Ahadith and Politics in Early Muslim Community
By Adis Duderija, New Age Islam
(University of Melbourne, Islamic Studies)
In order to understand and fully appreciate the role of the ahadith literature in early Muslim community politics one needs to firstly keep in mind that the processes of collection , writing down , spreading and canonising of traditions was a gradual , multistage undertaking, materialising over a long period of time Additionally, and more importantly for our task at hand, the socio-politico-historical milieu of the time spanning from circa 80-250 years AH ,during which the process of traditions largely evolved ,is a key factor in making sense of the most of the content of traditions. We refer to this as the "context" in which traditional material not only emerged but also was to a considerable extent , in author's view, a product of . Put differently, ahadith literature in many cases reflects and gives us an insight into the prevailing or even marginalised views of various Muslim factions at the time of its gradual proliferation and establishment.
As such an investigation of the historical context in which ahadith traditions evolved will help unravel some of its major features and characteristics .Thus ,when one comes across a tradition one not only looks at mechanisms of transmission and the methodology behind the entire perspective / understanding which in turn yielded the legitimacy and acceptance of the principle of traditions as having independent legalistic worth and value within the traditionalist circles , but one also has to put the content of a tradition in a larger socio-politico historical context of the relevant time-period. So, not only are questions pertaining to the underlying principles of the ahadith "mechanisms" of collection, recording, editing , spreading , shaping into books and canonising important but also questions relating to the "ideological luggage" of the tradition collectors and their position in the overall dynamics of the time in which they lived.
Khalidi, in reference to this point maintains that "hadith was the earliest vehicle of Islamic scholarship" and that it " came into being and reached maturity very much under the impact of political events and conflicting expectations". He claims further that early conquests and civil wars that took place in early Muslim community " had a devastating effect on the loyalities and the beliefs of early Islamic society and the Hadith echoes the resultant social and economic upheaval." Cook , when discussing traditions with reference to "forbidding evil and commanding of good" comes to the conclusion that " [traditions] material is often implicitly political even if not explicitly so.
The other issue needing brief elucidation with respect to the role of hadith and politics in early Muslim community is that of hadith methodology.
It seems that the large bulk of the rules and regulations pertaining to hadith methodology was formed by the proliferating ahadith material whose content (matn) was neither systematically criticised nor disturbed as long as its isnad (chain of narrators) was sound as defined by traditional scholars of ahadith science. Kamali, a Professor of Law at the International Islamic University Malaysia, in his "Conclusion and Reform Proposals” part of the book has this to say in terms of the textual criticism of hadith scholars in the past:
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