Among the favours of Allah on the ummah of His final and most beloved Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم was the method in which the noble words and actions of His messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم were preserved and passed on. The companions closely observed Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه وسلم and passed on details of his noble words, blessed actions, and sublime behaviour demonstrating their unconditional love for him صلى الله عليه وسلم. This then did not stop with the companions; their students, the tābiʿūn, continued with the same devotion and love, and they too with all passion, learnt the noble words and the aḥādīth of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه وسلم.
When the era of compiling the aḥādīth of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه وسلم began, the scholars of ḥadīth travelled far and wide to hear the aḥādīth recorded in those books from their compilers. The ʿulamā would spend years and years collecting the aḥādīth and reading the books of aḥādīth to their compilers. When the compilers passed away, the tradition became to seek out the students of the compilers and read the books to them; thereby ensuring a direct link between themselves and the compilers.
As time went on and the students of the compilers also passed away, the ʿulamā of ḥadīth then began to find the shortest link to the compiler and then read the books to them. Likewise, they would read the books of aḥādīth to the great muḥadithūn of the time and be honoured with their ijāzah in ḥadīth.
The main books of aḥādīth which are read to the scholars of ḥadīth nowadays are the six canonical books: Bukhārī, Muslim, Nasaʾī, Abū Dāwūd, Tirmidhī, and Ibn Mājah. However, in the earlier times, the scholars of ḥadīth would read many books. For example, Musnad of Aḥmad, Musnad of Shāfiʿī, the various versions of the Muʾaṭṭā, the Masānīd of Abū Ḥanīfah, the Musnad of Dārimī, the Musnad of Isḥāq ibn Rāhway, the Musnad of Abū Dāwūd aṭ Ṭayālisī, the Ṣaḥīḥ of Ibn Khuzaymah, the Ṣaḥīḥ of Ibn Ḥibbān, Ḥilyat al Awliyāʾ of Iṣfahānī, Maʿānī al Āthār and Mushkil al Āthār of Ṭaḥāwī, the Sunan of Bayhaqī, the Sunan of Dāraquṭnī, Musnad of Abū Yaʿlā al Mawṣilī, the Maʿājim of Ṭabrānī among others. Furthermore, these books would be read several times to different scholars.
As time moved on and determination and resolution weakened, students would read only a portion of the books of ḥadīth and gain a general ijāzah for the remaining. Hence, there would be a samāʿ [hearing] of part of the book only. This encouraged some scholars to compile books with one ḥadīth from the famous books of ḥadīth; thus, allowing this small compilation to be read in one sitting and allowing the students to gain a general ijāzah in all of those books. ʿAbd al Ḥayy al Kattānī has listed several books compiled with this intention; for example, the Awāʾil of Ibn Sulaymān ar Rudānī; the Awāʾil of ʿAbdullāh ibn Sālim al Baṣrī; the Awāʾil of Qalʿī; Awāʾil of ʿAjlūnī among others.
Al Awāʾil as Sunbulīyyah is also one of these books. It comprises 43 aḥādīth from 43 different books. It was compiled by Shaykh Muḥammad Saʿīd ibn Muḥammad Sunbul al Makkī as Shāfiʿī. He was born in the first part of the 12th century Hijrī. He studied ḥadīth with the senior ʿulamā of Makkah and other places. The great muḥaddith of India, Shāh Walīyullāh ad Dehlawī read ḥadīth along with him to Abū Ṭāhir al Kurdi al Madanī and Sayyid ʿUmar as Saqqāf. He passed away in the year 1175 Hijrī in Ṭāʾif.
The author, Muḥammad Saʿīd Sunbul did not provide his own asānīd to the authors of the ḥadīth books. However, Shaykh Yāsīn Fādānī, the great muḥaddith and musnid of Makkah, has collected the asānīd of Muḥammad Saʿīd Sunbul to the authors in a book called ‘al ʿujālat al Makkīyyīyah’. Shaykh ʿAbdul Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah has worked on both books and published them together.
Among the benefits of the reading the books of awāʾil are:
- Students of ḥadīth are exposed to books other than the famous books of ḥadīth.
- There is a continuous connection with ḥadīth.
- Ijāzah of many different books of ḥadīth can be received from different scholars.
- There is a desire to read more ḥadīth books.
- There is an opportunity for many more scholars to pass on their chains of transmission.
Allah knows best
Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad
 As this article is related to Al Awāʾil as Sunbulīyyah, I have not mentioned the amazing accounts of the muḥaddithūn and their travels for reading books. Inshā Allah, a detailed article will be written on this.