Sunday, October 21, 2007

Three Classics on I'rab al-Hadith

Assalamu 'alaykum warahatullahi wabarakatuh

While there are many books that deal with the i'rab (syntactic analysis) of the Qur'an, there are not as many that deal with the i'rab of Hadith. The primary reason for this is the claim that much of what was transmitted from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in terms of sayings was done so on the basis of its meaning rather than its actual form and wording. In other words, preference was given to preserving the overall meaning rather than the actual form and wording of the hadith, such that narrators and transmitters could (and would) supply their own wording as long as the meaning and message of the hadith were kept intact. This also accounts for the often multiple but slightly different narrations of the same hadith. Often you will hear that a particular hadith was narrated by both Bukhari and Muslim but that the wording of the hadith is that of Muslim.

This also raised another very important question - question of which a great deal has been written classically as well as in modern times. This question pertains to the admissibility or inadmissibility of the Hadith as evidence and proof for linguistic rules. In other words, can a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) be used in support of and as evidence for a particular grammatical rule just as the Qur'an and the speech of reliable Arab informants was used in support of and as evidence for grammatical rules? Obviously, if the hadith contained the exact words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then there would have been absolutely no problem since the Prophet himself was an Arab (in addition to being the most eloquent of Arabs) and his speech automatically qualified as evidence and proof. However, this appears not have been the case, and a number of hadith scholars and transmitters that were involved in the transmission of hadith were themselves non-Arabs. One only has to consider their names to know that a great many of them were non-Arab.

So the fact that very few Arabic scholars ascribed any evidentiary value to Hadith in terms of whether or not it could establish a grammatical rule, is the primary cause for Arabic scholars not paying much attention to singling out or targeting Hadith for independent linguistic study. This does not mean that ahadith were not linguistically analysed in the huge hadith commentaries. However, this was more for purpose of establishing and determining the meaning and message of the hadith. In other words, Arabic and Arabic study served as a kind of hermeneutical tool wherewith to decipher and interpret the text. As for independent linguistic studies or autonomous i'rab works on the huge corpus of Hadith literature there exist very little in the form of works dedicated to this genre of Arabic linguistic study. In fact, only three classical works in the category of i'rab al-hadith have been identified, all of them by renowned and famous Arabic grammarians: the first by Abul-Baqa' al-'Ukbari (d. 616 AH - 1219 AD), the second by Muhammad ibn Malik (d. 672 AH - 1273 AD), and the third by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911 AH - 1505 AD). What follows is a brief description of each of these works, insha Allah.

1 comment:

Mansoor Shah said...

As Salamu Alaykum,

Where is the brief description of the three works? At least their names?

JazakAllah Khayr