By Kassim Ahmad
A study of original sources, such as Ibn Sa`d (d. 230/845), Malik Ibn Anas (d. 179/795), Tayalisi (d. 203/818), Humaydi (d.219/834) and Ibn Hanbal (d. 241/855) will show that all `four guided caliphs' made use of very little sunna in their administrations. The very term "the Prophet's sunna" was never used by the Prophet himself and did not emerge until the sixth and seventh decades after the Prophet in the administration of Omar Abdul Aziz (d. 720), and was first used by him. But later sources, such as Ibn Qayyim (d.691/1292), had connected the names of the great caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar ibn Khattab with the practice of following the sunna. It is clear that the `authentication' of the sunna was carried out by the Traditionists to ward off opposition to the hadith by using the names of these two great authorities.
The development of the hadith, it seems, began in the form of stories about the Prophet, told by professional story-tellers, as praises for Ali and Abu Bakr and as guidance in matters permitted and prohibited. These were later given the form of hadith.
Compositions in the form of eulogies for Ali and Abu Bakr which came into being after the Prophet's death reflected the first political conflict between supporters of Ali (the Shi`ites) and those of Abu Bakr (the Bakriyya). Ibn Abi'l-Hadid (d. 655/1257), commentator of the compilation of famous sayings attributed to Ali Abi Talib, Nahj al-Balaghah, admitted that it was the Shi'ite party who began to create hadith eulogies. He said,
... Know that the origins of fabrications in fada'il traditions were due to the Shi'ite, for they forged in the first instance traditions concerning their leader. Enmity towards their adversaries drove them to this fabrication ... When the Bakriyya saw what the Shi'ite had done, they fabricated for their own master traditions to counter the former ... When the Shi'ite saw what the Bakriyya had done, they increased their efforts ...
The same writer further wrote regarding hadith forgeries sponsored by caliph Mu`awiya to oppose Ali. According to him:
Then Mu`awiya wrote to his governors saying: "Hadith about Uthman has increased and spread in every city, town and region. When this letter from me reaches you, summon the people to relate the merits of the Companions and the first caliphs. And do not let any Muslim relate anything about Ali without bringing something contradicting this about the Companions. This I like better and it pleases me more, it invalidates Abu Turab's claims and those of his Shi'ite in a more definitive way and it is for them more difficult to bear than the virtues and the merits of Uthman."
Mu`awiya's letters were read out to the people. And many forged reports concerning the merits of the Companions, in which there was no [grain of] truth, were related. The people went out of their way in relating reports in this vein until they spoke thereof in glowing terms from the pulpits. The teachers in the schools were instructed to teach their young pupils a vast quantity of these until they related them just as they studied the Quran and they taught these to their daughters, wives and servants. God knows how long they persisted in this.
It is abundantly clear from the above evidence that one of the sources of hadith forgery at the early stage was the political rivalry between the supporters of Ali and those of Abu Bakr, which continued unabated until Uthman's administration and then to the enmity and conflict between the Shi`ites and the Umayyad. This and other sources were pointed out by a modern Arab historian, Dr. Ahmad Amin, in his book The Dawn of Islam. According to him, five factors were responsible for the fabrication of hadith. These are political conflicts between various factions, differences of opinions regarding matters of theology and jurisprudence, materialistic ambitions among certain religious scholars, the desire to promote good and forbid evil by fabricating hadith to encourage and to discourage (tarhib wa-targhib), as well as to provide a medium for transmitting good teachings from non-Islamic sources.
Although most of these hadith forgeries can no longer be found in the classical compilations, anyone who studies the hadith carefully and objectively can still observe the characteristics mentioned above. Hadith eulogies for the Companions in the Mishkat-ul-Masabih compilation still portrayed political conflicts between the Shi'ite faction and he followers of Abu Bakr and shows that the hadith was fabricated by the factions to support their respective sides. Note the following hadith:
Anas reported that the Prophet ascended Uhud with Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman. It trembled with them and so he struck it with his foot and said: "Be firm, O Uhud, and verily on you there are a prophet, a truthful man and two martyrs." (Bukhari)
Zerre-b-Hubaish reported that Ali said:
"By One who splits seeds and creates breath, the illiterate prophet gave me a covenant: `Nobody except a believer will love me, and nobody except a hypocrite will hate me.' " (Muslim)
The above traditions have been picked out at random from many others as examples to show the characteristic partiality of hadith. The obvious omission of Ali in the first hadith points to its fabrication by his detractors: there was no other reason why Ali was not in that company. The second one takes the opposite side, having the Prophet affirm Ali's faith and condemn those who maligned him.
We shall be taking a lot of time if we are to give examples of each type of hadith fabrication. It is not necessary. We shall be satisfied with quotations from a few hadith scholars, namely Ahmad Amin, Fazlur Rahman, Goldziher and M.M. Azami.
(a) Ibn 'Adli stated, "At the time when a forger of hadith by the name of Abdul Karim ibn Abu al-'Auja was taken to the place of hanging, he said, `I have forged four thousand hadith for you whereby I prohibited and permitted.'"
(b) In the same book the author further noted, "Muslim reported from Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Said al-Qattan, and from his father, who said, `I have never seen good people telling more lies in any matter than when they do with the hadith.' Muslim explained these words: `The lies were not intentional.' Some people who forged false hadith were motivated by good intentions, i.e. they sincerely believed that all that they had heard were true. In their hearts there was no desire to lie, and they repeated what they had heard. Then other people picked up from them because they were deceived by their outward show of truth."
(c) That opposing political parties tried to influence public opinion through the medium of the hadith and used the names of great authorities of Tradition is a fact no one conversant with the early history of Islam may deny.
(d) ... Every stream and counter-stream of thought in Islam has found its expression in the form of a hadith, and there is no difference in this respect between the various contrasting opinions in whatever field. What we learn about political parties holds true too for differences regarding religious law, dogmatic points of difference etc. Every ra'y (opinion) or hawa (personal desire), every sunna and bid`a (innovation) has sought and found expression in the hadith.
(e) ... Most likely the first fabrication of traditions began in the political circles, citing and discrediting the parties concerned. In the well-known work of al-Shaukani concerning spurious and similar tradition we find 42 spurious traditions about the Prophet, 38 spurious traditions about the first three caliphs, 96 spurious traditions about Ali and his wife Fatima [and] 14 spurious traditions about Mu`awiya. Therefore, it looks as if the spurious traditions began to originate for political purposes at and about the period of the war between Ali and Mu`awiya, and continued later on as a counter-attack on the Umayyad dynasty ...
From the time of Mu`awiya's rule (661-680) until the end of the second century Hijrah when the hadith were officially compiled, the fabrication of hadith was done on a wide scale. Not only did the hadith become the medium of stories and instrument for various political factions and theological sects to support their sectarian positions, but, as Maurice Bucaille said,
In view of the fact that only a limited number of hadiths may be considered to express the Prophet's thoughts with certainty, the others must contain the thoughts of the men of his time.
In order to stop the continued fabrication of the hadith and contain further divisions of Muslim society at that time, there arose a movement to fix the sources of law in Islam and to standardize the hadith. This is the main social determinant which gave rise to the major jurisprudential figure in Islam in the person of Shafi`i. He laid down the bases of Islamic classical jurisprudence with his theory that the sources of Islamic law were the Quran, the Hadith, Ijma' or consensus of religious scholars, and Qiyas or analogy.
[This is an excerpt from Kassim Ahmad's "Hadith: A Revaluation" Chapter 3]