بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

The words of Muhammad’s sayings are narrated unchanged

Islam is the only religion in the world in which along with knowledge it is shown how it has reached us from reliable sources.  The most important resources of the Islamic Sharia are Quran & Hadith and each and every word in them has reached us from sources, which are protected by the efforts of the scholars along with the narrator’s characters. The Hadith books taught in schools have chains of narrators that go all the way back  to the Messenger (PBUH), which means that the student doesnot only gets the explanation on the hadith but also it is taught how a particular hadith from the Prophet, companions, Tabayeen and other sources has reached the compiler of a Hadith book. Every word of the Quran has reached the Ummah from a large number of sources and in the same manner, in every age, a large portion of Hadith has reached us from numerous sources and it is not possible that it can be a lie. A large portion of the Hadith is Mashur, which means that there is a large group of narrators, while a small portion is narrated from individuals. These types only existed until the hadiths were transcribed but after the second and third Hijri, after the popularity of the books of hadith among the Ummah, all the hadiths can be followed, except those which are termed as Mau’dhu. Scholars have written extensively on the personality and characteristics of the narrators and have separated the Mau’dhu from the rest of the hadiths, which are not many in numbers. The hadiths which have no doubts about the chain are only taken in matters of beliefs and rules, and the Dha’eef is only considered for its merits in matters which are clearly stated in the Quran and Sahih hadith.

Hadiths are generally recorded word for word but Orientalists have stated that not the words but the meaning of the hadith is recorded. Some Muslims have supported these views which are a result of superficial research based on lies, which are not based on truth and is only, a result of animosity towards Islam. Turning a blind eye towards the transcribing and protection of Bible and the Torah, orientalists, have raised doubts on how the Quran and hadith are preserved. Well-known Muhaddis Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Azmi Qasmi (who has refuted the orientalists with proofs), whose research is known to orientalist, make an effort only to create doubts on the Quran and Hadith. If an intelligent individual were to compare the way in which Books of different religions are transcribed from all over the world he would say that the efforts that were made to preserve and transcribe the Quran and Hadith are unmatched in history. No comparisons can be made on the efforts and planning that took place to preserve the Quran and Hadith. The truth is that system of chain of narrators is not present in any other religion, but they have agreed any narration without any investigation. Whereas the scholars of hadith, after discussing completely about the narrators and after considering the knowledge and fear of Allah, has agreed their narrated hadiths.

It is clear from reliable sources of hadith that the words have been narrated, it means that the words from the Messenger (PBUH) are recorded the way they were said. For example, a narrator has completely and carefully narrated hundred hadiths (thousand words), if a few similar words are used then it is not taken as the hadith where the meaning is conserved but it is still considered as a hadith where the words are preserved because the narrator is well versed in the knowledge of Quran and hadith and also is an expert in Arabic, has fear of Allah and understands the purpose of the words with regards to the Shariah.

The Messenger (PBUH) has also given special instructions, to transmit the words the way they were spoken, to the companions and the Ummah, he not only encouraged but also corrected when a slight alteration was done to his sayings, even when there was no change in the meaning. The Companions followed the instructions of the Messenger (PBUH) and they have, with a lot of precaution, transmitted his sayings to the Ummah.

A group of scholars of hadith believe that the narration where only the meaning is given cannot be transmitted, and where the scholars have agreed on narrating a hadith with only its meaning then there are conditions set for this. Among these conditions, the most important is that the narrator has fear of Allah and is an expert in the Arabic language, which means that he knows the words of the hadith and understands its meanings. Briefly, the central thing among the scholars for a hadith to be transmitted is that it is word for word, because the Messenger (PBUH) has instructed the Ummah to do the same. Some evidence is presented below:

The Messenger (PBUH) said:نضر الله إمرء سمع منا حديثا فحفظه حتى يبلغه غيره فرب حامل فقه إلى من هو أفقه منه، و رب حامل فقه ليس بفقيه (الترمذي، كتاب العمل، باب ما جاء في الحث على تبليغ السماع). May Allah make a person cheerful who heard a hadith then memorised it and transmitted it to others because sometimes a person who has knowledge takes it to someone who is more intelligent than him and some people who memorise (issues and words) are not people of knowledge.

One more hadith from Tirmidhi: نضر الله إمرء سمع منا شيئا فبلغه كما سمعه، فرب مبلغ أوعى من سامع..May Allah make a person cheerful who listened to a hadith and then transmitted it (to others) in the very manner that he had heard it because the people who have received it can remember better than the person who heard it (i.e. understands the meaning better).

"فبلغه كما سمعه" From this hadith, a group of scholars have forbidden transmitting a hadith in which the meaning is only given. There can be a discussion on this but from the Messenger’s (PBUH) sayings we know that transmitting any hadith with only its meaning is to be avoided. But, every possible effort should be made forthe words of the hadith to be copied word for word.

The Messenger (PBUH) has said, in the same veinمن كذب علي متعمدا فليتبوأ مقعده من النار anyone who attributes a lie to me will be in Hell (صحيح البخاري، كتاب العلم، باب إثم من كذب على النبي). The Messenger (PBUH) has declared a severe torment for a person, who attributes something that he has not said. If a narrator knows that the Messenger (PBUH) has not used these words and even then attribute it to the Messenger (PBUH) then he will be among those who will be in torment of hell-fire. The above hadith has been frequently narrated by several narrators and it can be found in almost all the hadith texts. With such warning for severe torment, how could the companions and the Tabayeen would make the interpretation of hadith to be central to their transmission?

The biggest evidence for the word for word transmission to be central is Bara ibne Aazib’s(RA) Hadith, which is compiled in his book (صحيح البخاري، كتاب الوضوء، باب فضل من بات على الوضوء) Bara ibneAazib(RA) narrates that the Messenger (PBUH) says, “when you go to bed, then make Wudu in the same manner as you do for Salah then sleep on your right side and make this supplication:"اللهم أسلمت وجهي إليك و فوضت أمري إليك، و ألجأت ظهري إليك رغبة و رهبة إليك، لا ملجأ و لا منجأ منك إلا إليك، اللهم آمنت بكتابك الذي أنزلت و بنيك الذي أرسلت".  If a person passes away the very night then he will die a Muslim.” Bara  writes that I repeated this supplication in front of the Messenger (PBUH) and when i reached--، اللهم آمنت بكتابك الذي أنزلت I saidو برسولك then the Messenger (PBUH) corrected me and saidو وبنبيك From this, we come to know that the Messenger (PBUH) didn’t approve changing the word Nabi to Rasool.

In this hadith, the Messenger (PBUH) has instructed to strongly adhere to word for word transmission, which means that he did not permit to substitute words with similar meanings. That is why; the companions have concentrated on word for word transmission of hadith. The companions after having preserved the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH)took special care that any narrator could not change even a single word from his sayings even if it’s a similar word. The Tabayeen, who followed the companions, has set a precedent for future generations by following this. The companions made every effort to record the Messenger’s (PBUH) sayings in the very manner they were said. The companions would not allow replacing one word for another or placing a word before another or after it and moreover they would not even change a single letter. For example Omar Farooq (RA) used to sayمن سمع حديثا فحدث به كما سمع فقد سلمA person who heard a hadith and transmitted it word for word is secure(المحدث الفاضل بين الراوي و الواعي للمرامهزمي).

Abdullah bin Omar(RA), used to follow the transmission of Hadith word for word and made sure that others do the same, so that the hadith can be recorded word for word with no omission or addition or any misplacing of words. A very popular hadith "بني الإسلام على خمس"when it was narrated then a narrator repeated it after listening to it and mentioned Hajj before Fasting then Abdullah bin Omar(RA), at the very moment, corrected him. He asked the narrator to mention Fasting before Hajj because that is how he has heard the Messenger (PBUH) saying it.(صحيح مسلم، كتاب الإيمان، باب قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم). In this hadith Abdullah bin Omar(RA) didn’t permit the misplacing of words and gave the reason that he has heard the Messenger (PBUH) saying it in this manner.

Urwah bin Zubair,a famous Tabayeen (23-94H), on order from his aunt Ayesha, over a period of a year, heard a hadith on the importance of knowledge from Abdullah bin Omar(RA).Both these times,he narrated it with the same words and Ayesha said “I know him as truthful and he has not added a single word in this”.( صحيح مسلم، كتاب العلم، باب رفع العلم و قبضة و ظهور الجهل و الفتن في آخر الزمان). We come to know from this that Abdullah bin Omar (RA) observed word for word transmission of hadith.

Sometimes the Messenger (PBUH) used to converse in the method of his audience. Once, addressing people from Yemen ليس من امبر امصيام في امسفر(الطبراني و البيهقي). The Messenger (PBUH), in fact, stated ليس من البر الصيام في السفر. But people from Yemen change L to M. For example (مررنا بامقوم أي بالقوم). To summarise, the companions and the Tabayeen adhered to copy the Messenger’s (PBUH) saying word for word, which is a clear evidence that any narration which is word for word is central.

At times, when the narrator has doubts about the words and has forgotten the placing of two words, which means that there is no doubt about the hadith but he has confusion over a word and placement of words then the narrator says (كذا و كذا). If the interpretation of the narration was central then the narrator was not required to mention this.

To bring the hadith to the ummah, the companions have made it a habit to memorise the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH). As the companion Abu Hurairah (RA) says I used to divide the night into three parts, one third for salah, one third for sleeping and one third for memorising the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH).(الجامع لأخلاق الراوي و آداب السامع، العلامة خطيب  البغدادي). The Messenger (PBUH) was aware of Abu Hurairah’s devotion towards the learning of hadith. For this reason, when Abu Hurairah (RA) asked the Messenger (PBUH) “O Messenger of Allah! Who would get your intercession on the Day of Judgement? Then the Messenger (PBUH) replied “O Abu Hurairah! From the moment I realised the devotion that you have for the knowledge of hadith that I knew that nobody other than you would ask me this question” then the Messenger (PBUH) went onto say “whoever, only for the sake of Allah, with full sincerity, believed in the oneness of Allah, will get my intercession”(صحيح البخاري، كتاب العلم، باب الحرص على الحديث)

The companions not only used to memorise individually but also they would do this in groups. For example, Ali says,تذاكروا الحديث، فإنكم ألا تفعلوا يندرس(مستدرك على صحيحين، كتاب العلم، فضيلة مذاكرة الحديث).

We have come to know that the companions by preserving the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH) in their hearts, have reliably transmitted the first interpretation of the Quran i.e. hadith through authentic sources for the Ummah to the Day of Judgement, if his sayings were not preserved then it would not be possible to understand the Quran, because understanding Quran is not possible without the hadith. The aim of the arrival of the Messenger (PBUH) is to explain the issues and laws of the Quran, for example Almighty Allah says:و أنزلنا إليك الذكر لتبين للناس ما نزل إليهم و لعلهم يتفكرون (Surah An-Nahl Verse 44)And we have also sent down to you (O Mohammed) the dhikr (reminder and advice i.e. the Quran) that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.

The Messenger (PBUH) by his sayings and actions i.e. the hadith has explained the Quran. Almighty Allah has ordered, in several Ayahs of the Quran, to submit to him along with the obedience of the Messenger (PBUH), and obedience of the Messenger (PBUH) is nothing but following the hadith.

We should also notice that the ability to memorise, which Almighty Allah has bestowed on the Companions and Tabayeen, to protect the Islamic Sharia  played an important role, that helped to preserve the hadith of the Messenger (PBUH) by memorising it. Abdullah ibne Abbas (RA) was famous for his memory, he could memorise a hadith by listening to it,only once. It is said about him that he memorised a poem of 180 verses by Omar bin Abi Rabiah by listening to it once. The companion of the Messenger (PBUH), Zaid bin Thabit (RA) had memorised the Quran that was revealed before he was fifteen and learnt the Jewish language in seventeen days. There is no comparison for Ayesha’s (RA) mental abilities. Among the Tabayeen, Nafe’, could never forget once he has memorised something. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim’s memory prowess will be remembered till the end of time.

To protect the Messenger (PBUH)s hadith the same methods have been employed that were used to preserve the Quran like memorising, transcribing and acting on it, and the very sources used to preserve the Quran have been utilised to protect the hadith.Well, it can be said that the system of preserving the Quran is superior to that of Hadith, because each and every Ayah of the Quran is copied by a large number from the Ummah and the transcribing of the Quran was done under the supervision of the Messenger (PBUH). Even if the Quran was not collected at one place before the demise of the Messenger (PBUH), it was with the companions, written on several objects. Briefly, the most important and foremost protection was done by the companions memorising it and preserving it in their hearts.

The Messenger’s (PBUH) speciality was to have a good conversation with whoever he was addressing, such that the words would penetrate the listeners heart. The Messenger’s (PBUH) words were as clear as pearls. The Messenger (PBUH) would talk slowly in such a manner that the listener could never forget the conversation, also the Messenger (PBUH) used to repeat himself thrice so that the Companions could memorise it.

The Companions not only preserved the hadith by memorising it but also a group of Companions made efforts to transcribe the hadith. It can be known from many incidents that the transcribing of hadith was being done during the lifetime of the Messenger (PBUH). Some incidents are given here:

An Ansari companion came to the Messenger (PBUH) and said “O Messenger (PBUH) of Allah! I listen to your sayings and I like them but I forget it” then the Messenger (PBUH) replied by signing with his hand, “take help from your right hand” which means to write it down (Tirmidhi). In the same manner, Anas (RA) narrated that the Messenger(PBUH) said, “Preserve knowledge by writing it down” (Dar’e Qutni). Abu Hurairah (RA) states that among all the companions, no one has more hadiths than me except Abdullah bin Amr(RA) because he used to write and I (at that time) didn’t use to write (ترمذي). Abdullah bin Amr (RA) came to the prophet and said “O Messenger (PBUH) of Allah! I want to narrate your hadiths and for this reason I made a decision to take the help of writing other than memorising, if you approve of it? Then the Messenger (PBUH) replied “if it is my hadith take the help of your hand along with the heart” (Sunane Daarmi). In short, during the time of the Messenger (PBUH) the hadith was not only preserved by memorising but also by transcribing it. During the time of the Messenger (PBUH) the companions and during the time of the companions the Tabayeen were making efforts to transcribe the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH), these efforts were done to transcribe the words but not the meaning. The words of numerous supplications that are used from dawn to dusk, the statements from the speeches of the Messenger (PBUH), the letters, agreement and ceasefire documents of the Messenger (PBUH) are only present because the companions and the Tabayeen memorised and transcribed these.

During the caliphate (91-101H) of Omar bin Abdul Aziz(61-101H), under the supervision of the scholars, an important stage of transcribing hadith was completed. The last companion of the Messenger (PBUH), Abu Tufail Amir bin Wasila Kanani (RA) died in the year 110H. By this we come to know the critical stage of writing the hadith was started during the time of the companions. Abu Hanifa who was born in 80H was thirty when the last companion passed away.

From authentic evidences it is as clear as day that it is vital, essential and fundamental that the Hadith is narrated word for word, it means that the words in these sayings are from the Messenger’s (PBUH) mouth, which were preserved for humanity to the Day of Judgement by memorising and transcribing by the companions. The scholars have difference of opinion regarding the narration of the meanings of the hadith.

1-    It is not acceptable to narrate the meanings of the hadith which means that the narrator should copy the hadith word for word.

2-    Narrating the meanings of the hadith is only permissible with a few conditions

  1. The narrator follows Islamic laws, never lies and understand clearly what is being said
  2. The narrator not only knows the grammar of Arabic but also understand the style of conversation.
  3. Understands the meanings of words and understands what is meant by a word at a certain place in a sentence.
  4. Meaning of supplications and recitation during Salah is not narrated because it is not permissible by consensus of the scholars.


The root of narration of the hadith is word for word. Amongst most scholars,Hadiths, which are short and meaningful, cannot be narrated with meaning. Hadiths, which are long, the companions have taken special care in quoting the Messenger’s (PBUH) word for word with no changes. If a narrator who has fear of Allah and is an expert in Arabic uses similar words then the hadith is still considered a word for word narration.  Hadiths which describes actions of the Messenger (PBUH), or Hadiths in which the Messenger’s (PBUH) character is mentioned then narration with meanings is only acceptable with the above mentioned conditions, because in these hadiths the companions are describing the action or character of the Messenger (PBUH).

The compilation in hundreds of thousands of pages of the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH) which are in thousands, are narrated by several companions but the words of these hadith are alike.  The scholars from different cities and countries have presented to the Ummah thousands of hadith of the Messenger (PBUH) without changing even a single word. This is an evidence to prove that word for word transmission is central for hadith. To sum up, I am presenting three short hadiths that have reached the Ummah from several sources and there is has been no variation in the words. We come to know that the companions and the Tabayeen made efforts to copy the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH) word for word, if narrating the meaning was central then all the narrators would not state the same words but every narrator would use words according to his language proficiency and abilities.

إنما الأعمال بالنيات، من عمل عملا ليس عليه أمرنا فهو رد،    المسلم من سلم من لسانه و يده.

May Allah make all Muslims to abide by the Quran and Hadith. Ameen.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (