Al-Muḥaddith (Arabic: المُحَدِّث), or a scholar of hadiths, is an expert of hadiths, transmitters of hadiths, terminologies of hadiths, reliable and unreliable hadiths, and problems with hadiths. Most muhaddiths wrote large hadith books.
The best-known Shiite muhaddiths include al-Kulayni, al-Shaykh al-Saduq, and al-Shaykh al-Tusi, the authors of the Four Books. Al-'Allama al-Majlisi and al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili were well-known muhaddiths in the Safavid period. In later periods, Mirza Husayn al-Nuri, the author of Mustadrak al-wasa'il and Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi, the author of Safinat al-bihar, came to be known as muhaddiths.
According to al-Mamaqani in his book, Miqbas al-hidaya, muhaddith is a person who knows how to establish the reliability of a hadith, the names of its transmitters, and their righteousness, as well as whether or not something is added to, or eliminated from a hadith. In his commentaries on Miqbas al-hidaya, Muhammad Rida Mamaqani takes a muhaddith to be a person who knows the science of hadith and its terminologies as well as the terms of abstruse hadiths (Gharib al-hadith) and types of hadiths. He quotes Kashshaf istilahat al-funun as suggesting that a muhaddith is characterized by hearing, writing, reciting, and memorizing hadiths, as well as traveling to different places in order to hear hadiths. According to al-Shahid al-Thani, a muhaddith is a person who is engaged with the tradition of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) in a scholarly way.
According to al-Mamaqani, if a person is referred to as a muhaddith in a source of rijal, that would count as a praise, although it does not amount to that person's reliability.
Difference between Muhaddith, Transmitter of Hadiths, and Scholar of Rijal
Al-Mamaqani has compared terms such as "rawi" (transmitter of hadiths), "musnid" (transmitter of hadiths through chains of transmission), "muhaddith", and "hafiz" (memorizer of hadiths) with one another. According to him, a transmitter of hadiths is a person who just transmits a hadith, whether or not he mentions the chain of transmission. the transmitter of hadiths is of a lower ranking than a muhaddith. He makes it explicit that a person is not called a "muhaddith" just by having heard a hadith.
According to authors of diraya books, a scholar of rijal is a person who individually knows transmitters of hadiths and their characteristics and assesses the reliability or unreliability of a transmitter. However, a muhaddith is a person who is an expert on chains of transmission of hadiths and their texts, in addition to knowledge of transmitters of hadiths, and can thus discern the reliability or unreliability of a hadith.
Muhaddith as Akhbari
In some sources, "muhaddith" refers to a person with an Akhbari tendency, in contrast to an usuli rationalist tendency. Such a person relies mostly on hadiths. They are also known as "Ashab al-Hadith" (people of hadith).
The Best-Known Shiite Muhaddiths
Shiite muhaddiths have at least been classified in two ways. First, on the basis of historical periods, and second, on the basis of their schools of hadiths, such as the school of hadith in Qom, the school of hadith in Kufa, and the like.
Authors of the Four Books
The authors of the Four Books are the earliest Shiite muhaddiths whose works are available to us today. They are Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni (d. 329/940-41) the author of al-Kafi, Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Saduq (d. 381/992) the author of Man la yahduruh al-faqih and several other books of hadiths, and Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Tusi (d. 460/1067-68), known as "al-Shaykh al-Tusi", the author of Tahdhib al-ahkam and al-Istibsar. They lived in 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries.
Muhaddiths in the Safavid Period
Muhaddiths in the period of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, in which Akhbarism was dominant, significantly contributed to the growth of the Shiite heritage of hadiths. They compiled several collections of hadiths in this period, including Bihar al-anwar which is the most comprehensive Shiite collection of hadiths. Muhaddiths of this period include Mulla Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani (1091/1680) the author of al-Wafi, al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili (d. 1104/1692-93) the author of Wasa'il al-shi'a, and Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1110/1698-99) the author of Bihar al-anwar.
Recent Shiite Muhaddiths
Well-known Shiite muhaddiths in fourteenth/nineteenth and fifteenth/twentieth centuries are Mirza Husayn al-Nuri (d. 1320/1902-3), known as "al-Muhaddith al-Nuri", the author of Mustadrak al-wasa'il, and Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi (d. 1359/1940), the author of Safinat al-bihar.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from محدث in Farsi WikiShia.