When we open books “Sahih Al-Bukhari”, “Sahih Muslim” or “Al-Muwatta”, why do we find one or two hadiths narrated by Abu Bakr as-Siddiq? Why are there only a handful of hadiths from Umar ibn al-Khattab?
On the other hand, thousands of hadiths reached us through young companions like Abu Hurayrah, Aisha and Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas.
In fact, if you look at the lives of the top five companion-narrators of Sahih Al-Bukhari, who together narrated almost half the hadiths in the book, you’ll find that all of them started their journey of knowledge very early on in life.
Firstly, the elder companions had many other things to occupy them, such as memorization and preservation of the Quran and preservation and expansion of the Muslim community.
Secondly, the later Hadith scholars didn’t include in the chains the names of the elder companions from whom the younger companions learned the Hadith, because all companions were regarded as trustworthy in narrating Hadith.
Anyway, imagine if these companions had not learned Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or from the elder companions. About half of Bukhari’ Sahih wouldn’t exist.
Some people believe that the youth of our times are doomed as a generation. Because of the environment they’re raised into, we can’t hope much from them. We keep highlighting the problems of the youth – drugs, vandalism, crimes, promiscuity and so on – as if these problems are limited to those under twenty.
It’s true that the young people of today are much more exposed to temptations than fourteen hundred years ago. Sins have become more accessible and socially acceptable. But at the same time, guidance has become more accessible too.
In the last decade of my life, I came across many young faces who took the path of knowledge and came out of the darkness of ignorance, struggling against all odds. But I can think of only a few older people who’ve done the same.
The youth possess some special qualities that become blunted as we age. These qualities, when used correctly, enable young people to think and act in a way that sets them apart, often making them the torchbearers of truth.
We see this in the lives of the companions who joined the struggle of Islam in their youth. Under the Prophet’s training and guidance, each of these young companions went on to become a superhero.
Many of them highly interested in seeking Divine knowledge. After the death of the Prophet, these people became the inheritors of prophetic knowledge, and the huge responsibility of making sure of the propagation of that knowledge till the Day of Judgment fell upon them.
It’s a proof of their success, and the success of later scholars as they handed down the torch of truth from generation to generation, that today we have such easy access to the thousands of hadiths narrated by them.
Aisha bint Abu Bakr
From childhood she had an aptitude for seeking knowledge. She moved into the prophetic household at the age of nine, and enjoyed the Prophet’s companionship for only nine years, i.e. till his death. In these few years, she memorized from the Prophet Muhammad more Hadith than all the women companions combined. The total number of hadiths that reached us from her is 2210.
This shows that she made most of the moments she spent with the Prophet (peace be upon him). And she didn’t just learn knowledge and record events passively. She would ask curious questions. She herself narrated one such incident. The Prophet once said:
(On the Day of Resurrection) any one whose account will be taken will be ruined (i.e. go to Hell).
Aisha asked him:
“O Allah’s Messenger! May Allah make me be sacrificed for you. Doesn’t Allah say: ‘Then as for him who will be given his record in his right hand, he surely will receive an easy reckoning.?’ (84:7-8)”
That is only the presentation of the accounts; but he whose record is questioned, will be ruined. (Bukhari 4939)
She wasn’t just a narrator of Hadith, she was also a faqih (jurist). Masruf is reported to have said:
“I saw the major Companions of the Prophet asking her about the shares of inheritance.” (Laknawi 44)
Hafsa bint ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab
She was twenty years old when the Prophet (peace be upon him) consummated marriage with her. Like Aisha, she too wasn’t afraid or shy to ask questions to the Prophet Muhammad. He once said:
God willing, the people of the Tree would never enter the fire of Hell one amongst those who owed allegiance under that.
“Allah’s Messenger, why not?”
He scolded her. Hafsa clarified her question by reciting a Quranic verse:
“And there is none amongst you but shall have to pass over that (narrow Bridge).”
The Prophet then said:
Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has said: We would rescue those persons who are God-conscious and we would leave the tyrants to their fate there. (Muslim 2496)
Both Aisha and Hafsa knew how to read and write, a rare accomplishment in Arabia at that time even for men. Hafsa moreover memorized the whole Quran. When, during Abu Bakr’s caliphate, the companions decided to compile the Quran, she was the one selected for responsibility of safekeeping the pages.
May Allah be pleased with our Mothers.
In the next article, we will look at some of the male companions who took the path of knowledge early in life.
Laknawi, Rijal: Narrators of the Muwatta al-Imam Muhammad.
Sa’d Yusuf Abu Aziz, Men & Women Around the Messenger