This book is named 'Al-Sunan'. Also, it is called 'Sunan Abu Dawood attributing to the author. In the terms of Hadith, Suann is a book of Hadith that is compiled on the Fiqhi order. Sunan Abu Dawood has been written on Fiqhi pattern so it is called .Sunan'. It appears from the writings of Imam Abu Dawood that he also named his book with 'Sunan' as he says in his booklet written addressing the people of Makkah: "You asked me to tell you that the traditions written down in 'Al-Sunan' are the most authentic ones."
At another place he says: "There are some traditions in my book 'Al-Sunan' that are not 'Muttasil' (directly reaching to the Prophet-pbuh) but they are 'Mursal' (reaching to only a companion)."
These texts prove that Imam Abyu Dawood himself named his book as 'Al-Sunan'.
Method of Sunan Abu Dawood
Imam Abu Dawood himself has described his method with details in the booklet written for the people of Makka. He writes:
"You asked me to tell you that the traditions written down in 'Al-Sunan' are the most authentic ones, so you should know that they are most authentic. Yes, there are some traditions that are narrated by two chains; one is better as per the chain of narration and the other is better in view of the memory of the narrators. I chose the ones which were better as per the memorization. Still, there are only about ten traditions of this kind in my book. I wrote only one or two traditions under a chapter, though there were several other Sahih (authentic) traditions. I intended only to provide something beneficial for the people. If I wrote mote than one Hadith in a chapter that means that the later one comprises of additional meaning that the former does not. At places I have shortened the long traditions since it might be difficult for the people to understand why that particular Hadith was mentioned there. There is not a single Hadith in this book that is narrated by any Matrook (one who was forsaken) narrator. If there happened any Munkar Hadith I mentioned it but warned again it. I mentioned Munkar Hadith only when there were no other traditions higher in rank. In my book I have notified the traditions that were very weak; even some of them are not having authentic chain of narrator. However, the tradition about which I do not make any comment they are free from any fault. Among these traditions, some are more than authentic than others.
Concisely, the method he adopted in his book is as follows:
(1) He selects the most authentic Hadith related to the chapter.
(2) He did not mention all traditions related to the chapter but mentions only one or two of them.
(3) He shortens the long traditions and mentions only the part that is related to the chapter.
(4) He does not accept the traditions of a narrator about whom the scholars of Hadith have stated he is Matrook (one whose traditions have been forsaken by scholars of Hadith).
(5) If a Hadith is narrated by two ways and one way consists of some additions then he mentions it also.
(6) If a Hadith is narrated by several narrators then he takes the tradition of most trusted one.
(7) If he happened to mention any weak Hadith he wrote a note on it.
(8) Also, he mentions Munkar Hadith only when there is no other better Hadith present in the chapter.
(9) The traditions about which Imam Abu Dawood makes no remark and keeps silent then the Hadith is Salih.
The Ulama differ in what he meant by Salih. Imam Ibn Salah says that the traditions mentioned in Abu dawood without a comment if they are not found in Sahihain (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim) and none of the Imam of Hadith has criticized on it then we shall take that Hadith as 'Hasan' of Abu Dawood though it is not Hasan according to other scholars of Hadith. (Ibn Salah, Uloomul Hadith, 33)
But, Hafiz Ibn Hajar says that the traditions mentioned in Abu dawood without a comment cannot be said as Hasan; rather they are divided in to four sections: (a) the traditions are found in Sahihain or are merely Sahih. (b) Some of them are Hasan li Zatihi (c) some are Hasan li Ghairihi. The traditions about which Imam Abu Dawood kept mum are generally related to the second and third grades. (d) Some are Za'eef (weak), but the weakness is not so powerful; since none of the narrators of him is unanimously forsaken and rejected by scholars. (Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Al-Nukat, Vol1, P 453)
Imam Nawawi elucidated the saying of Imam Abu Dawood stating that the traditions that are mentioned in Abu Dawood without a comment and any noteworthy scholar labeled it as Hasan then we shall accept it as Hasan. And, if any trusted scholar of Hadith has labeled it as Za'eef or they pointed out any fault in the narrating chain leading to weakness and that particular fault is not removed then that Hadith will be regarded as Za'eef and the silence of Imam Abu Dawood will not be accepted. According to Hafiz Ibn Hajar, this statement of Imam Nawawi is a scholarly and research-oriented one.
Conditions of Abu Dawood for Accepting Ahadith
We have mentioned some details about the condition of Imam Abu Dawood falling under the conditions of Sahihain. Some of the remaining conditions are written below:
Hafiz Abul Fazl Muhammad bin Qahir writes the summary of the conditions in his book 'Shurootul Aaimmah Al-Sittah Page 13-16). He says that traditions of these Hadith books are of three kinds:
(1) The traditions that are mentioned in Sahihain.
(2) Traditions that are in accordance with the conditions of authors of Sunan.
(3) There are traditions which contain matters that are in a bird's view contradictory to the chapter mentioned before. But, the purpose behind it is that these traditions have not been out of the sight of these authors. They do not mean that these tradition are in fact Sahih but most of the time the authors themselves have pointed out its fault and mistake.
Some commentaries of Abu Dawood
(1) Ma'alimus Sunan (Abu Sulaiman Hamd bin Muhammad Khattabi)
(2) Mirqatus Sa'uood ila Sunan Abi Dawood (Al-Suyuti)
(3) Fathul Wadood ala Sunan Abi Dawood (Muhammad bin Abdul Hadi Sindhi)
(4) Aunul Ma'bood (Sheikh Shamsul Haq Azimabadi)
(5) Bazlul Majhood fi Hall Abi Dawood (Sheikh Khlalil Ahmad Saharanpuri)
Translated and partly prepared by:
Mufti Obaidullah Qasmi, Maulana Afzal Qasmi, Mufti Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi