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Hadith (Arabic: حديث, // or //) in Muslim religious use is often translated as prophetic 'traditions', meaning the corpus of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The hadith literature was compiled from oral reports that were in circulation in society around the time of their compilation long after the death of Muhammad. Bukhari's collection is considered the most reliable by many traditional religious scholars who are Sunnis. The Shi'as believe in an entirely separate body of Hadith.
The Hadith also had a profound and controversial influence on molding the commentaries (tafsir) on the Quran. The earliest commentary of the Quran by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari is mostly sourced from the hadith. The hadith was used in forming the basis of 'Shariah' Law. Much of early Islamic history available today is also based on the hadith and is challenged for lack of basis in primary source material and contradictions based on secondary material available.
Each hadith is based on two parts, a chain of narrators reporting the hadith (isnad), and the text itself (matn). Hadiths are still regarded by traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Quran 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 largest denominations of Islam, Sunni, Shiʻa, and Ibadi, rely upon different sets of hadith collections. Clerics and jurists of all denominations classify individual hadith as sahih (authentic), hasan (good) and da'if (weak). However, different traditions within each denomination, and different scholars within each tradition, may differ as to which hadith should be included in which category.
A growing number of Muslims have begun to reject the authority of the Hadith in favor of the primary authority of the Quran (See Criticism of Hadith). They cite numerous verses of the Quran (e.g. 6:114, 31:6, 45:6 and 77:50) to support their argument. Some call themselves "Quranists", while others avoid such titles, labeling themselves as "Muslim" to avoid any hint of sectarianism. Some reject all hadith, while others consider the Hadith as having some historical value as secondary source material that may be studied for academic purposes (with rigorous scrutiny,) and those that do not contradict the Quran can be considered useful for certain tasks mandated by the Quran, such as the physical aspect of 'Salat'/Prayer, but both of these groups reject the authority of the Hadith as a source of law.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Definition
- 3 Components
- 4 Usage
- 5 History
- 6 Shia and Sunni textual traditions
- 7 Studies
- 8 Criticism of Hadith by Islamic Scholars
- 9 Western academic scholarship
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
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In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديث ḥadīth IPA: [ħaˈdiːθ]) means a "report, account, or narrative". The Arabic plural is ʾaḥādīth (أحاديث) (IPA: [ʔaħaːˈdiːθ]). Hadith also refers to the speech of a person. It is a noun.
In Islamic terminology, the term hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Muhammad, or of his tacit approval or criticism 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 but that is not found in the Quran. Other associated words possess similar meanings including: khabar (news, information) often refers to reports about Muhammad, 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. The word sunnah (custom) is also used in reference to a normative custom of Muhammad or the early Muslim community.
Hadith Qudsi (or Sacred Hadith) is a sub-category of hadith which some Muslims regard as the words of God (Arabic: Allah). According to as-Sayyid ash-Sharif al-Jurjani, the Hadith Qudsi differ from the Quran in that the former are "expressed in Muhammad's words", whereas the latter are the "direct words of God".
An example of a Hadith Qudsi is the hadith of Abu Hurairah who said that Muhammad said:
When God 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 Quran, Islam's holy book, as well as for 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 Quranic exegesis, then the preferred manner of explaining the speech of God is by means of what has been accepted as a statement of Muhammad. 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."
|This assertion re Muslim historians citing Uthman on hadith needs additional citations for verification. (April 2011)|
Traditions of the life of Muhammad and the early history of Islam were passed down mostly orally for more than a hundred years after Muhammad's death in AD 632. Muslim historians say that Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (the third khalifa (caliph) of the Rashidun Empire, or third successor of Muhammad, who had formerly been Muhammad's secretary), is generally believed to urge Muslims to record the hadith just as Muhammad suggested to some of his followers to write down his words and actions.
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 textual traditions
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, are seen as unreliable by the Shia; narrations sourced to Ali and the family of Muhammad, 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 the 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 2nd century. In the 3rd century of Islam (from 225/840 to about 275/889), 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 4th and 5th 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. Toward the end of the 5th century, Ibn al-Qaisarani formally standardized the Sunni canon into six pivotal works, a delineation which remains to this day.
Over the centuries, several different categories of collections came into existence. Some are more general, like the muṣannaf, the muʿjam, and the jāmiʿ, and some more specific, either characterized by the topics treated, like the sunan (restricted to legal-liturgical traditions), or by its composition, like the arbaʿīniyyāt (collections of forty hadiths).
Extent and nature of the textual corpus in the Shia tradition
Shi'a Muslims do not use the six major hadith collections followed by the Sunni, as they do not trust many of the Sunni narrators and transmitters. They have their own extensive hadith literature. The best-known hadith collections are The Four Books, which were compiled by three authors who are known as the 'Three Muhammads'. The Four Books are: Kitab al-Kafi by Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi (329 AH), Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih by Muhammad ibn Babuya and Al-Tahdhib and Al-Istibsar both by Shaykh Muhammad Tusi. Shi'a clerics also make use of extensive collections and commentaries by later authors.
Hadith studies use a number of methods of evaluation developed by early Muslim scholars in determining the veracity of reports attributed to Muhammad. 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 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 ʻUlum al-hadith is considered the standard classical reference on hadith studies.
By means of hadith terminology, hadith are categorized as ṣaḥīḥ (sound, authentic), ḍaʿīf (weak), or mawḍūʿ (fabricated). Other classifications used also include: ḥasan (good), which refers to an otherwise ṣaḥīḥ 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 sahīh 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 mutawātir. These reports are considered the most authoritative as they pass through so many different routes that collusion between all of the transmitters becomes an 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-rijāl, 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 (thiqāt) 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 Tahdhīb al-Tahdhīb and al-Dhahabi's Tadhkirat al-huffaz.
Criticism of Hadith by Islamic Scholars
Early criticism of the Hadith predates the time of Al-Shafii (d. 204 AH/820 CE) and is found in a text that Muslim tradition holds to be a letter from the Kharijite Abd Allah Ibn Ibad to the Caliph Abd al-Malik in 76/695. Though the authorship and dating of this letter are in some dispute, it still predates al-Shafii and its importance as a challenge to the authority of the Hadith remains undented. A key passage of this letter criticizes the Kufans for taking “Hadiths” for their religion abandoning the Quran. “They believed in a book which was not from God, written by the hands of men; they then attributed it to the Messenger of God.” A group referred to as Ahl al-Kalam, who lived during the time of Al-Shafii and mentioned in his Kitab Jima al-Ilm rejected the Hadith on theological grounds. Their basic argument was that the Quran was an explanation of everything (16:89). They contended that obedience to the Prophet was contained in obeying only the Qur'an that God has sent down to him, and that when the Qur’an mentioned the Book together with Wisdom, the Wisdom was the specific rulings of the Book.” Daniel Brown notes that the principal argument of Ahl al-Kalam was that the Hadith does not accurately reflect the Prophetic example, as the transmission of Hadith reports was not reliable. The Prophetic example, they argued, “has to be found elsewhere – first and foremost in following the Qur’an.” And according to them, “the corpus of Hadith is filled with contradictory, blasphemous, and absurd traditions.”
Mutazilites, who represented one of the earliest rationalist Muslim theological schools, and are the later Ahl al-Kalam, also viewed the transmission of the Prophetic sunnah as not sufficiently reliable. The Hadith, according to them, was mere “guesswork and conjecture [… and] the Quran was complete and perfect, and did not require the Hadith or any other book to supplement or complement it.”
Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898) is often considered the founder of the modernist movement within Islam, noted for his application of "rational science" to the Quran and Hadith and his conclusion that the Hadith were not legally binding on Muslims. He “questioned the historicity and authenticity of many, if not most, traditions, much as the noted scholars Ignaz Goldziher and Joseph Schacht would later do.” He doubted Hadith compilers’ capacity to judge the character of Hadith transmitters of several past generations involved in oral Hadith transmission, and notes, “it is difficult enough to judge the character of living people, let alone long dead. The muhaddithun [Hadith scholars/transmitters] did the best they could, but their task was almost impossible.” His student, Chiragh ‘Ali, went further, suggesting nearly all the Hadith were fabrications.
Ghulam Ahmed Pervez (1903–1985), a friend of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan and a student of the renowned Islamic poet and philosopher Allama Iqbal, was a noted critic of the Hadith and believed that the Quran was sufficient for Muslims to understand and practice Islam, but with the important caveat that the Quran had to be studied using the appropriate rules and conventions of the classical language in which it was revealed. He also rejected the arbitrary authority of the clerical establishment and deemed them counter-productive. He argued that translations and commentaries of the Quran do not accurately reflect the meanings of the original Classical Arabic language and accused the clerical establishment of depriving Muslims of the real message of the Quran intentionally to serve their own self-serving purposes. A fatwa, ruling, signed by more than a thousand orthodox clerics, denounced him as a 'kafir', a non-believer. However, he continued his research and work in Pakistan, having gathered an appreciative audience. The organization which he founded Tolu-e-Islam continues to expand the base of his ideas. His seminal work, Maqam-e Hadith argued that the Hadith were composed of "the garbled words of previous centuries", but suggests that he is not against the idea of collected sayings of the Prophet, only that he would consider any hadith that goes against the teachings of Quran to have been falsely attributed to the Prophet. He was also against mystical interpretations of Islam which relegated Islam to the private sphere, as he believed Islam was not actually a "religion" to be practiced individually and based in a dogmatic blind faith. Pervez argued that since God requires certainty from believers and certainty can only be achieved by reason, therefore true Islam is actually inherently opposed to Religion, an argument he elaborated in his scholarly work "Islam: A Challenge to Religion".
The 1986 Malaysian book "Hadith: A Re-evaluation" by Kassim Ahmad was met with controversy and some scholars declared him an apostate from Islam for suggesting that "“the hadith are sectarian, anti-science, anti-reason and anti-women".
Western academic scholarship
Early Western exploration of Islam consisted primarily of translation of the Qur'an and a few histories. In the 19th century, scholars translated and commented upon a great variety of Muslim religious texts; by the beginning of the 20th century, Western scholars of Islam started to critically engage with these Islamic texts. Ignaz Goldziher is the best known of these turn-of-the-century critics, who also included D. S. Margoliuth, Henri Lammens, and Leone Caetani. Goldziher writes, in his Mohammedan Studies: "... it is not surprising that, among the hotly debated controversial issues of Islam, whether political or doctrinal, there is not one in which the champions of the various views are unable to cite a number of traditions, all equipped with imposing isnads". John Esposito notes that "Modern Western scholarship has seriously questioned the historicity and authenticity of the hadith", maintaining that "the bulk of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad were actually written much later." He mentions Joseph Schacht as one scholar who argues this, claiming that Schacht "found no evidence of legal traditions before 722," from which Schacht concluded that "the Sunna of the Prophet is not the words and deeds of the Prophet, but apocryphal material" dating from later.
Contemporary Western scholars of hadith include: Herbert Berg, Fred M. Donner and Wilfred Madelung. Madelung has immersed himself in the hadith literature and has made his own selection and evaluation of tradition. Having done this, he is much more willing to trust hadith than many of his contemporaries. Madelung said of hadith: "Work with the narrative sources, both those that have been available to historians for a long time and others which have been published recently, made it plain that their wholesale rejection as late fiction is unjustified and that with [not without] a judicious use of them, a much more reliable and accurate portrait of the period can be drawn than has been realized so far."
Harald Motzki said: "The mere fact that ahadith and asanid were forged must not lead us to conclude that all of them are fictitious or that the genuine and the spurious cannot be distinguished with some degree of certainty."
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- The earliest book, Bukhari's Sahih was composed by 225/840 since he states that he spent sixteen years composing it (Hady al-Sari, introduction to Fath al-Bari, p. 489, Lahore: Dar Nashr al-Kutub al-Islamiya, 1981/1401) and also that he showed it to Yahya ibn Ma'in (pg. 8, ibid.) who died in 233. Nasa'i, the last to die of the authors of the six books, died in 303/915. He probably completed this work a few decades before his death: by 275 or so.
- Counting multiple narrations of the same texts as a single text, the number of hadiths each author has recorded roughly as follows: Bukhari (as in Zabidi's Mukhtasar of Bukhari's book) 2134, Muslim (as in Mundhiri's Mukhtasar of Muslim's book) 2200, Tirmidhi 4000, Abu Dawud 4000, Nasa'i 4800, Ibn Majah 4300. There is considerable overlap amongst the six books so that Ibn al-Athir's Jami' al-Usul, which gathers together the hadiths texts of all six books deleting repeated texts, has about 9500 hadiths.
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- Musa, ibid, pp. 36-37; taken from Abdur Rab, ibid, p. 199.
- Brown, Daniel W., Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought, Cambridge University Press, 1996 (Paperback 1999), pp. 15-16; excerpted from Abdur Rab, ibid, pp. 199-200.
- Azami, M. A., Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature, Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur, 92; cited in Akbarally Meherally, Myths and Realities of Hadith – A Critical Study, (published by Mostmerciful.com Publishers), Burnaby, BC, Canada, 6; available at http://www.mostmerciful.com/Hadithbook-sectionone.htm; excerpted from Abdur Rab, ibid, p. 200.
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