Is it permissible to simplify the texts of hadiths without reading the full matn (text of hadith)?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Hadith or sunnah is the second source in the Islamic shariah. Thus, learning the knowledge related to hadiths is a commandment, for without them, we can never truly understand the hadith of the Prophet PBUH properly. Furthermore, the knowledge of mustholah hadith is included as one of the branches of the knowledge of hadith. In the knowledge of mustholah hadith, usually there will be a chapter of ikhtisar al-Hadith or Taqti’ al-Hadith which means narrating or reading some parts from the original hadith’s text.
Coming back to the above question, the majority of scholars state the permissibility of simplifying the narration of hadith on one condition, which is it cannot alter or change the original meaning of the hadith. This is agreed by Dr Sharaf al-Qudhoh in his book al-Minhaj al-Hadith. (See al-Minhaj al-Hadith, 59)
Furthermore, among the examples in simplifying the text of hadith until it is no longer understood or changed the meaning of the hadith is if a person narrates the following hadith:
- From Anas bin Malik RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ، حَتَّى أَكُونَ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ وَالِدِهِ وَوَلَدِهِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ
"None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind."
Sahih al-Bukhari (15)
But he stops at the phrase “اَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ” which means “none of you will have faith” and he does not continue, then he has violated the condition set by scholars in simplifying the narration of hadith for the simplified hadith can no longer be understood.
Among the scholars who have applied the method of simplification in the narration of hadith’s texts is Imam al-Bukhari in his sahih. Imam al-Bukhari simplified hadith’s texts which are originally long to just the parts that he wants to discuss. This method is different from Imam Muslim for in his sahih, Imam Muslim will narrate full texts of the hadiths without any simplification. The method used by Imam al-Bukhari is narrated by al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani himself in his book where he commented on the hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari:
أَنَّ الْبُخَارِيَّ يَذْهَبُ إِلَى جَوَازِ تَقْطِيعِ الْحَدِيثِ إِذَا كَانَ مَا يَفْصِلُهُ مِنْهُ لايتعلق بِمَا قَبْلَهُ وَلَا بِمَا بَعْدَهُ تَعَلُّقًا يُفْضِي إِلَى فَسَادِ الْمَعْنَى
“As for Imam al-Bukhari, he inclined towards the permissibility of simplifying hadiths if the parts omitted has no relations to what precede or followed it of which the relation would harm the meaning of the hadith.” (See Fath al-Bari, 1/84)
To conclude, simplification is permissible in narrating a hadith in the condition that it does not change the original meaning of the hadith and it can be understood. Hopefully, this brief explanation will be of benefit and increase our understanding in the knowledge of hadith. Amin.