The earliest compilation of Hadith that we have written today is the Muwatta Imam Malik (711–795 CE), which was written in the 8th century, ~150 years after the prophet’s death.
The major reason Hadith were not written down for so many years was it was well understood that the prophet prohibited this action during his life, but years later, individuals decided upon themselves to override the prophet’s wishes and began compiling other books besides the Quran for religious guidance.
[34:44] We did not give them any other books to study, nor did we send to them before you another warner.
(٤٤) وَمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ مِنْ كُتُبٍ يَدْرُسُونَهَا وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ قَبْلَكَ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ
The Quran condemns such works and the people who uphold such works besides the Quran.
[4:60] Have you noted those who claim that they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you, then uphold the unjust laws of their idols? They were commanded to reject such laws. Indeed, it is the devil’s wish to lead them far astray.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ وَيُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا
Even the Hadith literature makes it clear that writing of any Hadith besides the Quran was forbidden, as it could have been confused for the actual verses of the Quran. Ahmad, Muslim, al-Darimi (the shaykh of al-Bukhari), al-Tirmidhi, and al-Nasa’i reported on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that the messenger of Allah said, “write nothing from me except the Qur’an, and whoever has written anything must efface it.”
حَدَّثَنَا هَدَّابُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ الأَزْدِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا هَمَّامٌ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ لاَ تَكْتُبُوا عَنِّي وَمَنْ كَتَبَ عَنِّي غَيْرَ الْقُرْآنِ فَلْيَمْحُهُ وَحَدِّثُوا عَنِّي وَلاَ حَرَجَ وَمَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ – قَالَ هَمَّامٌ أَحْسِبُهُ قَالَ – مُتَعَمِّدًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ” .
Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: Do not write anything from me, and he who wrote down anything from me except the Qur’an, he should erase it and declare it to me, and there will be no harm. And he who lied against me (Hammam said: I think he also said: ” deliberately”) he should, in fact, find his abode in the Hell-Fire.
Sahih Muslim 3004
According to al-Darimi, who reported from Abu Sa’id al-Khurdi, “I asked the prophet to grant me permission to write down from him, but he refused to give me permission.” Another narration is ascribed to al-Tirmidhi.
حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ وَكِيعٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، قَالَ اسْتَأْذَنَّا النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي الْكِتَابَةِ فَلَمْ يَأْذَنْ لَنَا . قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى وَقَدْ رُوِيَ هَذَا الْحَدِيثُ مِنْ غَيْرِ هَذَا الْوَجْهِ أَيْضًا عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ رَوَاهُ هَمَّامٌ عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ .
Narrated Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri: “We sought permission from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) for writing (hadith) but he did not permit us.”
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2665
It is, therefore, no surprise that many of the prophet’s closest companions are not found narrating Hadith. When going through the two Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, you will not find in them even a single Hadith reported by the trust of this Ummah Abu Ubaydah ‘Amir ibn Abd Allah ibn al-Jarrah, or any hadith by Utbah ibn Ghazwan or Kabshah, the slave of Muhammad, and many others. It is reported that al-Qayyim said, “The companions were extremely fearful of narrating the traditions of the messenger of Allah for fear of addition and omission. Besides, they used to relate those traditions which they repeatedly heard without declaring expressly that they heard it from the prophet or that the prophet said.
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مَعْمَرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَارِثِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، قَالَ أَنَسٌ إِنَّهُ لَيَمْنَعُنِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَكُمْ حَدِيثًا كَثِيرًا أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ مَنْ تَعَمَّدَ عَلَىَّ كَذِبًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ”.
Narrated Anas: The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Hadiths to you is that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 108
Al-Sayyid Rashid refers to the khabar reported by al-Hakim from A’ishah and cited by al-Dhahabi in Tadhkirat al-huffaz, vol. I p. 5, she said, “My father had collected the traditions of the Messenger of Allah, which they numbered five hundred, and he remained upset all the night. When he entered upon the morning, he came to me and said, ‘O daughter, bring the ahadith that are with you,’ I brought them to him. He burnt them and said, ‘I am afraid lest I should die leaving these with you, and among them, there might be ahadith which I took from a man I had faith in and trusted, but the truth proved to be not as he related, the fact showing me to be responsible for them!’
Additionally, according to the following narrations from al-Bukhari, the only piece of writing left from the prophet was only the Quran and what was written on a supposed piece of paper. Ironically what is written on that paper condemns Hadith and the propagators of Hadith.
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ كَثِيرٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ التَّيْمِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَلِيٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ مَا كَتَبْنَا عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِلاَّ الْقُرْآنَ، وَمَا فِي هَذِهِ الصَّحِيفَةِ، قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ الْمَدِينَةُ حَرَامٌ مَا بَيْنَ عَائِرٍ إِلَى كَذَا، فَمَنْ أَحْدَثَ حَدَثًا، أَوْ آوَى مُحْدِثًا، فَعَلَيْهِ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ، لاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهُ عَدْلٌ وَلاَ صَرْفٌ، وَذِمَّةُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَاحِدَةٌ يَسْعَى بِهَا أَدْنَاهُمْ. فَمَنْ أَخْفَرَ مُسْلِمًا فَعَلَيْهِ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ، لاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهُ صَرْفٌ وَلاَ عَدْلٌ، وَمَنْ وَالَى قَوْمًا بِغَيْرِ إِذْنِ مَوَالِيهِ فَعَلَيْهِ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ، لاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهُ صَرْفٌ وَلاَ عَدْلٌ ”.
Narrated `Ali: We did not, write anything from the Prophet (ﷺ) except the Qur’an and what is written in this paper, (wherein) the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Medina is a sanctuary from (the mountain of) Air to so and-so, therefore, whoever narrates a Hadith or commits a sin, or gives shelter to such a propogator of Hadith, will incur the Curse of Allah. the angels and all the people; and none of his compulsory or optional good deeds of worship will be accepted And the asylum granted by any Muslim Is to be secured by all the Muslims even if it is granted by one of the lowest social status among them. And whoever betrays a Muslim in this respect will incur the Curse of Allah, the angels and all the people, and his compulsory and optional good deeds of worship will not be accepted. And any freed slave will take as masters (befriends) people other than his own real masters who freed him without taking the permission of the latter, will incur the Curse of Allah, the angels and all the people, and his compulsory and optional good deeds of worship will not be accepted.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 3179
Another narration shows that this was not even limited to writing but also included any “divine revelation.”
حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ يُونُسَ، حَدَّثَنَا زُهَيْرٌ، حَدَّثَنَا مُطَرِّفٌ، أَنَّ عَامِرًا، حَدَّثَهُمْ عَنْ أَبِي جُحَيْفَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قُلْتُ لِعَلِيٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه هَلْ عِنْدَكُمْ شَىْءٌ مِنَ الْوَحْىِ إِلاَّ مَا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ قَالَ وَالَّذِي فَلَقَ الْحَبَّةَ وَبَرَأَ النَّسَمَةَ مَا أَعْلَمُهُ إِلاَّ فَهْمًا يُعْطِيهِ اللَّهُ رَجُلاً فِي الْقُرْآنِ، وَمَا فِي هَذِهِ الصَّحِيفَةِ. قُلْتُ وَمَا فِي الصَّحِيفَةِ قَالَ الْعَقْلُ وَفَكَاكُ الأَسِيرِ، وَأَنْ لاَ يُقْتَلَ مُسْلِمٌ بِكَافِرٍ.
Narrated Abu Juhaifa: I asked Ali, “Do you have the knowledge of any Divine Inspiration besides what is in Allah’s Book?”Ali replied, “No, by Him Who splits the grain of corn and creates the soul. I don’t think we have such knowledge, but we have the ability of understanding which Allah may endow a person with, so that he may understand the Qur’an, and we have what is written in this paper as well.” I asked, “What is written in this paper?” He replied, “(The regulations of) blood-money, the freeing of captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed for killing an infidel.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 3047
A more in-depth look at what was supposedly written on this piece of paper by the prophet can be found here.