The Prophet’s (s) Saying about Memorizing Forty Hadiths
The tradition of writing books of forty hadiths, takes root from a famous hadith from the Prophet (s) which encourages the Muslims to memorize (preserve) forty hadiths that they need in their life. The above-mentioned hadith reads, “whoever from my community (Umma) memorizes forty hadiths that they (Muslims) need in their religious issues, Allah will resurrect him as a knowledgeable scholar on the Judgment Day.” However the hadith is narrated by different words and sometimes shorter or longer in hadith collections.
This hadith is very well-received among Shi’a scholars. In Shi’a sources, the connotation of the hadith is accounted as mashhur (famous), mustafid (reported by at least three narrators) and even mutawatir (reported numerously). Although the chain of narrators of this hadith was considered as unreliable in some Sunni sources, they pay attention to this hadith and act according to it, too.
Hadith scholars believe that the word “Hafiza” (Arabic: حَفِظَ, preserve) in this hadith has apparent and hidden denotations. Apparent denotations are: memorizing, writing, transferring, protection from alteration and distortion, teaching, correction and learning hadith. The hidden meanings are: thinking and pondering in hadiths, deducing the rulings (ahkam) and teachings of Islam and acting according to hadiths.
Baha’ al-Din al-‘Amili believed that what “they (Muslims) need in their religious issues” includes both hadiths about theology or the way of worship and hadiths about worldly affairs, such as earning money and overcoming the enemy. Al-‘Allama al-Majlisi, however, said that it does not include hadiths about worldly affairs (mu’amilat) and rulings. Also, it is said that the phrase “God will resurrect him as a knowledgeable scholar on the Day of Judgment” means he will be considered among jurists who are knowledgeable and righteous.