Eleven Genres of Ahadits Collections
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
There are generally eleven genres of ahadits collections: swahifah, ajza’, rasa’il, sunan, muswannaf, jami’, musnad, mu’jam, mustadrak, mustakhraj and arba’in.
The swahifah are the earliest collections of ahadits, written down by the companions during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.), or by their followers amongst the tabi’in. Some of these collections are also considered rasa’il or kutub. Examples of this include the Swahifah of Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Sakhr ad-Dawsi az-Zahrani al-Azdi (r.a.), which he taught and handed down to his nine known students, one of whom was Shaykh Hammam ibn Munabbih (r.a.). Shaykh Hammam ibn Munabbih (r.a.) was a scholar, from among the tabi’in and one of the narrators of hadits. He was the son of Munabbih ibn Kamil, a knight of Persia. Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah Wahb ibn Munabbih asw-Swana’ani adz-Dzamari (r.a.), the famed transmitter of ahadits as well as Judeo-Christian stories, was his brother. Swahifah Hammam ibn Munabbih is the only example of this that survived in manuscript form.
And then there was the Swahifah asw-Swadiqah. Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aasw (r.a.), the son of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aasw (r.a.), was a companion of the Prophet (s.a.w.). He was the author of Swahifah asw-Swadiqah, an ahadits compilation which recorded about one thousand narrations. He embraced Islam in 7 AH, a year before his father. The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to show preference to Sayyidina ‘Abdullah (r.a.) due to his knowledge. He was one of the first companions to write down the ahadits, after receiving permission from the Prophet (s.a.w.) to do so. Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) used to say that Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) was more knowledgeable than he.
Swahifah asw-Swadiqah remained in his family and was used by his grandson, Imam ‘Amr ibn Swuhayb (r.a.). Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) incorporated the entire work of Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) into his Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
The second type of ahadits compilation is the ajza’. Singularly, it is a juzu’. There are two definitions to this category. The first refers to collections of traditions passed down on the authority of a single swahabah or tabi’in, which were then further developed into masanid. The second definition refers to a collection of ahadits pertaining to a single subject.
The risalah or kilab is similar to a juzu’. However, the rasa’il are more specific in terms of subject matter. They are collections of ahadits pertaining to one of eight topics. They are ‘aqidah, belief and dogma; ahkami, legal rulings; ruqaq, piety, ascetism and taswawwuf; adab, etiquette; tafsir, exegesis and commentary of the Qur’an; sirah wa tarikh, history during and after the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.); fitan, crises; and, manaqib wa matsalib, appreciation and denunciation of persons, places and events. The rasa’il are also known as kutub. Many of the works of such scholars as Imam Abu al-Fadhl ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (r.a.) and Imam Shihab ad-Din Abu al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) belong to this category.
A risalah of ahkam is also known as a sunan and include all the subjects of fiqh from thaharah to wasayah. Tarikh and siyar, are historical and biographical matters which include cosmology, ancient history, and the lives of the prophets, the Prophet (s.a.w.), of his swahabah and tabi’un.
The sunan are collections of ahadits that pertain solely to one category of rasa’il – shari’ah. Examples of this would be the works of Imam Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn al-Ash’ats as-Sijistani (r.a.), Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu’ayb an-Nasa’i (r.a.) and Imam Abu ‘Isa Muhammad ibn ‘Isa as-Sulami at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).
The muswannaf are large collections of ahadits that pertain to most, or all of the categories of rasa’il. The ahadits are put together and arranged in various books or chapters, each dealing with its particular topic. Examples of this are the books of the Shaykhayn, Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim, as well as al-Muwaththa’ of Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Malik ibn Anas (r.a.).
The jami’ are more complete versions of the muswannaf, whereby all the topics in rasa’il are addressed in their entirety. For example, Swahih Muslim is considered a muswannaf but not a jami’ like that of Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari’s (r.a.) Swahih, because Swahih Muslim does not include traditions relating to all chapters of the Qur’an. There was, originally, only one known collection that epitomises this criterion. It is originally known as al-Jami’ al-Musnad asw-Swahih al-Mukhtaswar min Umur ar-Rasul wa Sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi; it is better known as Swahih al-Bukhari. Imam at-Tirmidzi’s (r.a.) Jami’ also fulfills this criteria, but not all its narrations are swahih.
A musnad consists of ahadits collected based on the final authorities to whom they are related. The term “musnad,” meaning supported, was originally used for such traditions that were supported by a complete, uninterrupted isnad, going back to a companion who was directly associated with the Prophet (s.a.w.). But the term was later expanded in use to include any reliable and authoritative ahadits. In this sense, the term may also used for all reliable works in ahadits literature. This would then include works such as Sunan ad-Darimi, and Swahih al-Bukhari.
Technically, however, it is used only for those collections of ahadits arranged according to the names of the final authorities by whom they are related, irrespective of their subject matter. For example, the Masanid of Imam Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn Dawud ath-Thayalisi (r.a.), Imam Ahmad ibn Abu Shaybah (r.a.), and Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (r.a.). The collectors of such traditions differed slightly in their method of arrangement. In some, the ahadits are arranged according to their isnad in alphabetical order. In others, the ahadits are arranged based on the tsiqah, reliability, of the people in the isnad. This relative to when they embraced Islam and which events they took part in with the Prophet (s.a.w.). Some are even arranged according to the affinity of their tribe to the Prophet (s.a.w.).
There are, however, certain masanid which are divided into chapters devoted to various subjects, and in each chapter, the ahadits are arranged according to the original authorities, swahabah, by whom they were related. This format is followed by Imam Abu Ya’la Muhammad ibn al-Husayn (r.a.), and Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (r.a.). These works combine the characteristics of a musnad and a muswannaf.
Some of the musnad compilers tried to collect together all the available ahadits reported by the various swahabah. Musnad ibn an-Najjar is said to have contained the ahadits related by all the swahabah. Musnad ibn Hanbal contains more than 30,000 ahadits reported by about 700 swahabah. Musnad Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman is reported on the authority of Imam Abu Muhammad ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Hazm (r.a.) to have contained traditions related by 1,300 swahabah. There are, however, many masanid which are devoted to ahadits related either by a special group of swahabah or by one single swahabi only.
The mu’jam is a collection of ahadits arranged in alphabetical order, on various criteria. For example, the geographical and biographical dictionaries of Shaykh Yaqut ibn ‘Abdullah ar-Rumi al-Hamawi (r.a.) are called Mu’jam al-Buldan and Mu’jam Udaba’ respectively. If a musnad were to be arranged in alphabetical order, it would become a mu’jam. Some masanid are arranged under the names of the swahabah in alphabetical order and are known as mu’jam asw-swahabah. But according to the muhadditsin, the term is used technically only for such collections of ahadits arranged, not according to the swahabah who reported them, but according to the muhaddits from whom the compiler himself received them from. The names of such muhaddits are arranged alphabetically, and all the ahadits received from each muhaddits are then collected together, irrespective of their contents or subject matter. Examples of this are some works by Imam Abu al-Qasim Sulayman ibn Ayyub ath-Thabarani (r.a.), Imam Isma’il ibn Ibrahim (r.a.) and Imam ‘Abd al-Baqi’ ibn al-Qani’ (r.a.). The largest collection of ahadits by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) is, in reality, a musnad, not a mu’jam since it is a mu’jam asw-swahabah, not a mu’jam ash-shuyukh.
A mustadrak are continuations of previous works. This happens when there ahadits that meet to the criteria of a certain work but were previously not included. The initial absence of these ahadits may be because the original collector missed them out, did not know of them or could not verify them for some reason. These ahadits would then be collected into a mustadarak. An example is Mustadrak al-Hakim, which is a collection of ahadits that fulfill the criteria of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam ‘Asakir ad-Din Abu al-Husayn Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (r.a.).
Similar to the mustadrak, the mustakhraj is another form of expansion to already established collections. This is when a later compiler finds new chains to previously recorded ahadits. An example is the Mustakhraj Abu Nu’aym al-Iswfahani, in which he collected fresh asanid to ahadits in Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim.
The arba’iniyyat, as the name shows, are collections of forty ahadits relating to one or more subjects which may have appeared to be of special interest to the compiler. This genre was popularised by Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Sharaf an-Nawawi (r.a.). Another famous compiler of the arba’in is Shah Quthb ad-Din Ahmad Wali’ullah ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahim al-‘Umari ad-Dihlawi (r.a.).
Of all these eleven classes of ahadits collections of ahadits, the swahifah, as their description shows, were the earliest in origin. The ma’ajim, the mustadrakat, the mustakrajat and the arba’iniyyat came later. The ajza’ and the rasa’il are also later developments. The muswannafat and the masanid works are advancements on the swahifah. The sunan and the jami’at, came after the muswannafat and the masanid but before the rest. The development of the ahadits literature were influenced by the needs of the time. Initially, there was an emphasis on collection, and then categorisation for practical application, and finally, belatedly, there grew an emphasis on verification due to the then growing prevalence of mawdhu’, forged, ahadits.