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This article is going to shed light on Isnaad (chain of transmission). Isnaad is one of the great topics in the Science of Hadith. It determines the authenticity of a narration, its wording and its validity. It is also  among the great unique features of this Ummah which differentiate it  from any communities before Islam. Isnaad is regarded by early scholars of Islam as the first stage in relating any aspect of Shariah, even if it is merely relating a word.

By this, Allah  the most Exalted fulfilled His promise of preserving His religion which includes the book of Allah, Sunnah of the beloved of prophet (peace be upon him) and the various Islamic sciences that are necessary and indispensable in understanding the former two.  Allah the Most High says:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“We have without doubt, sent down the Message; and we will assuredly guard it.” (Q15:9) The word “message” here refers to the book of Allah and  the Sunnah of his blessed Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), for whatever he says is from Allah Almighty, as Allah says:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ  إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ

“Nor does he (the Messenger of Allah) say (aught) of (his own) desire * It is no less than inspiration sent down to him.” (Q53: 3-4)

So the promise of preserving this religion(Islam) is not restricted to the Qur’an, rather it encompasses the Sunnah and also the Companion’s (Allah be pleased with them all) understanding of the Sunnah and the understanding of those who took from them.

Isnad is a unique trait of the beloved prophet's Ummah (nation). No other nation can boast of such rigorous analysis of the various aspects of their faith. Early scholars of Islam examined and analysed each and every statement that came to them, whether it was the statement of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) or anyone else. They studied the life and character of those who were part of the transmitting chain (isnad) in the strictest way .

However, the Ummah witnessed an amazing introduction of the “science of studying the reporters of Hadith” (Rijal al-Hadith) which was unprecedented and is unrivalled till today. The recording of the names, dates of birth, dates of demise, qualities and characteristics of thousands and thousands of people is something that only Bukhari  possessed. Books such as, Tahzib al-Kamal by al-Mizzi, Tahzib al-Tahzib by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Mizan al-I’tidal by Dhahabi and Lisan al-Mizan by Ibn Hajar are just some examples of this amazing phenomenon. There are also books that are dedicated to preserving the biographies of the Sahaba, such as Tabqat of Ibn Sa’d, al-Isti’ab by Ibn Abd al-Barr, Usd al-Ghaba by Ibn al-Athir and al-Isaba by Ibn Hajar, in which the biographies of approximately ten thousand companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) have been covered.

Imam Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Isnad is part of religion (deen), and if it was not for Isnad, one would have said whatever one desired. When it is said (to the one who speaks without an Isnad): “Who informed you? He remains silent and bewildered.”  He also stated: “The one who seeks matters of his deen without an Isnad is similar to the one who climbs to the roof without a ladder.”

Sufyan al-Thawri (May Allah have mercy on him) said: “Isnad is the weapon of a believer. When one does not possess a weapon, then with what will he combat?.”

Imam Shafi’i (May Allah have mercy on him) says: “The example of the one who seeks Hadith without an Isnad is of a person who gathers wood in the night. He carries a bundle of sticks not knowing that there is a snake in it.” (that is he gathers and collects all types of narrations, the genuine and spurious, ).

In conclusion, Isnad  is an unrivaled trait with which this Ummah has been blessed. It has always been regarded to be indispensable in teaching and seeking knowledge .  Imam Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him) states: “Isnad is a unique feature of this Ummah and Islam. Then from among the Muslims, it is a speciality of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.”

 

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