Imam Muslim: Great scholar of Hadith
By Abu Tariq Hijazi | Arab News | 25 Apr 2012
Hadith is the great wealth of Islamic literature. This is the collection of pearls of wisdom from orations and actions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
There are hundreds of companions of the Prophet who preserved this knowledge through oral transmission. Later tens of scholars spent their lives in searching, recording and refining this treasure. There are more than 14 famous compilations of Hadith out of which six books called Al-Sihah Al-Sittah are on the top of authenticity and popularity. These are: Jame Al Sahih by Imam Bukhari, covering 7274 Hadiths; Jame Al Sahih by Imam Muslim covering 7190 Hadiths; Sunan Abi Dawood by Sulaiman bin Ash'ath covering 4,800 Hadiths; Sunan Abi Majah by Ibn Maajah Rubaii covering 4,000 Hadiths; Jame Al Tirmizi by Abu Eisa Tirmizi and Sunan Al Nasaii by Ahmad bin Shoeb.
The first two compilations are considered the most authentic sources of Hadith. Whenever we study we find occasionally the phrase Rawaho Shaikhan. It means that this Hadith has been attested by Imam Bukhari as well as by Imam Muslim. Thus Imam Muslim is the second champion of Hadith science.
Imam Muslim belonged to the Qushayr tribe of the Arabs, an offshoot of the powerful clan of Rabee'ah.
Imam Muslim was born in 202 AH. He belonged to a very religious family and was raised in a pious society. He learned the Holy Qur'an and took basic Islamic education from his parents. He started higher studies at an early age of 14. Nishapur, with great personalities like lmaam Rahiwe and lmaam Zohri was a seat of learning in those days.
Imam Muslim was a man of high caliber much interested in Hadith. After completing his education at home he traveled extensively in Hijaz, Egypt, Syria and Iraq collecting Hadith and attending discourses of leading scholars like Ahmad bin Hanbal, Ishaq bin Rahwaih, 'Ubaydullah Al-Qawariri, Qutaiba bin Sa'id, Abdullah bin Maslama, Imam Shafeii's disciple Harmalah bin Yahya and others. He visited Baghdad several times and had the opportunity of delivering lectures there. His last visit to Baghdad was two years before his death.
After collecting Hadith he settled at Nishapur where he came into contact with Imam Bukhari. Seeing his vast knowledge and deep insight into the Hadith of the Prophet (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him) Muslim remained attached with Imam Bukhari until the end of imam Bukhari's life.
It is said that he collected about 300,000 Hadith from hundreds of narrators. He began the tiresome task of refining the collected material.
Imam Muslim was very strict in examining the Hadith from all aspects. Thus he extracted approximately 4,000 for his book, which is divided into 43 books, containing a total of 7,190 narrations. According to Munthiri, there are a total of 2,200 Hadiths (without repetition) in Sahih Muslim. According to Muhammad Amin, there are 1,400 authentic Hadiths that are reported in Al-Sihah Al-Sittah. It took Imam Muslim long years to compile this book. Abu Saimah, one of his colleagues was so much attracted that he remained with him assisting in compiling work for 15 years.
He was so cautious that he used the word Haddathna with the Hadith, which had been recited to him by his own teachers and assigning the word Akhbarna to what he had read out to them.
He added a long introduction, in which he explained the principles which he had followed in the choice of materials for his book; and which should be followed in accepting and relating any Hadith. Upon completing his manuscript he presented it to Abu Zar'ah of Rayy, the reputed scholar of Hadith for verification and accepted his comments.
The Sahih Muslim has been acclaimed as the most authentic collection of traditions after that of Sahih Bukhari, and preferred for its detailed arrangement. More than 30 commentaries have been written by many leading scholars. Abdur Rahman Siddiqui translated Sahih Muslim into Urdu and Abdul Hameed Siddiqui into English.
Besides Sahih Muslim he wrote many other books on the science of Hadith. Ibn Al-Nadeem mentions five books by him on the subject. Most of them like the following retain their eminence to the present day:
Al-Kitab Al-Musnad Al-Kabir Ala-al-Rijal; Al-Jami' Al-Kabir; Kitab-al-Asma' wal-Kuna; Kitab-Al'Ilal and Kitab-ul-Wijdan.
He taught Hadith at Nishapur and many of his students later became famous and rose to prominence in the realm of Hadith like Imam Abu Eisa Tirmidhi, Abu Hatim Razi, Musa bin Harun, Ahmad bin Salamah, Abu Bakr bin Khuzaimah, Abu `Awanah and Hafiz Dhahbi. Surprisingly his teachers included Imam Bukhari and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and his student was Imam Abu Isa Tirmizi.
Imam Muslim adhered strictly to the path of righteousness. His excellent character can be well judged from the simple fact that he never ever indulged even in backbiting. He had a remarkable memory.
Imam Muslim died at the age of 57 in 261 AH and was buried in the suburbs of Nishapur. May Almighty Allah grant him the best reward.