The Hadith scholars have the lovely tradition of composing short works comprising about 40 Hadith. Often these are about specific subjects. The most famous and influential such collection is of course by Imam Nawawi, because his 42 ahadith covered the major principles of Islam.
Here is a beautiful work by Imam Isma’il b. Muhammad of ‘Ajlun, Syria, who lived 1087-1162 H, i.e. about 75 lunar years. The Gregorian dates would be 1676-1749, roughly. His teachers included the Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani of Nablus.
‘Ajluni’s most famous work is probably his Kashf al-Khafa’ wa Muzil al-Albas ‘an ma-shtahara min al-Ahadith ‘ala Alsinah al-Nas (“Unveiling the Hidden Truth and Removing the Confusion about the Ahadith that are Widespread upon the Tongues of the People”), in which several hundred popular ahadith are listed in alphabetical order with his comments (of variable length) about the sources (takhrij) and authenticity of each hadith. He confirms that many widely-quoted and popular ahadith are not, in fact, authentic as genuine statements of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Many others are, of course, and still others have slightly different wordings than their popular versions. The Kashf was almost unique and the reference work in its field until the Shaykh al-Albani came along! However, the Kashf is still an extremely valuable resource in addition to Albani’s works. Some readers will remember that I quoted several times from the Kashf, in addition to Albani’s books, when I wrote the Introduction and Appendix to my father’s An Introduction to the Science of Hadith (Al-Quran Society, London, 1990’s – later republished and distributed widely by Darussalam, Riyadh).
One matter mentioned by Imam ‘Ajluni in the Kashf is that, contrary to the popularly-held belief, the head of Imam Husain, the revered grandson of the Prophet peace be upon him, is not buried in Cairo. The site has a major mosque and shrine there currently, known as al-Husainiyyah. Imam Husain was martyred at Karbala’ in Iraq, and in fact there are one or two other shrines in different countries where it is claimed that his head is buried. I was rather bemused by the fact that the esteemed, pioneering and inspirational Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr mentions in his autobiography that, out of all the places he had ever visited, he found his spiritual centre at the alleged burial-place of Imam Husain’s head in Cairo. One can understand its significance if one believes the story to be true, but surely the place cannot be more sacred than Medina and Mecca, whether you’re Sunni or Shia, Sufi or not?
Anyway, back to the current work which collects 40 hadiths from 40 different Hadith collections. (Most of us would probably be hard-pressed to name 10 Hadith collections, let alone 40). The hadith in each case is often the one which opens the relevant book.
The Arabic title of the book is ‘Iqd al-Jawhar al-Thamin fi Arba’in Hadithan min Ahadith Sayyid al-Mursalin (“A Necklace of Precious Jewels: Forty Traditions of the Chief of the Messengers”). It is described as a sanad (chain of narration) for the books of Hadith, so that a student of Hadith would have sanad in 40 books by gaining a sanad for this book. The later Hadith scholar Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, also of Syria, wrote an excellent commentary on the ‘Iqd called al-Fadl al-Mubin (“The Clear Grace”).
The book is available here, only in Arabic, in Word and PDF formats, and would be a lovely one for someone to translate, even a list of the 40 Hadith books and an indication of the relevant hadith in each case, since some of the 40 hadiths are quite long. I’d be very grateful if someone could do this for the sake of God and for the benefit of non-Arabic readers. I’m very grateful to Ibrahim Ali for sending me these files.
Iqd al Jawhar_Ajluni_Mutii al Hafiz_another edn (Word format)
Iqd al Jawhar_Ajluni_Mutii al Hafiz_another edn (PDF format)