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on 16 August 2014
This is a brilliant book. Jonathan Brown has produced a classic here that belongs on all bookshelves of any serious student of religion or history. Free from bias the book sets out to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the Muslim hadith scriptures including it's collection, transmission and function in legal theory, theology and various Islamic practices including Sufism. The chapter on the authenticity question is particularly well laid and enlightening and shows how far the debate has moved on from the now outdated Western positions of outright skepticism.
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on 30 January 2015
A relatively unbiased clear and concise book about the history and evolution of Hadith criticism in Sunni and Shia Islam.

The author starts by describing how Hadith were collected by early companions of Prophet Muhammad (Sahaba), transmitted over the years and eventually organised into books where Hadiths were listed by chain of transmission (musnad) to ascertain authenticity. Brown presents a peek inside the brain of a traditional Hadith scholar exploring the Ijazah (permission to transmit knowledge) system, isnad (chain of transmission) criticism and matn (textual) criticism.

Brown touches briefly on madhabs (schools of thought or method) and their usul (principles) to dealing with hadith. He gives us a brief history and explanation into the methods of hadith criticism carried out by a wide number of sects - ranging from the rationalist Mutazilite view to the Ahl-al-Hadith and the shades in between. He also touches on 'Aqida (creed) to explain the Ash'ari view hadith criticism in light of creedal issues.

He then proceeds to dedicated chapters to the Shia concept of Imamate and how this has helped shaped the Shia's view of Hadith. He also touches on Sufism and the fight for use of weak hadiths outside legal jurisprudence.

Finally he touches on contemporary hadith criticism carried out by Quranists and what would loosely be described as modernists. He traces the roots of Quranism to movements in Egypt, Pakistan and India. He also draws parallels between their scepticism about hadith to that of the Salafiyya movement.

All in all this is a very balanced book - usually most authors cannot resist pushing their agenda and slating those who do not agree. Brown does exceptionally well to refrain from such behaviour.

Brown presents a fine masterpiece on Hadith not leaving a stone uncovered, this is a fantastic resource for a layman to gain a mature understanding of how and why we are today as Muslims. It is a must for converts like myself who may feel lost in the deep ocean of Islamic scripture.

This book has allowed me to gain a mature understanding of Hadith which has in turn given me a more mature understanding of Islam. It is not the type of book that can be read cover to cover, it must be studied seriously if anyone wants to extract the maximum benefit this text.
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on 13 April 2013
This was a very good read - and an easy read too. A great one-book starting shop on everything you want to know/ need to know about hadith.

I particularly enjoyed his coverage of the last two chapters:

"The Authenticity Question: Western Debates over the Historical Reliability of the Prophetic Traditions" and

"Debates over Prophetic Traditions in the Modern Muslim World".
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on 16 March 2011
This book by Jonathan Brown is great. It is a great introduction into the science of Hadith.

Brown takes into consideration his written audience, and displays a deep knowledge of the subject. I used this book for a course on Islamic Studies, and learnt a lot about the subject.

Well recommended.
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on 16 July 2009
I have not yet finished reading the book...but I am finding it very worthwhile. It is helpful for me as I teach Islamics and I want to help my students understand the Hadith, the oral literature which is quite different than many other types. The book give one the background and origins of Hadith. THen there is the coverage of the writers and various subjects Hadith covers. I am glad to have the book as a useful resource.
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on 20 March 2015
I was quite looking forward to it, as I had no detailed knowledge about hadiths, except for a superficial understanding. Jonathan book provides some useful information but it certainly could have been better.

First of all, I am struggling to understand what is the purpose of the book. Is it an encyclopedia or just a chronological listing of all hadith scholars or just an overview of the hadith's history. We get dozens and dozens of names but it is very difficult to work what is relevant and what is not. I would have been very happy if the good Professor, after explaining all that history would have linked it to the present. So, it would very useful where is the authentic list of hadiths as per different sects, who is safeguarding them and whether there is any evolution still going on or not. Overall, I need to know what is important to understand (which needs greater focus in the book) and what are minor events in history, which can be an appendix for completeness purposes.

Another gripe is that Jon tries to be impartial in listing down the advocates and critics of hadith authenticity but he does not come out openly on the subject. He clearly considers them authentic as he subtly tries to make the argument again and again, but it is difficult to understand where his confidence comes from, considering the numerous issues he himself has documented. In the end, I think for him, it is a question of faith, just as it is for many hundreds of millions of Muslims.
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on 4 March 2011
I haven't read all of it yet but it's a good book and focusses on Hadiths, their collection and their criticism
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on 6 September 2016
Absolutely brilliant, as is everything of his that I have had the good fortune of reading!
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on 29 April 2015
A very profound and interesting look at Hadith study.
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on 23 August 2015
Great book, and introduction to the topic.
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