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Introduction of Hadith

A hadith is a saying or narration of the Prophet's speech, deed, or approval or disapproval - whether spoken or tacit - about something. The hadiths have been learned by heart by the Muslims, later recorded, authenticated and handed down to us through the centuries.

Next to the revelation of the Quran is this the greatest 'miracle' of Islam, for which there is no equivalent anywhere:
Authentic traditions with chains of transmissions, critically and thoroughly examined by Muslim scholars and experts of hadith science, preserved and taught to the present day.

Importance of Hadith

The knowledge and study of Hadith is essential for our in-depth and correct understanding of Islaam. Like the Qur'aan, the Hadiths are from Allah too, but they are expressed in the person and language of Muhammad . Hence they are just as important to a Muslim as the Qur'aan. The Qur'aan gives us principles, instructions and various laws and the Hadiths show us how these things are to be carried out. Those things which are not clear and precise can also only be correctly and fully understood from the Hadith because they distinctly reveal the interpretation given to the Qur'aan by the Messenger himself, hence leaving no room for discord and disorder amongst the Muslim Ummah.

If we follow the Hadiths and mould our lives uncompromisingly to the truths, values and principles found in them, then we would be worshiping Allaah in the way that He wants us to. By doing so we would mirror the Islaam that was practiced by the Messenger of Allah and those who were able to establish it under his leadership. The first generation Muslims did exactly this and hence they became the best of Muslims alhumdulillaah.

I pray that we all do our best to follow the original Islaam, in its pristine purity and dazzling clarity, the is the Islaam of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

This work establishes points which can be derived from the Hadith and do not attempt to go into explanations. A lot can probably be said concerning each point outlined by bringing in other Hadith, ayat from the Qur'aan and even sayings of the companions, their successors and scholars of various times, but that is not the aim of this exercise but to give the reader an insight into what is already clear in the Hadith and to encourage him to accept what he learns uncompromisingly. Later study of further Islaamic material will gradually add to his comprehension and conviction as well as fill in the details insha'Allah, but it is essential that he does not neglect what e has found since he knows it to be from the teachings of the Messenger and thus undeniably correct. Most if not all of the points are self-evident from the text of the Hadith itself, and the points are intended to mainly help the reader of the Hadith not to fail to notice them and clearly show him what are his duties regarding what he has just read. 

A brief history of Mustalah al-Hadith

As time passed, more reporters were involved in each isnad, and so the situation demanded strict discipline in the acceptance of ahadith; the rules regulating this discipline are known as Mustalah al-Hadith (the Classification of Hadith).

Amongst the early traditionists (muhaddithin, scholars of Hadith), the rules and criteria governing their study of Hadith were meticulous but some of their terminology varied from person to person, and their principles began to be systematically written down, but scattered amongst various books, e.g. in Al-Risalah of al-Shafi'i (d. 204), the Introduction to the Sahih of Muslim (d. 261) and the Jami' of al-Tirmidhi (d. 279); many of the criteria of early traditionists, e.g. al-Bukhari, were deduced by later scholars from a careful study of which reporters or isnads were accepted and rejected by them.

One of the earliest writings to attempt to cover Mustalah comprehensively, using standard (i.e. generally-accepted) terminology, was the work by al-Ramahurmuzi (d. 360). The next major contribution was Ma'rifah 'Ulum al-Hadith by al-Hakim (d. 405), which covered fifty classifications of Hadith, but still left some points untouched; Abu Nu'aim al-Isbahani (d. 430) completed some of the missing parts to this work. After that came Al-Kifayah fi 'Ilm al- Riwayah of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d. 463) and another work on the manner of teaching and studying Hadith; later scholars were considered to be greatly indebted to al-Khatib's work.

After further contributions by Qadi 'Iyad al-Yahsubi (d. 544) and Abu Hafs al-Mayanji (d.580) among others, came the work which, although modest in size, was so comprehensive in its excellent treatment of the subject that it came to be the standard reference for thousands of scholars and students of Hadith to come, over many centuries until the present day: 'Ulum al-Hadith of Abu 'Amr 'Uthman Ibn al-Salah (d. 643), commonly known as Muqaddimah Ibn al-Salah, compiled while he taught in the Dar al-Hadith of several cities in Syria. Some of the numerous later works based on that of Ibn al-Salah are:

An abridgement of Muqaddimah, Al-Irshad by al- Nawawi (d. 676), which he later summarised in his Taqrib; al-Suyuti (d. 911) compiled a valuable commentary on the latter entitled Tadrib al-Rawi. Ikhtisar 'Ulum al-Hadith of Ibn Kathir (d. 774), Al-Khulasah of al-Tibi (d. 743), Al-Minhal of Badr al-Din b. Jama'ah (d. 733), Al-Muqni' of Ibn al-Mulaqqin (d. 802) and Mahasin al-Istilah of al-Balqini (d. 805), all of which are abridgements of Muqaddimah Ibn al- Salah. Al-Nukat of al-Zarkashi (d. 794), Al-Taqyid wa 'l-Idah of al-'Iraqi (d. 806) and Al-Nukat of Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 852), all of which are further notes on the points made by Ibn al-Salah. Alfiyyah al-Hadith of al-'Iraqi, a rewriting of Muqaddimah in the form of a lengthy poem, which became the subject of several commentaries, including two (one long, one short) by the author himself, Fath al-Mughith of al-Sakhawi (d. 903), Qatar al-Durar of al-Suyuti and Fath al-Baqi of Shaykh Zakariyyah al-Ansari (d. 928).

Other notable treatises on Mustalah include:

al-Iqtirah of Ibn Daqiq al-'Id (d. 702). Tanqih al-Anzar of Muhammad b. Ibrahim al- Wazir (d. 840), the subject of a commentary by al-Amir al-San'ani (d. 1182). Nukhbah al-Fikr of Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, again the subject of several commentaries, including one by the author himself, one by his son Muhammad,and those of 'Ali al-Qari (d. 1014), 'Abd al-Ra'uf al-Munawi (d. 1031) and Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Hadi al-Sindi (d. 1138). Among those who rephrased the Nukhbah in poetic form are al-Tufi (d. 893) and al- Amir al-San'ani. Alfiyyah al-Hadith of al-Suyuti, the most comprehensive poetic work in the field. Al-Manzumah of al-Baiquni, which was expanded upon by, amongst others, al-Zurqani (d. 1122) and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan (d. 1307). Qawa'id al-Tahdith of Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi (d. 1332). Taujih al-Nazar of Tahir al-Jaza'iri (d. 1338), a summary of al-Hakim's Ma'rifah. 

Six Major Ahadeeth

Muslims view the Six major Hadith collections as their most important. They are, in order of authenticity [1]:

  • 1. Sahih Bukhari, collected by Imam Bukhari (d. 870), includes 7275 ahadith
  • 2. Sahih Muslim, collected by Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875), includes 9200 ahadith
  • 3. Sunan al-Sughra, collected by al-Nasa'i (d. 915)
  • 4. Sunan Abu Dawood, collected by Abu Dawood (d. 888)
  • 5. Jami al-Tirmidhi, collected by al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)
  • 6. Sunan ibn Majah, collected by Ibn Majah (d. 887)

The first two, commonly referred to as the Two Sahihs as an indication of their authenticity, contain approximately seven thousand ahadith altogether if repetitions are not counted, according to Ibn Hajar.[2]

The stages of the compilation of ahaadith

The Ahaadith were not compiled and codified in the time of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) like it is today. There existed no real need for this as the Sahaba memorised virtually every word spoken by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Allah Ta'ala had granted them such perfect and excellent memories that once they heard anything they used to remember it throughout their lives. The remembering of lengthy poems and the ancestral details of horses and camels bears testimony to this fact. Once Hazrat Ibn Umar (RA) repeated Ahaadith to a bedouin, in order for him to memorize it well. The bedouin remarked, "Enough, once is sufficient I shall not forget it till death. I have performed 60 pilgrimages on 60 camels and I know perfectly well which Hajj I performed on which camel."

This was the condition of the bedouins in ordinary matters and mundane talk. How much more did they preserve the speech of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Not only his speech but every action notion, indication, approval, disapproval and deed of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) was preserved by them. They valued these more than their lives and wealth. They used to alternate with their business partners in sitting in the gathering of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Each partner used to narrate to his companion what he had heard the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) say. Extreme measures were taken to safeguard the words of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Many of them (did not know how to write) were not literate. However, the Sahaba who knew how to write used to record and write down the Ahaadith as well. The Ahaadith were recorded in the presence of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam)

The prohibition of recording hadith and its answer

The Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has mentioned in one Hadith, 'Do not record (write) from me anything except the Quran. Whosoever has written anything should obliterate it. (Muslim vol.2 Pg.44)

This prohibition is of a temporary nature when the Quran was initially being revealed (and there was a possibility of the hadith and Quran being mixed up) so that the hadith and the Quran do not get mixed up. When this initial period has passed and this possibility was ruled out, this prohibition ceased and an order was given to write and record the Ahaadith as Allama Ibne-Hajar has detailed in his commentary on Bukhari Shareef. Allama Nawawi in the commentary of Muslim Shareef has stated that the prohibition was when the mixing was feared. Thereafter when it was safe, permission was granted for writing.

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