When the Companions were commanded to commit the hadith to writing, they did not respond to that order but only when being under coercion, as they were finding problem in writing it, after the sunnah (conduct) of the earlier Companions was based upon not writing the hadith. Mu’ammar reported on the authority of al-Zuhri as saying: “We loathed the writing of knowledge, until the emirs compelled us to write it.477 Later on we realized that no one from among the Muslims should be prevented from it.478
Al-Zuhri further says: The kings asked me to write down knowledge (ilm, i.e. hadith) for them. After writing for them for some time, I felt ashamed before God; (I asked myself): Why was it that I was prepared to write for kings but not for others.479
That was due to the fact that concern of Muslims, in the first days of Islam, was mainly concentrated on writing down of the Quran, while in regard of hadith they used to propagate it through riwayah (narration) relying upon their memory as a source for this.
477. Abu al-Mulayh said: It was Hisham who coerced al-Zuhri to write down the hadith, after which writing of hadith became so common. Ibn Sa’d in his Tabaqat says: “So we found it proper not to prevent anyone of Muslims from writing”- (vol. II, p.135)
478. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Taqyid al-‘ilm, p.107.
479. Ibn Abd al-Barr, Jami’ bayan al-‘ilm wa fadlih, vol. I, p.77.
Adapted from: “Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah” by: “Mahmud Ali Riyyah”