The Umayyad era was never regarded by the ulamaâ€™ as an age of well-arranged compilation, as they couldn’t come across comprehensive classified books, But what they found that whatever produced by them was made in non-sorted corpuses bearing no knowledge, but containing hadith, fiqh (jurisprudence), grammar (nahw), linguistics and khabar, beside other fields.
The professor Ahmad al-Iskandari, in his book Ta`rikh adab al-Lughah al-Arabiyyah,480 writes:
The era of Umayyads came to an end with no knowledge being written down except rules of grammar, beside some traditions and speeches of the fuqahaâ€™ among the Sahabah on exegesis (tafsir). It is reported that Khalid ibn Yazid481 compiled books on astronomy and chemistry, and that Mu’awiyah summoned Ubayd ibn Sariyah482 from San’a’, who wrote for him the book al-Muluk wa al-akhbar al-madiyah, beside other books written on the same subjects by Wahb ibn Munabbih, al-Zuhri, and Musa ibn Uqbah.
However all these books could not convince the researchers in history and classification of sciences to regard the era of the Umayyads to be an era of compilation (tasnif), as no comprehensive, classified, or detailed books were compiled during it, but there were only collections written according to the way of reporting and concurrence in narrating them.483
In al-Ihyaâ€™ al-Ghazzali says: Verily the books and compilations are altogether produced recently as none of them was produced throughout the era of the Sahabah and early stage of the Tabi’un, but that was after the year 120 H. That was after the death of all the Companions and most of the Followers, Sa’d ibn al-Musayyab (d.105 H.), al-Hasan (d.110 H.) and the best of Tabi’un, rather the predecessors were averse to books of hadith, and compilation of books, so as not to let attention of people be diverted from the Qur’an, memorizing it, contemplation and remembrance, saying: Memorize as we used to memorize…484
Out of all this we conclude that the first tadwin of hadith was done during the last days of the reign of Umayyads. This task was executed at random from scattered suhuf (papers) that were folded up and circulated without being divided into sections and chapters. This might have been done in accordance with what was taught in the knowledge circles (majalis al-â€™ilm) at that time, as they were not specified for a certain science, but every majlis would include several sciences. ‘Ata’485 says: I have never seen a majlis nobler or more in fiqh or greater in prestige than that of Ibn Abbas, where Qur`an-bearers, grammarians, and poets inquiring him, all proceeding from a spacious valley. Umar ibn Dinar said: I have never seen a majlis more inclusive of every good than his (Ibn Abbas), containing the halal (lawful), haram (unlawful), Qurâ€™an exegesis, Arabic grammar and poetry. And that was the first stage of tadwin of which no book reached us.
480. See p.72
481. It is repoted that Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah has translated books of philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, and wars and others, from the Greek into the Hebrew and from the Hebrew into the Syriac, and also from the Syriac into the Arabic. He was the first man for whom the books were collected, which he kept in a store-house. He died in 85 H.
482. Ubayd ibn Sariyah, and in another narration: Shryah al-Jarhumi, was summoned by Mu’awiyah from Yemen to the Sham (Syria), to inquire him about the conditions of the kings of Arabs and Non-Arabs (Ajam), commanding him to write down what he said with ascribing it to him. And that the beginning of tadwin throughout history (al-Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, Leibziq Edition, p.89). In al-Bukhala’, al-Jahiz says: He was not knowing but the outward of the words, i.e. he was only a narrator.
483. Al-Iskandari, Ta’rikh Adab al-Lughah al-Arabiyyah, p.72.
484. Al-Ihya’, Boulaq Edition 1296, vol. I, p.79.
485. It is reported from Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi al-Zinad, from his father that he said: We used to write down the halal (lawful) and haram (unlawful) and Ibn Shahab used to write whatever he heard (Jami’ bayan al-‘ilm, vol. I, p.73).
Adapted from: “Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah” by: “Mahmud Ali Riyyah”