In The Name Of Allah, The Most High, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah The Most High, The Creator, The Provider. He has no Partners, and is in no need of any. He is Alone, He made the Heavens and the Earth. He knows what was before time, what is present and what is after. He shows the straight path to whosoever He wishes, and whoever He chooses to bless. He makes them the best among the best. O Allah, send salutations on our Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace), who is the last and final Messenger. After him there will be no Prophets to come until the Day of Judgement. Allah The Most High has given Him the highest excellence. On the Day of Judgement when every individual will be present, our Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) will intercede on the behalf of the Muslims. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace), his family, his companions who passed on the knowledge gained directly from the Prophet to the coming generations. Blessings also be upon the scholars of Hadith who spent their lives in compiling the books of hadith and the others who continue to serve Islam until the day of Judgement.
The impetus behind writing this book, came after speaking to some young Muslims who were confused and held erroneous misconceptions as to what it meant to be of the Ahl al-Sunna. There were various issues in which they argued much over – take for instance, calling ‘Ya Rasul-Allah’; seeking assistance from other than Allah and the issue of Hadhir and Nadhir. I also found that some points of Hanafi Fiqh were being criticized without just cause. With the help of Allah almighty in this book, I have tried to clarify those issues, refute the objections and support the points with evidence from the Holy Qur`an and the hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless Him and Grant Him peace).
Before commencing with this book, there are a few issues that need to be mentioned at the very beginning. Firstly, it should be mentioned that this book was first translated from Arabic into Urdu and then into English. As such, there will be some meanings that cannot be fully conveyed into English: Arabic is a complex language that has richness that cannot always be handled well by the English language. However, this does not mean to say that the meanings are distorted to prove a point, but rather are translated as best as possible using the words that were best found. I will be pleased if after reading this book, people write in and inform me of any incorrect translations that have been made. These will be rectified as soon as possible.
Secondly, some may raise the question as to why chapters rather than page numbers are quoted. It is from my own personal experience that I would often find it difficult to try and find what it was I was looking for by referring to page numbers: the page numbers would almost invariably differ with the plethora of different editions and publishers. As a result, I decided to use the Chapter heading, since readers would be able to easily look this up under the relevant chapters. It is interesting to note that back in the times of the great scholars of Islam, they never mentioned the source of their information – since the readers were very aware as to their status and scholarly capacity. However, in our day, references are a necessary feature, since it is very easy to claim one thing and then fabricate its source. References thus provide an easy and ready source for the reader to check and examine for himself or herself.
Thirdly, it is important to point out that when a hadith or other narration is mentioned, it may not always be quoted in full. An explanation is of course required for this. It is simple. In many instances, in either a hadith or other narrations, a number of different subjects would be included which are not required for the particular point that I wish to convey. As a result, I have left out what does not concern the point that is being emphasized. It is very important to note that by doing this I have not left out anything that would report back contrary to the point that is being made. There is no foul play at work.
Fourthly, and very importantly, there are at some places in this book, accusations that were written against various scholars. My point here is not to resurface these gross allegations, but rather to highlight that all scholars were and are humans and capable of making mistakes. The point, more precisely being made is that there were no scholars – that did not receive some sort of criticism from other great scholars and muhadithin. It would be very difficult to prove otherwise. It is unfair to highlight the criticism of a particular scholar and then to propagate this to the world at large. It is most definitely assured that the scholar highlighting these accusations would also have received criticism from his peers. It is very unfortunate that in our time, some Muslims have taken it upon themselves to give credence to these accusations. The aim that I hope I have conveyed in these sections is that if Muslims choose to leave the rulings a scholar simply because he has been criticized, this would really mean that the Muslims would have to leave all our scholars, since at one point in time or another, they all indeed were criticised.
Finally, the muhadithin, have compiled books of hadith but, at the same time, the same scholars have also written books discussing the authenticity of the narrators of the hadith that they have mentioned in their books. For instance, Imam Bukhari wrote Sahih Bukhari and he also wrote; Tarikh al-Kabir, Tarikh al-Saghir and Kitab al-Du’fa. Similarly, Imam Muslim wrote Sahih Muslim and also wrote about his narrators in ‘Kitab al-Asma’ wal- Kuna. Likewise, Imam al-Tirmidhi wrote Tirmidhi but along with it he wrote Kitab al-I’lal. Moreover, apart from these scholars of hadith, the teachers of these scholars also wrote the biographies of the narrators; for example, Imam Yahya bin Mu’in, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Imam Ali-Ibn al-Madini all wrote the biographies of the narrators of hadith. Such work was continued by the predecessors of the muhaddithin. For instance, Imam Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi wrote Al Jarhu wat ta’dil; Imam Ibn Habban wrote Thiqat; Khatib al- Baghdadi wrote Tarikh al-Baghdad and Ibn al- Addi wrote Al-Kamil.
These were very informative and beautifully written books but they were very detailed books. Some scholars, therefore, summarized these books. The best summary of these books was produced by Imam al-Dhahabi, who wrote a number of books. For instance Saiyar al-‘Alam al-Nubala, Tadhkarat all- Huffadh, Mizaan al- I’tidal etc. These books were then summarised further by Hafiz Ibn Hajr Asqalani, who wrote Tahdhib al-Tahdhib and Lasan al-Mizan.
In Traditional Scholarship and Modern Misunderstandings: Understanding The Ahl al-Sunnah, when mentioning the narrators, sometimes I have taken references directly from the books of the scholars from the first generation. However in the main, I have taken references from Imam al-Dhahabi and Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani. However, when a particular narrator is being discussed, and I have used their quotes on the matter – it does not imply that these are the personal opinions of the narrators, rather, they have taken these quotes from the original books and by using the references of Imam al-Dhahabi and Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, this does not mean that the personal opinion of Iman al-Dhahabi and Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani is being quoted. Because they have taken quotes from the original books of scholars of hadith that came before them, and were established for their scholarly scrutiny and capacity, such as the authors of Tarikh al- Kabir and Al Jarhu wat Ta’dil.