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The Muslim World Book Review, 31:3, 2011

Islamic Thought and Sources


ANALYSINg MUSLIM TRAdITIoNS: STUdIES IN LEgAL, EXEgETICAL ANd MAgHAZI HAdITH. By Harald Motzki, Nicolet Boekhoff, Van Der Voort and Sean W. Anthony. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2010. Pp. 477. ISBN: 9780004180499. Classical orientalist studies of Hadith generally fell under the studies of the origins of Islam. Hence, the primary focus of these studies was to prove the origins and provenance of Hadith. With the absence of any sources contemporary to the Prophet, Western scholars attitude towards the corpus of Hadith was sceptical. For them, in contrast to the Muslim view of Hadith, every hadith was deemed to be a forgery until it can be proven otherwise. Scholars discarded the Muslim approach to Hadith verification as being too formalistic and based only on external criteria (isnad). Hence, they devised their own methodologies for verifying the authenticity and origins of Hadith. Harald Motzki suggested that it is not prudent to wholly do away with the chain of narrators as a careful study of these chains can tell us a lot about the provenance of a hadith. Rather, the chain of narrators should be studied in tandem with the text of a hadith, which Motzki calls the isnad-cum-matn approach. The book under review is a collection of articles written by Motzki over the last three decades. The last two articles in the book were written by the other two co-authors. In its preface, Motzki discusses the contents of the book and the processes through which the articles went through before being made available in English. This book has many merits; firstly, all of Motzkis articles found in this book are here presented in English for the first time. Secondly, all the articles in the collection employ the isnad-cum-matn approach first formulated by Motzki in his study of the Musannaf of [Abd al-Razzaq al-San[ani (d. 211/826). Additionally, most of the articles are responses to other scholars who were/are also engaged in the study of the origins of Hadith: chapters 1 and 6, Schacht; chapter 2, Juynboll; chapters 3 and 4, Irene Schnider and chapter 5, Herbert Berg. Chapter 1 functions as a methodological introduction to the book, while the rest of the chapters are an application of the method. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 take the application of the isnad-cum-matn method out of the legal domain to other disciplines such as tafsir and maghazi. They show that the isnad-cummatn approach can easily be extended to other disciplines and yield similar results unlike Schachts method which yielded erroneous results when taken outside the legal traditions, as Cook has shown. The author of chapter 6 has

The Muslim World Book Review, 31:3, 2011

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done the readers a great service by providing the Arabic script whilst comparing different versions of a hadith, as it is a daunting task to follow slight orthographical changes whilst reading the transliteration. The author of chapter 7 has a wonderful introduction to historiography in general in the introduction to his article. For this reviewer, the most original and interesting contribution in this book is chapter 2. Over the years, G.H.A. Juynboll had developed, expanded and polished Schachts common-link theory to the extent that, for him, it has become the only worthy methodology (Usul al-Hadith) for studying Hadith. Juynboll used this methodology to study the six canonical Hadith collections. However elaborate the theory is, in this chapter, Motzki proves that it nevertheless suffers from many methodological and epistemological flaws. This is the most rigorous critique of Juynbolls common-link theory and a must read for the serious students of Hadith. Motzki shows that in order for the common-link theory to work, every strand of the chain of narrators for a particular hadith text needs to be scrutinised. Without doing so, the common-link theory will not yield accurate results. He proves that Juynbolls over reliance on the chains of narrators found in al-Mizzis (d. 742/1341) Tuhfat al-Ashraf (which is only restricted to collecting the chains of narrators found in the six canonical collections and a few other books) is what led Juynboll to making erroneous conclusions such as denying the historical existence of Nafi[, the client of Ibn [Umar (d. 117/735). In the absence of any early writings, the orientalists try to make an objective and honest attempt to understand what really happened in the early period of Islam. However, the problem that Muslims have with the orientalists in general is that some of them hold on to their methods religiously even when their approach has been proven to be wrong. Motzki has obviated all of Juynbolls arguments and yet Juynboll makes no attempt to modify his theory as can be seen in his latest work The Encyclopaedia of Canonical Collections. Motzkis works are highly valued amongst Muslim circles as it comes close to the findings of their own scholarship. However, accepting or rejecting Motzkis thesis will depend on how much reliance one is willing to place on the chain of narrators. At a cost of 149.15 the book under review is not an average coffee table book nor is it an easy read. However, if one can patiently wade through the welter of names and dates, the results are rewarding. Finally, few orthographical mistakes do not detract from the excellent scholarship displayed in the book: Annahu sami[ituhu yaqul (p.3) should read annahu sami[ahu yaqul; first quarter second century (p.10) should read first quarter of the second century, any of theses types (p.23) should be these types. Cardiff University, Wales M. Mansur Ali