Did the critical methods of hadeeth verification come much later in Islamic history or were they implemented by the Sahabah themselves? The answer is the latter.
Below, we will briefly look at some examples of how the Sahabah would critically test the veracity of ahaadeeth they received in terms of isnaad. This section will be broken down into the following subsections:
1) Comparing & Contrasting With Other Testimonies
2) Ensuring Their Best That They Heard The Hadeeth Themselves
3) Requesting the Reiteration of a Hadeeth out of Vigilance
4) Polite Confrontation
5) Asking Narrators to Take Oaths
6) Ensuring they Know the Narrators
We will then take a brief look at some examples of how they would critically examine the ahaadeth in terms of matn. This section would be broken down into the following subsections:
1) Examining the Hadeeth in Light of the Qur'an
2) Examining the Hadeeth in Light of the Sunnah
Critical Verification of Isnaad:
1) Comparing & Contrasting With Other Testimonies
Below we could see examples of the Sahaabah verifying the statements of people with others for the sake of attaining a higher level of certainty…
Miswar b. Makhrama reported that 'Umar b. Khattab consulted people about the diyat of abortion of an unborn child. Mughira b. Shu'ba said:
I bear witness to the fact that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) gave judgment about it that a good quality of slave or female slave should be given for it. Thereupon 'Umar said: Bring one who may bear witness to you. Then Muhammad b. Maslama bore witness to him. [Saheeh Muslim, Book 16, Hadith 4174]
Nafi' narrated that it was said to Ibn 'Umar that Abu Huraira reported to have heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:2) Ensuring Their Best That They Heard The Hadeeth Themselves
He who follows the bier, for him is the reward of one qirat. Ibn 'Umar said: Abu Huraira narrated it too often. So he sent (a messenger to) 'A'isha to ascertain (the fact). She ('A'isha) testified Abu Huraira. Ibn 'Umar said: We missed so many qirats. [Saheeh Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 2066]
The Sahabah would at times take turns in going to listen to the Prophet (peace be upon him), as they valued the importance of hearing the hadeeth from the Prophet themselves...
Narrated `Umar:3) Requesting the Reiteration of a Hadeeth out of Vigilance
My Ansari neighbor from Bani Umaiya bin Zaid who used to live at `Awali Al-Medina and used to visit the Prophet (ﷺ) by turns. He used to go one day and I another day. When I went I used to bring the news of that day regarding the Divine Inspiration and other things, and when he went, he used to do the same for me.[Saheeh Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 3, Hadith 89]
The Sahabah would add times ask for a narrator to repeat the hadeeth he narrated once again in order to confirm that they heard the hadeeth accurately from him...
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr:4) Polite Confrontation
I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "Allah will not deprive you of knowledge after he has given it to you, but it will be taken away through the death of the religious learned men with their knowledge. Then there will remain ignorant people who, when consulted, will give verdicts according to their opinions whereby they will mislead others and go astray." I related it to 'A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Then 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr went on hajj later and she said, 'Nephew, go to 'Abdullah and ask him to confirm for me what you related from him.' I went and asked him and he related to me the like of what he had related before. I went back to 'A'isha and told her. She was surprised and said, 'By Allah, 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr has indeed remembered!'" [Saheeh Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 92, Hadith 410]
The Sahabah would not shy away from politely confronting an individual in order to verify that person's transmission of a hadeeth...
Nafi' reported that Ibn 'Umar told him that a person of the tribe of Laith said that Abu Sa'id al-Kludri narrated it (the above-mentioned hadith) from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in a narration of Qutaiba. So 'Abdullah (b. 'Umar) and Nafi' went along with him, and in the hadith transmitted by Ibn Rumh (the words are) that Nafi' said:
'Abdullah (b. 'Umar) went and I along with the person belonging to Banu Laith entered (the house) of Sa'id al-Khudri, and he ('Abdullah b. Umar) said: I have been informed that you say that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) forbade the sale of silver with silver except in case of like for like, and sale of gold for gold except in case of like for like. Abu Sa'id pointed towards this eyes and his ears with his fingers and said: My eyes saw, and my ears listened to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) saying: Do not sell gold for gold, and do not sell silver for silver except in case of like for like, and do not increase something of it upon something, and do not sell for ready money something, not present, but hand to hand.[Saheeh Muslim, Book 10, Hadith 3846]5) Asking Narrators to Take Oaths
As an extra precaution, the Sahabah would sometimes ask narrators to take an oath in order to entice the narrator to be 100% sure of what's he saying before he narrates any hadeeth...
Then there stood before him 'Abida Salmani who said: Commander of the Believers, by Allah, besides Whom there is no god but He, (tell me) whether you heard this hadith from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). He said: Yes, by Allah, besides Whom there is no god but He. He asked him to take an oath thrice and he took the oath. [Saheeh Muslim, Book 5, Hadith 2333]
It was narrated that ‘Ali bin Abu Talib said:6) Ensuring they Know the Narrators
“If I heard a Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), Allah benefited me with it as much as He willed, and if I heard it from anyone else, I would ask him to swear me an oath, then if he swore an oath I would believe him. Abu Bakr told me and Abu Bakr spoke the truth that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘There is no man who commits a sin then he performs ablution and does it well, then he prays two Rak’ah,’ (one of the narrators) Mis’ar said: ‘then performs prayer and seeks the forgiveness of Allah, but Allah will forgive him.’ [Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 1, Book 5, Hadith 1395]
Speaks for itself...
Abū Ayyūb Sulaymān bin Ubayd Allah al-Ghaylānī narrated to us, Abū Āmir, meaning al-Aqadī, narrated to us, Rabāh narrated to us, on authority of Qays bin Sa’d, on authority of Mujāhid, he said Bushayr ul-Adawī came to Ibn Abbās then he set about narrating to him, saying:
‘The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said…’, ‘the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said…’. Then it seemed that Ibn Abbās was not listening to his Ḥadīth and not reflecting on them, so [Bushayr] said: ‘Oh Ibn Abbās, why is it that I see you not listening to my Ḥadīth? I narrate to you on authority of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, however you are not listening’. Ibn Abbās said: ‘Indeed once upon a time we would listen to a man saying, ‘the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said…’ rushing towards him with our eyes and harkening towards him with our ears; then when the people took the difficult and the docile we no longer took from people except those whom we knew’. [Saheeh Muslim, Introduction]
Critical Verification of Matn:
1) Examining the Hadeeth in Light of the Qur'an
Here's an example of Aisha expressing skepticism of a statement attributed to the Prophet peace be upon him because she believed it conflicted with one of the verses in the Qur'an...
When 'Umar was wounded, Suhaib came walling: Alas, for the brother! alas for the companion! 'Umar said: O Suhaib, do you wail for me, whereas the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:" The dead would be punished on account of the lamentation of the (members of his family)"? Ibn 'Abbas said: When 'Umar died I made a mention of it to 'A'isha. She said: May Allah have mercy upon 'Umar! I swear by Allah that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) never said that Allah would punish the believer because of the weeping (of any one of the members of his family), but he said that Allah would increase the punishment of the unbeliever because of the weeping of his family over him. 'A'isha said: The Qur'an is enough for you (when it states):" No bearer of burden will bear another's burden" (vi. 164). Thereupon Ibn 'Abbas said: Allah is He Who has caused laughter and weeping. Ibn Abu Mulaika said: By Allah, Ibn 'Umar said nothing. [Saheeh Bukhari, Book 4, Hadith 2023]2) Examining the Hadeeth in Light of the Sunnah
Here's an example of Aisha expressing skepticism of a statement attributed to the Prophet peace be upon him because she believed it conflicted with his Sunnah...
It was mentioned before 'A'isha that prayer is invalidated (in case of passing) of a dog, an ass and a woman (before the worshiper, when he is not screened). Upon this 'A'isha said: You likened us to the asses and the dogs. By Allah I saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying prayer while I lay on the bedstead interposing between him and the Qibla. When I felt the need, I did not like to wit to front (of the Holy Prophet) and perturb the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and quietly moved out from under its (i. e. of the bedstead) legs. [Saheeh Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 1038]
Many of the basic modes of hadeeth verification were not invented by scholars who came later, but were rather adhered to by the Sahabah themselves. This demonstrated their sharp intellectual skills, in addition to their sincerity to obtain the truth and nothing but that. Muslim scholars from generation to generation have been carrying this blessed torch of intellectual honesty and continue to do so until this day.
Taken from: http://www.ahlalhdeeth.com/vbe/showthread.php?t=17863
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