Etiquette of the Student of Ḥadīth

Shaykh Abū al-Ḥasan Mālik

A two-part lecture describing the manners of the students of Ḥadīth.
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An introduction into the manners of the student of Ḥadīth, with benefits taken from some of the lessons of ‘The Forty Ḥadīth of Imām al-Nawawī’. A much-needed lecture for those seeking the knowledge of the dīn of Allāh and the Sunnah of the Messenger (ﷺ), who wish to gain an insight into understanding the honourable and praiseworthy characteristics of the student of Ḥadīth.

He begins by mentioning the meaning of Ḥadīth. A Ḥadīth is that which came from the Prophet (ﷺ) — his speech, actions, tacit approval, and his description (which is of two types, the first being the physical attributes and the eternal etiquette).

The First Etiquette:

رغبة في طلب الحديث

The Desire for Seeking Ḥadīth

Collected from Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “It was said to the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ), ‘Who will be the most pleased and deserving of your intercession on the day of resurrection?’ The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) turned to Abū Hurayrah and said, ‘O’ Abā Hurayrah, I did not think that anyone would ask me about this Ḥadīth before you, because of what I have seen in you from your ardent desire to learn the Ḥadīth. Then the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) went on to add that the one who will be most pleased and deserving of his intercession on the day of resurrection will be the one who says, La ilāha ill Allāh sincerely without any shirk in his heart.

The point brought to attention is the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ), “I did not think that anyone would ask me about this Ḥadīth before you because of what I have seen in you from your ardent desire (حرص) to learn the Ḥadīth.”

The Second Etiquette:

التواضع لطالب الحديث


Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, in his book dealing with etiquettes of Ḥadīth, said, whilst mentioning the characteristics which will encourage the one who desires to follow the narrations and is diligent in seeking and hearing Aḥadīth, concerned with gathering them and connecting himself to the narrations, and identifying and ascribing himself to these narrations: “I have seen a people from the people of our time ascribing themselves to Ḥadīth and counting themselves from its people, hearing the narrations and spreading them, and they are the farthest from the people whom they claim to be, and are least in knowledge of that which they ascribe themselves to. You see one of them, if he writes a small number of narrations and works in the sittings of Ḥadīth for a small period of time, he calls  himself unrestrictedly the companion of Ḥadīth, and this is not from humility. He has not forced himself to be diligent in seeking Ḥadīth, and he has not met the hardship that comes in the path of memorisation of the Aḥādīth of the Messenger (ﷺ).

The student of Ḥadith should be humble and remember his station and his place.  

As it was said of old,

العلم بلا أدب كالروح بلا جسد والنار بلا حطب

Knowledge without manners is like the soul with no body, and a fire with no wood.

The Third Etiquette:

التمسك بالأثر

Clinging Firmly to the Narrations 

From clinging firmly to narrations is acting upon them, and not merely just by memorizing them.

It has been mentioned by the Salaf,

همة العلماء الرعاية

و همة السفهاء الرواية

The most important affair of the scholars is the correct understanding and to work and implement the narrations he learns. Whereas the most important of affairs to the ignorant ones is an abundance of narrations.

The Fourth Etiquette:

كيفية الحفظ على المحدث

How One Memorizes from the Muḥaddith

From the Ḥufāẓ (حفاظ) of Ḥadīth of this Ummah, they would only want to hear five Ḥadīth at a time. They would memorize them and implement them. They would not desire to hear more than this at one time.

Sufyān al-Thawrī used to hear four or five Ḥadīth and would stop there, disliking there would be too many Ḥadīth narrated to him and that he would forget them.

So we should increase in narrations little by little memorizing them with precision. Then we increase in memorizing, as learning is in stages.

The Fifth Etiquette:

 مذاكرة الطالب بالحديث بعد حفظه

The Student’s Reviewing of Ḥadīth after Memorizing It

al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī narrates that Ibrāhīm al-Aṣbahānī stated,

“Whoever memorizes a Ḥadīth and does not review it, then it will leave him.”

A further Etiquette mentioned:

عدم المزاح عند طالب الحديث

Not Being One Who Constantly Jokes

قال عبد الله بن معتز المزاح يأكل الهيبة كما تأكل النار الحطب

As ʿAbdullāh ibn Mu’taz stated, “Indeed joking and jesting eats up one’s dignity, like fire eats the wood.”

The Sixth Etiquette:


Testing the Student of Ḥadīth

A proof for this is found in a Ḥadīth found in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

عن ابن عمر عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قال إن من الشجر شجرة لا يسقط ورقها و إنها مثل المسلم حدثني ما هي

Upon the authority of Ibn ʿUmar that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Indeed there is a tree from the trees that does not shed its leaves, and it is like the example of the Muslim. So tell me what it is.”

So the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) asked his companions and tested them. 

Published: December 8, 2013
Edited: September 5, 2022


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