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Hadith

Hadith (/ˈhædɪθ/[1] or /hɑːˈdθ/;[2]) are the collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The term comes from the Arabic: حديث‎, plural:أحاديث, meaning "report" "account" or "narrative".

The hadith literature is based on spoken reports that were in circulation in society after the death of Muhammad. Islamic scholars then compiled these hadith together in collections.

Different branches of Islam refer to different collections of hadith, though the same incident may be found in hadith in different collections:

Some minor heterodox groups, collectively known as Quranists, reject the authority of all Hadith.[3][4] These groups, which are outside the main denominations, are present in Pakistan, Nigeria and the United States, and are essentially a twentieth century development.

The hadith also had a profound and controversial influence on moulding the commentaries (tafsir) on the Quran. The earliest commentary of the Quran by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari is mostly sourced from the hadith. The hadith was used in forming the basis of 'Shariah' law. Much of early Islamic history available today is also based on the hadith and is challenged for lack of basis in primary source material and contradictions based on secondary material available.

Each hadith is based on two parts, a chain of narrators reporting the hadith (isnad), and the text itself (matn).[5][6] Hadiths are still regarded by traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Quran and in matters of jurisprudence.[7] Hadith were evaluated and gathered into large collections during the 8th and 9th centuries. These works are referred to in matters of Islamic law and history to this day.

Muslim clerics and jurists classify individual hadith as sahih ("authentic"), hasan ("good") or da'if ("weak").[8] However there is no overall agreement: different groups and different individual scholars may classify a hadith differently.

Etymology

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In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديثḥadīth  IPA: [ħaˈdiːθ]) means a "report, account, narrative".[9] The Arabic plural is ʾaḥādīth (أحاديث) (IPA: [ʔaħaːˈdiːθ]). Hadith also refers to the speech of a person.[10] It is a noun.[11]

Definition

In Islamic terminology, the term hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Muhammad, or of his tacit approval or criticism of something said or done in his presence.[12] Classical hadith specialist Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says that the intended meaning of hadith in religious tradition is something attributed to Muhammad but that is not found in the Quran.[13] Other associated words possess similar meanings including: khabar (news, information) often refers to reports about Muhammad, but sometimes refers to traditions about his companions and their successors from the following generation; conversely, athar (trace, vestige) usually refers to traditions about the companions and successors, though sometimes connotes traditions about Muhammad. The word sunnah (custom) is also used in reference to a normative custom of Muhammad or the early Muslim community.[12]

Components

The two major aspects of a hadith are the text of the report (the matn), which contains the actual narrative, and the chain of narrators (the isnad), which documents the route by which the report has been transmitted.[12] The sanad, literally 'support', is so named due to the reliance of the hadith specialists upon it in determining the authenticity or weakness of a hadith.[14] The isnad consists of a chronological list of the narrators, each mentioning the one from whom they heard the hadith, until mentioning the originator of the matn along with the matn itself.

The first people to hear hadith were the companions who preserved it and then conveyed it to those after them. Then the generation following them received it, thus conveying it to those after them and so on. So a companion would say, "I heard the Prophet say such and such." The Follower would then say, "I heard a companion say, 'I heard the Prophet.'" The one after him would then say, "I heard someone say, 'I heard a Companion say, 'I heard the Prophet..." and so on.[15]

History, tradition and usage

History

Traditions of the life of Muhammad and the early history of Islam were passed down mostly orally for more than a hundred years after Muhammad's death in AD 632. Muslim historians say that Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (the third khalifa (caliph) of the Rashidun Empire, or third successor of Muhammad, who had formerly been Muhammad's secretary), is generally believed to urge Muslims to record the hadith just as Muhammad suggested to some of his followers to write down his words and actions.[16][17]

Uthman's labours were cut short by his assassination, at the hands of aggrieved soldiers, in 656. No sources survive directly from this period so we are dependent on what later writers tell us about this period.[18]

By the 9th century the number of hadiths had grown exponentially. Islamic scholars of the Abbasid period were faced with a huge corpus of miscellaneous traditions, some of them flatly contradicting each other. Many of these traditions supported differing views on a variety of controversial matters. Scholars had to decide which hadith were to be trusted as authentic and which had been invented for political or theological purposes. To do this, they used a number of techniques which Muslims now call the science of hadith.[19]

Shia and Sunni textual traditions

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