Sunan Ibn Mājah is a collection of hadīth compiled by Imām Muḥammad bin Yazīd Ibn Mājah al-Qazvīnī (raḥimahullāh). It is widely considered to be the sixth of the six canonical collection of Ḥadīth (Kutub as-Sittah) of the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. It consists of 4340 aḥādīth in 37 books.
Abū `Abdullāh Muḥammad bin Yazīd bin `Abdullāh ar-Rab`ī al- Qazvīnī, famously known as Ibn Mājah, was born in 209 AH to a non-Arab tribe by the name of Rab`i in Qazvin (Iran). Various explanations have been given for his nickname, Ibn Mājah, the more prominent being that Mājah was his mother. Some scholars believe that Mājah was the nickname of his father.
Travels to learn Hadith
Ibn Mājah spent his early years studying Ḥadīth in his hometown of Qazvin, which had by then become a major center of hadith sciences. In 230 AH, at the age of 21 or 22, he travelled to various countries to seek more knowledge. He travelled to Khurasan, Iraq, Hijaz, Egypt and Sham to attend the gatherings of hadīth scholars. He also studied under scholars in Makkah and Madinah, and later travelled to Baghdad, which, according to Imām adh-Dhahabī was the home of chains of narration and memorization the (Dār al isnād al `āli wal ḥifẓ), the seat of the caliphate and knowledge. He never gave up on his quest for knowledge and continued his travels to Damascus, Homs, Egypt, Isfahan, Ashkelon, and Nishapur and became a pupil of the major scholars of ḥadīth of those times.
Imām Ibn Mājah studied under some of the eminent teachers in Makkah, Madinah, and Qazvin. In Madinah, he studied under Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Muṣ`ab az-Zubairi, Aḥmad bin Abi Bakr al-`Awfi, and Ḥāfiẓ Ibrāhim bin al-Mundhir. His teachers in Makkah were Ḥāfiẓ Jalwāni, Abū Muḥammad Ḥasan bin `Ali al-Khilāl, Ḥāfiẓ Zubair bin Bakkār, the judge of Makkah, and Ḥāfiẓ Salamah bin Shabib. Prominent among his teachers in Qazvin are `Amr bin Rāfi` al-Bajali, Ismā`īl bin Tawbah, and Muḥammad bin Abū Khālid al-Qazvīnī. He also studied under other renowned teachers like Jubārah bin Mughallis, Abū Bakr bin Abi Shaibah, Nasr bin `Ali Nishapuri, Abū Bakr bin Khallād al-Bāhilī, Muḥammad bin Bashshār, Abūl-Ḥasan `Ali bin Muḥammad Tanāfisī, and `Ali bin Mundhir.
His rank among scholars
Imām Ibn Mājah was a great Ḥadīth scholar, interpreter of the Qur’ān, and historian, whose rank has been acknowledged by various scholars of different ages. Imām adh-Dhahabī says, “Imām Ibn Mājah remembered aḥādīth by heart. He was a critic in the field of Ḥadīth Sciences, truthful, upright and a man of wide learning.” In Tadhkiratul-Ḥuffāẓ he writes, “He was a great memorizer of aḥādīth and a Ḥadīth scholar and Qur’ān exeget of Qazvin.” Abū Ya`la al-Khalīlī said, “He was very trustworthy and an authority; and had a deep knowledge of the hadīth sciences.” `Allāmah Sindī said, “Among the Imāms of hadīth he had a high rank and was pious and a trustworthy scholar by consensus.”
Upon completing his education, Imām Ibn Mājah dedicated the later years of his life to writing and left behind three great works: as-Sunan, at-Tafsīr, and at-Tārīkh. As-Sunan is a prominent collection of ḥadīth ranked sixth among the six sound books of hadīth. At-Tafsīr is a commentary on the Qur’ān in which Imām Ibn Mājah collected aḥādīth and comments of the companions and Tabi`īn supported with chains of narrations. At-Tārīkh is a great book of history and a manifestation of his knowledge and scholarship. The last two books, praised by scholars such as Ibn Kathīr, no longer exist.
Imām Abū `Abdullāh Muḥammad Ibn Mājah Al-Qazvīnī died on Monday, 22 Ramadan, in the year 273 AH at the age of 64. The poet, Muḥammad bin Aswad al-Qazvīnī eulogized, “The loss of Ibn Mājah weakened the column of the throne of knowledge and shook up its pillars.”
The Sunan of Ibn Mājah is a collection of aḥādīth mostly arranged according to Fiqh chapters, but also includes other topics such as ‘Aqīdah, interpretation of dreams, tribulations, and asceticism. Sunan Ibn Mājah is considered one of the greatest works of Ḥadīth. When Imām Abū Zur`ah ar-Rāzī, a Ḥadīth authority of his time was shown this work, he remarked, “If this book reached the public, all or most of the existing Jāmi` would cease to be used.” These words were proven true later when Sunan Ibn Mājah eclipsed several of the Jawāmi`, Musnad and Sunan of those times.
Sunan Ibn Mājah contains 37 books, 1560 chapters and 4341 aḥādīth. It includes 1339 additional aḥādīth, known as Zawā’id of Sunan Ibn Mājah which are not found in the other five major books of Ḥadīth. According to Fuwad `Abdul Bāqi, of the 1339 additional aḥādīth contained therein, 428 aḥādīth are Ṣaḥīḥ, 199 are Hasan, 613 Ḍa`īf, and 99 are Munkar (denounced) and Mauḍū` (fabricated). Sheikh Nāṣiruddīn al-Albānī, in his book Ṣaḥīḥ wa Ḍa`īf Sunan Ibn Mājah counted 948 Ḍa`īf aḥādīth.
Ibn Mājah did not write an introduction to his book, so the conditions for the aḥādīth in his collection are not explicit. However, there are indications that he was concerned with collecting as many aḥādīth as possible on Fiqh issues. Sunan Ibn Mājah contains a larger number of aḥādīth than any of the other five books without repetition. It also includes a greater number of weak aḥādīth than the other five. Ibn Mājah was enthusiastic about finding evidences for Fiqh issues. His purpose may have been to collect as many aḥādīth, and find the chain of narrations for the aḥādīth that were the basis of rulings on Fiqh issues of the time, regardless of their authenticity or chain of narrators.
Certain qualities of Sunan Ibn Mājah set it apart from the other books of Ḥadīth and made it popular among scholars of all times:
- It is written in an excellent style; the chapter titles are in harmony with the ḥadīth listed and follow the same order as books of Islamic Jurisprudence.
- The chapters are well-ordered and well-arranged, with no repetition of aḥādīth (a quality lacking in other Ḥadīth books).
- It is brief but comprehensive with respect to legal rulings.
- On several occasions, Ibn Mājah identified aḥādīth that are Gharīb (unfamiliar). Imām at-Tirmidhī had done this earlier, but Ibn Mājah’s classification in some special chapters are unique.
- Ibn Mājah gives the name of the town the narrator of a ḥadīth belonged to.
- He added 482 new Ṣaḥīḥ aḥādīth that are not in the other five books of Ḥadīth.
- Sunan Ibn Mājah includes 3002 aḥādīth that are common with the other five books, but Ibn Mājah narrated them with different channels of narration. The multiplicity of channels strengthen these aḥādīth. This distinguishing quality is unique to Ibn Mājah and is not found in any other book of Ḥadīth.
- It contains 1339 aḥādīth that are not found in any of the other five books. These additions, also known as Zawā’id have elevated Sunan Ibn Mājah to the position of the “sixth of the Six”.