As is known, there are six major books of ahadith used in Sunni jurisprudence. The Shi'a typically don't treat these collections with such esteem, and instead give preferential treatment to four of their own books of ahadith.

I understand that the Shi'a and the Sunni can have very different ideas about who is considered a reliable narrator of any given hadith, which would account for a significant disparity between the two corpora. In addition, there is a general Shi'a rejection of the idea that any book compiled by fallible men can be considered "sahih", which flies directly against Sunni opinions of the books of Bukhari and Muslim.

However, given that any individual hadith would need to be tried for authenticity regardless of the compilation it is in, why then would Shi'a jurisprudence so prefer the Shi'a compilations rather than the Sunni compilations; if my understanding is correct, each and every such volume would still be treated as a mixture of weak and authentic ahadith.

I am passingly familiar with the Sunni method of determining the health of a hadith, typically by analyzing the isnad and judging the reliability of each individual narrator and whether any links in the chain are missing, as well as comparing it against similar ahadith transmitted via alternate routes. If Shi'a jurisprudence uses a similar method for handling ahadith, with the exception that a narrator considered reliable by the Sunni may be rejected by the Shi'a and vice-versa, then I don't understand the need for such disparate collections of ahadith.

Is there a fundamental difference in the collection and analysis of hadith literature which would necessitate entirely different books thereof? If not (or even if so), why is there so little apparent co-mingling of the Shi'a and Sunni ahadith?

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    can you support your question with some evidence from shia scholars about rejecting the six collections (completely)? shia reject considering them completely authentic not rejecting the collection entirely. also shia has different view about personality of writers of Bukhari and Muslim collections. and reliability of writer of a hadith book is different of reliability of narrators of hadith and better to be asked in separate question. this question is very general and needs long answer but InshaAllah I write a summary answer. – Battle of Karbala Sep 19 '12 at 4:07
  • @ahmadi I have rephrased the question a bit; it's not so much about Shi'a outright rejecting any collections as it is about how little apparent overlap there is between the two corpora. – goldPseudo Sep 19 '12 at 4:45
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    Clicked on one of the needles, which increased your reputation by 10^1. Thank you for the well written question. – Noah Sep 19 '12 at 5:40

The short answer is that the difference in the content of hadith, too, stem from the same significant questions of Islamic political doctrine that originally divided the two sects.

For Shia scholars Shia and Sunni hadith has no difference and with the same methods of checking authenticity are checked. If a hadith is known to be authentic, it is used, but if not, it is left, whether it is recorded by Shia or Sunni scholars. Shia scholars do not reject Sunni hadith books completely,but say every individual hadith (from Shia or Sunni) should be investigated for authenticity.

Shia scholars use authentic hadith from Sunni hadith book in their works and books. For example, the hadith from Sahih Muslim and other Sunni hadith books are used in Imam Khomeini books, and the books of many other Shia scholars.

Please note there are different methods of determining the health of a hadith and this makes some conflict in scholars about considering a hadith authentic or not. This conflict exists in Shia scholars. For example, a Shia scholar may consider a hadith and other inauthentic due to different methods of determining the health of a hadith and this may lead to different fatwa an a subject.

The main fundamental difference of Shia and Sunni is conflict in Imamat which is a very big conflict and this conflict makes big different in every aspect of Islam including hadith collections, Madhab, prayers, beliefs and everything else. There are tens of thousands of hadith that accepting them as authentic in fact means accepting Imamat as a pillar of Islam and in a way are related to Imamat. So those kind of hadith are totally censored in main Sunni hadith books but still many of them can be found in many Sunni hadith books.

Sunni scholars are different about recording hadith related to Imamat and it depends on the relation of that scholar to King of his time and pressures of King of times on scholars. In fact Imamat is opposite of Kings. If a Kings accept Imamat in fact is accepting himself is not qualified for governing Islamic society so no King will never accept Imamat (if accept he is not a King anymore) and this causes Kings always controlled scholars and hadith books to do not write anything related to Imamat.

In Shia view a good hadith narrator for Sunni Kings and hadith recorders is who be silent about Imamat and Caliphate and support power of Sunni Caliphs and Kings even if that narrator is from Kharijates. Instead if a narrator oppose Sunni Caliphs and Kings he should not be used as narrator even if he is Imam Ali a.s. or Imam Sadiq a.s. unless their hadith not talking about Caliphate.

After Malik the golden age of hadith started and Sunni collections were written in this age.

This is some of views of Shia scholars regarding 6 main Sunni hadith collections:

1- Sahih Bukhari (year 194-256): the Sunni hadith recorders have had many exaggerations about this book while this book narrates hadith from Kharijates and Nasibi people. But from Imam Sadiq a.s. and next Imams who Bukhari was living at their time even one hadith is not narrated. His ancestors were Zoroastrian and first one of their family who converted to Islam was his 3th father Mughayrah. When Bukhari was child his father died and left a wealth that he used for travels for collecting hadith. Firstly he was respected by scholars of Nishabur but later due to his serious conflicts with Muhammad Ibn Yahya Nishaburi (the Grand Hadith Sheykh of Nishabur) he was forced to immigrate from his city.

2- Sahih Muslim (year 204-261): although this book has advantages that Bukhari book does not have but is in lower rank and popularity.

3- Sahih Abu Dawood: its ahadith are mostly about Sunni Fiqh.

4- Sahih Abu Isa Muhammad Ibn Isa Tarmazi: he was the first one who categories ahadith in 3 category of Sahih, Hasan, Zaif instead of 2 category.

5- Sahih Ahmad Ibn Shoaib Nesai.

The last 4 are called Sunan also because the terms considered for Sahih hadith by first two are not considered in these 4.

6- Sahih Muhammad Ibn Yazid Ibn Abdullan Ibn Majeh Ghazwini: some consider Sunan Darami higher than this book and consider it as 6th Sahih.


  • Salaam, this is a good answer but I'm afraid that your very first statement in particular gives a very misleading implication in that it reads as saying that the political differences are trivial and unrelated to Islam. See just recently this user made this same inaccurate interpretation. – infatuated Jul 1 '15 at 6:21
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    Therefore to clearly signify that the original political differences between Shia and Sunnis (ones you seem to be addressing in your question by explaining the Imamate) largely concern questions of genuine relevance to Islam itself, I'd recommend you replace that statement with this: "The short answer is that the difference in the content of hadith, too, stem from the same significant questions of Islamic political doctrine that originally divided the two sects." – infatuated Jul 1 '15 at 6:25

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