106. What is the
The term Hadith literature (or
even just Hadith sometimes) refers to a number of historical
books which contain reports of the sayings, actions and
example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, by which he showed his
followers how to put the teachings of the Holy Quran into
107. What does the
word Hadith mean?
Hadith just means a saying.
When used as a term in the religion of Islam, a hadith means
a report of what the Holy Prophet Muhammad said or did on a
certain occasion. In English books on Islam, the word
tradition is also used to denote a hadith. The word Hadith
is also applied to the books containing these
108. Please name
some books of Hadith.
The two most famous works of
Hadith are: Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Each of these is
named after the person who compiled it, i.e., Bukhari and
Muslim. The word Sahih in these titles refers to the fact
that the compilers of these books sifted the genuine reports
about the Holy Prophet from unfounded and unreliable
stories, so far as they could, and included only those which
were trust-worthy. There are many other books of Hadith,
named after the compilers, such as Tirmizi, Abu Dawud, and
the Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.
109. How did these
books come to be compiled?
There were many teachings of
the Holy Quran which the Holy Prophet had to illustrate by
his practice and actions (such as how to perform the
salaat). His followers learnt from and copied what he did,
and then by their example taught the next generation how to
carry out these practices. Apart from this practical side,
the Holy Prophet's sayings on various matters, and details
of what he did on various occasions, were also remembered by
those who saw and heard him. They then related all these
things to other people. But, unlike the Holy Quran, these
details were usually not written down.
So these traditions were passed down
from one generation to the next by practical example (as in
the case of prayer) and by word of mouth. About 150 years
after the Holy Prophet's death, some scholars decided to try
to trace all these traditions back to him, by following the
chain of people who had passed down each report from the
Holy Prophet's time to the then present time. From their
great research, they compiled the books of Hadith that we
110. So the
compilers of Hadith did not just record everything which
they heard people calling a Saying or action of the Holy
No, they investigated each and
every report of a saying or action of the Holy Prophet to
check whether the names of all the persons involved in
passing it down from his time were known. They also
investigated the lives and character of all these people to
find out if they could have had the opportunity of hearing
and passing down the saying from one to another, and if they
were trustworthy and had good memories. Bukhari and Muslim
were more strict than other compilers in making these checks
before accepting a report as being genuine. This is why
these two books are regarded as the most reliable Hadith
collections, Bukhari being ranked highest of all.
111. What are the
subjects covered in Hadith literature?
The reports in Hadith books
are largely of the following kinds:
Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
about the basic teachings and practices of Islam, such as
beliefs, prayer, fasting, etc.
His Sayings on various practical
aspects of life, such as family life, business dealings, the
law, food and drink, moral qualities, etc.
Apart from Sayings, the actions and
personal example of the Holy Prophet which illustrate his
teachings and go to show how he put them into practice
(e.g., reports of how he said his prayers, what he did
during the days of fasting, how he gave in charity, etc.)
Reports about what sort of a person
the Holy Prophet Muhammad was, his everyday life, his noble
character, his dealings with friend and foe, the important
events in his life, etc.
Prophecies of the Holy Prophet
relating to the future of Islam, the Muslims, and mankind
112. Are all the
recorded reports in Hadith true and genuine?
No, not every single one. The
people who passed on these reports by word of mouth before
they were compiled made mistakes in some cases. There are
also some reported sayings written down in books of Hadith
which the Holy Prophet may not have ever said at all.
However, the bulk of the reports, especially those contained
in Bukhari and Muslim, are genuine. The teachings which the
Holy Prophet illustrated by his example (such as how to
perform the prayers) were copied by such a large number of
people that there cannot be any doubt at all about their
genuineness. Similarly, many of his Sayings were memorized
and passed down by a number of Companions in each case, not
by just one person, and became wellknown among the
Muslims from the beginning.
113. Is it
necessary for a Muslim to believe in and follow Hadith?
Yes, especially the part
relating to the observance of religion and to practical
life. It must always be remembered, however, that Hadith is
meant to be a further explanation of the teachings of the
Holy Quran. Any report in Hadith books which appears to go
against the Holy Quran must be examined carefully to see if
it can be given a meaning not contradicting the Holy Book,
and if not, it must be rejected.
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