By Huda Shaka`
There is a growing trend of lack of trust in hadith (to put it mildly), from within the Muslim community. I have been hearing alarming statements like: “Don’t give me proof from Hadith, give me proof from the Qur’an,” or “I don’t believe in the Hadith; I follow only the Qur’an” much more frequently in the past few years. Unfortunately, often times those statements are accepted and go undisputed. Sadly, it all comes down to gross ignorance within the global Muslim community on the fundamentals of what we claim to be our deen (way of life): Islam.
Then, there are many texts circulating in the global media, which add to the confusion by propagating dangerous misconceptions about the second source of legislation in Islam. I will not go into the details, but will say that these simply ignores the work of thousands of great scholars who have completely dedicated their life to the collection, authentication, and study of Hadith.
I previously began studying the topic of Hadith through a weekly class on Science of Hadith. When I went into the class, I had minimal knowledge on Hadith and the process of its collection, and have since learnt many fascinating details on the topic. I found some stories and aspects particularly striking and awe-inspiring, and I hope to share those glimpses through this series of posts.
This is the least I can do to stand up for the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at a time when it is being viciously attacked. However, the information shared will only be the tip of the iceberg. I greatly encourage every Muslim reading this to study this topic further, whether by reading a good book on it or preferably attending a class (if available).
For reference, the book I will be quoting (which is the one I studied from) is Usool Al-Hadith: its Sciences and Terminologies by Dr. Muhammad Ajaj Al Khatib (Arabic). I will do my best to translate and re-phrase small portions from the book. I ask Allah (swt) to help me benefit others with the little knowledge He has blessed me with, and to help others benefit from this humble effort.
Since I’ve already used up half of the post for the introduction, I will start with a very brief set of questions and answers, to make sure we all start on the same page:
What is the Science of Hadith? It is the science associated with the accurate propagation of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, and characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) (called Riwayah in the Science of Hadith), and the science establishing the guidelines and criteria for classifying and authenticating the narrators of hadith and the text of the narrations (called Dirayah).
In the Science of Hadith, Dirayah is also referred to as `Uloom al-Hadith, Mustalah al-Hadith, and Usool al-Hadith.
What is Sunnah? To the scholars of Hadith, the Sunnah is all that has been known of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, characteristics, and life-story (seerah) of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whether before or after revelation. In this sense, Sunnah is synonymous to Prophetic Hadith (Hadith Nabawi).
Stay tuned for Part II – Why is Sunnah a source of Legislation?