Outlines of the Development of the Science of Hadith

Outlines of the Development of the Science of Hadith

The word hadith, according to the dictionary, has several meanings such as “new,” “novel,” “recent,” “modern,” and “speech”, “report,” “account,” and “narrative.” However, in Islamic context, the term hadith means “Prophetic tradition” or “narrative relating deeds and utterances of the Prophet (S).” According to some, even the account of a dream linked with the Holy […]

  • Dr. Mustafa Awliya'i
Outlines of the Development of the Science of Hadith
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    The word hadith, according to the dictionary, has several meanings such as "new," "novel," "recent," "modern," and "speech", "report," "account," and "narrative." However, in Islamic context, the term hadith means "Prophetic tradition" or "narrative relating deeds and utterances of the Prophet (S)." According to some, even the account of a dream linked with the Holy Prophet (S) is also included in the category of hadith. In most cases, the words sunnah and hadith are used as interchangeable synonyms by the scholars of the science of hadith. The author of the book Talwih says: "Sunnah is a more general term than hadith, and includes everything related to the Prophet (S) except the Qur'an: his speech - which is hadith - and his behaviour and character."[1] According to another opinion, since the majority of Sunni Muslims believe in Qur'an's being sempiternal (qadim), everything else except the Qur'an from the Prophet (S) came to be called hadith, a word closely related with hadith meaning "incidental" as opposed to "eternal".[2] Some are of the opinion that the sayings of the Sahabah (the Companions of the Prophet) and the Tabi`un (the second generation after the Holy Prophet (S)) can also be included under the term hadith.[3] On the other hand, for the Shi`ah authorities on hadith, the term can properly include only the narratives relating the speech, biographical details and deeds of the Prophet (S) and the Imams (A).[4] Here, we consider it necessary first to explain certain terms related to our discussion. Sunnah: The term in general means "habitual practice" or "customary procedure," and in particular applies to the sayings and doings of the religious leaders who are ma`sum[5] (i.e. the Prophet and the Imams, who are considered as being free of sin and error). Accordingly, the term is employed by the side of the Book (Qur'an). Sunnah is used in a sense that is wider than that of hadith, although in some of the Sunni texts of tradition, such as of Ibn Maja, al-Bayhaqi and others, the term signifies hadith. The authorities of hadith differ as to meanings covered by hadith and khabar (report). While some consider the terms as being synonymous, others are of the opinion that khabar is a term which is more general than hadith. According to them, khabar applies to every narrative regarding the Prophet (S), while hadith is taken to mean a narration quoting the Prophet (S) himself.[6] Some, as pointed out above, apply the term hadith to the sayings of the Sahabah and Tabi`un in addition. Accordingly, every hadith is also a khabar, though every khabar is not a hadith; though some regard the terms as being inter-changeable synonyms.[7] Riwayah: This term is synonymous with hadith. According to the author of Majma` al-bahrayn, "Riwayah is a khabar that is traceable through a series of narrators to a ma`sum."[8] Athar: Shaykh Baha'i in his Nihayat al-dirayah considers athar as being identical with hadith. Others impute to it a wider meaning. Still others confine its meaning to narrations that go back to the Sahabah.[9] Hadith-i Qudsi: Hadith-i qudsi is defined as the Divine communication whose revelation is not the part of the Qur'anic miracle. Sayyid Sharif Jurjani says: " [Hadith-i qudsi] is from God, the Most Exalted, from the point of view of meaning, and from the Prophet (S) from the viewpoint of actual wording. It constitutes what God has communicated to the Prophet through revelation or in dreams. The Prophet - upon whom be peace - informed others of its meaning in his own words. Accordingly, the Qur'an is superior to the hadith-i qudsi, because it is the actual Word of God." There are six points of differences between the Qur'an and the hadith-i qudsi: Firstly, the Qur'an is a Divine miracle; this does not necessarily apply to the hadith-i qudsi. Secondly, salat (prayer) is not valid without recitation of parts of the Qur'an; this is not so in the case of the hadith-i qudsi. Thirdly, one who rejects the Qur'an is regarded as a kafir (an unbeliever); this does not hold true in the case of the hadith-i qudsi. Fourthly, whole of the Qur'an was communicated to the Prophet (S) through the agency of the Angel Gabriel; this does not apply to hadith-i qudsi. Fifthly, every word of the Qur'an is the Word of God, but the wordings of the hadith-i qudsi may be ascribed to the Prophet (S). Sixthly, the Qur'an cannot be touched without taharah (the condition of bodily purity as prescribed by the Shari'ah) and this condition does not apply to the hadith-i qudsi.[10] Origins of the Science of Hadith The Holy Prophet of Islam (S), for a period of 23 years from the beginning of his prophetic mission to the moment of his death, was directly involved in the process of guidance and leadership of the people. The multifarious kinds of questions that arose for the Muslims in relation with their needs converged upon the Holy Prophet. The Prophet responded to their questions through explanations and discussions whose variety increased with the progress of Islam to the extent of enveloping all aspects of the moral, social and civic affairs of Muslims. The new society that emerged during this period was significant and important from every aspect. The Muslims who were the contemporaries of the Prophet had the advantage of personal recourse to him and chance of putting to him various questions regarding their social life. However, as long as the Prophet lived, and the source of Divine Revelation was in the midst of the Muslims, the great importance of recording his words was not fully realized. Nevertheless, soon after the Prophet's death, the Muslims realized the imminent need of recording the hadith so as to avoid the problems that would arise in the future generations. Accordingly, from the time of the first caliph, the need for recording of hadith was distinctly felt by the Muslim society. It should not remain unsaid that `Ali (A), the first Imam of the Shi`ah Muslims, had with characteristic foresight, pioneered the task of recording the Prophet's sayings during the Prophet's lifetime itself. Word for word, he wrote down what he had heard from the Prophet (S). The author of Ta'sis al-shi`ah writes... Source:alhassanain.com

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