Did Imam Nawawi Write a Commentary for His Collection of the Forty Hadith?

Answered by Shaykh Mohammad Badhib


Did Imam Nawawi write a commentary for his collection of The Forty Hadith?


In the name of Allah Most High, blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, his family, companions, and those who follow him.

Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) authored numerous works, including the famous compilation known as “The Forty Hadith” or “Al-Arba‘in al-Nawawiya,” named after him. These forty hadith are a well-known collection dealing with various aspects of Islam, its principles, and legal rulings.

Imam Nawawi’s students and those who have written biographies of him have not mentioned any specific explanation or commentary on his collection of “The Forty Hadith.” However, in the book’s conclusion, Imam Nawawi mentioned his intention to provide a detailed commentary.

He stated, “And here, I am preparing a concise introduction to arrange its phrases systematically to avoid errors. It is intended for the memorizer of these hadith to be self-sufficient in their correct recitation and not have to refer to others for correction. Then, God willing, I will proceed with its commentary in a separate book. I hope Allah’s grace enables me to clarify important subtleties, provide various benefits, and impart knowledge” until the end of his statement.

Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him), completed “The Forty Hadith” and, following it, included a chapter titled “Chapter on Indications for the Precision of Problematic Wordings” (Bab al-Isharat ila Dabt al-Alfadh al-Mushkilat). [Nawawi, “The Forty Hadith” (Dar Al-Minhaj Edition):121]

In this chapter, he provided explanations and clarifications for some of the wording found in the hadith texts or related to them. This included words like “Amir al-Mu’minin” concerning describing the leader of the faithful, which pertains to the description of our master ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him). Imam Nawawi completed his compilation of “The Forty Hadith” and its conclusion in 668 AH (Hijri calendar). [Nawawi, “The Forty Hadith” (Dar Al-Minhaj Edition):135]

However, the standalone book he promised to write as a commentary on “The Forty Hadith” was never found. Even if he had written it, one of his students, like Ibn al-‘Attar, or others who have written about Imam Nawawi, would have mentioned it. This is what can be gathered and observed to answer this question, and Allah Most High knows best. He is the One who grants success and guides to the right path.