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Confusion regarding Hadith Literature
Question asked by Imran M.Choudhry.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - Hits: 3728

There is a lot of confusion about Hadith in my mind. How many authentic compilations are there, kindly name them and how do we know about their authenticity? Most importantly, tell me which of the compilations should I follow based on what criteria?

Islam has been given to us by the Prophet (sws) in two forms. The Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah. By the Holy Qur'an we mean the book of God revealed on Muhammad (sws) and it is a well known Book. By Sunnah we mean the practices the Prophets (sws) instituted as necessary part of the religion. These practices have been transferred to us through ijma of the companions and tawatur (perpetual adherence of all the generations until they reached us). They are thus absolutely authentic and reliable. These two forms of the religion Islam are meant to be known by all without any formal research and education.

As regards the matter of Hadith literature that is different from the above sources in that:

a) It is an explanatory source ie it was not made part of the Muslim life and it is only needed to explain and detail religions obligation. The Hadith was not propagated by the Prophet ( sws) it was only because of the natural interest of the followers that many things about the prophet they preserved and passed it on enquiry. The Prophet never engaged them in doing so.

b) It has been transferred to us through isolated reports (individual to individual reports). Hence it is not absolutely authentic. The scholars have therefore devised tests for any such report to be tested on before it is considered reliable. Even after passing all the tests a report is never considered absolutely authentic and complete truth. It is called zanni (speculative) by the Muhaddithun (the scholars of the science of Hadith and Usuliyyun (the scholars of the Islamic jurisprudence).

c) For the above reason any such report can be either true or false and we can at best consider it to be a probable truth.

Different scholars therefore followed different criterion for judging the veracity of the reports and some of them were strict and some mild. Some were mild in this issue and strict in that and vice versa. Therefore, we see different compilations prepared consideration basically a single criterion.

We cannot consider any single of these works to be entirely authentic. Of course there are works which are obviously more reliable generally but we cannot take any or all of their contents to be faultless because the whole process of individual to individual reports suffers from certain limitations.

The following discussion will give an idea how do we take the works of Hadith in this regard: http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=1762

You may also refer to the following discussion to have more detailed dealing of the issue of Hadith and Sunnah and difference between them: http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/sscategory.asp?scatid=27


Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
Research Assistant, Studying Islam

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