By Ahmed Saad
Let me first make it clear that there is a big difference between recording hadiths and collecting them. Recording hadiths started during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because he himself used to ask his scribes—who numbered about 45—to record hadiths. He dictated some hadiths to them. No doubt the number of such hadiths is smaller than those recorded later by scholars of Hadith.
In the early days of Islam, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said No to the recording so as to avoid any confusion with the Qur’an. However, he allowed it later. As for the activities of collecting hadiths, they may be dated back to the second century after the Hijrah, in the days of the Caliph `Umar ibn `Abdul-Aziz, who commanded the collection process to start after he felt the danger threatening the Sunnah of the Prophet, which is the second primary source of Islam. `Umar ibn `Abdul-Aziz sent to Abu Bakr ibn Hazm saying: “Write down the hadiths of the Prophet because I fear that knowledge will disappear after the death of scholars.”
Upon this command, great efforts started, and the leading figure of all these activities is Imam Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhari (d. AH 124), who collected the hadiths of the Prophet mixed with sayings of Companions. Later, the activities started to take a new turn; they became more professional and accurate.
Writing down and compiling started everywhere. Imam Malik compiled his Muwatta’, which was classified according to the chapters of fiqh. Also, Juraig wrote hadiths down in Makkah. Then the Sahih of Imam Al-Bukhari (AH 194–256) and the Sahih Imam Muslim (b. AH 204) appeared, as well as other authentic books includingSunanof Abu Dawud, Sunan of An-Nasa’i, Sunan of Ibn Majah, and Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
These books were (read. are) very authentic and the most authentic of them are the Sahihs of Al-Bukhari and Muslim.