What Are The Hadith?
The Arabic word Hadith means “speech.” In Islam, hadiths relate to stories or narrations about Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). Sometimes the hadith may be a quotation of Prophet Muhammad. Or the hadith might be a story about something that happened during his lifetime. The hadeeths are used as legislative statements and are second only to the Quran in importance in Islam.
The hadiths are very important in Islam because they fill in the details on Islamic life. Where the Quran gives Muslims a broad framework for how we should live, the Hadeeths give us specific information. Here are some examples of how the hadiths give us specifics on general commandments from the Quran.
- The Quran commands Muslims to pray. – However, Prophet Muhammad has informed us how and when to perform Islamic prayers in several hadiths.
- The Quran commands Muslims to make Hajj. – However, narrations describing the Hajj and Umrah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) tell us how to make Hajj.
- The Quran commands Muslims to give Zakah. – However, it is hadith quoting narrations from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that tell us who must pay Zakah, and how much to give.
To put it simple, the hadith explain the Sunnah (practice or tradition) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Who Wrote The Hadeeth?
The Hadeeths weren’t actually written. The hadiths were reported by several of Prophet Muhammad’s companions. Some of the companions, or Sahaba, recorded the hadiths, but none of them exist today. The stories, or hadeeths, relating to Prophet Muhammad were passed down orally for the first hundred years of Islamic history.
By the time the first collection of hadeeths was put into written form, the Islamic world had grown very large and had been through several upheavals. Muslims realized the importance of the Sunnah, or tradition, of Prophet Muhammad. With the encouragement of Muslim rulers, several scholars began to collect the hadeeths.
In order to weed out the several hundred fabricated and inaccurate hadeeths prevalent amongst at that time, the scholars of Hadeeth formulated a science of hadith collection. Using a rigid method of inspection, they were able to weed out the weak and fabricated hadeeths from the strong and authentic ones.
The Six Major Collections of Hadeeth
This determination to collect the most authentic hadeeths possible led to six major collections. These hadeeth collections have varying levels of authenticity and acceptance. The first two collections, written by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, are considered the most authentic by most Sunni Muslims. The other four are generally accepted as well, but are not as highly regarded.
Imam Bukhari’s and Imam Muslim’s collections are called “Saheeh” (authentic) but in reality all six collections contain mostly authentic hadeeths.
The Six Major Hadeeth collections are:
- Saheeh Bukhari – Compiled by Imam Muhammad Ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari. It is said Imam Bukhari collected over 300000 hadiths but only considered 2600 authentic enough to go into this collection.
- Saheeh Muslim – Compiled by Imam Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaj. Imam Muslim was the student Imam Bukhari. Imam Muslim’s collection contains about 4000 hadeeths.
- Sunan Nasa’I – Compiled by Ahmad Ibn Shuaib Al-Nasa’i. This collection contains over 5000 hadeeths.
- Sunan Abu Dawud – Compiled by Abu Dawud Sulayman Al-Sijistani.
- Sunan Tirmidhi – Compiled by Abu Isa Muhammad At-Tirmidhi.
- Sunan Ibn Majah – Compiled by Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Majah Al-Rabi Al-Qazwini.
Examples of Hadith
The prophets of Allah are our guides and examples. In order to live a righteous life of monotheistic worship, we have to follow their example. The only prophet for whom we have detailed knowledge of their daily life is Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
We can follow Prophet Muhammad’s tradition, or his sunnah, by learning, studying, and implementing the authentic hadeeths. The purpose of this website is to impart knowledge about the basics of Islam. However, even following the basics of Islam is impossible without using the hadeeths.
There are some misguided people who state we only need to follow the Quran. No doubt, the Quran is the most important piece of literature to Muslims as it comes straight from Allah. However, Prophet Muhammad was sent by Allah to give us guidance and it is imperative that we follow his teachings as well as what is in the Quran.
Here are several hadeeths that prove just how important the Sunnah, or tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is to our daily lives as Muslims:
Islam is built upon five [pillars]: the testimony that there is no god but Allaah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah; establishing regular prayer (salaah); paying the zakaah; Hajj (pilgrimage) and fasting Ramadaan.
(The difference) between the believer and the disbeliever is the Salah.
- Laylatul Qadar (The Night of Power)
Verily I saw Lailatul Qadr, and I was caused to forget it, and indeed it is during the last ten (nights). It is during an odd night and I saw myself as if I were prostrating in mud and water.
Narrated Aisha (the Prophet’s wife): Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: ‘O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.
Abu Dawud, Book 32, Number 4092
The Islamic Articles of Faith are described in a long and famous hadeeth known as “The Hadeeth of Jibreel.” This hadeeth gives detailed information about faith in Islam and signs of the last day. It was collected by Imam Muslim.
From these hadeeths we can see how important the statements and stories of Prophet Muhammad are to Islam. Anyone who denies this fact is seriously misguided and not really practicing Islam at all.