A Reading List of English Books in Hadith Studies

Over the past few years, a significant number of friends and students have requested a list of suggested book readings for my various classes on Hadith Studies. Others over the past few years have asked my opinion about certain works or whether they are appropriate for the level of the enquirer. Recently, I was reminded of a promise to compile a short list of works I would consider useful reading material for a student and have thus decided to take out a few minutes to compose this post, keeping in mind the various levels of readers and the need for conciseness.

Beginner Level:

For beginners, I recommend several books that don’t require a heavily critical eye, are relatively brief in size, and are not overly technical in nature. Such books include three which I highly recommend be read cover-to-cover and purchased for one’s personal library.

  1. Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development, and Special Features by M. Zubayr Siddiqi
  2. Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature by M.M. Azami
  3. The Authority of Sunnah by Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Some may suggest Hashim Kamali’s A Textbook of Hadith Studies, but I have found it so riddled with errors as well as with premature, uninformed, and entirely unnecessary calls for reform that unless one is reading very critically I would suggest skipping it. At the same time, one must admit that the organization of topics in his book and general arrangement of material is excellent and deserving of praise.

Another book worth reading but not absolutely essential is Ghassan Abdul Jabbar’s Bukhari (Ghassan Abdul Jabbar is one of several pen names Dr. Iftikhar Zaman uses, I believe).

Intermediate Level:

For slightly advanced readers, I would suggest the following works, some of which need to be read slightly critically and preferably with the opportunity to discuss its contents with an expert:

  1. Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World by Jonathan A.C. Brown
  2. Hadith and Sunnah: Ideals and Realities (14 Selected Essays) 
  3. Studies in Early Hadith Literature by M.M. Azami
  4. An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah
  5. The Garden of the Hadith Scholars by Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dihlawi
  6. The Sunnah and Its Role in Islamic Legislation by Dr. Mustafa al-Siba‘ee

Advanced Level:

My assumption for this level of a reader is that he/she is already quite advanced in the study of the Islamic sciences and has easy access to Arabic works as well as a good background in technical hadith manuals. The following works are useful, then, for reading that will complement a study of advanced Arabic works in Hadith Studies. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, and I even hesitated to include some of the books I did because of their inaccessibility or exorbitant prices.

  1. On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence by M.M. Azami
  2. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Ibn Salah trs. by Eerick Dickenson
  3. The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon by Jonathan A.C. Brown
  4. Constructive Critics, Hadith Literature, and the Articulation of Sunni Islam by Scott C. Lucas
  5. The Evolution of a Hadith: Transmission, Growth, and the Science of Rijal in a Hadith of Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas by Dr. Iftikhar Zaman
  6. Analysing Muslim Traditions: Studies in Legal, Exegetical and Maghazi Hadith by Harald Motzki 

I have not included a list of the more common Orientalist or Reductionist works simply because many of the above texts do a decent job of summarizing their main contentions and providing context for them. I also haven’t included the countless beneficial journal articles that exist out there simply because this list was meant to include books alone. I am fairly certain I have omitted some works which I will later remember or be reminded of, so look out for revisions of this post.

Bilal Ali Ansari

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