In line with the Prophet’s forbiddance, all the first four Caliphs also STRICTLY PROHIBITED recording of hadiths.
These ‘rightly guided successors of the Prophet’ – the ‘Khulafa-e-Rashideen’ – obviously tried to prevent the creation of secondary authorities next to the Quran.
This approach by them appears to be even more noteworthy once we consider that at that time there were still people living who had directly witnessed the prophet’s acts and sayings.
The total non-existence of any record e.g. of any of the Prophet’s Friday khutbas – which could have been a relatively valuable resource in matters of religion – is an evidence that clearly reveals the general attitude towards hadiths during this period.
1. ABU BAKR
ABU BAKR, the first Caliph, was resolute about this original prohibition of recording of hadiths. His opinion regarding hadiths is reflected by his alleged comment after the death of the Prophet:
“If anyone amongst you used to worship Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but if you used to worship God, then God is Alive and shall never die.”
As there was a growing number of very contradictory narrations about the Prophet among his disciples, Abu Bakr imposed a complete ban on the writing of hadiths. Not only that he burnt his collection of 500 hadiths, and made no distinction between the true and the fabricated hadiths, he delivered this message to the public:
“Do not narrate or transmit any saying from God’s messenger. Tell those who would like you to tell hadiths: Behold! God’s Book is with us, abide by what has been made lawful for you in the Quran and avoid what has been prohibited therein.” (Tazkiratul-Huffaz)
OMAR, the second Caliph, was particularly strict in this regard. His constant dictum to the people was ‘hasbuna kitabullah’ (‘The Quran is sufficient for us’). According to a hadith:
“When Muhammad was sick on his death bed, he asked his companions to bring him pen and paper so that he could write them something for their salvation. When one of his companions rushed out to bring pen and paper, he was stopped by Omar ibn Khattab. Reportedly, Omar told him: “The Prophet has a high fever; he does not know what he is saying. God’s book is sufficient for us!” Everyone in the room accepted what Omar said.” (Bukhari: Jihad 176, Jizya 6, Ilm 49, Marza 17, Magazi 83, Itisam 2; Muslim: Vasiyya 20-22; Ibn Hanbal 1/222, 324, 336, 355)
Omar was quoted as stating that initially he had desired to write down a collection of the Prophet’s sayings, but refrained for fear of the Muslims choosing to abandon the teachings of the Quran in favour of the Hadith:
“I wanted to write the Sun’an, and I remembered a people who were before you, they wrote other books to follow and abandoned the book of God. And I will never, I swear, replace God’s book with anything.” (Jama ul Biyaan)
During Omar’s rule there was a considerable increase in the number of hadiths. He ordered all the pages on which were written the hadiths that were in the hands of the public to be brought to him and then the entire collection to be burnt. He also sent letters to the Prophet’s companions living in other cities, asking them to destroy all the copies of hadiths in their hands.
He said to a team of Qarza bin Ka’ab who were ready for a journey to Iraq:
“You are going to a country where people recite the Quran so much that the voice of the Quran echoes there like busy bees; so do not divert them from the Quran and from their true path by narrating hadiths. Qarza says, after that day, they did not remember narrating any hadith again.” (Jama ul Biyaan)
Omar was infuriated by hadith narrators like Qa’ab and Abu Hurayra, and drew a parallel between the hadiths and the Mishnah that had corrupted Judaism, saying:
“These are like the Mishnah of the Jewish people.”
Omar was so categorical against transmission of hadith that when he saw Abi bin Qa’ab narrating hadiths, he went after him with his big cane (Tazkiratul-Huffaz). Then Abu Huraira – the most prominent hadith narrator, whose negative role in Islam is considered by some as that of St Paul in Christianity – was recorded as having admitted himself his trouble with Omar:
“Abu Hurayra said: We could not utter ‘God’s Messenger spoke thus’, before Omar died.” (Muslim)
“Abu Hurayra said: If I transmitted these hadiths during the lifetime of Omar, he would surely strike me.” (Zahabi, Tazkiratul-Huffaz)
Here are a few other references:
“Omar said: Remember those that went before you, they had books written and abandoned God’s Book. I shall not allow anyone to compare any book with the Quran.”
“Omar said: By God, I shall not let any book cast a shadow on the Quran.”
In matters of hadith Omar had no reservations at all, even for the companions of the Prophet. He reprimanded Abdullah bin Masood, Abu Durda and Abu Zahry for narrating hadiths and kept all three of them under house arrest in Medina as long as he lived.
“Shay’bee said: I remained in the company of Omar for full one year, but never heard any hadith from him.”
OTHMAN, the third Caliph, also did not pay any heed to the Hadith or traditions:
“Once Ali’s son came to Othman with a script of command by the Prophet about zakat. Othman asked to be excused!” (Azhir bin Saleh)
It is reported that Othman threatened Abu Hurayra with exiling him to the Desh Mountains and Kab to the Kyrada Mountains as they continued transmitting hadiths.
ALI, the fourth Caliph, pronounced the following statement in a khutba:
“Those who possess with them pages of hadiths should destroy them. For what causes havoc among people is their abandonment of the book of God and in abiding by the injunctions of the scholars.” (Jama e Biyaan ul Ilm, narrated by Abdullah bin Ye’saar).
Ali – like several other notable sahaba including Omar, Othman and Aisha – accused Abu Huraira of fabricating false hadiths.