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"An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith" has always been my favorite book of ahadith; it was the first one I ever bought and remains highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the fundamentals of Islam.

However, one thing about this compilation has always bothered me; despite being entitled "Forty Hadith", my copy obviously contains 42 ahadith.

I had originally thought this may just be a quirk of translation (my copy is translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies), but I have seen the same 42-hadith breakdown used in Sunnah.com's collection; not sure which translator they used, but the translation is clearly different from my own copy.

Having never read the original Arabic compilation, I can't be certain that this isn't yet a translation quirk, but two separate translations with the same clearly-defined numbering scheme casts doubt on that theory.

Presumably, in addition to being one of the most celebrated scholars in Shafi'i jurisprudence, Imam An-nawawi was at least basically competent in counting. Which leaves me scratching my head over the question, why does his famous Forty Hadith have two too many ahadith?

This might seem a silly question, but it's really been driving me nuts for a while.

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2 Answers 2

Abu 'Amr ibn as-Salah first compiled 26 ahadith that he considered to encompass the major components of Islam and that he considered to be from the concise and meaningful sayings (jawami'ul kalim) of the Prophet (saws). He started teaching these ahadith, and when Imam an-Nawawi came after him, he felt there should be more included. He added more ahadith until they became 42, and he named it Nawawi's Forty (Al-Arba'in an-Nawawi). He mentions in the introduction a (weak) hadith about the virtues of collecting 40 hadith but also says that he relies upon stronger traditions as the basis of his work. It has always been 42 hadith, it's just called his "forty."

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali came along later, added 8 ahadith, made it a round 50, and explained them all in his tome "Al-Jami' al-Ulum wa al-Hikam."

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the answer is too easy in the Arabic you can say it is fourth and it thirty nine and say it twenty and it twenty two all write as what you say : Almost forty

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