The Revival of Hadith Study in Modern Time
Hadith study has undergone an irreversible decline for centuries before reaching its lowest point in the 16th century. But after more than five centuries of stagnation, it reemerges until it reaches its tipping point in the middle of the 20th century. Contemporary scholars often refer to the phenomenon as “the revival of hadith (
Keywords: Islamic reformprinting pressorientalisthadith studySalafism
In his prelude of
The Hadith study falls into a state of stagnation starting from the 16th century as most of the Islamic world become parts of the Ottoman Caliphate. Islamic rational sciences such as theology, jurisprudence, and Sufism at that period undeniably soared but not for hadith-related sciences. These branches of knowledge remain understudied ( see al-Nashuqati, 2012). Only a few have dedicated their effort to acquire what it takes to become the leading expert in hadith. In the following centuries, Muslims seem comfortable staying in the state of
Starting from the end of the 18th century, the spirit of reform increasingly spreads to cover the entire of the Muslim world. Many Islamic individuals aspired to seek an effective solution to remedy Muslim’s socio-religious problems and restore their past glory. Lies at the heart of this reform is the spirit to return to the original teaching of al-Quran and Sunna, and eradicate all forms of heresies and innovations. Since hadith sciences are the only branch of knowledge in Islamic scholarship that deals with authenticity issues hence it begins to recapture the attention once again. Many reformists utilized its rigor methodology as a powerful tool in their purification agenda. The revival of hadith study reached its peak in mid of the 20th century so that ‘Itr ( 1997) named this century “the period of awakening and awareness (
Finally, the revival of hadith study in modern times has become an undeniable reality. As ‘Iṣam Eido ( 2017) has pointed out, the hadith study in this period deserves a distinctive and specific category in hadith historiography. It should be placed under “the contemporary phase” (
Problem studied in this essay is the hidden factors behind the revival of hadith study in modern times. Topics on reform in Islam have been attracting both Western and Islamic scholars in countless studies that uncovered its various aspects. However, the revival of hadith study as a modern phenomenon, despite its clear influence in contemporary Islamic discourses, remains understudied. So far, no academic essay has discussed on said topic comprehensively. Few studies undeniably have touched the phenomenon of hadith revival in modern time but without sufficient analysis. Nur al-Din ‘Itr ( 1997), for example, has linked the phenomenon with two factors, namely the contact of the Islamic world with the West and the East, as well as military and cultural clashes with the invaders. Ḥamadah ( 2007) adds on the acceptance of the printing press by the Islamic community. In the absent studies on this topic, the present article seeks to contribute to modern hadith historiography by presenting an investigative study on the matter.
This essay aims at providing answers for the following questions:
How did the interest in hadith study re-emerge after centuries of desertion? What were the main factors behind the revival of hadith study in modern time?
Purpose of the Study
To examine the revival of hadith study in modern time.
To investigate the main factors behind the phenomenon.
This study is qualitative in nature. The data collection involves library research methodology and qualitative analysis by using inductive and deductive methods. The researcher is to pay special attention to modern hadith-related issues and the scholars involved. The discussion begins by examining the general state of the Islamic intellectual in the period of the 16th century from which the discussion will proceed to prove the revival of hadith study in modern time. The discussion continues with a thorough examination on main factors behind the said revival.
The state of hadith study in the pre-modern era
In his monumental work titled
Mediocrity in hadith study is also prevalent in Islamic educational institutions including Azhar University, one of the most reputable institutions in the Islamic world. Hadith study in Azhar after the time of Ibn Ḥajar and his pupils was generally weak (Abu Ghuddah, 1408H). Its curriculum was not designed to produce proficient hadith scholars. Hadith learning is conducted only by reciting selected classical works in Hadith without essential discussion to train students on how to identify and determine the authenticity of hadiths. Lectures on hadith mainly focused on extracting legal conclusions to defend and oppose particular
Azhar scholar’s inadequate mastery in Hadith studies comes with a great price. They often have seen absurdly rejecting sound Hadiths based on unacceptable reasons such as the allegation that hadith’s content is illogical or incompatible to modern scientific findings. They rejected many hadiths on Islamic creed due to its
Hadith study in the University of Qurawiyīn, the largest Islamic university in the western part of the Islamic world, did not display much difference. Hadith learning and teaching in this institution was based on certain hadith compilations which personally picked by a
The Revival of Hadith Study and Its Main factors
Beginning from the 18th century, topics related to hadith studies recaptured the attention of Islamic scholars. Discussions on how hadith should be authenticated, interpreted, and applied in modern context reached its peak in the middle of the 20th century. According to Hamadah ( 2007), four indications mark the revival of Hadith study in modern times. First, a massive publication of academic books and journals on hadith and its related sciences. Second, the establishment of specific centers and faculties in major universities that offered specialization in hadith studies. Third, the rise of studies on comparative jurisprudence that refers to hadith as one of its most important references. Lastly, the produce of academic thesis problematizes Western theories on hadith and Islamic history.
The author learns that the revival of Hadith studies in modern times is a result of both internal and external factors. Three of which are profoundly important and decisive. First, the influence of Islamic reformists in their efforts to bring Islamic society out of the stagnation state. Second, the acceptance of the printing press that becomes the turning point in revolutionizing the book industry in the Islamic world. Third, the urgency to debunk orientalist’s destructive speculation on the history of hadith. In the following, we will analyze and elaborate on each factor respectively.
The Influence of Islamic Reformist
Islamic dark-age that started from the 16th century has led most Muslims into a deep state of ignorance, superstition and heresy practices. Fabricated hadiths spread widely due to little religious figures who have adequate knowledge in hadith verification methods. Under these circumstances, some prominent scholars in the 12/18 century have initiated a reform movement that aims at bringing Islamic society out of this poor condition. The movement gives special effort in reviving ijtihad spirit and pays great attention in hadith authenticity. It is difficult to determine specifically the person behind the reform idea for the first time. All we know is the idea has spread out at that time in holy cities of Mecca and Medina where scholars from all over the Islamic world gathered and exchanged knowledge. Azra (2013: 124) described the two cities were like “a melting pot” where “small traditions” melted to give birth to a “new big tradition”.
In this reform climate, neo-sufism becomes the trend among the activist of reform. It sought to reconstruct Islamic society by bringing it back to the original sources, namely Quran and Sunna. And the group of scholars who played the most important role in this trend is hadith scholars. One of them was a
Other than Hijaz, the reform idea finds its way to other parts of Islamic countries. In Yemen, there was a Zaydite scholar Muhammad bin Ismā'īl al-San‘ani (d. 1768) whose reform project continued by the Judge Muhammad bin 'Ali al-Shawkānī (d. 1839). Both scholars censured
Entering the 19th century, the spirit of reform begins its new chapter when it finds fertile ground in Egypt, the city of knowledge. Due to Western military and science superiority, the main focus of Egyptian reformists was to find an appropriate solution to keep Islam relevant to modern challenges. Influenced by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897), many Egyptian youths called on Islamic scholars to revamp their traditional views on Islam. One of whom was Muhammad ‘Abduh (d. 1905) who after his appointment as the grand mufti of Egypt he gives his best to make major reform in Azhar’s education system. On the recognition of his reform efforts, many has refered him as "the maker of Modern Egypt" and "the founder of Modern Islam.” Despite their strong emphasize on Islamic purity, both Afghani and ‘Abduh did not touch directly on hadith related issues. It is ‘Abduh’s pupil, Rashid Riḍa (d. 1935) who subsequently rised up the discussions on hadith criticism through his
The Impact of Printing press
If the discovery of paper has changed the way we preserve knowledge, the invention of the printing machine has changed the way we disseminate ideas in modern times. Long before the machine was invented, publishing a single book needs a long significant time and effort. Book publishing costs a reasonable time and energy not to mention the price ( Behrens-Abouseif, 2018). Because of which the dissemination of knowledge is often limited only among intellectuals. In 1450, Johannnes Guttenberg invented a machine that could cut time and cost in the book production process. When this technology brought to Venice and Italy, it becomes one of the important tools to reshaping people’s thought that leads to the European Renaissance. It is not surprising, therefore, if Francis Bacon (1993) named the printing press as one of the greatest tools that changed the face of the world.
The Islamic world has come into knowledge about the existence of the printing press since the 9/15 century. But it took three centuries for Muslims to accept the technology as part of their culture. For some reason, the use of the printing press is prohibited to print religious materials in all of the Islamic countries under the Ottoman Caliphate. However, it changes when Egyptian ruler Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha successfully convinced to found a printing company called
In term of Hadith publication, Bulaq has contributed to producing a high quality printed version of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. The voluminous book was published in 1897 based on a manuscript belongs to a prominent hadith scholar Sharaf al-Dīn ‘Ali bin al-Ḥusayn al-Yunini (d. 1301). The book equipped with a careful comparison of various manuscripts in specific codes. Despite having limited facilities, the Bulaq version remains the best of its kind until today ( Tanahi 1984). The other significant contribution by Bulaq is al-Shāfiʻī’s
In India, the largest publisher for Islamic materials is
The rise of the Islamic publishing industry in India could not be parted from outstanding efforts given by local reformists. One of them was the Bhopal ruler Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān (d. 1890) who deliberately founded four printing companies, namely Sakandari Printer, al-Shāh-Jahani Printer, Sulṭan Printer and Ṣiddiqi Printer. He also built a strong relationship with foreign Islamic publishers to obtain rare manuscripts. He has spent 600 gold dinars to acquire
The Challenge of Orientalism
In addition to internal factors described above, the revival of hadith study in modern time is also a result of certain external factors. One of which is orientalist’s theories on Islamic history and creeds that challenge the traditional views. As an agent of colonialism, orientalism is mainly to provide information that helps colonial governments in their effort to sustain their grip on occupied Islamic countries. It is why studies published by the orientalist concerning Islam and Muslims are generally biased ( Said 2003). Nevertheless, they have contributed partly to the preservation of Islamic heritage through the publication of classical manuscripts and documents.
The earliest orientalist known to conduct critical studies in hadith is Aloys Sprenger (d. 1893). He then becomes the first to state that most hadiths associated with the prophet should be regarded as fabricated. Nevertheless, his western colleagues such as Gustav Weil (d. 1889), William Muir (d. 1905), and Rienhart P. A. Dozy (d. 1883) hold a more positive stance. They asserted that at least half of the hadiths in
Orientalist’s theories on hadith drew long debate and criticism from both Muslim and Western scholars alike. In their rebuttal, Islamic scholars highlighted severe mistakes and fact distortions allegedly found in orientalist theories. This project was spearheaded by Syrian scholar and activist Muṣṭafā al-Siba‘i (d. 1967) since he was a student in the postgraduate program at Azhar University. He wrote an extensive study to contend the opinion of Golziher and other orientalists on hadith in his thesis entitled
Due to unconducive political and economic conditions, Hadith study almost reaches the brink of extinction in all of the Islamic countries. However, it somehow manages to revive in the middle of the 18 th century and reaches its tipping point in the 20th century. Thousands of books and scholarly papers have been published to explore every aspect of hadith sciences. More scholars and public members become hadith-literate and deliberately eschew false hadiths. As this study has shown, the revival of hadith studies was caused by several factors. In summary, reform idea that supported by proper technology has successfully served as an effective mean to face internal and external challenges. It, in turn, has eventually brought the Islamic society out of their long dark-age to a promising future.
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VolumeEpSBS / Volume 89 - ICH 2019