Ulum al-Hadith Curriculum

19 May

Ulum al-Hadith is a vast ocean of a science. It requires extensive reading and study over many, many years. Here is a suggested curriculum for aspiring students of hadith, consisting of a combination of Arabic and English works. It is based on my own experiences and advice from consulting with scholars, as well as the wonderful Multaqa Ahl al-Hadith forum. This is the sort of guide I wish I had when I began studying. One may not necessarily study all the works in each level but extensive study is absolutely required to attain mastery. Note that each level is predicated on studying parrallel levels in other sciences (especially fiqh and usul al-fiqh).


This objective of this stage is to become acquanited with the major features of the hadith literature, nomenclature, sciences, as well as the content of prophetic narrations.

One of the best places to start with regard to the major hadith books is Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature (revised Malaysian edition) by Mustafa al-A’zami followed by Hadith Literature by Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi (ITS edition by Abd al-Hakim Murad). These two English classics introduce one to the main canonical texts, their features, as well as some methodology of hadith scholars. These could be supplemented by The Garden of the Hadith Scholars by al-Dihlawi, though it is not as essential as the former two.

Moving on to nomenclature, there are a number of good introductory works. Introduction to the Sciences of Hadith by Suhaib Hasan is a brief but popular work in English. Another decent start is al-Manhal al-Latif by Muhammad b. ‘Alawi al-Maliki. A modern classic is Taysir Mustalah al-Hadith by Mahmud al-Tahan (which has a commentary called Islah al-Istilah by Tariq Awad Allah). Ibn al-Mulaqqin’s Tadhkirah is another good choice for this stage. However, I think al-Wadih fi Mustalah al-Hadith by shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Shaya’ (professor of hadith at Jami’at al-Imam in Riyadh) is the best introductory work right now. It is clear, comprehensive, and organised with tables and charts which attest to his experience as a teacher as well as an author. It gives the student a solid foundation for further study.

A really beneficial book, that builds on the above as well as introducing more sciences related to hadith, is A Textbook of Hadith Studies by Hashim Kamali.

By now, one should be ready to dip into the study of the meanings of hadiths, and the obvious place to begin is by memorising al-Arba’un by Imam al-Nawawi, alongside reading its brief but excellent Sharh Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id, which may actually have been written by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. This should be followed by Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam by Ibn Rajab. These two commentaries introduce elements of the hadith scholars’ methodology which will be vital later on. Possibly the best commentary for fiqh discussions is Fath al-Mubin by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami. An unusally thorough English commentary based on a number of contemporary Arabic works is by Jamal al-Din Zarabozo.

Lower Intermediate

The objective of this stage is to deepen one’s knowledge of hadith sciences and nomenclature, as well as widen one’s familiarity with popular and well-known hadiths, as well as understanding their contents’ implications.

An excellent and comprehensive book on hadith literature for this stage is al-Kattani’s al-Risalat al-Mustatrifah, which has an audio commentary by shaykh Hatim al-‘Awni. This should be followed by Akram al-‘Umari’s Buhuth fi Tarikh al-Sunnah.

One must now master Nukhbat al-Fikar and its commentary Nuzhat al-Nazar, both by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani. The first step to this is with the modern commentary on Nukhbat al-Fikar called Nahj al-Mubtakar by al-Shirbini as well as Hatim al-‘Awni’s audio lessons and transcribed notes (mudhakkirah). This should be accompanied with reference to Tariq b. Awad Allah’s Sharh Nukhbat al-Fikar. Thereafter, Nuzhat al-Nazar (edited by Nur al-Din ‘Itr) should be studied with the excellent audio commentary by Hatim al-‘Awni (with its mudhakkirah) as well as the written commentary by Tariq Awad Allah. Taqrib Nuzhat al-Nazar by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Shaya’ is also essential. Mastering this stage will make all subsequent study much easier.

The next book to study should be ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah’s edition of al-Muwqizah (al-Dhahabi’s abridgement of Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id’s al-Iftirah) with its commentary by Hatim al-‘Awni (originally audio but also transcribed and published) and Abdullah al-Sa’d’s printed commentary. It is a brief but excellent book that complements Ibn Hajar’s aforementioned work. Another additional work at this stage that one may reference is Ahmad Shakir’s al-Ba’ith al-Hathith (Sharh Ikhtisar Ulum al-Hadith by Ibn Kathir) with the recorded audio class of Tariq Awad Allah. However, the trio of Nukhbah-Nuzhah-Muwqizah is sufficient for this stage.

Now one can move onto studying and memorising famous narrations in ‘Umdat al-Ahkam by al-Maqdisi alongside reading its outstanding commentary Ihkam al-Ahkam by Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id. This will introduce fiqh al-hadith (an essential skill) as Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id deduces the rulings from each hadith in a masterful way. Those with aspiration may also read the commentaries of Ibn al-‘Attar and Ibn al-Mulaqqin, though Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id is a great summary of what one needs.

Thereafter, memorise and study Bulugh al-Maram by Ibn Hajar with its excellent commentary, Subul al-Salam by al-San’ani, another classic in fiqh al-hadith. Two contemporary commentaries that stand out are Minhat al-‘Allam by Abdullah al-Fawzan and I’lam al-Anam by Nur al-Din ‘Itr. The hadiths found in Umdat al-Ahkam and Bulugh al-Maram are the foundations of legal rulings and one really should memrorise them as they will pop up again and again in one’s future studies.

The final collection to memorise and study is Riyadh al-Salihin by al-Nawawi. The best commentary is Dalil al-Falihin by Ibn ‘Allan, which summarises from classical commentaries such as Fath al-Bari and al-Nawawi’s Sharh Sahih Muslim. A short, but excellent, contemporary sharh is Nuzhat al-Muttaqin by Mustafa Khinn and associates. A good large contemporary commentary is Kunuz Riyadh al-Salihin. Through these three works (i.e. ‘Umdat al-Ahkam, Bulugh al-Maram, and Riyadh al-Salihin), one will have grasped the spirit and essence of the Sunnah.

The most important books to prepare for at this stage are the Sahihayn of al-Bukhari and Muslim. In order to become easily acquainted with the contents of the Sahihayn, Salih al-Shami’s al-Wafi bi-ma fi al-Sahihayn is an excellent choice which some even recommend memorising, though one could otherwise study separately the mukhtasars of al-Zabidi and al-Mundhiri, on al-Bukhari and Muslim respectively. Whilst covering each hadith, refer to Ibn al-Athir’s al-Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith for obscure or ambiguous vocabulary and research the general meanings of each hadith, where possible, in al-Munawi’s Faydh al-Qadir and al-Tibi’s Sharh Miskhat al-Masabih. These provide clear and brief commentary on many famous hadiths.

If one decides on studying al-Zabidi’s mukhtasar, al-Tajrid al-Sari, then there are two excellent commentaries, both based on Fath al-Bari: ‘Awn al-Bari by Siddiq Hasan Khan and Manar al-Qari by Hamza Qasim.

Upper Intermediate

The objective of this stage is to begin preparing for the thorough and exhaustive study of the major hadith literature.

An excellent book that covers a wide range of topics related to hadith is the aptly-named Hadith by Jonathan Brown. This should be read alongside Studies in Early Hadith Literature by Mustafa al-A’zami, his 1966 Ph.D thesis at Cambridge, which is available in Arabic too.

As an introduction to the major hadith narrators and critics, whom one needs to know for mastery, as well as the emergence of classical Sunnism, Scott Lucas’ Constructive Critics, his 2002 Ph.D thesis at Chicago, is an outstanding work.

An excellent introduction to how scholars differ in their understanding of the texts of hadith is The Differences of the Imams by Zakariyyah Kandhlawi. This must be followed by the outstanding Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif fi Ikhtilaf al-A’imma al-Fuqaha by Muhammad ‘Awwamah. One may also add to these Shah Wali Allah’s al-Insaf as well as his Hujjat Allah al-Baligha. Understanding these issues is crucial and often neglected by hadith students. Usul and fiqh must always be combined with hadith. 

Nur al-Din ‘Itr’s book Manhaj al-Naqd, which introduces a wide range of topics, should be covered as a precursor to his edition of Muqaddimah Ibn al-Salah. The importance of mastering this text cannot be stressed enough, as its structure is the basis for a number of subsequent works which can be referenced alongside its study. The audio class of Hatim al-‘Awni is excellent and should be listened to completely for a solid grounding. Tariq Awad Allah has an edition that includes the Nukat of both Ibn Hajar and al-‘Iraqi. One must also read the nukat of al-Zarkashi. Shaykh Ahmad Ma’bad Abd al-Karim always advises that one read these nukat in chronological order: al-‘Iraqi, then al-Zarkashi, then Ibn Hajar.

The final mustalah book for this level is Tadrib al-Rawi by al-Suyuti, which is an excellent sharh of al-Imam al-Nawawi’s Taqrib.  This should be combined with al-Sakhawi’s Sharh al-Taqrib wa al-Taysir. The best edition of Tadrib is by Muhammad ‘Awwamah, but also two good editions are by al-Faryabi and Tariq Awad Allah. Listen to Shaykh Ahmad Ma’bad Abd al-Karim’s recorded classes.

At this juncture, two contemporary works must be covered which raise questions on nomenclature and other hadith sciences according to the methodology of the earlier scholars. The first is al-Manhaj al-Muqtarah by Hatim al-‘Awni and the second is Tahrir ‘Ulum al-Hadith by Abdullah al-Juday’. These two works are very original and insightful and have proved to be quite controversial. However, they are two scholars whom I admire for their scholarship and I appreciate the questions that they raise. Another in this area is a good introduction to methodological differences between earlier scholars and later ones by Hamza al-Mallibari called al-Muwazana bayna al-Mutaqaddimin wa al-Muta’akhirin.

As a counterbalance, Dhafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani’s Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith argues that the classical sciences of hadith are subjective and not absolute, whilst championing Hanafi usul al-hadith. That is to say, classical ‘ulum al-hadith were developed for the most part by hadith scholars influenced by al-Shafi’i and thus implicitly undermined the usul of the Hanafis (and by extension the Malikis). Whilst one may not agree with all of his arguments, it does offer an important different perspective and underlines the subjective nature of the science, which may open it up for further development. I personally feel that as of today, al-Shafi’i won the argument because you rarely, if ever, see Hanafis or Malikis rejecting sahih ahad hadiths and championing mursal hadiths, ‘amal ahl al-madinah, and other non-textual sources. They no longer use the usuli arguments of the founders of their schools because the common Muslims aren’t as convinced by those as evidence. Al-‘Uthmani seems to understand this and tries to address it.

The above should provide a good framework for the study of by al-Risalah by Imam al-Shafi’i, which some have rightly argued is one of (if not the) earliest treatises on hadith methodology, in addition to being incredibly influential in the development of hadith science, in the sense that later hadith scholars took up al-Shafi’i’s arguments and developed them further. Joseph Lowry’s insightful 1999 Pennsylvania Ph.D thesis Early Islamic Legal Theory clarifies al-Shafi’i’s concept of al-Bayan. Tariq b. ‘Awad Allah’s al-Naqd al-Banna further clarifies explains al-Shafi’i’s conditions for accepting murasil from tabi’in.

At this stage one could also add Ma’alim al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah, by shaykh Salih al-Sahmi, who strove in this collection to gather the sahih and hasan individual hadiths, without repetition, from fourteen major hadith sources: (1) al-Bukhari, (2) Muslim, (3) al-Nasa’i, (4) Abu Dawud, (5) al-Tirmidhi, (6) Ibn Majah, (7) al-Darimi,  (8) Malik, (9) Ahmad, (10) al-Bayhaqi, (11) Ibn Khuzaymah, (12) Ibn Hibban, (13) al-Hakim, and (14) al-Maqdisi. It contains just under 4,000 hadiths and is an excellent introduction to the textual content of the major hadith collections. Indians tend to prepare for the dawrah al-hadith with the popular Mishkat al-Masabih by al-Tabrizi, which was abridged from al-Baghawi’s Masabih al-Sunnah. However, I think Ma’alim al-Sunnah is a worthy alternative due to its wider sourcing and relatively better selections in terms of soundness.

To really expand one’s understanding of the fiqh of the famous hadiths, an outstanding book is Imam al-Baghawi’s Sharh al-Sunnah. This masterpiece is highly regarded by our contemporary senior researchers (such as Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut and Abdullah al-Turki) due to its balance between hadith and fiqh. It contains just over 4,400 hadiths that are widely circulated among the hadith scholars, with valuable insights and commentary by al-Baghawi. Studying this before the major works will place one at a massive advantage over those who neglect it.


The objectives of this stage are reading the major hadith works with commentary and takhrij as well as becoming acquainted with the main features of ‘ilm al-rijal (biographical data), and al-jarh wa al-ta’dil (narrator criticism), as well as responding to criticisms levelled against ‘ulum al-hadith.

Mastery of mustalah revolves around encyclopedic works, which should be cross-referenced and studied simultaneously. I would take a thorough study of Fath al-Mughith by al-Sakhawi as the base and reference the others. It is a masterful commentary on Zayn al-Din al-‘Iraqi’s Alfiyyah. This also has recorded classes by Shaykh Ahmad Ma’bad Abd al-Karim. The best edition is Maktabat Dar al-Minhaj, edited by ‘Abd al-Karim al-Khudayr in 5 volumes.

Using Fath al-Mughith as the foundation, work through (in the following order) Tahir al-Jaza’iri’s Tawjih al-Nazar, which is highly recommend by contemporary experts in the field. Thereafter, al-Suyuti’s own sharh on his own Alfiyyah, al-Bahr alladhi Zakhr fi Sharh Alfiyyat al-Athar (with Ahmad Shakir’s notes). This contains, as the author mentions, issues not covered by al-‘Iraqi. In fact, he gathered issues not found elsewhere, as he was a master compiler. Finally, Tawdhih al-Afkar by al-San’ani (author of Subul al-Salam). This also contains issues not covered elsewhere. These four books pretty much cover everything in nomenclature. Mastering these will open up doors in reading the musnad hadith works. Make sure you master the contents.

A popular work that introduces and addressing the challenges leveled against ‘ulum al-hadith is al-Sunnah wa Makanatiha by Mustafa al-Siba‘i, which responds to some of the objections raised by Orientalists. Alternatively, or additionally, Nur al-Din ‘Itr has al-Sunnah al-Mutahirah wa al-Tahadiyat covering similar ground. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mu’allami’s al-Anwar al-Kashifa addresses criticism of narrators, Abu Hurayrah specifically. These should be followed by On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence by Mustafa al-A’zami, Harald Motzki’s collection of articles in Analysing Muslim Traditions, and The Evolution of a Hadith by Dr. Iftikhar Zaman (his 1991 Ph.D thesis at Chicago).

One should now learn the biographies of the major narrators through al-Mashur min al-Asanid al-Hadith by Adil b. Abd al-Shakur al-Zuraqi, as well as his Tabaqat al-Mukthirin. One should research these major figures in the books of rijal, beginning with Tahrir Taqrib al-Taqrib by Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut and Bashar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf as well as Tariq b. Awad Allah’s Tahdhib Taqrib al-Tahdhib for the summary (both are refinements of Ibn Hajar’s Taqrib al-Tahdhib which inexplicably has mistakes and inconsistencies), then Ibn Hajar’s Tahdhib al-Tahdhib for more detail, and finally al-Mizzi’s Tahdhib al-Kamal. Write all the relevant biographical data down in your own note book and review constantly. You will be seeing a lot of these narrators in your future studies!

The outstanding ahkam book to study at this stage is Tarh al-Tathrib fi Sharh al-Taqrib (published by Dar al-Badr/Shuruq) by Wali al-Din al-‘Iraqi (d.826). It is a completion of the commentary of his father, the great mujaddid Zayn al-Din al-‘Iraqi (d.806), on his own work Taqrib al-Asanid. It comments on the hadiths of the strongest narrators according to the structure of a sunan/ahkam work. For whatever reason, the book has been wrongfully overlooked in favour of works likes Nayl al-Awtar by al-Shawkani. If you see how comprehensive he explains each hadith, you will not need any other sharh, even from Fath al-Bari or Sharh al-Nawawi!

These famous chains should also be checked in Tuhfat al-Ashraf by al-Mizzi to see which hadiths they have produced. These are the figures who will feature prominently in one’s study of the major works, and so getting the gist of their biographies and relationships beforehand gives one a massive advantage later on. One must know how nuanced grading can be and will learn that refraining from rash judgements on chains of hadith without extensive research of each chain and hadith in context is wise and proper.

Takhrij can begin with Mahmud al-Tahan’s popular book Usul al-Takhrij wa Dirasat al-Asanid. ‘Imad ‘Ali Jumu’ah has an excellent chart form of this. This should be followed by Hatim al-‘Awni’s audio class on takhrij as well as its printed transcript (mudhakkirah), al-Takhrij wa Dirasat al-Asanid, which the shaykh highly recommends. Takhrij al-Hadith by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Shaya’ is an excellent textbook which covers the essentials for students. Couple this with his Dirasat al-Asanid.

To see how takhrij is practically applied, one excellent reference is Badr al-Munir by Ibn al-Mulaqqin (he called himself Ibn al-Nahwi) and it’s abridgement Talkhis al-Habir by his student Ibn Hajar.

All of the previous study should now have prepared one for engaging with the hadith literature. Many scholars recommend commencing with al-Sahihayn but Nur al-Din ‘Itr and Shah Wali Allah argue (convincingly, in my view) that the famous al-Muwatta of Malik should be one’s first major work for, in ‘Itr’s words in Manhaj al-Naqd, it is the ‘easiest in length, shortest in chains, and has a most excellent selection of hadiths.’ Thereafter, one should study the Sahihayn of al-Bukhari and Muslim, beginning with al-Bukhari. Whilst reading these three works, each narrator must be researched extensively in Tahdhib al-Kamal, as they are the pivots upon which the strongest hadiths depend. Do not rely on short works such as Taqrib al-Taqrib for this. It is a beginners book meant only for quick review and the habit of some of the muta’akhirin (even among commentators) of relying on it is frankly poor practice and low aspiration.

Al-Muwatta should be prepared for with Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s Muqaddimah al-Tamhid together with Ibn al-Salah’s Wasl al-Balaghat al-Arba’ah fi al-Muwatta’, both of which have been edited and published by ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah in Khams Rasa’il fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith. Also read the three other treatises in the collection as they touch upon essentials of hadith study such as the difference between hadathana and akhbarana. Thereafter read Umar F. Abd-Allah Wymann-Landgraf’s updated 1978 Chicago Ph.D thesis, Malik and Medina, which has valuable insights into the terminologies used by Malik, which really will help in understanding Malik’s intend and methodology. There are many commentaries on al-Muwatta, but the greatest are unquestionably al-Tamhid (more for ‘ulum al-hadith) and al-Istidhkar (more for fiqh), both by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr. One would do well to also reference al-Baji’s al-Muntaqa (which is easier) and Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Masalik. For an abridged summary of the Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr and al-Baji, Sharh al-Zurqani is an excellent place to start. Awjaz al-Masalik by al-Kandahlawi is very clear (although the irrelevant  defense of Hanafi views therein is a distraction), but the best modern commentary is by Ibn ‘Ashur’s Kashf al-Mughatta. I still think that Bashar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf’s second edition of al-Muwatta in two volumes is the best one, though Kilal Hasan Ali’s is excellent too.

Ghassan Abdul Jabbar’s Bukhari is an excellent introduction to the man and his work. This should be followed by Scott Lucas’ article The Legal Principles of Muhammad b. Isma’il al-Bukhari and Mohammad Fadel’s article Ibn Hajar’s Hady al-Sari. After this, Jonathan Brown’s The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, his 2006 Ph.D thesis at Chicago, is an absolutely essential read. It is better than most Arabic books on the Sahihayn.

Sahih al-Bukhari must accompanied by Ibn Hajar’s classic commentary Fath al-Bari, for those with aspiration, or al-Qastallani’s Irshad al-Sari, which is based on Fath al-Bari and al-‘Ayni’s ‘Umdat al-Qari. Ibn Hajar’s introduction to Fath al-Bari contains many fine points of detail and criticism, addressing some of the objections in al-Daraqutni’s al-Ilzimat, which should be read alongside this introduction with the audio commentary of Abdullah al-Sa’d. This will further introduce one, in addition to the previous study of al-Tamyiz, to ‘ilal al-hadith (hidden defects), which is the most difficult aspect of ‘ulum al-hadith. Nur al-Din ‘It’s book on al-Bukhari’s fiqh and chapter headings, al-Imam al-Bukhari wa al-Fiqh al-Tarajim, should also be consulted. One good modern commentary by Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri, Faydh al-Bari, also discusses the fiqh of al-Bukhari’s chapter titles really well, and also objects to Ibn Hajar at times, but Indian Hanafi hadith commentaries tend to be motivated by defending Hanafi fiqh against the Ahl al-Hadith more than trying to understand the methodology of the authors. The best edition to study Sahih al-Bukhari is undoubtedly still al-Sultaniyah in the edition of shaykh Muhammad Zuhayr al-Nasr, followed by the Maknaz al-Islami edition. All other editions (as of 2016), including Dar al-Ta’sil, presently fall short.

Before commencing with Sahih Muslim one should read Hatim al-‘Awni’s Ijma’ al-Muhaddithin, which addresses common misconceptions regarding the conditions of al-Bukhari and Muslim as well as the mu’an’an controversy discussed in Muslim’s Muqaddimah. A controversial thesis, it should be read with Ibrahim al-Lahim’s al-Ittisal wa al-Intiqa.

Thereafter, the Muqaddimah of Imam Muslim and Kitab al-Tamyiz (ed. Mustafa al-A’zami) with the audio of Abdullah al-Sa’d are excellent starting points for preparing to study Sahih Muslim as well as introducing hidden defects (‘ilal).

One must study Sahih Muslim with at least Sharh al-Nawawi, for the fiqh, and al-Kawkab al-Wahhaj by Muhammad al-Amin al-Harari additional benefits in discussing the chains. Fath al-Mulhim by al-‘Uthmani also has some interesting observations and discussions apart from the usual Indian Hanafi defence. One must bear in mind Imam Muslim’s methodoly. He arranges the hadith in each chapter according to degrading levels of strength. Thus, the first one or two hadiths are the basis (asl) of the topic or argument, of which there are 3,145, and the following hadiths are supports (mutaba’at), from a total of 7,748. Most commentaries miss this point too, focusing instead on fiqh of hadiths rather than hadith methodology. Critics have often failed to understand this subtle point and have criticised the mutabi’ hadiths when their main purpose is to support the asl hadiths. A good teacher should be able to point these out and differentiate between them. Another key point to note is that Imam Muslim never wrote chapter headings or titles. He simply gathered the hadiths of a particular issue together in order of strength. Later, commentators wrote chapter headings, which they deduced from the contents of the topical hadiths. Most editions of Sahih Muslim use Imam al-Nawawi’s chapter headings, due to his great standing in both fiqh and hadith. However, one should check earlier and later commentaries to see how different scholars have understood the chapters. Sometimes, chapter headings have misplaced Muslim’s priorities in certain narrations as well as missing the methodological point being made by focusing on the fiqh rather than the method. The best edition of Sahih Muslim is still al-‘Amirah edited by Muhammad Zuhayr al-Nasr. One should also benefit from al-Faryabi’s edition due to its useful footnotes drawing on al-Daraqutni’s criticisms, among others.

Whilst reading the Sahihayn, keep at hand Mustafa Bahuw’s al-Ahadith al-Muntaqadah fi al-Sahihayn. This collects together and evaluates a lot of research into the criticised hadith in al-Sahihayn. It is a valuable reference.


At this juncture, before commencing with the major Sunan works, one should know that the objectives of this stage are to master ‘ilal (hidden defects), ‘ilm al-rijal (biographical data), and al-jarh wa al-ta’dil (narrator criticism).

Moving on to narrator criticism (al-jarh wa al-ta’dil), one excellent introduction is al-Raf’ wa al-Takmil by al-Laknawi (edited by ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah). This should be accompanied by Hatim al-Awni’s Khulasat al-Ta’sil with audio and transcript commentary and Dawabit al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Abd al-Latif. Abdullah al-Sa’d has three recorded series that are excellent: al-Qawa’id, al-Dawabit, and al-Mubahith fi al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil. Finally, Ibrahim al-Lahim’s book al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil, has a good level of coverage of the topic.

Building upon Abdullah al-Sa’d’s audio commentaries upon Muslim’s Tamyiz and al-Daraqutni’s Ilzimat, Hatim al-‘Awni’s book and audio commentary al-Madkhal ila Fahm ‘Ilm al-‘Ilal is a brief, but excellent, step into ‘ilal. This should be followed by Hamza al-Mallibari’s al-Hadith al-Ma’lul and Ali al-Sayyah’s al-Hadith al-Mu’all and al-Manhaj al-‘Ilmi fi Dirasat al-Hadith al-Mu’all. Tariq b. ‘Awad Allah’s al-Irshadat must be studied as an excellent and practical book that builds on the previous ‘ilal studies by focusing on mistakes that are frequently made in strengthening hadiths with mutaba’at (follow-up) and shawahid (witnessing) narrations.

At this juncture, Shurut al-A’immah al-Khams by al-Hazimi and Shurut al-A’immah al-Sittah by al-Maqdisi, which discuss the conditions each of the Imams (al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi) stipulated for including hadiths in their collections, should be read and summarised in a chart. Keep referring back to this chart throughout and try to determine whether al-Maqdisi’s and al-Hazimi’s deductions are always precise. Both are found alongside Abu Dawud’s Risalah (see below) in Abd al-Fattah Abu Guddah’s Thalath Rasa’il fi ‘Ilm Mustalah al-Hadith.

Shaykh Ahmad Ma’bad ‘Abd al-Karim also advises one study al-Bahr al-Muhit by al-Zarkashi because he contains a lot of usul al-hadith which is important for this stage. You must then see how Ibn Hibban divides the hadiths in his Sahih according to the various categories of ahkam, giving for example, 100 or more forms of obligation or prohibition indicated in hadiths. This is essential. His book is a masterpiece of riwayah and dirayah, demonstrating that he was truly an Imam. By understanding his method here, and knowing usul al-fiqh, you can arrive at rulings yourself. You will know that a hadith indicates obligation, recommendation, permissibility, dislike, or prohibition.

The shaykh also suggests al-Bayhaqi’s Madkhal al-Sunan al-Kubra, al-Hakim’s Ma’rifat al-Iklil, and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s al-Kifayah, and al-Jami’ li-Akhlaq al-Rawi.

When studying the forthcoming sunan works, analyse each chain 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, and referencing ‘Ilal al-Daraqutni, ‘Ilal Ibn Abi Hatim , and ‘Ilal Ibn al-Madini. One should be very careful in grading hadith and should strive to understand rather than innovate new gradings. Check one’s own reseach against that of Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut, Nasr al-Din al-Albani, and Abdullah al-Sa’d’s audio commentaries.

The Sunan of Abu Dawud should be prepared for by reading Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah’s edition of his Risalah ila Ahl Makkah, which some have argued is one of the first treatises on nomenclature and methodology alongside Muslim’s Muqaddimah and al-Shafi’is Risalah. Abdullah al-Sa’d has an excellent audio commentary, focusing on ‘ulum al-hadith, of the opening chapters. Check your own research against his. Also, refer to the gradings and justifications of Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut and Nasr al-Din al-Albani. When these three agree, it should suffice. When they differ, research it extensively. Three commentaries to refer to are Mu’alim al-Sunan by al-Khattabi for a brief overview, ‘Awn al-Ma’bud for some good discussions on the fiqh, and Badhl al-Majhud for more clarification in the chains. The best edition of Sunan Abi Dawud is by Muhammad ‘Awwamah, which has met great aclaim among contemporaries.

The Mujtaba of al-Nasa’i should be introduced with Hatim al-Awni’s Mashayikh al-Nasa’i wa Dhikr al-Mudallisin. Abdullah al-Sa’d has an excellent audio commentary, focusing on ‘ulum al-hadith, of the opening chapters. Check your own research against his. Also, refer to the gradings and justifications of Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut and Nasr al-Din al-Albani. When these three agree, it should suffice. When they differ, research it extensively. The best commentary is Sharh Sunan al-Nasa’i by al-Wallawi, though I also like Sharh al-Shanqiti. The first is very clear and makes life easy for the student. Nevertheless, one must focus on how al-Nasa’i collects chains to teach ‘ilal al-hadith. The best edition of Sunan al-Nasa’i probably is by Dar al-Ta’sil, but Dar al-Ma’rifah’s edition with the hashiyah has been met with the most approval by contemporary scholars.

The Jami’ of al-Tirmidhi should be introduced through Nur al-Din ‘Itr’s al-Imam al-Tirmidhi wa al-Muwazana Bayna Jami`ihi wa Bayn al-Sahihayn, which was his Ph.D thesis at al-Azhar as well as Ibn Rajab’s Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhi (edited by Nur al-Din ‘Itr) with Hatim al-‘Awni’s audio commentary. This wonderful book helps to understand al-Tirmidhi’s use of tahsin. I would also add that Dr. ‘Adab al-Hamsh’s al-Imam al-Tirmidhi wa Manhajuhu fi Kitabihi al-Jami’ is an excellent study in three volumes. Abdullah al-Sa’d has an excellent audio commentary, focusing on ‘ulum al-hadith, of the opening chapters. Check your own research against his. Also, refer to the gradings and justifications of Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut and Nasr al-Din al-Albani. When these three agree, it should suffice. When they differ, research it extensively. My favourite commentary is Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi by al-Mubarakfuri, through whom my ijazah in al-Tirmidhi goes (the same path as shaykh Ibn ‘Aqil). Another good reference is ‘Aridat al-Ahwadhi by Ibn al-‘Arabi al-Maliki. The best edition of Jami’ al-Tirmidhi is best Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut but ‘Isam Musa Hadi’s edition points out some typos and errors in it. Ahmad Shakir’s edition, though incomplete, has very valuable footnotes. Make sure to reference al-Daraqutni’s Kitab al-‘Ilal, where possible.

The Sunan of Ibn Majah is where where should practically apply all of one’s skills attained through the previous studies for an academic investigation and engagement with Ibn Majah. It should be prefaced with Muhammad al-Nu’mani’s al-Imam Ibn Majah wa Kitabuhu al-Sunan. My own preference is to isolate the zawa’id of Ibn Majah and analyse those chains independently, comparing my results against the research of al-Arna’ut and al-Albani. Don’t rely on al-Busiri due to the weakness of the editions and some zawa’id that appear to be missed or included when not zawa’id. Rather, isolate them using your gained takhrij skills and Tuhfat al-Ahraf. Our count is that there are in fact 1,213 zawa’id hadiths (with repetition) but 1,476 in al-Busiri’s Misbah al-Zujajah. From these, 98 hadiths have a sahih isnad, 113 are sahih with mutaba’at (follow-up hadiths), 219 are sahih with shawahid (witnessing hadiths), 58 have a hasan isnad, 42 are hasan with mutaba’at, 65 are hasan with shawahid, 6 are possibly hasan in sha Allah. The best edition is the second Maknaz edition, published in two volumes in 2016.

By now, one should be well-prepared to read the hadith literature. The next step is yours. Indians like to move on to al-Tahawi’s two books: Sharh Mushkil al-Athar and Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar. Some Arabs move on to the zawa’id of Musnad al-Darimi, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban, and al-Daraqutni. Others prefer to delve into Musnad Ahmad. It took me a while to realise this, even after repeatedly seeing it exhorted to by many hadith masters and jurists of the past, but my preferred step now at this stage is to go on to al-Bayhaqi’s Sunan al-Kabir. Also known as al-Sunan al-Kubra, it is practically a mustadrak of the major hadith corpus, and truly one of the masterpieces of Islam. Research any issue and see how it is presented by al-Bayhaqi and you will quickly realise that this is a magnificant treasure trove. Managing to complete reading it (my version is 24 volumes!) can be assisted by al-Dhahabi’s abridgement in 10 volumes.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in Jami’ li Akhlaq al-Rawi and Ibn al-Salah, in his Muqaddimah, recommend the following curriculum which has been approved, expanded, and commented upon by al-Nawawi in al-Taqrib, al-Suyuti in Tadrib al-Rawi, al-Iraqi in his Alfiyyah, al-Sakhawi in Fath al-Mughith, and Zakariyah al-Ansari in Fath al-Baqi:

Commence by studying the sahih works of al-Bukhari and Muslim with care and attention. Al-Ansari and al-Sakhawi both state (perhaps from their teacher Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani) that al-Bukhari takes precedence due to the extreme care he took in extrapolating rulings, which is the greatest objective in studying hadiths, and its superiority over other collections in soundness. Al-Sakhawi added that al-Bukhari should be studied first unless called to Sahih Muslim by necessity, such as its narrator being the only one who has it and one fears his dying, as the narrators of Sahih al-Bukhari are many.

Thereafter, one should study the sunan works of Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi. Al-Ansari and al-Sakhawi state the same justifications here, either from each other or taken from their teacher Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, namely that Abu Dawud takes precedence because of the great number of ahadith al-ahkam that it includes; thereafter al-Nasa’i as it trains one in hidden defects (‘ilal); then al-Tirmidhi due to the care he gives in indicating the hadiths in each chapter and section as well as indicating the gradings of each hadith. All this should be done by mastering precision and understanding their meanings.

Within this group, one must not neglect al-Bayhaqi’s Sunan al-Kubra, completed in 432 when the author was 48, ‘for we know not its like in its field’ as Ibn al-Salah said, who adds a caution not to be decieved by naysayers. Al-Nawawi said one should be devoted to it, as nothing has been written like it, and al-Suyuti agreed. Al-Sakhawi said that one must not limit oneself from it (by sufficing with the aforementioned sunan works) due to its comprehensiveness in most of the ahadith al-ahkam. Ahmad Shakir said in al-Ba’ith al-Hathith that it is the biggest book in legal hadiths (it has almost 22,000 narrations). Al-Sakhawi added that its true place should precede all of the other sunan works (i.e. Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, al-Tirmidhi, etc.), coming in rank only after al-Sahihayn, but they take precedence only due to being earlier. I might add that al-Dhahabi considered it to be one of the four masterpieces a scholar cannot do without, alongside al-Muhalla by Ibn Hazm, al-Mughni by Ibn Qudamah, and al-Tamhid by Ibn Abd al-Barr. Taj al-Din al-Subki said no other book had been written with such classification, arrangement, and quality. It includes most (if not all) of the hadiths found in al-Bukhari and Muslim, as well as many of those in Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi. The claim that al-Bayhaqi was unaware of al-Nasa’i and al-Tirmidhi is unfounded, because al-Bayhaqi refers to their narrations within his book, as Najm Abd al-Rahman Khalaf mentions in his book ‘al-Mawarid’ on al-Bayhaqi’s sources. Khalaf also includes, among hundreds of al-Bayhaqi’s sources: al-Bazzar, Ibn Khuzaymah, Abu ‘Awanah, al-Tahawi’s Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar, al-Daraqutni, Musnad Abu Hanifah, Musnad al-Shafi’i, Musnad Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Musnad al-Humaydi, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ishaq b. Rahuwayh, Musnad Ahmad, Musnad al-‘Adani, Musnad al-Darimi, al-Musaddad, Musnad Abu Ya’la al-Mawsili, and many more. Scott Lucas argues that al-Bayhaqi cemented and sealed the hadith canon, and his choices were honoured by succeeding scholars.

Al-Khatib added Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah and al-Suyuti further added Ibn Hibban to this group, as did al-Sakhawi who also included Abu ‘Awwanah, Musnad al-Darimi, Musnad/Sunan al-Shafi’i, Sunan al-Kubra by al-Nasa’i because of the additions that it includes, Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunan al-Daraqutni, and Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar by al-Tahawi.

Then one should move on to the remaining musnad works that a scholar of hadith needs, such as Musnad Ahmad. Al-Sakhawi also added Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Ibn Humayd, al-Humaydi, al-‘Adani, al-Musaddad, Abu Ya’la, and al-Harith b. Abi Usamah, whose hadiths are higher than the aforementioned musnad works due to his living earlier.

Thereafter, move on to the musannaf works, beginning with Malik’s Muwatta. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said that al-Muwatta is the predecessor for this type (i.e. musannaf works) and thus it is necessary to start with it. Al-Suyuti adds Abd al-Razzaq and Ibn Abi Shaybah to this group, as does al-Sakhawi. Al-Sakhawi mentioned that musannaf works are of a lower ranking due to the majority of their contents being non-connected hadiths such as murasil.

One should then study ‘ilal al-hadith, headed by the works of Ahmad and al-Daraqutni. Al-Sakhawi added Ibn ‘Uyaynah, Ibn al-Madini, Muslim’s al-Tamyiz, Ibn Abi Hatim (whom he ranks with Ahmad and al-Daraqutni) with its commentary by Ibn Abd al-Hadi, al-Tirmidhi with Ibn Rajab’s commentary, and other works.

Alongside this one should study the ‘ilm al-rijal works, the best of which are al-Bukhari’s Tarikhal-Kabir and Ibn Abi Hatim’s al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil. Al-Khatib ranks alongside these the views of Yahya b. Ma’in.

Finally, do not forget to study works on the precise spelling of names, the most complete of which is al-Ikmal by Ibn Makula.

Al-Nawawi added that Ibn al-Athir’s Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith as well as hadith commentaries should be relied upon throughout studying all of the above.

Ibn al-Salah concludes that every time one passes a problematic name or difficult word, one must research it and study it. One should follow the path of the early masters, who would memorise hadith with chains little by little, as few as two a day, reviewed day and night, in order to have complete mastery in the end.

Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Itr mentions in Manhaj al-Naqd the following curriculum:

One should begin with the most important works written during the age of codification and compilation, chief of which is Malik’s Muwatta, for it is the easiest in length, shortest in chains, and has a most excellent selection of hadiths. Thereafter, one should study the Sahihayn of al-Bukhari and Muslim.

After that, one should study with care the sunan works of Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah – mastering with precision and understanding.

After that, one should study the musnads of Ahmad and Abu Ya’la, of which it is said that ‘musnads are like rivers, but Abu Ya’la’s is like the sea.’

Thereafter, one should study the comprehensive collections which gather together hadiths from a number of books, as well as the takhrij references that trace the paths of hadiths in a specific book.

One must take care to study the commentaries, especially the most important ones, namely Fath al-Bari and al-Nawawi’s Sharh Sahih Muslim.

Ibn al-Athir’s al-Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith gives complete clarity to obscure words, to the point that it is, in effect, a brief commentary for every hadith.

Shaykh Nur concludes that every time one passes a hadith that one does not know, one must study it deeply and research it, as well as difficult names or words.

Shaykh Hatim al-Awni al-Sharif of Makka gives valuable advice in his booklet, Nasa’ih Manhajiyah li-Talib ‘Ilm al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyahthe summary of which follows with my own comments and rearrangement:

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

Shaykh Abdullah al-Sa’d offered the following advice during one class for students of hadith:

Ilm al-riwayah begins with al-Bukhari and Muslim whilst listening to recorded commentaries where possible.

Then move onto Bulugh al-Maram because it covers the common hadith related to fiqh and is very valuable in this regard alongside the commentary Subul al-Salam and Al-Basam.

Thereafter move on to al-Muntaqi by Majd b. Taymiya with Nayl al-Awtar Mustalah due to the massive amount of hadith covered (approx. 5,000)

Ilm al-Hadith has a theoretical and a practical aspect. The top of the list in theoretical are Ma’rifat ‘Ulum al-Hadith by al-Hakim and al-Kifayah by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi. One should also study Ibn al-Salah’s book as well as Ibn Rajab’s Sharh al-‘Ilal and Ibn Hajar’s Nukat ‘ala Ibn al-Salah. Al-Mawqizah is another very beneficial book. Sufficiency is found in studying the following in order: Al-Mawqizah, Muqaddimah Ibn al-Salah with Nukat Ibn Hajar, Ma’rifat ‘Ulum al-Hadith by al-Hakim, Al-Kifayah by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and Sharh ‘Ilal by Ibn Rajab.

The practical aspect of ilm al-hadith is found in takhrij works which trace the locations of the hadith to allow one to research and collect all the paths in order to assess the state of the hadith. The best books for this are: Talkhis al-Habir by Ibn Hajar, Al-Zayla’I’s Nasb, Al-Tahqiq by Ibn Abd al-Hadi, and Bayan al-Waham wa al-Ilham by Ibn al-Qattan al-Fasi which is a very valuable book. If one reads these books one finds massive benefit.

Thereafter move onto Jami’ al-Tirmidhi and take notice of how he arrives at his rulings and the terminologies that he uses – a true work of art. Then move onto ‘ilal works, beginning with Muslim’s kitab al-Tamyiz which is excellent.

Thereafter, al-Tirmidhi’s al’-Ilal al-Kabir followed by ‘Ilal al-Daraqutni before Abi Hatim as it is easier – Abu Hatim’s book is difficult.

Then research the chains in al-Muwatta because they are of the highest standard such as:

  • Malik – Nafi – Ibn Umar
  • Hisham b. Urwa – His father – Aisha
  • Zuhri – Abi Salamah b. Abd al-Rahman – Abu Hurayrah
  • Abi Zinad – al-A’raj – Abi Hurayrah

An excellent book in this area is ‘al-Mashur min al-Asanid al-Hadith’ by Adil b. Abd al-Shakur al-Zuraqi. He also has Tabaqat al-Mukthirin. One should research these names in the books of rijal.


Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Books, Hadith/Sunnah


69 responses to “Ulum al-Hadith Curriculum

  1. Abu Umar

    March 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    may I ask dear brother where one can study such a ciriculum with a teacher? I want my children to study them inshallah

    • Al-Asiri

      March 8, 2013 at 5:25 am

      Al-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah! The idea situation would be that you travel to study yourself and then pass it on to your children. Children learn best from their parents and tend to follow their paths and interests. There are scholars in Saudi Arabia such as Hatim al-Awni al-Sharif in Makka and Abdullah al-Sa’d who teach these texts very well. If you search the net you can find audio recordings of their classes. There are also scholars from Syria and Egypt that could take you through. In the UK there is shaykh Muhammad Akram al-Nadwi in Oxford who is very adept at ulum al-hadith. In Manchester you can find shaykh Kahlan al-Juburi, Anis Ghouissem and sidi Abu Eesa. Leeds has shaykh Abdullah al-Juda’i who is very knowledgeable. Try to search in your area. I have personally found that, very often, the most impressive and knowledgeable scholars are unknown to the masses. I hope this helps. May Allah give your children firm grounding in the Sunnah!

      • Taalib al Ilm

        July 6, 2015 at 4:57 am

        Jazakallahu Khayran for the beneficial discussion akhi. Two questions:

        1] By Abdullah al Sa’d’s advice in the article above, are you referring to the expert in Ilal in jail in Saudi Arabia?

        2] This may sound like an arbitrary question and somewhat demanding of reservation but i would like to ask anyway, who in your opinion is the leading Imaam of Hadith in our era? If you don’t feel its one individual, feel free to suggest a few in their respective specialisations. I’ve asked this question to a few Hadith experts and usually have the following nominations: Muhammad Awwamah, Shu’ayb Arna’ut, Yunus Jawnpuri, Saleemullah Khan, Ahmad Ma’bad Abdul Karim, Abu Ishaq al Huwayni and Muhammad al Walawi al Athyoobi.

        Would you have a scholar you think is the leader of Hadith sciences in our times and if not, i’d love to hear your take on who the key Imaams of Hadith are in our times.

        Jazakallahu Khayran

      • Al-Asiri

        July 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        Wa alaykum Salam wa jazakum Allahu khayran.

        Yes I mean shaykh Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. He is a brilliant researcher ma sha Allah.

        Any list of leaders in a field is going to be subjective. That being said, a few do spring to mind. From the ones you listed, I really do respect the scholarship of shaykh Shu’ayb Al-Arna’ut and Muhammad ‘Awwamah. They certainly are up there with the best of them. Another Shami I would add is Nur Al-Din ‘Itr. His thesis on Al-Tirmidhi is exceptional and Manhaj al-Naqd is a modern classic.

        Closer to home here in Al-Hijaz, I think Hatim al-‘Awni at Umm al-Qura is a trailblazing brilliant (youngish) scholar in ulum al-hadith. Shaykh Sa’d in Najd is also a leading scholar.

        In Egypt I think Hamza al-Mallibari and Tariq Awad Allah are the excellent scholars.

        The standout figure in the Subcontinent is shaykh Yunus.

        I’m sure I’ve missed some important figures but these are the names that spring to mind.

      • Taalib al Ilm

        July 24, 2015 at 4:48 pm

        Asalamua alaykum again dear brother.

        Just a follow up from my last question, by Shaikh Sa’d in Najd, you meant Sh. Abdulla al Sa’d right (as far as i know, he is still young (in his 40’s i think?) and in jail correct?).

        Also another question – To your knowledge, were/are there any Huffaadh (in the traditional hadith sense, not necessarily memorised 100k Ahadith as the expectations in hifdh fell as Hadith became more centralised in books but regardless, awarded with the title haafidh for their memorisation in hadith) in:

        a) Our current times
        b) In the last century (say 1900’s to now)

        I spoke to an aalim that came here (Australia) from Egypt who is a direct student of Abu Ishaq al Huwayni, Ahmad Shahaata and others and has memorised the sahihayn as well as a number of other texts through out his specialisation in hadith and he said that the last scholar that could be awarded the title Haafidh was Shawkani after which none have existed.

        That being said, ive read the biographies of scholars like Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Ja’far al Kattani, Ahmad ul Ghumari, Badr ul Din al Hasani, Abdullah Siraajuddin, Habiburahmah Adhmi and others and it seems fairly clear that these scholars would have memorised almost every available hadith at the time with the exception of a few due to manuscript rarity/lack of exposure. Speaking to other hadith experts though, some said that the likes of Sh. Shu’ayb Arna’ut, Ahmad Ma’bad Abdul Karim, Muhammad al Walawi al Athyoobi (The famous shaarih in Madinah i think that has the 42 volume sharh of Nasai and 45 volume sharh of Muslim) and others would be examples of Huffaadh of our times. I would like to know your thoughts on this insha Allah 🙂

        Thanks again dear bro and Jazakallahu Khayran, i love reading your discussions across this page

      • Al-Asiri

        July 25, 2015 at 7:25 am

        Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

        The title of Hafidh is difficult to ascertain because only another Hafidh could truly verify the claim. Some have said that al-Suyuti was the last true claimant. Others say Ibn Hajar. Allahu a’lam.

        During Ottoman times, for whatever reason, hadith scholarship in particular, and other disciplines in general, failed to live up to the dynamic standards of the so-called classical era. One struggles to find figures of the same repute as those in the Mamluk, Seljuq, and Ayyubid periods, which I view as the last great ages of Islamic scholarship. I have a feeling that the loss of Persia to the Safavids is hugely underestimated in its impact on Islamic scholarship, but have yet to read a definitive thesis on the matter.

        That being said, one is astonished by the depth and breadth of learning demonstrated by al-Kattani and al-Ghumari, in particular, from among scholars of the last century or so. It is clear that they had understanding and access to a huge amount of texts which would be impressive in one today even with computers, let alone in their pre-digital age!

        From living scholars, I am impressed with shaykh Shu’ayb. Whether he is a Hafidh or not is difficult to call.

        Shaykh Abdullah al-Sa’d is the Saudi scholar who, last I heard, is incarcerated. May Allah hasten his release!

  2. Taalib al Ilm

    January 12, 2015 at 2:13 am

    Asalamu alaykum Shaikh.

    Just a quick question, what are the Arabic words for “Master critic”, “Critic” and the one that is an expert in finding Ilal in ahadith like Ibn al Madini, Daraqutni, Abu Haatim etc that Sh. Haatim al Awni uses?


    • Al-Asiri

      January 12, 2015 at 6:05 am

      Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

      The word that I have idiomatically translated as ‘master critic’ is imam (pl. a’imma) al-jarh wa al-ta’dil. A more literal translation would be ‘leader in impugnment and validation’ but, as you can see, it is rather clumsy.

      A critic in Arabic is a naqid (on the fa’il active participle form in sarf).

      An expert in finding ‘ilal is called an Imam or ‘Alim al-‘Ilal.

      Wa jazak.

  3. Taalib al Ilm

    June 1, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Asalamu alaykum respected brother.

    Just a quick question i was hoping you could find out for me, do you know the Hukm of Haafidh al Mundhiri (Saahib ul Targheeb wal Tarheeb) in his Tasheeh and Tahseen?

    • Al-Asiri

      June 1, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah dear brother. Do you mean how is he in terms of reliability of grading? Hafiz al-Mundhiri was a great scholar who stands in a long tradition of hadith scholars who accept da’if, in addition to sahih and hasan, hadiths for al-targhib wa al-tarhib, with certain conditions. Imam al-Bukhari held this view too as it evident by some of his selections of weak hadiths in al-Adab al-Mufrad. Nevertheless, al-Mundhiri did include some very questionable hadiths in his book and as such later scholars worked to rectify this with gradings and abridgements of the hadiths. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has a Mukhtasar which removes the most objectionable hadiths. This is the version that I have in my library and recommend for general readers. I hope this addresses your question. Wasalam.

      • Taalib al Ilm

        June 3, 2015 at 6:43 am

        Yeah that’s what i meant. Jazakallahu khayran, very helpful.

        A related question which is some what deaper, with regards to the Mutasahileen, if we come across their Tasheeh/Tahseen, does it oblige one to investigate the matter further?

        For example, if we come across a narration from the Majma’ of Al Haythami and see that he has declared the sanad as authentic, knowing that he is from the Mutasahiloon, would we be obliged to look further into it or is the fact that a reputable authority, despite his Tasaahul, has deemed the Hadith worthy in authenticity enough for us to accept the narration?

        Have you come across anything on this issue?

      • Al-Asiri

        June 3, 2015 at 9:30 am

        Wa jazak. It’s a very good question. It has been addressed in several books on al-jarh wa al-ta’dil, such as al-Raf’ wa al-Takmil and Dawabit al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil which are listed above. With the particular example that you cite, al-Haythami is rather lenient and has been criticised by experts. His book is also difficult to investigate because he omits the chains. One needs to be especially cautious with narrations sourced by al-Tabarani. If al-Haythami declares a hadith to be sound, there shouldn’t be a problem for you personally to follow it. The problem might arise if you quote the hadith to support a particular position. In general, one should investigate the chains in the source books using the criticism of the earlier masters such as Ahmad b. Hanbal, Yahya b. Ma’in, Abu Zur’ah, al-Bukhari, al-Nasa’i, al-Daraqutni, etc. from the mu’addilun. Remember that jarh is accepted if there is justification. A great resource that collects these views is Tahdhib al-Kamal by al-Mizzi. This, however, can be time-consuming and is for specialists. One can rely on a contemporary critic of repute, such as Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut or Bashar ‘Awad Ma’ruf, for a summary as long as he provides a justification and clarification, which shaykh Shu’ayb does. Don’t simply accept a grading for a hadith without justification unless you absolutely trust the authority. This is especially true if you find others disagreeing. I hope this helps. Good luck with your studies.

  4. Ikram khan

    June 28, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Brother if you could please please provide pdf links for the elementary level books, it would be very helpful. I would be indebted. Issue is i dont find them in my area

    • Al-Asiri

      June 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Al-salamu alaykum brother. You can find some of them at the Hadith section. I don’t know if the others are available online.

  5. Waleed

    July 2, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    Salam Shaykh,
    Is there any way you could do the same for Tafseer and ulum al quran together, as this curriculum has ulum al hadeeth as well as collections. Your ulum al quran curriculum didnt include tafseer so i was wonderring about your suggestions pertaining to that. Also, what are your suggestions for arabic language, both rules (Nahw sarf Balaghah) and adab?
    Sorry to bother

    • Al-Asiri

      July 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Wa alaykum Salam. I have actually been working on a tafsir curriculum all week and it will be my next post. It is extensive and I’m sure you will benefit from it in sha Allah. Arabic language will be at some future date in sha Allah. Wasalam.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 1:51 am

        Oh ma sha ALLAH. Make dua i get to actually make the most of your posts by following up with the studying. By the way, where and what exactly did you study. you seem to have a good grasp of many different sciences
        Barak ALLAH Feek

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 1:55 am

        Also, is it imperative that these texts be taught with a teacher? I Don’t have many who are in the area that are specialists in ulum al hadeeth, asisde from nuzhah. I know one alim who is, but i cant study with him per se, just discuss my questions and issues

      • Al-Asiri

        July 5, 2015 at 4:50 am

        In the beginning you will need a teacher. Thereafter one can study alone. Some of the books listed have audio commentaries in the absence of a teacher. Where do you live?

      • Al-Asiri

        July 5, 2015 at 10:22 am

        I would say that you do need a teacher to take you through to at least the intermediate stage, but there are audio classes available. This discipline can get quite technical and one needs a certain degree of intelligence. Where are you? I might know somebody near you who can help in sha Allah.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 5:24 am

        I am aware of the audio commentaries but was wondering about if the books must be studied with a teacher despite the commentaries available. It goes without saying that the kutub al sittah and others should be read with a teacher but i was wondering about the books of ulum al hadeeth and its history And if they must be read with a teacher.. I am currently studying in a dars nizami type setting and currently at the level of basic hanafi Fiqh and gramar, although i have a sufficient amount of grammar to read arabic with a dictionary. Before “dawrah al hadeeth” one studies sharh nukhbah but its quite a ways from now if ALLAH gives me the chance. And one year of usul doesn’t seem like much of a prep for such books of hadeeth in the final year, unless some mutalah is made from beforehand. I am close to Toronto and study part time along with school.

        Make dua for this lowly student that he is accepted for ilm.

      • Al-Asiri

        July 5, 2015 at 10:35 am

        May Allah facilitate the path to goodness for you. To be honest, the Dars Nizami system is rather weak in Ulum al-Hadith, but then so many others are too. Nuzhah doesn’t really show the critical methodology of the muhaddithin and wasn’t written for that purpose. For that, you would need books such as Imam Muslim’s Kitab al-Tamyiz and others listed above. The curriculum above ideally should be studied with teachers where possible, or with the audio. Failing that, self study is your only option. Don’t let lack of opportunity hold you back. If you are smart, and I pray that Allah increases you in guidance and intelligence, then you can navigate alone and consult with scholars whenever you get stuck. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any hadith specialists in Toronto.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 5:27 am

        Also, about the Tahrir Taqrib al-Taqrib (Tahdheeb?) and tahdheeb taqrib al tahdheeb, Isn’t the original quite sparing as it is? What is the rationale of the scholars in making an even shorter version?

      • Al-Asiri

        July 5, 2015 at 10:38 am

        Despite the titles, both works actually add to Ibn Hajar’s work with valuable comments and criticisms.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 8:34 pm

        Wow I just checked lol. Those “refinements” are quite long! I assumed they would be like this Edition

        Or like Sh Awwamah’s edition with Imam Abdullah Basri’s notes.

        So how are they different to just tahdheeb al tahdheeb, they are close in size.

      • Al-Asiri

        July 5, 2015 at 8:41 pm

        Tahdhib al-Tahdhib includes teachers, students, and more detail on jarh and ta’dil, including who said what. The two refinements just add comments to taqrib. Ultimately, you want to really be referencing Tahdhib al-Kamal by al-Mizzi, and its source books by al-‘Uqayli, Ibn Abi Hatim, etc. as Taqrib is for beginners and getting the gist.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 8:46 pm

        And about the dars nizami, yeah it’s quite sad nowadays. However, my humble view is that uloom weren’t taught through theoretical books in the subcontinent very much, at least in recent years after shah waliyuLLAH. Nuzhah was pretty much the last book to be taught, and then the books of hadeeth were taught From a hadeeth perspective, so that the student was exposed to the scholarship and different approaches in hadeeth practically, which seemed to have a great effect, historically. Most likely, the risalah of Imam Abu dawud and the muqaddimah of Imam muslim also may have been taught in such a way. Until very recently, “takhassus fi al hadeeth” was nonexistent in Indian institutions, which shows that the Muhadditheen Like Saharanpuri, Gangohi, Kandhlawi, Uthmani, Kashmiri, Azami, etc As well as the great ahl hadith Scholars such as Imam Mubarakpuri, Shaykh Azeemabadi and Mawlana Nazeer Husain Muhaddith Dehlawi were also produced in such a way. Shaykh Azeemabadi studied nuzhah from Shaykh Nazeer Dehlawi, but after that i never read anything about any other books before him studying the six, Muwatta and sunan darimi and Daraqutni.

      • Waleed

        July 5, 2015 at 9:09 pm

        I was speaking to the alim who I mentioned who is a specialist. He did takhassus with a student of Sh Awwamah and Shaykh Fazlur Rahman azami (Sh Habeebur Rahman’s Close student). He mentioned to me that the existence of takhassus is a sign of our weakness. Before, (in deobandi institutions especially), the khilafat fiqhiyyah and the tarjeeh of teh ahnaaf (all too common as you are aware), but tehy also used to teach such aspects of Hadeeth as rijal, takhreej, etc. Leading Muhaddithain Shaykh Yunus Jawnpuri and Shaykh Azami still teach like this, although the former has dropped the hanafi defence. The alim also mentioned that mutalah of teh students used to be guided by the teachers. However, laziness of students ( and teachers), led to such priceless sciences being neglectd, such that I have heard from an alim who studied in a Madrasah in Dewsbury In an unhappy manner (Paraphrased) “We only touched rijal if the need to defend hanafi Fiqh arose”. One must realise that this defence had a reason, namely, the Ahl hadeeeth onslaught on the ahnaf’s fiqh. However, it has carried on until today such that the whole course is just producing students who may be able to argue the hanafi position on a few details, know next to nothing on Uloom al hadeeth (such that quoting Super weak and even fabricated bnarrations have become somewhat common) and even worse, know nothing about the usool and history of the madhab they are so passionately defending. I was talking to an alim who I respect a lot, who came first in his dawrah year with a mark that set the record for the madrasah he was in(still unbroken i am almost sure). I mentioned to him that I Found a book of imam Muhammad , to which he replied “the Muwatta’?”. I said no, it is one of the zahir al riwayah , something which it turned out he knew, or remebered, nothing about, despite those books being the hanafi madhab’s backbone. Its quite sad, not to mention that many madaris dont even fail any students, so they can slack off and know nothing and still graduate as an “alim”. My friend who is studying said that only a handful of people in the class actually know what goes on. Quite sad, but one must make the most of his surroundings.

      • Taalib al Ilm

        August 27, 2015 at 4:22 am

        Asalamu alaykum again dear brother.

        I thought i posted this question before but it doesn’t seem to have appeared.

        My question was about Sh. Shanqiti’s sharh of Nasai. This is the first time i’ve heard of a sharh from one of the Shanatiqa on Nasai, can you please provide me with more details on it? Which Shanqiti was it, what is the full name of the book called and how many volumes is it etc?

        jazakallahu Khayran

      • Al-Asiri

        August 27, 2015 at 6:45 am

        Wa alaykum salam,

        The title of the work is Shuruq Anwar al-Minan al-Kubra al-Ilahiyyah bi-Kashf Asrar al-Sunan al-Sughra al-Nasa’iyyah by Muhammad al-Mukhtar al-Shanqiti of Madinah. It is a very clear 6 volume work and contains the essentials for a student whilst studying the Mujtaba. It typically begins with a discussion on the narrators in the chain, followed by takhrij in other works, followed by linguistic discussions, followed by legal deductions and other benefits of the Hadith in discussion.

        Get it if you can find it in sha Allah!

  6. Waleed

    July 5, 2015 at 5:38 am

    • Al-Asiri

      July 5, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Hamza al-Mallibari is an excellent scholar, highly regarded in the field. His takhrij book is one of the best. I am unfamiliar with the second book, which doesn’t detract from it. There are hidden gems all over, alhamdu lillah.

  7. Al-Asiri

    July 6, 2015 at 4:07 am

    As for Dar Nizami and the Akabir, although they might not have formally studied the more advanced ulum al-hadith books (that is, with a teacher), it is clear in some of their writings that they certainly read and knew them. This is evident, for example, in Qawa’id fi Ulum al-Hadith by Zafar Ahmad al-Uthmani (excellently edited by Abu Ghuddah). In it, the author engages extensively with the major reference works such as Tadrib al-Rawi, as I recall. It really is a deficiency that Nuzhah, a relatively simple book, is the major ulum al-hadith book in the curriculum. I feel that some of the takhassus al-hadith stuff should be brought into the main curriculum. How else can graduates defend themselves against the arguments of the Orientalists? Knowing mustalah isn’t going to help. You need methodology.

    I studied parts of al-Tirmidhi and al-Bukhari with a Nadwi graduate some years ago. He was very critical of the Deobandi method of studying the hadith canon as a means of defending Hanafi positions rather than as a means of understanding the methodology that the compiler employs. You have to understand al-Bukhari on his own terms. This is where the great Deobandi shuruh on the hadith works (Awjaz al-Masalik, Fayd al-Bari, Badhl al-Majhud, Fath al-Mulhim, etc.) are lacking. They are very beneficial works, but they are ideologically-driven and miss the opportunity to engage with the compilers’ methodologies. Shaykh Yunis is to be commended for dropping this approach, although I am sure he has his detractors for doing so.

    If Deobandi institutions focus instead on a mature understanding Hanafi usul al-fiqh and ulum al-hadith, it will take the sting out of some of the madhab’s positions apparently contradicting sound ahadith.

    As for not knowing the usul works of the madhab in the Zahir al-Riwayah, it is not a unique situation. This happens with Malikis too with the Mudawwanah and Shafi’is with Mukhtasar al-Muzani and al-Umm. There is an educational technique using Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher order thinking skills. The second highest skill is synthesis. I believe that at graduate level, or even earlier for brighter students, certain chapters of the foundational works such as, for example, Imam Muhammad’s Kitab al-Asl should be read and then compared with the relevant chapter in an abridgement like Mukhtasar al-Quduri. One can analyse the probity of how al-Quduri extracted his abridgement from al-Asl. What did he include? Why? What did he leave out? Why? This will, in my view, create better tafaqquh in the student. We want quality over quantity in our graduates. People with critical thinking skills who can engage with the tradition on its terms.

    May Allah bring forth more men and women from the Ummah who can raise the flag of Islam and serve as lights of guidance in these dark times.

    • Waleed

      July 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Definitely. Sad but I can’t think of a graduate I know who would give me a satisfactory answer to orientalist objections aside from the usual “They are misguided and their hearts are sealed, stay away from them.” And yes, That’s what the alim I mentioned said to me as well. The ulama had access to the books of advanced uloom al hadeeth and they used them actevely, and teh things were taught practically in hadeeth terms. And about deobandi madaris, yeah that anti- Ahlhadeeth mentality is in virtually every madrasah. About understanding Bukhari on his terms, well this is quite dangerous since it leads to students doing the same in other areas, especially fiqh, where other madahiib are examined from the lens of the ahnaf, rather than understanding the different platform they are on. Many times an opinion is criticised night and day, whereas that opinion is a valid opinion in another madhab.

      • Al-Asiri

        July 6, 2015 at 8:12 pm

        That’s rather unfortunate. An excellent book that examines the different usul is Mustafa al-Khinn’s Thesis on Juristic Differences:

        It is so refreshing to see a work that presents the different schools on their own terms, and then demonstrates how their different usul lead to different furu’ in the bab tatbiqi in Kitab al-Nikah at the end.

        It seems to me that one of the main problems is the narrative. Al-Shafi’i’s narrative in usul in both fiqh and hadith has become the dominant discourse. Thus, Hanafis and Malikis have tried to defend their schools on al-Shafi’i’s terms, mainly using sahih muttasil marfu hadiths, even if ahad. This is inevitably going to fail and actually leads to an inferiority complex. Both schools were established with unique principles. The founders often rejected sahih ahad hadiths and accepted mursal hadiths. Their concept of Sunnah was normative practice, and not always synonymous with hadith. They had very different principles and conditions. Knowing these and approaching the nusus on these terms would be much more beneficial for the talib. Instead, what we now get, is a tension between the madhab and the apparent meaning of certain hadiths, which are then used as a vehicle to defend the madhab on the same grounds as the Shafi’is. The results, as I’m sure you are aware, are not always convincing. One gets a feeling that it is contrived.

      • Waleed

        July 6, 2015 at 10:12 pm

        Yes definitely. About uloom al hadeeth and the dars nizami, How can one make the most of it and reap the benefits of the hadeeth collections in dawrah. Bear in mind that al hidayah is covered, and the takhreej nasb al rayah, as well as fathul qadeer could be quite beneficial before delving into the six books etc. How can a student make the most, in terms of your curriculum.

    • Waleed

      July 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm


    • Ahmad

      January 27, 2020 at 6:40 pm

      Assalam u Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu Brother, I know this might be irrelevant to your comment but the word ‘create’ should only be used with regards to Allah ‘creating’ and it can’t be said that fulan ‘created’ this or fulan ‘created’ that as this is only for Allah Azzawajal. BarakAllahu Feek.

      • Al-Asiri

        February 15, 2020 at 7:47 am

        Wa ‘alaykum al-salam. Thank you for the comment. The reality is that Allah is the Creator, but you cannot restrict people’s language, especially when the cognates are different than in Arabic.

  8. Waleed

    August 12, 2015 at 4:25 am


    Hope you are well. Curious but Do you suggest that the student read through the entirety of the shurooh? It seems quite daunting especially Sh Wallawi HA and his encyclopedic works!

    Also, how should one study imam Tahawi’s sharh Ma’ani al Aathaar, in terms of preparation and shurooh?

    I ask both questions since in the dawrah al hadeeth, all the 6 books, Tahawi and Muwatta’ are taught, albeit from a very fiqh-based, hanafi viewpoint. I doubt it would be possible for a dawrah student to read as much as you suggest, so what would you advise for them?

    • Al-Asiri

      August 12, 2015 at 6:36 am

      It would be ideal for the student to read through the whole shuruh whilst he is in full-time studies. Failing that, they must be read at least where you don’t understand, or where you expect there to be benefit. This can only come through experience in reading and intuition.

      • Waleed

        August 12, 2015 at 7:55 pm


        How would you suggest Tahawi be studied and prepared for?

  9. Muadh Kapodrawi

    August 24, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    MashaAllah, very beneficial and interesting blog. Though there was one aspect which I believe has been misunderstood, this is the quote :

    “but Indian Hanafi hadith commentaries tend to be motivated by defending Hanafi fiqh against the Ahl al-Hadith more than trying to understand the methodology of the authors.”

    As I come from the background of hanafi Fiqh and Studied (Alhamdulillah) further in Hadith after the final year, I found the statement to be misunderstood. The reason is that the shuroohaat have a historical context which was the onslaught of the Ahl-hadith group. Despite that you will find works (maybe less than Arab scholars but slowly on the increase) in the Indian subcontinent, mainly in the URDU language, who discusse the purpose of the compilers of Hadith. Yes there is a alternative pedagogy to Hadith available, but if the need to defend remains then it will continue.

    Also, Shaykh Mufti Khalid Sayfullah , head of IFA reasons why Hanfafi Usool has been shadowed, he says it was due to the fact that it was incorporated into the field of Usool Al-fiqh. Whereas the Shafi school had separated the science of hadith from the usool.

    Wallahu A’alam

    • Al-Asiri

      August 25, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Al-salamu alaykum,

      That sentence, I believe, still stands as a valid criticism. I do not understand Urdu and so cannot comment on its literature, but the available Indian works in Arabic generally fail to engage with the methodology and authors’ intent. Even one of my own Indian hadith teachers admits that, and he’s a Hanafi.

      That does not, however, detract from the aspects of those works which are beneficial. One should know how to benefit from each work, as well as knowing what the limitations are. Objectivity will raise your academic level far above those who are partizan to a madhab or geographical region.

    • Taalib al Ilm

      August 27, 2015 at 4:19 am

      Asalamu alaykum brother.

      Interesting insights there, particularly the last paragraph about Mufti Khalid Safi’ullah Rahmani. Can you please provide me with a reference for where the respected Shaykh discusses this?

      Jazakallahu Khayran

      • Muadh Kapodrawi

        August 27, 2015 at 7:08 am

        This statement I have heard directly from Shaykh himself, when he came to the UK in 20010 I believe. However he has a book معيار الحنفية
        Perhaps he discusses it in there .

        Wallahu A’lam

    • Waleed

      September 12, 2015 at 2:57 am

      The methodology thing, i don’t think it was always like this with a fiqh based approach being predominant, I could be wrong. I was reading a book introducing jami tirmizi by shaykh Fadlur Rahman azami, student of shaykh Habibur Rahman azami. This book is an example of one of the books moulana Muaadh refers to in terms of books on methodology. He is a gem, as his books show, though mostly in Urdu. He also has a book for Bukhari which sh Taha Karan teaches before Bukhari , though not in original Urdu, according to what an azaadville grad told me. The tirmizi bookmentioned about the teacher of shaykh Habeebur Rahman, shaykh Kareem bakhsh, and how he used to teach only tirmizi with a fiqh I approach. Bukhara he used to teach only in an effort to understand methodology. Similar is what he mentions in regards to shaykh Rasheed Gangohi. He used to teach tirmizi in detail, explaining masa il of the asaneed, fiqh I ikhtilafs and other related masa il, but other books would be focused on methodology of the books, with brief comments on new issues that hadn’t come up before. However, he used to teach tirmizi first, with a full forty days dedicated to it, approximately, then Bukhara in eighty. These two were taught more deeply than others, comparatively. Not sure how stuff is taught now since all are taught concurrently. Moulana Muaadh and graduates know about that. ALLAH let us all reach there and further. Ameen.

  10. HāroonSīdāt

    August 26, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Reblogged this on hāroonsidāt.

  11. Waleed

    September 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Islah al istilah isnt really What would be referred to as a commentary, is it? It is a naqd of the kitab and it seems quite extensive. WOulldnt there be another way, book you’d study instead of reading a book and its naqd? A short commentary on nukhbah, perhaps? Tuhfatud durar is a nice, simple sharh in urdu, which has been translated to English.

    Here is a translation of Imad Ali Jum’ah’s chart form of tayseer al mustalah.

    Click to access mustalah_easy_june2013revised.pdf

    • Waleed

      September 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      The translator has done a few corrections it seems from his introductory comments.

    • Al-Asiri

      September 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

      I look at it as a commentary in that shaykh Tariq is making comments and observations on the text. It really helps bring out certain points.

      Shaykh Imad’s chart is excellent but there are a few mistakes. See if you can detect them after getting to the intermediate stage.

  12. m7ia

    September 16, 2015 at 1:07 am

    I have read in many places recently that the sharh attributed to Ibn Daqiq al-Id on Al-Arba’un is mis-attributed and that it is actually the work of Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani. Some have doubted even that attribution though, and say we don’t know who the author is. Allahu a’lam/

    Imran Ahmed

    • Al-Asiri

      September 29, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      That is true, though the work is still a valuable (and brief) sharh nonetheless.

  13. Walpat

    September 17, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I had a question. How would you suggest your curriculum be altered for a nizami student, before And while the dawrah year, wherein all six are covered? How would sarh maani of Tahawi be introduced? As that is also taught.

    • Al-Asiri

      September 29, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Wa alaykum salam. The goals of the Nizami curriculum are different, and I personally feel that a single year for covering the Six is simply insufficient for mastery of their contents and their underlying methodologies. In any case, I would suggest beginning incrementally and persisting till the end, however long that may take. On average, I would imagine the above should take at least several years for the most adept and possibly even a dozen for some.

  14. Waleed

    September 20, 2015 at 3:54 am


    How wold you alter this or how would a dars nizami student use your curriculum, considering all six and the muqatta are studied in one year, along with sharh ma’ani al athaar. How would you study the last one?

    Also, Dr Jonathan has an article on Ibn Majah and it’s canonization, should be a good read. I haven’t read it yet, hope to soon.

  15. shoebolt

    September 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm


    Sheikh firstly jazakAllah khair for this excellent resource. I am currently a student in the East, and the main subject I have left to study is Mustalah & Hadith…. but due to parental obligations I may have to return back to the West earlier than planned (Toronto – after a year or two). My question is: How does one go about completing such a lengthy hadith curriculum while still surviving daily life and also trying to review what he/she has already studied/teaching it?

    Also, up to what stage should someone who is more interested in practical applied fiqh study? Do you think he should still study all the way (the advanced stages) as you have described?

    Jazakum Allahu khayra

    • Al-Asiri

      September 29, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Wa ‘alaykum salam,

      In my experience, the key to study is devotion. By that I mean it should be one’s passion, hobby, and entertainment. By cutting out TV, social media, and other distractions, you’ll find yourself with several free hours a day, even after work and family commitments. If you can then plan and organise yourself so that each hour is accounted for a particular area, you should be able to make huge strides over the months and years. For example, each day you could recite a juz in half an hour, study tafsir for 45 minutes, study fiqh for an hour (each day covering a different section such as ibadah, mu’amalat, etc.), study hadith texts for an hour with commentary, etc. I would say study Quran, hadith, and fiqh every single day. Have certain days (maybe weekends) for different fields such as history, tazkiyyah, aqidah, etc.

      As for how far to go with fiqh, it depends on the individual. Most will be just fine with covering to the intermediate level for all intents and purposes. If you wish to specialise and become a mufti, you’ll have to go further.

      Hadith and fiqh can be quite ‘dry’ subjects for some. Others find it fascinating. Don’t give up, however. Maybe now you find it tedious, but later on in life you might become enthralled. A bit a day goes a very long way.

  16. Waleed

    December 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Any substitutes you like for the brill publications? For most of us they are just way too expensive

  17. Umm H

    January 2, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

    جزاكم الله خيرا for this excellent and beneficial website, May Allah bless you in it, Ameen.

    الحمد لله I have always been interested in studying the Science of Hadith, but need some advice:
    الحمد لله, Allah has blessed me with studying at Alkauthar’s Students Guild program in which we covered the explanations (pre-recorded audios of the Shyookh) of Nukhbat al Fikar, Bulugh al-Maram and Umdat al Fiqh and other texts on different topics of Aqeedah, Fiqh etc.

    Since the program was aimed at giving students a general all-rounder rather than specialising in any one field, I’m wondering what stage I’m at in terms of wanting to specialise in Hadith.
    Do I still need a teacher to go further (follow something similar to what has been outlined in this post) or can I study alone at this point?
    In other words I’m not sure whether my level would classify as elementary or intermediate at this point, intermediate being the minimum for what you advised for self-study?

    Also, would you consider teaching online?

    بارك الله فيكم

    • Al-Asiri

      March 28, 2016 at 7:09 am

      Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. Firstly, well done on your studies thus far. May Allah make your path blessed in sha Allah.

      It’s advisable to study as much as possible with others unless you have no other choice. One’s success depends on aptitude and intention. But generally speaking, a scholar should guide you to at least a high intermediate level, preferably higher. So try to seek one out and move to a different city if you have to. If that proves unobtainable, then don’t let that hold you back. Read and study with some correspondence with seniors in the field. Tawfiq in sha Allah!

  18. Hamza

    November 2, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Salaam Alaykum, JazakaAllahu Khayr for this wonderful post! With regards to the lower intermediate level, you mentioned that it is worth memorising the hadith from Umdatul Ahkam, Bulugh al Maram and Riyaadh as Saliheen. Currently, I am busy with studies and memorising the Qur’an, so I am doing my best to memorise Umdatul Ahkam. Would it suffice me to memorise this and go through the commentaries on Bulugh al Maram and Riyaadh as Saliheen without memorising them?

    Otherwise I will be at the lower intermediate stage for at least 5-6 years to memorise the rest of the ahadith. I would appreciate your advice on this matter.

    JazakAllahu Khayr

    • Al-Asiri

      June 1, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Wa ‘alaykum al-salam!

      Umdat al-Ahkam alone would put you at a higher level than many. However, try to have high aspirations. Aim high, and if you get close then alhamdu lillah. Study of Islam is a lifetime endeavour. You may be young now, but a bit every day goes a long way over the years. Try to keep a low profile till you hit 40. That will allow you to develop and mature out of the public eye so that when you do emerge, you will emerge ripe in sha Allah.

  19. Fatima

    March 5, 2019 at 7:31 am

    al manhal latee usool hadith salaam I am looking for this book in english min fadlik

    • Al-Asiri

      May 31, 2019 at 10:04 pm

      I don’t think it’s available in English, unfortunately.

  20. Mourad

    March 7, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    I wanted to supplement my sahih muslim with nawawi ‘s commentary with two other commentaries , so I wanted to ask you on the expansive commentaries first Being, el Harrari’s and el Wallawi’s and I wanted to know is Senusi commentary original or is he just completing previous unfinished commentaries and if so does this mean if I have this copy this makes for example qadi iiyad’s commentary redundant as it’s already in senusi’s work and I also wanted to ask you about an expansive commentary on sunan abi dawod as the famous ones like khatbis are not sufficient by there own. Finally I know that the hanafi mahdab has this but I wanted to know if the Malik’s, shafi’s and hanbil’s also have this . I’m asking for ahadith commentaries of ahkam which are constricted to their Commentators following mahdab do the 3 madhabs have this ?

    • Al-Asiri

      March 8, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      Both commentaries that you mentioned are good. Our shaykh, Akram al-Nadwi, has been working on a commentary too which focuses on the ulum al-hadith rather than the typical sectarianism of Indian commentators. He has been working on it for more than ten years and will publish it soon in sha Allah. It should be an excellent commentary. He is by far the most impressive of my teachers in hadith. Try to read as many commentaries as possible.

      There are two commentaries on Abi Dawud produced in India: ‘Awn al-Ma’bud and Badhl al-Majhud. The former is Ahl-e-Hadith and the later is Deobandi. They are good but beware of their sectarianism. Shaykh Akram told me he prefers al-Khattabi’s sharh because of the sectarianism in the others. Try to find Abdullah al-Sa’d’s ta’liqa on Abi Dawud. He has some valuable comments.


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