Bismillah Hirahaman Niraheem
Definition of Hadith
Among the hadeeth scholars the term hadeeth means ‘whatever is transmitted from the Prophet of his actions, sayings, tacit approvals, or physical characteristics. Scholars of Islaamic Law do not include the physical appearance of the Prophet in their definition.
Components of Hadith
Musaddad told us that Yahyaa informed him from Shu‘bah, from Qataadah, from Anas from the Prophet (SAW) that he said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”[Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]
A Hadeeth consists of two main parts: the Sanad and the Matn.
The list of the narrators of the saying or action of the Prophet (SAW) is called the Sanad. For example, in the above Hadeeth the Sanad is: “Musaddad told us that Yahyaa informed him from Shu‘bah from Qataadah from Anas from the Prophet(SAW) that he said:”
The text of the Hadeeth or what the Prophet (SAW) actually said or did is called the Matn. For example, in the above Hadeeth the Matn is: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Importance of Hadeeth:
1. Revelation : The Prophet’s sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allaah and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second only to the Qur’aan.
2. Tafseer: The preservation of the Qur’aan was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Were that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording. However, Allaah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’aan to the Prophet (r) himself. Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of Qur’aan, he or she must consider what the Prophet (r) said or did regarding it.
3. Laws : One of the primary duties of the Prophet (r) was to judge between people in their disputes. Since his judgements were all based on revelation, as stated earlier, theymust be considered a primary source of principles by which judgements are carried out in an Islaamic State. Thus, hadeeths are essential for the smooth running of the law courts in an Islaamic State.
4. Moral Ideal : Since the Prophet (r) was guided by revelation in his personal life, his character and social interactions became prime examples of moral conduct for Muslims until the Last Day. Consequently, the daily life of the Prophet (r) as recorded in hadeeth represents an ideal code of good conduct.
5. Preservation of Islaam : The science of narration, collection and criticism of hadeeth was unknown to the world prior to the era of the Prophet (r). In fact, it was due in part to the absence of such a reliable science that the messages of the former prophets became lost or distorted in the generations that followed them. Therefore, it may be said that it is largely due to the science of hadeeth that the final message of Islaam has been preserved in it is original purity for all times.
Classification of Hadith
Hadeeth are divided into two main categories: Hadeeth Saheeh and Hadeeth Da‘eef.
The Hadeeth Saheeh : If all of the narrators in the Sanad fulfill the following three conditions, the Hadeeth is classified as an accurate saying or action of the Prophet (SAW) and named Saheeh. This means that we can be certain that the Prophet (SAW) actually said or did what was reported in the Hadeeth.
(1) The narrators must all be known to be truthful.
(2) They must all have had good memories, or have written down what they heard.
(3) They must all have met each other.
The Hadeeth Da‘eef : If any of the narrators in the Sanad were known to have had any of the following faults, the Hadeeth is then classified as being inaccurate and referred to as Da‘eef.
If any were known to have been liars.
If any were known to have had bad memories.
If any were known to have not met the one he was supposed to be narrating from.
Source: Islamic Studies book 1 by Bilal Philipps