Published in


Carrying of knowledge of Ahadith (Part 3)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

We’ve seen how the Prophet ﷺ taught his Ahadith and Sunnah and how it was received by the Companions. As the Companions were direct disciples of the Prophet ﷺ, they had the special privilege and duty to spread his teachings. As the knowledge of Ahadith spread all over the Muslim world, gathering of knowledge or collection of hadith required much more extensive travelling, so new methods of learning had to be developed. These methods are discussed in this article.

Learning of Ahadith in early days

For learning of Hadith the following eight methods were used:

  1. Sama: that is reading by the teacher to the students
  2. Ard: reading by the students to the teacher
  3. Ijazah: to permit someone to transmit a Hadith or book on the authority of the scholar without reading by any one
  4. Munawalah: to hand someone the written material to transmit
  5. Kitabah: to write Ahadith for someone
  6. I’lam: to inform someone that the informer has permission to transmit certain material
  7. Wasiyah: to entrust someone his books
  8. Wajadah: to find some books or Ahadith written by someone just as we nowadays discover some manuscripts in a library or somewhere else

In the period of the Companions only the first of these methods, which is Sama’, was in general use. The students stayed near their teachers all the times serving them and learning from them. A little later, the most common methods were Sama’ and Ard. Different terminology was used in transmitting the Hadith to show what method was used in learning the Hadith, as we shall see later.

A man was not entitled to use any Hadith in his literary life if he had not received it by one of the seven methods mentioned above.

Method eight was not recognised by the scholars. Let’s discuss the above methods in some detail.

1. Sama’ (سماع): Reading by the teacher to students

This method had the following modes:

  • Oral recitation
  • Reading from Books
  • Question and Answers
  • Dictation

Oral recitation of Ahadith by the teacher:
Usually, the students were attached to a certain teacher for a very long time, until they were believed to be authorities on the Ahadith of their teachers. Sometimes they were called Rawi’ or Sahib of so and so. This practice began to decline from the second half of the second century.

Reading from Books:
Reading by the teacher, from his own book, which was preferred. Reading by the teacher from the student’s book, which was either a copy or a selection from his own work. This method had many pitfalls for the teachers who did not learn their Ahadith by heart. Some students and scholars played tricks by inserting Ahadith here and there into the teacher’s Ahadith and hand the book to the teacher for reading, to examine the soundness of his knowledge and memory. Teachers who failed to recognise the additional material were denounced and declared untrustworthy.

Questions and Answers
In this method students used to read a part of the Ahadtih and the teacher read it in full.

Dictating the Ahadith
The Companion Wathilah bint Asqa’ (d. 83AH) was the first who held classes for dictation. This method was not encouraged in the early days because in this way a student could gather much knowledge in a very short time without much effort. There were certain scholars who had an extreme distaste for dictation and did not allow writing down. There were others who did not transmit Ahadith until the students wrote them down. Some of them even refused to dictate Ahadith if the students used wooden boards from which the writing could be erased. There were some others who wrote down Ahadith and after memorising erased them. Others used to learn by heart and after memorising wrote them down. Compared to other methods, these were rare and uncommon practices. From the second century onwards, besides the usual method of reading from books, dictations became usual. Sometimes regular classes were held for this purpose.

The Method of Dictation: For dictation, two methods were employed: either from a book or from memory. In some cases the students refused to write Ahadith being dictated from memory, yet it seems it was the fashion of the time to rely on memory in transmitting or dictating Ahadith. Perhaps it was a matter of prestige and reputation. This practice resulted in many mistakes owing to the inherent deficiencies of memory. The teachers had to go through their books to refresh their memories. In many cases when they were uncertain they did not dictate.

The Mustamlis: The dictation method, due to large audience, gave rise to a new type of work for certain people who were called Mustamlis. They used to repeat the words of the Shaykh in a loud voice to the audience.

To select someone for writing: As all the students could not write rapidly, sometimes a fast writer was chosen to take down Ahadith, while others watched him writing, lest he should make any mistake. Later, either they borrowed the books or copied them in the presence of the owner. In literary circles a class os scribes or Warraqun was found for the purpose of copying, which gave rise to trade in books.

The correction of written copies: The scholars were aware of the importance of revision after copying. Therefore we find them constantly advising their students, even helping them, in revision after copying. Khatib al-Baghdadi states in his Kifayah that Urwah (22–93 AH) asked his son Hisham whether or not he revised after copying. Hisham replied “no”, upon which Urwah said that in face it meant he did not write down.

The writing materials: It seems that wooden boards were mostly used for writing dictations and taking notes from which, later on, fair copies were made. A special shorthand method was sometimes used to save time and space.

2. Ard (عرض): Reading to teachers

In this method, the book was read by the students to the teacher or by a certain main called a Qari, and other students compared Ahadith with their books or only listened attentively. Later they copied from the books. This method was called Ard. It was the most common practice from the beginning of the second century.

In this case either copies were provided by the teachers themselves as many of them had their own scribes, Katib or Warraq, or students had their own books, copied earlier either from the original or from another copy of the same book. In copying, they usually made a circular mark after every Hadith which implied that a student had finished the reading of a Hadith to the teacher. This was necessary because even when a student knew Ahadith through books he was not entitled to use those materials for teaching or for his own compilation till he received them through properly recognised methods of learning.

If one did not follow this method, he could be accused of stealing Hadith, ‘sariq al-hadith’, which meant that a scholar used materials in teaching or in compiling his book which, even though genuine, were not obtained the proper way. This was the old form of the copyright law.

When a hadith was read more than once the students made additional marks for every reading. Sometimes scholars read the same book several times.

3. Ijazah (إجازه): Permission

In Hadith terminology Ijazah means to permit someone to transmit a Hadith or a book on the authority of a certain scholar who gave this permission, without having read the book to him. This was widely used from the fourth century.

This system, in certain cases, provided a kind of safeguard for the text. For example, when A permitted B to transmit Sahih of al-Bukhari through the authority of A, then B ought to find out a copy of Sahih of al-Bukhari which contained a reading certificate including the name of A. In this way the correct text could be kept free of alterations.

4. Munawalah (مناولة): Handing the book to a student

When someone gave a student a manuscript along with the authority to transmit it.

For example, az-Zuhri (51–124 AH) gave his manuscripts to several scholars, like at-Thawri, al-Awzai and Ubadullah bin Umar. It was called Munawalah. This was not a common practice in the early days.

5. Kitabah (كتابه): Correspondence

This means writing Ahadith to give them to someone else to transmit. This practice started from very early days, and can be assumed to have started from the very beginning. Official letters of the rightly guided Caliphs contained many Ahadith which were transmitted by scholars. Following in the footsteps of the Companions, many scholars wrote down Ahadith and sent them to their students.

6. I’lam (إعلام): To inform about Ahadith

I’lam meant to inform someone that an informer has permission to transmit a certain book on certain scholars’ authority. Some scholars permitted this method of transmitting Ahadith whilst others rejected it. The only benefit was that the second person had to find the original copy which bore the certificate and the name of the person who gave permission.

7. Wasiyah (وصيه): To entrust someone his books

To entrust someone the book which may be transmitted on the authority of the one who entrusted the books. For example, Abu Qilabah (d. 104AH) who entrusted his books to Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani.

8. Wajadah (وجد)

This is to find someone’s book without any sort of permission to transmit on anyone’s authority. This was not a recognised way of learning Ahadith. According to the standard of Muhaddithin, one must state explicitly that the information he presented had been taken from the book of such a man.

Terms used to describe transmission of Ahadith

The famous terms used in the chains of narrations (Isnaad) are:

  • Haddathana (حدثنا)
    This is used mostly to denote learning through the Sama’ (reading by the teacher) method.
  • Akhbarana (اخبرنا)
    This is used to denote learning through the Ard (reading to the teacher) method, though some of the scholars used these two terms interchangeably.
  • Anb’ana (أنبأنا)
    This is used in Ijazah and Munawalah, and sometimes even Haddathana Ijazatan, is used in Munawalah Sami’ah: it is used in the learning through the Sama’ method only.
  • An (عن)
    Can be used in all the methods.

All these terms are not of equal value. Sami’tu, Haddathana, Haddathani, Akhbarana, Akhbarani are the most superior. عن is very inferior. These terms should not be changed in copying. عن is not explicit for direct contact between narrators, therefore in case of a narrator who was accused of practising Tadlis, it might cause the Hadith to be judged a weak one.

Certificate of reading

A regular record of attendance was kept and after the reading of a book was completed, a note was written either by the teacher or one of the famous scholars in attendance. This gave details of the attendance, e.g., those who listened to the complete book and those who joined partially, what part they read and what part was missed by them, giving dates and the places. If an attendant was under five years, his age was mentioned with the title Hadara(حضر) which meant “attended”. If he was five or more he was mentioned as a regular student. At its conclusion, the book was usually signed by the teacher or by some famous attending scholar. In many cases, this certificate stipulated that no further entry could be made in the books which had been completed. This certificate was called Tabaq by the Muhaddithin.

In the next article, we will start looking into the classification of narrations according to their path of transmission.


  • Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature by M. Mustafa Al-Azami
  • Usool Al Hadith lectures by Shaykh Noorulhasan Madani




A journey of revising islamic books. Visit for more.

Recommended from Medium

10. Building a blueprint for life

Buddhist Ethics

An Overview of Kabbalah So Simple Even a Dog Can Understand God

Daily Astrology, April 22nd, 2019 ~ Sun Conjunct Uranus in Taurus

Blessed Are The Children

Building One’s Faith

The Inspiration Behind My Short Story: The Cross Necklace

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Farhan Ali Khan

Farhan Ali Khan

Philomath, Tech Guy.

More from Medium

AI Is the Future, So How Do We Create a Trustworthy AI?

Kafkaesque: Nightmarish and Oppressive, or Just Simply Conscious?

A Brief Anatomy Of Temperature Scale

Crunching Big Data on Fake News