A hadith (lit. 'a saying') is a narration which is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It can be a narration of something he said, did, approved of, or a description of him. The plural is ahaadeeth.
2. What about a narration which is not attributed to the Prophet?
Strictly, according to hadith terminology, this is not called a hadith. It is usually referred to as an athar (pl. aathaar). These narrations are often included in books of hadith; however, they do not hold the same value as a hadith. It is also worth noting that a statement of a companion may be given the ruling of a hadith of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), if it is clear that the companion could only have gotten the information from the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
3. Are all hadith authentic?
No. For something to be called a hadith, it needs only to be attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Whether or not it is correctly attributed to him is a different matter. That's why on hadith.com
, we aim for all of our hadith to be marked with an authenticity rating. Most hadith books contain a mixture of authentic and weak hadith.
4. Is every hadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari
and Saheeh Muslim
The short answer is yes. The scholars of Islam have reached consensus that as a general statement, every hadith in these two books is authentic.
5. Why did authors include weak hadith in their collections?
Every author of a hadith collection had a purpose behind the ahaadeeth that he chose, as well as conditions for including some hadith rather than others. Certain authors, for example, chose to include all of the ahaadeeth which were used as evidence for a point of jurisprudence, by one of the major schools of thought. It didn't matter whether these narrations were authentic or not, since that was not the aim of the collection. Some authors even included fabricated hadith, in order to expose their fabrication.
6. Why do you use the term collection instead of book?
The term book can be confusing when dealing with hadith, because it was the custom of the authors to name parts of their book books, much like the Bible is a single book, made up of many books. To avoid confusion, we decided to use the word collection to describe the whole book, book to describe the significant parts of a collection, and chapter to describe the smaller parts of a book within a collection. For example, Saheeh al-Bukhari would be termed a collection, The Book of Faith is a book from that collection, and The Chapter of the Statement of the Prophet that Islam was Built upon Five Things would be a chapter within the Book of Faith.
7. How did the hadith end up in collections?
At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), people relied more on memorisation than writing. There were few people who could write well, yet people were used to memorising accounts and transmitting them word for word. Having said that, there were several companions who wrote hadith during the time of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); however, they were relatively small in number. As time went on, more and more people came to depend on written accounts, and as a result, memorisation skills became weaker, although still far greater than most people can accomplish today. Narrators began to narrate from both writing and memory, and were judged separately on their abilities to do so. In the 2nd century of the Islamic calendar, writing became even more common place and chains of narration became longer, more complex, and harder to memorise. More people began to collect the hadith they had heard and written, recording them in organised collections. In the 3rd century of the Islamic calendar, this became the norm amongst scholars of hadith, and hundreds of collections were written. Some were ordered by the companion who narrated the hadith, others matching the layout of books of jurisprudence, as well as other styles. Over time, certain collections became known for the breadth and quality of their content. By the turn of the 5th century, it had become easier and more common to refer to the hadith in one of these collections, than to narrate it with a chain spanning several hundred years, and the time known as “the age of narration” came to an end.
8. How do you number the hadith?
We provide two sets of numbers for each hadith, a number according to the most widely accepted and most accurate print in Arabic, and a number according to the most widely accepted and complete translation available in Englsh. This way, it doesn't matter whether you are searching for the classical numeric reference in Arabic, or the reference according to the English translation.
9. What published versions of the books do you rely on for your text and numbering?
We source our data from a wide range of sources, including existing hadith databases, electronic books, and the work of our staff and volunteers. However, we endeavour for our staff and volunteers to check every hadith against the following publications. Our English text is custom produced by our staff and volunteers, building upon and refining existing translations, and adding to them. The information in this table is subject to change.
|English Reference (Numbering Only)
|Sultaniyyah print, numbering of Muhammad Fu'ad 'Abd-al-Baaqi
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
|al-'Aamirah (Istanbul) print, numbering of Muhammad Fu'ad 'Abd-al-Baaqi
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
|Sunan Abu Dawud
|Dar ar-Rayyan, numbering as in Muhammad Muhyee ad-Deen 'Abdul-Hameed
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
|Mu'assisah ar-Risaalah, numbering as in 'Izzah 'Ubayd ad-Dabbaas
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
|'Awaamah print, numbering as in Muhammad Atallah al-Foujiyani
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
|Sunan ibn Maajah
|Mu'assisah ar-Risaalah, numbering of Muhammad Fu'ad 'Abd-al-Baaqi
|Dar us Salam (Riyadh)
10. What is the significance of the six collections of hadith (kutub as-sittah)?
Amongst all of the collections written, six stood out as containing a significant portion of authentic ahaadeeth, that were of the most use to the scholars and students of Islam. Originally, these six were:
- Saheeh al-Bukhari – authored by Muhammad ibn Ismaa'eel al-Bukhari (d. 256AH). This book is considered to be the most authentic book in existence after the Noble Qur'an. All of its narrations are authentic. It is famous for the genius of its author in linking the ahaadeeth to chapters with deep and complex titles.
- Saheeh Muslim – authored by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj an-Naysaaboori (d. 261AH). This book is considered to be the most authentic book after Saheeh al-Bukhari. All of its narrations are authentic. The wording of the ahaadeeth in Saheeh Muslim is considered preferable to Saheeh al-Bukhari and the fact that narrations on one topic are all found in the same place makes it easier to use. Note that the chapter titles were not added by the author; they are the work of al-Imam an-Nawawi (d. 676AH), who went on to write an explanation of the book.
- Sunan Abu Dawud – authored by Abu Dawud Sulaymaan ibn al-Ash'ath as-Sijistaani (d. 275AH). The book is famous for containing all of the ahaadeeth used as evidence for points of jurisprudence, and as such is preferred by scholars and students of jurisprudence for memorisation ahead of the other books.
- Jaami' at-Tirmidhi – authored by Abu 'Eesaa Muhammad ibn 'Eesaa at-Tirmidhi (d. 279AH). The book is famous for the author's brief commentary after the hadtih, giving attention to the science of hadith, and the rulings and benefits contained within, as well as commenting on juristic opinions. It is sometimes known as Sunan at-Tirmidhi; however, this is a misnomer. A sunan is a collection of ahaadeeth related primarily to topics of jurisprudence, as opposed to a jaami' which includes ahaadeeth on a wide range of topics, including the virtues of people and places, the explanation of the Qur'an, etc. The author was known to be overly lenient in his authentication of hadith.
- Sunan an-Nasaa'i – authored by Ahmad ibn Shu'ayb an-Nasaa'i (d. 303AH). Originally a much bigger book written for the ruler of Palestine, the ruler asked the author, “Is everything in it authentic?” He replied, “No”. So, the ruler asked him to summarise the larger book into a smaller book containing only the authentic narrations. The smaller book is what we now know as Sunan an-Nasaa'i, and the original is known by the name as-Sunan al-Kubraa. Even though the author set out to only include authentic ahaadeeth, he did not always stick to his original goal, and the book does contain a number of weak narrations, although fewer than the other three sunan.
- Muwatta' al-Imam Malik – authored by Malik ibn Anas al-Asbahi (d. 179AH). One of the most famous early collections of hadith, Malik ibn Anas was one of the greatest scholars of hadith of all time, as well as being gifted in jurisprudence, and the founder of the Maliki school of thought.
Later on, it became clear that most, if not all of the ahaadeeth in Muwatta' al-Imam Malik were present in the other five collections, it was suggested that the sixth should be Sunan Ibn Maajah. The scholars of Islam settled upon this.
- Sunan Ibn Maajah – authored by Muhammad ibn Yazeed al-Qazweeni (d. 273AH). It contains a number of authentic ahaadeeth not found in the other five collections. However, it contains the largest number of weak narrations of the six books.
11. What is the chain of narration?
A hadith can be divided into two parts; the chain of narration, and the body of the hadith. The chain of narration is a chain of people, starting with the author of the collection, and ending with the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); each person narrating the hadith from the one above, as he or she heard it, either from memory or reading from a written copy, depending on the memorisation and/or writing skills of the narrator in question. There is a very detailed science to examining the chain of narration, including examining the narrators, their method of narration, and comparing the chain to other chains of the same or similar hadith, with the aim of eventually determining whether any errors have been made, mistakenly or deliberately.
12. What do the different levels of authenticity mean?
The levels of authenticity are as follows:
Partially acceptable hadith:
- Agreed Upon – The highest level of authenticity is a hadith narrated by both al-Bukhari and Muslim.
- Authentic (al-Bukhari) – Those narrations that are narrated by al-Bukhari, and not by Muslim.
- Authentic (Muslim) – Those narrations that are narrated by Muslim, and not by al-Bukhari.
- Authentic – Those narrations outside of al-Bukhari and Muslim that conform to the conditions of authenticity; that each person in the chain met the person above and heard the hadith from them; that each person in the chain is of exemplary religious character, as well as being at the highest level of precision in what they narrate; and that the hadith is free from all kinds of defects; both hidden and apparent.
- Fair (Hasan) – Those narrations that meet all of the conditions of authenticity, except that the precision of the narrator is slightly less than the highest level demanded for the hadith to be classed authentic. As a hypothetical example, it might be said that for a hadith to be authentic, every single narrator has to have 95% accuracy or above. Those who are between 80-95% are still reliable, but not as much. If a hadith contains one or more narrators from the second group, it would be classed as Fair (Hasan). These ahaadeeth are still authentic.
- This Chain is Fair (Hasan) but the Hadith is Authentic (Saheeh). The actual wording of the hadith reaches the level of authenticity (see no. 4), but the specific chain in this particular book and chapter only reaches the level of fair (see no. 5).
- Authentic with the Exception of Certain Parts. These hadith are generally authentic. However, there may be a word, sentence, or paragraph, which does not meet the standards for authenticity. This can happen when this specific chain contains a weak narrator and that weak narrator adds an additional sentence. The reliable and precise narrators narrate the same hadith, but without the sentence. In this case, the hadith would be authentic, with the exception of the sentence narrated by the weak narrator.
- Fair (Hasan) with the Exception of Certain Parts. As above; however, the authentic part of the hadith is at the level of Fair (Hasan), rather than authentic. See no. 5 above.
- Weak with the Exception of Certain Parts. The hadith is generally weak, but there may be one or two sentences which come from authentic hadith and are reliable.
- Weak – The hadith is missing one or more of the conditions for authenticity mentioned above. It is not suitable to be acted upon, regardless of its topic or virtue. An example might be a hadith whose chain contains a narrator who has a weak memory, even though he was still of exemplary religious character.
- Very Weak – The hadith has a very serious weakness, such as a narrator who was known to have serious character flaws, including, but not limited to lying, even if it is not proven that he lied about the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This hadith has a very serious weakness and should not even be considered.
- Fabricated – The hadith contains a narrator who was known to lie about the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is the weakest form of hadith, and should not be considered.
- Contradicted by More Reliable Sources (Shaadh) – The hadith appears to match the conditions of authenticity; however, the narrators are contradicted by stronger or more numerous narrators, who narrated something different. It is rare that reliable and precise narrators make a mistake, but when it does happen, this is the category that the erroneous narration falls into.
- Weak & Contradicted by Reliable Sources (Munkar) – The hadith contains weak narrators and it contradicts the narration of other more reliable narrators. Similar to no. 4; however, the difference is that here the blame falls with the weak narrators, whereas in no. 4, the error comes from a generally reliable and precise narrator.
- Part of the Hadith was Inserted by a Narrator in Error (Mudraj) – Occaisionally, when a hadith was transmitted, one of the narrators would become confused and unable to distinguish between the actual hadith and the speech of someone else, such as his/her teacher, or another narrator. The narrator would then mistakenly join the two together. As a hypothetical example, a teacher is narrating a hadith. He says, “The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said” and then he sees something he dislikes, and he interrupts his speech to say, “Do not talk while your teacher is talking.” A narrator hears this and thinks that these are the actual words of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This can happen at any point in the chain or body of a hadith. The original hadith before the narrator made the mistake may be authentic, or it may be weak.
- Its Chain is Authentic – This is one of the hardest classifications to explain. The scholar authenticating the chain has declared the chain itself to be apparently authentic, but something the scholar back from giving the whole hadith the same classification. It is the equivalent of saying, “It looks OK from the outside, but something doesn't seem quite right”.
- Its Chain is Fair (Hasan). As above, but the chain is fair, rather than authentic.
- Its Chain is Weak. The specific chain of this hadith has a weakness, but it may be that the same meaning is narrated with an acceptable chain elsewhere. The hadith should not be relied upon until the acceptable version of the narration is found.
- A Saying of a Companion. This narration is not authentic as a saying of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), but it is authentic as a saying of one of his companions.
- A Saying of Someone After the Companions. This narration is not authentic as a saying of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), but it is authentic as a saying of a person after the generation of the companions.