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 Salalah
Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam, because the Sunnah is the practical example of the implementation of the Qur'anic guidance, the
wisdom taught to the Prophet Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam, 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 Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam, 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 which refers to the sayings, actions or characteristics of the Prophet Salalah
Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam, 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.
According to the reference to a particular
Four types of hadith can be identified.
Qudsi - Divine; a revelation from Allah (SWT); relayed
with the words of the Prophet Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam.
Marfu - elevated; a narration from the Prophet Salalah
Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam, e.g. I heard the Prophet Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam saying ...
Mauquf- stopped: a narration from a companion only,
e.g., we were commanded to ...
Maqtu' - severed: a narration from a successor.
According to the links of Isnad - interrupted
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 Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi
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 Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam 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 Salalah Aleyhi Wa~alehi Wassalam directly (i.e., the link is missing at the
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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'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.
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