However, Modern European scholarship rejects this idea, and considers that for much of the Umayyad period the discussions about law were based on the "living tradition" or consensus of each local school- Medina, Kuf, etc. Only later, perhaps towards the end of the Umayyad period, did one school begin to argue that its teaching on some legal point was superior to that of its rivals because it was based on a Tradition from the Prophet. It was still later, about 800, through the work of the jurist Ash Shafi that it became the standard practice to justify all legal principles by Traditions. After this, as Muslim scholars themselves recognized, there was much forging of Traditions. Often, the chain of transmitters, if not exactly forged was at best a conjectural reconstruction. The Muslim scholars devised a critique of Traditions to separate the false from the genuine. But they accepted as "sound" many that European scholars consider forged. They were really interested in the soundness of the practical consequences of the Traditions and not in their historical objectivity in the modern sense. This means that the standard idea of groups of pious men from the earliest times carefully handing on Traditions with their transmitter-chains is fanciful. Pious men certainly met and talked, and among other things they may have handed on a few stories about Muhammad, though probably without mentioning the chain of transmitters in full. But they also talked about many other things, and often discussed legal questions purely on the basis of what they conceived to be right and fitting or deducible from Quranic principles. It was only after 800 that it became normal to give a complete chain of transmitters.
It is from the year 750 that it seems justified to speak of Traditionists and a Traditionist movement. Before 750 it is probably more correct to speak of the 'general religious movement'. Within this general religious movement with its legal, ascetical and dogmatic aspects there developed a tendency to make use of reason, especially in legal questions. This was found in all the ancient schools, but it came to be particularly associated with Abu Hanifa and his followers in Iraq. It was in reaction to this tendency that the Traditionist movement grew up, since many men felt that a Tradition from the Prophet was a sounder basis for action in legal matters than a combination of reasoning and personal opinion or discretion.
The formation of the canon of 'sound' Tradition is an indication of the growing strength of the Traditionist movement. The Traditionists were first and foremost men who specialized in the collection and transmission of Traditions, and more and more the study of Tradition became one of the academic disciplines which became an ancillary to the study of jurisprudence, having among its practitioners' men of many different shades of opinion.
In the formative period before 850, however, the Traditionists were not so much specialists in Tradition as persons with a particular doctrinal standpoint. In the general religious movement of Umayyad times, out of which the Traditionist movement grew, many different opinions had been held. There had been upholders of the freedom of the human will and upholders of the doctrine of Murjism (that a grave sinner still belongs to the community), and a few among the Traditionists sympathized with these views. Gradually, however, the Traditionist movement settled down to a rejection of the extreme doctrines of free will and of Murjism and to the formulation of the great dogmas of Sunnism. There were also men of Shiite sympathies among the Traditionists at first. However, in the ninth century, the Shiite belief that Ali had been designated by Muhammad as Imam after himself forced them to regard most of the Companions as unreliable transmitters and to form their own corpus of Tradition, which often included one of the Shiite Imams in the authority-chain.
Thus the Traditionist movement not only led to the emergence and consolidation of the canon of 'sound' Tradition, but it also played a major role in laying down the broad lines of the Sunni Sect of Islam.
(Last Updated on : 28-02-2011)
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