1. Lord Of Abydos

    Reading about your personal story, it really struck me that there are a number of extra complexities, considerations and sources of bias one needs to negotiate when studying a living tradition like Islam in the secular academy, compared to fields in the humanities where ‘dead’ traditions are studied, as it were.

    Having studied a first degree in the sciences, I found that students in the humanities have a better grounding in the contextualisation of their field and methodology, and have a greater appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual approach.

  2. DanielHQ

    That’s great and commendable, but now maintain consistency and examine and evaluate each and every other Hadith in the same manner, even if they are not “controversial.” Until then, this work is largely ineffective and appears to be nothing more than pretentious religious apologia.
    Who knows, maybe we’ll be surprised to learn that the non-controversial Hadiths are also controversial after all.

    Additionally, please do us a favor and let the rest of the Muslim Hadith scholars—especially the orthodox scholars— and the millions of Imams in Muslim countries who don’t give a * about academics, and also, the well-known Muslim apologists who are neighbouring you on Twitter, these people are the ones whom the majority of Muslims take their religion from, and only a tiny minority take the academics efforts seriously.

    • J. J. Little

      Apologies for the delay! Regarding your comment:

      – I don’t see any inconsistencies in my approach to Hadith; I think that I approach all hadiths using the same set of methods, etc.

      – I don’t think that I am engaging in apologetics.

      – I am not particularly motivated to spread my approach to Hadith to Muslims. What would be the point? If it is supposed to change social attitudes, for example, then it is precisely my view, alluded to in this article, that such things are really modulated by underlying material conditions (environment, mode of production, class relations, social infrastructure, educational institutions, economic development, etc.). Thus, on my own view, it would be a waste of time to try and convince ‘ulama’ to adopt the isnad-cum-matn analysis, or whatever is being suggested here.

      Thanks for you comment.

      P.S.: The line at the beginning of your original comment was somehow affecting the formatting on the phone view of this page, so I removed that. I hope you don’t mind!

  3. Anonymous

    “Further study—above all, form criticism and a biographical-historical analysis—convinced me that the hadith’s original formulator and disseminator was actually Hišām b. ʿUrwah (d. 146-147/763-765), following his move from Madinah to Kufah in the middle of the 8th Century CE. The ʿĀʾišah hadith served as ammunition for proto-Sunnī sectaries against the Šīʿah who predominated in Kufah at that time: it bolstered her virginal status at marriage, which in turn constituted one of her most distinctive attributes vis-à-vis the Prophet’s other wives, which in turn justified the proto-Sunnī claim that she was the Prophet’s favourite wife—thus, Hišām’s motive. From Hišām this hadith spread—sometimes with altered matns and new isnads—to his contemporaries and students in 8th-Century Iraq, and thence to all corners of the Abbasid Caliphate, before ultimately being inherited and accepted by the proto-Sunnī Hadith critics and canonical collectors in the 9th Century CE.”

    I’m wondering how the hadith would have “spread with altered matns and new isnads” from Hisham without narrators of Hadith that are traditionally considered reliable/truthful by the Hadith experts having to be reclassified as utterly unreliable, indeed fabricators.

    The hadith also has the following isnads:

    1. Ma’mar – Zuhri – ‘Urwah – ‘A’ishah (Sahih Muslim)
    2. Abu Mu’awiyah – A’mash – Ibrahim Nakha’i – Aswad – ‘A’ishah (Musnad Ishaq b Rahwayh, Sahih Muslim, Nasa’i)
    3. Muhammad b Bishr al-‘Abdi – Muhammad b ‘Amr – Abu Salamah+Yahya b ‘Abd al-Rahman – ‘A’ishah (Musnad Ahmad)
    4. Mutarrif b Tarif – Abu Ishaq al-Sabi’i – Abu ‘Ubaydah b ‘Abdullah b Mas’ud – ‘A’ishah (Nasa’i, Tabarani)

    Is it your view that Ma’mar stole the hadith from Hisham and fabricated the chain via Zuhri?
    Abu Mu’awiyah or A’mash stole it from Hisham and fabricated the chain via Ibrahim Nakha’i?
    The same with Muhammad b Bishr al-‘Abdi?
    As well as Mutarrif or Abu Ishaq al-Sabi’i?
    Whereas all of these transmitters have been considered reliable by the traditional Hadith experts?

    Wouldn’t the implication be that traditionally “reliable” Hadith transmitters would fabricate isnads for sectarian purposes?

    Also, is there evidence that Hisham would have fabricated an entire account? At most, he would have heard things from others via his father and not mention the source. Fabricating an entire account would of course make him utterly unreliable.

    • J. J. Little

      Thank you for this comment.

      Some of the relevant tradents might require reclassification if my thesis is accepted, but maybe not as many, or not as much, as you might think. For example, regarding some of the ṯiqāt under consideration: al-ʾAʿmaš, according to some, was a mudallis or even “corrupted” (ʾafsada) the Hadith of Kufah; ʾIsrāʾīl b. Yūnus was regarded by some as “not strong” (laysa bi-al-qawiyy) and even “weak” (ḍaʿīf); Maʿmar was deemed by some to have “erred” (ḡaliṭa) in his transmissions from al-Zuhrī, and to be “muddled” (muḍṭarib) and “full of errors” (kaṯīr al-ʾawhām) in his transmissions from Hišām, and to be a mudallis in general; etc. Still, I agree that acceptance of my research would require at least a bit of a skeptical shift, e.g., maybe prioritising more critical judgements over others.

      On Maʿmar: the version that can be positively traced back to him via an ICMA is garbled and strange, which is consistent with his having acquired it from Hišām indirectly. The dual ascription to al-Zuhrī is totally uncorroborated in an ICMA sense [all the ascriptions to al-Zuhrī are disparate], and further doubtful given the silence of the Madinan sources.

      On al-ʾAʿmaš: yes, based on form criticism and some other factors, I think that he obtained a garbled version of Hišām’s hadith and gave it an alternative local isnad. His ascription to ʾIbrāhīm is uncorroborated and completely absent from any proto-Hanafi sources, which cast even more doubt on it.

      On Muḥammad b. Bišr: based on an ICMA, stemmatics, and a kind of narrative analysis, I argue that his master, Muḥammad b. ʿAmr, combined together several originally-independent reports, one of which he obtained from Hišām.

      On Muṭarrif: based on an ICMA, I argue that his student ʿAbṯar obtained his version from the tradition of al-ʾAʿmaš.

      On ʾAbū ʾIsḥāq: based on an ICMA, I argue that all the ascriptions to him are disparate and were variously borrowed from Hišām or al-ʾAʿmaš and falsely attributed to ʾAbū ʾIsḥāq.

      Finally, on Hišām: I agree that he was not regarded as an outright fabricator per se. So, again, I would have to agree that at least some increase in skepticism, beyond the traditional level, would be warranted by the acceptance of my conclusions. I wouldn’t say “utterly unreliable”, however: there are times when he and al-Zuhrī corroborate each other from ʿUrwah. This is an advantage of the ICMA, in my opinion: we can assess things on a case by case basis, rather than relying on extremely generic and maybe unquantifiable judgements.

      Again, thank you for the comment – I appreciate this level of engagement.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the detailed reply.

        What I meant by “utterly unreliable” is “untrustworthy”.

        If the early “reliable” narrators like A’mash and Hisham would invent isnads and maybe even entire accounts, a consequence would seem that nearly everything based on testimonial evidence can be legitimately dismissed. What is and is not accepted would just be a judgement call on where to draw the line.

        Even if Zuhri corroborated a report of Hisham from Urwah, we could just as well say Zuhri invented it and Hisham stole it from Zuhri or there was some type of collusion between the two. Even if others say the same, say Amr b Dinar via a separate isnad, Amr could have stolen it from Zuhri. And so on.

        If we adopt this degree of skepticism, it would seem testimonial evidence can be dismissed altogether, even from people we would regard as truthful, honest, even God-fearing, some who said they would rather fall from the sky than lie.

        • J. J. Little

          Ah, I think that this is the old “spread of isnads” debate!

          Interestingly, this seems like much more of a problem for the early Hadith critics, who sometimes assert vast sequences or webs of parallel borrowings and false ascriptions without any real or direct evidence (e.g., the kind of thing noted in Juynboll, Muslim tradition, pp. 207 ff., and Melchert, “The Theory and Practice of Hadith Criticism in the Mid-Ninth Century”, pp. 80-81, and which I have found elsewhere).

          I precisely use the ICMA to get around that: when a set of transmissions corroborate each other with a distinctive tradition from a common source (vis-a-vis other iterations of the same material associated with other sources), that is consistent with their having (broadly) accurately retained both the common source’s particular redaction and an accurate memory of its origin with said common source. When you line up all the putative cases of this and measure entailed rates of mutation over time (from CLs to PCLs to extant collections), this also lines up closely with our established chronology on the rise of writing and rigorous transmission, etc., which corroborates the ICMA in general. And, conversely: when ascriptions to a common source are disparate or contradictory, or a given ascription is very similar to a seemingly-unrelated distinctive CL or PCL tradition, that is consistent with borrowing, contamination, false ascription, etc.

          It is simply by applying this analysis consistently that I came to my conclusions: I document in detail all the little textual parallels and signs of borrowing, etc., in my DPhil. In other words, this is not some kind of random skepticism: it is quite principled, following step by step from established background knowledge and specific patterns of evidence.

          (I go over all of this in a lot more detail in my DPhil, but hopefully that makes some sense!)

          But yes, this would basically imply that the category of ṯiqah would have to undergo some revision, to be reconciled with my findings. Although, interestingly, I think that applies more for earlier scholars; for later scholars, I think that the categories are probably much more accurate and applicable. But this may take us down another rabbit hole!

          Anyway, thanks again for commenting!

  4. Alan Paton

    This is a message, not really for posting.

    I have read with great interest Dr Hashmi’s article in New Lines and your article above regarding the Aisha hadith.

    You might be interested in my book “Hadith: What, Why, and When ….”. If you can give me an email I would be very happy to send you a PDF copy. I am not an academic but in writing this book I was pleased to get input from some of the top scholars, including Christopher Melchert.

    The book is self-published on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1980679347

    I would be very interested in seeing a copy of your paper, if that is possible.

    Best regards,

    Alan Paton

    • J. J. Little

      I wasn’t sure how to respond without approving your message. If you want me to delete it, just let me know.

      I would be happy to take a geez at your book at some point. I’ll buy a copy from Amazon when I get the time!

  5. Thank you very much for exposing another lies of hadith books.

    For about 40 years we knew that Bukhari and other hadith books are full of lies and stories. They are the work of the enemies of last prophet Muhammad.

    In my books, Manifesto for Islamic Reform and in the endnotes of the Quran: a Reformist Translation I have been refuting the Sunni and Shia religions and their volumes of hadith fabrications.

    Though my books are available at Amazon, you may download their PDF versions for free at my page at Academia:


    PS: Joshua, I would like to interview you on this research at my YouTube channel. Please contact me via my email.


    • J. J. Little

      Dr. Edip,

      Thank you for commenting.

      I wouldn’t say that these hadiths are the work of the enemies of the Prophet, but I guess I don’t approach this matter theologically. I generally see the false creation of Hadith—at least before 800 CE—as motivated by piety, faulty inference, guesswork, etc., rather than mendacity per se.

      Thank you for mentioning your books. I am very busy atm, but I will try to take a look one day.

      As for an interview, I am not sure how I feel about that sort of thing, and I am very busy atm anyway, so I’ll have to get back to you on that later.

      Thanks again.

  6. Iqbal

    Thanks for your research, I always find the dichotomy between the HCM and traditional hadith scholarship fascinating.

    I’m an exmuslim so I’ve never considered the Aisha debate to be an Islamophobic one. I’m aware there are some on the right that use the debate to further an Islamophobic agenda but given the widespread acceptance of Aisha’s age among contemporary Muslims (in my experience), I’ve never considered the debate itself to be Islamophobic in nature.

    Regardless, I am curious about what your thoughts are on the line of debate about there being justification for child marriage in the Quran. The verse for Quran 64:5 has a brief line indicating that those wives who have not menstruated yet would have an iddah (waiting) period of three months if their husband were to die or divorce them.

    This to me would indicate that at the very least that child marriage did occur in that period and was seen as normal enough to be in the Quran, which (correct me if I’m wrong) is considered a primary source. Polemics can debate on whether this constitutes as a moral failure for the religion as a whole, but I consider that to be a seperate thing. What I am interested in knowing is whether prepubescent child marriage was a thing during that period.

    • J. J. Little

      Thank you for your comment.

      I would certainly agree that the Aishah debate, or dislike of the hadith, is not inherently Islamophobic – I just think it is one of the things that is most exploited by Islamophobes, if that makes sense. (I say ‘exploited’ because I think they usually use it as a pretext, knowingly or unknowingly, as I mention in the article).

      Q. 64:5 is certainly usually interpreted in Tafsir as referring to prepubescent marriages, at least from what I have seen. However, the verse itself is extremely equivocal, so I guess a number of interpretations are possible. I know that Yasmin Amin argues that, contextually in the Quran, it must refer to cases of postpubescent girls who do not menstruate. I am not a Quran specialist, so I haven’t looked into it myself, at least not recently.

      Interestingly, it occurs to me that, even if the Quran was against child marriage, it might still need a stipulation like this as a contingency, to deal with cases where a child was married. The fundamental point of this verse and others like it is to establish paternity of children (i.e., regardless of the lawfulness of the marriage).

      Overall, I think that child marriage in the usual sense (prepubescent marriage) was probably not that common; the general minimum age of marriage in most ancient societies was fourteen or thereabouts, generally following the average age of menarche and the onset of puberty. Even in Islamic reports, it comes across as rare, as Brown noted recently on Twitter.

      Thanks again for your comment!

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