How Many Authentic Ahadith Exist?
The scholars of Hadith differed over the number of authentic ahadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The strongest opinion is that which Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani reported in the book ‘an-Nukat ‘ala Ibn as-Salah’ (p. 992): “Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin al-Husayn mentioned in his book ‘at-Tamyiz’ that Shu’bah, (Sufyan) ath-Thawri, Yahya bin Sa’id al-Qattan, Ibn al-Mahdi, Ahmad bin Hambal, and others mentioned that all of the hadith narrated directly from the Prophet without repetition number around four thousand four hundred (4,400) hadith. al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab said in ‘Jami’ al-‘Ulum wal-Hikam’ (p. 9): “Abu Dawud said: “I looked at the narrated ahadith, and I found them to be four thousand in number.””
We also know that the reliable scholars of hadith are agreed upon the authenticity of all which has come in the two ‘Sahih’s (of al-Bukhari and Muslim), with a few exceptions. So, if all that is in the two ‘Sahih’s – without repetition – numbers 2,980 ahadith (or if you wish, say 3,000), with the conclusion that the total number of authentic ahadith are 4,400 in number, we can then conclude that the two Shaykhs (al-Bukhari and Muslim) reported roughly three-fourths of all of the authentic ahadith narrated from the Prophet, with around 1,400 authentic ahadith left over that they did not narrate in their books. The vast majority of these remaining ahadith can be found in the collections of at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, etc., as an-Nawawi mentions in his explanation of ‘Sahih Muslim.’
As for the most important ahadith which involve issues of halal and haram, we can say with nearly all of them are in the two ‘Sahih’s, and some of numbered such ahadith to be around five hundred (500). al-Bayhaqi narrated in ‘Manaqib ash-Shafi’i’ (1/915 – with the verification of Ahmad Saqr): “al-Imam ash-Shafi’i was asked about the number of ahadith dealing with the foundations of the rulings found in the Sunnah. So, he said: “Five hundred.” It was then asked of him how many of them were found in the books of al-Imam Malik, so, he replied: “All except for thirty-five.”” And it is known that the majority of ahadith narrated by Malik in his ‘Muwatta” are also narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim in their collections, and because of this, Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id authored a book collecting the ahadith related to rulings from only those found in the ‘Sahih’s of al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Facts and figures:
As we stated earlier, the total number of ahadith in the two ‘Sahih’s – without repetition – number roughly 2,980.
Abu Dawud reported 2,450 ahadith not found in the Sahihayn.
at-Tirmidhi reported 1,350 ahadith not reported by Abu Dawud, and not found in the Sahihayn.
an-Nasa’i reported 2,400 ahadith not reported in the four collections mentioned above.
So, the total number of ahadith reported in the ‘Sunan’ (of Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, and at-Tirmidhi) that are not reported in the two ‘Sahih’s number around 6,200.
So, the five collections mentioned above which attempted to collect the authentic ahadith gathered a total of 9,180 ahadith, most of them being weak.
Ibn Majah collected 600 ahadith not reported in the five collections mentioned above, with approximately 500 of those ahadith being weak.
Malik’s ‘Muwatta” contains 50 ahadith that are not found in the collections mentioned above.
ash-Shawkani’s ‘Nayl al-Awtar’ (which contains mostly ahadith well-known amongst the later scholars of Fiqh, and most of which are found in the ‘Sunan’ of ad-Daraqutni and the ‘Mu’jam’ of at-Tabarani) contains about 500 ahadith not found in the collections mentioned above.
The ‘Musnad’ of Ahmad bin Hambal contains about 1,500 ahadith not found in any of the collections mentioned above.
So, the total number of ahadith contained in all of the well-known collections are 11,830 in number, and – as mentioned earlier – about 4,400 of these are authentic.
And Allah Knows best.