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04-15-2007, 10:04 PM

The Importance of Hadith in Islam

The two fundamental sources of Islam are the Qur'an (the word of God) and the Sunnah (the example) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). By Sunnah, we mean the actions, sayings and silent permissions (or disapprovals) of the Prophet.
The word "Sunnah" is also used to refer to religious duties that are optional. Here, we are concerned with Sunnah in the sense of the recorded sayings (Hadiths) of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). In this sense, Hadith is considered to be second to the Qur'an. It is impossible to understand the Qur'an without reference to the Hadith; and it is impossible to explain a hadith without relating it to the Qur'an.

The Qur'an is the message, while the Hadith is the verbal translation of the message into pragmatic terms, as exemplified by the Prophet. While the Qur'an is the metaphysical basis of the Sunnah, the Sunnah is the practical demonstration of the precepts laid down in the Qur'an.

The duty of the Messenger was not just to communicate the message, rather, he was entrusted with the most important task of explaining and illustrating that message. That is the reason why Allah Himself has commanded the following:

(Say: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away, he (the Prophet) is only responsible for the duty placed on him (i.e. to convey Allah's Message) and you for that placed on you. If you obey him, you shall be on the right guidance. The Messenger's duty is only to convey (the message) in a clear way.) (An-Nur 24:54)

This verse clearly tells us the overriding importance of Hadith to Muslims. They should be eager to learn and follow the teachings of the Prophet as expressed in Hadith. If we are negligent in this respect, it is we who have to answer before Allah.

Speaking of the importance of Hadith, we need to take into consideration two broad aspects of the subject. We know that Allah Almighty revealed the Qur'an to His chosen Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). So it is through the Prophet we come to hear the word of Allah; and it is the Prophet himself who can properly explain and demonstrate the precepts in the Qur'an. Without the required explanations and illustrations given by the Prophet, the Qur'an may be misunderstood and misinterpreted by people. So the Prophet took care to explain and demonstrate to his companions how the Qur'anic verses must be read and understood. That is to say, the importance of Hadith is linked to the importance of the Qur'an.
For example, the details of how to perform salah (ritual prayer), for instance, were given by the Prophet through his words and action, and not by the Qur'an. This means that we wouldn't know how to pray, fast, pay zakah, or perform Hajj without the examples given by the Prophet as recorded in the Hadith. Indeed, all necessary details are given in the Hadith, not in the Qur'an.

The revelation of each of the verses of the Qur'an took place at some critical junctures in the life of the Prophet. Of course, there are verses of universal application and significance, irrespective of the context in which those verses were revealed. But there are other verses that can be understood or interpreted only in the light of the actual context in the life of the Prophet, which called for that revelation. There are many examples. For instance, the following verse in the Surah Aali `Imran:

(If any one disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge hath come to thee, Say: Come! Let us gather together, our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: then let us earnestly pray. And invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie.) (Aali `Imran 3:61)

This verse talks about mubahala (invoking the curse of Allah on those who take a dishonest stand); and was revealed when the Prophet was conferring with the Christian delegation from Najran in 631 CE This example clearly shows how we need to refer to the life and example of the Prophet to understand the context, as well as the meaning of verses, such as the above mentioned one in the Qur'an.

The foregoing shows how Hadith, in practical terms, explains, clarifies, and paraphrases the Qur'an. If we reject the Hadith, we may misread the Qur'an; so Hadith is central to a proper understanding of the Qur'an.

In the Qur'an, Allah Almighty commands us not only to obey the Messenger, but also to abide by his decisions as follows:

(But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make you (the Prophet) judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.") (An-Nisaa' 4:65)

And surely we find such decisions only in the Hadith; the duty of Muslims is to accept the Prophet's decisions whole-heartedly. The Qur'an also orders the faithful to emulate the role model of the Messenger and reckons it to be the only way to gain the pleasure of Allah.

It is therefore obligatory that we look up to the Prophet's morals and exemplary character and carry them out in our lives. We can never do so without studying Hadith. It is most illuminating in this respect to learn that when `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was asked to describe the character of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), her definitive answer was, "His character was that of the Qur'an." In other words, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) personified the best ideals and values of the Qur'an. How could we then neglect the Hadith, which alone can lead us to the precise ways in which the Prophet exemplified the Qur'anic ideals?


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04-15-2007, 10:08 PM

Note: While citing the isnads below, the terms haddathana (he narrated to us), akhbarana (he informed us) or sami`tu (I heard) will be represented by a double line thus (===), while a single broken line (---) will replace the term `an (on the authority of).
Before discussing ma`lul (defective) hadiths, a brief note on mudtarib (shaky) and maqlub (reversed) hadiths would help in understanding ma`lul.

Mudtarib (Shaky Hadiths)

According to Ibn Kathir, if reporters disagree about a particular sheikh or about some other points in the isnad or the text in such a way that none of the opinions can be preferred over the others, and thus there is uncertainty about the isnad or text, such a hadith is called mudtarib (shaky) (Ibn Kathir 72).

For example, with regard to idtirab (shakiness) in the isnad, it is reported on the authority of Abu Bakr that he said, "O Messenger of Allah! I see you getting gray-headed?" He (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, "What made me gray-headed are Surat Hud and its sister surahs." Ad-Daraqutni commented:

This is an example of a mudtarib hadith. It is reported through Abu Ishaq, but as many as ten different opinions are held about this isnad. Some report it as mursal, others as muttasil (a hadith with uninterrupted chain of narrators); some take it as musnad of Abu Bakr, others as musnad of Sa`d or `A'ishah. Since all these reports are comparable in weight, it is difficult to prefer one above another. Hence, the hadith is termed as mudtarib. (Ibn Kathir 72)

As an example of idtirab in the text, Rafi` ibn Khadij said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade the renting of land. The reporters narrating from Rafi` give different statements as follows:

1. Hanzalah asked Rafi`, "What about renting for gold and silver?" He replied, "It does not matter if it is rent for gold and silver."

2. Rifa`ah --- Rafi` --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), whosaid, "Whoever owns a piece of land should cultivate it, give it to his brother to cultivate, or abandon it."

3. Salim --- Rafi` --- his two uncles --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who forbade the renting of farming land.

4. The son of Rafi` --- Rafi` --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who forbade the renting of land.

5. A different narration by Rafi` from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who said, "Whoever owns a piece of land should either cultivate it or give it to his brother to cultivate. He must not rent it for a third or a quarter of the produce, nor for a given quantity of the produce."

6. Zaid ibn Thabit said, "May Allah forgive Rafi`! I am more aware of the hadith than he; what happened was that two of the Ansar had a dispute, so they came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who said after listening to their cases, 'If this is your position, then do not rent the farms.' Rafi` has only heard the last phrase, that is, 'Do not rent the farms'."

Because of these various versions, Ahmad ibn Hanbal said,

The hadiths reported by Rafi` about the renting of land are mudtarib. They are not to be accepted, especially when they go against the well-established hadith of Ibn `Umar that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) gave the land of Khaibar to the Jews on condition that they work on it and take half of the produce. (Luqman As-Salafi 381f)

Maqlub (Changed or Reversed)

A hadith is known as maqlub (changed, reversed) when its isnad is grafted to a different text or vice versa, or if a reporter happens to reverse the order of a sentence in the text.

As an example relating to the text, in his transmission of the famous hadith describing the seven types of people who will be under the shelter of Allah on the Day of Judgment, Muslim reports one of the categories as "a man who conceals his act of charity to such an extent that his right hand does not know what his left hand gives in charity." This sentence has clearly been reversed by a reporter because the correct wording is recorded in other narrations of both Al-Bukhari and Muslim as "... that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives ..." (Ibn Kathir 88).

The famous trial of Al-Bukhari by the scholars of Baghdad provides a good example of a maqlub isnad. The traditionists, in order to test their visitor, Al-Bukhari, appointed 10 men, each with 10 hadiths. Each hadith (text) of these 10 people was prefixed with the isnad of another. Imam Al-Bukhari listened to each of the 10 men as they narrated their hadiths and denied the correctness of every hadith. When they had finished narrating these hadiths, he addressed each person in turn and recounted to him each of his hadiths with its correct isnad. This trial earned him great honor among the scholars of Baghdad (Ibn Kathir 87).

Other ways in which hadiths have been rendered maqlub are by replacement of the name of a reporter with another, for example, by quoting Abu Hurairah as the reporter from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) although the actual reporter was someone else, or by reversal of the name of the reporter, for example, by mentioning Walid ibn Muslim instead of Muslim ibn Walid, or Ka`b ibn Murrah instead of Murrah ibn Ka`b (As-Sakhawi 1:278).

Ma`lul or Mu`allal (Defective)

Ibn As-Salah says, "A ma`lul (defective) hadith is one which appears to be sound, but thorough research reveals a disparaging factor." Such factors can be

1. Declaring a hadith musnadwhen it is in fact mursal, or marfu`when it is in fact mawquf.

2. Showing a reporter to narrate from his sheikh when in fact he did not meet the latter; or by attributing a hadith to one Companion when it in fact came through a different Companion (Ibn As-Salah 116).

Ibn Al-Madini (d. AH 324) says that such a defect can only be revealed if all the isnads of a particular hadith are collated. In his book Al-`Ilal, he gives 34 successors and the names of those Companions from whom each of the successors did not hear hadithsdirectly. For example, he says that Al-Hasan Al-Basri (d. AH 110, aged 88) did not see `Ali (d. AH 40), although he adds that there is a slight possibility that he may have seen him during his childhood in Madinah (Ibn Al-Madini 58).(1)Such information is very important, since for example, many Sufi traditions go back to Al-Hasan Al-Basri, who is claimed to report directly from `Ali.

Being a very delicate branch of the Hadith methodology, only a few well-known traditionists, such as Ibn Al-Madini (d. AH 234), Ibn Abi Hatim Ar-Razi (d. AH 327), Al-Khallal (d. AH 311) and Ad-Daraqutni (d. AH 385), have compiled books about it. Ibn Abi Hatim, in his Kitab Al-Ilal, has given 2,840 examples of ma`lul hadiths on a range of topics.

An example of a ma`lul hadith is one transmitted by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, who reports the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as having said:

Allah created the land on Saturday; He created the mountains on Sunday; He created the trees on Monday; He created natural resources on Tuesday; He created the light on Wednesday; He scattered the beasts in it (the earth) on Thursday; and He created Adam after the afternoon (`Asr) of Friday, the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, between the afternoon and night. (Muslim 4: 2149, English translation IV:1462)


Ibn Kathir, Abul-Fida' `Imad Ad-Din. Ikhtisar `Ulum Al-Hadith. Ed. Ahmad Shakir. 2nd imp., Cairo, 1951.
Ibn Al-Madini, `Ali ibn `Abdullah ibn Ja`far. Kitab Al-`Ilal.
Ibn As-Salah, `Uthman ibn `Abd Ar-Rahman Ad-Dimshqi. `Ulum Al-Hadith, commonly known as Muqaddimat Ibn As-Salah. Ed. At-Tabbakh. Aleppo: AH 1350.
Ibn Taimiyah, Taqi Ad-Din Ahmad ibn `Abd Al-Halim. Majmu` Al-Fatawa, 37 vols., Ed. `Abd Al-Rahman ibn Qasim and Muhammad. Riyadh, 1398 A.H.
Luqman As-Salafi. Ihtimam Al-Muhaddithin bi Naqd Al-Hadith.
As-Sakhawi, Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn `Abd Ar-Rahman. Fath Al-Mughith Sharh Alfiyat Al-Hadith. Lucknow, n.d.

(1) Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalani mentions that the imams of Hadith have agreed that Al-Hasan Al-Basri did not hear a single word from `Ali.

(2) Ibn Taimiyah mentions that Imam Muslim's authentication of this hadith is supported by Abu Bakr Al-Anbari and Ibn Al-Jawzi; whereas Al-Baihaqi supports those who disparaged it. Al-Albani says that it was Ibn Al-Madini who criticized it; whereas Ibn Ma`in did not (the latter was known to be very strict; both of them were sheikhs of Al-Bukhari). He further says that the hadith is sahih, and does not contradict the Qur'an, contrary to the probable view of the scholars who criticized the hadith, since what is mentioned in the Qur'an is the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, each of which may be like a thousand years; whereas the hadith refers to the creation of the earth only, in days which are shorter than those referred to in the Qur'an (Al-Albani, Silsilat Al-Ahadith As-Sahihah, no. 1833).


04-15-2007, 10:26 PM

Classification of Hadith *
According to the Nature of the Text and Isnad

The traditionists’ critical and comparative analysis of hadiths’ texts and isnads resulted in the following classifications:

Shadh (Irregular) and Munkar (Denounced)

According to Ash-Shafi`i, a shadh (irregular) hadith is one that is reported by a trustworthy person but goes against the narration of a person more reliable than him. It does not include a hadith that is unique in its contents and is not narrated by someone else (Al-Hakim 119). In the light of this definition, the well-known hadith “Actions are (judged) according to their intentions” is not considered shadh since it has been narrated by Yahya ibn Sa`id Al-Ansari from Muhammad ibn Ibrahim At-Taimi from `Alqamah from `Umar, all of whom are trustworthy authorities, although each one of them is the only reporter at that stage (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, 57).

An example of a Shadh hadith according to some scholars is one that Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi transmit through the following isnad:

`Abdul Wahid ibn Ziyad --- Al-A`mash --- Abu Salih --- Abu Hurairah === the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “When one of you offers the two rak`ahs before the Dawn Prayer, he should lie down on his right side.”

Regarding it, Al-Baihaqi said,

`Abdul Wahid has gone against a large number of people with this narration, for they have reported the above as an act of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and not as his saying; `Abdul Wahid is alone amongst the trustworthy students of Al-A`mash in narrating these words. (As-Suyuti 1:235; Salih 260)

According to Ibn Hajar, if a narration that goes against another authentic hadith is reported by a weak narrator, it is known as munkar (denounced) (As-San`ani 2:3). Traditionists as late as Ahmad used to simply label any hadith of a weak reporter as munkar (As-San`ani 2:6). Sometimes, a hadith is labeled as munkar because its content is contrary to general sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Al-Khatib (d. AH 463) quotes Ar-Rabi` ibn Khaitham (d. AH 63) as saying, “Some hadiths have a light like that of day, which we recognize; others have a darkness like that of night which makes us reject them.” He also quotes Al-Auza`i (d. AH 157) as saying,

We used to listen to hadiths and present them to fellow traditionists, just as we present forged coins to money-changers: whatever they recognize of them, we accept, and whatever they reject of them, we also reject. (Al-Khatib 431)

Ibn Kathir quotes the following two hadiths in his Tafsir, the first of which is acceptable; whereas the second contradicts it and is unreliable:

1. Ahmad === Abu Mu`awiyah === Hisham ibn `Urwah --- Fatimah bint Al-Mundhir --- Asma’ bint Abi Bakr, who said: My mother came (to Madinah) during the treaty Quraish had made, while she was still a polytheist. So I came to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said to him, “O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come willingly. Should I treat her with kindness?” He replied, “Yes! Treat her with kindness.”

2. Al-Bazzar === `Abdullah ibn Shabib === Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaibah === Abu Qatadah Al- `Adawi --- the nephew of Az-Zuhri --- Az-Zuhri --- `Urwah --- `A’ishah and Asma’, both of whom said: Our mother came to us in Madinah while she was a polytheist, during the peace treaty between the Quraish and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). So we said, “O Messenger of Allah, our mother has come to Madinah willingly. Do we treat her kindly?” He said, “Yes! Treat her kindly.”

Ibn Kathir then remarks

This (latter) hadith, to our knowledge, is reported only through this route of Az-Zuhri --- `Urwah --- `A’ishah. It is a munkar hadith with this text because the mother of `A’ishah is Umm Ruman, who was already a Muslim emigrant, while the mother of Asma’ was another woman, as mentioned by name in other hadiths. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 4:349)

In contrast to a munkar hadith, if a reliable reporter is found to add something that is not narrated by other authentic sources, the addition is accepted as long as it does not contradict them; it is known as ziyadatu ath-thiqah (an addition reported by one trustworthy) (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, 62).

An example is the hadith of Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Ibn Mas`ud: I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), “Which action is the most virtuous?” He said, “The Prayer at its due time.” Two reporters, Al-Hasan ibn Makdam and Bindar, reported it with the addition “at the beginning of its time”; both Al-Hakim and Ibn Hibban declared this addition to be sahih (authentic) (As-Suyuti 1:248).

Mudraj (Interpolated)

An addition by a reporter to the text of the saying being narrated is termed mudraj (interpolated) (Al-Hakim 39). For example, Al-Khatib relates via Abu Qattan and Shababah --- Shu`bah --- Muhammad ibn Ziyad --- Abu Hurairah --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, “Perform the ablution fully; woe to the heels from the Fire!”

Al-Khatib then remarks

The statement, “Perform the ablution fully” is made by Abu Hurairah, while the statement afterwards, “woe to the heels from the Fire!”, is that of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The distinction between the two is understood from the narration of Al-Bukhari, who transmits the same hadith and quotes Abu Hurairah as saying, “Complete the ablution, for Abu Al-Qasim (the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Woe to the heels from the Fire!’” (Al-`Iraqi 129f).

Such an addition may be found in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end, often in explanation of a term used. Idraj (interpolation) is mostly found in the text, although a few examples show that such additions are found in the isnad as well, where the reporter grafts a part of one isnad into another.

A reporter found to be in the habit of intentional idraj is generally unacceptable and considered a liar (As-Suyuti 1:274). However, the traditionists are more lenient towards those reporters who may do so forgetfully or in order to explain a difficult word.


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