Islam






hadith


Islam
The Qur'an
Shi'a

Islam Glossary
Shari'ah
   While the principle revelatory text in Islamic tradition is the Qur'an , the entire life of the prophet Muhammad is regarded in Islamic tradition as a source of revelation and truth. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad, like other prophets, had a purified soul and so led a perfectly exemplary life. Not only should Muslims follow the truth revealed to Muhammad, they should also turn to his actions and his own sayings (as opposed to his recitation of God's speech). The "example of the prophet," contained in both actions and speech, is known as the Sunnah and has an authority in Islam nearly equivalent to that of the Qur'an . The Sunnah is the second major source of Islamic sacred law, or Shari'ah, with the first being the Qur'an itself. In both the formulation of the Shari'ah and in Islamic tradition in general, it is the sayings of Muhammad, or hadith, that are especially important. These were orally transmitted during the lifetime of the prophet and for several generations afterwards; they were finally collected in the eighth century into a group of six canonical books called "The Six Books." The sayings collected in these books constitute the authentic sayings of the prophet and have a high religious and social authority in Islamic tradition. There are, however, other sayings collected in other books that various Islamic traditions hold to be as authentic as The Six Books, but there is no universal agreement throughout Islam on their authenticity. Shi'ite Muslims, however, have a separate collection of sayings and do not recognize the authenticity of all the sayings collected in The Six Books.


   While the Qur'an is simply a text that Muhammad repeated—having received the verses from God through the mediation of the angel Gabriel—the hadith are various sayings that Muhammad made on his own. Islamic tradition divides the hadith into two types: the hadith nabawi , which are sayings that Muhammad made on his own, and the hadith qudsi , which are sayings that Muhammad made through divine inspiration. Only a very few of the hadith are divine sayings; the overwhelming majority are hadith nabawi .

   The sayings of Muhammad cover every imaginable subject, from religion and theology, to marriage, economics, government, ethics, law, ritual, and a host of other social issues.

   Every saying of the prophet comes with an account as to its genuineness. In order to be a genuine hadith, there must be a clear of transmission from Muhammad to the writing down of the hadith. The hadith sometimes pass through many auditors before they're written down; the length or nature of that line of transmission (called isnab in Arabic) affects the authenticity of the hadith. The form of a hadith, then, is always preceded by an account of the transmission of the saying and then the content of the saying itself.

Richard Hooker



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1998, Richard Hooker
Updated 1-18-98