Imam Muslim (202 - 261H)
Dr. Abdul Hamid Siddiqui
The full name of Imam Muslim is Abu'l-Husain 'Asakir-ud-Din
Muslim b. Hajjaj al-Qushayri al-Naisaburi. "Muslim," as his nasba
shows, belonged to the Qushayr tribe of the Arabs, an offshoot of the great
clan of Rabi'a. He was born in Naisabur (Nishapur) in 202/817 or 206/821. His
parents were religiously minded persons and as such he was brought up in a
pious atmosphere. This left such an indelible impression on his mind that he
spent the whole of his life as a God-fearing person and always adhered to the
path of Righteousness. He was in fact a saint of high calibre. His excellent
moral character can be well judged from the simple fact that he never indulged
in backbiting, a very common human failing.
Imam Muslim travelled widely to collect traditions in
Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, where he attended the lectures of some of the
prominent Traditionists of his time: Ishaq b. Rahwaih, Ahmad b. Hanbal, 'Ubaydullah
al-Qawariri, Qutaiba b. Sa’id, 'Abdullah b. Maslama, Harmalah b. Yahya, and
Having finished his studies, be settled down at Nishapur.
There he came into contact with Imam Bukhari, and was so much impressed by his
vast knowledge of Hadith and his deep insight into it that he kept himself
attached to him up to the end of his life. He was an ardent admirer of another
great-teacher of Hadith, Muhammad b.Yahya al-Dhuhali and attended his lectures
regularly, but when the difference of opinion between Muhammad b. Yahya and
Imam Bukhari, on the issue of the creation of the Holy Qur'an, sharpened into
hostility, Imam Muslim sided with Imam Bukhari and abandoned Muhammad b. Yahya
altogether. He was thus a true disciple of Imam Bukhari.
He wrote many books and treatises on Hadith, but the most
important of his works is the collection (Jami’) of his Sahih
Some of the commentators of Ahadith are of the opinion that in certain
respects it is the best and most authentic work on the subject. Imam Muslim
took great pains in collecting 300,000 Traditions, and then after a thorough
examination of them retained only 4000, the genuineness of which is fully
He prefixed to his compilation a very illuminating
introduction, in which he specified some of the principles which he had
followed in the choice of his material.
Imam Muslim has to his credit many other valuable
contributions to different branches of Hadith literature, and most of them
retain their eminence even to the present day. Amongst these Kitab al-Musnad
al-Kabir 'Ala al-Rijal, Jami' Kabir, Kitab, al-Asma' wa'l-Kuna, Kitab al-Ilal,
Kitab al- Wijdan are very important.
His Methods of Classification and Annotation
Muslim's Sahih comes next to it. However, in certain
respects the latter is considered superior to the former. Imam Muslim strictly
observed many principles of the science of Hadith which had been slightly
ignored by his great teacher Imam Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on both of
them). Imam Muslim considered only such traditions to be genuine and authentic
as had been transmitted to him by an unbroken chain of reliable authorities
and were in perfect harmony with what had, (been related by other narrators
whose trustworthiness was unanimously accepted and who were free from all
Moreover, Imam Bukhari, while describing the chain of
narrators, sometimes mentions their kunya and sometimes gives their names.
This is particularly true in case of the narrators of Syria. This creates a
sort of confusion, which Imam Muslim has avoided.
Imam Muslim takes particular care in according the exact
words of the narrators and points out even the minutest difference in the
wording of their reports.
Imam Muslim has also constantly kept in view the difference
between the two well-known modes of narration, haddathana (he narrated
to us) and akhbarana (he informed us). He is of the opinion that the
first mode is used only when the teacher is narrating the hadith and the
student is listening to it, while the second mode of expression implies that
the student is reading the hadith before the teacher. This reflects his utmost
care in the transmission of a hadith.
Imam Muslim has taken great pains in connecting the chain of
narrators. He has recorded only that hadith which, at least, two reliable tabi'in
(successors) had heard from two Companions and this principle is observed
throughout the subsequent chain of narrators.
Imam Muslim had a very wide circle of students, who learnt
Hadith from him. Some of them occupy a very prominent position in Islamic
history, e.g. Abu Hatim Razi, Musa b. Harun, Ahmad b. Salama, Abu 'Isa
Tirmidhi, Abu Bakr b. Khusaima, Abu ‘Awana and Hafiz Dhahabi.
Imam Muslim lived for fifty-five years in this world. Of
this short span of his life he spent most of his time in learning Hadith, in
Its compilation, in its teaching and transmission. He always remained absorbed
in this single pursuit and nothing could distract his attention from this
pious task. He died in 261/875, and was buried in the suburbs of Nishapur.
1 It is essential to remove one of the serious misgivings
under which so many Orientalists and westernised Muslim scholars are labouring.
When they are told that Imam Muslim selected 4,000 ahadith out of a total
collection of 300,000, they think that since quite a large number of ahadith
were unreliable, therefore, these were rejected, and then jump to the
conclusion that the whole stock of hadith is spurious and should be rejected
outright. This betrays utter ignorance of the critics even about the
elementary knowledge of hadith. Matn (text) is not the basis on which
is calculated the number of ahadith. Hadith is counted on the chain of
transmission. Thus when we say that Imam Muslim collected 300,000 ahadith and
included only 4,000 in his compilation, it does not imply that he rejected the
rest of the whole lot of the Prophet's sayings being unreliable. What this
means is that the words and deeds of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him)
were transmitted to Imam Muslim through so many chains of transmission out of
which he selected 4,000 chains as most authentic and narrated the text on
their authority. A text (matn) which is transmitted through one hundred
isnads is in Hadith literature treated as one hundred traditions. For
example, the text of the first hadith in Bukhari (The Actions Are Based on
Intention) is counted as a selection of one out of 700 ahadith since it has
been transmitted through such a large number of isnads.