The Science Of Hadith
From USC Muslim Students Association Islamic Server
Awareness, All Rights Reserved.
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
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 (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.
A number of classifications of hadith
have been made. Five of these classifications are shown in the figure [below], and
are briefly described subsequently.
- According to the reference
to a particular authority
Four types of hadith can be identified.
- Divine; a revelation from Allah(SWT); relayed with the words of the Prophet(P).
- elevated; a narration from the Prophet(P), e.g., I heard the Prophet(P)
- Mauquf- stopped: a narration from a companion only, e.g., we were
commanded to ...
- severed: a narration from a successor.
- According to the links of
isnad - interrupted or uninterrupted
Six categories can be identified.
- supported: a hadith which is reported by a traditionalist, based on
what he learned from his teacher at a time of life suitable for learning; similarly
- in turn - for each teacher until the isnad reaches a well known companion,
who in turn, reports from the Prophet(P).
- Muttasil - continuous: a hadith with an uninterrupted
isnad which goes back only to a companion or successor.
- hurried: if the link between the successor and the Prophet(P)
is missing, e.g., when a successor says "The Prophet said...".
- broken: is a hadith whose
link anywhere before the successor (i.e., closer to the traditionalist
recording the hadith) is missing.
- Mu`adal - perplexing: is a hadith whose reporter
omits two or more consecutive reporters in the isnad.
- Mu`allaq - hanging: is a hadith whose reporter omits
the whole isnad and quotes the Prophet(P)
directly (i.e., the link is missing at the beginning).
- According to the number
of reporters involved in each stage of isnad
Five categories of hadith can be identified:
- According to the nature of
the text and isnad
- denounced: is a hadith which is reported by a weak narrator, and whose
narration goes against another authentic hadith.
- interpolated: an addition by a reporter to the text of the hadith
- According to the reliability
and memory of the reporters
This provides the final verdict on a hadith
- four categories can be identified:
- Sahih - sound. Imam al-Shafi`i
states the following requiremetts for a hadith, which is not Mutawatir,
to be acceptable "each reporter should be trustworthy in his religion;
he should be known to be truthtul in his narrating, to understand what
he narrates, to know how a different expression can alter the meaning,
and to report the wording of the hadith verbatim, not only its
- Hasan - good: is the one where its source is known and
its reporters are unambiguous.
- Da`if - weak: a hadith which fails to reach the
status of Hasan. Usually, the weakness is: a) one of discontinuity
in the isnad, in which case the hadith could be - according
to the nature of the discontinuity - Munqati (broken), Mu`allaq
(hanging), Mu`adal (perplexing), or Mursal (hurried), or b) one of the reporters having a
disparaged character, such as due to his telling lies, excessive mistakes,
opposition to the narration of more reliable sources, involvement in innovation,
or ambiguity surrounding his person.
- Maudu` -
fabricated or forged: is a hadith whose text goes against the established
norms of the Prophet's sayings, or its reporters include a liar. Fabricated
hadith are also recognized by external evidence related to a discrepancy
found in the dates or times of a particular incident.
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