About Sunan Abi Dawud
The Letter of Imam Abu Dawud as-Sijistani to the People of Makkah Describing His Sunan

Narrated by Abul-Husayn ibn Jumay' from Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-‘Aziz al-Hashimi from him:

In the Name of Allah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim
And there is no might or power except by Allah

Shaykh Abul-Fath Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-Baqi ibn Ahmad ibn Sulayman, known as ibnul-Bati, informed us by way of ijazah, if I did not in fact hear it from him, saying: Shaykh Abul-Fadhl Ahmad ibn al-Hasan ibn Khayrun al-Mu'addal reported to us, by way of someone reading to him while I was present listening, it was said to him: You had it read upon Abu ‘Abdillah Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdillah as-Suri al-Hafidh, saying: I heard Abul-Husayn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Jumay' al-Ghassani at Sayda, and he confirmed it, saying: I heard Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-‘Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn al-Fadhl ibn Yahya ibn al-Qasim ibn ‘Awn ibn ‘Abdillah ibn al-Harith ibn Nawfal ibn al-Harith ibn ‘Abdil-Muttalib al-Hashimi at Makkah saying:

I heard Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn al-Ash'ath ibn Ishaq ibn Bashir ibn Shaddad as-Sijistani at al-Basrah, and he was asked about his letter which he wrote to the people of Makkah and other than it, in response to them, so he dictated to us:

Peace be upon you. Indeed, I extol and praise Allah to you, the one whom there is no deity worthy of worship except for Him, and I ask Him to send salah upon Muhammad, His Slave and His Messenger, may Allah send Salah and peace upon him whenever he is mentioned.

As to what proceeds:

May Allah grant us a pardon which is not accompanied by anything displeasing and after which there shall be no punishment. Indeed, you asked me to discuss the hadiths in Kitab as-Sunan, whether they are the most sahih of what I know concerning each topic, and I came upon all of that which you mentioned.

So know that that is the case except if it should have been related from two sahih routes, one of them having a better chain while the narrator of the other is stronger in hifdh, so I occasionally would write that, and I do not see in my book even ten hadiths that are like this.

And I only wrote one or two hadiths concerning each bab, 1 even if there were a number of sahih hadiths concerning that bab, for there would be too many and my intent was to make it (the book) easy to benefit from.

And when I repeated a hadith in any bab from two or three routes, then it is only due to additional speech contained, and perhaps it contains one additional word not in the other hadiths.

And occasionally, I summarized a long hadith for if I were to write it completely, some of those who heard it would not understand the place of fiqh in it, so I summarized it for that reason.

And as for mursal 2 hadiths, then the scholars of the past such as Sufyan ath-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, and al-Awza'i used to use them as a proof until ash-Shafi'i came and criticized them (the mursal hadiths) and Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others followed him in that, may Allah be pleased with them.

So when there is no musnad 3 hadith in opposition to the mursal hadiths and there is no musnad hadith to be found, then the mursal is used as a proof, and it is not like the muttasil 4 in strength.

And Kitab as-Sunan which I have compiled does not contain narrations from a person who is matruk al-hadith . 5 And when there was any munkar 6 hadith in it, I clarified that it was munkar and that there was nothing like it in that bab .

And only a small portion of these are hadiths are to be found in the book of ibn al-Mubarak or the book of Waki', and what is generally in their books is mursal hadiths. And Kitab as-Sunan contains (a good bit) of hadiths from the Muwatta' of Malik ibn Anas and likewise from the works of Hammad ibn Salamah and ‘Abdur-Razzaq. And a third of these books, in my estimation, are not to be found in all of their books – I mean the work of Malik ibn Anas, Hammad ibn Salamah, and ‘Abdur-Razzaq.

And I have authored it depending upon what I have gathered, so if some sunnah is mentioned to you from the Prophet (sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam) which I did not report, then know it is a waahi 7 hadith, except if it should be in my book from another route, for I did not seek to report all the routes for that becomes too much for the student.

And I do not know of anyone who has gathered in a comprehensive manner other than myself. And al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali al-Khallal had gathered of them some nine hundred hadiths and he mentioned that ibn al-Mubarak said that the sunan from the Prophet (sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam) are about nine hundred hadiths so it was said to him, “Abu Yusuf said that they are one thousand and one hundred.” Ibn al-Mubarak said, “Abu Yusuf accepts those defective ones from here and there from the weak hadiths.”

And any hadith in my book that contains a severe weakness, then I have explained it, and from it is that which does not have an authentic isnad . And whatever I did not mention anything about, then it is salih, 8 and some of them (the hadiths) are more sahih than others. And if other than myself had compiled this, I would have said more about it.

And you will not find any sunnah from the Prophet ( sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam) with a salih isnad except that it is in this book, except if it should be some point that is extracted from the hadith, and this hardly ever occurs.

And I do not know of anything after the Qur'an that it is more necessary for the people to learn than this book, and it would not harm a person if he does not write anything of knowledge after writing these books. And when he looks into it and contemplates it and seeks to understand it, he will then know its value. And as for these fiqh issues, the issues of ath-Thawri, Malik, and ash-Shafi'i, then these hadiths are their basis. And I like that a man should write the opinions of the Companions of the Prophet (sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam) along with these books.

And he should also write the likes of the Jami' of Sufyan ath-Thawri, for it is the best of what the people have compiled of Jawami' . 9

And the hadiths that I have placed in Kitab as-Sunan, most of them are mashahir, 10and they are with everyone who has written any hadiths, except that not all the people are able to distinguish between them. And the thing to be boasted about with these hadiths is that they are mashahir, for a gharib hadith is not used as a proof, even if it is from the narration of Malik, Yahya ibn Sa'id, and the thiqat from the Imams of knowledge.

And if a person were to use a gharib hadith as a proof, you would find those who criticize him and do not rely upon the hadith he used as a proof when the hadith is gharib, shadh. 11

As for the mash-hur, muttasil, sahih hadith, then none is able to reject it from you. And Ibrahim an-Nakha'i said, “They used to detest the gharib hadiths.” And Yazid ibn Abi Habib said, “When you hear a hadith, then announce it loudly like you would a lost animal, so either it is recognized, otherwise, leave it.”

And there are some hadiths in my book, as-Sunan, which are not muttasil but are mursal or mudallas, 12 and that is when sahih hadiths are not to be found with most of the People of Hadith that are regarded as muttasil . And this is such as the narrations of al-Hasan from Jabir or al-Hasan from Abu Hurayrah, and the narrations of al-Hakam from Miqsam from ibn ‘Abbas while al-Hakam only heard four hadiths from Miqsam.

As for the narrations of Abu Ishaq from al-Harith from ‘Ali, then Abu Ishaq only heard four hadiths from al-Harith, amongst which there is not a single musnad hadith. As for Kitab as-Sunan, then the hadiths in it that are like this are few. And perhaps al-Harith does not have but a single hadith in Kitab as-Sunan, for I only wrote it belatedly.

And occasionally there was something that established the authenticity of a hadith, so when that was hidden to me, then occasionally I left the hadith off when I did not understand it, and occasionally I wrote it and clarified that. And perhaps I did not come across it, and occasionally I refrain from these types of matters for it is harmful for the common people for all of the deficiencies that were present in hadiths to be revealed to them because the knowledge of the common people falls short of this.

And the number of the books of the sunan is eighteen juz', one juz' of which is marasil. 13 And of the marasil that have been narrated from the Prophet (sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam), there are those that are not authentic, and there is that which is musnad from other than it, and it it muttasil sahih . And perhaps the number of hadiths in my books are four thousand and eight hundred hadiths, and about six hundred hadiths from marasil .

And whoever would like to distinguish between these hadiths along with their wordings, then occasionally a hadith comes from a particular route while the common people have it from the route of the Imams who are well known, except that occasionally he may have sought after a particular wording which has many meanings and from those you know are those who have narrated from all these books.

So occasionally there will come an isnad while it is known from another narration that it is not muttasil, and it will not be clear to the listener except if he knows the hadiths and he has knowledge concerning them so that he would come across the like of that which has been narrated from ibn Jurayj, he said, “I was informed from az-Zuhri,” while al-Barsani narrates it from ibn Jurayj, from az-Zuhri.

So the one who hears would think it is muttasil, and it is not sahih at all, so we only left it off because the asl of the hadith is not muttasil and is not sahih . And it is a ma'lul 14 hadith, and there are many cases like this.

And the one who does not know will say, “He has left a sahih hadith concerning this and brought a ma'lul hadith.”

And I did not gather anything except the ahkam in Kitab as-Sunan, and I did not gather the books of Zuhd, 15Fadha'il al-A'mal, 16 and other than them. So these four thousand and eight hundred are all concerning ahkam. So as for the many sahih hadiths concerning Zuhd, Fada'il, and other than this, I did not report them.

And peace be upon you, and the Mercy of Allah, and His Blessings, and may Allah send salah upon our master Muhammad, the Prophet, and upon his family, and may He grant them complete peace. And Allah is Sufficient for us, and the Best Disposer of Affairs.

1 The term bab is used for chapter as well as for a topic.
2Mursal: A hadith narrated by a Tabi'i (Successor) from the Prophet (ﷺ) directly without mention of a Sahabi (Companion).
3 With a connected isnad, chain of narration.
4 Muttasil means connected.
5 Abandoned in hadith. This is said concerning a narrator whose narrations are not used even to strenghten other narrations or as witnesses for other narrations.
6 Literally, munkar means rejected or objectionable. Here, Imam Abu Dawud means by it one which is clearly a mistake.
7 Extremely weak.
8 Some scholars have understood this statement to mean that anything he does not comment on is to be regarded as being at least hasan . More likely, however, he means that there is not some severe weakness in the hadith rendering it unusable. So a hadith that he did not comment on could still be weak.
9 Plural of Jami`.
10 Plural of mash-hur, meaning famous.
11 Both words mean strange. They are used for very particular meanings in Mustalah al-Hadith by later scholars. However, it is clear that Abu Dawud did not use them with those meanings.
12 Containing Tadlis .The most common form of Tadlis is to say ( ‘An ) “From” or ( Qala ) “He said” or something similar to that giving the impression that one heard it directly from that person while not having done so. For this reason, the scholars do not except the report of the Mudallis, one who commits tadlis, except when he is explicit in indicating that he heard the hadith directly from the one he is narrating from.
13 Plural of mursal.
14 Deficient
15 Asceticism
16 The Virtues of Deeds

Translated by Abu Bakr Salmaan ibn Nasir