Doubt: There are many books of hadith available today, and it is much easier to make research through these resources at our fingertips than ever before. For example we can buy CD’s containing hadith which we can search, this therefore means with modern technology we can research just aswell as the Imam’s of the Madhabs.
Answer: The above misconception is based on a number of misunderstandings. Having the ability to search a hadith CD by using various search terms is of of little benefit to someone not trained in the numerous Shariah sciences which are needed to deduce rulings. Not least when many rulings are derived from complex inferences contained in texts which may not outwardly appear to be deal with that particular ruling. The previous posts further highlight the inaccuracy of the ‘hadith CD search’ approach, however we will mention here some points of benefit not mentioned before with regards to this doubt.
Ibn Hazm States That His Knowledge Is In His Heart And Not His Books: Imam Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri beautifully stated that his knowlege was preserved internally by him, if his books were lost his knowledge would not be lost, he said:
If you burn my papers you will not burn
That which is contained in the papers, for it is in my heart
It travels with me where my riding animal goes
And dismounts if I dismount and will be buried in my grave
Ibn Taymiyyah Clarifies That Many Books Does Not Make A Person Knowledgeable And The Superiority Of The Earlier Imams: Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said in his ‘Raf al-Malam’ (p.18 ) that obtaining seemingly vast resources at ones fingertips does not necessitate a person possessing extra knowledge, he may Allah have mercy upon him said:
If it is supposed that the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) are encompassed in it- meaning books-: Not everything in the books is known by the scholar. It is difficult/unlikely that it will occur for anyone, rather a man may have many works but he is unaware of what they contain. Rather those who were before the compiling of these works were more far more knowledgeable fo the sunnah than the later scholars…for their works were their hearts which contained far more than the books.
Our Imams along with the large amount that they wrote, and the large amount which has reached us from their works, did not record except a little from their knowledge as we have discussed previously in another post.
Kanz al-Ummal Is One of The Largest Books of Hadith, But Difficult To Research: The most extensive book of hadith today is the ‘Kanz al-Ummal’ of al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, which contains more than 46,000 hadith. However to derive benefit from it in the way the some would make us believe is difficult, for many of its sources are not easily accessible or available for reference. This therefore makes the checking of to or its chains of narration a difficult matter. Along with the fact that the number of ahadith in Kanz al-Ummal are significantly less than what has been narrated to us regarding from the Mujtahid Imams knowledge of hadith. Imam Abu Hanifah selected the narrations of his work ‘al-Athar’ from around 40,000 hadith,and that the number of hadith cited in his works number over 70,000, not including those which he did not mention. Ibn al-Hayyab reports Imam Malik reported 100,000 hadith not including those that he knew but did not narrate. And it is well known that Imam Ahmad chose his Musnad from approximately 750,000.
The Level of Hadith Knowledge Needed to Give Fatwa: Al-Khatib reports in ‘al-Jami’ (2:174): that it was said to Yahya bin Maeen:
Can a person give fatwa from 100,000 hadith? He replied: No, I said: from 200,000? He replied no, I said: 300,000? He replied: No I said: 500,000 He said: I hope so.
Imam Ahmad Advises Masters of Hadith to Study With the Fuqaha (Jurists): It is well known that Imam Ahmad called his contemporaries from the scholars of hadith who were focused solely upon its study to attend the circles of Imam al-Shafi and gain benefit from his understanding, among them giants in hadith scholarship such as: Ishaq bin Rahaway, Yahya bin Maeen, al-Humaidi and others. (see Adab Manaqib al-Shafi 2:252). It should not be missed that Imam Ahmad was guiding them to the fact that their vast knowledge of hadith was not sufficient for them to give rulings. If knowledge of the hadith alone was sufficient as some imagine why would Imam Ahmad call them to come and attend the circles and gain an understanding of the fiqh?
Qualifications Needed to Derive Rulings From Hadith Explained by Imam al-Shafi: We will finish by making mention of the qualifications needed for the person who for arguments sake has a CD with all of the hadith collection available to them, and may think they are in a position to derive rulings from them. Imam al-Shafi said:
It is unlawful for a person to give fatwa in the religion of Allah except for a person knowledgeable of the book of Allah: is nasikh and mansukh, its muhkam and mutashabih, its tawil and tanzil, its Makki and Madani, and what is meant by it and what it was revealed regarding. Then after this knowledgeable of the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace): its nasikh and mansukh, and know of the hadith that which he knows of the Quran. And that he be knowledgeable of the language, knowledgeable of poetry and what is needed of it for knowledge and the Quran. And practises fairness and little speech. After this that he be knowledgeable of the differences of the people of the various lands. And that after this he have intelligence (qarihah). If he is like this then he can speak and give legal verdicts regarding the lawful and unlawful, and if he is not such then he cannot speak on matters of knowledge nor give legal verdicts.
Ibn Abd al-Barr Adds Some Extra Qualifications Needed: Ibn Abd al-Barr mentioned the above in his ‘Jami Bayan al-Ilm’ (2/166) citing supporting comments for it from the early Muslims (salaf). Not thinking the above was comprehensive enough he added to it the knowledge of the: Sirah, the Companions, their biographies and virtues and the condition of those who narrate from them to diffrentiate the trustworthy from the untrustworthy. The final point added by Ibn Abd al-Barr being nowadays referred to as the science of ‘Jarh wal-Tadil’ which in our times takes a lifetimes study to grasp adequately.
Note: The above is a draft translation of the meanings. Wassalam