The term Had?th (plural: hadith, hadiths, or ahadith) is used to denote a saying, act or tacit approval, validly or invalidly, ascribed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad (Alai his salam).
Hadith are regarded by traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Qur’an and in matters of jurisprudence. Hadith were evaluated and gathered into large collections during the 8th and 9th centuries. These works are referred to in matters of Islamic law and history to this day. The two main denominations of Islam, Shiaism and Sunnism, have different sets of Hadith collections.
In Arabic the word hadith means ‘a piece of information conveyed either in a small quantity or large’. The Arabic plural is a??d?th. Hadith also refers to the speech of a person. As tahdith is the infinitive, or verbal noun, of the original verb form; hadith is, therefore, not the infinitive, rather it is a noun.
In Islamic terminology, the term hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Muhammad (alai his salam), or of his tacit approval of something said or done in his presence. Classical hadith specialist Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says that the intended meaning of hadith in religious tradition is something attributed to Muhammad (alai his salam), as opposed to the Qur’an. Other associated words possess similar meanings including: khabar (news, information) often refers to reports about Muhammad (Alai his salam), but sometimes refers to traditions about his companions and their successors from the following generation; conversely, athar (trace, vestige) usually refers to traditions about the companions and successors, though sometimes connotes traditions about Muhammad (alai his salam). The word sunnah (custom) is also used in reference to a normative custom of Muhammad (alai his salam) or the early Muslim community.
Hadith Qudsi (or Sacred Hadith) is a sub-category of hadith, which are sayings of Muhammad (alai his salam). Muslims regard the Hadith Qudsi as the words of Allah (Arabic: Allah), repeated by Muhammad (Alai his salam) and recorded on the condition of an isnad. According to as-Sayyid ash-Sharif al-Jurjani, the Hadith Qudsi differ from the Qur’an in that the former were revealed in a dream or through revelation and are “expressed in Muhammad (alai his salam)’s words”, whereas the latter are the “direct words of Allah”.
An example of a Hadith Qudsi is the hadith of Abu Hurairah who said that Muhammad (alai his salam) said:
“When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath.”
The two major aspects of a hadith are the text of the report (the matn), which contains the actual narrative, and the chain of narrators (the isnad), which documents the route by which the report has been transmitted. The sanad, literally ‘support’, is so named due to the reliance of the hadith specialists upon it in determining the authenticity or weakness of a hadith. The isnad consists of a chronological list of the narrators, each mentioning the one from whom they heard the hadith, until mentioning the originator of the matn along with the matn itself.
The first people to hear hadith were the companions who preserved it and then conveyed it to those after them. Then the generation following them received it, thus conveying it to those after them and so on. So a companion would say, “I heard the Prophet say such and such.” The Follower would then say, “I heard a companion say, ‘I heard the Prophet.’” The one after him would then say, “I heard someone say, ‘I heard a Companion say, ‘I heard the Prophet…” and so on.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims consider hadith to be essential supplements to and clarifications of the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, as well as in clarifying issues pertaining to Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn al-Salah, a hadith specialist, described the relationship between hadith and other aspect of the religion by saying: “It is the science most pervasive in respect to the other sciences in their various branches, in particular to jurisprudence being the most important of them.”The intended meaning of ‘other sciences’ here are those pertaining to religion,” explains Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, “Quranic exegesis, hadith, and jurisprudence. The science of hadith became the most pervasive due to the need displayed by each of these three sciences. The need hadith has of its science is apparent. As for Qur’anic exegesis, then the preferred manner of explaining the speech of Allah is by means of what has been accepted as a statement of Muhammad (alai his salam). The one looking to this is in need of distinguishing the acceptable from the unacceptable. Regarding jurisprudence, then the jurist is in need of citing as an evidence the acceptable to the exception of the later, something only possible utilizing the science of hadith.”
Traditions of the life of Muhammad (Alai his salam) and the early history of Islam were passed down mostly orally for more than a hundred years after Muhammad (alai his salam)’s death in AD 632. Muslim historians say that Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (the third khalifa (caliph) of the Rashidun Empire, or successor of Muhammad (alai his salam), who had formerly been Muhammad (alai his salam)’s secretary), was the first to urge Muslims to record the hadith. Uthman’s labours were cut short by his assassination, at the hands of aggrieved soldiers, in 656. No sources survive directly from this period so we are dependent on what later writers tell us about this period.
By the 9th century the number of hadiths had grown exponentially. Islamic scholars of the Abbasid period were faced with a huge corpus of miscellaneous traditions, some of them flatly contradicting each other. Many of these traditions supported differing views on a variety of controversial matters. Scholars had to decide which hadith were to be trusted as authentic and which had been invented for political or theological purposes. To do this, they used a number of techniques which Muslims now call the science of hadith.
Shia and Sunni differences
Sunni and Shia hadith collections differ because scholars from the two traditions differ as to the reliability of the narrators and transmitters. Narrators who took the side of Abu Bakr and Umar rather than Ali, in the disputes over leadership that followed the death of Muhammad (alai his salam), are seen as unreliable by the Shia; narrations sourced to Ali and the family of Muhammad (alai his salam), and to their supporters, are preferred. Sunni scholars put trust in narrators, such as Aisha, whom Shia reject. Differences in hadith collections have contributed to differences in worship practices and shari’a law and have hardened the dividing line between the two traditions.
Extent and nature of the textual corpus in the Sunni tradition
In the Sunni tradition, the number of such texts is ten thousand plus or minus a few thousand. But if, say, ten Companions record a text reporting a single incident in the life of Prophet, hadith scholars can count this as ten hadiths. So Musnad Ahmad, for example, has over 30,000 hadiths—but this count includes texts that are repeated in order to record slight variations within the text or within the chains of narrations. Identifying the narrators of the various texts, comparing their narrations of the same texts to identify both the soundest reporting of a text and the reporters who are most sound in their reporting occupied experts of hadith throughout the second century. In the third century of Islam (from 225/840 to about 275/889), six hadith experts composed brief works recording a selection of about two- to five-thousand such texts which they felt to have been most soundly documented or most widely referred to in the Muslim scholarly community. The fourth and fifth century saw these six works being commented on quite widely. This auxiliary literature has contributed to making their study the place of departure for any serious study of hadith. In addition, Bukhari and Muslim in particular, claimed that they were collecting only the soundest of sound hadiths. These later scholars tested their claims and agreed to them, so that today, they are considered the most reliable collections of hadith.
Extent and nature of the textual corpus in the Shia tradition
In Shia hadith one often finds sermons attributed to Ali in The Four Books or in the Nahj al-Balagha. Shi’a Muslims do not use the six major Hadith collections followed by the Sunni. Instead, their primary hadith collections are written by three authors who are known as the ‘Three Muhammad (alai his salam)s’. They are: Kitab al-Kafi by Muhammad (alai his salam) ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni al-Razi (329 AH), Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih by Muhammad (alai his salam) ibn Babuya and Al-Tahdhib and Al-Istibsar both by Shaykh Muhammad (alai his salam) Tusi. Unlike Akhbari Twelver Shi’a, Usuli Twelver Shi’a scholars do not believe that everything in the four major books is authentic.
Hadith studies are a number of methods of evaluation developed by early Muslim scholars in determining the veracity of reports attributed to Muhammad (alai his salam). This is achieved by analyzing the text of the report, the scale of the report’s transmission, the routes through which the report was transmitted, and the individual narrators involved in its transmission. On the basis of these criteria, various classifications were devised for hadith. The earliest comprehensive work in hadith studies was Abu Muhammad (alai his salam) al-Ramahurmuzi’s al-Muhaddith al-Fasil, while another significant work was al-Hakim al-Naysaburi’s Ma‘rifat ‘ulum al-hadith. Ibn al-Salah’s ?Ulum al-hadith is considered the standard classical reference on hadith studies.
By means of Hadith terminology, hadith are categorized as ?a??? (sound, authentic), ?a??f (weak), or maw??? (fabricated). Other classifications used also include: ?asan (good), which refers to an otherwise ?a??? report suffering from minor deficiency, or a weak report strengthened due to numerous other corroborating reports; and munkar (denounced) which is a report that is rejected due to the presence of an unreliable transmitter contradicting another more reliable narrator.[ Both sah?h and hasan reports are considered acceptable for usage in Islamic legal discourse. Classifications of hadith may also be based upon the scale of transmission. Reports that pass through many reliable transmitters at each point in the isnad up until their collection and transcription are known as mutaw?tir. These reports are considered the most authoritative as they pass through so many different routes that collusion between all of the transmitters becomes impossibility. Reports not meeting this standard are known as aahad, and are of several different types.
Another area of focus in the study of hadith is biographical analysis (‘ilm al-rij?l, lit. “Science of people”), in which details about the transmitter are scrutinized. This includes analyzing their date and place of birth; familial connections; teachers and students; religiosity; moral behaviour; literary output; their travels; as well as their date of death. Based upon these criteria, the reliability (thiq) of the transmitter is assessed. Also determined is whether the individual was actually able to transmit the report, which is deduced from their contemporaneity and geographical proximity with the other transmitters in the chain. Examples of biographical dictionaries include: Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi’s Al-Kamal fi Asma’ al-Rijal, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani’s Tahdh?b al-Tahdh?b and al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-huffaz.
Quranists or Qur’an alone Muslims view of hadith
Qur’an alone Muslims, also known as Quranists, are Muslims who follow the Qur’an and consider it to be the only sacred text in Islam. They reject the religious authority of Hadith and Sunnah.
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