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Tadwin during the Abbasid Era

Al-Iskandari says: During the Abbasid reign the ulama’ started to revising and rectifying whatever was written in the suhuf, and writing what was kept in the breasts, arranging, classifying and compiling it in books. The strongest reason prompting the ulama’ to undertake the task of compilation during this epoch was the urging on the part of Abu Ja'far al-Mansur486 and his impelling the leaders of fiqh to collect the hadith and fiqh. Further it is reported that he — despite his parsimony — spent abundant fortunes to fulfil this task. It is also said that the attention he paid for knowledge was not confined only in supporting the Islamic sciences, but he impelled the ulama’ and Syriac and Iranian translators to translate into Arabic the Persian and Greek books on sciences of medicine, politics, wisdom, astronomy, astrology, arts and logic and other fields.487 Thus he was the first ruler for whom the books were translated from other languages into Arabic. But the attention he gave for the hadith, collecting and committing it to writing was so extreme, to the extent that it was said to him: Is there any of the worldly pleasures you haven't got? He replied: Only one trait is left, that is to sit on a bench and be surrounded by men of hadith. And it was him who asked Malik ibn Anas to compile the book al-Muwatta’, according to some narrations.

Al-Sawli says: Al-Mansur was the most knowledgeable of his time in hadith and genealogy.
No wonder then to see the number of men of hadith increasing during the reign of al-Mansur, or to see the ulama’ having stronger desire to seeking the Messenger's traditions and sayings or collecting and writing them. Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz is reported to have said: The sultan (ruler) is like the market to which brought what should be spent in it... if he be righteous righteousness would be brought to him, and if he be debauchee their immorality would be brought to him.488 Ibn Tughri Barada, in chronicles of the year 143, said the following: Al-Dhahabi said: In this age (year 143 H.) the Muslim ulama’ embarked on writing down the hadith, fiqh and tafsir (exegesis). Ibn Jarih489 prepared several compilations in Makkah (he died in 150 H), while Sa'id ibn Abi Urubah (d. 156 H.) and Hammad ibn Salamah (d.167H.) compiled books in al-Basrah. Abu Hanifah (d. 150 H). compiled books on fiqh and qiyas (analogy) in Kufah, al-Awza'i (d. 156 or 157) in the Sham, Malik (d.179) compiled al-Muwatta’ in al-Madinah, Ibn Ishaq compiled al-Maghazi (d.151) and Mu'ammar (d.153) compiled in Yemen and Sufyan al-Thawri (d.161) compiled Kitab al-Jami’ in al-Kufah. After a short time Hisham490 (d.188) compiled his books beside al-Layth ibn Sa'd (d.175), Abd Allah ibn Luhay'ah (d.174), then Ibn al-Mubarak (d.181), al-Qadi Abu Yusuf Ya'qub (d.182) and Ibn Wahb (d.197). In that age, knowledge was increasingly classified and written, with many books on Arabic grammar and language, history and public episodes. Before this age, all the ulama’ — in another narration the imams — used to speak of what they learnt by heart narrating knowledge from disarranged suhuf (books)." Here ends al-Dhahabi's speech.491

Due to the fact that they were altogether lived contemporaneously in one age, it is unknown certainly which one of them superseded the others in tadwin. Some said: The first to compile was Sa'id ibn Abi Urubah, while some others said it was Ibn Jarih, and some mentioned the name of al-Rabi' ibn Subayh, and some Hammad ibn Salamah. Ibn Hajar says: The first to compile hadith were al-Rabi' ibn Subayh and Sa'id ibn Abi Urubah... until the elderly among the scholars of the third tabaqah compiled the ahkam.492 Then Malik compiled al-Muwatta’, bringing in it the strong traditions of the people of Hijaz, mixing them with sayings of the Sahabah and fatawa (verdicts) of the Tabi'un and their followers. Ibn Hajar and al-Iraqi said: All these (compilers) lived in one era so it was not so easy to distinguish which one was prior to others. Then many of their contemporaries followed their example on the same fashion, until some of the leaders (imams) among them found it necessary to dedicate a special book for the Prophet's traditions, in the end of 200 Hijrah year. Of these collections nothing reached us except Muwatta’ Malik, and description of the other collections. So was the tadwin in this age, based on mingling the hadith with sayings of the Sahabah and verdicts of the Tabi'un and their followers as stated by Ibn Hajar. They kept on this practice till the end of the year 200 H.


486. Abu Ja'far al-Mansur was the first caliph for whom the Syriac, Non-Arabic books were translated into Arabic, and the first who sowed discord between the Abbasids and Alawids, after they were united. He came to power in 136 H. and died in year 158 H.

487. Al-Iskandari, op. cit, p.72.

488. There is another narration saying that Abu Hazim al-A'raj said to Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik: The sultan (monarch) is no more than a market, that whatever is spent in it is carried to it.

489. His full name is Abd al-Malik ibn Abd al-Aziz bin Jarih al-Rumi.

490. He is Hasheem, and he was (living) in Wasit.

491. Al-Nujum al-Zahirah, vol. I, p.351; Ta'rikh al-Khulafa' of al-Suyuti, p.101.

492. The tabaqah (class) is a term used by the muhaddithun to mean a community sharing similar age and meeting the mashayikh (chiefs).

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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