Approaching Early Islamic Sources: Challenges and Solutions, May 2016, Sheffield

In May 2016 a Research Cafe focusing on the challenges associated with the authenticity of early Islamic sources took place. The event was led by Adam Walker who is currently undertaking his PhD  on Middle Eastern History. Adam sahib illustrated the difficulties associated with this method of oral transfer, emphasising the accuracy and detail required. With hadith in particular, the transmission must not alter as the consequence could result in a change of meaning.

One of the most notable activities attendees participated in was a form of ‘Chinese Whispers’ which demonstrated how the truth of a story deteriorates as the length of the chain increases. Almost all of the groups had ended up altering the original message to some degree. The key difference between the modern day – where technology has superseded the requirement of oral transfer – is that the oral tradition was highly important in early Arabia. Tribes and communities valued impeccable memory, and the narration of spoken accounts was considered an important trait.

The event was enjoyed by all and helped participants understand the challenges of determining the veracity of early Islamic sources.


Adam Walker explaining the oral narration of hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh)

If you are interested in attending future Research Cafe’s, please email: