To verify the hadith one have to verify isnad. My question is how to check Isnad? mean to say is there any early book of Islam (Authentic) in which the series of connection between narrator are written? How we know that Imam bukhari's father was taught by Imam malik and Imam Malik & Imam Abu Hanifa was taught by Imam Jaffar us Sadiq? or Hazrat Abu Baker (r.a) or Hazrat Usman (r.a) or Hazrat Abu Hurarah was companion of Prophet Muhammad (P.U.B.H)? Please don't get me wrong I am a Muslim but I am really confused that how the scholar of hadith even now a days can analyze the connection between Isnad? Please clarify with reference to the History books written during the golden era of Islam?
There are 2 steps to this process:
- First get the list of people who reported this Hadith. If you visit websites like http://sunnah.com you can see where the Sanad reported by.
- Second you will go through the books to research such people and understand them.
Here is a list of some books (unfortunately all are in Arabic) that you can read which describes many of the people in the Sanad and their stories. In Arabic they are called the Books of the Men
- تهذيب التهذيب لابن حجر
- الثقات لابن حبان
- الثقات للعجلي
- التاريخ الكبير للبخاري
- الطبقات الكبرى لابن سعد
- ميزان الاعتدال للذهبي
- الجرح و التعديل لابن أبي حاتم
- الضعفاء للعقيلي
- المجروحين لابن حبان
- كتاب الثقات لابن حبان
- تاريخ بغداد
- تاريخ دمشق
- تاريخ أصبهان
And many many more. Once you have each person story and the timeframe, you can confirm the Isnad if you think they are of solid reference. Something like (In Arabic):
As for the books, some are written during the "golden era" and many not. The case is that many of those people lived before such era.
A short intro on the history of hadith sciences
Just as well as the Quran, hadith has been memorized by heart even until today with the whole narrator chain (especially scholars from the region around the city Chinguetti in Mauritania are known for their memorization skills of whole bools). Hadith also has been noted from some sahaba and collected in the era of the khalifa O'mar ibn abd al-Aziz for the 1st time according to some sources.
Even if lots of the first books and collections of ahadith have been lost those who still exist for example Muwatta' al-Imam Malik show us how it has been: imam Malik quotes in most of his narration the chain until the sahabi or the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) this is how these chains have been kept. You should know that al-Muwatta' is a name of a book with different Versions this means many students of imam Malik have written it down in different years and Imam Malik has "purified" his book during that time (work in progress). Therefor now when we speak about al-Muwatta' we normally mean the riwaya (the chain that ends with... or briefly the copy of) Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi al Andalusi (the last student who presented his copy to Imam Malik). But for example in the copy of Imam Mohammed ibn al-Hassan ash-Shaybani محمد بن الحسن الشيباني (who also was a student of abu Hanifa and a mujtahid in the Hanafi madhab) you find as references for his madhab other ahadith and narrations he got from abu Hanifa or other scholars. Therefore i really like this riwaya very much.
The need of verification of narrators and narrator chains:
The need of 'ilm ar-Rijal or 'ilm al-Jarh wa at-Ta'adeel
Imam Malik had -by way of comparision- very sever rules to choose a sheikh from whom he would write down a hadith. You may find some statements of that in his biographies for example he disliked to write ahadith from a scholar who's students were standing while he dictated or quoted the hadith or he only took his ahadith from people he trusted ...
This means from a book of scholar you could tell from whom he got this and knowing him will tell you whether his sheikhs were trustworthy or not. In the 3rd century some people began to pretend being hadith scholars and tried to spread some wrong/fabricated ahadith. For example someone pretended in front of Imam Ahmad أحمد بن حنبل and Yahya ibn Ma'in يحيى ابن معين that he narrated a hadith from them.
On books on 'ilm ar-Rijal
Yahya ibn Ma'in (died 233 a.H.) was one of the first scholars who began to focus on the sanad and wrote one of the first books of "I'lm ar-Rijal" called tarikh ibn Ma'in تاريخ ابن معين this book also has also many different copies (riwayat) for example a riwaya from ibn Muhriz ابن محرز , riwaya from ad-Darimi الدارمي and a riwaya from ad-Duri الدوري. And there's also some paper/book called من كلام أبي زكريا يحيى بن معين في الرجال which quotes some qualifications of ibn Ma'in.
Most hadith scholars especially from the 3rd Hijri century on had some books on hadith narrators and their qualification most of them called them "Tarikh" these kinds of books are more or less short biographies containing a narrator his qualification: good memorizer, trustworthy, weak, fabricator, having flaws, being from among people of bid'ah etc. , his students and teachers in hadith. Beside other necessary information like date of birth and or death and sometimes with statements and qualifications of other scholar of rank on that narrator. Sometimes the book also quotes ahadith some of these books are:
- at-Tarikh al-Kabir of imam al-Bukhari (Imam Muslim also had a book called Tarikh, but it seems to have gotten lost and/or not printed it was mentioned by ibn Nadim and al-Baghdadi and also a book called the names of Men which an-Nawawi quoted and he has a book called the names and kina which was printed and would be a helpful source)
Some of these books are referred to as "The names of Men" (referring to the narrators even if they were of both sexes). Others had specific books on the "surnames etc." of some people "Al-Asma' (the names) and al-Kina ("surnames") others compiled books which specifically list names of untrustworthy, criticised or unknown narrators "Al-Majroheen المجروحين" of ibn Hebban or trustworthy narrators "At-Thiqat الثقات" of ibn Hebban or al-'Ijli. ... among the scholars who compiled on this topic you may find ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, imam a-Dhahabi, al-Mizzi, ibn abi Hatim ابن أبي حاتم the son of abu Hatim ar-Razi, 'Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi etc.
There's an other point: you will rarely find Imam ash-Shafi'i in a narration chain as good hadith collectors like al-Bukhari, Muslim, Imam ash-Shafi'i etc. used to search for a high sanad this means a short narration chain. And as we know Imam ash-Shafi'i died in his 50's, while Imam Malik for example died when he was about 87 years old! This is also why al-Bukhari rarely narrated from Imam Ahmad -in his Sahih- even if he was his teacher and neither al-Bukhari nor Muslim narrated from imam ash-Shafi'i -in their Sahih books-! Imam Ahmad qualified the riwaya of Imam ash-Shafi'i of the Muwatta' as the best one but he didn't use it in his Musnad!
Who taught imam al-Bukhari from Malik
Now just as a correction Imam al-Bukhari has never met Imam Malik as he was born 194 a.H. and Malik died 179 a.H. so he got the ahadith of Malik via Malik's students Abdullah ibn Yusuf at-Tanisi عبد الله بن يوسف التنيسي, Isma'il ibn abi Uways إسماعيل بن أبي أويس, Ishaaq ibn Mohammad al-Farwi إسحاق بن محمد الفَرْوي, Abullah ibn Maslama al-Qa'nabi عبدالله بن مسلمة القعنبي, Abdu Aziz ibn Abdullah al-Uwaysi عبد العزيز بن عبدالله الأويسي, Abu Na'im al-Fadl ibn Dakyn أبو نعيم الفضل بن دكين, Qutayba ibn Sa'ad al-Balkhi قتيبة بن سعيد البلخي, Yahya ibn Abdullah ibn Bukayr يحيى بن عبدالله بن بكير, Yahya ibn Quza'a (Quaz'a?) يحيى بن قزعة, Yahya ibn Yahya an-Naysaburi يحيى بن يحيى النيسابوري and Abu al-Walid at-Tayalisiأبو الوليد الطيالسي. And maybe he compared there versions and put in his sahih the best one!
Modern checking of narrators or isnad
Many Islamic websites that offer hadith databases actually link the narrators of narrator chains, so one may either get a short qualification or even a biography depending on the site on which the hadith was displayed, nevertheless sometimes some narrators are left out sometimes due to the fact that they are unknown in other cases, simply because they have been covered either a hadith later or earlier or due to the fact that they should be well known.
See for example here for the hadith from Sahih Muslim.
where you would be able to check the qualification of the narrators:
Shayban ibn Farroukh شيبان بن فروخ
Jarir ibn Hazim جرير بن حازم
and al-Hassan الحسن in a_Dhahabi's siyar 'alaam an-Nubala'.
For this you might need to be able to read in Arabic, as the search is in Arabic.
There's also the site http://qaalarasulallah.com/ which uses many of the above books and displays the names of the narrators in English too, but uses more or less the same (limited) resources as sunnah.com as many hadith collections have not been translated in English.