The Kutub as-Sittah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

Sunni Islam places great emphasis on six books of ahadits known as Kutub as-Sittah, the six major books of sunnah.  They are also known as Swihah as-Sittah, the “Authentic Six”.  The Kutub as-Sittah are six books containing collections of ahadits compiled by six scholars in the ninth century.  They were first formally grouped and defined by Imam Abu al-Fadhl Muhammad ibn Thahir al-Qaysarani al-Maqdisi (r.a.) in the 11th Century.  Prior to his work, despite their importance, no one had undertaken such a task.  There was no way to search any of these books based on key words or important terms. 

In order of authenticity, the books are Swahih al-Bukhari, compiled by Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari (r.a.), and includes 7,275 ahadits; Swahih Muslim, compiled by Imam ‘Asakir ad-Din Abu al-Husayn Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (r.a.), and includes 9,200 ahadits; Sunan asw-Swughra’, compiled by Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu’ayb an-Nasa’i (r.a.); Sunan Abu Dawud, compiled by Imam Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn Ash’ats as-Sijistani (r.a.); Jami’ at-Tirmidzi, compiled by Imam Abu ‘Isa Muhammad ibn ‘Isa as-Sulami at-Tirmidzi (r.a.); and Sunan ibn Majah, compiled by Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yazid ibn Majah (r.a.).  These are collections of ahadits that are generally ranked as swahih.  The first two books are commonly referred to as the Swahihayn, the “Two Swahih” as an indication of their authenticity.  According to Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.), they contain approximately seven thousand ahadits altogether discounting repetitions. 

All the authors of Kutub as-Sittah were Persian.  Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) is the author of Swahih al-Bukhari, composed over a period of sixteen years.  Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) said that he did not record any hadits before performing wudhu’ and performing two raka’at of swalah istikharah.  Imam Muslim (r.a.) is the author of Swahih Muslim which is second in authenticity only to that of Swahih al-Bukhari.  Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.), a Persian but of Arab descent, authored the Sunan of his name.  Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), the author of Jami’ at-Tirmidzi, was a student of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.).  Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.), was from Khurasan and a student of Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.).  Imam ibn Majah (r.a.), was the student of Imam Abu Bakr ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Shaybah (r.a.), who was a source for a quarter of his Sunan. 

What most Muslims are unaware of, is that there are actually thousands of similar ahadits collections, owing to the fact that there are numerous categories of ahadits.  And there are actually more than a million ahadits.  It is stated that Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) himself knew more than a million ahadits but verified just under 700,000 of them.  The field of ahadits grades and categorises them and thus acquired its necessary terminology, muswthalah al-ahadits.  Muswthalah al-ahadits is mainly studied for judicial reasons.  When the need for a new ruling on a certain matter arises, a stronger hadits is preferable to be used as a basis to the ruling.  Complimentary to this, one is required to know other fields of study in relation to jurisprudence as well fields pertaining to the study of ahadits itself.



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