Clarification on Early Hadith Compilation

manuscripts booksBy Mawlana Muhammad ibn Haroon Abasoomer

Imam Ibn Shihab Zuhri rahimahullah (d. 125 AH) features quite prominently in the discussion of Hadith compilation. It is commonly stated that he was the first to compile the Noble Traditions of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam.

However, this is not entirely correct as it pushes the date of Hadith compilation much further and opens the door for Hadith rejectors to object.

Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah’s Research

My Honourable teacher, Al-Muhaddith Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah protect him) writes:

“The claim of Ibn Shihab Zuhri being the first to compile Hadith is based on two things:

1. The statement of Imam Malik rahimahullah:

أول من دون العلم ابن شهاب

“The first person to compile knowledge was Ibn Shihab.” (Al-Hilyah, vol.3 pg.363 & Jami’u bayanil ‘ilm, vol.1 pg.320)

2. Ibn Shihab’s statement:

أمرنا عمر بن عبد العزيز بجمع السنن

“Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz commanded us to gather Hadith.” (Jami’u bayanil ‘ilm)

Shaykh’s Response

The statement of Imam Malik is reported via a person by the name of Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Zabalah (not Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan ash-Shaybani).

This Ibn Zabalah is considered very unreliable. In fact Imam Abu Dawud rahimahullah declared him a liar.

However, Imam Ya’qub ibn Sufyan rahimahullah reports from Ibrahim ibn Sa’d :

أول من وضع هذه الأحاديث ابن شهاب

“Ibn Shihab was the first person to collect Ahadith.” (Al-Ma’rifah wat-tareekh, vol.1 pg.633)

Ibrahim ibn Sa’d is much better than Ibn Zabalah, but this report of his is considered broken (منقطع) – as he was born after the demise of Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz.

Be that as it may, this statement would be interpreted to mean that Ibn Shihab Zuhri was the first in Madinah to do so.

The second basis for this claim was the statement of Ibn Shihab himself. This statement is self explanatory, as he says, “Umar instructed us…” which means the directive was given to many people, not just to Ibn Shihab rahimahullah.

New Discovery

The following narration is the reason for my response above:

Ibn Sa’d rahimahullah reports that Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz’s father, ‘Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan (d. 85 AH) wrote to Kathir ibn Murrah Al-Hadrami Al-Himsy rahimahullah instructing him to send the Ahadith of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam which he heard from various Sahabah radiyallahu ‘anhum, except for the Ahadith of Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah radiyallahu ‘anhu. He said, “For indeed I already have his Ahadith with me.” (Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, vol.7 pg.448)

Kathir ibn Murrah was a senior ranked Tabi’i who met seventy Badri Sahabah radiyallahu ‘anhum.

He passed away between the years 70 and 80 AH, and in one view between 80 and 90 AH.

Based on this, it was the father, ‘Abd al-Aziz rahimahullah who initiated the project of Hadith compilation between 20 to 30 years before ‘Umar the son of ‘Abd al-Aziz rahimahullah continued with his father’s initiative.

This is the earliest period to which I could trace the commencement of Hadith compilation. Bear in mind that “compilation of Hadith” (تدوين الحديث) is different from the “writing of Hadith” (كتابة الحديث). Writing [of Hadith] had commenced in the era of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam.

Further Support

Later on, I came across the following from my teacher, Shaykh ‘Abdullah Al-Ghumari rahimahullah:

“I have seen a narration that proves that Hadith compilation had commenced before Zuhri.”

After quoting the same narration from Ibn Sa’d, he commented:

“This narration shows that the Ahadith of Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah radiyallahu ‘anhu were already collected and kept by ‘Abd al-Aziz [ibn Marwan]. It is clearly possible that he may have acquired it from his father, Marwan ibn al-Hakam (d. 65 AH) who had shared the governorship of Madinah Munawwarah with Abu Hurairah radiyallahu ‘anhu.

“It is also obvious that ‘Abd al-Aziz had ordered the Hadith to be compiled before his son Umar’s instruction.”

Translator’s note: If ‘Abd al-Aziz rahimahullah truly did acquire the Ahadith of Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah radiyallahu ‘anhu from his father, Marwan (d. 65 AH) – like Shaykh Al-Ghumari has asserted – this would move the date of Hadith compilation even earlier to before the year 65 AH, i.e. before the demise of Marwan.

And Allah knows best.


Courtesy of Al-Miftah an


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