The Science Of Hadith

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Qur'an 15:9

In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful

We have, Without doubt, sent down the message: and we will assuredly guard it (from corruption) (Qur'an 15:9)

The promise made by Allah(SWT) in Qur'an 15:9 is obviously fulfilled in the undisputed purity of the Qur'anic text throughout the fourteen centuries since its revelation. However, what is often forgotten by many Muslims is that the divine promise also includes, by necessity, the Sunnah of the Prophet(P), because the Sunnah is the practical example of the implementation of the Qur'anic guidance, the wisdom taught to the Prophet(P) along with the scripture, and neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah can be understood correctly without the other.

Allah(SWT) preserved the Sunnah by enabling the Companions and those after them to memorize, write down and pass on the statements of the Prophet(P), and the descriptions of his way, as well as to continue the blessings of practicing the Sunnah.

Later, as the purity of the knowledge of the Sunnah became threatened, Allah(SWT) caused the Muslim Ummah to produce individuals with exceptional memory skills and analytical expertise, who travelled tirelessly to collect thousands of narrations and distinguish the true words of prophetic wisdom from those corrupted by weak memories, from forgeries by unscrupulous liars, and from the statements of the large number of Ulama (scholars), the Companions and those who followed their way. All of this was achieved through precise attention to the words narrated, and detailed familiarity with the biographies of the thousands of reporters of hadith.

The methodology of the expert scholars of hadith in assessing the narrations and sorting out the genuine from the mistaken and fabricated, for ms the subject matter of the science of hadith. In this article a brief discussion is given of the terminology and classifications of hadith.

Components Of Hadith

A hadith is composed of three parts (see the figure [below]):

Matn, Isnad, Taraf

Matn (text), isnad (chain of reporters), and taraf (the part, or the beginning sentence, of the text which refers to the sayings, actions or characteristics of the Prophet(P), or his concurrence with others action). The authenticity of the hadith depends on the reliability of its reporters, and the linkage among them.

Classifications Of Hadith

A number of classifications of hadith have been made. Five of these classifications are shown in the figure [below], and are briefly described subsequently.

Five Classifications

  1. According to the reference to a particular authority

    Four types of hadith can be identified.

    According to Reference Authority

  2. According to the links of isnad - interrupted or uninterrupted

    Six categories can be identified.

  3. According to the number of reporters involved in each stage of isnad

    Five categories of hadith can be identified:

  4. According to the nature of the text and isnad

  5. According to the reliability and memory of the reporters

    This provides the final verdict on a hadith - four categories can be identified:

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