Terminology, and The Issue of Dating

12. Joseph Schacht, ‘The Evidence of Isnads’, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, 2nd edn. (Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 163–75.

13. James Robson, ‘The Isnad in Muslim Tradition’, Transactions of the Glasgow University Oriental Society, 1953, XV, 15–26.

14. Gautier Juynboll, ‘The Date of the Great Fitna’, Arabica, 1973, 20, 142–59.

15. Harald Motzki, ‘Dating Muslim Traditions: A Survey’, Arabica, 2005, 52, 2, 204–53.

16. Michael Cook, ‘Eschatology and the Dating of Traditions’, Princeton Papers in Near Eastern Studies, 1992, 1, 23–47.

17. Andreas Görke, ‘Eschatology, History, and the Common Link’, Method and Theory in the Study of Islamic Origins (E. J. Brill, 2003), pp. 179–208.

18. Mustafa Azami, ‘The Isnad System: Its Validity and Authenticity’, On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Islamic Texts Society, 1994), pp. 154–205.

19. G. H. A. Juynboll, ‘Nafi, the Mawla of Ibn Umar, and his Position in Muslim Hadith Literature’, Der Islam, 1993, 70, ii, 207–44.

20. Gautier Juynboll, ‘(Re)appraisal of Some Technical Terms in Hadith Science’, Islamic Law and Society, 2001, 8, 3, 303–49.

21. Halit Ozkan, ‘The Common Link and its Relation to the Madar’, Islamic Law and Society, 2004, 11, 1, 42–77.

22. El‘ad Amikam, ‘Some Aspects of the Islamic Traditions Regarding the Site of the Grave of Moses’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1988, 11, 1–15.

23. Jonathan Brown, ‘Critical Rigor vs. Juridical Pragmatism: How Legal Theorists and Hadith Scholars Approached the Backgrowth of Isnads in the Genre of ilal al-hadith’, Islamic Law and Society, 2007, 14, 1, 1–42.

24. James Robson, ‘Varieties of the Hasan Tradition’, Journal of Semitic Studies, 1961, 6, 47–61.

25. James Robson, ‘Traditions from Individuals’, Journal of Semitic Studies, 1964, 9, 327–40.

26. Eerik Dickinson, ‘Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri and the Isnad’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2002, 122, 3, 481–505.

27. Leonard Librande, ‘The Categories High and Low as Reflections on the Rihlah and Kitaba in Islam’, Der Islam, 1978, 267–80.

28. Mehmet Akif Koc, ‘Isnads and Rijal Expertise in the Exegesis of Ibn Abi Hatim (327/939)’, Der Islam, 2005, 82, 146–68.

VOLUME III: Hadith: Scholarship, Perspectives, and Criticism

29. H. Motzki, ‘The Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanani as a Source of Authentic Hadith of the First Century’, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1991, 50, 1–21.

30. Christopher Melchert, ‘The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: How it was Composed and What Distinguishes it From the Six Books’, Der Islam, 2005, 82, 32–51.

31. Scott Lucas, ‘Where are the Legal Hadith? A Study of the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba’, Islamic Law and Society, 2008, 15, 3, 283–314.

32. Susan Spectorsky, ‘Hadith in the Responses of Ishaq ibn Rahawayi’, Islamic Law and Society, 2001, 8, 3, 407-431.

33. Christopher Melchert, ‘Bukhari and Early Hadith Criticism’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2001, 121, 1, 7–19.

34. Christopher Melchert, ‘The Life and Works of Abu Dawud al-Sijistani’, Al-Qantara, 2008, XXIX, 1, 9–44.

35. Jonathan Brown, ‘Criticism of the Proto-Hadith Canon: Al-Daraqutni’s Adjustment of the Sahihayn’, Journal of Islamic Studies, 2004, 15, 1, 1–37.

36. Jonathan Brown, ‘How We Know Early Hadith Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find’, Islamic Law & Society, 2008, 15, 2, 143–84.

37. John Nawas, ‘The Contribution of the Mawali to the Six Sunnite Canonical Collections’, Sebastian Gunther (ed.), Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam (Brill, 2005), pp. 141–51.

38. Isabel Fierro, ‘The Introduction of Hadith in al-Andalus (2nd/8th–3rd/9th Centuries)’, Der Islam, 1989, 66, 68–93.

39. Christopher Melchert, ‘The Piety of the Hadith Folk’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 2002, 34, 3, 425–39.

40. Vardit Tokatly, ‘The Alam al-Hadith of al-Khattabi: A Commentary on al-Bukhari’s Sahih or a Polemical Treatise’, Studia Islamica, 2001, 92, 53–92.

41. Etan Kohlberg, ‘Al-Usul al-arbaumia’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1987, 10, 128–66.

42. Ron Buckley, ‘On the Origins of Shii Hadith’, Muslim World, 1998, 88, 2, 165–84.

43. Asma Afsaruddin, ‘An Insight into Hadith Methodology of Jamal al-Din Tawus’, Der Islam, 1995, 72, 25–46.

44. John. C Wilkinson, ‘Ibadi Hadith: an Essay on Normalization’, Der Islam, 1985, 62, 231-59.

45. Aisha Geissinger, ‘Portrayal of the Hajj as a Context for Women’s Exegesis: Textual Evidence in al-Bukhari’s al-Sahih’, in Sebastian Günther (ed.), Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam (Brill, 2005), pp. 153–79.

46. Asma Sayeed, ‘Women and Hadith Transmission: Two Case Studies from Mamluk Damascus’, Studia Islamica, 2002, 95, 71–94.

47. Leonard T. Librande, ‘The Scholars of Hadith and the Retentive Memory’, Cahiers d’Onomastique Arabe, 1988–92, 1993, 39–48.

48. Mohammad Fadel, ‘Ibn Hajar’s Hady al-Sari: A Medieval Interpretation of the Structure of al-Bukhari’s Al-Jami al-Sahih: Introduction and Translation’, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1995, 54, 3, 161–97.

VOLUME IV: HadIth: Narrative, Context, and Content

49. Daniel Beaumont, ‘Hard-Boiled Narrative Discourse in Early Muslim Traditions’, Studia Islamica, 1996, 83, 5–31.

50. Sebastian Günther, ‘Modern Literary Theory Applied to Classical Arabic Texts: Hadith Revisited’, in Verena Klemm and Beatrice Grundler (eds.), Understanding Near Eastern Literatures (Harrassowitz, 2000), pp. 171–6.

51. Sebastian Günther, ‘Fictional Narration and Imagination within an Authoritative Framework: Towards a New Understanding of Hadith’, in Stefan Leder (ed.), Story-Telling in the Framework of Non-fictional Arabic Literature (Harrassowitz, 1998), pp. 433–71.

52. R. Speight Marston ‘Oral Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad: A Formulaic Approach’, Oral Tradition, 1989, 4, 27–37.

53. Stefan Sperl, ‘Man’s "Hollow Core": Ethics and Aesthetics in Hadith Literature and Classical Arabic Adab’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 2007, 70, 3, 459–86.

54. R. Marston Speight, ‘A Look at Variant Readings in the Hadith’, Der Islam, 2000, 77, 169–79.

55. Leah Kinberg, ‘Dreams as a Means to Evaluate Hadith’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1999, 23, 79–99.

56. Patricia Crone, ‘"Even an Ethiopian Slave": The Transformation of a Sunni Tradition’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1994, 57, 59–67.

57. Meir J. Kister, ‘On Concessions and Conduct: a Study in Early Hadith’, Studies on The First Century of Islamic Society (Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1982), pp. 89-107, 214-30.

58. Barbara Stowasser, ‘The Mothers of the Believers in the Hadith’, Muslim World, 1992, 82, 1-2, 1-36.

59. Neal Robinson, ‘Varieties of Pronouncement Stories in Sahih Muslim: A Gospel Genre in the Hadith Literature’, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 1994, 5, 2, 123–46.

60. Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala, ‘An Early Muslim Tradition in Light of its Christian Environment’, Edebiyat, 2003, 13, 1, 27–35.

61. Sa’diyya Shaikh, ‘Knowledge, Women, and Gender in the Hadith: A Feminist Interpretation’, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 2004, 15, 1, 99–108.

About the Series

Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies

Our Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies series spans a number of subject areas that are closely linked to the religion. From Islamic Law through to Islam and Globalization, the series includes a whole range of titles under the broad subject heading of Islamic Studies. Upcoming titles include, Tafsir: Interpreting the Qur'an and Early Years of Islam.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Islam / History
RELIGION / Islam / Theology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies