The Super Easy and Simple Guide to Hadith and Its Types
There are many articles on the web explaining hadiths but most of them are even more confusing or are too advanced for person who wants to learn about hadiths from the first . Most people be it Muslim or non Muslim have a clear misunderstanding that hadith and sunnah are the same but this is not true. Hadith is what has been narrated of the prophet(Sal) and sunnah is the way or in other words, the actions,statements and approvals of the prophet(Sal). Long story short, the hadiths are the recording of the actions,statements and approvals of the prophet(Sal) known as the sunnah. The example of a hadith and a sunnah is like a book and a story. The book contains the story but the story is not the book and vice versa. In this article, I am hoping to inshaAllah explain all the main points and elements that make a hadith with easily digestible bite size information that would be valuable to anyone who wants to get a no nonsense understanding about hadiths.
What is Hadith?
The word "Hadith" means account or narrative and literally means the speech of a person. In simple no nonsense terms, a hadith is a recording of the words,actions or approvals of the prophet(Sal) and the sayings, actions or approvals were either seen by a sahabi (companion) of the prophet(Sal) or the companion or a narrator would have heard it from a sahabi. The importance of following the hadith is because the teachings of the messenger of Allah (Sal) is contained in it. Allah(Swt) says in the Quran,
'Say, "Obey Allah and obey the Messenger; but if you turn away - then upon him is only that (duty) with which he has been charged, and upon you is that with which you have been charged. And if you obey him, you will be (rightly) guided. And there is not upon the Messenger except the (responsibility for) clear notification."
"And whatever the Messenger has given you - take; and what he has forbidden you - refrain from."
"It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error."
All of the above verses mentions the importance of following the peophet(Sal) and the teachings of the prophet(Sal) is in the books of hadiths just like the teachings of Allah(Swt) is in the Quran. Now, let's look at the main elements in a hadith.
What is Sunnah?
The word" Sunnah" lterally means habits or practices and sunnah is generally the saying ,actions and approvals of the prophet(Sal) and what differentiates the sunnah from the hadith is that the hadith is the recordings of the sunnah of the prophet(Sal) where as the sunnah is the real statement,actions or approvals. As explained earlier in this article, the example of a hadith and a sunnah is like a book and a story. The book contains the story but the story is not the book and vice versa. The other example of the difference between the sunnah and the hadith is that of the egg and it's yolk. the egg is like the hadith which contains the yolk which is the sunnah. Take also the example of a food and it's ingredients, the hadith is like the food and the sunnah is like the ingredients. hadith is like the food that contains the ingredients called the sunnah.
Elements of a hadith
There are mainly two elements in a hadith that basically makes a hadith and hey are, Isnad (chain of narrators) and Matn (text of the hadith) . Now, the hadith is further divided in to mainly two categories and they are, Hadith Qudsi and hadith Nabawi and there are also hadiths which only contains personal opinions and views of the companions of the prophet(Sal) or the later generations. Now let me explain each of them one by one.
The isnad is the chain of narrators who attest to the incident of seeing,hearing of the words,actions or approvals of the prophet(Sal). The isnad is also known as the sanad and it is the isnad that determines the authenticity of a hadith. One example of an isnad is in the below narration
Example: Ibn Qattaan in his Ziyaadah `ala Sunan Ibn Maajah from the route of Yahyaa Ibn Sa`eed from Amr Ibn Shu`ayb from his father from his grandfather that Allaah’s Messenger (Sal) said: “It is disbelief for a man to attribute himself to someone other than his father knowingly or to deny his connection to his father, even subtly.”
Imam Ibn Hajr said about him in at-Taqreeb (2/72) that this hadith is truthful with certain errors hence it is a Hasan Sahih hadith.
The example of an isnad is what a person heard his father that his father heard from a companion of the prophet (Sal) saying. The saying,action or approval should directly link up to the prophet(Sal) or there should be supporting narrations that link.
The matn is the complete text or in other words, the content of the hadith. The matn is also used for determining whether the hadith is flaws or that the hadith is actually a statement of the prophet(Sal) or an opinion of the narrator of the hadith. An example of the text is as follows,
Narrated by Al BaraA man whose face was covered with an iron mask (i.e. clad in armor) came to the Prophet (Sal) and said, "O Allah's Messenger (Sal)! Shall I fight or embrace Islam first? "The Prophet (Sal) said, "Embrace Islam first and then fight." So he embraced Islam, and was martyred. Allah's Messenger (Sal) said, A Little work, but a great reward. "(He did very little (after embracing Islam), but he will be rewarded in abundance).
Now, let us see one example of how a matn is used to determine the authenticity or disapproval of a narration.Narrated by Yazid ibn Rahman,
" People used to pray(during Umar(rali's) khilafat) 23 rakats rakats of taraweeh
(Narrated by Baihaqi)
This hadith is not an authentic hadith because of the broken chain of narrators but also if you closely have a look at the matn (text), you will notice that the hadith mentions only about some people praying 23 rakats and just because a group of people prayed 23 rakats of taraweeh does not mean that Umar(Rali) prayed 23 rakats. This hadith proves that importance of the matn in a hadith.
Hadith Qudsi is the hadith which says" Allah says' instead of "the prophet (Sal) said" This hadith is directly coming from Allah(Swt) and it differs from the general hadith which start with the prophet (Sal) saying. Below is an example of hadith Qudsi.Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet (Sal), said: Allah Almighty said:
"Spend in charity, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you."(Sahih Al Bukhari)
Hadith Nabawi is the hadith which start with "the prophet (Sal) said". Most of the hadiths falls in to this category and below is one example of hadith Nabawi.Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (Sal) said, "Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya (Modesty) is a part of faith."
Hadith which contain the opinions of companions and later generations.
In the books of hadith,apart from hadith Qudsi and hadith Nabawi and these hadith have secondary value except for the hadith mentioning what the rightly guided khaliph's said. These hadiths are sometimes called "Mawquf" meaning that they are stopped up to a companion. here are also hadiths which are the opinions of companions and later generations. The four rightly guided khaliphs are, Abu Bakr as Siddique (Rali) , Umar ibn Katthab (Rali), Uthman ibn Affan (Rali) and Ali ibn Abi Talib (Rali). Following the sunnah of the four rightly guided khaliphs is a pert of following the sunnah of the prophet (Sal).
The prophet (Sal) said in a hadith,
‘I advise you to fear Allah and to hear and obey even if an Abyssinian slave were to rule over you. For surely, he who lives from amongst you will see much differing, so it is upon you to be upon my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided khaliphs. Bite on to it with your back molar teeth and beware of newly invented matters, for verily, every newly invented matter is an innovation, and all innovation is misguidance.’”
(Tirmidhi and Adu Dawud-Graded Sahih by Albani)
There are also saying of companions other than the rightly guided khaliphs such as Abu Hurayrah(Rali), Aisha(Rali) Ibn Abbas(Rali) etc and these should not be taken as a part of religious law but to help understand a point in Islam. Let us look at one example. Ibn ‘Abbas (Rali) that he said: The first thing that Allah created was the Pen, and it wrote all that is to happen. Then water vapour was raised, from which the heavens were created. Then the noon – i.e., the whale – was created, and the earth was spread out on the back of the noon, and the earth moved and shook. Then it was made steady with the mountains, and for that reason the mountains boast to the earth. And he recited (interpretation of the meaning): “Noon. (These letters (Noon, etc.) are one of the miracles of the Quran, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings).By the pen and what the (angels) write (in the Records of men)” (al-Qalam 68:1).
(Narrated in Hakim,Ibn Aabi Shaybah, Ibn Katheir and other and was graded Sahih by Imam Dahabi and others based on the conditions of imams, Bukahri and Muslim)
The above hadith of a whale carrying the earth was only the opinion of Ibn Abbas (Rali) and is not the statement of the prophet (Sal) or the rightly guided khaliphs.
Types of hadiths
Sahih HadithSahih hadith are the most authentic forms of hadiths . The sahih or authentic hadith must have the narrators as trustworthy, the narrators should have a strong memory,the isnad should be connected without any missing links and so forth.
Hasan Hadith Hasan means "good" in arabic and hasan hadith are the second most authrntic forms of hadith. Although the hasan hadith lack certain qualities to qualify to the level of sahih or one or more of the narrators do not have the reliability as that of a sahih hadith, but it is still considered authentic based on supporting or similar narrations. One example of a hasan hadith is as follows.
Musa al Asharee(Rali) said that the prophet(Sal) said,“Indeed the gates of Paradise are beneath the shade of swords.”
(Tirmidhi-Imam Tirmidhi graded this hadith as hasan)
The reason for the above hadith to be graded as hasan was because one narrator,Ja`far Ibn Sulaimaan ad-Dubaee was not as strong as the other three narrators of this hadith. The sahih hadith, all the narrators are strong.
HadithDaif is the weak category of hadith and cannot be considered as reliable. The daif hadith cannot be used as evidence and the daif hadith has one or more narrators who are weak or unreliable. The daif hadith is further categoried as.
1) Muallaq-the narrator is discontined
2) Maqtu-hadith attributed to a Tabee (one who succeeded the companions of the prophet(Sal).
3) Munqati-is a hadith a hadith where the narrator although he claims to have seen a person, never actually saw him.
4) Mursal- A narrator between the companion and the prophet(Sal) is omitted or missing.
5) Mu'dal- two more narrators who are consecutive are omitted.
6) Munkar-a narration that goes against the another more established hadith
7) Shadh- a narrator who goes against a narrator who is more trsutworthy
Below is one example of a daif (weak) hadith.
Narated by Yazid ibn Rahman:
"People used to pray(during Umar(Rali's) khilafat) 23 rakats rakats of taraweeh
(narrated by imam Baihaqi)
Imam Baihaqi after narrating this hadith said that Yazid ibn Rahman did not live during the time of Umar (Rali) .He came later which means that he was not alive during the time of Umar(Rali). Imam Baihaqi says this hadith has a broken line of narration. same judgement on this hadith was given by imam suyuti and other leading scholars who come to position that the hadith which says that Umar(Rali) lead the people in prayer during Ramazan by praying 23 rakats is a daif(weak) hadith. The line of this narration is a maqtu narration(narration with a broken chain) as imam Baihaqi and other scholars name it stating that the narration is broken to the point of which the narrator who said that at the time of Umar(rali), people prayed 23 rakats did not witness the khilafat of Umar(Rali).
Mawdu hadith are the fabricate hadith which are based on lies. There is nothing authentic in such hadith and one example is as follows.Abu Darda(Rali) narrated,The prophet(Sal) said,"The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the Martyr"
(Narrated in Jami ul Bayan and the narrator, Ismaa‘eel ibn Abi Ziyaad was declared a liar by Ibn Hibban and others)
Some of the Famous books of Hadiths
There are several books of hadiths and the Sahih of Bukhari and Musim are the most authentic books of hadiths. The other books of hadith have both authentic and inauthentic hadiths and they are, Sunan abu Daud, Sunan at Tirmidhi,Sunan Ibn Majah and Sunan Nasai. these six books of hadiths are know as "Kutub Sittah" (si books of hadith) Apart from these books, there are many more hadith books like,Muwatta Malik, Sunan ad Darimi, Musnad Ahmed, Musannaf ib abin Shaybah,Musannaf ibn Abdur Razzak, Sunan Dar Qutni,Sunan Baihaqi and many others.
C.J Ahmed (a.k.a C J)