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Muhammad Mansur Ali

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Al-Tirmidhs Use of Defective adth (Ilal) as a Hermeneutical Device

Muhammad Mansur Ali School of History, Archeology and Religion Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK Cardiff University CF10 3EU

Email: Alimm1@Cardiff.ac.uk

For submission to either Islamic law and Society or Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies or Muslim World

Muhammad Mansur Ali

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Al-Tirmidhs Use of Defective adth (Ilal) as a Hermeneutical Device


Abstract
Until recently Western adth scholarship took no notice of the methodological devises used by Muslim scholars in analyzing and verifying adth . Partially responsible for this was Goldziher and Schacht who claimed that Muslim adth criticism focused too much on the form and less on the content. Be that the case, we argue that this does not take away any of the ingenuity and creativity from the adth scholars. In this paper we look at how al-Tirmidh used ilal (defects in adth ) as a hermeneutical device to read into adth and bolster the practice of the scholars of adth.

Keywords: adth, ilal, al-Tirmidh, Sunan, practice

It has widely been viewed by Western scholars of adth 1 that Muslim adth criticism focused mainly on the chains of narration (isnd) to the exclusion of the content (matan ).2 Muslim adth scholars are partially responsible for giving such impression as a cursory glance at the different literature on adth criticism shows. From the biographical and prosopographical dictionaries, to personal epistles of scholars to the books of nomenclatures, the greater focus is on the men and women who were involved in narrating the adith and not the content of the adth itself. Other scholars, mainly Muslims, have responded to this and shown that this was not always the case. 3 In this paper, we are not concerned with the truth of this claim. What concerns us here is that one can infer from the orientalists criticism of the adth scholars overt emphasis on the chain of narrations, that adth scholars lacked any ingenuity and creativity in their work. Their approach was monolithic and concerned only at looking at peoples names and dates to verify adith. We argue in this paper, that an overt emphasis on the chains of narration does not take away any of the creativity from the adth scholars and a doctrinal war can be fought by using a plethora of names as ammunition. We do this by looking at the concept of ilal (sing. illat, hidden defects in adth) employed by al-Tirmidh (210/825-279/892) in his Sunan. Rather than looking at ilal from a traditional adth point of view, i.e. defects in adth which are to be discarded, We make the case here that al-Tirmidh uses ilal as a hermeneutical devise to read in to adth in order to bolster the position and practice of the scholars of adth (ab al-adth) as
1

Throughout the paper I have used the word adth to mean more than one adth as well as the science of adth. 2 Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies 2 , trans. S.M. Stern and C.R. Barber (London: George Allen and Unwin LTD, 1971). Pp. ; Joseph Schacht, The Origins of Muhammedan Jurisprudence (4th edn.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967). Pp. 3 Jonathan Brown, 'How We Know Early adth Critics Did Matan Criticism and Why Its So Hard to Find', Islamic Law and Society 15 (2008), pp. 143-184.

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opposed to their adversaries the scholars of reason (asb al-rayy ). We try to show that for alTirmidh the driving factor for accepting or rejecting a adth is the practice of the scholarly community and not the chains of narrations as such. Where there is a conflict between practice and text, al-Tirmidh gives preference to practice, since for him adth is silent and it is only through practice that a adth can be made to speak. In explaining a adth in the Sunan the text of which is apparently ambiguous, al-Tirmidhs concluding remarks regarding it is This is what the jurists have said [about this adth] and the jurists are more knowledgeable regarding the meanings of adth. 4 The article is divided into two sections with an introduction and a conclusion. In section one, we define the term ilal and briefly introduce two works of al-Tirmidh on the subject: Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr and Kitb al-Ilal al-Kabr. we also discuss some general background information concerning ilal. In section two, we move onto al-Tirmidhs use of the ilal as a methodological device for reading into adth based on the practice of the scholars of adth. Introduction Ab s Muammad b. s b. Sawra b. Ms b. al-ak al-Tirmidh5 al-Bgh al-Sulam al-arr6 whose name is attached to a collection of adth (the Sunan) was born around 210/825.7 Al-Tirmidh's ancestors were originally from Merv, but immigrated to the
4 5

Al-Tirmidh, , al-Jmi al-a wa huwa Sunan al-Tirmidh, (Beirut: Dr Ibn azm, 2002), p. 310, adith 991. The following are the main sources for the life of al-Tirmidh: al-Samn, al-Ansb, (Beirut: [n.pub.], 1980), 2:335, 3:45; al-Dhahab, Siyar Alm al-Nubal, ed. by Shuayb al-Arna, (Beirutt: Muassasat al-Risla, 1983), 13:270; idem., Mzn al-Itidl, (Cairo, Mabaat al-Sada, 1907) 3:117; idem., Trkh al-Islm (Beirut: Dr al-Kitb al-Arab, 1991), 20:459-62; idem., Tadhkirat al-uff, (Hyderabad: Mabaat Majlis Dirat alMarif al-Uthmniyya, 1956), 2:633; Ibn al-Imd, Shadhurt al-Dhahab f Akhbr man Dhahab, ([n.p.]: Maktabat al-Quds, 1931), 2:174-75; Ibn Khallikn, Wafayt al-Ayn, ed. by Isn Abbs, (Beirut: Dr alThaqfa, 1971), 4:279; Ysuf al-Mizz, Tahdhb al-Kaml, ed. by Bashshr Awwd Marf, (Beirut: Muassasat al-Risla, 1992), pp. 250-52; Ibn ajar al-Asqaln, Tahdhb al-Tahdhb, (Beirut: Dr dir, [n.d.]), 9:387; idem., Taqrb al-Tahdhb, ed. by Muaf Abd al-Qdir A, (Karachi: Qadimi Kutub Khana, 1992), 2:121; Ibn ibban, Thiqa t, (Hyderabad: Mabaat Majlis Dirat al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 1983), 9:153; Muammad b. Jafar al-Kattni, al-Risla al-Mustarifa , ed. by al Muammad Uwayda, (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1995), p.17; Abd al-Azz al-Dihlaw, Bustn al-Muaddithn, trans. Abd al-Sam Deobandi, (Karachi: Educational Press, n.d.), pp.289-95; Amad Shkir, Tarjumat al-Tirmidh in al-Jmi al-a wa huwa Sunan al-Tirmidh , (Cairo: Muaf al-Bb al-alab, 1937), 1:75-91; Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 2:229-30; Alfred Guillaume, The Tradition of Islam An Introduction to the Study of the adth Literature , pp. 34-35; A.J. Wensinck, al-Tirmidh, in Encyclopedia of Islam, pp. 796-97; G.H.A. Juynboll, al-Tirmidh, in Encyclopaedia of Islam 2 , 5:546; James Robson, Transmission of Tirmidh's Jam, 258-70; Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur, 2nd edition, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1943-49) 1:169; idem., Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur: Supplement, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937-42), 1:268; Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967) 1:154-159; M. Muaf Azam, Studies in adth Methodology and Literature , (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1992), p. 103; Muammad Zubair iddq, adth literature : its Origin, Development and Special Features, ed. by Timothy Winter, (Cambridge: Islamic Text Society, 1993), pp. 64-67. 6 A second alternative genealogy was provided by al-Samn as: Muammad b. s b. Sawra b. Shaddd b. s, and a third one by the adth biographer al-Mizz as: Muammad b. s b. Yazd b. Sawra b. al-Sakan. See alSamn, al-Ansb, 2:335 and,Ysuf al-Mizz, Tahdhb al-Kaml, p. 250.Brockelmann erroneously calls him Muammad b. s b. Sahl al-Tirmidh. SeeBrockelmann, Geschichte,1:169. 7 Al-Dhahab, Siyar Alam al-Nubal, p. 271: wulida f udd sana ashra wa miatayn. iddq, a scholar from Bangladesh who has written on the lives and works of the major adth scholars, has al-Tirmidh being born in

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Khurasanian town of Tirmidh during the time of al-Layth b. al-Sayyr. Tirmidh is a town on the north bank of the Oxus River (Nahr Jayn) in the southern part of the present-day Uzbekistan Republic. It is famous for its soap and is known as madnat al-rijl' the city of men due to the many erudite scholars it has produced. 8 Approximately three miles from Tirmidh is a small village called Bgh. Al-Tirmidh was born and has died in this village, hence the name al-Tirmidh al-Bgh. 9 Al-Tirmidh was a student and disciple of Muammad b. Isml al-Bukhr (d. 256/870) a adth critique and master of recognizing defects in adth. His profound influence on alTirmidh is evident throughout the entire Sunan. Thus, a common feature of the Sunan is alTirmidh saying I asked Muammad, Muammad b. Ismls opinion is, I debated with Muammad. He says:
I have extracted whatever mention of adth defects, narrator criticism and points of history found in this book from the Kitb al-Trkh [of al-Bukhr], and in most cases I have debated [these points] with Muammad b. Isml [] I have not found anyone in the whole of Iraq and Khurasan more knowledgeable in the field of defects, history and recognition of the isnd than Muammad b. Isml.10

Al-Bukhr stipulates very stringent conditions for including adth into his collection, hence the presence of ilal in his collection is minuscule. In contrast to this al-Tirmidh works with the ilal thus letting the maximum number of adth to be included in to his Sunan. This gives him a lot more flexibility in producing adth to prove a legal position than al-Bukhri. One example to demonstrate this will suffice. There was a difference of opinion amongst the ijz and Iraqi scholars over the validity of issuing a divorce before marriage. The Iraqis, foremost amongst them Ab anfa (d. 150/767), were of the opinion that a divorce which is issued with a condition on marriage is valid. Therefore a mans saying she is divorced if I marry her is valid according to them.11 This is because a result clause (jaz, jawb al-shar) is only fulfilled when the subordinate conditional clause (shar) is available. Mlik (d. 179/796) from the ijz school was of the opinion that if the divorce refers to a specific woman then it will be implemented, however it carries no weight if it is a general statement. The bulk of the adth scholars and the ijz scholars were of the opinion that this sort of divorce is not valid. In the a al-Bukhr, in the book of divorce under the chapter no divorce before marriage al-Bukhr could not manage to bring any adth to prove this point. The chapter is
Mecca, however he has not given his reference therefore it is not possible to verify his claim, nor has it been mentioned by any other scholars. See Siddq, adth Literature , p. 64. Siddq writes, It is interesting to record that his [al-Tirmidh's] tomb, vandalized by the Soviets, was restored by the Uzbek authorities in 1410/ 1990, and is now once again an important centre for pious visits. See Siddq, adth Literature , p. 148, note, 170. 8 W. Barthold, Tirmidh, in Encyclopaedia of Islam 2 ,5:542. 9 Al-Dhahab, Siyar Alm al-Nubal, 13:270. 10 Al-Tirmidh, Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr, (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 2002), p. 9. 11 Muammad al-Shaybn,Mlik, Muwa (al-Shaybns version) with commentary al-Talq al-Mumajjad al Muwa Muammad by al-Lakhnaw, Delhi: Faruqiya Book Depot, [n.d.]), pp. 257-58.

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void of any adth and it just jumps to the next chapter. This is not to say that al-Bukhr did not know of any adth on the subject. On the contrary, he lists the names of twenty-four authorities who narrated adth (Prophetic and non-Prophetic) on the subject. In fact, the wording of the chapter heading is a Prophetic adth found in the Sunan Ibn Mja collection. 12 However, methodologically al-Bukhr can neither use this adth nor the adth narrated by his twenty-four authorities as textual proof. This is because all the adth on this subject fall below the standard that al-Bukhr stipulated for including adth in his collections. The full chapter heading reads as follows:
Chapter: There is no divorce before marriage. And the statement of Allh O you who believe, when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no divorce prescribe period have you to count in respect of them. So give them a present and set them free i.e. divorce in a handsome manner.13 Ibn Abbs said: Allh has mentioned the divorce after the wedding. It is reported that [1] Al, [2] Sad b. al-Musayyib, [3] Urwa b. al-Zubayr, [4] Ab Bakr b. Abd al-Ramn, [5] Ubayd Allh b. Abd Allh b. Utba, [6] Abn b. Uthmn, [7] Al b. usayn, [8] Shuray, [9] Sad b. Jubayr, [10] al-Qsim, [11] Slim, [12] ws, [13] al-asan, [14] Ikrima, [15] A, [16] mir b. Sad, [17] Jbir b. Zayd, [18] Nfi b. Jubayr, [19] Muammad b. Kab, [20] Sulaymn b. Yasr, [21] Mujhid, [22] al-Qsim b. Abd alRamn, [23] Amr b. Harim and [24] Shab all said that a woman cannot be divorced before being married.14

It can be observed from the verse presented by al-Bukhr that it is only a statement regarding what a man should do when he divorces his wife. The verse is not explicit about the injunctions relating to the in/validity of divorce before marriage. Al-Bukhr understands this and therefore draws upon Ibn Abbs to give, in his opinion, the correct reading of the verse. He then cites the names of the people who held the opinion that a woman cannot be divorced before being married. Then without mentioning any adth, he closes the chapter. In contrast to al-Bukhrs self-imposed strained conditions, al-Tirmidh can comfortably include aadth on this subject. This is because his conditions are more relaxed than those of al-Bukhr. Below is the full chapter from the Sunan al-Tirmidh:

Chapter on what has been narrated on no divorce before marriage: [Al-Tirmidh says] Amad b. Man has reported to us (addathan ) that Hushaym has reported to him that mir al-Awal reported to him from (an ) Amr b. Shuayb from his father from - his grandfather who said that the Prophet said:

12 13

Ibn Mja, Sunan, p. 147. Qurn: srat al-Azb, 33:49. 14 Al-Bukhr, a, (Riyad: Darussalam, 1997), 9:472.

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There is no pledge (nadhar) for the son of Adam in what he does not own, neither is th ere emancipation of that (slave) which he does not own, nor is there divorce of (that woman) whom he does not possess.15

Methodologically, al-Bukhr was not able to include this adth because of the presence of the narrator Amr b. Shuayb who is a mediocre narrator. 16 It is interesting to note that alBukhr does include the narrations of this narrator in his polemical treatise on fate against the Mutazilite known as Khalq Afl al-Ibd. This is because other than in the a, alBukhr did not stipulate such stringent conditions for including adth in his books. This example is sufficient to demonstrate that the presence of an illa facilitates the inclusion of the maximum number of adth which otherwise would have been hard for al-Tirmidh to include in his Sunan.

Regarding the different conditions stipulated by the scholars of adth in including adth in their collections, Goldziher writes:
[...] al-Tirmidh [...] chose the most practical point of view of all collectors. He accepts any tradition which is known to have served as proof or argument for a lawyer in legal practice, in other words, every sentence to which at any time reference had been made. If the authors of theses collections [i.e. the four Sunan s] were more liberal in their acceptance of adth s than the authors of the two Sas, they had at the same time a further task. It must not be thought that they registered the collected traditions as perfectly equal and indisputable material for Islamic law. At every step and no page of these collections is without thiswe find remarks, added by the collector to the adth cited, that in the isnd one or another of the informants was weak, that improbabilities or impossibilities occur in it in so far as the transmitters mentioned as contemporaries did not live at the same time or could not have been in touch with each other, etc.17

He further writes:

There is, however, an even more marked difference which they share among themselves in contrast to the two a s, in that their shur [conditions] show a greater liberality; not only as affects their judgement of the inner coherence of isnds but also in dividual informants (rijl) occurring in them. Without this liberality it would hardly have been possible to find traditional guidance for all points of legal practice, since as al-Baghaw

15 16

Al-Tirmidh, Sunan p. 368, adth 1183. Ibn ajar, Taqrb al-Tahdhb, ed. by Muaf Abd al-Qdir A (Karachi: Qadimi Kutub Khana, 1992), 1:737, entry 5066. Also see al-Tirmidh, Sunan, p. 123, adth 322 for further discussions on Amr. 17 Goldziher, Muslim Studies, p. 231.

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so rightly remarked, the largest part of the akm does not rest on entirely soundadths, but also uses beautiful adth s, i.e. at best those of second class.18

What Goldiziher is trying to say above is that a major bulk of the textual evidence for legal positions is problematic. The only way al-Tirmidh could include these adth in his Sunan was if he showed what these problems were. By showing the problem (illa ) in the adth included in the Sunan, it functions as a disclaimer against charges of including weak and defected adth. Hence, in my opinion the employment of ilal serves as the methodological device which enables al-Tirmidh to include the maximum number of adth whilst remaining within the parameters of acceptable scholarship.

The Meaning of Ilal


Illa is a technical term to mean a specific type of defect in adth that is not apparent at first sight and is harder to detect. It is harder to detect because illa is a quality that is found in the sound (a) adth and since the status quo upholds that a reliable narrator produces and transmits reliable work, mistakes in his work are not the rule but the exception. On the other hand, the problem in a weak (af) adth is open for all to see and therefore can easily be detected. Contrary to the weak adth, the illa takes refuge under the protective shelter of the sound adth therefore goes unnoticed. It is apparent that the concept of ilal was invented to identify and diagnose the exceptions in sound adth. 19 One of the main ways of detecting hidden problems in a adth is to gather all its different narrations and scrutinize them one by one. This type of exercise will show up any anomaly. Al-Bukhrs teacher, Al b. Madn (d. 234/849) says, If the lines of transmission of the adth in a topic are not gathered, its error will not become apparent. 20 It should be noted here that the definition of ilal presented above mostly remains in theory, as we shall show. Although the term ilal had been given a specific technical meaning, in practice every type of problem in the chain of narration and text is given the blanket term illa. Al-Asqaln (d. 852/1448) writes, Weakness in a narrator, non-continuity of the isnd, the anana (use of the preposition an in narrating) of a person who misrepresents adth ( mudallis) and the lack of information regarding the life and career of a narrator are all seen as ilal in adth. 21 There are many reasons why defects occur in a adth : one might be the lack of accuracy in narrating such as in the case of a narrator called Shark b. Abd Allh. Shark lost touch with narrating adth when he was made a judge of Kufa. His position as a judge apparently kept him so busy with everyday mundane problems that he did not get any time to practice narrating adth. As a result of this, when he did narrate adth he made mistakes. 22 Another
18 19

Ibid., p. 230. Al-kim, MarifatUlm al-adth, ed. by al-Sayyid Muaam usayn, (Haydarabad: Majlis Dirat alMarif al-Uthmniyya, 1966), p.140. 20 Quoted by Ibn al-al, in Ulm al-adth, Ulm al-adth, ed. by Nr al-Dn Itr, (Damascus: Dr al-Fikr, 1998), p.91. 21 Ibn ajar, al-Nukat al Ibn al-al, ed. by Rab b. Hd Umayr, (Riyadh: Dr al-Rya, 1996),1:407. 22 Ibn Rajab, Shar Ilal al-Tirmidh, (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 2002), p. 44.

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narrator from Egypt, Abd Allh b. Laha started to narrate inaccurately when his books got burnt and he started to narrate from memory. In the above-mentioned usage of the word illa its usage extends to all kind of defects that are found in the text or chain of narrators. This gives rise to seven logical possibilities: (1) the defect found in the chain that does not impugn the chain or the text; (2) the defect in the chain causes problems in the in itself but not in the text; (3) the defect causes problems in both of them; (4) the defect found in the text but does not cause any problems in the chain or the text; (5) the defect in the text causes problems in both of them. There are two more logical possibilities that are not found in practice: (6) the defect in the chain does not cause any problems in the chain but causes problems in the text and (7) the defect in the text causes problems in the text but not the chain. These two possibilities have no practical application in the real world because any form of defect that impugns the text is a result of a problem in the chain. Jonathan Brown writes, A flawed meaning was a symptom of problems in the isnd and not the disease itself.23 We will provide, randomly, examples of a few of the above mentioned ilal to make easier understanding. An example of the second possibility where the illa in an chain affects the chain only and not the text can be seen in the following adth :
Yal b. Ubayd al-anfas [who narrates] from (an ) - Sufyn al-Thawr from Amr b. Dnr from Ibn Umar that the Prophet said the buyer and seller are at liberty...24

The chain of narrators of this adth is perfect because it is continuous (i.e. the narrator in front is a student of the previous narrator) and all the narrators are reliable and trustworthy. Al-Asqaln says, Yal (d. 207/822) is a reliable narrator, with the exception of the adth that he narrates from Sufyn al-Thawr where he is soft [layyin, i.e. non-scrupulous];25 Sufyn al-Thawr (d. 161/777) is a reliable adth narrator and a jurist;26 Amr b. Dnr (d. 126/743) is reliable and trustworthy.27 Although all the narrators are authentic, by comparing the narrations of other students of al-Thawr who are equal to Yal in probity and erudition such as al-Fal b. Dukayn, Muammad b. Ysuf al-Firyb and Makhlad b. Yazd, it can be seen that all of them narrate this adth from Abd Allh b. Dnr and not Amr b. Dnr. Hence, by comparison the defect is detected and Yal is to be blamed for this mistake. This is why despite Yala being a reliable narrator, Al-Asqalan is quick to criticize him when it comes to narrating from al-Thawr. However, this minor slip of the tongue (or pen) does not have any drastic effect on the text of the adth because by comparison it has been found that Yal did not make a mistake in the text. An example where ilal in the chain has an effect on both the chain and the text can be seen in a adth recorded by al-Tirmidh. The Companion Wil b. ujr says, He heard the Prophet [read in prayer] and not the path of those whom earn your anger [the last verse of the
23

Jonathan Brown, How We Know Early adth Critics did Matan Criticism and Why its so Hard to Find, p. 173. 24 Al-kim, Marifat Ulm al-adth, p. 80; al-Suy, Tadrb al-Rw , ed. by al Uwaya, (Beirut: Dr al Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1996), p. 136. 25 Ibn ajar, Taqrb, 2:341, entry 7873. 26 Ibid., 1:371 27 Ibid., 1:734

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opening chapter of the Qurn] and then said the mn in a loud voice. 28 A l-Tirmidh narrates two different versions of this adth side by side and attempts to prove that the second version is wrong because of a defect in the chain of narrators which has also modified the content of the adth. A more detailed analysis of this adth, text and chain, will be carried out shortly. An example of when the illa in a text affects both the text and the chain is found in a adth recorded in a Muslim which explicitly says that the Prophet and the three caliphs after him did not read the basmala (reading of bism Allh al-Ramn al-Rhm) in prayer before commencing the recitation of the opening [sra] nor after it. 29 Commenting on this adth, Ibn al-al remarks that some scholars have found this adth to be problematic because it is based on incorrect inference. Every other version of this adth, as well as other adth on the same subject, mention that the Prophet and the three caliphs after him initiated the recitation in prayer with the opening chapter of the Qurn and the topic of recitation of the basmala is not the point that is being discussed. However, one of the narrators must have inferred from this that reciting the basmala was not a practice of the Prophet or the three caliphs after him since there is no mention of it in all the versions of the adth. Ibn al-al (d. 643/1245) says that based on this incorrect inference the topic was about reciting the ftia and not the basmala - the narrator paraphrased the adth and narrated it as he understood it, i.e. the absence of any mention of the basmala means that it was not practiced, therefore he narrated it as The Prophet and the three caliphs after him initiated the recitation in the prayer with the ftia and they did not read the basmala. The problem was detected by comparing the texts of the different narrations as well as looking at other adth on the subject. It was found that this version did not tally with the others, hence although its chain of narrators is sound, 30 it has not been accepted as a reference for practice by the scholars of adth. 31 Books on Ilal The first to have written on the subject is al-Bukhrs teacher Al b. Al-Madn (Kitb alIlal ). He was then followed by Ibn anbal (d. 241/855) ( al-Ilal wa Marifat al-Rijl), Yaqb b. Shayba (d. 262/875) (al-Musand al-Kabr al-Ilal), al-Tirmidh (al-Ilal al-Kabr), al-Bazzr (d. 292/904-5) (al-Ilalal-Wrida), Ibn Ab tim al-Rz (d. 327/938) (Ilal al-adth), 32 and finally the most rigorous of all critics al-Draqutn (d. 385/995) (Ilal al-Daraqun). Brown and before him Albert Noth found that adth that occur in the early ilal books also emerge in the later genre of adth known as mawt (fabricated). Noth puts forward the suggestion that by analyzing the books of mawt Muslim and Western-trained academics

28 29

Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, p. 99, , 248. Muslim b. Al-ajjj, a Muslim,with al-Nawawscommentary on the side note, lithographic print, (Deoband: Dr al-Ishat al-Islmiyya, [n.d.]) 1:172. 30 We have already made reference to the point that a major problem in the matan is a symptom of a problem in the isnd. 31 Ibn al-al, Ulm al-adth, p. 92. 32 See Eerik Dickenson, The Development of Early Sunnite adth Criticism, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2001), for a discussion of this book, p. 30.

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maybe able to arrive at a common ground in their adth studies. 33 Brown found that comparing the adth in the ilal books with that of the mawt gives us a window into how early adth scholars did text criticism. 34 Al-Tirmidhs main contribution on ilal is found in the Sunan. Other than this al-Tirmidh has two books featuring the word ilal : Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr and Kitb al-Ilal al-Kabr. Kitbal-Ilal al-aghr is a little tract which is appended by al-Tirmidh to the end of the Sunan and is not an independent monograph as such. It has been published as a monograph accompanied by a commentary by Ibn Rajab al-anbal. The Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr is not a book on ilal in the real sense. On the contrary, al-Tirmidh discusses in it some aspects of adth nomenclature such as the different types of audition, reception and transmission of adth. He gives answers to allegations leveled against the adth scholars by fs and rationalists that rijl criticism is an example of prohibited back-biting. 35 He also gives his opinions on the old debates about the permissibility and impermissibility of writing of adth and transmitting it by paraphrasing (riwya bi al-man). 36 Finally, he talks about why and how he compiled the Sunan and touches on some technical terms that he uses in it. One thing that can be understood from the Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr is that al-Tirmidh was the first one to arrange discussions onilal in the way that he has in the Sunan i.e. topically. Prior to him all discussions on ilal were arranged according to the narrators not the topic. 37 In this tract, alTirmidh also alludes to another one of his writings in which he discusses points of ilal and law in depth; he calls this book al-Mawqft and its main concern in to include non-Prophetic adth. 38 It seems that the book is lost and we have not seen a manuscript registered anywhere under this name by al-Tirmidh. It also seems that Ibn Rajab has not even seen this book and just takes al-Tirmidhs word for it. 39 Despite being an independent work, the Kitb al-Ilal al-Kabr is closely related to the Sunan. In fact, al-Tirmidh expands in it points of ilal that he vaguely touches in the Sunan. Therefore any serious study of the Sunan will remain incomplete without the help of this book. Saying this, it is unfortunate that al-Tirmidhs original has not come down to us and is lost. What we have in print is an edited version, edited by a sixth/twelfth century scholar Ab lib al-Q (d. 585/1189). The qd decided to arrange the book according to subject matter
33

Albert Noth, Common Features of Muslim and Western adth Criticism: Ibn al-Jawzs Categories of adth Forgers, in adth: The Formation of the Islamic World Series edited by Harald Motzki, (Wiltshire: Ashgate Varioum, 2004) pp. 209-216. 34 See Jonathan Brown, How We Know Early adth Critics Did Matan Criticism. For a more exhaustive list of books on ilal see Brown, Critical Rigour vs Juridical Pragmatism: How Legal Theorists and adth Scholars Approached the Backgrowth of Isnds in the Genre of Ilal al-adth, Islamic Law and Society, (2007), pp.38-41. 35 See the article by Christopher Melchert for more on this subject, The Piety of the Hadith Folk, International Journal of Middle East Studies, (2002), pp. 42539; also see Ibn Rajab, Shar Ilal al-Tirmidh, p. 16. 36 For more information regarding this debate see the article by Paul Heck, The Epistemological Problem of Writing in Islamic Civilization: Al-Khatib al Baghdadis (d. 463/1071) Taqyid al-ilm, Studia Islamica, (2002) pp. 85114. 37 Ibn Rajab, Shar Ilal al-Tirmidh, p. 13 38 See the article by Jonathan brown for a good discussion on mawqf and marf adth, Brown, Critical Rigour vs Juridical Pragmatism: How Legal Theorists and adth Scholars Approached the Backgrowth of Isnds in the Genre of Ilal al-adth, Islamic Law and Society, (2007), pp. 1-41. 39 Ibn Rajab, Shar Ilal al-Tirmidh, p. 9.

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to correspond with the chapter titles of the Sunan. Al-Tirmidhs original, unlike the Sunan, was arranged by the names of narrators in alphabetical order in accordance with the typical literature in this genre, and hence was hard to maneuver through without the help of an index or an encyclopedic knowledge of adth narrators.

Al-Tirmidhs Use of Ilal


Employment of Ilal to prove his own Fiqh leaning We will now look at ilal from the perspective of what function it plays in the Sunan. We will not examine the concept of ilal in the way that classical scholars have done. Rather, we will look at it from the perspective of how it was used as a methodological device to include or exclude practice. Sometimes al-Tirmidh uses ilal to promote his own fiqh position. We have already vaguely alluded to the adth of the Prophet regarding reading the mn loudly in prayer. We will analyze this in detail here to show how al-Tirmidh makes the case for his view. Here is the full discussion from the Sunan, with the different components (shown in square parenthesis) of the text numbered for easy reading.
[1] Chapter: About what has been reported regarding the saying of mn [2] [Isnd version 1] [al-Tirmidh says] Bundr Muammad b. Bashshr has reported to u s [addathan] [who said that] Yay b. Sad and Abd al-Ramn b. Mahd reported to us that [both of them said that]- Sufyn al-Thawr reported to us from [an] Salama b. Kuhayl from ujr b. Anbas from Wil b. ujr who said: [3] [Matan version 1] I heard the Prophet recite and not the path of those whom earn your anger and not of those who have gone astray. [Wil says] He then said mn whilst raising his voice (madda bih awtah). [4] Ab s says, The adth of Wil is fair (asan ). [5] Many of the scholars from the Companions of the Prophet, the Followers and those who came after them hold the view that a person should raise his voice whilst saying the mn and he should not lower his voice. This is the opinion of al-Shfi, Amad and Isq. [6] [Isnd version 2] and Shuba [ibn al-ajjj] narrated this adth from Salama b. Kuhayl from ujr Ab al-Anbas from Alqama b. Wil from Wil b. ujr. [7] [matan version 2] that the Prophet recited and not the path of those who earn your anger and not of those who have gone astray and then said mn whilst lowering his voice (wa khafaa bih awtah ). [8] Ab Is says, I heard Muammad [al-Bukhr] say, The adth of Sufyn on this topic is more sound that of Shuba. Shuba has made mistakes in many parts of the adth 11

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such as: he said from ujr Ab al-Anbas whereas in reality it is ujr b. Anbas, who is known also by the paidonym Ab al-Sakan. He has also added Alqama b. Wil [in the isnd ], whereas it should not be from Alq ama. It is actually ujr b. Anbas from Wil b. ujr. Similarly he [Shuba] said and he lowered his voice instead of and he raised his voice.40 [9] Ab s says, I asked Ab Zura about this adth . He replied, The adth of Sufyn is more authentic than the adth of Shuba. [The version of] al-Al b. li al-Asad from Salama b. Kuhayl is the same as the adth of Sufyn. [10] Ab s says [isnd verion 3] Ab Bakar Muammad b. Abn Abd Allh b. Numayr al-Al b. li Salama b. Kuhayl ujr b. Anbas Wil b. ujr [11] [matan version 1] From the Prophet, similar to the adth of Sufyn from Salama b. Kuhyl.41

Now that we have presented al-Tirmidhs full discussion on this issue we will analyze it to see how al-Tirmidh makes his case. The nature of reciting amn in the prayer is a disputed issue amongst the legal schools of thought. As mentioned by al-Tirmidh (para. 5), al-Shf and Ibn anbal are of the view that the mn should be read out loud during the prayer. AlTirmidh, al-Bukhr and Ab Zura al-Rz (d. 264/878) seem also to submit to this view. In contrast, Ab anfa and the Iraqi school and Mlik from the ijz school are of the opinion that the mn should be read silently. Both parties utilize this adth to prove their point. Whilst al-Tirmidh and al-Sf use the version of Sufyn (isnd ver. 1, matan ver. 1 [para. 2-3]), the Iraqi school employ the version of Shuba (isnd ver. 2 and matan ver. 2 [para. 67]). It can be seen from the three narrations presented by al-Tirmidh that the common link in the isnd is Salama b. Kuhayl. Here, al-Tirmidh provides the narrations of three of Salamas students: Sufyn (isnd ver. 1, matan ver. 1), Shuba (isnd ver. 2 and matan ver. 2) and AlAl b. li ( isnd ver. 3, matan ver. 1 [para. 10, para. 3]).

40

These criticisms mentioned by al-Tirmidh from al-Bukhr are also found in the al-Trkh al-Kabr of alBukhr. See al-Bukhr, al-Trkh al-Kabr, (digital copy, Maktabat el-shamela) 3:73 41 Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, pp. 99-100, adth, 248; Kitb al-Ilal al-Kabr, with revision by Ab lib al-Q, ed. by Sub al-Smray, (Beirut: lam al-Kutub, 2008), pp. 68-69, adth , 98.

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Isnd version 1 Sufyn Salama ujr b. Anbas Wil b. ujr

Isnd version 2 Shuba Salama ujr b. Ab al-Anbas Alqama b. Wil Wil b. ujr

Isnd version 3 Al-Al b. li Salama ujr b. Anbas Wil b. ujr

Matan version 1

Matan version 2

Matan version 1

Table 1 : Comparison of the Three Isnds

Isnd version 1-cum-matan version 1 is presented by al-Tirmidh to prove his point. To further consolidate his view he presents isnd version 3-cum-matan version 1 as corroboration. Isnd version 2-cum- matan version 2 is put forward to refute the opposite view by showing that it has technical flaws in it. Al-Tirmidh finds three technical flaws, two in the isnd and one in the matan : 1. Inaccurate transmission. Shuba made a mistake in the name of ujr. He called him ujr Ab al-Anbas (the father of Anbas) whereas it should have been ujr b. Anbas (the son of Anbas). 2. Interpolation. Shuba has interjected the narrator Alqama between ujr and Wil, whereas isnd 1 and isnd 3 agree that there is no one between these two. 3. Defective wording of the text. It should read raised h i s voice ( madda) and not lowered his voice (khafaa) Looking at al-Tirmidhs analysis one can assume that he provided convincing evidence for proving his point of view. However, this is not the case. By cross-checking al-Tirmidhs criticisms we get a different picture. As for the first criticism that Shuba got ujrs name wrong, it can be seen in the books of Rijl that both the father and son of ujr are called Anbas, therefore to call ujr the son of Anbas or the father of Anbas is perfectly accurate. Even today it is a tradition to name the first born son after the name of the child's grandfather as a way of showing respect and deep love for the grandfather. Ibn ajar writes, ujr b. Anbas the adramite, Ab al-Anbas. He is also known as Ab al-Sakan al-Kf.42 Further proof is found in the Sunan of Ab Dawd who narrates through Sufyn (isnd version 1) from Salama from ujr Ab al-Anbas. 43 Ibn ibbn transmits isnd version two and instead of writing ujr Ab al-Anbas he writes ujr b. Anbas.44 It can be understood from the

42 43

Ibn ajar, Tahdhb al-Tahdhb, (digital copy, Maktabat el-Shamela), 2:188. Ab Dawd, Sunan, (Calcutta: Dr al-Ishat al-Islmiyya, [n.d.]), 1:134 44 Al-Haytham, Mawrid al-amn f a Ibn ibbn, (digital copy, Maktabat el-Shamela), p. 124, adth , 447.

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above that Ibn Anbas and Ab al-Anbas refers to the same person, ujr, hence both are used interchangeably. As for the second criticism that Shuba has interpolated the name Alqama between Wil and ujr, it is found in other versions of this narration that ujr heard this adth from both Alqama and his father Wil. Thus Ab Dwd al-aylis writes that Salama b. Kuhayl says, I heard ujr b. Anbas say: I heard Alqama who reports from Wil and I also heard from Wil (directly). 45 As for the third criticism that Shuba used defective wording in the text, it can be explained in such a way that it is reconciled with matan 2. The word madd can mean to raise the voice or it can mean to lengthen something. If the second meaning is taken it is possible to act upon both versions of the texts, the first by elongating the mn and the second by doing it quietly. As for isnd version 3, al-Al b. li is a very weak narrator, therefore his attestation of Sufyn is not accepted. 46 Surprisingly, Sufyn al-Thawr himself adheres to the Iraqi view that the mn should be recited quietly. From the above response given by the rival school of thought, it is apparent that the picture is not as black and white as al-Tirmidh wants us to believe. The only conclusion that can be reached is that through a very technical investigation of the adth and drawing on points of ilal, al-Tirmidh wants us to accept that his reading is correct. 47 Employment of Ilal to Show that a adth has not been Practiced We have mentioned elsewhere that for al-Tirmidh the practice (amal) of the people of adth takes precedence over the authentication of adth through its chain of narrators. The fact that a adth has not been practiced upon by anyone is for al-Tirmidh an illa which can be used to discard this adth although it has a perfectly fine chain of narrators. Al-Tirmidh writes:
Hannd48 Ab Muwiya49 Amash50 abb b. Ab Thbit51 Sad b. Jubayr52 Ibn Abbs who said that the Prophet combined the uhr and asr prayers and maghrib and ish prayers in Medina, [and the situation was that] there was no fear [of an enemy] nor was there any rain. Ibn Abbs was asked, What was his purpose [in combining the prayers without a valid reason]? He replied, He did not want to inconvenience his people.53

45 46

Ab Dawd al-aylis, Musnad, (digital copy, Maktabat el-Shamela), p. 138, adth , 1024. Al-Dhahab, Mzn al-Itidl, (digital copy: Maktabat el-Shamela), 3:101. 47 See Taq Uthmn, Taqrr e Tirmidh, , (Karachi: Memon Islamic Publishers, 1999), 1:521 for further details. 48 Hannd b. Sariyy, reliable (thiqa ), Ibn ajar, al-Taqrb, 2:270, entry 7346. 49 Muammad b. Khzim Ab Muwiya, reliable, most knowledgeable regarding the adth of Amash. Ibid., 2:70, entry 5859. 50 Sulaymn b. al-Mahrn al-Amash, reliable, f. Ibid., 1:392, entry 2623. 51 abb, reliable, was a great faqh. Ibid., 1:183, entry 1087. 52 Reliable, thabt , fi.Ibid., 1:349 entry 2285. 53 Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, pp. 79-80; Muslim, a, 1:246.

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It is evident from the above chain of narrators that it is unblemished and all the narrators are reliable. The adth has also been recorded by Muslim (d. 261/875) in his a, thus bolstering its authenticity. However, al-Tirmidh says this is one of the two adth in the Sunan that has not been acted upon by anyone hence it is rejected. It is rejected not on the basis of its chain, but on the basis that none have practiced it. Al-Tirmidh says:
All the adth in this book have been practiced and accepted by some of the people of knowledge with the exception of two adth : the adth of Ibn Abbs that the Prophet combined the uhr and ar prayer and maghrib and ish prayer in the absence of rain and fear [of an enemy] and the adth that the Prophet said whoever gets caught drinking a fourth time should be killed.54

Furthermore, in the same chapter (the chapter of combining two prayers whilst not travelling) immediately after the above mentioned adth, al-Tirmidh produces another adth in response to this one, although he acknowledges that it is weak. He writes:

Ab Salama Yay b. Khalaf al-Bar - al-Mutamar b. Sulaymn - his father ansh Ikrima Ibn Abb s from the Prophet who said, Whoever combines two prayers without a valid reason has committed a major sin. Ab s says, ansh is [also known as] Ab Al al-Rab [...] He is weak according the scholars of adth. Ibn anbal and others have classified him as weak. The practice of the people of knowledge is that prayers should not be combined other than in travels and on the plain of Arafa. Some scholars from the Followers [tbi] have permitted joining the prayer for an ill person. This is the opinion of Ibn anbal and Isq. Some of the people of knowledge have said that it is possible to combine the prayers during rain. This is the opinion of al-Shfi, Ibn anbal and Isq although alShfi does not consider it [permissible] to combine the prayer for the sick person.55

By al-Tirmidhs confession this adth is weak; however he adduces it as evidence to prove that it is more correct because the scholars based practice upon it. He produces the opinions of Ibn anbal, Isq and al-Shfi to give the reading for the word udhr (valid reason). Valid reason has been identified by the scholars as travelling, heavy rain and sickness, and as long as these reasons exist it is permissible to combine the prayer or else it will be an act of major sin. It will be an act of major sin because the Qurn says, The prayer is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours (times). 56 By combining the prayers one is going against the dictates of this Qurnic injunction. However, the scholars decision to combine the prayers was a result of their observation of myriad adth reports in which the Prophet has been reported to combine prayers in one of the above three situations. From this the scholars derived that these
54 55

Al-Tirmidh, Kitb al-Ilal al-aghr, p. 1070. Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, p. 80. 56 Qurn, srat al-Nis , 4:103.

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three situations (rain, travelling and sickness) are valid shar reasons and come under the category of necessity (arra ). By employing the principle al-arra tub al-madhrt (necessity permits the forbidden) they modified (taqyd ) the general (mulaq ) injunction of the Qurn. Here we have a clear example of practice dictating the acceptance of adth, and in the situation where there is a clash between practice and text, practice takes precedence. In other words, the absence of practice is an illa in itself. Employment of Ilal to Establish the Normative Value of a adth Sometimes a l-Tirmidh employs ilal to establish the value of a adth. In other words, although the adth has been established through practice, the intensity of the practice is decided by the strength of the isnd. Thus, we can say that there is a circular relationship between practice and the chain. The example presented below is an interesting one because it challenges the authenticity of a adth found in the a al-Bukhr. The adth is as follows:
Abd Allh b. Masd says, The Prophet went out to answer the call of nature. He said to me Find me three stones. I brought him two stones and [a hardened] dropping [of a goat]. He took the stone and threw the dropping away saying, It is filth.57

Before commencing on an analysis of this adth we will present the different opinions of the legal schools regarding the number of stones (toilet paper in modern times) needed to clean oneself after answering the call of nature. Ab anfa is of the opinion that there is no fixed number of stones that one has to use and any number is sufficient as long as it does the job. The adth quoted above is the proof of the anaf madhhab. Al-Shfi, Ibn anbal and Mlik are of the opinion that a minimum of three stones is obligatory. They base their opinion on a adth that al-Tirmidh narrates prior to this one. In this adth the Companion Salmn al-Fars is reported to have said that the Prophet forbade the use of less than three stones for cleaning oneself. Al-Tirmidh judges this adth to be fair sound (asan a). 58 As we have already noted, the adth of Ibn Masd is found in the a al-Bukhr and therefore commands the highest degree of authority, according to Sunn Muslim scholarship. However, through a confusing labyrinth of isnd analysis al-Tirmidh manages to show the illa of the adth, thus weakening it. The consequences of this are two-fold: since the adth has been shown to be defective therefore, to practice upon it is rendered weaker than the previous adth which is a. This then is seen as a rejection of the anaf position. It can be argued by the anafs that this is a adth of al-Bukhr and therefore is on the highest level of authenticity. Al-Tirmidh answers this by saying that al-Bukhr got it wrong and when coaxed regarding this adth would not give a clear answer. This implies that alBukhr included a adth in the a which if not weak then at least, falls below his usual
57 58

Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, p. 24, ,, 17; Kitb al-Ilal al-Kabr, p. 27-29, , 11; al-Bukhr, a, 1:336, , 156. Ibid., p. 24.

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standards. We produce the whole discussion of al-Tirmidh here and then analyze it. AlTirmidh writes:
[1] The chapter of what has been reported regarding the use of two stones in cleansing after relieving oneself. [2][Isnd 1] Hannd and Qutayba Wak Isrl59 Ab Isq60 Ab Ubayda61 from Abd Allh b. Masd [3] The Prophet went out to answer the call of nature. He said to me Find me three stones. I brought him two stones and [a hardened] dropping [of a goat]. He took the stone and threw the dropping away saying It is filth. [4] [Isnd 2] Ab s says: Qays b. al-Rab62 has also narrated this adth from Ab Isq in the same manner from Ab Ubayda from Abd Allh, like the adth of Isrl. [5] [Isnd 3 and 4] Mamar and Ammr b. Zurayq narrated [this adth] from Ab Isq from Alqama from Abd Allh. [6] [Isnd 5] Zuhayr63 narrated [this adth] from Ab Isq from Abd al-Ramn b. alAswad from his father, al-Aswad b. Yazd from Abd Allh. [7] [Isnd 6] Zakariyy b. Ab Zida narrated [this adth ] from Ab Isq from Abd alRamn b. Yazd from al-Aswad b. Yazd from Abd Allh. [8] This adth has disruption (iirb ) in it. [9] Muammad b. Bashshr al-Abdar Muammad b. Jafar Shuba Amr b. Murra who said I asked Ab Ubayda if he remembered any [adth ] from Abd Allh. He replied no. [10] Ab s says, I asked Abd Allh b. Abd al-Ramn [al-Daram] regarding which narration from Ab Isq is the most authentic. He did not say anything decisive. [11] I asked Muammad [al-Bukhr] regarding this. However, he did not say anything decisive, although he considers the version of Zuhayr [...] to be the most appropriate since he has included it in the book al-Jmi [a al-Bukhr].

59

Isrl b. Ynus b. Ab Isq al-Sab, trustworthy, people have said things about him without any proof. Ibn ajar, Taqrb, 1:88, entry 402. 60 Amr b. Abd Allh Ab Isq al-Sab, trustworthy pious, became confused during the later part of his life. Ibid., 1:739, entry 5081. 61 Ab Ubayda, Kufan, trustworthy, the dominant view is that he has not heard [any adth ] from his father. Ibid., 2:432, entry 8264. 62 Qays b. al-Rab al-Asad Ab Muammad al-Kf, honest (adq) [his memory] changed when he became old. His son interjected many adth into his collections which were not his and he (Qays) transmitted those [thinking that they were his adth]. Ibid., 2: 33, entry 5590. 63 Zuhayr b. Muwiya b. Khadj Ab Khaythama al-Juaf, trustworthy, reliable. However, he heard adth from Ab Isq in the later days of the latters life. Ibid., 1:317, entry 2056.

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[12] Ab s says The most accurate [narration] in my opinion is the adth of Isrl and Qays from Ab Ubayda from Abd Allh because Isrl is more knowledgeable and competent regarding the adth of Ab Isq than the rest of Ab Isqs students and Qays b. al-Rab has narrated a parallel narration (tbaa). [13] Ab s says I heard Ab Ms Muammad b. al-Muthann say, I heard Abd alRamn b. al-Mahd saying None of the adth of Ab isq that I missed hearing from Sufyn al-Thawr, have I [actually] missed, when I relied on Isrl because he was [able] to reproduce them in their entirety. [14] Ab s says Zuhayr [is not as strong in the adth ] of Ab Isq because his hearing [of adth from Ab Isq] was at the end [of Ab Isqs life]. I heard Amad b. al-asan al-Tirmidh say that I heard Amad b. al-anbal say, When you hear any adth from Zida and Zuhayr then do not bother to hear them from anyone else, except those adth that [both of them] narrated from Ab Isq. [15] Ab Isq is called Amr b. Abd Allh al-Sab al-Hamdn. [16] Ab Ubayda the son of Abd Allh b. Masd has not heard any [adth ] from his father and his name is not known.64

Analysis of al-Tirmidhs Discussion In paragraph eight above, al-Tirmidh says that this adth has iirb (disruption) in it. Out of the many forms of disruption, the one that we are dealing with here is when only a few narrators narrate a adth from a teacher and they all differ from each other in the isnd. This causes a defect in the adth since disruption indicates that a adth has not been preserved properly hence rendering it weak. 65 The disruption in this adth occurs because the students of the Ab Isq (who is the common-link in the chain) cannot agree who Ab Isq heard the adth from and how many people are between Ab Isq and Ibn Masd. The narrations of Isrl (isnd v. 1), Qays (isnd v. 2), Mamar (isnd v. 3) and Ammr (isnd v. 4) have only one link between Ab Ubayda and Ibn Masd whereas the narrations of Zuhayr (isnd v. 5) and Zakariy (isnd v. 6) have two people between them. Al-Tirmidh is of the opinion that the narration of Isrl (isnd v.1) is the most accurate. He believes this to be the case because in his opinion Isrl is the most acute and accurate narrator of Ab Isqs adth [para. 12]. Al-Tirmidh attempts to justify his opinion by quoting Abd al-Ramn b. al-Mahd (d. 198/814), al-Bukhrs teacher and an expert in recognizing the defects in adth [para. 13]. Ibn al-Mahd makes a comparison between Sufyn al-Thawr (one of the most reliable students of Ab Isq) 66 and Isrl and consoles himself by saying that any adth of Ab Isq that he did not hear from al-Thawr were made up for because he heard them all from Isrl who was able to recall them better than al64 65

Al-Tirmidh, Sunan, p. 24. Ibn al-al, Ulm al-adth, p. 94. 66 Ibn Rajab, Shar Ilal al-Tirmidh, p. 210.

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Thawr. By quoting Ibn al-Mahd here, al-Tirmidh obviously wants to presents Isrl as better than al-Thawr. Although al-Tirmidh does not mention anything here, it seems that he is following the opinion of his teacher Ab Zura al-Rz who believes also that Isrl is the most accurate transmitter of Ab Isqs adth. We say this because al-Tirmidh discusses this issue with his teacher al-Daram (para. 10) and al-Bukhr (para. 11) but neither of them give him a conclusive answer. He then gives his own opinion on this issue (para. 12). By checking the opinions of Ab Zura al-Rz collected by Ibn Ab tim al-Rz in Kitb alIlal, we find that Ibn Ab tim says that he heard Ab Zura saying The most correct [narration] in my opinion is the narration of Ab Ubayda which Isrl narrates from Ab Isq from Ab Ubayda, and Isrl is the most accurate of them all [in the adth of Ab Isq]. 67 Al-Tirmidh tells us why he prefers the version of Isrl over the isnds of the other students of Ab Isq. He says that Zuhayr heard from Ab Isq during the later part of Ab Isqs life. During this time, Ab Isqs mind became feeble and weak and he started to forget things (par. 14). Al-Tirmidh relies on the judgement of Ibn anbal to prove his point (para. 14). As for the other students of Ab Isq, they are not on the same level of erudition as Zuhayr and Isrl. Another reason why al-Tirmidh prefers the version of Isrl over the rest is because Qays b. al-Rab has corroborated his version by narrating the exact chain to Ibn Masd (isnd v. 2). Finally, another possible reason for al-Tirmidhs preference maybe that Isrl is the grandson of Ab Isq and it is not uncommon for family members who are all in the same trade to excel in knowledge about their elder family members. The following figure 2 is a diagrammatic representation of the different isnd-strands of the adth of Abd Allh b. Masd. It can be seen from the diagram that there is a link missing between Ab Ubayda and Ibn Masd, hence the chain is broken. Al-Tirmidh prefers this narration over any other as he believes that it is historically the most accurate.

67

Ibn Ab im, Ilal Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, (digital copy, Maktabat el-Shamela), 1:42.

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Figure 2: Isnd of the adth of Abd Allh b. Masd

One may ask, What is the purpose of such intense isnd analysis, and what does al-Tirmidh want to prove from this? We believe that what al-Tirmidh tries to establish here is that the most historically correct narration is weak and defected ( isnd v. 1) due to a missing link between Ab Ubayda and Abd Allh b. Masd and that the narration that al-Bukhr included in the a does not have the strongest chain (isnd v. 5). Al-Tirmidh finds flaws in the most correct narration because in it we find Ab Isq narrating from Ab Ubayda from Ibn Masd. The problem with this is that Ab Ubayda does not remember hearing any adth from his father Ibn Masd (para. 9 and 16) who died when Ab Ubayda was seven years old. 68 This then renders the chain of the narration broken i.e. there is a missing link in the chain and a chain with a broken link is weak. adth are judged by their most correct and authentic chain whereas the chains are judged by their weakest narrators. The most correct chain of this adth is broken, hence the adth is weak. This questions how far al-Bukhr adhered to the critical standards that he has stipulated in his a. 69 Most important, this adth is weaker than the previous adth where the Prophet commands the use of a minimum of three stones. In this long winded-way, al-Tirmidh simply tries to establish his legal

68 69

Al-Mizz, Tahdhb al-Kaml, (digital copy, Maktabat el-Shamela), 14:62, entry 3051. For a discussion on this see Brown, Criticisms of the Proto-Hadith Canon: al-Draqunns Adjustment of the aayn, Journal of Islamic Studies, (2004), pp. 1-37.

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Muhammad Mansur Ali

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opinion in the issue and to reject the anaf view. This was only possible because he used ilal as a methodological tool to include or exclude practice. 70 Conclusion

In conclusion, we can say that al-Tirmidh purposely lowered his standards so that he was able to include defective adth in the Sunan. However, by pointing out the defecst in adth, he tells his readers that he was aware of them. The one question that comes to mind is, Why would al-Tirmidh be happy to include defective adth in his book? Is it not the aspiration of all authors to include only authentic materials in their works? 71 The answer to this is that al-Tirmidh was using the defective adth to his advantage. The ilal functioned a s a hermeneutical tool in manipulating the boundaries of adth to conform to the practice of the scholars of adth. It is a common trait of adth scholars to foist their own views without saying too much. Al-Tirmidhs teacher al-Bukhr read into adth by employing chapter headings. These chapter headings served more as a hermeneutical device to interpret adth according to his understanding than t itles for the beginning of new chapters. This later became an independent study in adth science known as fiqh al-Bukhar f arjimih (the jurisprudence of al-Bukhr in his chapter headings). 72 In this article I have presented yet one more example of how traditional scholars of adth displayed a level of ingenuity even though they are only working with names and dates.

70

It should be mentioned here that all the scholars that came post Ibn al-al defended al-Bukhrs position by showing that in reality al-Bukhrs isnd is the strongest. Al-Bukhrs isnd (al-Tirmidhs isnd v. 5) is as follows: Ab Nuaym Zuhayr Ab Isq who said it was not Ab Ubayda who mentioned this adth to me but Abd al-Ramn b. al-Aswad from his father who reported Abd Allh b. Masd saying [...]. Second isnd: Ibrhm b. Ysuf from his father from Ab Isq who said Abd al-Ramn reported to me (addathan )[...]. al-Tirmidh is also aware of this isnd and quotes it in his Kitb al-Ilalal-Kabr (op. cit.). Ibn ajar says that this isnd strand is more superior than that of al-Tirmidh because in this isnd Ab Isq acknowledges that he also heard this adth from Ab Ubayda, whereas in al-Tirmidhs isnd there is no mention that Ab Isq heard from Abd al-Ramn. Also in this isnd, Zuhayrs narration has been attested by Ysuf b. Isq, a grandson of Ab Isq al-Sab. See Ibn ajar al-Asqaln, Hady al-Sr Muqaddima Fat al-Br , (Riyad: Darusslam Publications, 1997), pp. 508-10. 71 Unless the focus of the collection is to just include defected adth for the sake of letting others know that they are defected, such as the Mawt of Ibn al-Jawz and al-uaf of Ibn Ad. 72 See the article by Vardit Tokatly, The Alm al-adth of al-Khab: A Commentary on al-Bukhrs a or a Polemical Treatise? Studia Islamica, 92,(2001), pp. 53-91, for a discussion on the chapter headings of alBukhr.

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