Friday, August 27, 2010

The Science Of Hadith

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

, because the Sunnah is the practical example of the implementation of the Qur'anic guidance, the

wisdom taught to the Prophet along with the scripture, and neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah can

be understood correctly without the other.

Allah preserved the Sunnah by enabling the companions and those after them to memorize, write

down and pass on the statements of the Prophet , 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 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

The Science of Hadith

which refers to the sayings, actions or characteristics of the Prophet , 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.

The Science of Hadith

1. According to the reference to a particular authority

Four types of hadith can be identified.

Qudsi - Divine; a revelation from Allah (SWT); relayed with the words of the Prophet


Marfu - elevated; a narration from the Prophet , e.g. I heard the Prophet saying ...

The Science of Hadith

Mauquf- stopped: a narration from a companion only, e.g., we were commanded to ...

Maqtu' - severed: a narration from a successor.

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

Six categories can be identified.

Musnad - 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 .

Mutassil - continuous: a hadith with an uninterrupted isnad which goes back only to a

companion or successor.

Mursal - hurried: if the link between the successor and the Prophet is missing, e.g.

when a successor says "The Prophet said...".

Munqati - 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 directly (i.e., the link is missing at the beginning).

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

Five categories of hadith can be identified:

Mutawatir - Consecutive: is a hadith which is reported by such a large number of

people that they cannot be expected to agree upon a lie, all of them together.

The Science of Hadith

Ahad - isolated: is a hadith which is narrated by people whose number does not reach

that of the mutawatir.

It is further classified into:

Mash'hur - famous: hadith reported by more than two reporters.

Aziz - rare, strong: at any stage in the isnad, only two reporters are found to narrate

the hadith.

Gharib - strange: At some stage of the Isnad, only one reporter is found relating it.

4. According to the nature of the text and isnad

Munkar - denounced: is a hadith which is reported by a weak narrator, and whose

narration goes against another authentic hadith.

Mudraj - interpolated: an addition by a reporter to the text of the hadith being narrated.

5. 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 meaning".

Hasan - good: is the one where its source is known and its reporters are


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'dal

(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.

The Science of Hadith

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