Orientalists, Christians Missionaries and Hadith rejecting cultists often argue that Hadith compilation started in the 3rd century After Hijrah. This can be anything but certainly not the truth.
In the following lines I give some evidences for Hadith compilations by different companions of the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him, and their pupils.
Please note in this particular paper I am not going to discuss compilations made on the directives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him. Insha’Allah a separate paper will soon come out on it. For now let us consider the manuscripts and compilations made by companions themselves or their immediate students.
1- Abdullah bin ‘Amr’s Manuscript:
A well known companion of the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him, named ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As (d. 63 A.H.) had prepared a manuscript with narrations he directly listened from the Prophet. The manuscript is famous by the name, ‘Sahifa al-Sadiqah’
Mujahid said: I saw a manuscript with Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As so I asked about it. He said: “This is al-Sadiqa and in it is what I listened to from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, in it (means narrations therein) there is no step between myself and the Prophet.” (Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat al-Kubra Darul Sader ed. 2/373)
Abu Rashid al-Hurani said: I went to ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As and I said to him: “Narrate to me what you listened from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him.” He handed me over a manuscript and said: “This is what I wrote from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him …” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 6851. Shaykh Shu’aib Arnaut authenticated it)
This was later passed on to his great grandson ‘Amr bin Shu’aib (d. 118 A.H.)
Although the book is not extant today, perhaps still we can find out the narrations in it.
Hafiz Ibn Hajr has quoted that Yahya bin Ma’in said: “When ‘Amr bin Shu’aib narrates from his grandfather through his father it is from (that) book.” (Tahzib al-Tahzib 8/49)
With a computer program I searched for this chain in just 20 well known Hadith compilations and found nearly 850 results.
2- Manuscript of ‘Ali:
Sayyidina ‘Ali (d. 40 A.H.), may Allah be pleased with him, also had a manuscript of Hadith with him.
‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “We have not written anything from the Prophet except the Qur’an and what is in this manuscript …” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3179)
Various narrations throw light on the contents of this manuscript. It had injunctions on, “Blood-money, Qasas, releasing of captives.” (cf. Bukhari, Hadith 111), “Sanctity of Madina” (cf. Bukhari, Hadith 3179) etc. And ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, used to keep it tied with the scabbard of his sword (cf. Sahih Muslim)
3- Compilations of narrations of Abu Huraira:
Al-Hassan bin ‘Amr said: I mentioned a Hadith to Abu Huraira which he did not acknowledge. I said, “Verily I have listened to it from you.” He said, “If you got it from me then it must be written with me.” He held my hand and took me to his home and we saw many books of Hadith of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, then we found the Hadith. So he said, “Indeed I told you if I narrated it to you then it is written with me.” (Jami’ Bayan al-‘ilm, Hadith 422)
One may say this Hadith contradicts the narration from Sahih Bukhari in which Abu Huraira himself said that he did not write the Ahadith. But this is not a problem for it appears Abu Huraira did not record the Ahadith in written form during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him, and initial years of Khilafa but later he started writing them.
As per the narration recorded by Ibn Sa’d, Abdul ‘Aziz bin Marwan (d. 80 A.H.), the father of ‘Umar bin Abdul Aziz, wrote to Kathir bin Murrah al-Hadharmi:
“At Hims you have met seventy of the companions of Messenger of Allah who fought at Badr … Write to me what you have heard of the Ahadith of the Messenger of Allah from his companions, except those of Abu Huraira for they are with us.” (Tabaqat al-Kubra 7/448 Entry: Kathir bin Murrah)
This proves Abdul Aziz bin Marwan had the Ahadith of Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, in written form with him. And it further proves that efforts were being made to put the Ahadith in writing during the time of the companions for certainly many companions lived even after 80 A.H. when Abdul Aziz died. Isn’t it much before the third century After Hijrah?
4- Manuscript of Anas bin Malik:
Anas bin Malik (d. 92 A.H.) had his own manuscript of Hadith which he copied from the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him:
Ma’bad bin Hilal says: When many of us were with Anas bin Malik he came to us with a manuscript saying, “I heard this from the Prophet, may Allah bless him, and so I wrote it and presented it unto him.” (Mustadrak al-Hakim, Hadith 6452)
This shows companions started making private Hadith collections right during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him.
5- Books of Ibn ‘Abbas:
Another well known companion Ibn ‘Abbas (d. 68 A.H.), may Allah be pleased with him, had multiple treatises:
Musa bin ‘Uqbah said: “Karib bin Abi Muslim put in front of us a camel load or equal to a camel load of books of Ibn ‘Abbas.” (Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat al-Kubra 5/293)
6- Manuscript of ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud:
Another great companion, Abdullah bin Mas’ud (d. 32 A.H.), may Allah be pleased with him, also had his own manuscript.
M’an said: ‘Abdul Rahman bin ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud came to me with a book and swore, “Verily my father wrote it with his own hand.” (Jami’ Bayan al-‘Ilm wa Fadhlihi, Hadith 399)
7- Manuscript of Samurah bin Jundub:
Another famous companion, Samurah bin Jundub (d. 58 A.H.), may Allah be pleased with him, also had his collection of Hadith:
Ibn Hajr writes:
“Suleman bin Samurah bin Jundub transmitted a large manuscript from his father.” (Tahzib al-Tahzib 4/198)
8- Manuscript of Jabir bin Abdullah:
Jabir bin Abdullah (d. circa 70 A.H.) is also reported to have made a manuscript of Hadith with narrations on Hajj.
Consider the following narration from one of his top students.
“Mujahid narrated from the manuscript of Jabir.” (Tabaqat al-Kubra 5/467)
9- Compilation of Bashir bin Nahik:
A student of Abu Huraira, Bashir bin Nahik also compiled the Ahadith he learnt from Abu Huraira:
Bashir bin Nahik said: I used to write whatever I learnt from Abu Huraira. Then as I intended to part from him I came to him with the book and read it to him and asked, “This is what I heard from you?” Abu Huraira said, “Yes.” (Sunan Darmi, Hadith 494. Shaykh Hussain Salim Asad graded the report as Sahih)
10- Mauscript of Hammam bin Munabbih:
Another student of Abu Huraira, Hammam bin Munabbih (d. 132 A.H.) made a collection of the Ahadith he learnt from Abu Huraira. All praise be to Allah, it is extant to this day. Dr. Hamiddulah, an erudite scholar of recent times, found two manuscripts of it in Berlin and Damascus and published it. It has 138 Ahadith. Imam Ahmad has quoted all these narrations in his Musnad. Sometimes back I made a little research on the first 20 narrations of this manuscript and compared them with Musnad Ahmad. My findings are given Here.
All these facts refutes the lie about Hadith writing being a phenomenon originating more than 200 years after the Holy Prophet, may Allah bless him.
May Allah guide all to true Islam!
Indeed Allah knows the best!