بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم
In Arabic the word “Hadith” (حدیث) means “that which is new from amongst things” or “a piece of information conveyed either in a small quantity or large”.
Hadith also refers to the speech of a person.
In Islamic terminology, the term Hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Muhammadﷺ, or of His ﷺ tacit approval of something said or done in his presence.
Classical Hadith specialist Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says that:
“the intended meaning of Hadith in religious tradition is something attributed to Muhammadﷺ, as opposed to the Qur’an”
Broadly Hadith is defined as:
- Sayings of Muhammad ﷺ
The statements of the Prophet include everything the Prophet said for various reasons on different occasions.
- Actions of Muhammad ﷺ
The actions of the Prophet include everything that the Prophet did that was related to us by his Companions. This includes how he made ablutions, how he performed his prayers, and how he made the Hajj pilgrimage.
- Approval of Muhammad ﷺ
The tacit approvals of the Prophet includes everything that his Companions said or did that he either showed his favor towards or at least did not object to. Anything that had the tacit approval of the Prophet is as valid as anything that he said or did himself.
Let me explain by the examples which would help us for better understanding…
Example of Saying of Muhammadﷺ:
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported:
“Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When there comes the month of Ramadan, the gates of mercy are opened, and the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained” (صحیح البخاری ۵۹۳)
Example of Action of Hazrat Muhammad ﷺ:
Abdullah Ibn Abu Aufa, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: We went on seven expeditions with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and ate locusts. (صحیح البخاری۱۱۳۰)
Example of Approval of Muhammadﷺ:
An example of this is the approval that was given to the Companions when they used their discretion in deciding when to pray during the Battle of Bani Quraydhah. God’s Messenger had said to them:
“None of you should perform your afternoon prayers until you arrive at Bani Quraydhah.”
The Companions did not arrive at Bani Quraydhah until after sunset. Some of them took the Prophet’s words literally and postponed the afternoon prayer, saying: “We will not pray until we get there.” Others understood that the Prophet was only indicating to them that they should hurry on their journey, so they stopped and prayed the afternoon prayer on time.
The Prophet learned about what the two groups had decided, but did not criticize either of them.
the mother of the believers: Allah’s Apostle during his illness prayed at his house while sitting whereas some people prayed behind him standing. The Prophet beckoned them to sit down. On completion of the prayer, he said, ‘The Imam is to be followed: bow when he bows, raise up your heads (stand erect) when he raises his head and when he says, ‘Sami a-l-lahu liman-hamida ‘ (Allah heard those who sent praises to Him) say then ‘Rabbana wa laka-l-hamd’ (O our Lord! All the praises are for You), and if he prays sitting then pray sitting.”
The provision of this Hadith has been abrogated by the last action of the Prophet (SAW). See next Hadith.
According to some other scholars, this Hadith is not abrogated. Some say this action (as in the Hadith above) can still be followed. Others say we can’t do so. And yet another group of scholars say we can follow both.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Once Allah’s Apostle rode a horse and fell down and the right side (of his body) was injured. He offered one of the prayers while sitting and we also prayed behind him sitting. When he completed the prayer, he said, “The Imam is to be followed. Pray standing if he prays standing and bow when he bows; rise when he rises; and if he says, ‘Sami a-l-lahu-liman hamida, say then, ‘Rabbana wa Lakal-hamd’ and pray standing if he prays standing, and pray sitting (all of you) if he prays sitting.”
Humaid said: The saying of the Prophet “Pray sitting, if he (Imam) prays sitting” was said in his former illness (during his early life) but the Prophet prayed sitting afterwards (in the last illness) and the people were praying standing behind him and the Prophet did not order them to sit. We should follow the latest actions of the Prophet.
Similar Hadith has been covered before. Read here.
Here’s when we realize how important knowledge of Hadith is. The sciences of Hadith. It’s quite a vast subject, I must say. Just to give you an example from `Ilm-ur-Rijaal: a Hadith has two parts: the chain of narrators (sanad) and the text (matn). Chain of narrators in Imaam Bukhari’s time usually had 3-6 narrators. In order for a Hadith to be claimed Saheeh (authentic), it’s important to check each narrator’s `aqeedah, character, scholars’ opinion about them, memory etc. Imaam Bukhari used to check each narrator for each Hadith, and when he was sure that each narrator was an honest, reliable person having a good memory etc., only then would he include the Hadith in his book. Imagine! He did the same check for more than 7000 Ahadith! O_O
This is just a tiny bit. There’s a LOT more to what we call `Ulum-ul-Hadith.
More on Hadith Sciences here.