Modern scholarship has accepted the ‘backgrowth of isnāds’ in the early
ḥadīth tradition, but this phenomenon did not occur without controversy
among classical Muslim scholars. Ḥadīth critics were aware that material
was being pushed back to the Prophet, a phenomenon they approached
through the lens of ziyāda (addition). By examining works devoted to criticizing
ḥadīth narrations (`ilal) from the 3rd/9th to the 8th/14th centuries,
we will see that the original non-Prophetic versions of many ḥadīth survived
alongside their Prophetic counterparts well into the 5th/11th
century. More importantly, certain ḥadīth scholars from the 3rd/9th to the
7th/13th centuries believed that Prophetic reports in the canonical ḥadīth
collections were actually statements of other early Muslims. The position
of these critics, however, was marginalized in the 5th/11th century, when
mainstream Sunni jurists chose to accept the Prophetic versions categorically.
Although the jurists’ position became dominant in Sunni Islam,
criticism of the backgrowth of isnāds has continued in the work of select
ḥadīth scholars until today.