During the Eid break, we had the pleasure of hosting my wife’s uncle Abu Ahmad – a PhD in ‘ulum al-hadith and dean of a university in Riyadh. We only get to see him a couple of times a year but each time is fruitful with wise advice on attaining success in this life and the next.
One discussion we had was on how newly-practicing Muslims can gain a firm grounding in the basics of hadith. He said that he thinks Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id’s sharh on al-Arba’un al-Nawawiyyah is an excellent abridged commentary for beginners to become familiar with the Sunnah. We discussed the authorship of this well-known commentary, with the contenders being Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id (the traditional view), Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (according to Riyadh al-‘Isa and ‘Abd al-Qadir Taha), and Imam al-Nawawi himself. Either way, each one is a great imam of hadith and the work is outstanding.
On the subject of ‘ulum and mustalah al-hadith, he really likes Taysir Mustalah al-Hadith by Mahmud al-Tahan due to its simplicity and organization of material for assisting beginners.
Abu Ahmad emphasized that, ultimately, students at an intermediate level must strive to understand Abdullah al-Juday’s two-volume aptly-titled Tahrir ‘Ulum al-Hadith. He said that no other contemporary book has been written like it. It summarizes the entire field whilst making original contributions with piercing insight. It is a book from which even scholars benefit. He said that shaykh Abdullah is a mujtahid in the field and highlighted his mastery of usul al-fiqh as well.
He added the caveat that, whilst scholars may disagree in furu’ (even in ‘aqa’id – tafwidh an example), they are united on the usul. This touches upon the controversy that surrounds some of Shaykh Abdullah’s published research, which has attracted (somewhat excessive in my view) criticism from some quarters due to its originality in overturning long-held views with reasoning and evidence.