The most comprehensive and arguably most famous collection of ḥadīth forgeries, the Kitab al-Mawḍūʿāt by the 12th-century scholar Ibn al-Jawzī, is also one of the most controversial collections of this genre and has motivated a vivid debate on the conception of this epistemological category with competing collections, critical commentaries, digests, and supplements being published until today. In his seminal Introduction to the Science of Hadith (Muqaddimah fī ʿulūm al-ḥadīth), Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d. 1245) voices a critique shared by numerous ḥadīth scholars that Ibn al-Jawzī included in his Book of Forgeries “much for which there is no evidence that it is forged” and which “he should have mentioned only under the general division of weak ḥadīth.” Ibn Ḥajar (d. 1449), however, maintains that the majority of the ḥadīths listed by Ibn al-Jawzī in his collection are indeed forgeries and that the criticism is largely unfounded as it applies only to very few.
Using computational methods of Text Reuse Detection, this paper investigates the representativeness of Ibn al-Jawzī’s Kitab al-Mawḍūʿāt for the genre of Mawḍūʿāt collections. Specifically, it uses the Passim algorithm to measure the textual overlap between his work and 11 other Mawḍūʿāt collections compiled between the end of the 11th century and the end of the 19th century. Additionally, it measures the textual overlap between Ibn al-Jawzī’s Kitab al-Mawḍūʿāt and predating works of related genres of ḥadīth literature, such as the genre of transmitter criticism (kutub al-ḍuʿafāʾ) and collections of defective ḥadīth (ʿilal al-ḥadīth). In tracing and quantifying this overlap, our paper explores the historical construction and evolution of the Mawḍūʿāt genre from the 11th century onward.
While the canonization of the Ṣaḥīḥayn in the 11th century mirrors the consolidation of Sunni identity, our study of the Mawḍūʿāt genre reveals competing ideologies, methodologies, and ongoing debates within the circle of Sunnī ḥadīth scholars. We suggest that the construction of the Ṣaḥīḥayn’s authority through a “collaborative illusion” of scholarly consensus is achieved through externalizing controversy and relocating the debate to the Mawḍūʿāt genre.