Definition of Ahl al-Hadeeth

In the Name of Allāh, the Most Merciful, the Ever Merciful.

Shaykh `Alawī b. `Abd al-Qādir al-Saqqāf (حفظه الله تعالى):

We would love for you to define the term Ahl al-Hadīth and what do Ahl al-Sunnah mean by it. Is it particular to the scholars of hadīth or does it apply to all the scholars of the Ummah? We hope for a detailed answers with full references, and we ask Allāh to bless you and to grant you the best reward.

Your Brothers in the Administration of Multaqā Ahl al-Hadīth.

Noble brothers of Multaqā Ahl al-Hadīth, peace be upon you, and Allāh’s Mercy, and His Blessings.

You, may Allāh bless you, asked for a clarification of the title Ahl al-Hadīth and what Ahl al-Sunnah intend by it, and whether it is particular to the scholars of Hadīth or encompasses all the scholars of the Ummah.

Thus, I say in response – and with Allāh is the success:

The ahl (people) of something are the most familiar with it. For that reason, in the language, the ahl of a man are the closest people to him.

(1) Therefore, Ahl al-Hadīth are the people most familiar with Hadīth, the most strict in adherence to it, those who follow it in words and deeds in their manners, their conduct, their worship, their dealings, and in their beliefs both openly and in private. Those who are focused on the study, compilation, writing, and teaching of Hadīth, transmitting them understanding them, and sorting the authentic from the weak are most worthy of being included in this group.

(2) Furthermore, the Ahl al-Hadīth are Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā`ah, for the Hadīth is the Sunnah and the Jamā`ah (Assembly) is nothing less than the truth. Anyone who follows Hadīth is upon the truth.

(3) Ahl al-Hadīth are the Saved Sect (al-Firqah al-Nājiyah), for if one cannot be saved by following Hadīth, how then can he be saved? “The people most worthy of being the saved sect are Ahl al-Hadīth wa al-Sunnah who do not have partisanship for any leader save Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم).” [Majmū` al-Fatāwā (3/347)]

(4) Ahl al-Hadīth are the Victorious Group (al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah). The one who does not find victory in Hadīth, in what then will he find victory?! Imām Ahmad said about the Victorious Group, “If they are not the People of Hadīth (Ashāb al-Hadīth), then I do not know who they are!” [Fath al-Bārī (1/85)]

(5) It is they who shall be manifest upon the truth until the establishment of the Hour. It is by Hadīth that they become manifest and receive victory, and it is because of it that they are saved. All of these words and titles are general in a sense and specific in another. Thus, when one of them is mentioned, the others are included such that each word by itself refers to all the parties of the Saved Sect (al-Firqah al-Nājiyah). However, when the word Ahl al-Hadīth is mentioned alongside another word, it indicates that what is meant is those who are preoccupied with the study of Hadīth. This explains why many of the Salaf would use the word Ahl al-Hadīth in particular for those who were preoccupied with its study.

Shaykh al-Islām, may Allāh have mercy on him, states, “We do not mean by Ahl al-Hadīth, merely those who are devoted to hearing them, writing them, or narrating them. Rather we mean by them all of those who are most deserving of having memorized them, knowing them, and understanding them apparently and in reality, and following them privately and publicly.” [Majmū` al-Fatāwā (4/95)]

From this, we come to know the reason for the disagreement between the adherents of Ahl al-Hadīth in our time as to whether or not there is a distinction between these titles.

(6) “Ahl al-Hadīth are the Salaf from the (first) three generations and those who tread their path from the Khalaf.” [Majmū` al-Fatāwā (6/355)]

(7) The People of Hadīth are the People of the Prophet, For Even If
They Did Not Accompany His Person, They Have Accompanied His Every Breath

وأهل الحديث هم أهل النبي وإن *** لم يصحبوا نفسه، أنفاسه صحبوا

(8) Ahl al-Hadīth are those who “seek the truth from its source, and they seek it out where it can be expected to be found. They seek nearness to Allāh (تعالى) by following the Sunan of Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and by seeking out his narrations over land and sea from the East to the West.” [Ibn Qutaybah, Ta’wīl Mukhtalif al-Hadīth (p. 80)]

(9) Amongst the Ahl al-Hadīth, there is the scholar, the jurist (faqīh), and the preacher (khatīb) who commands good and forbids evil. Allāh has made them “Pillars of the Sharī`ah, and by them, He destroys every reprehensible innovation. Thus, they are Allāh’s Trustees amongst His Creation, the medium between the Prophet and his Ummah, and the ones who strive to preserve his religion. Their light is radiant, their virtues are well known, their signs are apparent, their views are predominant, and their proofs are indisputable. Every faction is devoted to a certain desire that it refers to and an opinion that pleases it and so to it is devoted, except for the People of Hadīth (Ashāb al-Hadīth), for the Book is their provision, the Sunnah is their proof, and the Messenger is their faction. It is to him that they ascribe. They are not concerned with the desires and opinions. What they narrate from the Messenger is accepted and they are the ones trusted in that. They are the caretakers and guardians of the religion, and they are the receptacles and bearers of knowledge. When there is a dispute concerning Hadīth, they are referred to, and their judgment is accepted. From them comes every erudite jurist, every noble Imām, every ascetic amongst his scribe, and every righteous preacher. They are the great majority, and it is their path which is upright. Every innovator pretends to share their creed and does not dare to express a view other than theirs. Anyone who plots against them, Allāh breaks him. Whoever stubbornly opposes them, Allāh forsakes him. They are not harmed by those who forsake, nor is there prosperity for those who separate from them. The one who cares for his religion is in need of their direction, the one whose sight is engaged by evil does not see them, and indeed Allāh is Able to assist them.” [Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, Sharaf Ashāb al-Hadīth, p. 4]

10) Ahl Al-Hadith are the boarder guards of Muslim states. Abu Mansour Al-Baghdadi said: “Those who guarded the boarders between Muslim states and Roman, Arab land, Al-Sham, Atherbijan, Africa, Yemen and Andalusia were following the Madhab of Ahl Al-Hadith. [Osool Al-Deen: 1/317 quoted from the history of Ahl Alhaith book by Al-Hashmi, page 59]

11) Some of Ahl Alhadith had put all their effort to collect Hadiths so they traveled lands and seas from east to west such like: scholars who appeared in the first 500 Hijri years i.e. Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmithi, Abu Dawd, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and etc. However, not every person who works with examining and classifying Hadiths to authentic and weak are looked at -or even considered- from Ahl Al-Hadith. We have seen some of those new recent so called scholars not only refute Ahl Al-Hadith but also became their enemy. We even saw some of them who are nothing but misguided innovator or Sufi with myths and superstitions.

12) Ahl Al-Hadith are the most familiar with Hadith because it is known that if you are completely familiar with the words, circumstances, situation of the one you follow, then it is normal to be the first to deserve such closeness. Thus, it is no doubt, that Ahl Al-Hadith are the most knowledgeable of what concerns the prophet, may allah exalt his mention amongst his angles and his companions i.e. the four well guided caliphs. [Majmoo Al-fatawa/: 4/91)

13) Ahl Alhadith follow the steps of the companions because they “follow what the Hadith of the Prophet – May Allah exalts his mentioning above his angles- as well as what is added to his companions because they are the most familiar with the path, which the companions were on. Furthermore, they are the most knowledgeable people in Quran and Sunnah in every time and every place; therefore, they are with no doubt the best of creation (after prophets, angles, etc..) [Al’Aqeeadh Al-Asfahanyaa : 1/156]

14) Ahl Alhadith never follow blindly or stick to all what is said by anyone but the Prophet – May Allah exalt his mentioning amongst his angles- as they are so familiar with Hadith since theu are the most knowledgeable people of what the prophet said, did and how he lived which enable them to distinguish between what is authentic and what is not. Thus, their scholars are scholars in Fiqh of the Hadith, have the knowledge of what Hadiths mean and how to apply them on themselves.
They love and support who love Hadith while on the other hand they reject and stand against whoever reject Hadiths. Ahl Al-Hadith base their deen only on what is authentic from what was narrated from the prophet. They even consider Quran and Sunnah as the base where they base their deen upon. Accordingly they refer any matter that people disagree about amongst each other to Quran and Sunnah and upon they make their judgment. So if what they have is according to Quran and Sunnah then accept it otherwise they reject it completely while knowing the fact self-desires have no place at all in their heart. Furthermore, their judgment are never based or built upon guessing or doubts are ignorance and contain the evilness of the world. [Majmoo’e alfatwa 3/347]

15) One of the main criteria that distinguish alh alhadith from others is being firm on what they believe and stand firm on the principle they have at the time o9f trials and hardship. It is not known that any of them ever compromised what they belief because of hardship that is why you find them having great patience. The firmness of ahlua lsunnah on what to believe is double sand doubles of what you find with ahl al-kalam and those who use philosophy. [majmoo alfatywa 4/50-51]

16) Ahl Alhadith loves unity the most as much as they dislike disunity. “Unity happens only when people follow the Athar of prophets from the Quran, Hadith and what is related to it. On the other hand, disunity only occurs amongst those who left such valuable principles and adopted other sources. Allah says :{ yet they cease not differing, Save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He did create them} Hud, 118-119. as can be noticed, Allah tells us that the people of mercy do not disagree and disunited since they are the followers of prophets by tongue, heart and acts and they are the people of Quran and Hadith from this nation. Thus, who disagree with them miss part of the mercy according to how much they disagree with [majmoo al;fatwa 4/50-51].

17) Ahl alhadith have the uniqueness of the unity of their Manhaj and rarely you ever find them disagree. “an obvious evidence that ahl alhadith are on the right path, that if you read their books from the beginning to the end, the old and the new regardless the times they lived and the places where they are located or even the languages they spoke, you will find they have the same statements of creed and belief and rarely to find a thing they disagree on. Even if you collect all what they said you will feel as if it came out of one heart, uttered by one tongue . So tell what more evidence you need to know they are on the right guided path!!! [Al-Intesar li ashab al-hadith: Alsan’ani, page 45]

18) Ahl alhadith are not infiatlable , so hey may commit sins and even to fall in the trap of some innovations that ahl alkaam have like alasha’ri, ibn hazm, imam nawawi and ibn hajr who are considered some of leaders of ahl alhadith . Yet they always get back to what is right if they were advised about a matter they were wrong at. Ibn taymiyyah said about Abu Al Hasan al’Ashari: “therefore, he was considered as many like him from ahl alhadith who uses I’lm al-kalam and some philosophy. They were the best of these groups and the closest to Quran and Sunnah. however, due to his general knowledge in Sunnah while his knowledge in I’lm Al-kalam or philosophy was much more detailed, some of the dust of Mu’tazila which was the same case with many who are part of ahlu alsunnah and considered as ahl alhadith i.e. some of the friends malik, ahmad,m sha’fie and abu haniaf “ [dar ta’rod al’aqil ma’ al naql: 7/426].it even happens that some adopt the concept of Irjaa ( faith is only in the heart even if it is not implemented by tongue and actions) but they still considered from ahl alhadith in general as long as they do not believ so out of evil intention and insisting on the wrong. Ibn taymmay said in another place as well: “This type is chosen by some of who adopted the concept of Irjaa like Al-Asha’ari and others who calls for exceptions in Imaan and claim that Imaan does not include actions so they consider exceptions related to intentions only” [ Al-Isteqama 1/150]

19) Ahlalhadith is not one party. On the contrary, you would find them every where, “ amongst them you will find the brave fighters, scholars, Hadith colecters, pious and righteous people and others who join the right and disjoin the wrong, etc… it is not necessarily to find them gathered in one place as you may find them everywhere” [ Sharh Muslim by Imam Nawawi 13/67]

As seen above, these are the features and criteria of ahl al Hadith , and I ask Allah that your forum to be the first who have such criteria and features.

And may Allah exalt the mention of his prophet amongst his angles.

Your brother, A’lawai bin abd alqader Al-Saqqaf

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