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Abu Dawood compiled twenty-one books related to Hadith and preferred those Ahadith (plural of "Hadith") which were supported by the example of the companions of Muhammad. As for the contradictory Ahadith, he states under the heading of 'Meat acquired by hunting for a pilgrim': "if there are two contradictory reports from the Prophet (SAW), an investigation should be made to establish what his companions have adopted". He wrote in his letter to the people of Mecca: "I have disclosed wherever there was too much weakness in regard to any tradition in my collection. But if I happen to leave a Hadith without any comment, it should be considered as sound, albeit some of them are more authentic than others". The Mursal Hadith (a tradition in which a companion is omitted and a successor narrates directly from Muhammad) has also been a matter of discussion among the traditionists. Abu Dawood states in his letter to the people of Mecca: "If a Musnad Hadith (uninterrupted tradition) is not contrary to a Mursal [Hadith], or a Musnad Hadith is not found, then the Mursal Hadith will be accepted though it would not be considered as strong as a Muttasil Hadith (uninterrupted chain)".
The traditions in Sunan Abu Dawood are divided in three categories. The first category consists of those of the traditions that are mentioned by Bukhari and/or Muslim. The second type of traditions are those which fulfil the conditions of Bukhari or Muslim. At this juncture, it should be remembered that Bukhari said, "I only included in my book Sahih Bukhari authentic traditions, and left out many more authentic ones than these to avoid unnecessary length".
Abu Dawood collected 500,000 hadith, but included only 4,800 in this collection.Sunnis regard this collection as fourth in strength of their six major hadith collections. It took Abu Dawod 20 years to collect the hadiths. He made a series of journeys to meet most of the foremost traditionists of his time and acquired from them the most reliable hadiths, quoting sources through which it reached him. Since the author collected hadiths which no one had ever assembled together, his sunan has been accepted as a standard work by scholars from many parts of the Islamic world, especially after Ibn al-Qaisarani's inclusion of it in the formal canonization of the six major collections.
Abu Dawood started traveling and collecting ahadeeth at a young age. He traveled to many places in the middle east, including Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Abu Dawood also studied under Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.
Editor, Muhammad Muhyiddin Abd al-Hamid's 1935, Cairo publication, in 4 volumes, provides the standard topical classification of the hadith Arabic text.Sunan Abu Dawood is divided into 43 'books'.
purification (kitab al-taharah)
prayer (kitab al-salat)
the book of the prayer for rain (kitab al-istisqa)
prayer (kitab al-salat): detailed rules of law about the prayer during journey
prayer (kitab al-salat): voluntary prayers
prayer (kitab al-salat): detailed injunctions about ramadan
prayer (kitab al-salat): prostration while reciting the qur'an
prayer (kitab al-salat): detailed injunctions about witr
zakat (kitab al-zakat)
the book of lost and found items
the rites of hajj (kitab al-manasik wa'l-hajj)
marriage (kitab al-nikah)
divorce (kitab al-talaq)
fasting (kitab al-siyam)
jihad (kitab al-jihad)
sacrifice (kitab al-dahaya)
game (kitab al-said)
wills (kitab al-wasaya)
shares of inheritance (kitab al-fara'id)
tribute, spoils, and rulership (kitab al-kharaj, wal-fai' wal-imarah)
funerals (kitab al-jana'iz)
oaths and vows (kitab al-aiman wa al-nudhur)
commercial transactions (kitab al-buyu)
wages (kitab al-ijarah)
the office of the judge (kitab al-aqdiyah)
knowledge (kitab al-ilm)
drinks (kitab al-ashribah)
foods (kitab al-at'imah)
medicine (kitab al-tibb)
divination and omens (kitab al-kahanah wa al-tatayyur)
the book of manumission of slaves
dialects and readings of the qur'an (kitab al-huruf wa al-qira'at)
hot baths (kitab al-hammam)
clothing (kitab al-libas)
combing the hair (kitab al-tarajjul)
signet-rings (kitab al-khatam)
trials and fierce battles (kitab al-fitan wa al-malahim)
the promised deliverer (kitab al-mahdi)
battles (kitab al-malahim)
prescribed punishments (kitab al-hudud)
types of blood-wit (kitab al-diyat)
model behavior of the prophet (kitab al-sunnah)
general behavior (kitab al-adab)
Commentaries and translations
Sunan Abu Dawood has been translated into numerous languages. The Australian Islamic Library has collected 11 commentaries on this book in Arabic, Urdu and Indonesian.