The Principles of Hadith Criticism in the Writings of al-Shāfiʿī and Muslim

In: Islamic Law and Society
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Modern research by Muslim and early European scholars takes it for granted that Hadith criticism as documented by classical textbooks of muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth represents how early Hadith criticism worked. In this essay I examine the standards of Hadith criticism established by two prominent scholars whose writings are the earliest known extant works on the theories of Hadith criticism, Muḥammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204/820) and Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj al-Naysābūrī (d. 261/875). In doing so, I determine the extent to which Hadith criticism as defined by Muslim is consistent with the system outlined by al-Shāfiʿī. A comparison of their works reveals that there is little difference between al-Shāfiʿī and Muslim on the principles of Hadith criticism, despite differences in their respective frameworks and agendas. Early Hadith critics appear to have adhered to a consistent system of criticism that likely developed in the generation before al-Shāfiʿī.

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