Hadith

The Sahih Bukhari nine volume collection, "The most authentic book after the Holy Qur'an" according to many Sunni Muslims

Hadith (الحديث) are traditions relating to the words and deeds of Muhammad. Hadith collections are regarded as important tools for determining the Sunnah, or Muslim way of life, by all traditional schools of jurisprudence. The Arabic plural is aḥādīth (أحاديث). In English academic usage, hadith is often both singular and plural.

Contents

Overview

A hadith was originally an oral tradition relevant to the actions and customs of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Starting the first Fitna of the 7th century, those receiving the hadith started to question the sources of the saying [1]. This resulted in a list of transmitters, for example "A told me that B told him that Muhammad said". This list was called an Isnad. The text itself came to be known as Matn.

The hadith were eventually recorded in written form, had their Isnad evaluated and collected into large collections mostly during the reign of Umar II (bin Abdul Aziz, grandson of Umar bin Khattab(RAA)2nd Caliph) during 8th century, something that solidified in the 9th century. These works are still today referred to in matters of Islamic law and History.

The hadith are prone to error and often misinterpreted. They are meant to be a secondary source of Islam, if followed at all. More and more muslims are reverting back to the Quran alone when they realise the method of compilation of hadith is based on hear-say.

History

Traditions regarding the life of Muhammad and the early history of Islam were passed down orally for more than a hundred years after the death of Muhammad in 632.

Muslim historians say that it was the caliph Uthman (the third caliph, or successor of Muhammad, who had formerly been Muhammad's secretary), who first urged Muslims both to write down the Qur'an in a fixed form, and to write down the hadith. Uthman's labors were cut short by his assassination, at the hands of aggrieved soldiers, in 656.

The Muslim community (ummah) then fell into a prolonged civil war, termed the Fitna by Muslim historians. After the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, was assassinated, control of the Islamic empire was seized by the Umayyad dynasty in 661. Ummayad rule was interrupted by a second civil war (the Second Fitna), re-established, then ended in 758, when the Abbasid dynasty seized the caliphate, to hold it, at least in name, until 1258.

Muslim historians say that hadith collection and evaluation continued during the first Fitna and the Umayyad period. However, much of this activity was presumably oral transmission from early Muslims to later collectors, or from teachers to students. If any of these early scholars committed any of these collections to writing, they have not survived. The histories and hadith collections we possess today were written down at the start of the Abbasid period, more than one hundred years after the death of Muhammad.

The 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 narrations and which had been invented for various political or theological purposes. For this purpose, they used a number of techniques which Muslims now call the science of hadith.

Use

The overwhelming majority of Muslims consider hadith to be essential supplements to and clarifications of the Qur'an, Islam's holy book. In Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur'an contains many rules for the behavior expected of Muslims. However, there are many matters of concern, both religious and practical, on which there are no specific Qur'anic rules. Muslims believe that they can look at the way of life, or sunnah, of Muhammad and his companions to discover what to imitate and what to avoid. Muslim scholars also find it useful to know how Muhammad or his companions explained the revelations, or upon what occasion Muhammad received them. Sometimes this will clarify a passage that otherwise seems obscure. Hadith are a source for Islamic history and biography. For the vast majority of devout Muslims, authentic hadith are also a source of religious inspiration.

However, some contemporary Muslims argue that the Qur'an alone is sufficient. Examples of such Muslims groups are Tolu-e-Islam (Resurgence of Islam), Free Minds, and United Submitters International. Muslims who take the "Qur'an alone" viewpoint are regarded as deviant by mainstream Muslim scholars, and by the vast majority of Muslims. Hadith-trusting Muslims argue that many Qur'anic instructions are impossible to fulfill without guidance from the ahadith. (The Qur'an does not, for example, specify how many prayer cycles constitute fulfillment of each of the daily prayers. See salat.) It is also important to note that most Muslims claim that the Qur'an cannot be explained or read with understanding which is why the Hadith is referred to as the "second source" of Islam. While the Qur'an states "We have made it (the Qur'an) easy to understand and in your own tongue (language) may you take heed." (Qur'an 44:58), there are great debates between Muslims regarding the views stated in the Qur'an, and those stated in the Hadith.

The origins of some verses and statements in the Hadith cannot be verified as regards their source of origin.

Muslim scholars classify hadith relating to Muhammad as follows:

  • What Muhammad said (قول) (qawl)
  • What Muhammad did (فعل) (fi'l)
  • What Muhammad approved (تقرير) (taqrir) in others' actions

There are also hadith relating to the words and deeds of the companions, but they may not have the same weight as those about Muhammad.

Non-Muslim scholars note that there is a great overlap between the records of early Islamic traditions. Accounts of early Islam are also to be found in:

  • sira (stories, especially biographies of Muhammad)
  • tafsir (commentary on the Qur'an)
  • fiqh (juristic reasoning)

Some of these accounts are also found as hadith; some aren't. For a Non-Muslim historian, these are all simply historical sources; for the Muslim scholar, hadith have a special status. They cite sura  [Qur'an  7:157] (Yusuf Ali translation):

Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the Law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.

They take this and other Qur'anic verses to require Muslims to follow authentic hadith. However, a growing number of "Quran-only" Muslims disagree with this view and interpret these verses differently; they argue that the hadith are of human creation and have no authority.

Their argument is strengthened by verses of the Quran which critisise the following of "hadith other than quran", the arabic word "hadith" means "sayings".

Science of hadith

Template:Hadith The most common technique consists of a careful examination of the isnad, or chain of transmission. Each hadith is accompanied by an isnad: A heard it from B who heard it from C who heard it from a companion of Muhammad. Isnads are carefully scrutinized to see if the chain is possible (for example, making sure that all transmitters and transmittees were known to be alive and living in the same area at the time of transmission) and if the transmitters are reliable.

Examples of Hadith

  • “The first thing created by God was the intellect.”[1]
  • “The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr.”[2]
  • “One learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand worshippers.”[3]
  • “Riches are not from an abundance of worldly goods, but from a contented mind.”
  • “He who wishes to enter the paradise at the best door must please his mother and father.”[4]
  • “No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that he desires for himself.”[5]
  • “When the bier of anyone passes by you, whether Jew, Christian, or Muslim, rise to your feet.“[6]
  • “The thing which is lawful but is disliked by God is divorce.”[7]
  • “Women are twin-halves of men.”[8]
  • “Actions will be judged according to intentions.”[9]
  • “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful likewise, but there are certain doubtful things between the two from which it is well to abstain.”[10]
  • “The proof of a Muslim’s sincerity is that he pays no attention to that which is not his business.”
  • “That person is nearest to God, who pardons…him who would have injured him.”[11]
  • “…yield obedience to my successor, although he may be an Abyssinian slave.”[12]
  • “Modesty and chastity are parts of the Faith.”[13]

Views

Currently there is little communication between the world of Muslim hadith scholarship and Western academia. Muslim scholars reject the Westerners as Orientalists who are hostile to religion in general and Islam in particular. Western academics tend to dismiss Muslim scholars as irrelevant, bound as they are to millennia-old technique of hadith evaluations which modern scholarship regards as out-dated.

However, some Muslim scholars have undergone Western academic training and attempted to mediate between the traditional Muslim and the secular Western view. Notable among these was Fazlur Rahman (1911-1988) who argued that while the chain of transmission of the hadith may often be spurious, the content, the matn, can still be used to understand how Islam can be lived in the modern world. Liberal movements within Islam tend to agree with Rahman's views to varying degrees.

Muslim view

Muslims who accept hadith believe that trusted hadith are in most cases the words of Muhammad and not the word of God, like the Qur'an. Hadith Qudsi forms a partial exception; these (few) hadith are said to be recount divine revelations given to Muhammad but not included in the Qur'an. However, the words (as opposed to the substance) are believed to Muhammad's own, and not divinely inspired.

While both hadith and Qur'an have been translated, most Muslims believe that translations of the Qur'an are inherently deficient, amounting to little more than a commentary upon the text. There is no such belief regarding hadith. Practicing Muslims cleanse themselves (wudu) before reading or reciting the Qur'an; there is no such requirement for reading or reciting hadith. Even for Muslims who accept the hadith, they are lower in rank when compared the Qur'an.

Sunni view

The Sunni canon of hadith took its final form close to three centuries after the death of Muhammad. Later scholars may have debated the authenticity of particular hadith but the authority of the canon as a whole was not questioned. This canon, called the Six major Hadith collections, includes:

name Collector Size
Sahih Bukhari Imam Bukhari (d. 870) 7275 hadiths
Sahih Muslim Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875) included 9200
Sunan Abi Da'ud Abu Da'ud (d. 888)
Sunan al-Tirmidhi al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)
Sunan al-Sughra al-Nasa'i (d. 915)
Sunan Ibn Maja Ibn Maja (d. 886)

Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are usually considered the most reliable of these collections. There is some debate over whether the sixth member of this canon should be Ibn Maja or the Muwatta of Imam Malik, which is the earliest hadith canon but predates much of the methodology developed by the classic hadith scholars.

While there are still many traditional Muslims who rely on the ulema and its long tradition of hadith collection and criticism, other contemporary Sunni Muslims are willing to reconsider tradition. Liberal Muslims are most apt to trust the individual conscience, but there are also Salafis who demand the same freedom. The Salafis claim that the ordinary believer can trust his or her own judgment (even if he or she is not trained in Islamic scholarship) if he or she relies on Bukhari and Muslim, the commentators deemed to be most correct (sahih), and ignores the weak hadith.

Shi'a view

Nahj al-Balagha, one of the most cherished Shi'a Collections

Shi'a Muslims trust traditions transmitted by Muhammad's descendents through Fatima Zahra, or by early Muslims who remained faithful to Ali ibn Abi Talib. Shi'a sometimes distrust traditions transmitted by early Muslims who were hostile to Ali, Muslims such as Aisha, Muhammad's widow, who opposed Ali at the Battle of the Camel. In his book Islam (1962) John A. Williams writes regarding which hadith are accepted by Shias, "In law, the Twelvers do not accept hadiths transmitted by enemies of the Imāms such as ‘A’isha, and make use also of the saying of the Imāms."

There are various sects within Shi'a Islam and within each sect, various traditions of scholarship. Each sect, and each scholar, may differ as to the hadith to be accepted as reliable and those to be rejected.

Four prominent Shi'a hadith collections are:

  • Usul al-Kafi
  • Al-Istibsaar
  • Al-Tahdheeb
  • Mun La YahDuruHu al-Faqeeh

And also the 10th century Nahj al-Balagha.

Ibadi view

Ibadi Islam (found mainly in the Arabian kingdom of Oman) accepts many Sunni hadith, while rejecting others, and accepts some hadith not accepted by Sunnis. Ibadi jurisprudence is based only on the hadith accepted by Ibadis, which are far less numerous than those accepted by Sunnis. Several of Ibadism's founding figures - in particular Jabir ibn Zayd - were noted for their hadith research, and Jabir ibn Zayd is accepted as a reliable narrator by Sunni scholars as well as Ibadi ones.

The principal hadith collection accepted by Ibadis is al-Jami'i al-Sahih, also called Musnad al-Rabi ibn Habib, as rearranged by Abu Ya'qub Yusuf b. Ibrahim al-Warijlani. A large proportion of its narrations are via Jabir ibn Zaid or Abu Yaqub; most are reported by Sunnis, while several are not. The total number of hadith it contains is 1005, and an Ibadi tradition recounted by al-Rabi has it that there are only 4000 authentic prophetic hadith. The rules used for determining the reliability of a hadith are given by Abu Ya'qub al-Warijlani, and are largely similar to those used by Sunnis; they criticise some of the companions (sahaba), believing that some were corrupted after the reign of the first two caliphs. The Ibadi jurists accept hadith narrating the words of Muhammad's companions as a third basis for legal rulings, alongside the Qur'an and hadith relating Muhammad's words.

Non-Muslim view

Early Western exploration of Islam consisted primarily of translation of the Qur'an and a few histories, often supplemented with disparaging commentary. In the nineteenth century, scholars made greater attempts at impartiality, and translated and commented upon a greater variety of texts. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Western scholars of Islam started to critically engage with the Islamic texts, subjecting them to the same agnostic, searching scrutiny that had previously been applied to Christian texts (see higher criticism). Ignaz Goldziher is the best known of these turn-of-the-century iconclasts, who also included D. S. Margoliuth, Henri Lammens, and Leone Caetani. Goldziher writes, in his Muslim 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

The next generations of Western scholars were also skeptics, on the whole: Joseph Schacht, in his Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (1959), argued that isnads going back to Muhammad were in fact more likely to be spurious than isnads going back to the companions. John Wansbrough, in the 1970s, and his students Patricia Crone and Michael Cook were even more sweeping in their dismissal of Muslim tradition, arguing that even the Qur'an was likely to have been collected later than claimed. They argue that by the time the oral traditions were being collected, the Muslim community had fractured into rival schools of thought. Each sect and school had its own sometimes-conflicting traditions of what Muhammad and his companions had done and said. Schacht (1964) argued that in the years after Muhammad's death, competing factions invented hadith to justify their own claims and also to accuse anyone who disagreed with their views of illegitimacy, even apostasy or heresy. However from an Islamic standpoint, Muhammad M al-Azami (1996) has systematically repudiated Schacht's scholarship of the hadith.

Cook and Crone go further, doubting the whole chronology of Muhammad's life which they regard as a post-638 fabrication—a heilgeschichte invented after the conquest of Jerusalem to lend religious sanction to Arab territorial expansion.

The Qur'an's composition possibly involved Muslim Ibn al-Hajjaj (810 - 75), editor of the second most authoritative collection of hadith for Sunni Muslims. Commenting that the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem 'attest the existence, at the end of the seventh century, of materials immediately recognisable as Koranic' they add that this does not give any indication 'of the literary form in which those materials normally appeared at the time' (18).

Wansbrough argued that it was more likely that the Qur'an's recession followed rather than preceded the codification of the hadith, which took place in the ninth century; the Qur'anic revelation could only have been effected within the community once its content could be related to that of the prophetic Sunna and, perhaps more important, to the historical figure delineated therein' (1977: 52). Following Schacht, he thinks it significant that “with very few exceptions, Muslim jurisprudence was not derived from the contents of the Qur'an” (44). Thus, the traditional Muslim account of the recession of the Qur'an under the third caliph, Uthman (580 - 656) is fictitious.


Contemporary Western scholars of hadith include:

  • Herbert Berg, The Development of Exegesis in Early Islam (2000)
  • Fred M. Donner, Narratives of Islamic Origins (1998)
  • Wilferd Madelung, Succession to Muhammad (1997)

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.

Some quotes:

  • Wilferd Madelung [2]
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 so far been realized.


Harald Motzki [3]:

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.

Gregor Schoeler [4]:

The current research on the life of Muhammad is characterized by the fact that two groups of researchers stand directly opposed to one another: The one group advocates, somewhat aggressively, the conviction that all transmitted traditions, in part because of great inner contradictions, legendary forms, and so forth, are to be rejected. The other group is opposed to that view. According to these researchers, the Islamic transmission, despite all these defects, has at least a genuine core, which can be recognized using the appropriate source-critical methods. The difficulty certainly consists of finding criteria by which the genuine is to be differentiated from spurious.

Criticism

The hadith Ahmed, Vol. 1, page 171 says: "Do not write down anything of me except the Qur'an. Whoever writes other than that should delete it." Some people would interpret this to mean that the Hadith should never have been written, but according to most scholars and researchers, this hadith was valid when the Qur'an was being revealed. The reason behind this order was to prevent any risk of confusing the Qur'an with the Hadith. However, once the revelation was completed and it was certain that no more verses were going to be descended, it was permissible — and even an obligation — to write down the Hadith to preserve it throughout time, because, had the memorisers of the Hadith passed away before writing it down, the Hadiths could have disappeared. Muslims have been ordered to follow the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad because it is an order clearly stated in the Qur'an in several places such as in Surah al-Imran (3) verses 32 and 132, Surah an-Nisa' (4) verse 59, Surah al-Maidah (5) verse 92, Surah al-Anfal (8) verses 1, 20, 46, Surah an-Noor (24) verses 54, 56, Surah Muhammad (47) verse 33, etc. (IslamiCity.com)

References

  1. http://people.uncw.edu/bergh/par246/L21RHadithCriticism.htm
  2. The Succession to Muhammad, page xi
  3. http://people.uncw.edu/bergh/par246/L21RHadithCriticism.htm
  4. Gregor Schoeler, Berg (2003), p. 21

Pro-hadith


Hadith collections


Supporting hadith study

Critical of hadith study

Hadith study - General

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