Exploring Islamic history, there are some topics that deserve special attention. Here is one which queries the roles of hadith accounts in Islam. This event took place on Thursday, three days before the death of the Prophet (saw).
Calamity of Thursday: What made Ibn Abbas cry?
Ibn Abbas was one of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) cousins and one of the early Qur’an scholars.
Sa’id b. Jubair reported from Ibn Abbas that he said: Thursday, and what about Thursday? Then tears began to flow until I saw them on his cheeks as it they were the strings of pearls. He (the narrator) said that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Bring me a shoulder blade and ink-pot (or tablet and inkpot), so that I write for you a document (by following which) you would never go astray. They said: Allah’s Messenger (may peace upon him) is in the state of unconsciousness [yahjur, literal translation: “talking nonsense”; obviously, the Prophet was not unconscious since he was speaking].— Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim 013:4015
Here is the original Arabic text of above hadith given by Sahih Muslim:
عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ: يَوْمُ الْخَمِيسِ وَمَا يَوْمُ الْخَمِيسِ . ثُمَّ جَعَلَ تَسِيلُ دُمُوعُهُ حَتَّى رَاَيْتُ عَلَى خَدَّيْهِ. قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ ” ائْتُونِي بِالْكَتِفِ وَالدَّوَاةِ – اَوِ اللَّوْحِ وَالدَّوَاةِ – اَكْتُبْ لَكُمْ كِتَابًا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدَهُ اَبَدًا ” . فَقَالُوا اِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ يَهْجُرُ .
So first we note that in Ibn Abbas’ view, this decision by the Sahaba present was wrong as he opined that the Prophet was speaking so their references to him being unconscious and erratic did not hold.
The next hadith on the same event gives the names of those who cast such aspersion on the Prophet of Islam, upon whom be peace.
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
When Allah’s Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, “Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.” ‘Umar said, “The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur’an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us.” The people present in the house differed and quarreled. Some said “Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray,” while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah’s Apostle said, “Go away!” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah: Ibn ‘Abbas used to say, “It was very unfortunate that Allah’s Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise.”
Umar: Quran Is Only Guidance Book That Should Be Written
Now before we analyse the events of these hadith, we will first consider the explanation given by popular Sunni sect scholars.
The consensus is that the reason why Umar RA and some others there disallowed the Prophet of Islam (saw) write what he wanted was because the singular Book, the Quran was sufficient and no other hadith(statement) need be written according to the teachings of the Prophet of Islam. “Do not write anything from me, and whoever writes anything but the Qur’aan, let him erase it.” (Narrated by Muslim)
Scholars further say that the Prophet had thereby tested the consensus capacity of his followers and approved of it; that this was a test.
Conclusion from analysis of this hadith
The questions that remain unanswered with the simplistic explanation given above are:
- Then why did Ibn Abbas cry and regret the happenings?
- If as Umar indicated, the Quran was the only Statement(Hadith) needed to be written, then how are so-called Sahih hadith collections written 250 years later justified?
- If as some say, the Prophet’s explicit ban on documenting hadith was lifted later in his life, why would Umar not permit him to write hadith himself as he wished that day?
- If it was a test, why did Umar RA not say, “he is testing us” and rather said, “he is speaking nonsense?”
- If indeed it was a test then why did the Prophet (saw) get upset and kick them out of his room?
It is reasonable to conclude that Ibn Abbas was upset Thursday because he disagreed with the response of the Sahaba present.
It is also reasonable to conclude as is supported by follow-up actions of the Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar who both burned hadith; that as Umar responded, by not allowing the Prophet himself write what would have been a hadith he wished to; that hadith were not meant to be written even at this last hour.
If hadith written by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and others 250 years AH are an essential part of Islam and essential not to go astray then why would the Prophet himself be stopped from writing hadith?
The other conclusions are that these accounts included in “Sahih” Muslim and Bukhari are erroneous and Umar RA and others there never disrespected the Prophet of Islam in such a fashion.
“Nor does he (prophet) speak out of his desire. (What he says) is nothing but revelation that is revealed.”(Qur’an 53:3-4).
He, Exalted, also said:
“Whatever apostle tells you accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back.”(Qur’an 59:7).
We totally discourage the disrespect of the Prophet’s companions and therefore incline to the opinion of errors in the hadith accounts of their behaviors.
It is important to note that the ban on writing a book of hadith was not on relaying and teaching each other the ways of the Prophet, as most Muslims learn Salat and other practices by verbal demonstration; the ban was on making books of the hadith and calling them authentic, which competes with Quran while not being ‘sealed’ as authentic and thus being prone to human error. This was the reason Abu Bakr gave for burning 500 written hadith in his possession. He said, “people may think I have certified these as authentic, which I have/can not.”
And Allah(s) knows best.
For more important historic facts on Islam that many Muslims are not typically informed of, see article here.