The term “Hadith” has multiple meanings, including speech, talk, statement, report, narration, discourse, conversation, utterance, or something new. Hadith refers specifically to the sayings, actions, and silent approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It encompasses his reactions, instructions, recommendations, and confirmations related to matters in the religion of Islam.
It is the second source of Islamic legislation, following the Qur’an. It serves to explain and provide clarity to the teachings of the Qur’an, making its message explicit. It, at times, provides separate rulings as an independent source of Islamic law (Shari’ah).
Components of Hadith
Traditionally, a Hadith consists of two main components:
- Matn: This refers to the text and content of the Hadith, representing the actual words of the Prophet as recorded. Matn serves as the internal test of the Hadith.
- Isnad: This is the chain of narrators, documenting the transmission of the Hadith from one person to another until it reaches the companion who directly heard it from the Prophet. Isnad is the external test of the Hadith. For a Hadith to be considered authentic, both Isnad and Matn must be accurately verified.
Forms/Classifications of Hadith
Hadith can be classified into three main types:
- Sahih: These are sound and authentic Hadiths that have successfully passed all tests applied to Isnad and Matn.
- Hasan: These are good Hadiths, though not as strong as Sahih. Both Sahih and Hasan Hadiths can be used as evidence and are acted upon.
- Da’if: These are weak Hadiths, often due to issues or doubts about the Isnad or one or more of the narrators. They are less reliable than Sahih and Hasan Hadiths and cannot be used for legal matters.
Collection, Collation, and Preservation of Hadith
Initially, during the lifetime of the Prophet and the first generation of his companions, the Prophet’s statements and utterances were not transcribed extensively to avoid confusion with the Quranic text. The companions primarily relied on memorization to preserve the Quran and Hadith.
The systematic collection and compilation of Hadith began during the time of the second generation of Muslims, known as At-Tabi’un (followers of the companions). Umar ibn Abdul Aziz is credited with ordering the first official collection of Hadith.
Notable collectors like Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and An-Nasai compiled the most famous Hadith collections.
The six most renowned books of Hadith, known as the “Sihah Sittah” or the “authentic six,” are:
- Sahihul-Bukhari by Muhammad bn ‘Isma’il Al-Bukhari
- Sahih Muslim by Muslim bn Al-Hajjaj
- Sunan ’Abi Dawud by Sulaiman bn Ash’ath As Sijistanī
- Jāmiut-Tirmidhi by Muhammad bn ‘Isa At- Tirmidhi
- Sunan Ibn Majah by Muhammad bn Yazīd Al- Qazwini
- Sunan An-Nasā’ī by Ahmad bn Shu’aib An-Nasā’ī
Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are considered the most authentic among these collections.