Hadith of Umar's ban on hadith

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Some recorded oral tradition among Muslims (Arabic: hadith‎) is about Umar the second Caliph of Rashidun Caliphate, who ruled from 634 to 644 CE, and his ban on hadith.

Although the narration is prominently quoted and referred to, it is not given any formal name, in contrast to other hadith such as the Hadith of the pond of Khumm or the Hadith of Qur'an and Sunnah.


Some Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad proclaimed that no hadith were to be recorded to ensure that people would not confuse any hadith with the Qur'an, and that this decision of Muhammad was upheld by his successors (Arabic: caliph‎), including Umar, the second Sunni Caliph. Some claim that during Umar's reign as Caliph, hadith were in fact being recorded.[1][2]

On the other hand, some sources dispute this account, and claim that it was Umar himself who was the first person to ban hadith collection - a view also upheld by Shias. Certainly during his rule Umar strictly followed the policy of banning the hadith [3] and he prohibited reporting [4] and transmission [5] of hadith altogether. Whenever he sent a group to a city, he would prohibit them from narrating hadith. [6]

This ban continued through the caliphate of the khulafa' rashidun into the Umayyad period and did not cease until the period of Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, the fifth Rashidun, who ruled from 717 to 720 CE. [7]

Mainstream Muslim view[edit]

Muslims view this hadith as notable and important on several accounts: several prominent persons are mentioned in the hadith and several controversial issues are dealt with.

Sunni view[edit]

Muhammad Husayn Haykal

Umar ibn al-Khattab once tried to deal with the problem of committing the Hadith to writing. The companions of the Prophet whom he consulted, encouraged him, but he was not quite sure whether he should proceed. One day, moved by God's inspiration, he made up his mind and announced: "I wanted to have the traditions of the Prophet written down, but I fear that the Book of God might be encroached upon. Hence I shall not permit this to happen." He, therefore, changed his mind and instructed the Muslims throughout the provinces: "Whoever has a document bearing a prophetic tradition, shall destroy it." The Hadith, therefore, continued to be transmitted orally and was not collected and written down until the period of al-Mamun.[8]

Dr. Mohammad Hamidullah

Abu-Dhahabi reports: The Caliph Abu-Bakr compiled a work, in which there were 500 traditions of the Prophet, and handed it over to his daughter 'Aishah. The next morning, he took it back from her and destroyed it, saying: "I wrote what I understood; it is possible however that there should be certain things in it which did not correspond textually with what the Prophet had uttered."

As to Umar, we learn on the authority of Ma'mar ibn Rashid, that during his caliphate, Umar once consulted the companions of the Prophet on the subject of codifying the Hadith. Everybody seconded the idea. Yet Umar continued to hesitate and pray to God for a whole month for guidance and enlightenment. Ultimately, he decided not to undertake the task, and said: "Former peoples neglected the Divine Books and concentrated only on the conduct of the prophets; I do not want to set up the possibility of confusion between the Divine Qur’an and the Prophet's Hadith." [9]

Shi'a view[edit]

Ali Asgher Razwy, a 20th century Shi'a Islamic scholar writes:

Muhammad, the Apostle of God, had expressed the wish, on his deathbed, to write his will, and as noted before, Umar had thwarted him by shouting that the Book of God was sufficient for the Muslim umma, and that it did not need any other writing from him.

Umar, it appears, actually believed in what he said, viz., a will or any other writing of the Prophet was redundant since Qur’an had the ultimate answers to all the questions. And if any doubts still lingered in anyone's mind on this point, he removed them when he became khalifa.

Muhammad lived in the hearts of his companions and friends. After his death, they wished to preserve all their recollections of his life. These recollections were of two kinds - his words and his deeds. The two together formed his Sunnah (the trodden path). Anything he said, and was quoted by a companion, is called a hadith or ‘tradition.'

But Umar did not want the companions to preserve any recollection of the words and the deeds of the Prophet. He, apparently, had many reservations regarding the usefulness, to the Muslim umma, of these recollections. He, therefore, forbade the companions to quote the sayings of the Prophet in speech or in writing. In other words, he placed the Hadith of the Prophet under a proscription.[1]


  1. ^ a b Ali Asgher Razwy (1996). "Umar bin al-Khattab, the Second Khalifa of the Muslims". A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims. ISBN 0-9509879-1-3. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Murtaḍá ʻAskarī (1980). A probe into the history of hadith. Islamic Seminary Pakistan. 
  4. ^ Humera T. Ahsanullah. Turning Point. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781477291863. 
  5. ^ Daniel W. Brown (4 Mar 1999). Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780521653947. 
  6. ^ Ali Nasiri. An Introduction to Hadith: History and Sources. MIU Press. ISBN 9781907905087. 
  7. ^ Kate H. Winter (1989). The Woman in the Mountain: Reconstructions of Self and Land by Adirondack Women Writers. SUNY Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781438424255. 
  8. ^ The Life of Muhammad. Cairo. 1935. 
  9. ^ Introduction to Islam. Kuwait. 1977. pp. 34–35. 

See also[edit]