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On the Common-Link Theory

Fahad A. Alhomoudi

The faeulty of arts

Institute of Islamie Studies

MeGili University
Montreal, Quebee, Canada
Oetober, 4, 2006
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of
Doetor of Philosophy
©Copyright 2006 Ali rights reserved.

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The Common-Link Theory, invented by Joseph Schacht and widely accepted in

modern sCholarship, argues that l}adith authorities knowingly and purposefully

placed traditions in circulation with little care to support these l}adiths with

satisfactory isnaœ. G. H. A. Juynboll, Michael Cook and other Schachtians

subsequently embraced and elaborated upon this theory. This dissertation

challenges the accuracy of Schacht's founding theory.

The first chapter traces back and elucidates the formation of Schacht's

Common-Link Theory, demonstrating how it is related to his other theories. The

second chapter examines the responses to Schacht's theory, arguing that its

proponents do no more th an either expand upon it, or apply it to other fields of

Islamic studies. The third chapter employs a critical technique in examining the

evidence cited by Schacht and Juynboll, which not only shows the theory's

deficiency, but also confirms its flawed nature by the very evidence they use.

Two other critical approaches are demonstrated in the fourth chapter. The first

rests on an analysis of relevant terms and rules employed by mu/;laddiths, thereby

offering a workable alternative to Schacht's faulty hypothesis. The second

demonstrates the flaws of Schacht's methodology through a synthesis of multiple

critiques developed here as weil as by other scholars. The last chapter elucidates

how Sehaeht's other theories would eollapse as a result of the faultiness of the

Common-Link Theory.

Beeause of the intereonneetedness of Sehaeht's many theses about 1;adJth and

Islamie law, the findings of this dissertation will not only challenge the signifieant

Common-Link Theory in legal1;adJth studies, but will, perforee, also open the

door for seholars to question other important theories held by Sehaeht and his

followers with regard to larger issues in Islamie legal history.


Dans sa théorie du common-link (lien commun), Joseph Schacht soutient que les

compilateurs de hadith faisant autorité ont sciemment et délibérément propagé

des traditions dont l'excellence des chaînes de transmission pouvait être mise en

doute. Ce point de vue a subséquemment trouvé de nombreux adhérents parmi

les orientalistes. G. H. A. Juynboll, Michael Cook et d'autres ont épousé les vues

de Schacht et ont su en tirer d'autres applications. Dans la présente thèse, nous

contestons la justesse de la théorie de Schacht.

Dans le premier chapitre, nous retraçons et élucidons la manière dont la

théorie du common-/ink de Schacht s'est formée, en démontrant comment celle-

ci s'articule avec les autres théories de Schacht. Nous examinons ensuite dans

le deuxième chapitre comment la thèse de Schacht a été reçue; nous

découvrons que certains de ses adeptes ont simplement développé les idées

d'une théorie en fait inexploitable, et que d'autres les ont bonnement reprises et

appliquées à des domaines différents des études islamiques. Dans le troisième

chapitre, nous critiquons la théorie du common-/ink en utilisant une technique qui

consiste à retourner les preuves avancées par Schacht et Juynboll contre elles-

mêmes, montrant et confirmant dans le même jet leur faiblesse et leurs défauts.

Nous faisons la démonstration de deux autres approches critiques dans le

quatrième chapitre. La première repose sur une analyse des notions et des

règles pertinentes employées par les muhaddiths, introduisant ainsi une autre

solution à J'hypothèse erronée de Schacht. La deuxième approche fait la

démonstration des points faibles de la méthodologie de Schacht en récapitulant

une série des points critiques que nous et d'autres chercheurs ont fait valoir.

Enfin, dans le dernier chapitre, nous expliquons comment la fausseté de la

théorie du common-link a pour conséquence de faire s'écrouler les autres

théories de Schacht.

En raison de l'interdépendance des diverses thèses de Schacht se

rapportant aux hadith et au droit islamique, nos conclusions mettent non

seulement en doute l'importante théorie du common-link dans l'étude des hadith

à portée juridique, mais aussi elles ouvrent la porte aux chercheurs de

questionner d'autres influentes théories soutenues par Schacht et ses adeptes

concernant des sujets plus larges de l'histoire du droit islamique.


First, 1 would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my advisor and thesis supervisor,
Professor Wael B. Hallaq, who provided much intellectual stimulation and guidance in
choosing my research topic and refming my approach and methodology. His precious
comments were invaluable in helping the work reach its fmal presentable form. A vital
skill that 1 learned from him was how to address the challenge oftaking on multiple
responsibilities at one and the same time. Besides my courses and thesis work, he
trained me as his teaching assistant, then as a lecturer at McGill, aIl the while
supervising other research projects that 1 undertook during my stay at McGill. Above
and beyond the level of academic concems, Professor Hallaq was exceedingly kind and
helpful, to an extent that made me feel as ifI, along with my fellow students working
under him, was part of one family. His support never wavered, and his help extended
beyond the academic.
1 would also like to thank the faculty members of the Institute ofIslamic Studies,
especially Professor Eric Ormsby, who taught me Islamic philosophy and mysticism;
Professor Üner Turgay, from whom 1 have learned much about modem developments in
the Muslim world, and who supported me during his tenure as Director of the Institute;
Professor Adam Gacek, who taught me how to painstakingly read and edit manuscripts;
Professor Michelle Hartman for providing me with many tips on teaching techniques
while 1 was her Teaching Assistant; and the CUITent direct or of the Institute, Professor
Robert Wisnovsky, for his support and advice.
My thanks extend also to the entire staff of the Institute, especially Dawn
Richard, who told me on the first day 1 arrived in Montreal that 1 had a Canadian
mother; and Ann Yaxley for always 100 king out for me and doing everything possible to
make the courses that 1 took or taught run smoothly and on schedule. AIso, 1 would like
to thank Kirsty Mckinnon and Sandra Ewart for their very much appreciated and never-
ending moral support. 1 also thank the staff of the Islamic Studies Library especially
Salwa Ferahian and Wayne St. Thomas, for their patient and unfailing assistance in
locating library materials, providing research guidance and for their constant smiles and

During my stay in Montreal, 1 met a great many friends who made me feel at
home. 1 cannot list them aH, but 1 would at least like to mention Charles Fletcher and
Simon Staszewski. Few words can describe my debt to Steve Millier who meticulously
edited my dissertation. My thanks extend likewise to Gregory Mack and Natalie
Komitsky for editing the first draft of my thesis, and to Heather Empey for proof-
reading the last draft. 1 am especially grateful to Gregory for his dedication and
1 would also like to express my deepest thanks to Muhamad Aisalim, the
principal ofImam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, and his vice-principal
Muhammad AIruwbaiya for their unfailing support. My thanks likewise go to Ghazi
Makki, Ahmad Mitwalli, Yahya Khazraji, and Nuha Nasser at the Saudi Cultural
Bureau, for their unfailing cooperation.
And, if the last paragraph is usuaHy reserved for expressing the greatest debt and
the highest gratitude, then it is most appropriate for me to end by mentioning the love
and endless support and guidance of my parents. Great thanks are also reserved for my
support ive brothers and sisters, especially Khalid, for his continuous encouragement and
support. Finally, the understanding and compassion of my wife Sara provided me with
the most significant source of support throughout my graduate study.


This work is dedicated to my parents, Abdulrahman and Sara.

'Li.r6 ô~ ÙA lS..)I~1 ~I fo. ~1.l:.9WI ~ y..1
.y.J.:J/ ~~f w~~\:iS ÙA t""t:ill y41l.)

ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................... ii

ABRÉGÉ ..............................................................................................................................iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................... v

DEDICATION .....................................................................................................................vii

TABLE OF CONTENTS ...................................................................................................... x

LIST OF DIAGRAMS ..........................................................................................................xii

LIST OF TRANSLITERATION ..........................................................................................xiii

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ...............................................................................................xiv

Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 1

Chapter 1: The Formation and Development of the Common-Link Theory ........................ 5

Chapter 2: On the Interpretations of the Common-Link Theory ..................................... '" 19

The Proponents' Approach ........................................................................................... 19

The Opponents' Approach ............................................................................................ 45

1. Western Critics: .................................................................................................... 46

2. Lost in Translation: ............................................................................................... 50

3. Arab Critics: .......................................................................................................... 54

Chapter 3: Examining the Evidence of the Common-Link Theory .................................... 61

Evidence Presented by Schacht ...................................................................................61

Evidence Presented by Juynboll. .................................................................................. 69

Chapter 4: Traditionists' Articulation of the Common-Link and Schacht's Misconception

of their Scholarship ......................................................................................... 92

Traditionists on the Common-Link Phenomenon ......................................................... 92

1. The 'Meaning of Sunna ......................................................................................... 93

2. The different between sound and unsound iJadith ................................................ 97

3. The Meaning of Tafarrud ...................................................................................... 99

4. Practical Cases of Tafarrud ................................................................................ 118

Criticizing Schacht's Interpretation of the Common-Link Phenomenon ..................... 125

1. Unfamiliarity with RijiilWorks (Biographical Literature) ...................................... 127

2. Misapprehending Mu~.talafJ. al-lfadith (lfadith Terminology) ................................ 131

3. Distinction between Matn and Isniid.................................................................... 133

4. Flaws in Schacht's Methodology - Critical Analysis Gone Awry ........................ 139

Chapter 5: Ramifications of Schacht's Misconception .................................................... 148

1. The Theory of Backward-Growth of Isniid............................................................... 148

2. Family-IsniidTheory ................................................................................................ 151

3. Dating the Tradition ................................................................................................. 154

CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................. 159

APPENDICES ................................................................................................................. 163

BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................. 171


Diagram (1) The lfadith of Siilim ................................................................................. .44

Diagram (2) lfadith "the sale of walii' n .... ................................................................... 64

Diagram (3) lfadith "Barrrah" ...................................................................................... 68

Diagram (4-A) lfadith "tubnii madinah '~ ....................................................................... 77

Diagram (4-B) lfadith "tubnii madinah': ....................................................................... 78

Diagram (5-A) The lfadith of Anas ............................................................................... 90

Diagram (5-B) The lfadlth of Anas ............................................................................... 91

Diagram (6) "Fard"lfadith .......................................................................................... 107

Diagram (7) The lfadith ofIbn Mas'iïd ....................................................................... 117

Diagram (8) lfadith of 'Ishii'Prayer ........................................................... 122


Table of the system of transliteration of Arabie words and names used by

the Institute ofIslamic Studies, McGill University.

B = y Z = .J f = W

t = W s = (jJl q = 0
,. ,.
th = '-J sh = (jJl k = ~

j = C ~ = u.o 1 = J

h = C çl = u.=::a m = r
kh = C t = ..b n = (.)

d = ~
'? = h = ()

dh = ~
= t w = J

r = .J gh = t y = ~

Short: a = '" ; i = .- u=

Long: a= 1 ; 1 = '-i; Ü =J
Diphthong: ay = '-i 1; aw =J 1


BSOAS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

ILS Islamic Law and Society

IQ Islamic Quarterly

JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society

JlNEL Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law

JlS Journal of Islamic Studies

JRAS Journal of the Royal Asiatie Society

JSAI Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam

MES Middle Eastern S tudies

MW Muslim World

Shorter OED The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary


Regarded by many in the West as the 'father' ofIslamic legal studies 1, Joseph Schacht

tried to demonstrate the weakness of 1;adIth transmission in his magnum opus, The

Origins ofMuhammadan Jurisprudence, by applying what he called "The Common-Link

Theory.,,2 This ide a, widely accepted in modem scholarship, argues that 1;adIth

transmitters knowingly and purposefully placed traditions in circulation, despite the

apparent absence of satisfactory isniids. Subsequently, G. H. A. Juynboll, an important

scholar of Islamic law and essentially a Schachtian, embraced and elaborated upon

Schacht's Common-Link Theory in his book Muslim Tradition. Juynboll wrote:

Now, it must he conceded fIfst of aIl that, in my opinion, the common-

link theory is a brilliant one. That it, however, never seemed to have
caught on on an extensive scale is due, perhaps, to the fact that this
theory did not receive the attention, elaboration or, simply, the emphasis
that a theory such as that seems to deserve, not even at the hands of
Schacht himself (cf. his Origins, pp. 171ff.). That is why it may be
appropriate to illustrate in the following the common-link theory with a
few slightly more spectacular examples than had hitherto been tried?

Notwithstanding this attention from Western scholars, traditional Muslim

scholars of 1;adIth (muJ;addiths) have long acknowledged the existence, and debated the

importance, of a common-link, as evidenced by most works on 1;adIth terminology. The

1 Hallaq points out that it is "the lIDanimous scholarly view that Schacht's work defined the sub-field of
Islamic legal Orientalism. He is perceived to he its father, so to speak, and to be rivaled by no other."
Wael B. Hallaq, "The Quest for Origins or Doctrine? Islamic Legal Studies as Colonialist Discourse,"
HNEL 2, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 2002-3): 14.

2 The Common-Link in Upper Case Alpha refers to the theory (as articulated by Schacht), or the historical
phenomenon, while the common-link in lower case alpha refers to the transmitter who was accused of
originating the tradition in question.

3 G. H. A. Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, Studies in Chronology, Provenance and Authorship of Barly

I:Iadith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983),207.

specifie term used to describe this concept in Muslim tradition is "tafarrud," while the

common-link himself (Le., the transmit ter responsible for originally spreading the

i}adIth) is referred to as the madiir aJ-isniid(literally, the central transmitter of the

chain).4 Thus the existence of a common~link was not contested by muiJaddiths, nor

was it by any means Schacht's invention. Nevertheless, there is a stark disparity in the

understanding of the role of the common-link between Schacht and his fo11owers on the

one hand, and with the muiJaddiths on the other. The disparity lies in their respective

interpretations of the effects of this theory on the authority of the isniids, and in their

assessment of the person(s) identified as weak links, since they vary so widely.

MulJaddiths admit that the common-link was a root cause of numerous fictitious

and spurious lJadlths that were spread by dishonest transmitters, yet insist that the

lJadlths involving common-links have been identified and sorted out with the result that

the sound ones were fmally distinguished from those deemed unsound. Therefore, it

would appear that the problem of the common-link had long ago been settled by

Muslims themselves. Schacht and Juynboll insist that the Common-Link permeated a11

lJadlths, and that it was rooted in the practice of famous legal scholars (fuqahii') who

purposefully circulated traditions which were needed to resolve legal issues. The

positions of the Schachtians and muiJaddiths are therefore fundamentally divergent, the

latter being engaged in the task of rooting out counterfeit traditions by accepted means,

4 Abü 'Abd Allah al-l;Iakim, Ma'rifat 'Uliim aI-lfadlth (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Tijan, 1977), 119, 159; al-
'Irliq!, TaqyJd 'Uliim al-lfadlth (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981), 100, 351; idem, Fatl; aI-Mughlth (Beirut:
Mu'assasat al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyya, 1995),96; Ibn Kathrr, al-Ba'ith al-lfathlth (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr,
n.d.), 36; al-Nawawl, aI-Taqrlb (Beirut: Dar al-Janan, 1986), 33; Ibn Rajab, SharJ; 'DaI al-Tirmidhl
(Baghdïïd: Matba'at al-'Anl, 1976),329.

whereas the former were prepared to accept the definition of aU i}amth as trace able to a

common-link and, ipso fàcto, fraudulent. 5

ln this dissertation, 1 will argue against Schacht's and JuynboU's fmdings which

caU for a total rejection of i}amth on the basis of the Common-Link Theory.6 At the

same time, 1 will show how a minority of scholars who have disagreed with Schacht's

fmdings have adduced weak arguments despite arriving at valid conclusions.? This

review of the work ofSchacht's opponents covers materials written in both English and

Arabie, although most of the Arabic sources rely heavily on sources written in English.

It is not my intention to argue against Schacht' s theses relating to lfadJth and

Islamic law in general, but since the Common-Link Theory is central to Schacht's

overall approach, the broader implications of the problems affecting the Common-Link

Theory will be apparent from my analysis. 1 contend that the Common-Link

phenomenon, as noted by the mui}addiths, is more in touch with the reality of i}amth

literature than either Schacht or JuynboU realized. After analyzing the relevant

operative terms and rules of the mui}addiths, 1 will attempt to identify the problems in

Schacht's writings on the subject. Similarly, the scholarship that has been built upon

5 In recent years, a more balanced trend is notice able in Islamic legal scholarship. Examples include, but
are not limited to: M. Mustafa Azami, On Schacht's Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Riyadh:
King Saud University Press, 1985); Wael Hallaq, Authonty, Continuity and Change in Islamie Law
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); idem, The Ongins and Evolution ofIslamie Law
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Harald Motzki, The Ongins of Islamic Jurisprudence:
Meccan Fiqh before the ClassicaI Schools, trans. Marion H. Katz (Boston: Brill Academie Publishers,

6See, for example: Norman Calder, Studies in Barly Muslim Jurisprudence (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1993); G. H. A Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, Studies in Chronology, Provenance and Authorship ofEarly
Badith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

7 See, for example: M. Mustafa Azami, Studies in Early Badith Literature (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islam!,
1968); M. Mustafa Azami, On Schacht; Nabia Abbott, Studies in Arabie Literary Papyri, ii (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1967),5-83 and passim; Fuat Sezgin, Geschiehtedes arabischen SchrifttlDlls,
i (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967),53-84 and passim.

this erroneous presupposition, mainly that of luynboll, will be shown to be likewise

problematic. To demonstrate this, 1 employ two critiques, one theoretical and the other

empirical. The former involves an analysis of the basis, formation and development of

the Common-Link Theory to indicate its flaws by different means (linguistic,

terminological, historieal and eontextual), whereas the latter will require an

investigation of the evidence employed by Schaeht and Juynboll to support their

interpretations of the Common-Link Theory. This investigation will verify the accuracy

oftheir translations from the original Arabie sources and will, more importantly,

analyze recently published texts that were not accessible to Schacht and Juynboll while

they were conducting their researeh.

In proving the untenability of the Common-Link Theory as proposed by Schacht

and his followers, Schacht' s related theories pertaining to lJadith will be eonsequently

undermined, as there is a structural connection between his Common-Link Theory and

his other theories related to the formation of Islamic law, such as the e silentio; the

backward-growth of the isnid, which is exemplified by the "family-isnid'; the theory

related to the spread of isnids; the dating of traditions; and the meaning of the term

sunna. The interdependence ofSehaeht's theses would also mean that with the collapse

ofhis lJadith theories, the credibility ofhis entire body ofwork on the origins of Islamic

law will be rendered questionable. In other words, this dissertation will not only

challenge one of the most signifieant theories in legallJadith studies, but will, perforce,

also open the door for scholars to question other important theories held by Schacht and

his followers with regard to larger issues in Islamic legal history. Such a challenge may

in the long run result in remapping the entire field of early Islamic legal history.

Chapter 1: The Formation and Development of the Common-Link


The Common-Link Theory has provoked a wide array ofreactions, ranging from utter

rejection to total acceptance as the ide al approach to understanding the formation of the

Prophetie narrative. This chapter investigates the development of the theory by tracing

its origins and subsequent development. It is equally important to elaborate upon the

significance of the Common-Link Theory by comparing it with other theories related to

the formation of Prophetie tradition.

In order to clarify Schacht's position on Prophetie tradition, l will fIfSt delineate

his perspective on the Common-Link Theory and then delve into the differences in

understanding this theory that separate Schachtians from other contemporary scholars.

Despite initial contributions by A. Sprenger,8 C. Snouck Hurgronje,9 Ignaz Goldziher,1O

D. S. Margoliouth,1I H. Lammens,12 G. Bergstrasser and H. A. R. Gibb,13 it can be

shown that Schacht was responsible for developing a fuller and a more 'scientific'

8 See the introduction to Juynboll' s The Authenticity of Tradition Literature, (Leiden: Brill, 1969), where
he states that A Sprenger pointed out for the first time that a great many traditions had to he considered
as forgeries. See Sprenger's introductory chapter on the sunna in vol. 3 of his book Das Leren lUlddie
Lehre des Mohammad (Berlin: Nicolai'sche Verlagsbuchandlung, 1861-65), LXXVII-CN.

9 G. -H. Bousquet et J. Schacht ed., Oeuvres Choisies de C Snouck Hurgronje (Leiden: Brill, 1957),266.

10 Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies, ii (London: Allen & Unwin, 1967), 148; and idem, "Fi.!pJ," in
Encyc10paedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1960- ; hereinafter referred to as BI ;!'d.)

Il D. S. Margoliouth, "On Moslem Tradition," The Modem Moslem Worldii, (April 1912): 113-121.

12 Hemi Lammens, Islam, Beliefs and Institutions (London: Cass, 1968),65-81 and passim.

13 For further information on the different scholarly positions toward the Prophetie tradition see: the
preface to Joseph Schacht's book The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1950), v-vii; Wael Hallaq, "The Authenticity of Prophetie lfadlth: a Pseudo-Problem," Studia
Islamica89 (1999): 75-76.

explanation of the problem of 1;adith's transmission. However, it remains true that the

influence ofpreceding scholarship, Goldziher's particularly, is unmistakable in

Schacht' s writing.

ln his first challenge to the historical authenticity of Islamic traditions, Schacht

adopted Goldziher's view that these traditions are not a mass of contradictory views,

formulated at an unknown time by unknown people. According to Schacht:

One ofthese foundations, 1 may take for granted, is Goldziher's discovery

that the traditions from the Prophet and from his Companions do not
contain more or less authentic information on the earliest period of Islam
to which they claim to belong, but reflect opinions held during the fIfst
two and a half centuries after the hijra. 14

Goldziher had expressedthe matter thus: "Judged by a scientific criterion, only a very

small part, if any, of the contents ofthese canonical compilations can be confidently

referred to the early period from which they profess to date."15

The earliest announcement by Schacht ofhis intention to examine the Prophetie

tradition according to Goldziher's criteria may be found in his article: "A Revaluation of

Islamic Tradition," where he states:

1 propose to show a workable and, 1 think, a successful alternative to the

counsel of despair which, fmding no guiding thread through the mass of
traditions, tries by arbitrary guesswork to build a seemingly historical
picture of certain aspects of early Islam. 1 elaborated the method while
studying the origins of Muhammadan jurisprudence. 16

Schacht aimed to provide a more accurate and methodical approach to the study of

Islamic law in order to prove the claims oforientalist discourse correct, particularly

Goldziher's assumptions. The cornerstone ofSchacht's method is his Common-Link

14 Joseph Schacht, "A Revaluation ofIslamic Tradition," .!RAS (1949): 134.

15 Goldziher, Quoted in Schacht, Origins, 4, note 2.

16 Schacht, "A Revaluation," 144.

Theory, as articulated in the Origins, and upon which his entire enterprise is contingent.

Therefore, what will now follow will be an analysis and evaluation ofthis theory, which

is crucial for a serious assessment of Schacht and his followers.

Schacht's Common-Link Theory developed over time. In Schacht's own

writings we can clearly perceive changes in his opinion towards the Prophetie tradition,

changes to which he himself draws our attention. 17 A survey of Schacht' s articles and

books reveals that, in his earliest writings, 18 he was silent on the theory, even when

discussing matters directly pertaining to Islamic law. 19 For ex ample, he refers to the

existence of lJac/Jth transmission from an early time, stating:

The role of the Sunna is best illustrated by the fact that in Islam Sunnite
is synonymous with orthodox. Muhammed's20 religious authority, even
beyond the statements of the Koran, could not be questioned, and soon
after his death people began to cite him as a model?1

However, when explaining the development of lJadIth, Schacht suggests that several

factors resulted in a mass of fabricated traditions. The most influential of these factors

17 Schacht states: "1 have referred to sorne additional evidence in my article "Wa~iyya" in the frrst edition
of the EncycJopedia ofIslam, written more than thirty years ago (although 1 had then, of course, not yet
arrived at the conclusions set out in my Origins)." Joseph Schacht, "Modemism and Traditionalism in a
History ofIslamic Law," MES 3, no. 1 (October 1966): 394.

18See the following articles by Schacht: "Foreign Elements in Ancient Islamic Law," JOlD11al of
Comparative Legislation and Intemational Law 32 (1950): 9-17; "Pre Islamic Background and Early
Development of Jurisprudence," JOlD11al ofComparative Legislation and Intemational Law32 (1950): 29-
56 and passim; "The Schools of Law and Later Development of Jurisprudence" Law in the Middle East
1(1955): 56-84 and passim.

19See the foIlowing works edited by Schacht: Ibn Jaiir al-Taban, Ikhtiliif al-FuqaJia' (Leiden: EJ. Brill,
1933); The Medico-Philosophical Controversy between Ibn Butlan ofBaghdad and Ibn Ridwan of Cairo,
edited with M. Meyerhof (Cairo, 1937); Ibn al-Nafis, The Theologus Autodidactus, ed. with M. Meyerhof
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968); and, The Legacy of Islam, vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1974),392-403 and passim.

20 ln aIl quotations 1 keep the transliterated words as they are found in the original quotation, even if 1
would romanize them differently in this thesis, Le., Mul}.ammad instead of Mu~ammed, and Umayyad
instead of Umayiad.

21 Joseph Schacht, "Islam," in EncycJopedia of Social Sciences, vol.8 (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1932): 334.

are the historie al ones, i.e., foreign elements that preeipitated the transmission of those

fabricated lJadiths, whieh williater have an influence on his Common-Link Theory:

In the meanwhile religious institutions and doctrines continued to

develop under Jewish, Christian and Persian influences. If Islam was to
maintain its position as an independent religion it had no choice but to
pretend that these elements were traditions emanating from the prophet
himself. Finally, there was no better way of establishing disputed points
ofview than to ascribe them to the words ofMuhammed.

Thus, everything absorbed by Islam during the course of its first few
centuries had to be stamped by a gigantic fiction as the SU1l11a of the
prophet and put into the form of the lfadith, as a result of which the true
kernel of tradition was aImost entirely concealed. In the ninth cent ury
canonical collections were made from the huge mass of orally transmitted
traditions. 22

In the same article, Schacht persists in using a similar approach to historical causality,

contending that: "The relationship between the Islamic legislation and the customary

law remained the same as before, even after the latter had been increasingly exposed to

foreign influence as a result of the vast conquests.,,23 Schacht presumed that this

historical influence on lJadith might be taken for granted in Western academia, as shown

in his remark: "Despite the fact that the influence of customary law and of foreign legal

practise, although not offoreign legal theory, was very important and was taken for

granted in the early period of Islamic law, their further infiltration grew extremely

difficult after the acceptance ofthe concept of the u~iïlin its final form."24

In addition to historical factors, Schacht considered the political context to have

played a role in giving rise to his theory related to lJadith in general, especially through

22 Schacht, "Islam," 334.

23Joseph Schacht, "Islamic Law," in EncycJopedia of Social Sciences, vol. 8 (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1932): 345.

24 Ibid., 347.

the move of the capital of the Islamic Empire from Medina to Damascus where foreign

elements, especially that of Judaic law, were introduced into Islamic law through the

Prophetic traditions:

With the rise of the Ommiad dynasty and the transfer of the capital to
Damascus the pious circlesof the former capital, Medina, lost their
influence upon the government and began to construct with actual
circumstances, trying to systematize the existing legal material and to
infuse it with Islamic religious principles. It was this group which laid
the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). To emphasize the
authority of Medina they gave particular weight to the sayings and
actions of their predecessors, Muhammad's associates, especially to
majority decisions. This deference to majority opinion (ijmii') favored
the development of common doctrine and the elimination of isolated
viewpoints. The results of this speculation were largely formulated into
traditions and attributed to the Prophet himself. In this process many
newelements, especially those of Jewish origin, were again introduced. 25

Confmning the ambiguous meaning of the term sunna, Schacht credits its ultimate

defmition to al-Shafi'I, stating that: "he fmally flXed the concept of the sunna as

meaning the prophet's own practises.,,26

At this stage, Schacht rejects what he calls "the gratuitous assumptions" that an

authentic core of information going back to the time of the Prophet originally existed.

To his view, Islamic tradition must be considered objectively within a framework that

corresponds to the development of its historical problems. This will uncover a number

of criteria for establishing the relative and even the absolute chronology of a great many

traditions. These criteria could be found in the traditions, both in the texts and the

isniids, supporting Schacht's interpretation of the transmission of 1;.adIth, based on his

own understanding.

25 Ibid., 345.

26 Ibid., 346.

In an article published prior to Origins, Schacht remarked on the backward-

growth ofthe isniid, as a prelude to his Common-Link Theory:

.. , l should like to mention some of the more obvious conclusions. One

of these is that isniids have a tendency to grow backwards, that after
going back to, say, a Successor to begin with, they are subsequently often
carried back to a Companion and fmally to the Prophet himself,27 in
general we can say: the more perfect the isniid, the later the tradition.,,28

Then he introduces the family-isniid, which he considers as a form of the

Common-Link Theory:

Whenever traditions claim an additional guarantee by presenting

themselves as transmitted amongst members of one family, e.g. from
father to son and grandson, from aunt to nephew, or from master to
freedman, it can be positively shown that these family isniids are not a
primary indication of authenticity, but only a device for securing its
appearance. 29 In other words: the existence of a family isniid, contrary to
what it pretends, is a positive indication that the tradition in question is
not authentic?O

At the very end ofthis article, Schacht summarizes his theory ofProphetic tradition,

although it should be remembered that at the time his Common-Link Theory was not

yet formalized:

In the field of law, the "sunna of the Prophet" based on formaI traditions
from him, developed out of the "living tradition" of each of the ancient
schools of law, the common doctrine of its specialist. Sorne of its
features might, of course, in the last resort, go back to an early period,
but it acquired its superstructure of formaI traditions from the Prophet
with proper isniids only about the middle of the second cent ury A.H., as a
result of the activity of the traditionists. The imposing appearance of the

27Schacht states that this has already been mentioned by Goldziher in his Muhammedanische Studicn ii,

28 Schacht, "A Revaluation," 147.

29 Schacht mentions that this had already been noticed by Gertrude H. Stern in her Marriage in Barly
Islam (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1939), 12, 16, although Stern "on the whole seems to take isniïds
too readily at their face value." Schacht, "A Revaluation," 147, note, 2.

30 Schacht, "A Revaluation," 147.

isniids in the classical collections of traditions ought not to blind us to the
true character of these traditions, which is that of a comparatively recent
systematization of the "living tradition." The same is true in the field of
history; here, too, the vague collective memory of the community was
formalized, systemized, replenished with details, and shaped into formaI
traditions with proper isniids only in the second century A.H?!

In his Origin, Schacht acknowledged that his work on isniids was directed at

confmning Goldizher's results, and was intended to surpass them as follows:

... a great many traditions in the c1assical and other collections were put
into circulation only after Shati'1's time; the frrst considerable body of
legal traditions from the Prophet originated towards the middle of the
second cent ury, in opposition to slightly earlier traditions from
Companions and other authorities and to the 'living tradition' of the
ancient schools of law; traditions from Companions and other authorities
underwent the same pro cess of growth, and are to be considered in the
same light, as traditions from the Prophet; the study of isniids often
enables us to date traditions; the isniids show a tendency to grow
backwards and to c1aim higher and higher authority until they arrive at
the Prophet; the evidence of legal traditions carries us back to about the
year 100 A.H. only; at that time Islamic legal thought started from late
Umaiyad administrative and popular practice, which is still reflected in a
number oftraditions. 32

Schacht thus insists that the traditions from the Prophet did not emerge during his life-

time but arose afterward as innovations at a time when sorne ofIslam's foundational

tenets were already formed.

In his Origins, Schacht looks at the role of tradition in the development of legal

theory, beginning with a chapter about the arguments for and against traditions, in

which he moves from general to specifie issues. He points to al-Shiifi'1's identification

of two groups of anti-traditionists: the Ahl al-kaliim or Mu 'tazilites (Le., those who

rejected{he traditions altogether) and those who rejected the khabar al-kh~~a. The

31 Ibid., 153-154.

32 Schacht, Origins, 4-5.

latter group, Sehaeht claims, were simply the followers of the ancient sehools oflaw?3

Among the many arguments brought forward against Prophetie traditions, the most

important for our purpose is the one that, in its simplest form, daims that an 'isolated'

tradition transmitted by a single individual (khabar a1-wiilJi~ khabar a1-infirii~) eannot

be accepted as well-authenticated?4

Furthermore, when Schacht cornes to explain the different interpretations of the

term sunna, he introduces the Iraqi defmition by which Abu Yusuf opposed sunna in the

case of isolated traditions, distinguishing between what he had heard on the authority of

the Prophet, the tradition (athai), and the well-known and recognized sunna (Le., a1-

sunna a1-maflfii?a a1-ma'riifa).35 The Iraqi position towards the isolated i}amth is dearly

enunciated by Abu Yusuf: "take the traditions that are generally known, and beware of

those that are irregular (shiidhdh)."36

Providing a fIrm starting point for the systematic use of traditions to document

the historical development of legal doctrine (dating the traditions) was one of Schacht' s

vital aims. This led him to investigate the growth of legal traditions by surveying their

emergence in the literary period, roughly from (150/767 to 250/864i7 , as Goldziher had

suggested. 38 This investigation led him to distrust the isniid as a guarantor of the

authenticity of traditions, and he tried to justify this distrust on the basis of four main

33 Ibid., 40.

34 Ibid., 50.

35 Ibid., 74-75.

36 Abû Yüsüf quoted in Schacht. Ibid., 28.

The first oftwo, where combined numbers are given, refers to the Islamic Emigration (hfjra) ofProphet
MuQammad, from Makka to Medina; beginning ofIslamic era, and the second to the Christian era. A.D.

38 Ibid., 140; see also: Goldziher, Muhammadan, 218.

arguments: the fIfst was the e silentio, suggesting that "The best way of proving that a

tradition did not exist at a certain time is to show that it was not used as a legal

argument in a discùssion that would have made reference to it imperative, if it had

existed."39 The second argument was the backward-growth of the isniid, according to

which doctrines were frequently projected back to higher authorities: Le., "traditions

from Successors become traditions from Companions, and traditions from Companions

become traditions from the Prophet.,,40 The third was the "family-isniid," which is a

practical example ofthis process ofbackward-growth.41 The fourth and most crucial

argument, deriving from but also serving as evidence for the previous argument, is the

Common-Link Theory, described by Schacht as follows:

These results regarding the growth of isniids enable us to envisage the

case in which a tradition was put into circulation by a traditionist whom
we may calI N.N., or by a person who used his name, at a certain time.
The tradition would normally be taken over by one or several
transmitters, and the lower, real part of the isniid would branch out into
several strands. The original promoter N.N. would have provided his
tradition with an isniid reaching back to an authority such as a
Companion or the Prophet, and this higher, fictitious part of the isniid
would often acquire additional branches by the creation of improvements
which would take their place beside the original chain of transmitters, or
by the process which we have described as spread of isniids. But N.N.
would remain the (lowest) common link in the several strands of the
isniid (or at least in most of them, allowing for his being passed by and

39 Schacht, Origins, 140. The "e siJentid' theory was refuted by Zafar Ishaq Ansari: "The Authenticity of
Traditions: A Critique of Joseph Schacht's Argmnent E Silentio, " Hamdard Islamicus vii, no. 2 (1984):

40Schacht, Origins, 156. The backward-growth of isnads has already been pointed out by Goldziher in
Muhammadan Studies, ii, 157, as Schacht mentioned in note, 2. It also has been taken up without much
hesitation by more recent Islamicists including Uri Rubin (The Liiè ofMu(7ammad[Brookfield: Ashgate,
1998], 235) and Michael Cook in his article "Eschatology and the Dating of Traditions," Princeton Papers,
no. 1 (1992): 24. See below, p.148.

41According to Juynboll, the proliferation of much mlO1karmaterial was achieved by means of so-called
family-isnad (viz. "on the authority of my father who had it from his father" and so on). One of the
earliest examples of such isnads is found among the traditions ascribed to 'Abd Allah b. Burayda (d. 115).
G. H. A Juynboll, "MlO1km;" EI2nd ed., vii (Leiden: Brill, 1960- ): 576. See below, p.15l.

eliminated in addition al strands of isnid which might have been
introduced later). Whether this happened to the lower or to the higher
part of the isniid or to both, the existence of a significant common link
(N.N.) in all or most isniids of a given tradition would be a strong
indication in favour of its having originated in the time of N.N. The
same conclusion would have to be drawn when the isniids of different, but
closely connected traditions showed acommon link. 42

This argument is intended to reveal the structure of the backward-growth of an isniid,

and is used by Schacht as a tool to determine the date when the tradition was

fabricated. 43 Surprisingly, Schacht proclaims that the common-link is a feature found in

almost aH of the legal traditions, and yet fails to consider seriously the arguments or

even the terminology used by al-Tirmidhl,44 whom he nevertheless quotes. According to


The case discussed in the preceding paragraph[regarding the Common-

Link Theory - F.H.] is not hypothetic but of a common occurrence. It
was observed, though of course not recognized in its implications, by the
Muhammadan scholars themselves, for instance by Tirmidhl in the
concluding chapter of his collection of traditions. He calls traditions
with N.N. as a common link in their isniids 'the traditions ofN.N.', and

42 Schacht, Origins, 171-172

43 Ibid., 175. However, Cook criticized Juynboll's understanding of Schacht's point on the role of the
common-link They have a different understanding of Schacht. Cook states ln "Eschatology," 39: "For
Juynboll, if 1 read him rightly, the cornmon-link is the fabricator" "Sorne Isniid-Analytical Methods,"
353. Even though Schacht states, "We must, of course, always reckon with the possibility that the name
of a common transmit ter was used by other, anonymous persons, so that its occurrence gives only a
terminus a quo," Cook states that "Again for Juynboll, if! read him rightly, rejects this escape clause."
"Sorne Isniid-AnalyticalMethods, 353, 355. This Latin phrase "terminus a quo' used spec. in dating to
indicate the starting-point of a period. Shorter OED, p. 2154. Little, William, H. W. Fowler, Jessie
Senior Coulson, and C. T. Onions. The Shorter OxfOrd English Dictionary on Historical Principles.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press), 1974.

44 Juynboll suggest that the term 'al-madir' is the equivalent term for "common-link" in early /;1adith
scholars' writings. However, a deeper investigation witb more details about al-Tirmidhl's comment was
provided by Halit Ozkan, "The Common Link and its Relation to the Madiir," ILS Il, 1 (2004) in which
he concludes that there are significant differences between the understanding and use of madir by both
classical and contemporary Muslim scholars, on the one band, and Juynboll's notion ofthe common-link,
on the other. After summarizing Juynboll's conclusions, Ozkan presents examples of the use of madir
chosen from the authoritative /;1adith commentaries and rijiil books. See also MuI)ammad al-Tirmidhl,
Jiimi' al-TinnidhJ 5 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1983): 413-415.

they form a great part of the traditions which he calls ghailb, that is
transmitted by a single transmit ter at any one stage of the isnid 45

In order to estimate, roughly, the number of the traditions that were narrated through a

common-link (N.N.) we must frrst compile statistics on the basis of al-Tirmidhl's

collection and other lj.adith collections. A similar study of the lj.adith terminology used

by al-Tirmidhl and other traditionists is another prerequisite. Schacht's fourth

argument relates to the spread of isniids. He says: "ParaUe1 with the improvement and

backward growth of isnids goes their spread, that is the creation of additional

authorities or transmitters for the same doctrine or tradition. The spread of isnids was

intended to meet the objection which used to be made to 'isolated' traditions.'>46

Michael Cook accepts this reasoning, and adds: "we should not be put off by the

existence of one or two variant isnids that by-pass the common-link, the result of a

wider process termed by Schacht the 'spread of isnid".47

The Common-Link Theory helps, according to Schacht, to determine the date

when each tradition was originated. Schacht states:

The existence of common transmitters enables us to assign a frrm date to

many traditions and to the doctrines represented by them. This
consideration which takes into account the fictitious character of the
higher parts of the isnids, must replace the uncritical acceptance at their
face value of isnids, as far back as the time of the Companions. We
must, of course, always reckon with the possibility that the name of a
common transmitter was used by other, anonymous persons, so that its
occurrence gives only a terminus a quo. This applies particularly to the
period of Successors. 48

45 Schacht, Origins, 172.

46 Ibid., 166. This argument refers to tadHs.

47 Cook, "Eschatology," 24.

48 Schacht, Origins, 175.

Several scholars, before and after Schacht, used different methodologies to set a time for

when was the corpus of Prophetie tradition was originated. Motzki has divided these

methods into four categories. The fIfSt category based the dating on the basis of matn;

the initiative step was taken by Goldziher, followed by Schacht who based the dating

not only on the matns but on results of different methodologieal approaches as weIl.

Marston Speight used methods originally developed in Biblical studies and applied them

to Islamie traditions. The second category based the dating on the occurrence of

particular traditions in collections. Schacht was the fIfSt to use this method, followed

by Juynboll who also employed it in his article ''The man kadhaba Tradition". The third

category based dating on the basis of isniid, either by analyzing the tradition or on

SOurce reconstruction on the basis of isniid Analyzing the tradition could be carried out

on a single isniid as was done by Schacht, or on several isniiΠas employed by Juynboll;

however, the latter was criticized by both Cook and Motzki. 49 Motzki's critique leads

him to conclude:

The idea that most common links from tiibi'iin generation onwards were
collectors, not fabricators, has consequences for the dating of their
traditions. Then the time of the common link's activity as a scholar is, in
many cases not the tenninus post quem his traditions have existed (as
Schacht and Juynboll claimed), but the tenninus ante quem. We are
entitled to assume that the common link received the tradition - at least
the gist of it - from the individual(s) he gives as his informant(s) as long
indications are lacking to the contrary. The informant of the common
link is crucial to the dating of the tradition, not the common link himself.
The informant's date of death - or, more exactly, the time in which the
common link had contact with him - is the tenninus post quem.
Epistemologically, the shift of the tenninus post quem from the common
link to his informant(s) is accompanied, by a decrease in certainty.50

49 Harald Motzki, "Dating Muslim Tradition: A Survey," Arabica 2, vol. 52 (2005): 204 -240 and passim.

50 Ibid., 240-241.

The fourth category based the dating on the isnid and matn. In this case the

combinat ion might be called isnid-cum-matn or matn-cum-isnid 51

The above review briefly illustrates the position and significance of the

Common-Link Theory within the context ofSchacht's overall views about the origins of

Islamic law. The third chapter of this dissertation will examine, more thoroughly, the

evidence in favor of the Common-Link Theory cited by both Schacht and luynboll,

evidence apparently based on their conception of what constitutes the formation of

Islamic law. Only then can we examine the Schachtians' interpretation of the Common-

Link phenomenon in the light of the traditionists' approach, which will be discussed

more deeply in the fIfSt part of chapter four.

Soon after Schacht published his Origins ofMuhammadan Jurisprudence, with

its exposition of the Common-Link Theory, a number ofwidely divergent opinions were

voiced by scholars in the field. The lack of objective criteria for the validity or

invalidity of the theory was the main point of contention separating Western and

Eastern scholars.

At one end of the spectrum of separation lies luynboll' s and Cook' s wholesale

acceptance of the theory; while at the opposite end we fmd Sezgin's, Abbott's and

Azami's wholesale rejection. Such diversity of opinion may well be a blessing;

certainly, both parties' methods have greatly enriched our study of the Common-Link

Theory and the formation ofIslamic law. But their respective methods tend to illustrate

the propensity of the source-material to radically different legal interpretations rather

than provide evidence confmning or refuting the approaches in question. Others have

51 Ibid., 250.

taken a more pragmatic approach and reviewed each theory individually on its merits. It

is nevertheless unlikely that the next generation will achieve any consensus on the

validity of the Common-Link Theory.

In the following chapter, 1 will elaborate on the positions held by scholars at

each end of the spectrum, starting with those who accept the theory. These two

extremes were recognized by Juynboll, who stated that "Islamic orthodoxy has rigidly

kept to the tenets concerning tradition once they were formulated. On the other hand,

western scholars who did research into the 1;adIth came to entirely different


52 Juynboll, Authenticity, 9.

Chapter 2: On the Interpretations of the Common-Link Theory

The Proponents' Approach

The Common-Link Theory was accepted by many Western scholars and was spread

widely through the WfitingS of Cook and Juynboll, although each stressed different

aspects. Cook applied the theory in various fields of Islamic studies other than law,

particularly theology.53 In his book Barly Muslim Dogma, Cook quotes Peter Brown54

to the effect that Islam is a great traditional religion, and therefore open to two possible

strategies of investigation. One strategy is to step outside the tradition and to piece

together testimonies such as those found in sources independent of it,55 while the other

is "to try to isolate and date the oldest elements preserved within the tradition, and

more generally to seek to establish sorne criteria of stratification for its vast literary

remains - a strategy that to date has been best exemplified by the researches of

Schacht in the field oflaw."56

53 Cook applies this to Muslim dogma without apology. He takes it for granted, stating quite clearly that
"everyone knows isniids grow backward". Michael Cook, Barly Muslim Dogma (London: Cambridge
University Press, 1981), 108.

54 Peter Brown, "Understanding Islam" New York Review ofBooks 26, nO.2 (22 Febreuary 1979): 33.

55 Cook mentions that the first article that drew his attention to the existence of these sources was "Note
sur l'accueil des chrétiens d'Orient a l'islam," Revue de l'histoire des religions 166 (1964) Cook, Barly
Muslim Dogma, vii. It was the method that Michael Cook and Patricia Crone later applied in their book
Hagarism: The Maldng of the lslamie World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). This
insight, namely, that it is impossible to reconstruct historical fact on the basis of the Muslim sources, and
that we are on safer ground if we rely on non-Muslim sources, is not convincing according to Motzki.
Harald Motzki, "The Murder of Ibn Ab! L-I;Iuqayq," The Biography of Muhammad- the issue of the
sources(Boston: Brill, 2000), 233.

56 Cook, Barly Muslim Dogma, vii.

Mter describing these two strategies, Cook applies the latter, following in

Schacht's footsteps. As Cook himself states: "The frrst point to consider is the sunna of

the prophet. Schacht's reconstruction of the evolution ofthis notion sees it as a result

of a secondary development".57 Cook however applies this to theology, particularly the

Murji'itevariety, by suggesting the following hypothesis:

At sorne time in the second half of the second century, certain Kiifan
traditionists attempted to bring about a partial rehabilitation of the
MuIji'ite heritage in a form compatible with what was coming to be
regarded as orthodoxy. This attempt involved changes of two kinds.
First, the Murji'ite doctrine of faith was suppressed, and the tendentious
notion of 'the original irjâ' , was identified exclusively with the
suspension of judgment on the frrst civil war. Secondly, this heritage was
dissociated from its immediate background in Kiifan Murji'ism through
the fabrication of isniids; the new isniids by-passed the Kiifan Murji'ites
by invoking the names of long-dead I:Iijazls. The K. al-Irjii: assuming
that it aIready existed, would have been grist to the mill of our
traditionists; and if one is looking for a milieu in which it could have
been tendentiously edited or falsely ascribed, this is certainly one. 58

Cook also took into consideration another ofSchacht's objections to the validity of

isniids, i.e., their spread to other authorities. In fact, it was Cook who was the frrst 59 to

go further and propose that such theories should be studied more deeply, stating:

The raising of isniids is not, however, the only mode of forgery with
which we have to reckon. Another process, and one considerably more
disruptive of information, was likewise identified and named by Schacht:
'ParaUel with the improvement and backward growth of isniids goes their
spread, that is the creation of addition al authorities or transmitters for the
same doctrine or tradition.' The idea of the 'spread' of isniids is one of
such basic implications for their study that it is worth setting it out more
fully than is done by Schacht. 60

57 Ibid., 99.

58 Ibid., 83.

59 Juynboll agrees with Cook that Schacht's theories should he taken further than they had been by
Schacht himse1f; see: Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 207.

60 Cook, Barly Muslim Dogma, 109.

To the historical and political reasons offered by Goldziher and Schacht for the

forgery of isniids and the appearance ofthe Common-Link Theory, Cook added another

ingenious explanation:

Let us suppose that 1 wish to put into circulation a certain point of view.
In a modem academic culture, with its high valuation of originality, 1
would like to think, and have it thought, that the idea was my own; any
flaw in my scholarly morality will thus be manifested in a failure to
acknowledge that 1 had the idea from another scholar. In a traditionist
culture, by contrast, the relevant value is not originality but authority:
sharp practice consists in falsely ascribing my view to a greater authority
than myself. 61

Despite applying this theory to the study of theology, Cook did not validate it

entirely in his lat est book Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought

and was cautious about using it, even though he regarded it highly.62 Cook in fact states

in his earlier work:

Schacht' s discovery of the spread of isniids is in fact a highly ambivalent

contribution to knowledge. It can be seen as the foundation of a new
method of isniid-criticism; and it can be seen as a neat demonstration that
such a method cannot be devised. One ignores Schacht at one' s peril, but
one also follows him at one's peri1.63

It is noteworthy that Schacht himself acknowledged the possibility of applying his

theory to fields other than legall;adIth. 64 Rubin mentions this when discussing the

61 Ibid., 107.

62This cautious approach to applying the Common-Link Theory is most noticeable in Cook's latest book
Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought even in the section where he discusses the
Prophetie tradition. Michael Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 32-44.

63 Cook, Barly Muslim Dogma, 116.

64 Schacht, Origins, 175.

evidence for the isniid, saying: "Although Schacht spoke mainly of legall;adIth, he was

convinced that this fmding held good for traditions 'relating to history' as well".65

It was not only Cook who encouraged further applications of the Common-Link

Theory in other fields. Before Cook, Robson had acknowledged the work begun by

Goldziher and developed by Schacht in his Origins, where the problem of the

development of le gal traditions is discussed with great acumen. Robson valued the

evidence provided by Schacht that demonstrated how and when legal traditions were

produced. More importantly, he believed that Schacht's theory made a fundamental

contribution to the problem, having developed a technique that could be applied to the

study of other types oftraditions. 66

Cook's approach has been recognized even by scholars who do not fully agree

with Schacht's fmdings. Gregor Schoeler, for example, states that Schacht's aim was

to show that his theory, already well-known in Islamic legal studies, could also be

applied to historical tradition. 67 The historical implications have also been mentioned

by historians like Bernard Lewis, who suggests that Schacht's research has shown that

"many traditions of apparently historical content, in fact serve a legal or doctrinal

purpose, and are therefore historically suspect.'>68

Juynboll's stance, on the other hand, reflects a different approach to the

Common-Link Theory. His approach consisted of elaborating on Schacht's theory and

65 Rubin, The Bye ofthe Beholder, 235.

66 James Robson, "The Material of Tradition Il,'' MW41, nO.1 (1951): 270.

67George Schoeler, "Müsii B. 'Uqbah Maghiizl," in Harald Motzki ed., The Biography ofMuhammad' the
Issue ofthe Sources (Boston: Brill, 2000), 90-91.

68 Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History(New York: Harper and Row, 1967),38.

expanding its application.69 In his book Muslim Tradition, he argues that the Common-

Link Theory did not receive "the attention, elaboration or, simply, the emphasis" that it

truly seems to deserve. 70

The development of Juynboll's attitude towards Prophetic tradition, and

particularly the spread of isniids and the influential role of the Common-Link Theory on

the formation ofIslamic law, can be traced to the beginnings ofhis career as a scholar.

In his early writings,71 Juynboll pointed out the differences in the conclusions reached

by Western scholars from those arrived at by Muslim scholars, especially in Egypt. The

main reason for these differences, in Juynboll's opinion, was that modem Egyptian

scholars no longer recognized the achievements of the orientalists. His opinion was

broadly stated, and made no reference to the Common-Link Theory or any of Schacht' s

other theories;72 nor, however, did he concede that Western scholars, in general, do not

recognize the achievements of Eastern scholars, whether from the ancient schools or the

contemporary period.

Juynboll notes that the structure ofSchacht's Origins ofMuhammadan

Jurisprudence is so difficult, and so complexly cross-referenced, that it obviously

discouraged reviewers from writing more than very superficial critiques. He made his

Juynboll, in the field of the Common-Link Theory stands as the clear successor to Schacht; see Rubin,
The Bye ofthe Beholder, 235.

70 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 207.

71 G.H.A. Juynboll, Authenticity, 9. It should be noted that Juynboll did not discuss any of Schacht's

theories in the two following articles: Juynboll, "The IfadIth in the Discussion on Birth-Control" Acto do
IV Congresso de Bstudos Arabes e Islâmicos, Coimbra-Lisboa la 8 de Setembro de 1968. ed. Antonio
Dias Farinha (Leiden: E.l Brill, 1971); idem., "Alpnad Mul}ammad Shïikir (1892-1958) and his edit ion of
Ibn I:Ianbal's Musnad," Der Islam 49 (1972).

72 Juynboll, Authenticity, 9.

own fIfSt attempt to challenge Schacht's theory in a 1969 article,73 concentrating mainly

on the issue of the great fitnah. Here, it is not my aim to criticize nor evaluate

Juynboll's theory regarding the meaning of the fitnah,74 but to introduce his argument

because it is strongly related to the Common-Link Theory, and because Juynboll uses it

to date the origin of the isniid 75 While most sources assume that the fitnah means the

murder of 'Uthman, Schacht suggested that the fitnah began with the killing of the

Umayyad Caliph Wafid b. Yazld in A.H.126. 76 Juynboll for his part disagreed with

Schacht, and sought to prove that the fitnah in the report attributed to Ibn Sirm might

have meant the political upheaval following 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr's seizure of the

I:Iijaz. He states:

On this hypothesis, if accepted, 1 intended to build a convincing case for

another hypothesis concerning a tentative chronology of the institution of
the isniid as having originated at the earliest in the seventies of the
fIfst/seventh century rather than immediately following the murder of
'Uthman in 35/656, as generally assumed in sources from the 'Abassid
period onward. 77

Juynboll's book Muslim Tradition looks at the growth ofProphetic tradition, and

pays particular attention to five subjects related to the topic: the chronology of the

73 G.H.A Juynboll, "The Date ofthe Great Fitnah," Arabica 20, no. 2 (1973):142. In this article, Juynboll

refers to several book reviews.

74 An issue 1 will take up in another study.

75 In several articles Juynboll discusses sorne issues related to the isniid trying to indicate the date of its
origins, although in all of his writing it was taken as a fact that the isniid began in late seventies of the
first century A.H. See for example: Juynboll, The role of Mu'ammariïn in the Early Developrnent of the
Isniid ln his Studies on the Origins and Uses ofIslamic lfadlth, vii (Brookfield, Vt. : Variorum, 1996),
155. Motzki criticized Juynboll's rnethod of dating the tradition on the basis of occurrence of traditions
in collections. Likewise, he criticizes Goldziher, Schacht, and Speight for dating of traditions on the basis
of the matns, which shows that the prernises and rnethods used by these scholars are unsafe. Harald
Motzki "Dating Muslirn Traditions," Arabica, 2 (2005): 214-219. See below, p. 154.

76 Schacht, Origins, 36-37.

77 Juynboll, "Muslirn's introduction to his $a/JlfJ, Translated and Annotated with an Excursus on the
Chronology of Fitnah and Bid'a," JerusaJcm Studics in Arabie and Islam 5 (1984): 303.

origin of the traditions; the role of qiïtfo, in the spreading of traditions; the states of

mutawiïtirtraditions; Muslim l}adlth criticism (rijiïlworks as depositories of

transmitters' names); and the tradition and its relationship to the credibility of the

transmitters. Within this last topie, he conducts an in-depth study of the Common-Link

Theory. By not taking Schacht's theory on the origins ofIslamic law as his starting

point in an attempt at improving upon its fmdings, Juynboll sought to write his own

account covering more or less the same grounds and using his own source materia1. 78

Nevertheless, of the four main arguments related to the Prophetic tradition

offered by Schacht, Juynboll benefited from two in particular: "isniïds have a tendency

to grow backward", and "the Common-Link Theory". Therefore, Juynboll illustrates the

Common-Link Theory with ex amples underlining its workability.

Juynboll's views regarding the spread ofthe isniïd differ from that of Schacht.

While Schacht attribut es this spread (i.e., tadUsf9 directly to the common-link as a way

of concealing the fabricator of the tradition, Juynboll presumes that in addition to the

spread of the isniïdthere is the tadUs, which was introduced to solve the problem of

weak l}adlths, namely, unauthentic l}adlths are caused by either a fabricator-transmitter

or through tadUs. 80 Furthermore, Juynboll cites defmitions and types of tadUsthat

describe it as "ignominy" and that place it on the same level as "fraud," "deceit,"

78 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 4.

79TadHs is a fonn of narration, when the transmitter omits the direct transmitter who told him the l)amth
and yet mentions the rest of the isniid, In sorne forms of tadDs, the transmitter will omit aIl transmitters
other than the direct one. 'Uthmiin Ibn al-~aliil}, Muqaddima fi 'Ulüm al-I;lamth (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'ïirif,

80 JuynboIl, Muslim Tradition, 162.

"trickery," "falsehood," and "mendacity".81 Towards the end ofhis Muslim Tradition,

Juynboll elucidates the Common-Link Theory and provides two pieces of evidence to

prove it. 82 However, further investigation into the origins and uses of l;1adJth will be

discussed in chapter three and will further pro vide a workable construction to the


In view of the foregoing discussion, we shall take up three issues: frrst, Schacht's

and Cook's respective influence on Juynboll's fmdings regarding the Common-Link

Theory; second, the new terminologies introduced by Juynboll where he sought to

expand and validate the theory; and third, how Juynboll dealt with several existing

isniids that contradicted his fmdings.

To begin with the fIfst issue, it must be acknowledged that Schacht had the most

extensive influence on Juynboll's fmdings, not only with regard to his Common-Link

Theory but also his other theories83 related to the entire interpretation of the formation

of legall;1adJth. Schacht's e silentio argument, for example, was enthusiastically

implemented in Juynboll's analytical approach to l;1adIth studies. Juynboll points to a

strand84 of a l;1adJth that he claims was the handiwork ofIbn .ij:anbal (164-241/780-855),

although the only evidence adduced to support his claim is that the tradition is nowhere

to be found in 'Abd al-Razzaq's MUJannaf(126-211/744-826), which was written prior

to Ibn .ij:anbal's Musnad According to Juynboll, this evidence constitutes a clear

81 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 180. Here, Juynboll daims that the different types of tadfis are categorized
by al-l:liikim and make the isnadlook more reliable than it really is.

82 Ibid., 206. The evidence used by Juynboll will be discussed in detail in Chapter Three ofthis thesis.

83 For Schacht's other theories related to J;l8dJth, see above: p. 12-15.

84 Strand is one chain of transmitters in the isnadbundle.

indication that Ibn Banbal, by producing this strand, sought to prop up this particular

matn with one strand ofhis own, strengthening the three other partial common-links

that he may have received through Ghundar, Ibn Numayr and Abu Mu'awiya, whose

names were aIready mentioned in 'Abd al-Razzaq's MU$annaf. 85

The e si/enlio argument was generalized by Juynboll and applied to numerous

other instances ofIbn Banbal's narrations. 86 However, this generalization would only

be valid if it were based on the premise that 'Abd al-Razzaq had narrated a11 the J;adiths

mentioned in the Musnad of Ibn Banbal. In order to validate this claim, Juynbo11 sought

to prove it; however, he did not and cannot because Ibn f.lanbal's Musnadafter a11

contains about 30,000 J;adIths while the MU$annafof' Abd al-Razzaq contains only

about 20,000, clearly indicating that not a11lJadiths in the Musnad are to be found in the

MU$annaf; Ibn f.lanbal narrated about 10,000 J;adIths that were not narrated by 'Abd al-

Razzaq. Consequently, Juynboll's assumption that any lJadith narrated by Ibn Banbal

ought be found in 'Abd al-Razzaq's MU$annafis unwarranted, this carrying the strong

implication that his conclusions are rendered suspect, including his highly questionable

conclusion that Ibn f.lanbal invented other st rands for existing J;adith.

Another ofSchacht's theories taken over by Juynbo11 was the family-isniïd On

the basis ofboth the Common-Link and family-isniïdtheories, Juynboll developed his

mu'ammariïn theory,87 by which he argued that family members were invented to

85 Juynboll, StudicsVI, 376.

86 Ibid., 376.

87Juynboll, "The Role of Mu 'ammarÜl1 "; idem., "Mu'ammm;" El, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1960),285.
The definition of mu'ammar was explained by Juynboll as follows: "Islam knows a category of people,
almost a1ways men, who are granted extreme longevity by God. The age of seventy is sometimes taken as
starting point for the appellative to be applicable, although the lower limit of eighty years is also given.

strengthen the supporting strand. Inventing the mu 'ammar and linking him to a

transmit ter related to the mu'ammarby blood or mawlastatus, and then in turn to a

Companion and then finally back to the Prophet himself, was supposed to strengthen the

isnaa and make up for its isolated nature. Referring to this theory, Juynboll states:

"Strands of this sort could with sorne justification be called variants of the 'family

isnad, 'the phenomenon coined and studied by Schacht".88 Juynbo11's wider defmition

of the mu'ammarconcept was thus applied to a11 isniids and was not limited only to the

family-isnad The construction of the mu'ammartheory was based on the Common-

Link Theory in particular and the nature of the transmission of traditions in general.

This was explained by Juynboll as follows:

. . . canonical Muslim tradition literature is frrst and foremost

characterized by the feature that the transmission of a particular saying
allegedly uttered by the Prophet traveled during the frrst sixtY to one
hundred and fifty years or so of its existence along a path of consecutive
single individuals. Only after having traveled along this path of single
individuals do es a sizeable portion of isnads begin to branch out along
various different paths to end up in a number of different co11ections. 89

The person who was responsible for inventing the mu'ammarwas in each case,

according to Juynboll, the 'common-link' (cl):

Sometimes this mu 'ammar was a historical person who claimed to have

reached an advanced age, this claim being eagerly emphasized after his
death by his pupil, the "common-link", who profited from this age. At
other times the mu'ammar was a fictitious person, who11y invented,
complete with his allegedly advanced age at death, by the "common-link"
who pretended to have heard his traditions. 9o

Usually the lower limits fluctuate between one hundred and one hundred and twenty, while there is not
really an upper limit." "Mu'ammar," BI, 2nd ed., 258.

88 Juynboll, Studies ,Vil, 165.

89 Ibid., 172.

90 Juynboll, "Mu'ammar," 285.

He also insists that, at this point in time in the transmission of 1;adith, the

transmitter/common-link of a saying that he wanted ascribed to the Prophet had to

provide a chain of authorities bridging a time span of at least sixt Y years or longer. In

such a case, authorities who had supposedly reached a considerable age at the time of

death were found easer to link to than authorities whose ages spanned only a few

decades. 91 In addition, he states, the city of Kiifa appears to have been, unlike other

cent ers of 1;adith, teeming with 1;adith-transmitters who had reached very advanced ages

at death. 92 As a result of the need to support the single isnads, luynboll states:

... we witness the emergence of hordes of traditions, especially supported

by single strands with Ibn Mas'iid in the Companion's position, which
figure between Ibn Mas'iid and the c1s a number of long-lived Successors,
who later come to be called mu'ammariÏn.

Mu 'ammariin can be divided into historical and fictitious personalities,

depending on the amount and the feasibility of historical data concerning
their lives preserved in the early historical and biographical sourceS. 93

The influence ofCook's analysis and understanding of the development of the

isniidis obvious here, for instance, in the use made by luynboll ofCook's model where

one ofthese common-links simply copied the other, making use of the other's authority

at the same time. 94 Likewise, principles introduced and advanced by Cook in his Barly

Muslim Dogma were acknowledged and used by luynboll, such as the principle Cook

used to account for the proliferation of isniids:

91 Juynboll, Studies, VIT, 173.

92 Ibid., 173.

93 Ibid., 174.

94 Ibid, 169. For a practical example of this implication, see: Juynboll, Studies, VI, 370; also his article
"On Dating the Great Fitnah."

Let us visualize a transmitter - we call him A - who has heard of a
tradition transmitted by one of his fellow traditionists - called B -
and corroborated by one of B's shaykhs; having taken a fancy to that
tradition, A himself wants to bring it into circulation. But he does not
simply go to B to hear it from him, that would mean giving aU the credit
to his coUeague, who may be a mere contemporary or (what is worse)
even younger. No, A wants sorne credit for himself and invents his own
isniid, preferably one with a master who is not the same as in B's isniid
This model constructed by Cook may in fact have occurred on a
considerable sc ale and it was certainly a cause for sorne proliferation of
isniids. 95

To understand Juynboll's new terminology (our next task), it is important to

remember that his conelusions are based on dating the beginning of isniidformation to

the late seventies of the first/seventh century.96 This is elear from the nine technical

terms he later expounded upon to describe how the Common-Link Theory functions.

1. "Common-link" (el), representing the point at which the names in isniids "start
fanning out in branches.,,97
2. "Partial common-link" (pel), derived directly from the fifSt one, refers to
transmitters who receive something from a common-link (or any other sort of
transmitter from a generation after the common-link) and pass it on to two or
more oftheir pUpilS. 98
3. "Seeming common-link" (sel), is similar to the common-link; when the number
of pel' s of a el is limited, Juynboll would rather speak of that common-link as a
'seeming common-link'. A seeming common-link may emerge in bundles which,

95 Juynboll, StudiesVI, 354.

96 Ibid.

97G. H. A. Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal of Sorne Teclmical Terms in lfadith Studies," ILS (Leiden: Brill,
2001): 306; this technical tenu was coined by Schacht but curiously little studied or applied in his
Origins. See Juynboll, StudiesVI, 351.

98 Juynboll, Studies VI, 352; Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 306 where pel is defined as follows: "when the
el's alleged pupils have themselves more than one pupil we call that pupil a 'partial common-link' ". The
bene fit of 'pel', according to Juynboll, is that the more 'pel's a 'el' has, the more the authorship of (the
wording of) that tradition under serutiny is probably to be aseribed to that cl. Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal,"

upon scrutiny, turn out to be two or a few single st rands that happened to come
together in what looks tike a cl, but which is, for lack ofpcl's, not a real c1.99
Juynboll provides Nafi' as an example ofthis term, stating: "Niifi' in the isnad>
of the canonical tradition literature constitutes a well-nigh perfect example of a
'seeming' or, depending on one's outlook, an 'artificial common-link.,IOO
4. The "isnadbundle", all those partial common-links together constitute the fourth
term, the so-called "isnadbundle".IOI
5. The "knot", applied in the following case: the more transmission tines there are
that come together in a certain transmitter, either reaching him or branching out
from him, the more that moment of transmission resembles what may be
described as a "knOt."102
6. The "inverted partial common-link" (ipcl), describes a transmitter who is
represented in a bundle as having received a report from two or more authorities
(which he would pass on to one or more pupils). Whereas Bukhiirl, for example,
is represented by only one strand via a transmit ter, Muslim would be an
"inverted pel" if he gathered up other strands issuing from the same
transmitter. I03 This term is derived ultimately from the second term, (pel).
7. The "single strand" (ss's), which, as the name indicates, involves linkingjust one
master with one pupil and so on, Can sometimes be traced over a period of 200
years. Juynboll states that "the single strand cannot claim any measure of
historicity: it is in alllikelihood the handiwork of collectors in whose collections
it found a place or the handiwork of their direct informants".I04

99 Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 306.

100 Ibid., 305; idem., G. H. A Juynboll, "Nafi' ," El, 2 nd ed.; and the diagram (below).

101 Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 306.

102 Ibid., 306; idem., Juynboll, StudiesVI, 352.

103 Juynboll, StudiesVI, 361.

104 Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 306.

8. The "spider", whieh oecurs when sever al ss's seem to eome together in a sel that
does not have the required minimum of plausible pel's.IOS
9. The "diving strands", the last newly eoined tenn introduced by Juynboll, is used
for the strands supporting mutiibi'iir 06 and shawiihid,107 as found in the 1;adlth
handbooks. 108

In addition, Juynboll introduces two more modified tenns, the isniid marfii' and

the madiir. In J;adlth handbooks, the former means a Prophetie tradition, as opposed to a

tradition extending baek only to the Companions or the Sueeessors. Juynboll however

failed to understand this term, assuming instead that the eommon-link fabrieated an

isniidin order to give it more authenticity, as follows:

The single strand from the cl down to the prophet does not represent the
transmission path taken by a prophetie saying, a path whieh has a claim
to Ca meaSure of) historicity, but is a path invented by the el in order to
lend a certain saying more prestige by means of the fIfSt and foremost
authentieation deviee ofhis days: the isniid marfii,.I09

In faet, aseribing to the isniidthe term mmfii'has nothing to do with the authentieity of

the isniid it is just an indieation that it is a Prophetie tradition, rather it lends prestige

to the matnYo

105 Ibid.

106 For the traditions copied and supported by "following" strands we find the participle -mostly in the
plural of mutiibi'- mutiibi'iit.

107 Shawiihid, the plural of shiihid "This term stands for something like " (additional ) testimonies", Le.
closely related versions supported by ss's or at most spiders usually ending in the same Companion but
not necessarily so, however always bypassing the key figures of the strands supporting the foregoing lJ.siil
and mutiibi'iit': Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 317-318.

108 Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 318.

109 Juynboll, StudiesVI, 353.

110 See below, p. 99.

The madiJr. on the other hand, seems to be used ambiguously by JuynbolL Of aIl

the scholars of Muslim tradition whose works Juynboll perused, al-Tirmidhl alone shows

a keen insight into isniid strands, for he appraises the value of each tradition after

presenting its isnad and matn in his Jiimi'. Juynboll states that:

This fact [the previously mentioned opinion of al-Tirmidhl about madir-

F.H.] was vaguely recognized by Goldziher but not elaborated on up to
its ultimate consequences. 1 even have the distinct feeling-no more
than a feeling, for as of yet 1 have not been able to substantiate it
sufficiently-that what we, since Schacht, now call 'common links' may
have played a certain role in Tirmidhl's representation of the evolution of
IJadith. He may have referred to them with the term madirs, 'pivots,.1ll
1 will come back to this idea in another publication. 112

Comparing the fmdings of Western scholars with those ofMuslim scholars,

Juynboll claims that certain terms developed by Western scholars seem to have no

equivalent in Muslim IJadith handbooks, and he cites the common-link as an ex ample of

this. But, he contradicted himself when handling the term al-madiJr. which he claimed

was synonymous to "Common-Link":

However, reading between the lines of numerous ryal works comprising

references to "weak" (= da'If) and "pious" (= ~alilJ) transmitters and
their traditions such as Ibn 'Adi's Kiimil and Abiï Nu'aym's lfilyat al-
Awliya', two of the best-known of such works, dozens of times one
cornes across the word madiir, "tuming point", "pivot". To my
knowledge, this term never tums up in the numerous Muslim dictionaries
and handbooks of technical IJadith terms, but in my opinion it is
unmistakably the Muslim scholar's equivalent of our cl or seeming cL
The earliest transmitter whom 1 found to be associated with the term
madiris Abiï 'l-'Aliya Rufay' b. Mihran al-Riyaq.l [do 93/712 - F.H.].ll3

III This assumption was refuted and deeper discussion will be rnentioned later on, see: chapter 4.

112 Juynboll, StudiesVI, 383.

113 Juynboll, "(Re) Appraisal," 307. This conclusion, equating madarwith the cornrnon-link, is refuted by
Ozkan, in his article "The Cornrnon Link" Il, 1.

Juynboll presumes that various important 1;Jadith scholars used the term madiir in its

specifie sense of seeming common-link or common-link, stating the following:

diira 'alii has an equivalent in the intransitive verbs tafarrada and

infarada. Saying: "Someone is the madiir of such and such a tradition"
can also be put in the terms: "Someone tafarrada or infarada bibi'

In other words, Juynboll suggests that the term common-link is equal to 'tafarrud'. 114

Yet, neither Juynboll nor Schacht relates the ruling on taffarrudto the common-link

transmitter, as will be explained later. 115

The third issue: How did Juynboll deal with those isniids that contradicted his

own fmdings? Before proceeding to discuss this issue, one must acknowledge that there

is a necessary relationship between Juynboll's views and his characterization of the

Prophetie tradition, in order to locate the reason for the contradiction between his

theory and the case studies he provides. Juynboll daims that:

Large-scale isniid analysis has unearthed a hitherto unrecognized feature:

virtually an isniids listing the transmitters of a certain iJadith from the
Prophet aH the way to Islam's canonical 1;Jadith collections have one
striking characteristic in common: they consist of only one single strand
of three (or four, or five) transmitters after the Prophet before the
transmission paths taken by the report start branching out in various
directions along several different strands.
In other words, the vast majority of isniids, for the sake of argument
listed here as beginning with the Prophet, read as follows:

Mul].ammad ---? one Companion ---? one Successor ---? one

Successor ---? one later authority ---? the key transmitter ---? a
number of pupils ---? ---? ---? various collections. 116

114 See below: p 92-93.

115 See below: p. 100.

116 Juynboll, StudiesVII, 155.

This generalization, however, prevented Juynboll from understanding the structure of

several of the isniids that he studied in depth, leading him to proclaim that aIl isniids

have a common-link, Le., a fabricator.

Because he held so frrmly to this theory, Juynboll found himself puzzled by

certain categories of J;.adIth. The frrst of these were the isniids of J;.adIths related to the

issue of siqiiya (irrigation): after collecting and studying those isniids based on his

understanding of the single strand spread later by a common-link, he concludes that "the

siqiiya reports are supported by such a number of different isniids that it is impossible to

point to a transmitter who might be considered as the common-link.,,117 In fact, based

on tue traditionist understanding, the common-link ofthese isniids is the Prophet

himself. This, however, he could not see, for attributing the J;.adIths to the Prophet

would give them full authenticity, an authenticity that contradicts completely the entire

theory of Schacht. A diagram of this understanding looks quite different from the one

proposed by Juynboll (as cited above), the accurate diagram being like this:

Prophet - one or more Companions, and from each Companion

- one or more Successors, and from each Successor - one or
more later Successors - - - various collections.

The second case of confusion is encountered in the same article, when Juynboll

discussed the iJadIth related to the meaning of "uswah iJasana." He admits his inability

to apply the Common-Link Theory to this J;.adIth:

An analysis of the available isniids, including those of other variants, does

not, however, enable us to determine a common-link, who might have
been solely responsible for bringing this report into circulation. 1 18

117 Ibid., V, 100.

118 Ibid., V, 108.

Juynboll finds this isniid confusing, because he assumes that the common-link should

appear at about the fourth level of transmission, being,responsible for fabricating and

disseminating the ljadith. But, in this case there is more than one person who could

potentially fill this role. Juynboll wouldn't have been confused ifhe acknowledged the

traditionists' method of analyzing isniid, which allows one to discem that aIl of these

potential common-links refer to a higher authority, namely a Companion or the Prophet


Those two cases show us how the isniids seemed unworkable to Juynboll because

he could not locate the common-link, which prevented him from understanding their

structure. Moreover, he generalized his rejection of such structures whenever he found

himselfincapable ofunderstanding the isolated isniid According to Juynboll:

Executing diagrams of isniid bundles on transparencies and simply

placing one bundle on top of a second one, on top of a third one, on top of
a fourth one, etc., just because the respective matns supported by those
bundles show a verbal similarity so as to prompt the 'conclusion' that
they ' ... must canstitute in reality ane saying which is histarically
ascribable ta the praphet with just a kw negligible variants' is
methodologically wrong and leads nowhere. This would mean that
proper heed is no longer paid to the individu al single strands between the
cls down to the prophet. 119

In this remark we see that the structure that Juynboll found difficult to comprehend is a

simple explanation ofhow muljaddiths view the transmission of the ljadith. Juynboll's

opinion as to the faultiness of the traditional Muslim methodology was thus not based

on sufficient ground; in fact, it contradicted his own definition of mutawiitir, which

allows for more than one bundle for the same ftadith with different wordings.

119 Ibid., VI, 382.

Having analyzed the main arguments of Cook and Juynboll, Harald Motzki

cornes to a quite different conclusion regarding the Common-Link Theory. Motzki

challenges Schacht not only by criticizing his approach but by providing an alternative

framework, where J;adith are treated as sub-category. Cook, as we may recall, identified

two main strategies in dealing with the Islamic tradition. The fIfst strategyl20 (Le., that

it is impossible to reconstruct historical facts on the basis of Muslim sources and that

we are on safer ground ifwe rely on non-Muslim sources) Motzki declares to he

unconvincing. 12I He makes another critical point against Cook, Patricia Crone, and

others who took the rejection of the Islamic tradition so far as to reject the authenticity

of the Qur'iin, doubting that the Islamic tradition can be a historically reliable frame of

reference for the Qur'iin. This approach, however, contradicts what has already been

established in Western Islamic studies, for, according to Motzki:

Even scholars such as Ignaz Goldziher and Joseph Schacht, who regarded
most J;adith reports as fictitious and without any historical value for the
time which they purport to reflect, did not contest the view that the
Qur'iin went back to MlÙ}.ammad and they regarded it as the most reliable
source of his life and preaching. This inconsistent position has been
abandoned only recently by the followers of Schacht's radical opinions on
the I:Iadith such as Wansbrough, Michael Cook, Patricia Crone, Andrew
Rippin, Gerald Hawting, and others. They doubt that the Islamic
tradition can be a historically reliable frame of reference for the
Qur' iin. 122

As for the second strategy, Motzki agrees with Cook's contention that the Common-

Link Theory is applicable to other fields ofIslamic studies, but credits Schacht with

fIfSt suggesting this possibility:

120 The frrst strategy was based on the conclusions that he and Crone drew in Hagarism.

121 Motzki, "The Murder of Ibn Ab1 L-I;Iuqayq," 233.

122 Harald Motzki, "The Collection ofthe Qur'an," Der Islam 78, 1 (2001): 4.

Although Schacht had developed his ideas on the basis of legal1;adiths,
he did not limit his theory to this type of tradition but thought it
applicable to other sorts as well. Schacht's views concerning the 1;adith
impressed most western scholars and, in the decades following the
publication of his book skepticism became a major factor in the western
study of early Islam. 123

Motzki even goes so far as to contradict Watt's assertion in his Muhammad in Meccato

the effect that Schacht's theory is not applicable to the SJra, stating that "Watt's poor

methodology in answering this question and in dismissing Schacht's objections to the

lfadith as not being applicable to the SJra material has not convinced critical minds and

has brought upon himselfthe reproach ofbeing gullible".124

Motzki also applies the new terms introduced by Juynboll. A clear example is

found in his study of 1;adith al-Bara', where he uses Juynboll's terminology when stating

that Abu Is4aq is the common-link in this isnadbundle. He also notes that Isra'11, one

of the three transmitters from Abu Is4aq, is what Juynboll would have described as "a

partial common-link".125

However, Motzki's application of the Common-Link Theory differs from that of

Schacht, for whereas Schacht did not consider a Companion as a common-link, Motzki

unexpectedly does so. In his study of "The Murder ofIbn Ab1 L-I:Iuqayq," he identifies

Ibn Unays, a Companion, as the common-link, stating: "We concluded from this that the

common skeleton of the versions ascribed to 'Abd Allah b. Unays possibly go es back to

him, the common-link ofthe isnadbundle."126

123 Ibid., 10.

124 Ibid., 5.

125 Motzki, "The Murder of Ibn Ab1 L-I:Iuqayq," 176.

126 Ibid., 231.

Despite his adoption of Schacht' s theories, albeit with slight modifications,

Motzki cannot be considered a proponent of Schachtian ideas. A general criticism of

Schacht's work is to be found in Motzki's Origins ofIslamic Jurisprudence as weIl as his

Ijadith: origins and developments. In his article "The Collection of the Qur'an," Motzki

criticizes the Common-Link Theory in particular and concludes that the explanation of

the Common-Link phenomenon as a result of forgery has several shortcomings:

Firstly, these types of forgery are only imagined. Admittedly, there are
sorne cases which prove that such forgeries sometimes occurred, but there
are no indications that this was the general manner in which isniids
developed systematically. Secondly, the assumption of forgery seems
very manufactured in our particular case, Le., in the isniid bundle
described above [regarding the l;18dith about collecting the Qur'an -
F.R.], because it posits that a great number oftransmitters and collectors
of traditions must have used exactly the same procedure of forgery,
although a number of other methods were theoretically possible. Thirdly,
and most importantly, a comparative study of the matns of aIl the
transmission lines reveals a close connection between matn and isniid 127

Al-ijilim's statement that "alllj.adJths narrated in al-Bukhac! and Muslim have no

common-link at any level ofthe isniid" 128 supports Motzki's fIfst critique on the

proportion of isniids that have a common-link.

Raving clarified Cook's, Juynboll's and Motzki's interpretations of the

Common-Link Theory, it is equally important to discuss the opinions of other scholars

who have been influenced by Schacht's theories, including S. G. Vesey-Fitzgerald, who

believed that Schacht had given very strong reasons for the view that, at about the time

the great Sunnllaw schools came into existence and before the appearance of the six

great collections of traditions, there was deliberate forgery of traditions by responsible

127 Motzki. "The Collection of the Qur'iin," 27.

128 Al-I;Iakim, aI-Madkhal, 29, 35.

legists on a large scale. Vesey-Fitzgerald advocates that the new evidence revealed by

Schacht's research raises the strong suspicion held by previous scholars to the level of

proof. 129 Moreover, Schacht's method was summed up by Hourani as an application of

Ignaz Goldziher' s general criticism of the Traditions of the early history of Islamic legal.

theory. This history was largely based on a specialized use of Traditions. Rourani

attribut es Schacht's conclusions and detailed theories to those ofhis predecessors,

which he saw as standing up well to the tests of time and difficult to overthrow. 130

Other scholars seem to agree with Schacht's îmdings, even though they have

neither been tested nor confirmed. Brown, for instance, mentions that critical scholars

like Schacht viewed the details constituting the Prophet's sunna as not based on

authentic historical recollection, but as fictitious and intended to support legal

doctrines. l3l Another example can be found in a comparative study of Schacht' s

methodologies with those oftraditionists by Aharon Layish, who repeats Schacht's

disapproval of the method of criticism of Traditions as practiced by Muslim scholars

because it was purely formaI in nature. Layish explains that Schacht saw this technical

criticism of Traditions as being irrelevant to the purpose ofhistorical analysis, since

most of the legal Traditions were inauthentic and only placed into circulation by the

traditionists themselves from the first half of the second century onwards. The validity

129 s. G. Vesey-Fitzgerald, "Nature and Sources of the Shaii'à' in Majid Khadduri, ed., Law in the Middle
East: Volume 1. Origin and Development ofIslamic Law(Washington: 1955), 94.

130 George Hourani, "Joseph Schacht, 1902-69," JAOS, 90 (1970): 165.

13l Jonathan Brown, "Criticism of the Proto-lfadith Canon: al-Daraqutnl's Adjustment of the $aJ;ll;ayn,"
JoumalofIslamic Studies 15, no. l( January 2004): 19.

of Schacht's conclusion (and by extension that ofGoldziher) seems to be accepted by

Layish without qualification. 132

Schacht's theories and assumptions about the traditions seem to be present in

Mitter's writings as weIl. The underlying assumption accepted by Mitter is that

Muslims in the first Islamic century were not interested in legal issues and that Islamic

law was poorly developed - in contrast to what the 1;.iidiths would have us believe.

Therefore, in Mitter's opinion, 1;.iidiths reporting events and legal opinions from that

period are likely spurious. They are said to reflect the opinions and methods of later

jurists who, in order to strengthen their own doctrines, ascribed them fIfst to early

lawyers, then to the Successors (tiibi'iïn), then to the Companions of MuQammad

(~aJ;.iiba) and fmally to the Prophet himself. Even though the Common-Link Theory is

not literally stated, it is obviously there. Mitter states, however, that this idea about

Islamic tradition is taken from Schacht:

In this view, as a rule of thumb, the traditions of the Prophet are

considered to be the youngest ones, not the oldest. This chronology was
elaborated by Joseph Schacht in 1950 (Origins, 4-5 and 15ft) who based
himself on the theories of Goldziher. It has been accepted since then by
most western orientalists. 133

Nevertheless, when it cornes to practice, Mitter misinterprets Schacht's theories,

especially, as the following example shows, her explanation ofthe Common-Link

Theory. Mitter writes:

The Salim 1;.adith is mentioned by 'Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn Abi Shayba,

SaQnUn, al-DiirimI, Ibn Sa'd, al-Shafi'I, al-BayhaqI, and Ibn Qudiima. It
is going back to five authorities who lived at the end of the fIfSt century.

132Aharon Layish, "Notes on Joseph Schacht's Contribution to the Study ofIslamic law," British Society
for MiddJeEastem Studies Bulletin 9, no. 2 (1982): 133; Schacht, Origins, 163; idem, Introduction, 34.

133 Ulrike Mitter, "Unconditional Manumission of Slaves in Early Islamic Law," Der Islam 78 (2001): 36-

These authorities are Mul].ammad b. SIrm (Ba~ra~ d.ll0) - who is the
only cl in the frrst generation of transmitters - 'Amir al-Sha'hl (Kiïfa,
d.103), 'Abdallah b. Shaddad b. al-Hadi (Kiïfa d.81, or 82), 'Abdallah b.
Wadi'a b. Khidiim (Medina, d. 63) and 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr) (Medina, d.
94 or 99). Furthermore, there are three Medinense transmitters of the
frrst decades of the second cent ury: AI-Zuhrl (d. 124), Abiï l-Zinad (d.
between 130 and 132) and Abiï Tawala 'Abdallah b. 'Abd al-Ra\nniin b.
Ma'mar (d.134).134

In Mitter's example above there are five transmitters at the same level who lived at an

early time and heard the J;adIth from the Companion 'Umar, yet one ofthem is

described as the earliest common-link because two transmitters narrated the J;adIth via

him. Based on Mitter diagram (1) and the structure she described, the true common-link

here is the Companion 'Umar who spread the ljadIth to those five authorities. In this

case, with a11 five of the transmitters having heard the tradition in question from one

Companion, the Common-Link Theory does not apply. Certainly Schacht would not

have considered this ljadIth as supporting his theory since the isnadreached the

Companions' level, as explained previously. Mitter's diagram reflects Motzki's

modified interpretation of the Common-Link, yet Mitter, probably in an attempt to

align with Schacht's theory, refused to consider the possibility of 'Umar as common-

link. However, her diagram and decription of it clearly indicates 'Umar as such, since

MuI].ammad b. S"'rrm and the four other Followers who transmitted the ljadIth, aU

attributed it to 'Umar.

The last two ex amples of supporters of Schacht's fmdings discussed here are

M.J. Kister and Jeanette Wakin. Kister's main concem is with the intellectual content

of the lJadIth, and as such does not mention the Common-Link Theory. He states

nevertheless "The few traditions reviewed in this paper clearly demonstrate the fluidity

134 Ibid., 53; see the diagram she offers on p. 52 of the same article.

of certain religious and socio-political ideas reflected in the early compilations of

hadith, as aIready proved by 1. Goldziher."135 Wakin, a student of Schacht, wrote a

biography ofhim and discussed his work as weIl as described the main themes ofhis

theories. For instance, she explains how Schacht was astonished at the neglect of

Goldziher's fmdings by modern scholars who continued to accept the vast body of

tradition, and how he saw his task as one ofrecovering and interpreting Goldziher's

fmdings. Approving ofSchacht's pursuit of the legal traditions, in which he was led to

even more thorough and radical conclusions, Wakin states that "Schacht then proceeded

to do what Goldziher had not attempted, namely, to erect a new structure to explain the

real nature of the origins of Muslim jurisprudence," which she described as an elaborate

structure. l36 Wakin, among others, described Schacht's conclusions as being so firmly

grounded that "they are aImost impossible to refute.,,137

135 M.J. Kister, "On 'Concessions' and Conduct. A study in Early J.Iadith," in: G. H. A. Juynboll ed.,
Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society (Carbondale: Southem minois University Press, 1982),

136 Jeanette Wakin, Remembering Joseph Schacht (1902-1969) (Cambridge, MA: Islamic Legal Studies
Program, 2003), 26.

J37 Ibid., 29-31.

Diagram (1) The lfadith ofSalim 138

This diagram is based on Mitter, "Unconditional Manumission of Slaves in Early

Islamic Law," p. 52.

- - -- - -- - -- - - -- -- ---- - -- -- - -- -- - - - - - - - - -- --- - - - --~
- - - ~------------------------------------------------------ --------

138 This me ans that the i}amth was transmitted through Salim.

The Opponents' Approach

While several scholars have adopted Schacht's theories in their entirely, others have

attempted to refute sorne ofhis arguments, including the Common-Link Theory. As we

saw in the previous chapter, the majority of Western scholars concede the validity of

Schacht's theories, although a few have been hesitant to fully embrace them. For an

assessment of Schacht' s work and its legacy within scholarly discourse, it is now

necessary to examine these critiques. What exactly are the approaches that have been

taken by Schacht's critics?

Through surveying such thinkers it bec ornes apparent that their arguments

represent a spectrum, ranging from the extremely broad, on one hand, to the intently

specifie, on the other. The former tendency is characterized by a lack of concem for the

particular elements of Schacht' s argument about iJadith, while the latter approach tends

to focus upon minute details, loosing sight oftheir relation to Schacht's argument more

generally. While aIl ofthese scholars have raised yaluable points, this body of

dise ourse can benefit from a clear coalescence and reorientation.

What follows here is an analysis of this spectrum of thought, as categorized into

three major groups. The fIfst is composed ofscholars who represent a style ofbroad

criticism, whieh tends to ignore many specifie problems incorporated within Schacht' s

work. The second represents middle-of-the-roaders, who attempt to provide a more

thorough, detailed critique of Schacht, albeit in an unfocused manner; they present their

perspective to Arabic as weIl as English readers. The third is comprised of critics who

wrote in Arabie only, relying exclusively upon the second group's interpretation; their

arguments are more focused upon very specifie aspects of Schacht's work, while

overlooking its macro-composition.

1. Western Critics:

In a lukewarm challenge, H. A. R. Gibb 139 and Montgomery Watt l40 implied that

Schacht may have taken his argument about Islamic law too far. They evaded the full

implications of Schacht's theory by shifting focus from the traditions as a fiction to

their significance as documentation for ninth-century Muslim values.

A somewhat more substantial, but indirect challenge to Schacht's approach to

the formative period ofIslamic law can be found in the work of Fuat Sezgin l41 and

Nabia Abbott. 142 They presented general views, which contrast to those ofSchacht,

especially regarding the controversial issue of authenticity and Prophetie Traditions.

Abbott acknowledges the existence of legal writings on papyri, based on Prophetie

traditions, from the first cent ury A.H. Sezgin presents a number of ljadith collections

dating to the fIfSt half of the second century A.H. Both Abbott' sand Sezgin' s work

prove that written ljadith existed at an earlier time than their supposed fabrication by

common-links, according to Schacht.

More directly, Alfred Guillaume daims that Schacht did not fully understand the

process of ljadith transmission in early Islam. In his review of Schacht' s Origins,

139 Motzki, The Origins, 30.

140 Ibid.

141 Sezgin, Geschiehte, i, 53-84 and passim.

142 Abbott, StOOks in Arabie Literary Papyri, ii, 5-83 and passim,

Guillaume casts doubt upon the Common-Link Theory, but states that he would have

accepted it if Schacht had referred only to the fonn of lJadlth in general. In Guillaume's

opinion, it seems somewhat drastic to postulate that "every legal tradition from the

Prophet until the contrary is proved must be taken not as an authentic or essentially

authentic ... statement valid for his time or for the time of the Companions, but as the

fictitious expression of a legal doctrine fonnulated at a later date."143 This position

constitutes only a partial rejection of Schacht, which lacks supporting evidence, given

the limited nature of its presentation.

As direct as Guillaume, but with more attention to particular evidence, the work

of Rubin challenges the Common-Link Theory. Rubin' s book, The Eye of the Beholder,

is a study ofProphetic sua, which also contains explicit criticism of Schacht's approach
to isniid In Rubin's opinion, the Prophetic utterances, even when reflecting an

advanced stage of dogmatic development, may still be dated to a much earlier time than

proposed by Schacht. Rubin asserts that nothing dictates against the emergence of

authentic Prophetic utterances already in the lifetime of the Companions to whom they

were attributed (Le. more or less towards the middle of the first century A.H.). Rubin

explains that incomplete isniids, in which the names of Companions are obscured or

entirely missing, perhaps refleet a later stage of transmission, when the possibility of

pretending to quote directly from Companions was diminished. 144

143 A. Guillaume, review of: "The Origins of Muhammedan Jurisprudence," BSOAS 16, no.l (1954): 176.

144 Rubin, 242.

The most developed challenge to Schacht' s work amongst the frrst group of

scholars came from Noel Coulson, in his History oflslamic Law. 145 Although Coulson

believes that Schacht's thesis is irrefutable in its broad essentials, he does challenge

certain details in Schacht's line of argumentation. Coulson accepts that the vast

majority of the legal dicta attributed to the Prophet are apocryphal, resulting from

"back-projection" oflegal doctrine,146 but also c1aims that legal traditions originated

from an earlier source than supposed by Schacht:

The second trend in early [Abbasid - F.H.] jurisprudence [method in

Abbasid - F.H.] was a growing emphasis on the notion of sunna or
established doctrine. In order to consolidate the idea of tradition the
doctrine was represented as having roots stretching back into the past,
and the authority of previous generations was c1aimed for its current
expression. Although such authority was at first anonymous, increasing
formalism soon attached the specifie names of former pious personages to
the doctrine. It was projected backwards tIrrough intermediate links to
the early generations of Muslims. 'Umar, for example, was frequently
represented as the originator of Medinan sunna, and Ibn-Mas'üd held a
similar position in Küfa. Eventually and inevitably the process ended in
c1aiming the authority of the Prophet himself for the doctrine. 147

Here Coulson offers a modified version of the Common-Link Theory, which aimed to

solve the problems inherent to Schacht's speculation. His suggestion is to regard the

precedents of the Prophet himself as the supreme and overriding authority for law. Such

a proposaI does not constitute a rejection ofSchacht's precepts, but attempts to reform

the Common-Link Theory in negotiation with its opponents. 148

145 Noel J. Coulson, A HistoryofIslamic Law (Edinburgh: University Press, 1990).

146 Ibid., 64.

147 Ibid., 40.

148 Ibid., 42.

Coulson' s modified version of Schacht' s theory places an earlier date on the

origins of Islamic law, claiming that "the evidence of legal traditions carries us back to

about the year A.H. 100 [ca. A.D. 719] only." AIso, Couison recognizes that when the

authenticity of practically every alleged ruling of the Prophet is denied, like in the case

of Schacht, a void is assumed, or rather created, in the picture of the development oflaw

in early Muslim society. Couison declares that from a practicai standpoint and by

taking the attendant historicai circumstances into account, the notion of such a vacuum

is difficult to accept. 149

This triggered a fierce reaction by Schacht, who in a Iengthy book review of

Couison' s A History ofIslamic Law, wrote:

Mr. Couison takes the projection backwards of doctrines, to higher and

higher authorities and fmally to the Prophet, and the creation of fictitious
isniids for granted, but he says in effect that though a Iegai Tradition
from the Prophet with a demonstrably spurious isniïdmay have come into
existence about, say, the middle of the second century of the hijra, the
doctrine expressed by it is to be accepted as a genuine ruling of the
Prophet if it fits in with the presumed circumstances of the Prophet's
community at Medina, and that the spurious isniïd and the faise
circumstantiai details do not matter because they are 'simply
embellishments'. This is indeed projecting doctrines backwards with a
vengeance, and Mr. Couison shows himself more credulous than the
Traditionists of the third century of the hijra who at Ieast rejected
traditions with isniïds which theyconsidered spurioUS. 150

CouIson's response to this irritable Ietter from Schacht was detailed and Iengthy. He

referred to the l;.adith about 'the six slaves case,' in which he felt Schacht had employed

twisted Iogic. Couison believed that ifwe are Ieft simply with this rule in the l;.adith as

the decision of an Umayyad govemor, then it is undeniable, from any realistic Iegal

149 Ibid., 64-65.

150 Schacht, "Modernism and Traditionalism," 392.

stand point, that the decision must have followed and cannot have preceded the

establishment of the one-third ruIe, whieh Schacht had assumed. The Iegai nature of the

decision is that it extends to gifts made during death-sickness, an accepted rule relating

to bequests. To support his view, Coulson notes that al-Shafi'i himself, in his al-Risiïla,

makes this point precisely. After a meticulous study ofthis case, Coulson says: "To

suppose, as Schacht does, that 'the six slaves case' itseIfwas the origin of the one-third

rule is [indeed] to put the cart before the horse.,,151 Coulson must have been surprised at

Schacht's reaction, and alludes to a profound methodological disagreement between the

two ofthem, saying that: "When a picture appears out offocus it may simply be that

different lenses are required."152

2. Lost in Translation:

Criticism has not only been directed against Schacht. For instance, Juynboll's approach

to 1;adith, whieh is based on Schacht's work, was examined by al-Jarallah in his thesis

The Origin of1.ladith: A Critical Appraisal ofa Westem Approaeh to the Subjeet

(1991). Despite its apparently wide scope, al-Jarallah thesis focuses largely on Juynboll.

Surprisingly, out of the one hundred and fifty sources that al-Jarallah used, only five

were western secondary sources, the rest being classieal and sorne modem Arabie

sources mainly on 1;adith; this reflects a poor comprehension of the field of Western

academie discourse, which al-Jarallah aimed to address. His examination consists of

151 Noel 1. Coulson, "Correspondence," MES 3, no.3 (April 1967): 198.

152 Ibid., 202.

two parts: the first part investigates awii'il (a report of something's originator)

evidence, the chronology of the growth of traditions, the origin of the concept

"Prophetie sunnà', the early development of the l;1adJth centers, and a tentative

chronology of .ta1ab a1- 'jlm. The second part deals with different aspects of early l;1adJth

as presented by Juynboll. 153 Ultimately, al-Jarallah is not successful in terms ofrelating

the particulars ofhis critique to the larger framework of Juynboll's argument, nor does

he succeed in locating the position of Juynboll's argument within its discourse


In an even less rigorous manner, A. L. Tibawi suggests that Schacht did not

prejudice his conclusions with any emotional hostility to the background of his subject.

Although sorne Muslim authorities may find Schacht's analysis too skeptical and may

question his work on points of detail, Tibawi thought that Schacht's main thesis, despite

appearances, was not "entirely irreconcilable" with Islam. Tibawi attempted to

overcome the problem of origins posed by Schacht, by claiming that for the early

Muslim community, alll;1adith were eventually bound in a legal system in accordance

with its holy book, traditions, and approved practices. 154 Even if we agree with Tibawi

regarding Schacht's motives, we must still evaluate the accuracy ofhis theory, for an

honest appraisal.

The last and most important voice in this group cornes from M. M. Azami, who

is cited broadly and quoted widely by Muslim scholars in general, and among Arab

scholars in particular. Azami's approach flounders in several significant ways. First of

153 Su1aiman A1-Jarallah, The Origin ofljarnth: A CriticaJ Appraisal ofa Westem Approach to the Sul!iect
(Ph.D. Thesis, University of Glasgow, 1991),7-19.

154 A. L. Tibawi, "English Speaking Orientalists," IQ8, nos. 1-2 (1964): 40.

all, Azami did not attempt to examine the influences which were brought to bear upon

Schacht's work. The development ofSchacht's ideas in relation to orientalist discourse

generally, and the method employed, which enabled him to draw his conclusions, were

not treated seriously by Azami. More importantly, Azami was distracted by addressing

every single questionable detail that he encountered in Origins, without identifying their

interrelationship in the main line of argumentation. As such, he failed to maintain a

clear focus, which would have added to the depth and breadth ofhis analysis. Moreover,

Azami failed to provide any corrective methodological alternative, relying instead on

what may easily be construed as a reactionary or apologetic delivery.

It is important to mention that Azami attempted a comprehensive critique of

Schacht, although his argument was insufficient because it was excessively polemical in

tone and was not as careful as he repeatedly claimed. The following are two quotes

from On Schacht's Origin ofMuhammadan Jurisprudence, presented here for two

reasons: to summarize Azami's main argument against Schacht, and to demonstrate the

incoherence between the introduction and conclusion of Azami's critical points. The

frrst quote is taken from Azami's introduction, where he states:

Schacht has apparently failed to consult sorne of the most relevant

literature; he often misunderstands the texts he quotes; the examples he
uses frequently contradict the point he is attempting to make; on
occasion he quotes out of context; he applies unscientific methodoJogy
for his research, thus drawing conclusions that are untenable when the
evidence of the text as a whole is weighed. 155

The second quote, a summary statement, cornes from his conclusion:

Careful scrutiny of his examples and repeated reference to the original

source material, reveals inconsistencies both within the theory itself and
in the use of source material, unwarranted assumptions and unscientific

155 Azami, On Schachf. 3.

method of research, illistakes of fact, ignorance of the political and
geographical realities of time, and misinterpretation of the meaning of
the texts quoted, and misunderstanding of the method of quotation of
early scholars. 156

In refutation ofSchacht's work, Azami devotes a whole book, in which he

summarized Schacht thus:

1. Law feH outside the sphere of religion. The Prophet did not aim to create
a new system of jurisprudence. His authority was not legal. As far as
believers were concerned, he derived his authority from the truth of his
religious message; skeptics supported him for political reasons.
2. The ancient schools of law, which are still the major recognized schools
today, were born in the early decades of the second century A.H. By
sunna they originally understood the "living tradition" (aJ-amr aJ-
mujtama' 'aJayh), that is, the ideal practices of the community expressed
in the accepted doctrine of the school of law. This early concept of
sunna, which was not re1ated to the sayings and deeds of the Prophet,
formed the basis of the legal theory of these schools.
3. These ancient schools of law gave birth to an opposition party,
religiously inspired, that falsely produced detailed information about the
Prophet in order to establish a source of authority for its views on
4. The ancient schools of law tried to resist these factions, but when they
saw that the alleged traditions from the Prophet were being imposed
more and more on the early concept of sunna, they concluded that the
best they could do was to minimize their import by interpretation, and to
embody their own attitude and doctrines in other alleged that is they
joined in the deception. - traditions from the Prophet.

156 Ibid., 116.

5. As a result, during the second and third centuries A.H., it became the
habit of scholars to project their own statements into the mouth of the
6. Hardly any legal tradition from the Prophet can, therefore, be considered
7. The system of isnid(chain oftransmitters), used for the authentication of
1;.adlth documents, has no historical value. It was invented by those
scholars who were falsely attributing their own doctrines back to the
earlier authorities; as such, it is useful only as a means for dating
.c • "157
The importance of this surnrnary lies in the faet that the Arabie literature about Sehaeht

almost entirely relies on Azami's interpretation; therefore, it is necessary to understand

how Azami articulated the main precepts ofhis argument.

3. Arab Critics:

A longstanding tendeney cornrnon amongst orientalists has been to ignore contemporary

Arab authors completely. Sorne recent Arab scholars have, however, engaged Schacht's

theories, among other orientalists, although no in-depth critique has yet been produced.

A general reluctance to seriously consider Schacht's work is readily notice able, a

reluctance that is a part of the wider phenomenon of rejecting flatly and a prion" the

genre of Oriantalist scholarship. The few published reactions ean be fairly divided into

three categories: (1) those which dismiss Schacht outright; (2) extremely general and

Ullsubstantiated criticism of Schacht; and (3) those which challenge Schacht more

directly, but are derivatives of Azami's work.

157 Ibid., 1-2.

Critics of the frrst category dismiss not only Schacht but generally all Western

contributions to l;1adith criticism, and they do so from a perspective which lacks

sufficient familiarity with Schacht's work and wider range of orientalist discourse. For

instance, 'Abd al-'~ al-Mut'an1 states that Malik's Muwa!!a'is evidence enough to

demolish Schacht's daim that the sunnawas not considered a source ofIslamic law

before al-Shafi'i. 158 This, however, was not Schacht's position regarding Malik's

Muwa!!a'. There is little doubt that writers like al-Mu!,anl not only misunderstood

Schacht, but issued judgment upon his writing prematurely. According to Al-Mu!, anl:

Schacht gives the best scholars of early Islamic history an awful

depiction. He accuses them of intentionally lying and forging l;1adiths by
putting the latter into the mouth of the Prophet. But the truth is that the
lying impostor is Schacht, his colleagues among the orientalists, and
those who follow their direction. 159

Beyond such name-calling, he does not provide any substantial evidence to refute

Schacht's daims. Similarly, al-Siba'i, who actually met Schacht in person, says little

about the substance ofhis writings. But, in an apparent reaction against orientalists, al-

Siba'i claims that "Schacht wrote an introduction to Islamic law full of falsification and

twisted statements in the same way his predecessor did.,,160

The critics of the second category acknowledge the content of Schacht's

arguments, but only obliquely. Due to the apparent difficulties of accessing Schacht's

works directly, their responses are typically generalized attacks. Nadhlr I:Iamdan, for

instance criticizes orientalists for generalizing, yet, he himself commits this error

against orientalists. His approach to Schacht's work is itself a clear case in point. He

158 'Abd al-' A?lm al-Muranl, Iftiriï'iït a/-Mustashriqln 'a/iï a/-Isliim (Cairo: Maktabat Wahba, 1992), 166.

159 Ibid., 59.

160 Mu~tafâ AI-Sibii'i, al-Sunna wa-Makiinatuhiï fi a/-TashiJ'(J3eirut: AI-Maktab al-Islam1, 1985), 16.

states that in Islamic jurisprudence and legal theory, Schacht took an extreme position

in linking Islamic law with Roman law and tribal customs, thereby calling into question

its validity and independence. I:Iamdan also complains that Schacht was prepared to

fault scholars for mere1y pointing out the links between Islamic law and other laws.!6!

I:Iamdan's critique would have been more convincing and appropriate ifhe actually

analyzed Schacht' s theories instead of merely attacking his conclusions.

The third category includes those few Arab authors who have attempted to

challenge Schacht's theories directly, but have not yet developed a credible,

independent response. In addition to employing such circular methods of reasoning, as

citing the Qur'an or l;adJths to provide documentation, almost aIl rely upon Azami's

work and other oblique references derived from it.!62 Since Azami misrepresented sorne

of Schacht's theories, the following critical by-products often replicate and compound

his errors, and thus are of little consequence.

In his book about the research methods in orientalists' writings, MughIi outlines

the broad premises of Schacht's argument concerning the origins of Islamic law:

Sorne orientalists such as Goldziher and Schacht insist on the theory that
l;adJth was considered as the second source of Islamic law two hundred
years after the Qur'an, and that the justification for its appearance was
the need for solutions to the problems in different regions. Robinson
takes the same position as Schacht on this matter.!63

161 Nadhrr 1:Iarndiin, MustashriqÜ11 (Taif: Maktabat al-~iddiq, 1988).

162 Apparently, the major works that have been taken as the main sources for Arab authors are that of
Azami, Studies in Barly f!:adith Literature and On Schacht's Origins ofMuhammadan Jurisprudence; and
al-Sibiï'1, al-Sunna wa Makiinatuhii fi al-TashiJ' .

163 Mul).ammad MughIi, Maniihij al-Ba1;th fi al-Isliimiyyiit ladii al-Mustashriqln (Riyadh: King Fay(>al
Center, 2002), 339-340.

Mughfi reckons that one of the justifications consistently cited by Goldziher and

Schacht for their theory is that iJadlths were not written down until two hundred years

after the Prophet's time. 164 Mughfi goes on to daim that Goldziher, Schacht and

Robinson's entire scholarly project is invalid, but without addressing any oftheir proofs

or argumentation. His total acceptance of Azami's refutation preduded any further

investigation on his part.

A more sensible refutation of Goldziher's daim is offered by Niir al-Dm 'Itr,

who is a Professor of iJadlth and Qur'an at Damascus University. He argues that iJadlth

began to be written down as early as the year 35 A.H. 165 Above and beyond the writing

process, according to 'Itr, was the memorizing of iJadlth, which was the common

practice of the people at that time. 'Itr explains that memorization was a key method of

recording the iJadlth, and eriticizes Sehaeht in partieular and the orientalists in general

for overlooking the faet that this praetice is famously attributed to the Companions. 166

In his study of orientalists and their positions on Islamie jurisprudence, al-

Sufyanl suggests that "Schaeht did not eonsider Islamic law a part of the Islarnic

religion."167 In other words, he eriticized Schaeht for separating law and religion, in his

coneeptual approaeh to Islamic jurisprudence. He further daims that Sehaeht's theories

are eonstructed upon this assumption, whieh constitutes grounds to dismiss Sehaeht's

theories in their entirety. Despite the faet that sueh a vague dismissal is unaeceptable,

we find that al-Sufyanl relies on only two translated books by Azami, and sorne

164 Ibid., 365.

165 Nûr al-Dln 'Hf, Manhaj al-Naqd fi 'Uliïm al-l:fadith (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1981),46 and 465.

166 Ibid., 50.

167 'Abid al-Sufyanl, al-MustashriqÜlJ (Jeddah: Dar al-Manara, 1992),5-6.

irrelevant primary sources. This kind of study misleads readers through its inadequate

analysis ofSchacht's theories, and typifies the vast gap between scholarly writing in the

East and West on topics related to the history ofIslamic law.

Among many contemporary scholars, al-Bash1r investigates sorne of Schacht 's

c1aims regarding the matn, and contrasts them to those he Id by the traditionists. His

grOlUlds for doing so is the fact that the ./;ladIth may have an authentic isniid and yet its

matn may be spurious for various reasons, inc1uding being shiidhdh or ma'llil (Le.,

having 'illa).168 He points out to numerous similar citations from muJ;addiths. 169

One of the most comprehensive studies ofSchacht's methodology in the Arabic

language is that of al-Drls, who relies not only on Azami, but also on the partial

translation of Schacht's Originsby al-Bash1r. l7o AI-Drls identifies six problems in his

approach, the fIfst ofwhich is the c1aim that Schacht had a hidden agenda, but al-Dr1s

does not explain what it is. 17l Second, Schacht selectively chose his sources-he did

not properly utilize primary ./;ladIth sources, but instead relied excessively on flqh books,

especially al-Shafi'1's al-Risiila; an examination of a wider selection of secondary

sources as evidence would have gone further towards demonstrating impartiality.172

Third, he cites Schacht's suspicion of ./;ladIth sources and scant bibliography, casting

168 For the term mu'allal, see below, p. 99.

169 'I~âm al-Bashrr, U~üI Manhaj al-Naqd 'ind Ahl al-lfadith (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Rayyân, 1992), 85-88
and passim.

170 For further details on criticizing Schacht, see below, p. 125

171 Khâlid Al-DTIs, al-'Uyub al-Manhajiyya fi Kitiibiit al-Mustashriq Shakht al-Muta'alliqa bi al-Sunna
(Saudi Arabia: Ministry ofIslamic Affairs Press, n. d.), 21-31 and passim.

172 Ibid, 33-37.

suspicion upon the accuracy of Schacht's understanding. 173 Fourth, and worst of an in

al-Dr1s's opinion, are Schacht's contradictory assertions. One example ofthis is his e

silento argument, as described previously.174 Al-Drts conceptualized this problem from

information taken from Zafar's article, which was translated into Arabic. 175 Fifth is

Schacht' s misinterpretation of terminology, which, according to al-Dr1s, is utilized by

Schacht to self-serving ends. For instance, Schacht interprets the meaning of' fitnah'

out of its historical context, in a way that suits his own conc1usions. 176 Sixth, is

Schacht' s tendency towards generalization, which was also mentioned by several other

Arab scholars and originated from AzamL 177 On the one hand, al-Dr1s addresses

Schacht's work more completely than his contemporaries, but on the other hand, his

familiarity with Schacht is ultimately limited to the interpretation of Azami.

Thus, from the forgoing survey a more complete critique begins to emerge. Of

the Western scholars, Coulson demonstrates the greatest familiarity with Schacht, in an

academic and personal sense, and Schacht himself paid serious attention to his detailed

criticism. Nevertheless, subsequent opponents from the Arab world did not elaborate

upon Coulson's work, instead accepting the critique of Azami. The repercussions of

Azami's rhetorical mode of criticism detracted serious attention from any informed

criticism of Schacht amongst Westerners, and has misguided the few Arab writers who

have bothered to engage this topic. Lessons learnt from past mistakes within these

173 Ibid., 39-43.

174 See above, 13,26-27.

175 Ibid., 45-52.

176 Ibid., 53-58.

177 Ibid., 59-63.

strands of discourse, and a careful reassembling of their insightful points, will inform my

criticism and guide the emergence of a viable alternative to Schacht' s approach to the

Common-Link and more generally to the study of J;.adlth and Islamic law.

Chapter 3: Examining the Evidence of the Common-Link Theory

Evidence Presented by Schacht

ln justifying the Common-Link Theory, Schacht sought to convince his readers not only

of its validity, but also of its widespread impact, presenting it as a commonplace

phenomenon that affected the entire corpus of f;Jadith. Nevertheless, his main pieces of

evidence consisted of one f;Jadith about the sale of the walii' and another known as the

f;Jadith of Barrra. Even ifwe assume that these two lJadiths are fictitious in the way

Schacht wants them to be, they can hardly be universalized into a theory which explains

the fictitiousness of the entire literature of legal f;Jadith. In dealing with the frrst f;Jadith,

Schacht suggests that the common-link in the multiple versions of its isniidwas 'Abd

Allah b. Dmiir, while in the case of the second, he suggests that Hisham was the

common-link. 1 shall analyze this evidence in contrast to that of the traditionists,

referring in the process to primary sources and examining other circumstances that

affect the authenticity of the lJadiths in question.

Regarding the lJadith pertaining to the sale of walii', Schacht proclaims that Ibn

Dmiir is the common-link in the isniid3 of its several versions. l78 ln other words, the

lJadith had eight transmitters, all ofwhom narrated it from Ibn Dmar, and that Ibn Dmiir

was the only transmitter who narrated it from Ibn 'Umar, and that Ibn 'Umar was the

only transmitter who narrated it from the Prophet. Schacht suggests the common-link

- the fabricator ofthis lJadith- to be Ibn Dmiir, who spread it to eight transmitters:

178 Schacht, Origins, 173.

Shu'ba,I79 Sufyan,180 Isma'11 181 , Ibn 'Uyayna,182 Malik,'83 Sulayman,184 'Ubaydullah,185

Leaving aside Schacht's assumptions for the moment, a thorough investigation

of the primary l;adlth sources demonstrates an astonishing conclusion - one that

completely contradicts Schacht's claim. Diagram (2) shows the actual structure of the

isniid of this l;adlth. Schacht' s argument, hence, contains several problems, the fIfst of

which is that Ibn D1nar was not the only transmitter who narrated the l;adlth from Ibn

'Umar. For instance, al-Mubarakflirl fmds that Nafi' narrated the l;adlth from Ibn

'Umar, as recorded in two different l;adlth collections, one compiled by Ibn Maja and

the other by Abu 'Awana. Additionally, according to al-Mubarakflirl,187 the l;adlthwas

narrated by thirty-five transmitters, not only by the eight Schacht asserted. Even more

astonishing is the fact that Ibn 'Umar was not the only transmitter ofthis l;adlth from

179 As fmmd in MlÙ]ammad al-Bukhâii, al-Jiïmi' al-$ai}.IIJ (Beifut: Dar al-Qalam, 1987), (2535); Muslim al-
Naysabüii, $ai}.JfJ Muslim (Beirut: Dar Il).ia' al-Turath, 1972), (1506); MlÙ}.ammad al-Tinnidh1, Jiïmi' al-
Tirmidhl(Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1983), (1236); Abu Dawud al-Sijistiïnl, al-Sunan, 'Izzat al-Da"as ed
(Beifut: Dar al-I;laruth, 1965), (2919); MlÙ]ammad Ibn Maja, al-Sunan(Beirut: Dar Il).ya' al-Turath, 1975),
(2747); and A1pnad Ibn I;lanbal, al-Musnad(Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1986), (5816).

180 al-Bukhâii (6756); Muslim (1506); al-Tirmidhl (1236); and Ibn Mlija (2747). Isma'Il, found only in
Muslim (1506).

181 Muslim (3861).

182 Ibid. (1506).

183 As found in his al-Muwatta'; A1pnad al-Nasa'1, Sunan al-Nasi'l (Damascus: Dar al-' Asha'if, 1986),
(4658); and al-Danm1 (2572).

184 Muslîm (1506).

185 Muslim (1506); al-Tirmidh1 (1236); and al-Nasa'1 (4657).

186 Muslim (1506).

187 MlÙ]ammad al-Mubarakfüii, Tu/;Ifat al-Af;Iwadhl Shar,h Jiïmi' al-Tirmid1ii(Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-
'Alamiyya, 1990), fJadith no. 2126.

the Prophet. In a lJadlth collection compiled by al_Dariml,188 we fmd that 'Uthman b.

'Afran also narrated this report, yet Schacht was oblivious to this evidence.

188 al-Danml, (3155).

Diagram (2) lfadlth "The Sale of WaJ.i' "

But this is not aH. The foundations of Schacht' s argument are also called into

question because of his failure to recognize that this iJadlth cannot be regarded as

sufficiently representative of a typical iJadlth, and therefore as proof ofhis argument.

Although the iJadlthwas narrated by two Companions, Ibn 'Umar and 'Uthman, and

then by two Successors from Ibn 'Umar, Ibn Dinar and Niifi', it was considered

abnormally imbalanced by traditionists; following the level of Successors it was almost

entirely disseminated from the branch ofIbn DInar. Two famous mul;1addiths - Ibn

I:Iajarl89 and al-Mubarakfiïrl were moved to quote speculations by several traditionists

regarding the limited number oftransmitters who narrated this iJadlth. For instance,

Shu'ba said that he would have liked to kiss Ibn Dlnar's forehead for narrating this

iJadlth (a gesture of respect and appreciation), acknowledging in this way its c1early

unusuallineage. In view of its irregularity, therefore, it is inadmissible as evidence for

the theory that Schacht proposes, and even less as a model.

This iJadlth is regarded as an anomalous (gharlb) one by traditionists, although

its strength of authenticity lies not in its isnidbut in the fact that several Companions

had the same opinion on the case mentioned therein. This factor was ignored by

Schacht, demonstrating not only his lack of resources but also his unawareness of the

traditionists' methods of determining the authenticity of iJadlth. 190 Here, the opinion of

the Companions who transmitted the iJadlth - Ibn 'Umar, Ibn 'Abbas, 'A'isha and Abu

Hurayra - had a vital role in establishing its authenticity.

189 'A1}mad Ibn I.Iajar, Fatl} al-Biiii(Cairo: al-Matba'a al-Salafiyya, 1988), no. 465.

190 For further studies regarding these methods, see Ibn I.Iajar, who Iists over 70 methods of evaluating the
authenticity of the l;/8mth one of which is the legal opinion of the Companion who narrated the l;amth.

In the second piece of evidence elucidated by Schacht, Le., 'the l;1adIth of Barlra' ,

he proclaims that there were six transmitters: Malik, Wuhayb, Wakl', I:Iammad, Jarrr,

and 'Abd Allah b. Numayr. AlI of them narrated the l;1adIth from Hisham, who was the

only transmitter to narrate it from his father, 'Urwa, while 'Urwa was the only one who

narrated it from his aunt, 'A'isha. Schacht suggests that Hisham was the common-link,

and therefore was responsible for its fabrication. The text of this l;1adIth is found in the

following primary sources: al-BukharI,191 Muslim,l92 and Abu Dawud. 193 When

comparing the isniids found in these sources, however, (the data is schematized in

diagram (3)), we see clearly the divergence between the findings of Schacht and those

of the traditionists. These are: fIfSt, that Hisham was not the only transmitter from his

father 'Urwa, since this l;1adIth was narrated by two other transmitters from 'Urwa, i.e.,

Yazld b. Rliman l94 and Mt$ammad b. Muslim;195 second, that 'Urwa was not the only

transmitter from 'A'isha, since this l;1adIth was narrated by five other transmitters as

weIl: 'Arnra/ 96 al-Aswad b. YazId,197 'Abd Allah b. 'Arnr/98 al-Qasim b. Mt$ammad b.

Abi Bakr al-Siddiq,199 and Ibn Umm Ayman;20o and third, that 'A'isha was not the only

191 al-Bukhan (2155), (2168), (2563), (2717), (2729). Ijadith numbers were added by current author.

192 Muslim, (1504).

193 Abü Dawoo (3929).

194 Muslim, (1405).

195 al-BukharI, (2155), (2717); Muslim, (1504).

196 al-Bukhan, (456), (2546).

197 al-Bukhan, (2536), (5284), (6717), (6751), (6754), (6758), (6760); al-Tirmidhl, (1256).

198 Muslim, (1504).

199 al-Bukhan, (2578), (5097), (5279), (5430); Muslim, (1504).

transmit ter of this l;adJth from the Prophet - ' Amr b. al-' ~ narrated the same l;adJth

directly from the Prophet. 201

Schacht's limi~ed access to l;adJth collections is obvious in this example as well

as in the frrst, a fact that must have played a role in leading him to forrn premature

conclusions. Therefore, it is not surprising that Schacht erroneously suggests that this

l;adJth had a cornmon-link at the level of Hisharn, when in reality the evidence shows

otherwise. What 1 have presented here regarding Schacht' s argument on the l;adJth of

Barlra is little more than what Azami has pointed out in his On Schacht 's Origins,

where he painstakingly discusses where Schacht erred in his analogy?02 What is most

curious is that Azami's criticism was entirely ignored by mainstream Western

scholarship, leaving Schacht unscathed. 203

200 al-Bukhiiii, (2565), and (2726).

201 Ibn Mïija, (3835).

202 Azami, On Schacht, 200-205 and passim.

WaeI Hallaq, "The Quest for Origins or Doctrine? Islamic Legal Studies as Colonialist Discourse,"
UCLA Joumal ofIslamic and Near Eastem Law, vol.2, no. 1 (2002-03): 20

Diagram (3) lfadIth "Banra"

Evidence Presented by Juynboll

Judging Schacht's evidence for the Common-Link Theory to be insufficient, Juynboll

decided to devote an entire chapter in his Muslim Tradition to bolster Schacht's

argument with further proof. T 0 this purpose he presents therein the case of the ljadith

"tubnii madlna, " found in both al-Khat1b's Tiirlkh Baghdiid and Ibn al-Jawzl's Kitiib a1-

Mawcjiï'iit. Juynboll claims that Sufyan, who held the highest rank among mu1;addiths

in term of reliability, was the common-link and fabricator ofthis ljadith. Juynboll

concludes that even the most reliable transmitters can be the common-links in isniïds,

generally speaking. The significance of this conclusion lies in its implication, namely,

that the authenticity of the entire corpus of ljadith is doubtful.

While Juynboll's presumption that a common-link existed within this ljadith's

isniidis correct, 1 suggest that he was mistaken to assign this rule to Sufyan. Juynboll's

argument rests on three major premises, the fIfst based on socio-historical evidence, the

second regarding analysis of the isniid "tubnii madina," and the third concerning two

other ljadiths as supporting evidence. In this chapter my argument will demonstrate

that aIl three ofthese premises are unsound, and Juynboll's argument must therefore be

rejected. Alternately, the following investigation will elaborate upon these sources of

evidence respectively, in support of a revised claim: that a common-link did, in fact,

exist in the form of' Ammar b. Sayf, who is unanimously considered a weak transmitter

by traditionists. Furthermore, this claim supports the broader project of introducing a

revised Common-Link Theory with sounder historical foundations.

"Tubnii madlnà' is a ljadith ofweak authenticity, unanimously decreed as such

by traditionists upon the basis of' Ammar b. Sayf's role as madiir, or "common-link."

This assessment is recorded in the Kitab al-Mawç1ii'at ofIbn al-Jawzl, who hoped

thereby to stem its wider circulation. From its use as evidence in al-Khatlb's Tiirlkh

Baghdacl "tubnii madlnà' curiously reflected contemporary anti-Abbasid sentiment in

A city will be built between [the rivers] Dijlâ and Dujayl and [Qatrubull
and a:S'-$arat] in which the treasures of the earth will be amassed [and in
which the kings and tyrants of the earth will assemble]; verily, it will go
under, go to ruin, perish, suffer disgrace, be devastated (etc.) more
quickly than an iron pin, an [iron] ploughshare, a peace of [heated] iron, a
kul].l (eye liner) stick, a pickaxe in unfrrm, soft earth; '" than a dry pin in
moist earth?04

According to Juynboll, this iJadIth includes eighteen isnad3: two via Anas b. Malik, and

the other sixteen via Jarrr b. 'Abd Allah. Juynboll ho Ids that aImost all of the isniids,

except a few, converge in the traditionist Sufyan al-Thawii (d. 161/ 776), thereafter

fanning out to a dozen or so of his alleged pupils. After discussing all the isniids,

Juynboll offers the following summary:

So far we have met various transmitters unambiguously transmitting the

tradition in question on the authority of Sufyan and one, 'Ammar b. S ayf,
who is also mentioned in isniids in which Sufyan seems to have been
skipped, although it is hinted that he may have had a hand in its
transmission. 205

Even though Juynboll knew that 'Ammar might have had a hand in fabricating

this iJadIth, he insists that the common-link was Sufyan and not 'Ammar, who was

identified by al-Khatlb and Ibn al-Jawzl as the probable common-link in this J;1adith.

Juynboll criticizes these two mul].addiths and the early muJ;addiths as well, such as

Al].mad b. I:Ianbal and Ya4ya b. Ma'1n, for their opinions regarding this J;1adith, stating:

204 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 208.

205 Ibid., 210.

According to a multitude of references to such early critics as A1Jmad Ibn
I:Ianbal, Ya4ya b. Ma'ln and others, al-Khat1b and Ibn al-Jawzl want us to
believe that a dozen or so obscure transmitters, in ignorance of each
other, separately and individuaIly, forged one and the same tradition
which they aIl, again in ignorance of one another, separately and
individually, claim to have heard from one and the same famous man. 206

For the most part, these "dozen or so obscure transmitters" narrated the i}adIth via

'Ammiir, while the few who transmitted through Sufyan were considered unreliable, as

will be explained later in this chapter.

The first major premise of Juynboll's argument rests upon socio-historical

evidence concerning Sufyan's life, his relations with the Abbasid regime, and his legacy.

JuynboIl's main contention was that Sufyan was known for his anti-Abbasid feelings,

which may very well have been molded into a i}adIth, or perhaps more than one. He also

regards it as quite possible that many of Sufyiin's own statements, through no effort of

his own, were eventually provided with isniids going back to the Prophet. Finally, there

is the coincidence that Baghdad was built in (145/762) and was completed

approximately four years later. This places the city's planning and construction weIl

within the lifetime ofSufyan who died in (161/776).

The preliminary conclusion, which Juynboll draws from this evidence, is that

Sufyan must be held accountable for fabricating this i}adIth. He further implies from

this 'fact' that Sufyan might also have fabricated other i}adIths. Yet, in doing so,

JuynboIl is questioning the authenticity of a vast quantity of i}adIth, given that Sufyan is

considered to be of the highest rank in terms ofreliability as a transmitter, that is, a rank

206 Ibid., 211.

higher even than that of Malik 207 himself. 208 LogicaUy, then, aU other transmitters who

are considered to be less reliable and to have less authenticity may weU have fabricated

the lJadlths they narrated, thus placing aUlJamths in question. For this reason, the case

of Sufyan's lJadith deserves our full attention.

First of aU, a doser examination ofhis life and position towards the Abbasids is

in order. Born in (97/716), Sufyan was 35 years old when the Abbasid dynasty came

into being (132/750), and 40 when al-Man~Ur (r. 136-158/754-775), who established

Baghdad, came to power. There is no record of even one single incident of conflict

between Sufyan and any of the Abbasid caliphs who ruled before or after al-Man~iir, Le.

al-Safra4 (d. 132/750), and al-Mahdi (r. 158- 168 or 169/775- 785). Nevertheless, his

abilities as a mature scholar did attract the attention of those in power, leading to an

unwelcome appointment by al-Man~iir to the post of qiiçIJ a1-quçfiit. When Sufyan

refused the position, he eamed the caliph's wrath, and was forced to go into hiding for

the rest of al-Man~Ur's reign.209

However, during the entire period that Sufyau was in hiding, he continued to

recognize the sovereignty of al-Man~iir's govemment and referred to him as "Amlr a1-

Mu'minld' (ruler ofthe believers). Sufyan never incited revoIt against al-Man~iir or any

other Abbasid caliph. At the same time, al-Man~Ur does not appear to have pursued

Sufyan with much vigor, as it would have been simple enough to capture him in

207 Malik is considered to be the founder of the MiiliJà madhhab, and author of the oldest existing lJamth
collections, aJ-Muwa/!a'. In his time he was the leading traditionist, who refused to engage with
polit ici ans, declining preferential treatment from the Umayyad caliph al-Man(lür. He also disagreed with
contemporary fuqahii' in refusing to privilege the jurisprudential techniques of ra y and qiyiis over the
application of lJamth. He is considered by muiJaddiths to be the first great traditionist of Medina

208 MlÙ).ammad Ibn Sa'd, aJ-Tabaqiit al-KabJr6 (Leiden: Brill, 1904),538.

209 MlÙ).ammad Qal'aji, Mawsü'at Fiqh SulYiin aJ-Thawii (Beirut: Dar al-Nafii'is, 1990), 17-18.

virtually any city of the Empire after his escape from Baghdad in 1551772?1O For

instance, when Sufyan was in Makka, Mul).ammad b. 1brïihlm, the local Abbasid-

appointed ruler of the city, advised Sufyan to hide or otherwise be seized and sent to al-

Man~Ur in Baghdad. If Mul).ammad had thought that Sufyan posed a danger to al-

Man~Ur or his regime, he would not have hesitated to send him under guard to

Baghdad. 211 Other Abbasid rulers in cities other than Makka showed a similar

complacency with respect to Sufyan. 212

The fact that Sufyan used to perform prayers with a11 the Abbasid caliphs is

further indication that he was not entirely opposed to the dynasty.213 1ndeed, the

mul;addith 'Abd al-Ralpnan b. Mahdi recounts: "1 ne,:er heard Sufyan cursing the

Caliphs, even though he was tough and harsh with them.,,214 Also, the famous scholar

Ijammad b. Zayd advised Sufyan during al-Mahdi's regime, right after al-Man~Ur had

passed away, to visit the new Caliph in Baghdad. 2ls Sufyan had even decided to go but

was very sick at the time and passed away before his planned departure for the

capita1. 216 Obviously, this shows that Sufyan's problem was not with the Abbasid

dynasty but with al-Man~Ur personally.

210Abu Nu'a1m pointed this out as mentioned by al-Mizz1, Yusuf in Tahdhlb al-Kamiil fi Asmii' al-Rijiil
(Beirut: Mü'assasat al-Risala, 1985), vol. 11, 154.

211 Ibn Sa'd, vol. 6, 538.

212 Al-Dhahab1, Siym; vol. 7,257; Qal'aj1, 14.

213 'Abd al-Ralpnan Ibn Ab11:Iatim a1-Raz1, al-Jarl; wa al-Ta'dIlvol. 1 (Haidarabad: Majlis Da'irat al-
Ma'iïrifal-'Uthmaniyya Press, 1952),97.

214 Ibid.

215 Ibn Sa'd, vol. 6, 538.

216 Qa1'aj1, 25.

Moreover, in al-A~bahïinl's biography of Sufyïin, there is not a single quotation

referring to a conflict of any kind between Sufyan and the Abbasids; instead, he is

depicted as having offered them advice and constantly prayed for them?17 An

incomplete picture, then, is presented by Juynboll of the relationship between Sufyan

and the Abbasid regime, and used to substantiate the faulty idea that anti-authoritarian

sentiment was expressed by him in one or more fabricated i}adiths. As a result, Juynboll

asserts that Sufyan was very likely the fabricator ofthis i}adith.

Another important socio-historical consideration is the biography of Sufyan as it

pertains to his credibility as a transmitter, which Juynboll impugned. In sharp contrast,

Ya4ya b. Ma'1n, Ibn 'Uyayna, Shu'ba and other mui}addiths all considered Sufyan to be

AmIr al-Mu'minJn "ruler of the believers,"218 in terms ofhis rank as a transmitter of

i}adJth. 219 Wuhayb220 and Ya4ya al_Qattan221 believed Sufyan was even more reliable

than Malik b. Anas (d. 179/796), the compiler of al-Muwa/!a' (the oidest i}adith

collection). AI-Khatlb writes: "Sufyan is a well known imiim, Le., a religious scholar,

and everyone agrees that his credibility reached a point where he needed no more

recommendations. "222

217AQmad al-A~bahanÇ Jfilyat aJ-Awliyii', vol. 6 (Beirut: Dar al-Kit ab al-'Arabl, 1967),356-387, and vol.
7,3-144 and passim.

218 This is the highest level in ranking the transmitters, as described by AQmad Ibn I.Iajar, in the
introduction ofhis Taqiib al-TahdhJb(I.Ialab: Dar al-RashId, 1986) See appendix (1).

219 al-Mizzl, vol. II, 154.

220 Ibn Abl I.Iatim al-Razl, al-JarlJ wa al-Ta'dilvol. 4,223.

221 al-~fahanl, v. 6, 369.

222 Abiï Bakr AQmad al-Khatlb, Tiiiikh Baghdiidvol. 9 (Cairo: Maktabat al-KhanJÏ, 1931).

Most Importantly, Sufyan's reputation for reliability extended to aU the other

transmitters to whom he chose to transmit. Towards the end ofhis life, while hiding in

Makka and then in Ba~ra, it was no sm aU effort on his part to meet with people for the

purpose of transmitting lJadiths. These circumstances limited the number of

transmitters who could meet with him to a very few trustworthy mu1;addiths whom he

must have deemed reliable and worthy of the task of transmitting lJadith, for it was the

unanimous opinion of the Muslim traditionists that Sufyan was extremely careful as to

whom he chose to transmit lJadith. His excessive care not to transmit to unreliable

mu1;addiths led to his refusaI to transmit to non-Arabs, many ofwhom, by his time, did

not master Arabic and those subjects written in it. He is reported to have said,

"Knowledge was transmitted by Arabs, and when it is taken by non-Arabs or by non-

trustworthy people, they will mix it Up.,,223 This specific quotation poses a significant

question about the lJadith "tubna madJnà': Why do we encounter untrustworthy

narrators in the transmission of this lJadith from Sufyan? Why didn't sorne of the more

famous scholars, whom Sufyan trusted and used to meet with discretely, narrate this

l}.adith? In fact, the only exception is the reliable transmitter 'Abd al-Razzaq aH, an 'an!,

who states precisely that this was not one ofSufyan's l}.adiths. 224

Apparently, Sufyan had nothing to do with spreading the isnad of this l}.adith to

aU those untrustworthy transmitters. It must have been another of its transmitters who

fabricated this l}.adith. The question then is not whether there is or is not a common-link

in this isnad, but "who was the common-link?"

223 al-A~fahanl, v. 6, 369.

224 al-Khatlb, Tiiiikh vol. l, 34.

Through the following diagram (4-A), Juynboll intended to demonstrate that

Sufyau fabricated the lJadlth "tubnii madInà'. Surprisingly, he ignored any other

possible interpretation of the isniidthat he Id other transmitters responsible for being the

common-link. Because ofthis, Juynboll's diagram (4-A) does not give a complete

picture of the isniid's form. A more accurate picture of the isniidis presented in another,

revised version (4-B), which more thoroughly investigates the other potential common-

links associated with the transmission of this lJadlth. In addition to this visu al

illustration, 1 will provide a brief biography of each transmitter to c1arify the

circumstances surrounding the isnadthat might have influenced or affected the

fabrication of this lJadlth.

The isniidprior to Sufyau goes chronologically as follows: Jar1r225 (d. 51/672), a

well known Companion, then Abu 'Uthmau226 (d. 95/714) and '~im227 (d. 140/758),

both ofwhom are reliable transmitters. However, Juynboll did not accuse any ofthem

of being the common-link for this isnad; rather, he states that, "We are not far wrong in

dating the tradition in the late forties or early fifties (765-70) or, at any rate, before

Sufyau's death in 161/776."228 Since Baghdad was built in 145/762-149/766, and the

lJadlth" tubnii madIna, " which contains specific descriptive content about Baghdad, was

composed and began circulating after the city's construction, '~im (d. 140/758) or any

ofhis predecessors could not possibly be its originator.

225 Ibn f.Iajar, Taqiib vol. 1, 127.

226 Ibid., vol. 1,499.

227 Ibid, vol. 1, 384.

228 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 213.

Diagram (4-A) lfadith "Tubnii MadIna"
This diagram is based on luynboll, Muslim Tradition, p. 209. 229

229Although Juynboll nowhere specifies his use of the letter (F), 1 assume that it is to be interpreted as an
abbreviation of Fuliin ("person").

Diagram (4-B) lfadlth "tubnii madlna"

In the interests of accuracy, we should investigate the six transmitters who

narrated the lJadith via '~im, a11 of whom could potentia11y be the common-link. The

fIfst transmitter is Sufyan al-Thawrl (d. 161/778), identified by Juynboll as the common-

link. It is important to point out that one of the six transmitters who narrated this

lJadith from him was the second transmit ter 'Ammar b. Sayf (d. 260/874), who is more

likely the common-link, and, therefore, the fabricator responsible for spreading this

lJadithto seven ofhis students. Two ofthem, Le., Khalafb. Tam1m and Ibn Ab1 Bakr,

narrated this lJadith from him via SufYan via '~im, while the other five narrated it from

him via '~im directly. They are: (1) Khalafb. Tam1m (d. 206/822),230 an honest and

religious Kufan of the fourth rank;231 (2) Is.Qaq b. Man~ur al-SalwuIi (d. 204/820), an

honest Kufan of the fifth rank, but criticized for being a Shl'1;232 (3) Malik b. Isma'Il (d.

219/834), a reliable Kufan transmitter of the second rank, as further attested by Ibn

I:Iibban, Abu Dawud and al-Nasa'1 and praised by Ibn MaÇ"'m who said: "1 did not see any

transmitter more authentic than Malik b. Isma'Il";233 (4) A.Qmad b. Ya'qub al-Mas'udi

(d. 21 ?/825-834), a reliable Kufan of the third rank, ofwhom Ibn I:Iibban and al-'IjIi

remarked: "He is a reliable transmitter" ;234 (5) Yal}.ya b. Bukayr (d. 209/825), a reliable

Kufan of the third rank, who lived in Baghdad, and about whom Ibn I:Iibban, al-'IjIi and

Ibn MaÇ"'m stated: "He is a reliable transmitter,,;235 and (6) I:Iusayn al-Ashqar, for whom

230 Khalaf narrated this lJadith once via' Ammar via Sufyan via '~im, and once via' Ammar via '~im

231 Ibn l;Iajar, Taqnbvol. 1,255; al-Mizzl, vol. 8,271.

232 Ibn I:Iajar, Taqnb, vol. 1,61; al-Mizzl, vol. 2,478.

233 Ibn I:Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 2, 223.

234 Ibn I:Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 1,29; al-Mizzl, vol. l, 522.

we have no biographical information. From these briefbiographies of'Ammar's

students we can conclude that aIl of them were reliable transmitters. It is reasonable

and sufficient evidence for mulJaddiths, then, to link lJadith ' tubnii madlna' to' Ammar,

since aIl of the reliable transmitters attributed the lJadith to him.

In stark contrast, most of the transmitters who attributed the lJadith to Sufyan

are weak. Besides 'Ammar b. Sayf, they are: (1) 'Abd AIlîih b. Suf)ran al-Ghaththanl (d.

n. a), a Basran of the eleventh rank, who was famous for narrating problematic isniids

from famous transmitters, and whom Ibn Ma'"'m accused ofbeing a liar.236 (2) Isma'Il b.

'Amr (d. 277/891), a Küfan of the eighth rank, considered by Ibn ArUma, al-Daraqutnl

and Ibn 'Adi as a weak transmitter, and whom Ibn 'Adi accused ofnarrating from

Suf)ran lJadiths that "no one else has heard;" 237 (3) 'Abd al-'Azlz b. Aban (d. 207/823),

a Küfan of the eleventh rank who had lived in Baghdad and was accused by Ibn Ma'"'m

and others ofbeing a liar,238 Ibn I:Iajar having stated that "he is matriïK';239 (4) Isma'Il

b. Aban (d. 210/826), a Küfan matrUk of the eleventh rank, who is also accused of

fabricating lJadiths 240 and of whom it is also stated that he used to put lJadiths in

235 Ibn J:[ajar, Taqifb, vol. 2, 344; al-Mizzl, vol. 31,245.

236MlÙ).ammad Ibn J:[ibbïin, al-MajrÜlJln vol. 2 (J:[alab: Dar al-Wa'i, 1976),66; MlÙ).ammad al-Dhahabl,
Mizan al-I'tidiil fi Asmii' al-Rijii/vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Arabiyya, 1963),9.

237 al-Dhahabl, Miziin vol. 1, 239; Idem., Siyar A 'liim al-Nubalii' vol. 10 (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risiila,

238 Ibn I:Iibban pointed out that 'Abd al-' Azlz stole l]adiths from others, which me ans that he narrated
l]amths that he found in books without having actually heard them. For instance, he could have taken this
i}amth from 'Ammar and proc1aimed that he had heard it from Sufyïin directly, white in fact he had only
found it in •Ammar' s collection. Ibn J:[ibban, vol. 2, 140.

239 Ibn J:[ajar, Taqifbvol. 1,507. See appendix (l).

240 Ibid., vol. 1, 65.

Sufyan's mouth,241 which further suggests that Sufyan had no hand in fabricating this

i}adith; and (5) 'Abd al-Razzaq al-San'anl (d. 211/827), a well known and reliable

transmitter of the second rank, who experienced diminished eyesight and memory in old

age?42 However, because he was the only reliable transmitter from Sufyan recorded in

this i}adith's isnid, his contribution deserves a second look. Indeed, a survey ofprimary

sources reveals that 'Abd al-Razzaq narrated this i}adith to invalidate it, Le., to warn

muiJaddiths against narrating it or attributing it to Sufyan. Genera11y spealdng,

muiJaddiths have a tendency of reporting i}adith of weak transmitters to indicate its

invalidity. Once, Al}mad Ibn I:Ianbal saw Yal}.ya b. Ma"m writing the i}adith ofMa'mar

via Aban via Anas, so he asked him for the reason of writing such 'çJa 'ifi}adith " he

replays that he is writing it from 'Abd al-Razzaq, who writes the i}adith ofMa'mar just

to report to muiJaddiths the unauthenticity of such isnid 243 'Abd al-Razzaq and

Yal}.ya b. Ma"m, moreover, both record Y$ya b. Adam's statement that no one narrated

i}adith" Tubni Madina" other than 'Ammar b. Say[. Yal}.ya b. Marin even adds, "Sorne

transmitters narrated it from 'Ammar from '~im directly, while others inserted Sufyan

between 'Ammar and '~im, but the i}adith has no genuine origin.,,244 Thus, the last

transmitter who might have supported Juynbo11's argument tends to undermine it.

Moreover, Yal}.ya b. Adam claims that 'Ammar found this i}adith in a book and

proclaimed that he had heard it from Sufyan. 245 Of the other four transmitters, a11

241 Ibn I;Iibbiin, vol. 1, 128.

242 Ibn I;Iajar, Taqiib vol. 1, 311.

243 al-I;Iiikim, al-MadkhaJ iliï Kitiïb al-Iklil, 27

244 al-Khat1b, TiïiJkh vol. 1,34.

accused of lying, one of them was from Basra, while the other three were co11eagues of

about the same age from Kufa, indicating a closed circle of circulation.

The third transmitter, Abd al-Ral}man al-Mu4iiribl (d. 295/908), was a KUfan of

the fifth rank,246 who was identified as a mudallis.247 Ofhim Ibn Ma"in said, "he

narrates anomalous i}adiths from famous transmitters." Abu l:fatim explains it in more

depth when he writes: "al-Mu4iiribl is an honest transmitter, but he narrates anomalous

i}adiths from anonymous people, which invalidate a11 ofhis narrations.,,248 It is possible

that al-MlÙ).aribl narrated this i}adith via Sayf, and that Sayf could be the common-link,

assuming that 'Ammiir and al-M li9iiribl narrated this isniid through him, but neglected

to account for this narration.

The fourth transmitter, Sayfb. M~ammad (d. 195/811) was a Kufan who had

lived in Baghdad. He was Su:fyan's nephew, but did not narrate this isniidfrom Sufyan

directly. Regarding Sayfs rank among mulJaddiths, he has no credibility whatsoever.

For example, Ibn Ma'1n,249 Ibn l:fanbal,25o and al-Dhahab1 251 accuse him ofbeing a Har,

and Ibn l:fanbal adds that Sayfused to fabricate i}adiths. AI-Nasa'1252 and al-

245Mu1).ammad a1-Dhahabl, Tiiiikh al-Isliïm wa Waflyiit al-MashiihJr wa al-A 'liïm (Beirut: Dar a1-Kitâb
a1-'Arabl, 1987) 'Ammar's biography no. 294.

246 Ibn l:Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 1,497.

247 A mudalIisis the one who practices tadfls.

248 a1-Dhahabl, Miziin vol. 3, 585.

249 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Am, al-Kiïmil fi pu 'am' al-Rijiilvol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1988),432.

250 Ibn 'Am, vol. 3,432.

251 Mu1).ammad al-Dhahabl, al-Kiishlfvol. 1 (Cairo: Dar a1-N~r, 1972),416.

252 al-Dhahabl, Miziinvol. 2, 257.

Daraqutn1253 consider Sayfto be matriÏkofthe eleventh rank, thus indicating a very low

levelofreliability.254 In addition to stringently criticizing him, the muJ;addiths

disregarded aH ofhis J;adiths, with Abu I:Iatim saying, "None of the J;adiths that Sayf

narrated should be recorded.,,255 Ofthis particular J;adith al-BukharI writes: "J;adith

'tubnii madina 'was not supported by a valid isniid,,256 Ibn' Adi mentions six J;adiths

from Sufyan that no one other than Sayfhas transmitted. He also contends that Sayf

fabricated and attributed even more J;adiths to Sufyan, and that there are even more

J;adiths fabricated by Sayfbut attributed to other muJ;.addiths. 257 Most ofwhat Sayf

transmitted is not to be found in any other compilation of J;adiths, which indicates that

he fabricated them.

The fifth transmitter, Mt$ammad b. Jabir al-Yamaml (d. 170/787), was said to

have been an honest transmitter of the fourth rank, originally from KUfa, who then

moved to Yamama (now known as Riyadh). But after losing aH his books he could no

longer differentiate between the weak and strong J;adiths, and with old age grew

increasingly blind. As a result, when people recounted J;adiths that were not his, he is

reported to have acknowledged them, or perhaps due to his age thought that he had

included them in his books. 258 This explains why the majority of muJ;.addiths reject all

ofhis J;amths, among them Ibn Ma"m, al-Nasa'!, al-BukharI and Abu I:Iatim.

253 Ibid., vol. 2, 257.

254 See appendix (2).

255 al-Raz1, al-Jarl}, vol. 4, 277.

256 Ibn 'AdJ, vol. 3,4320; al-Dhahab1, Mlzan vol. 2, 257.

257 Ibn 'AdJ, voU, 4320.

258 Ibn I;Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 2, 149.

Obviously, the l;1adIth in question was one ofthose anomalous l;1adIths. Other l;1adIths

narrated by al-Y amaml about the Abbasid Caliphs were considered anomalous and, thus,

were rejected as well. 259

The sixth transmitter, Abü Shihab Müsa b. Nafi' al-I:Iannat (d.172/788), was

reported to have been an honest transmitter of the fourth rank,260 but his students

damaged his credibility. As a result, Ibn I:Ianbal said ofhis l;1adIths that "they were not

common," (ghayr mashiihIr), a description used ofweak l;1adiths, which explains why Ibn

al-Qattan entirely refused to accept Abü Shihab's l;1adIths. Ai-Khatib assumed that Abü

Shihab did not narrate this l;1adIth directly from 'A~im, but from 'Ammiir, or S ayf, or

maybe M~ammad b. Jabir. This was because Abü Shihab's student, al-I:Iasan b. al-

RabI', did not affmn that his teacher heard it directly from Sufyan, since the word he

used to describe the transmission was " 'an," 261 meaning that there is a high probability

that a transmit ter was skipped between Abü Shihab and '~im. 262

What we have learned from the forgoing biographical survey is that out of those

six transmitters only 'Ammiir could plausibly be accused ofbeing the common-link. It

is obvious that a few weak transmitters attributed the l;1adith to Sufyan, and the other

four transmitters had heard the l;1adith from '~im, most likely, via' Ammiir, though

they skipped him in order to avoid having a weak link in their transmission. Since it is

necessary to elucidate 'Ammiir b. Sayf's role more clearly in order to prove this

hypothesis, 1 will present an in-depth account of his participation in l;1adith collection.

259 al-Dhahabl, Miziin vol. 3,496.

260 Ibn l;Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 2, 289.

261 'An 'ana is practiced by a transmitter who usually engages in tadlls. Ibn al-~aliil), Muqaddima, 56.

262 al-Khatlb, Tiiiikh vol. 1, 36.

To begin with, 'Ammiir had poor credibility among muJ;addiths, even though he

was described as righteous and was considered religious in terms of worship, etc. His

religious observation did not change the muJ;addiths' views much in regard to his

reliability. Abu Zur'a and Abu !:Iatim state that 'Ammiir's integrity was weakand

ascribed to him the eighth rank. 263 Abu Dawud indicates that 'Ammiir was naïve,264

while Ibn Ma "m said that, even though 'Ammiir was trustworthy as regard religious

matters (i.e. worshiper) his J;adlths are worthless?65 Al-'Ijli and al-Dhahabl confrrm

that 'Ammiir was trustworthy as a Muslim, while Abu !:Iatim says the same even as he

affirms that 'Ammiir was weak in J;adith and that he narrated anomalous reports?66

Additionally, al-Dhahabl states that 'Ammiir transmitted anomalous J;adiths narrated by

Isl).aq and Mt$ammad b. Wa~il, from '~im; indeed in the J;adith Utubna madina"in

particular, 'Ammiir states, "1 heard '~im narrating it in a meeting where Sufyan was in

attendance.,,267 In spite of the complexity of the isnads ofthis J;adlth, their analysis

helps illustrate why 'Ammiir was the common-link, which is further strengthened by

additional historical evidence.

It is explicitly stated by J\Vmad Ibn !:Ianbal in al- 'I1al wa Ma Tifàt al-Rijii], that

"'Ammiir b. Sayfsaid: 'Sufyan's books were in my posse'ssion.'''268 Since these books

likely contained many of Sufyan's J;adiths, many transmitters of tubna madfna could

263 al-Dhahab1, Miziin vol. 3, 165,

264 al-Mizz1, vol. 21,194.

265 al-Dhahabl, Mizanvol. 3,165,

266 al-Raz1, vol. 6, 393.

267 al-Dhahabl, Miziinvol. 3, 165,

268 A1}mad Ibn I:Ianbal, AJ- 'DaI wa Ma 'dfat al-Rijal, vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-Khan1, 1988), 466.
have logically assumed that it was originally narrated by him. Because it was difficult

or impossible for later transmitters to meet with Sufyiin. himself for the purpose of

transmitting f;zadiths, it is reasonable to infer that they visited 'Ammar for many of

Sufyiin.'s f;zadiths. There were two periods when transmitters reportedly sought Sufyiin.'s

f;zadiths from 'Ammar: one was during the period when Sufyiin. was hiding from the

Abbasid caliphs (140-160/758-777), and the other was immediately after Sufyiin.'s death

(161/778). Mu1;addiths realized this, and thus advised transmitters not to record or

narrate Sufyiin.'s f;zadiths from any source unless they had been heard from Sufyiin.

directly. For example, one of the transmitters, yusufb. Sa'ld asked Khalafb. Tam1m,

who was the most reliable transmitter in Kiifa among Sufyan's students, "from whom

should one copy S ufyiin.' s f;zadith?" Khalaf replied "Do not narrate anything from

Sufyiin. except what you have heard from him yourself." This statement ofKhalaf

conflfIlls that there were transmitters who would fabricate f;zadiths and link them to

S ufyiin.. In fact, Khalaf indicated specifically 'Ammar' s f;zadith <ttubnii madIna, "and
- -
afflfIlled that 'Ammar had narrated it once via '~im directly and once from '~im via

Sufyan?69 In other words, Khalafwanted to demonstrate that 'Ammar had fabricated

this report and integrated it into Sufyan's f;zadiths.

Having looked in sorne detail at this strand of the isniidfrom 'Ammar, there

remain two other separate strands that were transmitted from the Cornpanion Anas as

illustrated by the following diagram (5-A). However, Juynboll confused these two

strands by combining them as ifthey showed the same isnad Whether Juynboll did so

deliberately, or inadvertently as a result of the complexity ofthis field of study, his

269 'Abd al-Ralpnan al-Suyütl, a1-La'iili' a1-Ma~ü·avol.l (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa, 1969),476.

methodological approach was wrong, because the isnad; are to be distinguished by the

Companions who narrated the 1;amth, not by the later transmitters in the isnad

Obviously, as stated by al-Kha!lb in Tailkh Baghdad, the 1;amth of Anas does

not strengthen the isniid, but rather weakens it. Comparing the 1;amth via Anas to the

one via Jarrr, AI-Kha!lb states: "The 1;amth via Anas does not outnumber the other

1;adlth by Jar1r.,,270 It was, moreover, transmitted by only two transmitters: ~ali4 b.

Bayan, a weak transmitter of the eighth rank,271 and Hammam b. Muslim, who was

anonymous of the tenth rank. 272 Therefore, the 1;adlth via Anas has two problems: fifst,

the weakness of its transmitters, and second, that they are outnumbered by the

transmitters of Jarrr's 1;adlth. 273 Overall, having two problematic isniid; tends to

weaken rather than strengthen a 1;adlth's case.

In addition to the 1;adlth Utubnii madina, " Juynboll presents another 1;adlth that

he considered a less self-evident, but nonetheless sufficiently interesting example of a

tradition whose isnaaseems to have a common-link. This example is the legal maxim

conceming the minimum amount of dowry. After presenting the different strands of

this isniid, Juynboll concludes that Ibn' Adi held Mubashshir responsible for spreading

this 1;adlth, that is, ofbeing the common-link. See diagram (5-B).

However, Juynboll draws two conclusions from analyzing this 1;adlth, and from

Ibn 'Adi's quotation: (a) that the common-link is a phenomenon that must have struck

the imagination ofmedieval Muslim 1;adlth experts; and (b) that they never developed

270 al-Khatlb, TiIikhvol. 1,33.

271 Ibn 'AdJ, vol. 4, 66; al-Khatlb, Tiiiikhvol. 1,33.

272 al-Khatlb, TiIikhvol. 1,33.

273 Ibn al-$alliQ, Muqaddima, 73; al-'Iraql, aJ-Taqyld, 85.

this idea any further than merely hinting at it in the case of suspicious 1;adIth forgers, or

. aIluSlOns
m . to cert'
am key fi19ures. 274

The approach to this 1;adIth clearly distinguishes between Juynboll and the

muJ;addiths' understanding of the Common-Link phenomenon. The muJ;addiths

acknowledged its existence and accused transmitters with question able reputations of

playing this role and fabricating i}adIths, as in the case of i}adith Jiïbir conceming the

dowry, for which Mubashshir was the common-link. Meanwhile, Juynboll accuses even

trustworthy mul;1addiths ofbeing the common-link, holding them responsible for

fabrication. Surprisingly, Juynboll, without providing evidence, decides on Sha'bl, who

has a rank of integrity, as the probable originator of the maxim. Juynboll refers to a

i}adlth narrated by 'AIl to prove that Sha'bl is the common-link in the i}adIth of Jiïbir.

This bizarre conclusion affrrms 275 that Juynboll's analyses are not sufficient.

Towards the end of the section that Juynboll dedicates to the Common-Link

Theory, he provides the following summary: "it could be maintained that the relative

rarity of clear-cut examples of common links me ans that it deserves no more of our

attention than, at most, that given to a bizarre but uncommon phenomenon.,,276

Mter evaluating Juynboll's support for the Common-Link Theory we conclude

that it ultimately undermines, rather than supports, Schacht's argument. Examination

of Juynboll's treatment of "tubnii madina," proves the inadequacy ofhis methodology as

compared to that of the traditionists. The evidence clearly points to a weak and

unreliable transmit ter within the isniid of this fJadith. The existence of the Common-

274 Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 215.

275 Ibid., 216.

276 Ibid.

Link as a general phenomenon, does not, therefore, pose any significant challenge to the

authenticity of transmission, and so Juynboll's argument would amount to very little at

the end of the day.

Having established the faultyness of Schachtian evidence for the Common-Link

Theory, it is clear that applying their theory on any other i}adIth would result in the

same mistakes. In mis-locating the actual person responsible for spreading the tradition

in question, and failing to consult the proper sources, Schachtian scholars were lead to

inaccurate conclusions. More importantly, the root ofthe flaws in these conclusions is

an unawareness of how traditionists articulate the phenomenon of the Common-Link.

This question will be addressed in the following chapter.

Diagram (5-A) The lfadith of Anas

Diagram (5-B) The lfadlth of Jabir
This diagram is based on Junyboll, Muslim Tradition, p. 215.

Chapter 4: Traditionists' Articulation of the Common-Link and

Schacht's Misconception of their Scholarship

Traditionists on the Common-Link Phenomenon

The Common-Link Theory has long been a controversial and complicated phenomenon,

even among traditionists themselves. Not only do the evaluations of traditionists on the

different types of isolated lj.adith vary, but even their terminology for these types of

lj.adith have changed and developed over time. To fully understand the Common-Link

Theory according to the traditionists requires an in-depth study of its complex history,

taking into account diverse and evolving terms, ideas and positions. Such an

investigation has not been undertaken in its totality by either Schacht or his opponents.

This chapter aims to address this task.

Needless to say, Schacht's understanding of the Common-Link Theory

contradicts that of the muJ;.addiths. Although the latter acknowledge the existence of

the Common-Link phenomenon, their characterization of its elements and the terms

they use to describe it are completely different. Tafarrud, a comparable term used by

muJ;.addiths to describe the Common-Link, is perhaps the most complicated issue that

lj.adith critics have discussed. Before criticizing Schacht's misinterpretation of tafarrud

in part two ofthis chapter, part one will discuss three important points of background

information about lj.adith; which are necessary to clarify subtle distinctions of

definition, which lie behind Schacht' s erroneous interpretation of the traditionists'


The frrst of the se topics will be an overview ofSchacht's and the muJ;addiths'

divergent defmitions of "sunna." Second, an account oftheir different classification of

sound and unsound lJadlths will be explored. Finally, explication will be given of

traditionists' defmitions for fard(and closely related concepts),277 a tenn genera11y

referring to lJadlths transmitted by a single individual that leads to a single line of

descent; this is necessary because contention about this kind of lJadlth constitutes the

essential problem in the Common-Link Theory.

1. The Meaning of Sunna

First of a11, the meaning of sunna is central to the conflict between Schacht and the

muJ;addiths. The latter defined the sunna as being the entirety of the deeds, speech, and

tacit confrrmations of the Prophet,278 while Schacht divides this tenn according to its

use in three different historical phases. According to him, the pre-Islamic period was

the frrst phase of sunna, when it referred to the nonnative model of inherited custom,

whatever the forefathers had done deserved to be imitated. 279 The second phase was

277 Fard describes the isnad of a J;adith, while taffarud describes the type where this lJadith fits in the
lJadith terminology. Sometimes, the two words are used interchangeably, as a description of this type of

278 For the definition of the SlDllla, see: Zafar Ishaq Ansari, "Early Development of Islamic Fiqh in Kma"
(Montreal: Ph.D thesis McGill university, 1966), 125-152; David F. Forte, Studies in Islamic Law
(Lanham, Maryland: Ausrin & Winfield Publishers, 1999), 39. Compare sunna with J;adith, in John
Burton, An Introduction to the Ijadith (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994), 29.

279 Schacht, Introduction, 17.

that of "the ancient schools oflaw", who changed the use ofthis term to represent the

common practice during the Umayyad period:

sunna or 'practice' ('amai) or 'well-established precedent' (sunna

mii.diya) or 'ancient practice' ('amai ~aann). This 'practice' partly
reflects the actual custom of the local community, but it aIso contains a
theoretical or ideal element so that it cornes to mean normative sunna,
the usage as it ought to be. 280

The ancients' school did not sustain this meaning of the sunna. Iraqi scholars of the

early second century of Islam transferred its limited political and theological use into a

legal context, identifying it with the practice of the local community and the doctrine of

its scholars. 281 Later on, al-Shafi'I articulated the fmal phase of the term sunna, which

he associated excIusively with Prophetie tradition. Since then, mulJaddiths have used

this meaning for the term sunna, 282 while at the same time recognizing the different

phases that the term sunna had gone through. This can be seen from their discussion of

the use of sunna in the early context, such as when Ibn al-~al84 (d. 642/1245) wonders,

when a Companion describes something using the term sunna, if he is referring to the

second or third phase of the sunna? 283 MulJaddiths have elaborated on this question

through the meaning of marfiï' and mawqiïf, and concIuded that whenever the term

sunna appears, it refers to the Prophetie sunna unless stated otherwise. 284

280 Ibid., 30-31.

281 Ibid., 33.

282 Ibid., 47.

283 Ibn al-~alap, Kitiib Ma'rifàt Anwii' 'Ilm al-lfadith, trans. Eerik Dickinson (London: Gamet publishing,

284 Ibid., 35-37 and passim.

Guillaume claimed that Schacht misunderstood the correct meaning of the sunna

and that every premise based on this erroneous defmition will, perforce, lead to

inaccurate conclusions:

In connexion with the whittling down of the meaning of sunna to the

practice of the prophet it is important to observe that the sunna magiya is
not, as Dr. Schacht translates, a 'past sunna' but an established practice
of the present going back to the past, and so we should read in three
places' a present sunna going back to the prophet' .285

Critically assessing Schacht's defmition of the term sunna, however, requires further

investigation into this confusion surrounding his interpretation.

In his article "The Concept of Sunnah, 1jtihad and 1jma' in the Early Period,"

Fazlur Rahman mentions that, among modem Western scholars, Ignaz Goldziher was

the fIfst to maintain that immediately after the advent of the Prophet, his practice and

conduct came to constitute the sunna for the young Muslim community; hence, the

notion of "idealness" embodied in the pre-Islamic Arab sunna had ceased to apply. In

other words, Goldziher defmed sunna as the mul;addiths defined it, which corresponded

to the third phase in Schacht's scheme. Goldziher's definition did not last for long

among orientalists, with Snouck Hurgronje, for instance, claiming a normative

defmition for sunna, which Schacht would later apply to his "second phase." He stated

that the Muslims themselves kept adding to the sunna of the Prophet until almost aIl

products of Muslim thought and practice came to be embodied in it. On the opposing

side, Lammens and Margoliouth regarded the sunna as being drawn entirely from Arab

customs pre-Islamic and post-Islamic. Obviously, this defmition conforms to what

Schacht described as sunna in the fIfSt phase ofhis scheme. Rahman, in fact, suggests

285 Guillamne, 177.

that Schacht, in his Origins ofMuhammadan Jurisprudence, took over this view from

Margoliouth and Lammens, where he seeks to maintain that the concept "Sunna of the

Prophet" was a relatively late concept; for the early generations ofMuslims sunna

meant the practice of the Muslims themselves. 286

Rahman nevertheless disagrees with aIl of these defmitions and presents a more

comprehensive and congruous defmition, as follows:

Sunna is a behavioral concept - whether applied to physical or mental

acts - and, further, denotes not merely a single act as such but in so far
as this act is actually repeated or potentially repeatable. In other words, a
sunna is a law ofbehaviour whether instanced once or often?87

Similar to Rahman's revised defmition, but not as accurate, is that of Azami,

who tries to link the term back to the time of the Prophet, stating:

Anyone can establish a sunna, good or bad, if it is followed by others. As

the life of the Prophet was the model for aIl Muslims to follow, the
expression "sunna of the Prophet" eame into use in the life of the Prophet
and was even used by him. Sometimes the norms drawn analogically
from the practice or the sayings of the Prophet were also called sunna. 288

Although Azami agrees with Rahman in giving the sunna a broader meaning, he fails to

distinguish between the use of the word at the Prophet's time and its use by the

mufJaddiths. The word sunna, as found in the Qur'an and the Prophetie tradition, does

not have exaetly the same meaning as it does in the late iJadith books; in other words,

both Azami and Rahman failed to distinguish between the different senses and uses of

the term sunna. The Prophet did not necessarily give the word sunna the same meaning

used by al-Shatl'1 and later mufJaddiths.

Fazlur Rahman, "Concepts Sunnah, fjtihid and .[jmi' in the Barly Period/' Islamic Studies 1 (March
1962): 7.

287 Ibid., 5.

288 Azami, On Schacht, 36.

This conflict was not limited to the science of Prophetie tradition, but emerged

in other related fields like SJra. Jurays, for example, criticizes Brockelmann's claim that

most of the Prophetie tradition appeared two centuries later as a source ofMuslim

theology. Jurays similarly disagrees with Goldziher and Schacht, who, according to

him, advance the same argument as Brockelmann. 289

2. The different between sound and unsound lJadlth

On the difference between sound (~al;1ÙJ) and unsound (ça 'If) l;1adith, it should be made

clear that the bulk of the l;1adith was rejected by mulJaddiths for various reasons, sorne

on account of the transmitters, and sorne due to the text itself. Scrutiny of the isniids in

particular led the mulJaddiths to develop a system of different categories ofreliability,

of which only the most rigorous were preserved. In l;1adith collections we find, for

example, notice able differences between the number of l;1adiths that the mulJaddith

decides to include in his written collection compared to the number of l;1adiths he

memorizes. The famous mulJaddiths who were known for memorization have been

listed in several biographical collections, one was by Ibn al-Jawzl, who aims to

encourage people to follow the path of great mulJaddiths. Among those mulJaddiths is

Ibn ijanbal, about whom Abu Zur'a said, "he memorized one million l;1adiths";290 yet, by

looking at his Musnadwe fmd only about thirty thousand l;1adiths. 291 Abu Dawud (d.

289 'AIl Jurays, IRira'at al-Mustashriq Karl Bruhlman 'aIa al-Sunna al-Nabawiyya (N.P., 1993), 66.

290 'Abd al-Ralpnan Ibn al-Jawzl, al-Ifathth 'ala !fiE? aI- 'Dm (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1986), 26.
291 Ibn I:lanbal, Musnad

275/889) said, "1 wrote five hundred thousand of the Prophet's i}adJth, but 1 have

selected only four thousand eight hundred ofthem to include in the Sunan."292 These

examples show us that muiJaddiths did not authenticate nor did they include all of the

i}adJths they transmitted.

In terms of their theoretical classification, sound traditions were considered to

have transmitted by upright and accurate transmitters and contain no abnormalities or

weaknesses,293 whereas the weak traditions did not have these qualities. Ibn aH;alill}.,z94

al-Tahanawl,295 Ibn I:Iajar 296 and others have explained the categories of the weak

i}adJths; of these, the categories most closely related to our study are the following, in

descending order of spuriousness:

Mursal: a i}adJth narrated by a Follower (those of the second generation

of Muslims who did not see the Prophet but accompanied his
Companions) from the Prophet directly, and the Companion will be
passed by in this case.

Munqa/i': an isniid that has a link missing at the beginning, middle, or


Mu 'pal: an isniid having two or more missing narrators in a row,

anywhere in the isniid

Shiidhdh: a i}adJth narrated by an authority contradicting what has been

reported by the majority.

Munkar: a i}adJth in which a defect impugning its soundness is detected,

in either the isniid or matn, although it appears to be free of the defect.

292 Ibn al-Jawzl, aJ-.f!athth, 38.

293 James Robson, "Tradition: Investigation and Classification," The Muslim World, 91 (January 1951):

294 Ibn al-SaliiQ, 'UlÜIn al-.f!adith, 165-214.

295 James Robson, "Tradition," 106-107. He quotes al-Tahanawl, 281 and 386.

296 Ibn l;Iajar, Nuzhat aJ-NlI?Jar(Cairo: al-Dar al-Thaqafiyya, 1998),27-72 and passim.

Mu'allal: a J;adith narrated by a transmitter which a defect impugning its
soundness is detected, in either the isniid or matn.

Mudallas: an isniidthat has a concealed defect. 297

MucJ.tarib: a J;adith that has been reported in slightly different forms,

through equally strong isniids.

Maqliib: a J;adith that has been attributed to someone other than its real

Maw.dii': a fictitious tradition that has a fabricated isniid.

Unlike the above categories, which rank the historical authenticity of J;adiths,

the following categories classify the ultimate source who supposedly contributed a

J;adIth, and do not indicate either its authenticity or weakness (Although sorne Western

scholars298 mistakenly inc1uded them within the above categories ofweak traditions):

Marfii': an isniidthat go es aU the way back to the Prophet.

Mawqiif: an isniidthat goes back only to a Companion.

Maq!ii': an isniidthat go es back only to a Follower.

297The people responsible for this type oftradition are called muda/lisün and their practice is called tadIis,
a word used of merchants concealing defects in goods they are trying to sell. This defect in tradition is of
two types: (1) fraud in the isniid, by quoting from someone one has met a tradition which has not been
heard from him, or by dropping out a weak traditionist who appears in the original isniid, (2) fraud in the
authorities, by referring to someone in the isniidwith a name, kunY14 nisba, or qualification by which he is
not generally known. The first type is most reprehensible, but everyone does not agree that ail the
traditions of men who sometimes do this should be rejected. The second type is not so serious, and should
be judged according to the motive which has led to it. Perhaps the purpose was to conceal a weak
authority; but perhaps the transmit ter had many traditions from the man concemed and, as he had
occasion to quote him frequently, wished to add a little variety to the form of quotation. James Robson.
"Tradition" 109-110; al-I:Iiiklm, al-Madkhal, l3; Ibn aH~alïil]., 'U1ÜJn, 78; ~ad Ibn I:Iajar, Tabaqiit al-
Muda/lisln (Cairo, al-Matba'a aIMa1)mooiyya, n.d.).

298 Robson for instance did not differentiate these terms properly. Robson, "Tradition," 109-110.

3. The Meaning of Tafarrud

Understanding the different defmitions employed by Western scholars and mu1;addiths

in their separate discussions about "sunna," in addition to the differences between

accepted and rejected l;adJths, enables us to clari:fy the meaning of tafarrud, and

demonstrates where Schacht went wrong in his study of isniid

Building on this exposition, 1 will proceed to spell out the most essential topics

derived from and related to tafarrudthat one must understand in order to grasp a clear

picture of the Common-Link Theory: (1) the effect of tafarrudon the transmitter's

credibility; (2) the effect of tafarrudon the l;adJth itself; and (3) the difference between

a l;adJth that has tafarrudyet is narrated by a reliable transmitter and one transmitted by

a weak transmit ter. It is my aim to clari:fy the different forms of fard, their respective

characteristics and validity, which will in tum provide a more detailed illustration of the

structure of the Common-Link phenomenon, and why Schacht has failed to understand


There are two main forms of fard, one that go es back to the Companions, and the

other which go es back to the Followers of the Companions or to even later transmitters.

The fIfSt form of l;adJth specifically refers to one narrated from one Companion by one

transmitter of the Successors. Sorne examples ofCompanions who fall into this

category are Harim b. Khanbash, 'Amr b. Shahr, 'Urwa b. Muçlarris, Muv,ammad b.

~afwan, and 'Amr b. Taghlib. There are also Companions who only allowed their sons

to narrate their l;adJths, among them al-Musayyib b. I:Iazan, 'Umayr, Ibn Qatada, Malik

b. Na~na, Shakal b. ijumayd, and Shaddiid b. al_Hiid. 299 Schacht, however, excludes this

fIfst form of fardfrom his Common-Link Theory when he states that the tradition would

be authentic if it reaches back to the Prophet or one of his Companions.30o

Nevertheless, we should take into account the possibility that several Companions

narrated one particular J;adfth, and that each of them transmitted that particular J;adfth

to a single transmitter. In this situation, although there are severallines of descent,

there is no common-link involved at any level extending the strands for a particular


One practical ex ample is the J;adfth narrated by Harim b. Khanbash in which he

recounts the story of a woman as king the Prophet in which month she should perform

'umra(visiting Makka outside of the pilgrimage season.) The Prophet responds that she

should perform it during the month of Ramadan, because 'umra during this month is

equivalent to J;ajj(pilgrimage).301 Al-Sha'b1 is the only transmitter ofthis J;adfth, but

that does not exclude the possibility that this J;adfth was narrated by more than one

Companion. In fact, among the Companions who narrated this J;adfth are Ibn 'Abbas,

Jabir, Abiï Hurayra, Anas and Umm Ma'qi1. 302

Describing this situation, the muJ;addith al- 'Iraq1 introduced two terms, shiihid

and mutiibi', which help clarify this point. The term shiihid characterizes a J;adJth as

299 al-l;liikim, Ma'rifa, 159; al-'Iriiql, Taqyld, 351.

300 It was stated in the fourth premise ofSchacht's theory.

301Ibn I:Ianbal, Musnad, fJadlth nos.: 17146, 17147, 17148, 17208; Mul].ammad Ibn Mïija, al-Sunan
(Beirut: Dar I1;lyii' al-Turath, 1975), fJadlthno. 2991.

302 al-Tirmidhl, fJadlth no. 939.

being narrated by more than one Companion,303 while mutiibi' characterizes it as being

narrated by more than one Successor from the same Companion?04 According to these

two defmitions, and knowing that other Companions have narrated this J.zadith, we can

characterize Harim's J.zadith as shiihid, not mutiibi'.

The second form of fard is a J.zadIth narrated from one single Companion, then by

one single Successor, and followed by one single Follower of the second generation. For

instance, AI-Zuhrl, who was of the second generation of the Followers, transmitted

numerous examples of this type of J.zadIth. He narrated over ninety J.zadIths, all of them

narrated by one Follower of the fIfSt generation, and, as Muslim states, "AI-Zuhrl

narrated about ninety J.zadiths that no one else has narrated." It seems that those J.zadIths

are not to be found elsewhere, but in actuality he was the only transmitter of that

particular isniid However, Ibn Kath1r proposed a different interpretation, asserting that,

"What Muslim states about al-Zuhrl's J.zadiths me ans that no one narrated the same

isniids, but we can fmd the matns ofthose J.zadiths narrated by other transmitters.,,305

AI-I:Iakim, in fact, found other transmitters who narrated these J.zadiths individually,

inc1uding 'Amr b. D1nar, Ya1)ya b. Sa'1d, Abii Isl].aq al-Sabl'l, and Hisham b. 'Urwa?06

Other examples of the second form of fard are sorne J.zadiths narrated by Malik, a

second generation Follower, who was the sole transmitter of individu al J.zadiths from

,approximately ten scholars, of the fIfSt generation of the Followers, in Medina.30? Other

303 aI-Nawaw1, Taqiib, 35; aI-'Iâiql, Taqyld, 110.

304 aI-Nawawl, Taqiib, 34; al-'lraq1, Taqyld, 110.

305 Ibn Kath1r, aI-Bi'ith aI-lfathlth, 36.

306 al-I;Iakim, Ma'rifa, 160.

ex amples are drawn from Shu'ba, who was also the sole transmitter of individu al

iJadiths from over thirty scholars in Medina. The second type of fardthus applies to

individualiJadfths that were transmitted by a single solitary narrator of the second

generation ofFoUowers?08 The transmitters in this form of fard are caUed wi1;Idin?09

Although in his al-IkHl al-I:Iakim proclaims that al-BukharI and Muslim did not include

any wilJdin iJadfths, this proclamation was refuted by al-Dhahabl and others who list

several wilJdin iJadfths in al-Bukharl?JO Indeed, al-Dhahabl alone identifies ten

Companions who were described as wi1;Idin. 3JJ However, the similarity between wilJdin

iJadfths and the two previously mentioned forms of fardis confusing. Thus, 'Itr tries to

clarify this by distinguishing between the Companions on one hand as the fIfst form of

fard and the rest of the transmitters as the second form on the other hand. The reason

for this differentiation was because aU Companions stood at the highest rank of

authenticity; therefore, their iJadfths, whether narrated by only one of them or in

conjunction with other Companions, are not to be questioned for muiJaddiths, including

307 Ibn al-~alaQ, 'Uliim aI-lfadith. 100.

308 al-Ijakim, Ma 'nIa, 160-161; al-'Iraql, Taqyld, 355.

309 aI- WiJ;diin is the plural of wiilJid (one) which is a description of a transmitter who has one transmit ter
only to narrate his J;adiths. Ibn a1-~alaQ, 'Uliim aI-lfadith. 287. It bears noting that fardrefers to J;adiths,
while wiJ;din refers to the transmitters themselves. Moreover, every J;adith with a wiJ;din transmitter is a
fard, but not every fard contains a wiJ;din transmitter. When 1 use the term wiJ;din J;adith, 1 intend by it a
fard J;adith narrated by a wiJ;din transmitter.

310 In his aJ-MadkhaI, al-Ijiikim claims: "the $ai;liJ J;adith is divided into ten types, five are agreed upon
[among mU};Jaddiths F.H.] and the other five are not. The first type ofthe agreed upon 1;adith is what al-
Bukhiïrl and Muslim have chosen, and it is in the highest level of ~ai;liJ. The example of this type is a
J;adith narrated by a Companion, who famously narrated J;adiths from the Prophet to two followers, who
themselves are known to narrate J;aditlr, then, from each one of these two foIlowers to two transmitters,
who are known to narrate J;aditlr, then, in the fourth generation, to reliable transmitters; then, to the
Shaykh of al-Bukhiirl or Muslim, who is reliable as weIl." Al-Ij!ik:im, al-Madkhal, 29. See below,118.

311 al-Dhahabl, Siyar vol. 8, 253-254.

al-J:Iakim. 312 As for non-Companion transmitters, there is no single instance ofthis kind

of wÜJ.diin iJadlth to be found in al-Bukharl. 313 Nevertheless, Schacht excludes lJadlths

narrated by a single Companion from his theory,314 instead including the wÜJ.diin

narrated by a transmitter succeeding the Companions, which was already refuted by the

early muJ;.addiths. Schacht, however, was unaware ofthese two categories of wÜJ.diin.

We will do well to recall the manner in which muJ;.addiths used to evaluate

transmitters, especially their standards regarding tafaJTud and wiiJdiin iJadlths. AI-

Tahanawl stated that tafaJTud disqualifies a lJadlth if it contradicts a known tradition,

whether it was mutawiitiror mashhiïr. 315 It is equally important to know that if any

transmitter narrated something different than the version narrated by a majority of

transmitters, then his iJadlth was deemed unacceptable,316 and his credibility as a

transmitter of fard iJadlth declined among most scholars. In fact, al-Khatlb (d.

463/1071) dedicated a chapter to this matter in his al-Kifiiya, quoting several

muJ;.addiths, such as Shu'ba (d. 160/777), Ibn Mahdi (d. 198/814), Ibn J:Ianbal (d.

241/856) and Abiï Nu'aym (d. 430/1039), and pointing oue 17 the general consensus upon

the issue of narrating fard iJadlth; the credibility of a reliable transmitter is

proportionally affected by the number of tafaJTud and wÜJ.diin iJadlths he narrates. There

312 'Itr, Manhaj al-Naqd, 137.

Ibn I;Iajar, FatlJ aI-Biûi vol. 1, 6; NÜf al-Dln 'ltr, al-Imam al-Tinnidhl (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risrua,


314 Schacht, Origins, 163-175. In particular, see premise number 4.

315 Z;afar al-Tahanawl, Qawii'id fi 'Uliïm al-lfadJth (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risrua, 1972), 125.

316 Ibid., 125.

317Abu Bakr Al)mad al-Khatlb, Al-Kifiiya fi 'Ilm al-Riwiiya (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabl, 1986), 171-

is agreement upon the need to reject the authenticity of these unsound lJadiths, but it is

left to a mul}.aaddith's discretion to determine the point at which a transmitter's

credibility is totally impugned, thus invalidating his corpus of lJadIth. From a more

extreme position, al-Tahanawl considered all the lJadIths from an otherwise reliable, but

moderate1yprolific, transmit ter, to be inauthentic ifhe narrated any shiidhdh and gharlb

lJadIths. In this regard, he cites the example of Muqaddam b. MulJammad b. Y$ya al-

Muqaddaml, who was described as thiqa(reliable) by al-Bazzar, al-Daraqutn1 and Ibn

ijibban. 318 Likewise, Ibn Ijlibban's biography of Muqaddam in his al-Thiqiit, states that

Muqaddam narrated shiidhdh and gharlb lJadIths,319 and al-Tahanawl concludes that aIl

his lJadIths should thus be considered inauthentic. 320 But, even for al-Tahanawl, if a

reliable transmitter narrated only a few shiidhdh lJadIths and was velYprolific, only the

few spurious lJadIths should be considered unauthentic. For instance, YUnus b. 'Abd al-

A'la, who was considered a reliable and velYprolific, transmitted sorne shiidhdh lJadIths,

and ofhis entire collection, only these lJadIths were consequently declined by all

mulJaddiths. 321

One of the principles of lJadJth science is that mul}.addiths tend to reject the

entire narration of a weak transmitter, with excellent examples of this to be found in al-

Mad/mal fi U~iil al-lfadJth by al-ijakim. AI-Ijliikirn followed the common practice of

criticizing not only the text, but the transmitters themselves, and presented ten classes

318 A!nnad Ibn l;Iajar, Tahdhlb a/-Tahdhlbvol.2 (Haidarabad: Majlis Da'irat al-Ma'iirif al-'Uthmiiniyya
Press, 1907),208.

319 Ibn l;Iibban, al-Thiqat, vol. 9,208.

320 al-Tahiinawl, Qawii'i(/, 428.

321 Ibid., 434.

of weak transmitters?22 One of the methods that he used was to examine the source

from whom they narrated f;Jadiths; if their teachers were known for being responsible for

fard f;Jadiths, then this would le ad to serious doubts about their authenticity. Similar

levels of transmitters were presented by Abu' Ali al-Ghassanl al-Jaiyyanl (d. 498/1105),

whom al-Nawawl quotes in his Madkhal ilii $alflf;J Muslim; however unlike al-I:Iàkim, al-

Jaiyyanl's scheme contains seven levels; three ofaccepted transmitters, three ofrejected

transmitters, and the seventh level for transmitters who are in between. 323

In his Origins, Schacht referred to this second form of fard in particular, but he

failed to grasp the technical variations and detailed differentiations between the

different types that faH under this heading. Within this second type of fardthere are

differences in characteristics and validity that must be taken into account. Failure to do

so may result in an incorrect conclusion, which is exactly what happened to Schacht.

I shaH now elucidate the different types ofthis form of fard- a major subject in

the field of f;Jadith- from a critical muf;Jaddith's point ofview. The following diagram

(6) depicts the categorization of the fàrd f;Jadith from the perspective of f;Jadith science:

322 Al-l:liikim. See Appendix (3).

323 Robson, "Tradition," 106; also see appendix (3).

Diagram (6) "Fard" lfadith

Fard (Individual)

By Transmitter By Companion

(could be authentic)

Fardwith opposing iJadlth Fardwithout opposing iJadlth

Mlfflkar Shidhdh Mu.t1aq (absolutely) Nisbl (relatively)

(weak) (weak) (weak)

by region by transmitter by region

[rom from [rom

another region another transmitter the Prophet

(AU ofthese three types could be authentic)

The first type of fard consists of a l}adlth narrated by a transmitter for which

other contradictory l}adlths (mukhiiJaJà) can be found. 324 This type is divided further

into two categories, the frrst ofwhich is shiidhdh. 325 SeveraI scholars, including al-

Shafi'I, al-'IraqI, al-NawawI, and ai-Sakhawi de scribe the seriousness ofthis specifie

sub-category of fardas foHows: doubt is cast upon a narrator of the highest ealiber if he

transmits a l}adlth contradicted by l}adlths from three or more narrators with the same or

higher credibility. 326

In such a case of confliet within the shiidhdh sub-eategory, the number of

transmitters will determine which l}adlth of the two opposing camps is authentie. In

other words, the l}adlth possessing the single largest number ofvalid isniids will be

accepted as most sound, or ma1;fii.;:, which is one of the accepted types of l}adlth and

thus considered sound (~a1;14). On the other hand, the rejected shiidhdh l}adlth(s) is

considered weak (ça 'If) and thus invalid.327 If the opposing isniids are of equal strength,

in terms of the transmitters, reliability and level of knowledge, then alll}adlths would be

considered muç/arib (contradicted),328 which is a type of weak (fla 'If) l}adlth wherein aH

l}adlths would be considered invalid.

The second sub-category is munkar,329 which refers to l}adlth rejected because of

an unreliable or insufficiently knowledgeable transmitter. Note that such a transmitter's

324 al-'Iraql, Taqykl, 104.

325 al-~akim, Ma'rifa, 119; al-Nawawl, Taqiib, 33; Ibn Rajab, ShariJ, 329; al-'Iraql, Fat./; al-Mughlth, 96;
al-'Iriiql, TaqykI, 100.

326 al-~akim, Ma'rifa, 119, 122;

327lbn ~ajar, Tahdhlb, vol. 1,235.

328 Ibn Rajab, ShariJ, 134-141; al-'Iraql, Taqyld, 124.

329 al-Nawawl, 34; Ibn Rajab, Sharl;1, 324; al-'Iraql, Taqyld, 105; al-'Iraql, Fatl;1 al-Mughlth, 87.

1;.adIth is rejected, whether there exists an opposing 1;.adIth or not. On the other hand, if

there does exist a 1;.adIth with two or more reliable transmitters that opposes this

munkar 1;.adIth then that opposing 1;.adIth will be accepted and termed ma 'riif. 330

However, if an opposing 1;.adIth is also narrated by an unreliable transmitter, then it

would also be rejected as weak (ça'lf), as claimed by al-Tirmidhl, Ibn Rajab, and

others. 331 Examples ofweak transmitters who usually narrate contradictory 1;.adIths

include: Baqiyya b. al-Wafid, Ibn al-~abba1}., and Mu~ammad b. Ab1 Raft'.

The second type of fardby a transmitter is a 1;.adIth narrated without opposition

(mukhiilafa). This type may be divided into two categories as well: fard mu.t1aq

(absolute fard) and fard nisbl (relative fard).332 The fIfSt category is an extraordinary

case, where the 1;.adIth is transmitted by a single transmitter, without a mutiibi' 333 nor a

shiihid. 334 Thus, the 1;.adIth would be considered weak (ça 'lf), regardless of whether or

not the transmit ter was strong in terms of reliability and knowledge. Once a fard 1;.adIth

is rejected, it falls under one of the following terms: anomalous (gharlb), isolated (fard)

or unfamiliar (munkar).

Ibn I:Iajar clearly distinguished between fard and gharlb in his famous treatise on

1;.adIth entitled Nuzhat al-NEJ:?ar- fardbeing the absolute tafarrud (fard mu.t1aq), while

gharlb is relative tafarrud (fard Nisbl). He gave examples of the relative tafarrudby

330 Ibn I:Iajar, Tahdhlb, vol. 1,237.

331 Ibn R*b, SharfJ, 101, 122.

332 Ibn Rajab, SharlJ, 329; a1-'Iraql, Taqyld, 115.

when two or more transmitters narrate a lJadlth, one of them is called the original and the rest
333 Mutiibi',
are called mutiibl (Followers). al-Nawawl, 34; al-'Iraql, TaqyJd, 109.

334Shiihid, when two or more Companions narrate a l;18dlth, one of them is called the original, and the rest
are called shiihids (Supporters).

either city or Companion, but for the absolute tafarrudhe provided the J;adith of the sale

of walii'. Ibn J:Iajar made the remarkable comment 335 that the fard Mu.flaq could be

found in such collections as Musnad al-Bazziir 336 and al-Mu'jam al-A wsat by al-

Dïïraqutn1. 337 However, al-Tahanawl states that whenever we fmd a mutiibi' or shiihid

for a shiidhdh J;adIth then it will consequently no longer be shiidhdh, for this qualifies it

for authenticity.338 Because this category is the most contradictory one, most scholars

have asserted its weakness although we fmd sorne difference of opinion regarding the

authenticity ofthis fard, between the early and later muJ;addiths. 339

On one hand, amongst the early muJ;addiths, AQmad b. J:Ianbal (d. 241/856) is an

ex ample of a scholar who considered a shiidhdh J;adIth weak. This is evinced in his

discussion of the J;adlth about combining 'umra and J;ajj (pilgrimage) in a single trip.

Although this J;adIth was narrated by one of the most reliable transmitters, Malik,340

AQmad b. J:Ianbal still considered it weak (ç/a7f)because Malik was the only one who

transmitted this J;adIth from al-Zuhr1. Thus, having neither mutiibi' nor shiihid, this

J;adlth was rejected. A clearer example of the theory behind shiidhdh J;adlth can be

found in the Risiila ilii Ahl Makka by Abu Dawud, who described his own al-Sun an to

the people of Makka in the following terms:

Most of the J;adIths included in my book Kitiib al-Sunan are mashhiiIs

(widespread), and are found in most of the J;adIth collections. What

335 Al]mad Ibn l;[ajar, Nukhbat al-Fikar (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1981),28.

336 Al]mad al-Bazzar, Musnad aJ-Bazzar(Damascus: Mu'assasat 'UlÜ!n al-Qur'an, 1989).

337 Sulayman al-Tabaranl, al-Mu'jam al-Awsat(Riyadh: Maktabat al-Ma'iirif, 1985).

338 al-Tahanawl, Qawiï'i~ 124.

339 Ibn al-~al!il]., 'UiÜJn aJ-Qadith, 243.

340 Ibn Rajab, ShariJ, 325.

makes them unique (tamyizahii) is that they are mashhiùs, considering
that the anomalous (gharib) iJadiths are unauthentic, even if they were
narrated by Malik, YalJya b. Sa'Id, as well as by the most reliable
transmitters. If sorne one relies on an isolated single strand (shidhdh) or
anomalous (gharib) iJadith you will find that others reject it?41

Moreover, another muiJaddith, AI-BardijÏ (d. 303/916), maintained that ifa Companion

or transmitter narrated a iJadith and the text (matn) ofthat iJadith cannot be found

elsewhere, then it is unfamiliar (munkar). Then he gave an example saying that if

Shu'ba, Sa'id b. Ab1 'Aruba, or Hisham al-Dastawa'1 narrated from Qatada, from Anas,

and the Prophet, and no one else narrated this iJadith, then it would be considered weak

and termed 'munkar. ,342 In his treatise dedicated to the shidhdh iJadith, I:Iusayn al-

An~ar1 concludes , after studying the opinions of al-Shafi'I, al-KhaIiIi and al-I:Iakim, that

the shidhdh iJadith is unacceptable. 343

On the other hand, later muiJaddiths accepted this type of fard mu/laq. This

shift in the field was first announced by Ibn I:Iazm (d. 456/1064), who stated:

When the reliable transmit ter narrates from another reliable transmitter a
iJadith from a Companion from the Prophet [PBUH] then it is necessary
to accept it, whether it was narrated by another transmitter from a
Companion [mawqiif} or not, or whether it was narrated by a liar or
another reliable transmitter, or even if it was the only isnid for that
iJadith [meaning fard mu/laq].344

About two centuries later, Ibn al-Qattan (d. 628/1231) held the opinion that "al-Infirid

[tafàITudJ does not have a negative effect on the authenticity of the iJadith as long as it

341 Sulayman Abu Dawud, Risilat Ab! Diwiid ili Ahl Makkah fi waff Sunanih (Beirut: al-Maktab al-
Islam!, 1995),9.

342 Ibn Rajab, Shar17, 324.

343f.lusayn al-An~ar1, al-Bayiin al-Mukammal fi TaiJq!q al-Shidhdh wa al-Mu'allal(Benares: al-Jami'ah

al-Salafiyya, 1979), 19.

344 'Ali Ibn f.lazm, al-I17kiim fi Ufiil al-Ailkiimvol.l (Beirut: Dar al-Afaq, 1980), 157.

is narrated by a reliable transmitter (thiqa)."345 Ibn al-~alïi4, deemed by Ibn I:Iajar to

mark the turning point in f;.adIth terminology, defended the authenticity of this fard,

with everyone adopting this opinion thereafter. Ibn al-~alïi4 articulates a precise

differentiation between the types of fard

When a transmit ter narrates something that no one el se has narrated, and
if what he narrates opposes other transmitters who are deemed more
reliable than him, then what he narrates would be shiïdhdh and thus
rejected. But if there is no one opposing what he narrates then we would
examine his reliability. Ifwe fmd him reliable, then we would accept his
f;.adIth. And if he is not a reliable transmitter, then whatever he narrates
will not be accepted, yet it will not be rejected; rather it would be taken
into consideration, and its value will depend on his level among
transmitters, and his f;.adIth should be in the rank between good (pasan)
and weak (ça 'lf)?46

These three muJ;.addiths, among others, acknowledged the rejection of this fard mu.tfaq

by early muJ;.addiths, yet, they still discuss it, trying to upgrade its level to an accepted

one. One of the methods they used to reevaluate the level of fard mu.tlaqwas to

reinterpret the opinions of early muJ;.addiths. An obvious ex ample of the

reinterpretation is al-Nawawl's comments on the term mlll1karwhich was used by

Muslim. AI-Nawawl says: "What Muslim meant by mlll1karis the rejected mlll1kar,

because the [later] muJ;.addiths might caU a fardnarrated by a reliable person mlll1kar,

and yet they do not reject it as long as this reliable transmitter has a strong and solid


Contemporary muJ;.addiths elaborated further on this. AI-Laqim, for instance,

discusses how the later muJ;.addiths reinterpreted the position of early muJ;.addiths in

345 Ibn al-Qattïin, Bayiin aJ-Wahm wa aI-Ihim 5, vol. 5,456, and vol. 3, 282 and 296.

346 Ibn al-~alaQ, Muqaddima, 237.

347 Yal}ya al-Nawawl, aJ-Minhiij: Sharf;1 $afJif;1 Muslim Ibn al-lftijjift vol. 1 (Beirut: Diir al-Qalam, 1987),

both theory and practice. Injustifying their opinion, later mu1;wddiths suggested that

the differentiation between them and the early mu1;.addiths was just a matter of

defmition, which had to do with language and not the categories of fard Thus,later

mulJaddiths had to reinterpret what early mulJaddiths have stated. For ex ample, later

muJ;.addiths state that when the early mulJaddiths rejected a J;.adlth, classifying it as

munkar, they referred to the text (matn) not to the isniïd Al-LaQim, however,

abandoned this interpretation, supporting his argument with three pieces of evidence.

First of aH, there is no clear differentiation between the early and later mulJaddiths as to

the precise linguistic meaning of the word m unkar, in terms of its relation to matn and

isniïd, so defining correct usage of the word munkar interchangeably requires further

investigation. The later mulJaddiths' assumption should be considered invalid unless

they provide sufficient evidence, which substantiates their claim about the different

semantic application of the word munkar. Secondly, the early muJ;wddiths used terms

other than munkarto describe the weakness of tafarrud, such as "error" (kha.ta') and

"invalidity" (biïfil), which later muJ;.addiths cannot daim any linguistic ambiguity

reasonably applies to. Thirdly, accepting the later muJ;.addiths' interpretation of munkar

means accepting the ziyiïdat aJ-thiqa (extra phrases added to the J;.adlth by a reliable

transmitter), but later mulJaddiths do not accept ziyiïdat aJ-thiqa, and consequently

their interpretation contradicts their assumption. 348

The second category of the second type of fard is fard nisbl, namely, a J;.adlth

that is relatively fard MuJ;.addiths have divided the fard nisblinto three kinds based on

the characteristics of its isniïd The frrst kind is the fardfound among transmitters

348 al-Laqim, IbrahIm, "Tafarrud al-Thiqa," al-.lfikma24 (2004): 145.

within one particular city or region. 349 Examples ofthis type are very common, such as

the lJadith of' Abd Allah b. 'Amr, in which he narrates that the Prophet told his

Companion that a piece of land belonging to a non-Ar ab would be 'yours', and that

'you' would fmd in it public baths (lJammiims). If a man wanted to enter these public

baths he would be obliged to enter with proper attire (iziir), and women were not

allowed to enter these public baths except for health treatment.350 This tradition was

only narrated in Syria (Sham), where co Id weather invites the use of public baths. It

was not narrated in warm cities like Makka and Medina, simply because the institution

of the public bath did not exist there.

Another example is the lJadith narrated by 'A' isha, in which the Prophet left her

in a happy mood, but returned sad. Upon asking him what had caused his sadness, he

replied "1 entered the Ka'ba and 1 am afraid that 1 have caused difficulty for people."

The Prophet realized that everyone would now want to enter the Ka 'ba because the

Prophet had done so, posing a difficulty because the Ka 'ba is not big enough for all

Muslim to enter.351 As this lJadith related to entering the Ka'ba, which is located in

Makka, it was narrated only by transmitters from Makka. From these two ex amples we

may conclude that if the subject of a lJadith is irrelevant to the people living in the

location where it is narrated, then the authenticity of the lJadith is question able, as is

clearly illustrated in the next ex ample. According to al-I:Iakim and al-Bayhaql, 'Abd

Allah b. Zayd narrated that while the Prophet was preparing his ablution (wutjiï'), he did

349 al-l.Iakim, Ma 'ifat, 96-99; al- 'Iraq!, 97.

350 al-Tinnidhl, 2802; Abû Dawûd, al-Sunan (4011); and Ibn Maja, (3748).

351 al-Tinnidhl, (873); Abû Dawûd, (229); and Ibn Maja, (3064).

not clean his ears with the sarne water he used to wipe his hair. 352 Only Egyptian

transrnitters narrated this tradition, but the wuçIii' of the Prophet is relevant to a11

regions. Since region is not an issue and the J;adlth has no specifie relevant to Cairo or

Egypt, al-I:Iiikim concluded that the tradition is anornalous (gharlb) and should be

considered weak (çIa'lf). These examples le ad to the sarne conclusion arrived at by

Andreas Gorke who avers:

When we use a single source with a regional focus on Iraq, we rnight

wrongly consider an Iraqi partial cornrnon link to be the cornrnon link of
the whole tradition, just because the author failed to record rnany of the
Syrian or Egyptian traditions. Even if he rnanaged to record a Syrian and
Egyptian isniid, these single st rands rnight be considered to be later
dives. 353

The second kind of fard nisblis characterized as the one transrnitted by a

Successor to only one ofhis pUpilS.354 This, however, does not irnply that the J;adlth

cannot be found elsewhere. We rnight fmd another Successor who transrnitted the same

J;adlth frorn the same Cornpanion (mutiibi'), or we rnight find the sarne J;adith narrated

frorn the Prophet by another of the Cornpanions (shiihid) and then spread throughout

several strands. For example, when the Cornpanion Ibn Mas'iid asked the Prophet,

"Which sin is the worst?" the latter replie d, "The worst sin is considering anything or

anyone equal to God who created you." Ibn Mas'iid asked hirn again, "What is the

second worst sin?" and the Prophet answered, "To kill your child so that he does not eat

your food." Ibn Mas'iid then asked, "What is the third worst sin?" and the Prophet

352 al-Mubarakfür1, TlÙJfa, l;adJth no. 37.

353Andreas Gorke, "Eschatology, History and the Cornrnon Link," in Herbert Berg, Methods and Theory
in the Study ofIslamic Origins (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 186.

354 al-f.lakirn, Ma 'rifa, 100; al-'Iraq!, Fatl; al-Mughlth, 97.

answered, "To commit adultery with your neighbor's wife.,,355 According to al-I:Iïikim,

this J;.adIth was narrated by Ibn Mahdi from al-Thawr1, who transmitted it from Wa~il.

Ibn Mahdi was the only transmitter who narrated this J;.adIth from al-Thawrl, but al-

I:Iakim did not mean to say that the J;.adIth does not exist elsewhere. He means that Ibn

Mahdi was the only transmitter who narrate this J;.adIth from Sufyan from Shaqlq from

'Amr b. Shural}bl1 from Ibn Mas'üd, while other transmitters narrated it from Shaqiq

from Ibn Mas'üd directly not via 'Amr. Furthermore, as Muslim points out in his

editorial comment, this J;.adIth was supported by a verse from the Qur'an: "Allah said:

Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other go d, nor slay such life as Allah has made

sacred, except for just cause, nor commit fornication, and anyone that does this (not

only) meets punishment. "356 The following diagram (7) illustrates the aforementioned

details regarding the transmission of this J;.adIth.

355 Al-Bukharl, (4517), (6067), (6899), (7614); Muslim, (267); al-Tirmidh1, (3482), (3484); Abü Dawüd,
(2312); al-Nasa'1, (4030), (4031), (4032).

356 Qur'an [25:68]

Diagram (7) The Ifadlth oflbn Mas'iid

The third kind of fard nisblis the one transmitted from one particular city or

region to another. 357 For instance, a 1;zadlth found only in Makka would, among

subsequent generations of transmitters, be found in Medina. However, this very rare

kind of fardis difficult to explain, and Schacht did not take it into account in his theory,

as he most likely never encountered any case of it.

In sum, Schacht succeeded, to a degree, in reflecting the sunna' s historicity in

his defmition, accounting for the successive phases of its development. But, when it

cornes to the collection of 1;zadlth, there is no indication that he was fully aware of

traditionists' standards of authentication, employed for acceptance and rejection. In the

foregoing discussion, it has not been my intention to judge the veracity of methods for

authenticating Prophetie 1;zadlth per se; rather, my coneem lies specifieally in

articulating the problem of Sehaeht's misinterpretation of the Common-Link. This

problem will be more fully developed, in due course, after having provided sorne

practical examples of taffarud

4. Practical Cases of Tafanud

The previous section of this ehapter provided defmitions for the different fonns of

isolated traditions according to the mufJaddiths, and their rules related to fard 1;zadlths

and wil;zdin transmitters. To further illustrate this phenomenon, practical examples of

how mul;.addiths dealt with those types of fard in their literature will be provided

here. Despite rare and exception al cases, the mul;.addiths generally tended to eliminate

357 al-l;Iâkim, Ma'rifa, 100; al-'Irâql, FatiJ al-MughJth, 97.

wÜJdiin and fard muflaq from their collections due to their weakness, as we have

discussed in the previous section. mu/;Iaddiths normally devoted independent works to

fard and wif;.diin J;.adlths.

The most famous collections on fard and wiJ;.diin J;.adlths are: al-Munfaridiit wa

a1- WÜJdiin 358 by Muslim al-Nayslibiïr1 (d. 261/831); al-Muntakhab min Gharii'ib Miilik

359 by Ibn al-Miqqad al-A~baham (d. 381/991); al_Afiiid 36o by Ab1 I:Iaf~ Ibn Shlih1n (d.

385/995); al-Afiiid wa al-Gharii'ib 361 by Ibn Zurayq al-Dalllii (d. 391/1001); Afiiid wa

al-Gharii'ib 362 by KhalafIbn al-Wasifi (d. 425/1034); al_Afi-iid 363 by al-I:Iasan Ibn

Shlidhlin (d. 475/1082); A/riifal-Gharii'ib wa al_Atriid 364 by MlÛ}.ammad Ibn Tlihir al-

Maqdis1 (d. 507/1113), a book which in and of itself contains 6400 J;.adlths of different

types of fard; and Afi-iid Muslim 365 by 'Abd al-Ghanî al-Maqdis1 (d. 600/1204).

It is worth noticing that the above books are not limited to wif;.diin or fard

mu.t1aq J;.adlths (what Schacht's theory takes to be exhaustive of aIl solitary reports), but

also include other types of fard, such as fard nisbl. AI-Muntakhab min Gharii'ib Miilik

gives a vivid picture of mu/;Iaddiths' practical position towards fard J;.adlths. In this

monograph, Ibn al-Miqqar1 selected thirty one ofMlilik's J;.adlths that were considered

358 Manuscript.

359 Ibn al-Miqqan al-A~bahanl, al-Muntakhab min Gharii'ib Miilik(Riyadh: Dar Ibn l:Iazm, 1999).
360 Abü l:Iaf~ Ibn Sh3hln, al-Affiid(Kuwait: Dar Ibn al-Ath1r, 1995).
361 Manuscript.

362 Manuscript.

363 Manuscript.

Mul}.ammad Ibn T3hir al-Maqdisl, A/rifal-Gharii'ib wa al-Affid (Beirut:

364 Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya,

365 Manuscript.

gharlb. A study of those J;adlths helps to elaborate on the meaning of ghaIib and fard,

when used by traditionists.

The first J;adJth in al-Muntakhabnarrated by Ibn al-Miqqarl from Mu4ammad al-

Bahili, from 'Abd al-Ra1)man al-Riqql, from Mu'awiya b. Hisham, from Malik from al-

Zuhrl, from Anas reports that, "the Prophet entered Makka wearing a Mighfar

(helmet)."366 Ibn 'Abd al-Barr states, "to my knowledge, no one has narrated this J;adJth

via Malik other than Bishr b. 'Umar."367 Ifwe apply Schacht's theory, this statement

would indicate that Bishr is the common-link ofthis J;adJth. However, al-Zurqanl, who

is a trained Malild mu1;wddith, understood Ibn' Abd al-Barr differently, and said, "Ibn

'Abd al-Barr meant that no one has narrated this J;adJth via Malik in the Muwa.tta:

because it has been narrated via Malik by more than ten transmitters, but in different

J;adith collections.,,368 In other words, Bishr's narration was considered fardonly with

respect to the Muwa.tta ~ This J;adith is a prime example of the fard nisbJ.

The second J;adith in al-Muntakhabrepresents what traditionists classify as

munkaror sorne muJ;addiths would caU it gharlb. Ibn al-Miqqarl narrates from A1)mad

b. 'Ali, from A1)mad b. Wahb, from Malik, from al-Zuhrl, from Anas, that the Prophet

said, "If dinner is served at the time of 'Ishii' (night prayer), then you should begin with

dinner.,,369 In this J;adith, A1)mad b. Wahb is the only transmitter, the so-called

common-link, who transmits the J;adlthvia Malik. However, recognizing Ibn Wahb as

366 Ibn al-Miqqaii, al-MlUltakhab, 29.

Ibn •Abd al-Barr al-Qut1ubl, al- TamhJd lima fi al-Muwatta' min al-Ma 'iïnJ wa al-Asiïnldvol. 6 (Ribat:
Wizarat al-AwqafPress, 1967), 159.

Mu1;tammad al-Zurqanl, ShariJ al-ZurqiïnJ 'ala Muwatta' al-Imam Miilikvol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr,

369 Ibn al-Miqqarl, al-MlUltakhab, 33.

the cornmon-link does not imply that he fabricated the isniid and was responsible for its

spreading. Mul;addJths recognized that he is the common-link in that particular isniid

via Malik, yet, they accepted the matn because it was narrated by many other

transmitters via three Companions who share the Prophet himself as their cornmon-link,

as explained in diagram (8).

Similar to the previous case of munkar, but with a rejected matn, the third case

narrated by Ibn al-Miqqar1, from A1Jmad al-'Anbari, from 'Uthman b. $alil!-, from

Isma'il Ibn Ab1 Uways, from Malik, from al-Zuhr1 via Anas reports that, "the Prophet

sought help from sorne Jews in a battle and he gave them a share (of the spOilS).,,370 Ibn

Ab1 Uways claimed that Malik narrated the 1;adith from al-Zuhri via Anas, while other

reliable transmitters, i.e., Yaz1d b. Yaz1d,371 I:Iaywa b. Shuray"Q,372 and Ibn Jurayj,373

narrated the same 1;adith from Malik via al-Zuhri (a Follower of the first generation),

from the Prophet directly, as a mursaJ1;adJt11, Le. without mentioning Anas (the

Companion in this isniid). Since Ibn Ab1 Uways is not a reliable transmitter, and aH of

those who contradict his narration are reliable transmitters, then Ibn Ab1 Uways' s isniid

will be considered weak (gharlb), and thus rejected. In this case the 1;adith will remain

weak as the opposing (mukhiiJafa) in this case is a mursaJ1;adith, which is considered

weak. 374

370 Ibn al-Miqqarl, al-Muntakhab, 35.

371 Mu4ammad Ibn Ab! Shayba, al-Mu~annafvo1.5 (Bombay: al-Dar al-Salaflyya, n.d.), 188.

Abu Dawud Sulayman al-Sijistan!, al-Marasl/, Shu'ayb al-Arna'uw! ed. (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risala,

373 Ibn Ab1 Shayba, al-Mu~annafvo1.5, 188.

374 There are different opinions regarding mursall}adith, Ibn Jar1r states, "generalizing the rejection of
mursa/, without details, is an innovation that took place only after the year 200 A.H." More precisely,

Diagram (8) Ifadlth of 'lshii'Prayer

Abü Dawüd states, "previous scholars, such as Sufyîin al-Thawrl, Mîilik b. Anas and al-Awza'1 used to
accept mursals, but after al-Shîifi'1's critique it was rejected by him, Ibn l:Ianbal and others." However,
the study of mursalis beyond the scope ofthis thesis. Further discussion on mursaIis to be found in: al-
'Ala'l, Jiimi' aI- Ta/;$JI fi AlJkiim al-MarasIl

The fourth case in al-Muntakhab, narrated by Ibn al-Miqqarl from Ibn Qutayba,

from Ayyub b. $alil]., from Malik from al-Zuhrl, from Sa'1d b. al-Musayyib, from Abu

Hurayra reports that the Prophet said, "if one leads people in the prayer, he should

short en it, because among them are the weak, sick and elderly, and if one prays by

himselfhe can pray as long as he wishes.,,375 The matn ofthis 1;adIth is widely reported

in various 1;addIth collections by different transmitters, who narrate this 1;adIth from

Malik, from Abu al-Zinad, from al-A'raj, from Abu Hurayra, from the Prophet. Among

those transmitters, Yal}.ya al-Laythl, Abu Mu~'ab al-Zuhrl, Suwayd b. Sa'1d Ibn al-

Qasim, al-Qa'nabl, Ibn Bukayr, Mu4ammad b. al-I:Iasan, all ofthem were included in

different editions of al-MuwaHa'. Additionally, al-BukharI in his $aljlfJ,376 Abu Daüwd

in his Sunan,377 al-Nasa'1 in his Sunan,378 Ibn I:Ianbal in his Musnad,379 Abu 'Awana in

his Musnad,380 and al-Bayhaq1 in his Sunan, 381 have translated if via Miilik from Abu al-

Zinad. Those numerous transmissions confmn that the matn of this 1;adIth is well

known; it is the isniïdvia Miilik from al-Zuhrl (in contrary to Malik from Abu al-Zinad)

that is considered by mu1;addiths as gharlb.

The fifth case represents the third kind of fard nisEii, which is the 1;adIth

transmitted from one city to another. Ibn al-Miqqari narrated from al-I:Iasan b. Alpnad,

375 Ibn al-Miqqan, a/-Muntakhab, 72.

376 al-Bukhari, $alJIlJvol. 1,214.

377 Abü Daûwd, Sunan vol. l, 502.

378 Al-Nasa'1, Sunanvol. 2, 94.

379 Ibn f.Ianbal, Musnadvol. 2, 486

380 Abü 'Awana al-Isfarruyn1, Musnadvol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa, n.d.), 88.
381 Al-Bayhaql, al-Sunan a/-Kubravol. 3, 117.

form Is4aq b. Müsa, from Ma'n, from Malik, from 'Abd Allah b. IdrIs, from Shu'ba,

from Sa'd b. IbrahIm, from his father IbrahIm that, "'Umar Ibn al-KhaHab condemned

three Companions, Ibn Mas'ud, Abu al-Darda', and Abu Mas'ud, for their excessive

narrations from the Prophet." 382 In regard to both matn and isniid, this l]adIth is sound,

yet it is considered ghafib. The uniqueness lies in the isniid, because this is the only

i}adIth that Malik (the imiim of Medina) narrated from a kiifan transmit ter, Le., 'Abd

Allah b. IdrIs. 383 Moreover, 'Abd Allah b. IdrIs is the only kiifan transmit ter who

followed Malik's madhhab, especially, his opinion on prohibiting wine (nabldh), which

was the reason for Malik's avoidance of narrating l]adIths from kufan transmitters?84

382 Ibn al-Miqqarl, aJ-Muntakhab, 75.

383 al-Dhahabl, Siyar vol. 9,42.

384 al-Khatlb, Tiiiikh Baghdiidvol. 9,415; Ibn Sa'd, aJ-Tabaqiitvol. 6, 389.

Criticizing Schacht's Interpretation of the Common-Link Phenomenon

Having now discussed the complexity of issues related to the Common-Link Theory, we

can go on to see why Schacht encountered difficulties in presenting a logical

interpretation of the phenomenon. Turning now to Schacht's theory, we will be able to

determine the inaccuracies within his proposed explanation. In his own words, Schacht

describes the Common-Link Theory thus: 385

1) The tradition is normally taken over by one or several transmitters;

2) The lower (or later) transmitter, which is the real part of an isniid, branches
out into several strands;

3) The original transmitter, who is the promoter of an isniid, provides his

tradition with an isniidthat can be traced back to an authority;

4) The authority is a Companion or the Prophet. (In other words, if a tradition

has a common-link at the Companion level then this tradition is excluded
from the theory);

5) The higher (or earlier) part of an isniid often acquires addition al branches due
to improvements made to it, and these branches take their places alongside
the original chain of transmitters;

6) The transmitter, who is called "the common-link," will remain the lowest in
the several st rands of an isniid (or at least in most of the strands, allowing
him to be by passed and eliminated in addition al strands of an isniid that may
have been introduced later);

7) The existence of a significant common-link in aU or most isniid3 of a given

tradition strongly indicates that the isniid originated at the time of the
common-link transmission;

8) The same conclusion must be drawn when isniid3 of different, but closely
connected, traditions show a common-link. (This point is based on premise
six: while the common-link transmitter remains the common-link, he could
be eliminated in sorne isniid3 developed later.)

385 Schacht, Origins, 163-175 and passim.

The frrst four premises describe the development of the isnad?, and the fifth

premise serves to introduce the sixth, which contains the crux of Schacht's theory, i.e.

that the transmitter referred to as "the common-link" will remain the lowest in the

several strands of an isniid It is this sixth premise of the Common-Link Theory which

causes the theory in its entirety to breakdown. Premise six makes it clear that Schacht

misunderstood the concept of tafarrudwhich can be demonstrated from an analysis of

the related terms that have been described above.

In developing his Common-Link Theory, Schacht merged the various distinct

types of fàrd Schacht doesn't even employ the terms mu.flaq and nisbJwithin his

conception of fard, not to mention other sub-categories used by traditionists, e.g.

shiidhdh, munkar, wilJdiin, etc. Schacht also failed to distinguish between wilJdiin and

fard lJadith, instead claiming that both are rejected by traditionists, because the only

traditionist he was taking into account was al-Shafi'1. 386 He erroneously assumed that

all types of fardwere considered by muJ;adddiths to be equally authentic. Obviously, he

combined the fard nisbJwith the fard mu.tlaq, proclaiming, for example, that muJ;addiths

accepted both types of fardequally, which certainly is not the case, as 1 have shown

above. Thus, the Common-Link Theory rests on a flawed understanding that does not

bother to take into account the different types of fard Schacht's definition of the term

gharJb,387 for instance, was associated with isniid? in general, as opposed to one

particular type of fard Although Schacht was accurate in sorne details in his Origins,

such as defmitions of legal terms related to fiqh and many quotations he cited from legal

386 Ibid., p. 50

387 Ibid., p.l72.

sources, he was inaccurate in his approach to J;.adith and did not pro duce a

comprehensive picture of the origins ofIslamic law. Thus, he failed to arrange the

different pieces ofthis puzzle properly. The four primary reasons for Schacht's failure

to produce an acceptable theory are:

1. Unfamiliarity with RijiilWorks (Biographical Literature)

Schacht' sand his followers' problem is not limited to their analysis of the Common-

Link phenomenon as conceived by the traditionists; it goes beyond that to

misunderstanding how tranditionists evaluate i}adith transmitters in the first place. For

instance, Juynboll's unfamiliarity with i}adith terminology and rijiilworks is obvious in

his writing and leads him to misapprehend Yal}ya b. Ma'1n, who is one of the most

important references in the field of rijii1 388 Juynboll states:

Many times 1 have come across sayings of his [referring to Yal}ya b.

Ma'1n, without providing any reference to the sources - F.H.], in which
certain transmitters are declared trustworthy who had been decried as
forgers, or at least weak, by others. The only inference to be drawn from
this, it seems to me, is that even the experts did not knoW. 389

It is worth noting that, further to what Juynboll was able to discover, Yal}ya himself did

offer different opinions on a single transmitter. Because of his scanter sources and the

lack of examples, Juynboll's assertion that the i}adith experts did not know about the

credibility of the transmitters when they wrote their biographies, requires our attention.

388 A1-Dhahabl, MJzanvol. l, 1.

Juynboll, "On the Origins of Arabie Prose: Refleetions on Authentieity," in idem, Studies on the First
Centwy ofIslamic Society (Carbonda1e: Southem Illinois Press, 1982), 172.

A diversity in opinions between experts in l;adIth does exist;390 however, this does not

mean that they were ignorant of the transmitters' biographies. A comparison of such

differences with modem acadernic research makes this c1ear. The different opinion on

the same transmitter is similar to the evaluation of a student in any modem university

where sorne professors rnight evaluate a student with a grade of A, while others rnight

assign a grade ofB. We rnight even find sorne professors who would evaluate the sarne

student with a grade ofF. We know that their evaluation is based on such factors as

student's advancernent level, the field of study, etc. Thus student N.N. rnay not put

rnuch effort into his studies at the beginning of his acadernic life, and would receive

lower marks (F, D, C) as a consequence, but later exert more effort and eam Bs and As.

It is important to note that student N.N. is not the normal case, though it can happen,

and yet one cannot consider hirn the standard as Juynboll did. There are furthermore

many reasons for this diversity of evaluation on the part of ryal scholars like Y!iQya b.

Ma'In, Abu I:Jatirn, 'Ali b. al-MaumI, A4mad b. I:Janbal, and al-BukharI. One ofthese is

the extent of their coverage of the field, with sorne of them writing about a wide range

ofnarrators, e.g., Ibn Ma'in or Abu I:Jatirn al-RazI; others writing about fewer narrators,

e.g., Malik or Shu'ba; and last are those who have talked about a few narrators, e.g. Ibn

'Uyayna, al-Shafi'I. AIso, with respect to strictness or laxity, we fmd that scholars can

also be divided into three categories: the hardliners, who are quick to disparage and

who are strict in their commendation, e.g. Ibn Ma"m, Abu I:Jatim and al-JauzajanI; the

390 AI-I:Iiikim states that: "aJ-jari} wal-ta'dil mukhtaJaffihima, wa rubbama 'addal imiim wajaraIJa
ghayruh," i.e., there are differences in opinion regarding cornrnendation and discornrnendation of
transrnitters, sorne mui}addiths rnight cornrnend a transrnitter who has been discornmended by others. AI-
I:Iiikirn, aJ-Madkhal, 26.

more lenient ones, e.g., al-Tirmidhl, al-I:Iakim and al-Bayhaql; and lastly the balanced

observers, e.g., al-Bukhari, Al}mad b. I:Ianbal, Abii Zur'a and Ibn 'Adi. 391

Consensus has existed from the time of early traditionists onward, upon the

general criteria employed to discem who may or may not be considered a "righteous"

and "accurate" transmitter:

The generality of the experts in 1;adIth and law unanimously agree on

stipulating that the person whose transmission may be adduced as a proof
be upright (' adJ) and accurate (ç1iibi{) in what he relates. Specifically, he
must be a Muslim; adult; of sound mind; free of tendencies toward
impiety and defects of character; alert; careful; retentive, if he transmits
from memory; and accurate in handling his text, if he transmits from it.
Ifhe paraphrases his 1;adith in transmission (yufJaddithu bi- 'l-ma'n7J), it is
further stipulated that he be aware of any way the sense of a text can be
altered. (God knows best.) We will c1arify this general statement by
addressing specifie issues. 392

Ibn al-Saliiq. continues his exposition ofthese categories by addressing fifteen specifie

issues. 393 Almost every book on mu~!ala1; al-1;adIth (1;adIth terminology) contains a

section concemed with the criteria for disceming these categories. A general survey of

such literature reveals sorne common cases used to demonstrate examples of unrighteous

transmitters; for instance, traditionists do not consider a partisan transmitter to be

reliable, that is, a person commenting in support of their respective sectarian ideology.

When a narrator's behavior demonstrates contempt for the SharJ'a, they are considered

unreliable. If a transmitter is proven to have exhibited dishonesty in speech or behavior,

they are also rendered unreliable. Additionally, they would consider narration that

391 MlÙ).ammad al-Dhahabl, Dhikr man Yu'tamad Qawluh fi al-Jarl} wa al-Ta 'dil Abü Ghudda, 'Abd al-
Fattiil}. ed. (l;Ialab: Maktab al-Matbü'at al-Islamiyya, 1990),2.

392 Ibn aH;aliil}., An Intoduction, 80.

393 Ibid., p. 81-94.

contradicts the actual practice of the transmitter to be rendered suspect, and, thus,


However, one might ask, why do different traditionists reach different

conclusions as to the same transmitter? There are a few transmitters who have been

commended by sorne of the mu1;addiths and discredited by others. More rarely, a

transmit ter will receive two contradictory judgments from the same mu1;addith, who

would praise him at one time and discard him at another, Ibn Ma"m is famous for such

disparity. Traditionists discussed this issue in mu~taJal;1 aJ-1;adith and they set rules to

deal with such contradiction?94 These rules are divided into two main cases.

In the fIfst case, when the transmitter receives two contradictory judgments from

the same mu1;addith, it is because the transmitter's status might have changed. For

instance, he may have been reliable with strong memory, but over time lost his memory;

or, if the transmit ter relies on his writing and at one point loses his books, such as the

case of Ibn Lahl'a, then the mu1;addith will give different judgments on his narration.

At times the mu1;addith will state the reason why he changed his opinion, though in

many cases he would not give an explanation. Another reason that makes the

mu1;addith 's opinion seem contradictory, as regarding the same transmitter, occurs

when he compares between two transmitters; for example, ifhe were to say that

transmitter (A) is weaker than transmit ter (B). In this case the mu1;addith does not

mean that the transmitter (A) is a weak transmitter, but in comparison with transmitter

(B) he is relatively weaker.

394'Imïid al-Dln al-RashId, N8?ariyyat Naqd al-Rfjiil (N.e: Dar al-Shihïib, 1999); Sibt Ibn al- 'Ajaml, al-
Ightibii/ bi man Rumiya bi al-Ikhtilii.t (Ijalab: al-Maktaba al-'Ilmiyya, n.d.);

The second case is ':Vhere the transmitter receives two different judgments from

two different muIJaddiths, in addition to the two reasons mentioned in the frrst case

(which could be applied in the second case, where we have two muIJaddiths), there is

another reason for such diversity. At times a m ulJaddith will be aware of something that

others do not know, and so criticized the transmitter for that reason.

Whenever there is a contradiction with the same transmitter, either from the

same muIJaddith or by different muIJaddiths, they have to decide on the most valid

judgment. There are different opinions as to how to give preponderance to one

judgment over the other. One opinion is to go with the discrediting; the other is to go

with the commendation. AI-Sarakhsl took a moderate position, and said that we should

de al with each case individually. In other words, we have to verify the reason why the

muIJaddith changed his mind, or why the two different mulJaddiths have two different

opinions. Based on an in-depth study, we can decide which opinion is stronger than the


2. Misapprehending M~talalJ aJ-lfadIth (lfadIth Terminology)

The crux of my thesis lies in the overarching theoretical claim that Schacht 's

misunderstanding of the very term tafaITudand his formulation ofwhat a Common-Link

is, fail to distinguish between the different types of tafaITud as articulated by the

muIJaddiths. Thus, Schacht construes onlyone type of tafaITud as applying to aIl non-

mutawatir lJadlth. As such, his claim results in the faulty conclusion that aIl of the

lJadlths in al-kutub al-sitta (in fact, all non-mutawatir lJadlth) are inauthentic, having

heen transmitted via a common-link, who is presumed to he the fahricator. What

Schacht fails to account for is multiple common-links (via multiple isniids) for the same

iJadfth, which may reach back to a higher authority; eventually this higher authority may

be expressed as a Companion or the Prophet himself. The significance of this is that

virtually a11 of the iJadfth in al-kutub al-sittacould be examples of tafarrudin Schacht's

understanding, despitetheir having multiple common-links (through various isniids).

Generally speaking, the traditionists' term fard mu!laq, actually corresponds

with Schacht's defmition of the common-link, and was an infrequently practiced among .

muiJaddiths. Regarding fard mu.tlaq, al-Dhahabl points out that it is so rarely found

among famous transmitters that an imiim who narrates two hundred thousand iJadfths

might have only two or three isniids ofthis type. 395 A major reason behind this conflict

in Schacht's understanding is due to the fact that he relied exc1usively on irrelevant

primary sources, and Western secondary sources. He never referred to books of

mu~!ala1; al-iJadfth (iJadfth terminology) or rijiil works (biographicalliterature). Rather,

he would discuss the iJadfth terms and issues from a fiqh perspective, as demonstrated

by the fact that Schacht's main source of information on iJadfth was al-Shafi'1's books,

especially his al-Risiila, which deals with selected issues of legal the ory (u~ül al-fiqh),

and al-Umm, which de aIs with substantive law (furü' aJ-fiqh); these are separate fields

and sub-fields within the Islamic sciences that defme and apply similar terms


Even when Schachtians refer to particular iJadfth works in support of a general

phenomenon, they often choose their case studies from books by traditionists dedicated

395 Mul}.ammad al-Dhahabl, al-Müqi~a (l;Ialab: Maktab al-Matbu'iit al-Isliimiyya, 1985), 77.

exc1usively to the study ofunsound l;1adJths. Even though Juynboll recognized a few

collections offorged traditions, such as the Mawqü'atofIbn al-Jawzl, many of the

examples he used were selected from other such books, although he did not identify

them as SUCh.396 In other words, to make their thesis convincing, the Schachtians should

have started, not from the mawqü'at, which they did, but rather from collections

considered by traditionists to be authentic.

A striking ex ample of Schacht' s unfamiliarity with terms employed by

traditionists to evaluate transmitters, is his use of the term tadOs. With respect to al-

Shafi'i, Schacht states that, "he is loath to face the fact of tadOs, which consists in

dissembling or eliminating the names of discreditable transmitters from isnads (Ris. 53);

but he knows that Malik and Ibn 'Uyayna, two ofhis most highly esteemed authorities,

practiced tadDs.,,397 Here Schacht betrays his ignorance conceming the nuanced usage

of terminology within mu~!aJaJ; aJ-l;1adJth; amongst the mul;1addiths, tadOs does not

necessarily discredit a transmitter-even al-BukharI practices tadOs. There are

considered to be five categories of transmitters who practice tadOs; Malik and Ibn

'Uyayna faH into a category that does not affect their credibility as transmitters?98

Juynboll, "On the Origins of Arabie Prose: Reflections on Authenticity," in idem, Studies on the First
Centwy, 174.

397 Schacht, Origins, 37.

398 For further details conceming these terminological definitions, in addition to primary source
references, please see above, p. 24-25.

3. Distinction between Matn and Isniid

As a result of his misinterpretation of J;adith terminology, and this field of inquiry in

general, Schacht failed to accurately discern the Common-Link phenomenon among the

traditionists. As such, Schacht's Common-Link Theory inadequately connected the

study of matn (text) and isnidtogether. He did not understand that more than one isnid

could reach the same matn, and falsely accused traditionists of having failed to criticize

the matns. Hence his statement:

The use of traditions in the ancients schools of law took little account of
the standards of criticism which in the time of Shafi'I had been developed
by the specialists on traditions ... It is Shafi'l's rule that only well-
authenticated traditions are to be accepted (lkh. 58), that is to say, the
criterion of their reliability or lack of it is the isnid399

Additionally, Schacht believes that "[t]heir [i.e. Muslim traditionists- F.H.] whole

technical criticism of isnid:., is irrelevant for the purpose ofhistorical analysis".4oo

It de serves emphasizing here that the muJ;addiths differentiated between the

gharlb in isnid and in matn. While the latter is limited to the fard mu.t1aq, the former

refers to a partial taffarud This distinction may fill a gap in an area ofIslamic Studies

which has not been developed properly in Western academia. As Motzki avers, the

conception of the Common-Link has not been sufficiently studied. He states, "The

conception of the common link as systematic does not explain common links which

belong to the generation of the ~a1;iba or the case of the Prophet himself being the

399 Schacht, Origins, 36.

400 Ibid., 163. He states that Caetani has studied the isniids, with particular reference to historical
traditions (Annali, l, Introduction, 9-28)

common link. These cases require other explanations."401 The Common-Link Theory

would be less problematic if Schacht applied this distinction, but it does not seem to

have received enough thought from Schacht. The ambiguity of muIJaddiths distinction

lies, perhaps, in the different wording of the same lJadIth. Iftikhar Zaman discusses the

method of evaluating transmitters when they narrate differing versions of the same

hadith, and how to determine the most reliable one.402 Gorke addressing the different

wording of the same lJadIth states,

Another problem Schacht had faced when dealing with a single lJadIth is
the fact that the same tradition might be quoted in different chapters of
the work. The wording of the matn might be slightly different, stressing
different points according to the subject it deals with in the lJadIth
collection. This would give the wrong impression that a tradition was
frequently transmitted with a certain isniïd, while in fact it is only one
lhon. 403
. 1e t ra d··

This distinction was already pointed out by early traditionists, and there are several

works focused on the issue of criticizing matn. 404 Ibn al-~al~, for instance, states,

"MulJaddiths may daim a lJadIth to have an authentic isniïd, yet it will not be accepted

because it is shiïdhdh or has an <illà'.405 This is further explained by Ibn Katnir, who

asserts, "Stating that the isniïd is $a1;.Iq or lJasan does not mean that the matn is also

401 Motzki, "Dating," 241.

402 Iftikhar Zarnan, "The Science of Rijiil as a Method in the Study of Ifadiths," JJS5:1 (1994): 1-34.

403 Gôrke, "Eschatology," 187.

404 See for instance: Musfrr al-Dumalnl, Maqiiiys Naqd MutÜl1 al-Sunna (Riyadh: Dar al-Rushd, 1984);
Muqammad al-Jawabl, Juhiid al-Mul}addithln fi Naqd MutÜI1 al-Sunna (Tunisia: 'Abd al-Karim Publisher,
n.d.); Mul;Iarnmad Luqman al-Salafi, Ihtimiim al- Mul}addithln bi Naqd MutÜl1 al-Sunna (Beirut: Dar al-
Dii'!,2000); al-Bash1r, U~ül Manhtif aJ-Naqd; Sultan al-Tubayshl, "Naqd aJ-MutÜl1 fi Kutub 'IJal al-
Ifaditli' (Riyadh: King Saud University, Ph.D. thesis in progress); and the most important work is that of
Ibn Qaiyym al-Jawziyya, al-Maniir al-Munlffi al-$alJliJ wa aJ-..{Ja'lf(Beirut: Dar al-Matbü'iit al-Islamiyya,

405 Ibn al-~aliiQ, Muqaddima, 19.

~alj.14 or J;asan, as the matn might be shiidhdh or has an 'illà'. 406 Moreover, Ibn Qaiyym

al-Jawziyya said:

It is known that the authenticity of the isniid is a condition of the

authenticity of the J;adith, however, it does not mean that the J;adith is
authentic as there are other conditions for the hadith to be authentic, such
as the absence of' illa, and its not being shiidhdh. 407

Similarly, al-'Iraql said: "based on muJ;addiths' opinion, the authenticity of the isniid

does not mean the authenticity of the matn '~408 In addition to the theoretical consensus

of the muJ;addiths' on text and isniid, there are many practical examples that prove their

case. There are many examples of J;adiths that are ~alj.14 in terms of the isniid, but

inauthentic in regard to the matn, one ofwhich is that of al-Khatlb al-Baghdadi who,

after mentioning a J;adith in his TiirJkh about the caliph Abu Bakr, states: "Even though

aH of the transmitters ofthis J;adith are reliable, it is not authentic.,,409 Another

instance is the description that al-Dhahabl gave to one J;adith: "its isniid is perfect, yet it

is very munkar.'>410

A thorough study of the traditionists' critique of matn is provided by al-

Tubayshl, who categorizes ten different types based on J;adith terminology. Altemately,

Ibn al-Qaiyym listed them based upon their subjects in a more general study. What is

relevant to our purpose at hand are the types related to tafarrud, such as shiidhdh,

munkar, muçffarib. Schacht's c1aim regarding the isniidis weak, and, as the

406 Isma'il Ibn Kath1r, Ikhti~iir 'Uliim aJ-lfadith, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya (1983),21.

407 Ibn Qaiyym al-Jawziyya, aJ-Furüsiyya (Medina: Maktabat al-Turath, 1980),64.

408 al-'Iraq1, Fat/;l aJ-Mughlth 1, 63.

409 al-Khatlb, Tiir1kh vol. 14, 36.

410 al-Dhahab1, MiZ8nvoi. 2, 312.

traditionists' positions towards the isniids show, his daim conceming their irreverence

towards matn is not sustainable.

Ibn al-Qaiyym was asked: "is there a criterion by which we would be able to

know if a lJadith is fabricated, without even examining its isniid?" Page: 137

He responded that it is possible for the traditionists to do so, since they have spent

enough time gaining expertise in lJadith, leaming intimate details about the Prophet's

life and sayings. Distinguishing between sound and unsound lJadiths, he added, would

not be an easy task for those who simply imitate their school of law without studying

the sunna themselves.

Ibn al-Qaiyym devoted his al-Maniir al-Munlf'll to answering this question. He

listed criteria used to determine what factors effectively discount the authenticity of a

lJadith and provided several ex amples for each of them. The following points of criteria

are a select few from Ibn al-Qayyim detailed work on the criticism of matn :

(1) If the lJadith consists of exaggerations that the Prophet does not usually say, for

instance, "whoever says Iii ilaha illa Alliih (there is no God but almighty) will be

rewarded with a bird with seventy tongues, each ton gue speaking seventy

thousand languages, aIl ofthem praying for him."

(2) If the lJadith contradicts reality, it is a fabrication. Examples ofthis are the

daim that, "eggplant cures fever," or, "he who sneezes while talking is being

truthful." These two lJadiths are fabricated, because eating eggplant does not

cure fever, and many liars sneeze while they talk, but this does not indicate that

they are being honest.

411 Ibn Qaiyym al-Jawziyya, al-Maniir al-MunJffi al-$al}Jl;1 wa al-pa'Jf(1:Ialab: Maktab al-Matbü'at al-
Islamiyya, 1970).

(3) When the J;.adith contradicts what has been precisely stated in the sunna, such as

calling for injustice or unfairness, or if it praises wrongdoing, then it would be

considered fabricated.

(4) When the J;.adith predicts something will happen at a certain date or time, then it

is fabricated; for instance, "in the year so and so or in the month of so and so,

something will happen."

(5) If the ftadith contradicts the teaching of the prophets, for instance, "worship God

by staring at beautifu1 faces."

Not on1y in Schacht's work, but in Schachtian scholarship generally, there lies a

tendency to split the isnad3 of one particular 1;zadIth and then to study those isnad3

separately, as ifthey were referring to different f;JadIths. Following Juynboll's steps,

Motzki separated the isnad3 of one f;JadIth because he found differences in the wordings

of the matn. This methodology was applied in his article "The Murder of Ibn Ab1 L-

ijuqayq," wherein four isnad3 (shiïhid3) of one f;JadIth, were studied separately. Motzki

regarded Abu Isl}aq (d. 126/743-4) as the common-link for the tradition of al-Bara'; the

well-known Medinan scholar Ibn Shihab al-Zuhrl (d. 124/742) as the common-link for

the tradition ofIbn Ka'b; 'Abd Allah b. Unays (d. 54/674) as the common-link for the

tradition in his f;JadIth; and Ibn Lah1'a (d. 174/790-1) as the common-link for the

tradition of 'Urwa. 412

In ana1yzing the tradition ofIbn Ka'b, Motzki describes the transmitter from al-

Zuhrl to be a partial common-link, stating that "Among these transmitters from al-

412 Motzki, "The Murder of Ibn Ab1 L-I;Iuqayq," 175-182 and passim.

Zuhrl, four are partial common-links."413 Now, ifwe apply Motzki's analysis of "partial

common-links" to the highest level in the isnidofthis J;.adlth, then the four traditions of

al-Bara', Ibn Ka'b, 'Abd Allah b. Unays and 'Urwa should be considered partial

common-links, and the highest common.:.link would be the Prophet himself.

Although there are a few differences between these J;.adlths, they should still be

considered one J;.adlth with various wordings of the matn. Marston explains this case in

his article "A Look at Variant Readings in the lfadlth," when he compares the case of

the J;.adIth with the Hellenistic rhetoricians. In his article, he asserts that the

combination of the evidence and the striking features of variant readings provoke the

assumption that those scholars who were qualified to transmit J;.adIth in paraphrase used

the same methodological tools as those described by Hellenistic rhetoricians for the

construction of chreiai (law). But there is no evidence that the transmitters of J;.adIth

were trained in Hellenistic rhetoric; therefore, Marston concludes, the similarities

between the two systems of expression reflect Aristotle's statement that rhetoric is

"within the cognizance of aIl men and not confmed to any special science".414

4. Flaws in Schacht's Methodology - Critical Analysis Gone Awry

In Schacht's two main works, Origins and Introduction, three critical methodological

problems related to his Common-Link Theory may be identified. These problems are

related to: (a) the sources; (b) his general assumptions regarding the formation of

413 Ibid, 178.

414 R. Marston Speight, "A Look at Variant Readings in the Ifadith," Der Islam, 77 (2000): 179.

Islamic law, and the evidence used to support these assumptions; and (c) the

contradiction between the traditionists' and secular historians' methods.

A. The Sources

The sources problem branches out into several elements. First of aIl, Schacht does not

rely on sufficient references, resulting in an anachronistic characterization of Islamic

law where a part is confusedly said to represent the who le of the tradition. This

shortcoming is dearly articulated by Coulson,415 who recognized Schacht's undue

reliance upon the work of al-Shafi '1 (d. 204/ 820) and the fact that the whole picture of

early Islamic legal history that emerges from Schacht's research, induding the subjects

related to 1;adlth, reflects this massive focus. Indeed, the Origins is best characterized as

a study of al-Shafi'I, and it is through al-Shafi'1's eyes that Schacht sees the Islamic

movement of 1;adlth during the second cent ury AH. As Guillaume avers, this lack of

references is one of the major problems marring his Origins:

The amount of reading and research which lies behind this study is
enormous, and Dr. Schacht deserves the gratitude of aH Islamic scholars.
1 hope it is not graceless to suggest that if he had given us a full index
and the substance of his countless references to al-Shafi'1's works he
would have saved us the labour oflooking them up for ourselves. 416

Renee, despite the wide range of the sources read by Schacht, he did not provide

footnotes to his daims.

415Noe! 1. Coulson, "European Criticism of lfadith Literature," in A F. L. Beeston, Arabie Literature to

the End ofthe Umayyad Peri04 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 318.

416 Guillaume, 177.

Relying on one source alone (i.e., al-Shiifi'i's discourse) for the study of a

particular subject becomes more problematic when so many other sources dealing with

the same subject exist. Schoeler, addressing the issue of Schacht's narrow choice of

sources, caUs for a re-evaluation ofhis assertions on Islamic legal theory.417 In his study

of this issue, when discussing the l;adith of Musa, Schoeler states:

Since many new sources with Musa material have come to light and have
been made accessible in recent years, and since recent research has
strongly challenged or even wholly refuted Schacht's theories, the time
seems to be ripe for a renewed examination ofthe Muntakhab. 418

Schoeler provides an example showing how much the appraisal of a tradition can change

with the frrst publication of works that have more traditions paraUe1 to those traditions

known in Schacht's time.419

Several other scholars have pointed out the opaque and seriously limited nature

of source references used in Schacht's major works. Among these thinkers, 'Itr

mentions that contemporary scholars are producing critical editions for manuscripts that

were written during the frrst half of the second century A.H., and were previously

unavailable to Schacht; for instance, the Jiimi's of Ma'mar b. Riishid (d. 154/771),

Sufyan al-Thawrl (d. 161/1263), Hishiim b. I:Iassan (d. 148/766), Ibn Jurayj (d. 150/768),
among others.

J. W. Fück provides another ex ample demonstrating the effect ofinsufficient

sources on our understanding of the Common-Link Theory. Fück states that, according

417 Schoeler, "MUsa B. 'Uqbah Maghïïzl," 95.

418lbid., 90. Schoeler refers to the manuscript ofthe Muntakhab, however, the Muntakhab of' Abd b.
ij:umayd have been published recently.

419 Two examples were presented by Schoeler, 91.

420 'Itr, Manhaj al-Naqd, 466.

to Schacht 's knowledge, when all chains of a J;.adlth 's narrators show a particular

cornrnon bias in the second cent ury, that bias should be held responsible for fabricating

the J;.adlth. Schacht did not, however, take into consideration that only a srnall portion

of traditional rnaterial has come down to US. In other words, the transrnitter who

seerned to be the only narrator of the J;.adlth rnight be supported by others referenced in

yet-to-be-published works, as explained earlier in this chapter. However, Schacht's

lirnited access to published rnaterial on J;.adlth, in addition to his lack of expertise in

handling it, led hirn to erroneous conclusions.

Sorne conternporary studies on J;.adlth, like those of 'Itr (Manhaj al-Naqd,) 422 al-

Zahran! (MawqjfAhl al_Ahwii'),423 and Baha' al-Dm in his book dedicated to a

discussion of orientalists and J;.adlth (AI-Mustashriqiïn wa al-lfadlth), conclude that the

failure ofSchacht's project was a result ofhis using sornewhat irrelevant sources such as

al-Risiila and al-Muwalla: which are considered to be fiqh books or at least not strictly

lJ.adlth works.424

B. Generalizing Particulars

Generalization is the second problern in Schacht's rnethodological approach. He

constantly arrives at vague conclusions, sorne ofwhich are derived frorn unsound

421 J. W. Fück, "Review Article," Joumal ofthe Pakistan Historieal Society4 (1969, October): 294.

422 'Itr, Manhaj al-Naqd, 466.

423Ml.Ù}ammad al-Zahranl , Mawqif Ahl al-Ahwii' wa al-Firaq min al-Srmna al-Nabawiyya wa-Ruwiituhii
(Taif: Maktabat aHHddiq, 1991),49.

424 Ml.Ù}ammad Baha' al-Dln, al-MustashriqÜ11 wa al-l;fadith (Amman: Dar al-Nafii'is, 1999), 102-127 and

premises. This was noticed by Motzki as weIl, who points to Schacht' s misguided

attempt to prove Goldziher' s faulty thesis that most 1;.adIth reports are historically

unreliable. Yet, Schacht' s conclusions were even more general and radical than

Goldziher's. In addition, Schacht's conclusions were based on legal traditions that were

generally acknowledged by Muslims themselves to be fictitious. Schacht's general

conclusion was widely understood to indicate that 1;.adIth reports were fabricated during

the second century A.H. or later, when early Muslim legal scholars developed their

doctrines. 425

In reference to Schacht 's statement that "the shorter versions of a tradition are

usually older, the more elaborate ones, younger," Motzki concludes that such a

generalization is inaccurate. 426 Besides the theoretical proof offered by Motzki for his

rejection of Schacht' s generalization, substantial historical evidence shows its

invalidity. After a thorough study of the murder of Ibn Ab1 L-I:Iuqayq, for instance

Motzki states:

This leaves us with the thorny question as to which of the two versions is
more "original," the longer one preserved by al-Waqidi or al-Zuhr1's
shorter one? As said above, following the ideas of J. Schacht there is a
tendency in Western 1;.adIth scholarship to regard the shorter traditions as
being the older ones. In my view there is no plausible reason why such a
generalization should be accepted. Detailed narratives may be as old as
shorter ones, and often the latter are obviously abbreviations of the
former. 427

425 Motzki, "The Collection ofthe Qur'an": 10.

426 Motzki, "The Murder of Ibn Ab! L-l;Iuqayq": 188.

427 Ibid., 220.

c. Historical Approach: Traditionists vis-à-vis Secular Historians

The third issue to be discussed here is Schacht' s overall attitude regarding the Muslim

and Western methods of 1;.adIth criticism, which he thinks to be irreconcilable, because

they rest upon totally different presuppositions; the former upon religious faith and a

strong notion of morality and moral rectitude, whereas the latter upon secular historical

criticism. Alternately, sorne scholars, such as Coulson, believe that the truth lies

somewhere between tradition al Islamic legal theory and the historical approach of

Schacht. 428 But, this apparently balanced solution perpetuates Schacht's false

dichotomy between the approach of Western historiographers and that of the Muslim


This dichotomy ignores historically tangible aspects of the traditionists'

epistemology, which cannot be neatly categorized as merely "secular" or "religious,"

and more accurately reflects both quantitative (ifab/) and qualitative ( 'adiiJa) criteria.

Their methodology does rely on "piety" or "righteousness," but in a way similar to the

requirements of moral integrity for witnesses, in order to provide testamentary evidence

at a qaçfi's court. In fact, traditionists maintained even more exacting standards for

evaluating narrators than those applied to court witnesses; this was done to determine if

a narrator was a sufficiently dutiful Muslim, in order to validate or invalidate their

reliability. 1 have further explicated the objective criteria which constitutes the

traditionists' defmition of "piety" in this respect.

428 Coulson, "European Criticism of /fadith Literature," 321

In his assessment of the nature and sources ofIslamic law, S. G. Vesey-

Fitzgerald contextualizes his approach within a broader conceptual phenomenon,

observable in the humanities:

The normal course of inteUectual development in the humanities and the

social sciences is that practice cornes frrst and theory afterwards by a
process of generalization from observed facts: logical thought cornes
before logic and society before the social sciences. Similarly religion,
any great religion, is older than its theology, and law (Recht) is older than
jurisprudence (Rechtswissenschafl). 429

When Vesey-Fitzgerald sought to discern the reflection ofthis phenomenon in the

history of Islamic law, he took exception with convention al wisdom and assumed a

position akin to Schacht: "Yet, according to orthodox Islamic exposition, which was in

the main apparently accepted even by such great scholars as Sachau and Snouck

Hurgronje, the theory came frrst and the practice was built upon it.,,430 However, from

another dimension, practice did precede legal theory if we consider the Qur'ïin and the

Prophetie tradition as practical elements of Islamic law and fiqh as the theoretical

application derived from them. This was not how Schacht and the Schachtians

understood it. Their understanding was that much of the Islamic law is pre-Islamic,

making its practical elements pre-Islamic as well, long before being cast into the

theoretical mold.

Coulson adopts another approach to criticizing Schacht's basic methodology by

pr~ding an example of a valid tradition. He emphasizes that one ex ample cannot

affect the fundamental validity ofSchacht's thesis, but it can caU into question the

429 Vesey-Fitzgerald, 90.

430 Ibid., 90.

degree to which Schacht's the sis holds true. 431 On the other hand, Schacht's theory

itselfwas not established upon a strong foundation, because he used so fewexamples,

and when he did they were of rather irregular cases; nevertheless, he presented them as

the standard way of transmitting Prophetic tradition. In so doing, Schacht created a

historical anachronism (a historical fallacy, which, in turn, reflects a logical faUacy),

whereby a part is erroneously thought to represent the who le. Therefore, Schachtians

cannot conclude from this that aU traditions should be regarded as fictitious until their

authenticity is objectively established.

In fact, even by the standard ofWestem methodology, Schacht's subjectivity

and rigidity prevent his approach from being modified or improved. Coulson

experienced this when he wrote his book A History ofIslamic Law. Schacht criticized

him strongly, rejecting his approach. Coulson responded to Schacht's review,

explaining that their approaches to the subject were basically different; however,

Schacht appeared not to appreciate approaches other than his own. He persistently

evaluated the subject matter of Coulson's book in the light ofhis own approach, a

critical attitude that Coulson described as "unwarranted, of unsavoury innuendo and

self-opinionated to a degree.''''32 In sum, Schacht translates the negative proposition

that the evidence of legalf;.adith does not take us back beyond the second century of

Islam, into the positive statement that legal development began only in late Umayyad

times. 433

431 Coulson, A HistOly ofIslamic Law, 69-70.

432 Coulson, "Correspondence," 201-202.

433 Coulson, "European Criticism of IfadJth Literature," 320.

Schacht's understanding of the traditionists' articulation of the Common-Link is

clearly in error, and its effects are not limited to his Common-Link Theory. Rather, it

carries with it a number of important ramifications for many of his other claims about

early Islamic legal history. 1 will proceed to discuss sorne of these in the following


Chapter 5: Ramifications of Schacht's Misconception

1. The Theory of 8ackward-Growth of Isniid

The way Schacht comprehended and presented the growth of 1;adiths as genuine

expressions of the Prophet' s words or deeds is problematic. Schacht' s theory posits the

backward-growth of isniid, meaning that the isniid did not exist before the existence of

the common-link, leading to his complete rejection of traditions. This is not, however,

the correct scholarly approach to dealing with such a massive amount of tradition.

Schacht and his followers apply examples in support of the assumptions that

confirm their premises. Schacht considers a rare case or irregular situation, such as the

backward-growth of the isniid in sorne of the weak 1;adiths, to be a common

phenomenon. This case of the backward-growth of isniids confmns the contradiction

between theory and practice. The method applied in this theory has been criticized by

Schachtians themselves. Cook criticizes van Ess for deducing from a rare case of its

kind a general conclusion, and accuses him of misleading readers by treating that rare

case as exemplary when in fact it was exceptiona1. 434 Despite this theoretical criticism,

however, when it cornes to practice Cooks takes for granted Schacht's theory that isniids

were extended backward over time instead ofhaving been retraced forward from the

Prophet to his Companions, to the Followers, and so on, which is exactly what he

accused van Ess of.

434 Cook. Early Muslim Dogma, 132.

established critical methods with which they could test the veracity of IJadith on certain

grounds. Motzki, for example, designed two different strategies to cope with this

problem: (a) a critical re-evaluation ofthose studies that deny the IJadithreports'

historical value for the first cent ury; and (b) an improvement in the methods of

analyzing and dating traditions. Both strategies can be employed either on a more

generallevel, e.g., conceming certain types of traditions, such as exegetical or legal

ones, or on a more specific level, e.g., with a single tradition or a complex set of

traditions. 435 Schacht's argument is, by contrast, less convincing: that, in spite oftheir

partially fictitious characters, isnads can be used to discover the - so called -

fabricator of a given tradition by comparing aIl its different isnads and 100 king for their

common-link. In fact, these suggestions have been picked up and further developed in

the last twenty-five years, so that scholars like Motzki now speak ofthe methodology of

isnad analysis. Indeed, although sorne of Schacht' s premises are still disputed, his

methods must be brought to the attention ofhistorians concemed with early Islam.

Schacht' s assumption that the isnad grew backward was built on defective

examples, one ofwhich was criticized by Schoeler, who found historical evidence

proving Schacht wrong. Schacht daims that Musa fabricated IJadiths and attributed

them to al-Zuhr1; therefore, his IJadiths are fictitious. Through an investigation of

different sources, Schoeler finds in 'Abd al-Razzaq's Mu~annafparallellJadiths to

Musa's narrations that 'Abd al-Razzaq transmitted on the authority ofMa'mar b.

Rashid from al-Zuhr1. 436

435 Motzki, "The Collection of the Qur'ffil," 5.

436 Schoe1er, "Musa B. 'Uqbah Maghazl," 92.

As we have already seen, Schacht was unaware of the fact that mulJaddiths had

already recognized the problem which the Common-Link Theory represented. It is not

surprising to find therefore, that Schacht also disregarded the mulJaddiths' view on the

backward-growth of the iSlliïd In the tradition literature there are sayings came to be

ascribed to the Prophet that for a long time had circulated in Islam under the authority

of another name. So-called mawqilflJadiths,437 Le., sayings traced only a far back as to

Companions or even Successors, were very easily transformed into marfil' lJadiths, Le.

sayings traced back to the Prophet, by simply adding, without much scruple, a few

names at random that were necessary to complete the chain. 438

Our observations thus do not mean that the backward-growth of iSlliïds never

took place. Traditionists confirm this practice acknowledging that transmitters did

indeed tum mursaJ iSlliïds into marfil' iSlliïds. But, the "raising" of the iSlliïds was not

the normal procedure by which complete iSlliïds came into being, as argued by Goldziher

and Schacht. Rather, these were exception al instances, condemned by the traditionists

as the work of dishonest transmitters. 439 It is a typically Schachtian method to promote

rare cases as a general phenomenon or standard, when in reality we find that honest

437'Abd al-Ral)mlin al-Suyu!1, Tadrlb al-RiWi (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Kawthar, 1994), 56-65; Siraj al-Dln
Ibn al-Mulaqqin, al-Muqni' fi 'Uliim al-Ifadith (Riyadh: Dar Fawwaz, 1992), 114-115; Ya4ya al-Nawawl,
Irshid Tulliib aJ-Ifaqii'iq (Beirut: Dar al-Basha'ir, 1991), 75-77.

Sorne western have noticed this commonly known fact, like Rubin, The Eye of the Beholder, 234, who
quotes Goldziher, MusJim StudiesII, 148.

Mul].amrnad Ibn f.Iibban, aJ-liJsan bi-TaJ1lb Ibn Ifibbiin vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilrniyya,1987),
152. KhaIil al-'Ala'1, Jiimi' al-Ta4~11 fi Al].kiim al-Maras11, f.Iamdi al-Salafi ed. (Beirut: 'Alam al-Kutub,

transmitters never tampered with the higher parts ofthe isnids of the traditions they

narrated to their own disciples. 44o

In addition to the fact that only dishonest transmitters extended the isnids,

Rubin fumished yet more proof to support the claim that extending the isnids

backwards was not standard practice. The popular or "street" traditions, for instance,

constitute the most composite group of l}adiths ofbiblical attestation. Among their

authorities are sorne who were not Companions, but only Successors, including Ka'b al-

Al)bar (regarded by sorne as a Companion), Wahb b. Munabbih, and Qatada. None of

these Successors appears elsewhere in the Companion isnids, which excludes any

possibility ofbackwards-growth. In other words, there is no evidence that names of

Companions were merely added to existing isnids of Successors. Popular traditions of

the Companions, i.e. "street" traditions, are far more numerous, and are mostly non-

Prophetic. 441

2. Family-IsnidTheory

Schacht claimed that in many l}adiths that contain a common-link, the isnids that

supposedly reach back to the Prophet consist of chains of transmitters :from the same

family (defined loosely, including blood relations and slaves); wherever there is such a

"family-isnid," it will always ascend from a common-link. This claim formed the basis

ofSchacht's "family-isnidtheory," which he sought to prove through his analysis of the

440 Rubin, The Bye ofthe Beholder, 238.

441 Ibid., 238-239.

so-called "golden chain,'>442 that is, the isnidMlliik-Niifi'- Ibn 'Umar. In other

words, Schacht daims that when a common-link fabricated the matn of a ljamth, he

would also fabricate an isnid; Schacht thus suggests that the common-link would

normally use the family- isnid as an expedient way to connect himself to a higher

authority. This daim is built upon the faulty premise of Schacht's Common-Link

Theory, and therefore can be easily refuted. In this section l will disprove the family-

isnidtheory by fIfst demonstrating its interconnection with the Common-Link Theory,

and then by providing an analysis and critique of Schacht' s primary piece of evidence.

Schacht sought to associate his theory concerning the family-isnidwith the

phenomenon of isolated traditions, to prove that traditionists attempted to conceal the

role ofthe common-link transmitter. 443 Schacht daims that "The isnid3 were often put

together very carelessly.,,444 Schacht tried to support this daim with three examples,445

yet he failed to present adequately aIl relevant information to his readers. For instance,

in Schacht's fIfst ex ample, taken from al-Shafi'!'s al-Risila, he failed to acknowledge

seven pages offamous commentary by .Aq.mad Shiikir on the ljamth in question. 446

Schacht's discussion of the 'family-isnid'provides an even dearer case ofhis

unfounded theory, when he sweepingly states that: "Whenever we come to analyse

them, we fmd these family traditions spurious.'>447 In his mind, it seems that the very

442 Al-Suyütl, Tadrlb, voU, 6.

443 Ibid, 166.

444 Schacht, Origins, 163.

445 Ibid., 50.

446 Al-Shafi'i, aJ-Risiila, 97-103.

447 Schacht, Origins, 170.

fact of the presence of a family- isniid in a l;adlth predetennines the l;adlth 's

spuriousness, not the other way around. The family- isniid stands, in other words, guilty

until proven innocent, an assumption that characterizes Schacht's overall attitude to the

l;adlth literature in its entirety.

Schacht's approach is most obvious in his discussion ofNafi' and Malik: "As

Nafi' was a freedman of Ibn 'Umar, the isniidNafi'- Ibn 'Umar is a "family-jsna~ "a

fact which, as we have seen, is generally an indication of the spurious character of the

traditions in question." 448 Note how a general indication becomes fact in this instance.

Schacht moreover dedicates chapter 5 ofhis Originsto proving that the "family-isniid"

is incriminated in the production of spurious l;adlth, which is in turn a product of the

common-link, basing his line of argumentation on the gratuitous assumption that

Malik's narration from Nafi' is inauthentic:

But as Nïîfi' died in AH. 117 or thereabouts, and Malik in AH. 179
[Schacht states in the footnote that "Nothing authentic is known of
Malik's date of birth" - F.H.], their association can have taken place,
even at the most generous estimate, only when Malik was little more
than a boy.449

Yet if Schacht' s assumption that there was a disconnection between Malik and Nïîfi'

turns out to be wrong, then the whole chapter he dedicates to this issue would have no

value. In fact Schacht's statement as to Malik's date ofbirth is highly questionable, for

there is in the sources near unanimity on the fact that Malik was born in the year 93

AH. For one, according to many sources, Malik was reportedly born in the same year

that the Companion Anas b. Malik died (93 AH.), which would mean that Malik was

448 Ibid., 177.

449 Ibid., 176.

twenty-four years old when Nafi' died. 450 Second, Malik reportedly began studying

l]amth in around 110 A.H., when al-ijasan al-Ba~r1 died, which would rnean that he was

a young man at that time. 451 Third, Shu'ba states that Malik had his own circle of

l]amth students one year after the death ofNati', which me ans that he was not a little

boy as Schacht believed.452 Fourth, available sources overwhelmingly claim that Malik

died at age 86 in the year 179 A.H.,453 which corroborates his birth in the year 93 A.H.

Thus, Malik could have, after aU, met Nafi' when he was in his early twenties. 454 The

point here is not only that Schacht ignores this evidence and still posits a disconnection

between Malik and Nafi', but he also goes as far as to erred a generalization on the basis

of unexamined determinations.

3. Dating the Tradition

According to Schacht, the dating of traditions consists in determining who the cornmon-

link was for any given l]amth, as they were responsible for original fabrication: "The

450 Al-Dhahabl, Siyar, vol. 8,49.

451 Al-~afadi, al-Wafàyiit, 21.

452 Al-BukharI, al-Tiiiikh al-KabIr, vol. 4, 310.

453Al-Dhahabl, Siyar, vol. 8, 130; ~ad Ibn Qunfudh, al-Wafàyiit(Beirut: al-Maktab al-Tijan, 1971),

454 Mul,mmmad al-BukharI, aJ- Tiiiikh al-KabIr, vol. 4 (Hyderabad: Majlis Da'irat al-Ma'iïrif al-
'Uthmaniyya Press, 1940), 310; al-Raz~ al-Jarl}, vol.8, 204; MuI;Iammad Ibn I:Iibban, Mashiihlr 'Ulamii'
al-Am~iir. Manfred Fleischhammer ed. (Cairo: Druckeret der Lagna, 1959), 140; idem., al-Thiqiit, vol. 7
(Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1988),459; 'Abd al-Kaiim al-Sam'anl, al-Ansiib, voU (Hyderabad: Majlis Da'irat
al-Ma'arif al- 'Uthmaniyya Press, 1962), 282; ~ad Ibn Khallikan, Wafàyiit al-A 'yiin wa Anbii' Abnii' al-
Zamiin, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dar ~adir, 1977), 135; al-Dhahabl, Siyar, vol. 5,48; KhaIil al-~afadi, al- Wiifi bi al-
Wafàyiit, vol. 25 (Beirut: Dar IQya' al-Turath al-'Arabl, 2000), 21; Ibn Qunfudh, al- Wafàyiit, 141; 'Abd
al-I:Iayy Ibn al-'Imad, Shadhariit al-Dhahab, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1998),465.

existence of common transrnitters enables us to assign a flnn date to rnany traditions

and to the doctrines represented by thern.,,455 AlI Schachtians ernploy variations ofthis

approaeh, eommonly relying upon Sehaeht's Common-Link Theory, but differing as to

whether or not the eommon-link should be eonsidered the originator or the eolleetor of a

l;adIth. Even atternpts to date l;adIth to a signifieantly earlier tirne are included within

this Sehachtian frarnework. 456 Given the faulty nature of Schacht's Cornrnon-Link

Theory, which lies at the heart of aIl these rnethods, such approaches to dating l;adIth

are rendered dubious. Within this section 1 will explicate the nature of these various

attempts at dating and the common error they share.

As previously discussed in chapter one, several scholars, before and after

Schacht, have used different rnethodologies to detennine when the corpus of

Prophetie tradition originated. An accurate description of these different

conceptions of the common-link is offered by Gorke:

There are three different concepts of what the common link represents. It
is either considered to be the collectorwho fIfSt systematically spread the
l;adIth. In this case, the l;adIth in question is older than the cornmon link.
The second concept considers the common link to be the inventor of the
l;adIth in question, in this case also providing it with an isniïd reaching
further down, possibly to the prophet. FinalIy, it can be considered to be
the authority to whom a tradition is ascribed by a later figure and whose
authority is large enough to make other pers ons also ascribe the tradition
to him. 457

The fIfSt concept is embodied by Motzki, when he suggests that the first step in

detennining the common-link should consist of compiling the isniïds of aIl versions of

the same tradition found in different sources into one bundle: "Ideally all available

455 Schacht, OIigins, 175.

456 See above, p. 24.

457 Gôrke, "Eschatology," 188.

sources, even late ones, should be included.'>458 If Motzki's frrst step were followed in

order to reformulate and improve the accuracy of the Schachtians claims about the

Common-Link Theory, a dilemma would remain. Because of the historical fact that we

cannot assert the reliability of any single strand that reaches back from the common-link

to earlier transmitters, it is extremely difficult to date any 1;adJth. Motzki argues

elsewhere that the common-links belonging to the generation of al-Zuhr1 or the one

following should not necessarily be considered as the originators of the traditions but as

the first systematic collectors of traditions who transmitted them to regular classes of

students out of which an institutionalized system of learning developed. Therefore,

according to Motzki, we should ask instead "where the information cornes from which is

given in the tradition and spread by the common link originated.'>459

Motzki gives an ex ample of the difficulty of dating traditions via the common-

link in his matn analysis of the 1;adiths related to the murder ofIbn Ab1 L-I:Iuqayq. He


With the identification of common links and partial common links, a frrst
step towards dating the transmission groups has been made, but certainty
of their origin and development cannot be gained from the transmission
Hnes alone. The dating can be improved and made safer by a thorough
analysis of the texts, and by combining those results with that of the
isniid scrutiny. Several recent studies have shown that isniids are not
always arbitrary, as has often been assumed due to the misinterpretation
of the ideas of 1. Schacht, but may reflect the transmission history of the
texts with which they are connected. 460

458 Motzki, "The Collection of the Qur'an," 21.

459 Ibid., 30.

460 Motzki, 'The Murder of Ibn Ab! L-I:Iuqayq,"181-182.

One solution to the problem raised by Motzki, Le., where the information given in the

tradition and spread by the common-link originated, is offered by Horovitz. 461

Horovitz concludes that the isnidfound its way into the literature of the

traditions in the last third ofthe fIfSt century, so that in about the year 75 A.H. it came

to be known in its original form. Horovitz's painstaking exposition cannot be rejected

simply because of Schacht's insistence that to place its origin so early is "unwarranted."

Fück concludes from Horovitz's study that the traditions go back to the fIfst century.

Thus, one escapes many otherwise unavoidable difficulties caused by Schacht's

theory.462 Another explanation is found in Rubin's article "The Eye of the Beholder"

where he states that:

Since the names of the Prophet and the Companions seem to form part of
the central core of the isnids in which they appear, there is no reliable
evidence to indicate that these isnids came into being only toward the
middle of the second century, as proposed by Schacht. 463

He next suggests that there is nothing to exclude the possibility that the bulk of

traditions with Prophetie and Companion isnids were put into circulation during the

generation of the Companion to which a given tradition is attributed, i.e., aiready during

the fIfst century A.H.464 Rubin suggests that the traditions he has seen with complete

isnids and that included a Companion could have come into being as early as the

generation of the Companion himself. 465

461 Islam 8, 39-44 and Islamic cultlffe, l, 550.

462 Fück, "Review Article," 297.

463 Rubin, The Bye ofthe Beholder, 237.

464 Ibid., 237.

465 Ibid., 260.

Ifthe traditions came into being in around the year 75 A.H., as suggested by

Horovitz and Fück, or during the Companions' generation as acknowledged by Rubin,

then the essential c1aim ofSchacht's Common-Link Theory that the common-link is the

fabricator collapses, because Schacht accepts the J;adlths if the common-link was the

Prophet himself or one of his Companions.466

There are other evidences that support the argument of dating the traditions to

an earlier date. One of the arguments is the method of narrating J;adith that had been

practiced on a gradually increasing scale since before the Prophet's death involved

writing down extensive pieces of text in Arabie, not only text related to J;adith. In his

article "On the Origins of Arabic Prose", Juynboll mentions Sezgin's main theory

corroborating that of Abbott and expands on it, taking into account the taJ;ammul a1-

'jlm (transmission of knowledge) in early Islam. These considerations offer abundant

evidence that Arabs had already started writing down what they heard and knew during

the life of the Prophet.467

In conclusion, as Schacht's Common-Link Theory has been proven wrong, this

has logically extended itself to the collapse of his related three theories, as explicated in

this chapter. In turn, this collapse undoubtedly has substantial ramifications upon

Schacht's broader assumptions concerning Islamic legal theories. His Origins is cast

into doubt as a result.

466 See the fourth premise ofSehaeht's Common-Link Theory.

467 Juynboll, "On the Origins of Arabie Prose," 161.


One of the most important pillars upon which Western historiography of early Islamic

law rests is the idea that the corpus of Prophetic tradition is nothing short of a

fabricated mass. This central premise, in turn, rests upon several theories, the

cornerstone of which is the Common-Link Theory. By clearly demonstrating the

faultiness ofthis theory, reverberations become apparent within Schachtian's broader

discourse on Islamic law. We are no longer safe in assuming that the entirety of the

sunna is inauthentic, or in ignoring the terminology and methodology of Muslim

scholarship. In their methodological and critical formulations, mu/Jaddiths recognized

only about one percent of over 700,000 traditions as being historically authentic; to

discount this accomplishment is entirely premature without substantially addressing

how traditionists defmed "authenticity." The fact of the matter remains that it was the

modern scholars' misapprehension ofhow the critical study of hiïdIth was applied and

conducted that led to serious problems in understanding not only the early history of

ftadIth but also how Islamic law was formed.

The tendency of approaching hiïdIth with extreme skepticism was inaugurated by

I. Goldziher and maintained by numerous other orientalists, although Schacht was the

first to articulate an argument using textual evidence. Subsequently, Schacht's

scholarship established the paradigm for research on Islamic law, provoking an arrayof

proponents and opponents. However, Schacht's interpreters understood his articulation

only partially, for an evolution ofthinking exists in his work, which, upon inspection

and scrutiny, fails to support his assumptions with evidence.

While Schacht' s proponents seek to develop his work in three different ways,

their potential is framed and limited by their acceptance ofhis theory. The fIfst way is

represented by Cook, the second by Juynboll, and the third by Motzki. Both Cook and

Juynboll accept the Common-Link Theory without question, while Motzki criticized the

theory and had enough evidence not only to disprove it but to destroy it altogether. Yet,

he did not, opting instead to modify and preserve it. His reluctance to deal Schacht a

coup de grace was an act of preserving a certain tradition, perhaps out of loyalty, but the

evidence at his disposaI does not justify this clemency. Be that as it may, subsequent

work based upon any of these approaches continues to rest upon shaky foundations.

Opposing arguments represent a spectrum, ranging from the extremely broad, on

one hand, to the intently specifie, on the other. The former tendency is characterized by

a Iack ofconcem for the particular elements ofSchacht's argument about f;Jadlth, while

the other approach tends to focus upon minute details, loosing sight of their relation to

Schacht's argument more generally. None of the se critics has adequately addressed the

milestone of Schacht's work, nameIy, the Common-Link Theory. However, when this

theory was given sorne consideration, a number of insightful criticisms by Coulson and

Azami were indeed proffered.

Analysis of this theory reveals that it is supported by irregular and insufficient

examples of l;iidlth, which belie unfamiliarity on the part of Schacht with works on

l;adlth terminology. These very examples are labeled by muiJaddiths as embodying

irregularities, although Schacht uses them as actual representatives of a standard body

of l;adith. This monumental failure to ground the theory in representative, strong and

quantitatively sufficient evidence, has yielded a conclusion, a the ory, whose constitution

is little more than conjecture.

Although Juynboll comprehends the significance of the Common-Link Theory to

Schacht's critique ofProphetic tradition, he applies it within his own work incorrectly,

demonstrating a lack offamiliarity with rija1works. Ifhe was aware ofthis literature

and its implications he would have recognized that the evidence he adduced actually

works against his own argument. Indeed, if Juynboll or Schacht had interpreted their

evidence correctly, this would have facilitated an accurate reinterpretation that is more

in line with the discourse and critique of the muJ;addiths.

When compared with the mu1;taddiths' corollary of the Common-Link, i.e.,

tafarrud, Schacht's theory appears obviously flawed. Its problems are primarily related

to the misunderstanding and misapplication ofterminology, such as the various distinct

types of fard Additionally, Schacht's other problems reflect a lack offamiliarity with

primary sources. This highlights the need for Western scholars to engage 1;tadIth

literature more directly, and access more accurate conceptual tools for its critical study.

The study of 1;tadIth has existed amongst traditionists within particular historie al

boundaries, with its own trajectory. It has always been dealt with as a separate field of

scholarship, with uniquely trained practitioners, its own methodology, and a vast array

of literature. Western scholarship could profit enormously from a more open dialogue

with the muJ;addiths. More specifically, reorienting the Western paradigm ofresearch

to consider 1;tadIth terminology (mu~ta1a1;t a1-1;tadIth), biographicalliterature ('ilm a1-

rijal), traditionists' methodology (maniihij a1-muJ;addithln), and isnad analysis (dirasat

al-asiinld), would enrich it greatly. The importance ofthis reorientation cannot be

overemphasized, not only intrinsically, but for its potential effects on deconstructing the

present narrative of early legal history, as weIl as on reproducing a more cogent account

of this important, foundational period.


Appendix 1

Ibn I:Iajar's classification of tr ansmitt ers , reliability, according to six ranks of

commendation (ta 'dll):468

1. The Companions.

2. The use of hyperbole or superlatives. For example, "he is the most

reliable of the people," "the most exact of the people," "1 don't know of

anyone like him". Aiso the repetition of words expressing reliability,

either by mentioning two words that have the same meaning or by

repeating the exact word twice or three times or more. For example,

"established, a proof," "established, a l;iifi~" "reliable, reliable".

3. The use of a single word that indicates reliability. For example,

"reliable," "a proof," "imiini'.

4. The use of words that do not affmn the narrator to be completely exact,

though not detracting from his trustworthiness. For ex ample , "He is free

of any problem" or "honest".

5. The use of words that give the impression that the transmitter is close to

being discommended.

6. At this level, the transmit ter may not be criticized, and the mlÙJaddith

might narrate his l;adIth as "maqbiïl," which means acceptable.

468 Ibn f.lajar, Taqiib, vol. 1,4.1 added more ex amples to explain the difference between those ranks.

A l]adIth's authenticity would consequently be based on those levels of

commendation. Alll]adIths narrated by transmitters who are placed in the flIst three

levels are ~aJjjl] and considered authentic, whereas l]adIths narrated by a transmitter

whose place is in the fourth level are also considered authentic, but they of a lower level

of authenticity (l]asan). Unlike the previous four accepted ranks, the l]adIths that were

narrated by transmitters who are at the fifth and sixth levels are not authentic but could

be used in analysis and comparison of l]adIths. If, however, the reports of transmitters

at the fifth and sixth level are strengthened by other l]adIths narrated by transmitters of

a similar or higher level, then these l]adIths can be elevated to the level of /Jasan.

Second, there are another six ranks of discommendation Uar.h) for the transmitters. 469

1. The use of ambiguous description, such as: "there are things said about

him," "they found weakness in him," or "he is not a proof," or "he is not

strong," or "he has a poor memory," or "they were quiet about him".

2. The use of statements that de-emphasize his reliability, like "this pers on

is not used as proof," or "they have declared that he is weak," or "he got

confused in the l}aditll'.

3. The use of obvious discommendation, such as saying "this person's

l}adiths are rejected," or "he was rejected in l}adith," or "very weak".

4. The use of words that de clare the discommendation, like "this pers on

ste aIs l}adith," or "suspected of lying," or "dropped," or "abandoned".

5. The use of words that show the transmitter is absolutely dishonest, like

"he is a dajjil[liar]" and "Matruj('.

6. The use of exaggerating discommendation, such as "the biggest liar

among the people," or "a pillar of lies," or accusing him of fabricating

l}adiths, like "forger of l}adith".

A l}adith's authenticity would be based on these levels of discommendation as

weIl. Alll}adiths of the transmitters from the flfst two levels can be used for

comparison and analysis but they are not authentic, and therefore cannot he used as

proofs, while l}adiths of transmitters from the remaining levels are not authentic and

they may not even be used in comparing l}adiths.

469 Ibn l:Iajar, Taqiib, vol. 1,5.1 have added more examples to explain the different ranks.

Appendix II

Ibn I:Iajar's historical division of the transmitters 470

In order to determine the approximate period of the transmitter's life, Ibn I:Iajar

divided them into twelve levels, as follows:

1- The level of Companions.

2- The level of old Successors, like Ibn al-Musayyib.

3- The higher intermediate level of Successors, like al-ijasan and Ibn S'rrln

4- The lower intermediate level ofSuccessors, like al-Zuhrl and Qatada.

5- The level of the young Successors, like al-A'mash and those who have

met one or two of the Companions.

6- The level of the young S uccessors, like Ibn Jurayj and those who lived in

the same period of level five, but including those who they did not meet

any of the Companions.

7- The level of the old Followers of the Successors, like Malik and al-


8- The level of the intermediate Followers of the Successors, like Ibn


9- The level of the young Followers ofthe Successors, like al-Shafi'I.

10- The level of the old Followers of the Followers, like Alpnad ibn I:Ianbal.

11- The level of the intermediate Followers of the Followers, like al-BukharI.

12- The level ofthe young Followers of the Followers, like al-Tirmidhl.

470 Ibn l;Iajar, Taqiibvol. 1,5.

Chronologically speaking, the above twelve levels faU into the following periods471 :

A) Those belonging to the first and second levels, usually the

Companions and the first generation of Successors, who lived

generally between the years 1 and 100 AH.

B) Those belonging to leve1s three through eight, who lived generally

between the years 101 and 200 AH.

C) Those belonging ta levels nine through twelve, who lived generally

between the years 201 and 300 AH.

471 Ibid., 5-7.

Appendix III

Al-ijakim's classification of the transmitters 472

1. Those who falsely attribute sayings to the Prophet. In this connection

al-ijakim mentions sorne zindiqs who invented traditions for the purpose
of raising doubts. Sorne forgers, he says, have admitted their forgeries.
He tells of a Kharijite who, after he had repented, confessed that when
Kharijites had wanted anything, they turned it into a tradition. He quotes
Abu al-' Ayn a , as confessing after his penance that he and al-J34i~ had
invented a tradition and had it accepted by the shaykhs in Baghdad, with
the exception of Ibn ab1 Sha1ba, who found in it an inconsistency. He
says that a shaykh was once found weeping by Sulayman b. ijarb and
when asked the reason he replied that he had forged four hundred
traditions and introduced them into the copies used by traditionists. Now
he did not know what to do. Sorne of whom, a few of them named,
invented traditions to encourage people to do good; in which connection
he quotes Y lÙJ.ya b. Sa'1d as saying, "1 have not seen falsehood in anyone
more than in him who has a reputation for good." One who was
transmitting a tradition on the excellencies of the Qur'an sura by sura
from 'Ikrima from Ibn 'Abbas was asked where he got it when 'Ikrima' s
transmitters had no such tradition. He replied, "1 saw the people had
turned away from the Qur'an and occupied themse1ves with the Fiqh of
Abu ijan1fa and the Maghiizl of MlÙ).ammad b. Isl}aq, so 1 forged this
tradition with a good motive." Sorne people invented traditions on the
spot to suit circumstances as they arose. Another class of inventors was
the story-tellers who had learned sorne sound isnads to which they
attached their extraordinary traditions.

472 Al-I.Iiikim, al-Madkhal, 45-62 and passim. Translated by James Robson, "Tradition: Investigation and
Classification," 102-104.

2. Those who take well-known traditions and give them new isniïds for
the sake of novelty.
3. Leamed people whose avidity for transmission leads them to quote
certain authorities although they were not born till after these authorities
had died. AI-B-iikim says that this class is numerous and that he has met
a number of them himself.
4. People who give forth sound traditions which go back only to
Companions as if they went back to the Prophet. This class is also
5. People who trace back to the Prophet traditions which only go back to
6. Pious people who do not take the trouble to be exact. This class is
numerous and a majority is ascetics and devotees.
7. People who hear traditions from shaykhs and add to them others
which they have not heard from the same shaykhs. They do this without
distinguishing between those which they have heard and those which
they have not have heard. Al-B-iikim said that he has seen many learned
foreigners who have done this.
8. People who have heard traditions from authorities but have not taken
the trouble to write down what they heard; and then when they grew old
and were asked for traditions, their desire to appear as authorities leads
them to transmit these traditions from copies which they have bought,
but which they have not heard.
9. People who lack the qualifications demanded of a traditionist and do
not know their traditions by heart. A student may have come and read
traditions which did not belong to him and ignorantly confmned them.
10. People who had traveled in se arch of traditions and were recognized
as traditionists, but they lost their books, then when asked for traditions,
they would transmit from other people's books, or from a defective
memory. On this account they fell in estimation. But al-B-iikim adds that
whatever such people transmit before they lost their books is sound.

Appendix IV

AI-Nawawl's classification of the transmitters' reliability 473

First: Accepted Transmitters

1. The leaders and men of good memory who have more authority than
those who disagree with them, whose traditions are accepted when they
are the sole transmitter.
2. Those of a lower grade in what they know by heart and according to
their accuracy. They may be guilty of surmise and error sometimes, but
are generally sound. Their surmises can be corrected by what the first
class transmits.
3. Those who have an inclination towards erroneous opinions, but do not
go to extremes in them or summon others to accept them. Their tradition
is considered sound, their truthfulness reliable, and their surmise small.
AI-Nawawl disagrees about this group, stating that there is a difference
of opinion.

Second: Rejected Transmitters

1. People characterized by falsehood and the promulgation of fictitious

2. People characterized by error and surmise.
3. People who go to extremes in innovation and summon others to accept it,
making changes and additions to what is transmitted for use in arguments.

The remaining class consists of unknown people who have traditions which no

one else transmits.

473Al-Nawawl, Sharl; $alJJl; Muslim, vol. 1, 28. Translated by Robson, "Tradition: Investigation and
Classification," 106-107.


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