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(P),
because the Sunnah is the practical example of the implementation of the
Qur'anic guidance, the wisdom taught to the Prophet(P)
along with the scripture, and neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah can be
understood correctly without the other.
preserved the Sunnah by enabling the Companions and those after them to
memorize, write down and pass on the statements of the Prophet(P),
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(SWT)
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
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(P),
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
Four types of hadith can be
- Qudsi - Divine; a revelation
relayed with the words of the Prophet(P).
- Marfu` - elevated; a narration
from the Prophet(P),
e.g., I heard the Prophet(P)
- 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 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(P).
- Muttasil - 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(P)
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
directly (i.e., the link is missing at the beginning).
- According to the number of reporters
involved in each stage of isnad
Five categories of hadith can be
- According to the nature of the text and
- 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:
- 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`adal (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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