About the Hadith

Hadith, meaning a “statement” or “report”, is used as an Islamic term for the records kept of the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnah means the actions the Prophet himself performed, or actions he asked his followers to perform. The Hadith is a record of the Sunnah.

Hadith, meaning a “statement” or “report”, is used as an Islamic term for the records kept of the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnah means the actions the Prophet himself performed, or actions he asked his followers to perform. The Hadith is a record of the Sunnah.

Hadith provides the second fundamental source of Islam, giving us a full account of the life of the Prophet, and serving as a commentary on the Quran.

The Quran principally deals with basics. It is the Hadith which gives the details and necessary explanations of Quranic injunctions. For instance, the Quran says: “Establish the service of worship.” But it does not specify how the worship has to be performed. Not even the timings and units of prayers (rak‘ahs)  are clearly mentioned. We need the traditions set  forth  in  the  Hadith  to have full information on this.

Even after knowing the details, it might still  not  have  been possible to follow the divine injunctions contained in the Quran. For not everything can be properly understood by words alone. Therefore, the Prophet demonstrated to the faithful how prayer was to be performed. He said to the believers: “Look at me, see how I worship, and follow me.”

The Quran repeatedly reminds us of the importance of Hadith, enjoining us to strictly follow the Prophet:

“..Obey God and obey the messenger...” 
(Al-Nisa, 4:59).

It is as if the Quran is the text and the Hadith the commentary, the Quran being the theory and the Hadith the practice. The Quran and Hadith are complementary  to one another  and  are  thus  inseparable. Both are equally essential for the establishment of religion.

About  Sunnah

The contemporaries of the Prophet are known as the Companions, or sahabah. Because the Companions believed in the message of the Prophet, all his actions served as a precedent for  them and every word falling from his lips became a commandment to them; and they  were anxious to follow each one as faithfully as they could. During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, many of his Companions learnt by heart whatever he said, and keenly observed whatever he did,  all  of   which  they  shared  with   each  other. They  naturally thirsted after the knowledge of what he said or did, so  that many, like Abu Hurayrah, Anas ibn Malik and Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, kept constant company with him in order to observe and hear his  every  word  and  deed. Ai‘sha, the Prophet’s wife, was the first among women to tell  of  the Prophet’s  sayings  and doings. She reported more than two thousand hadith, while Abu Hurayrah related more than five thousand hadith.

Later, the sayings were compiled by various collectors of hadith. In this regard, Bukhari and Muslim are the first to have applied the most rigorous measures to ascertain the reliability of each hadith. An unbroken chain of narrators was traced for each hadith and each transmitter’s life was  analysed from all angles to validate  his trustworthiness.

Hadith: A Source of Tazkiyah

None of the sayings of the Prophet of Islam recorded in the books of hadith are purely abstract in sense. Indeed every saying has a background. That is to say, each hadith describes the situation that the Prophet found himself in and how did he respond to these situations. In this way, each saying of the Prophet relates to a particular set of circumstances. All the sayings of the Prophet are of relevance to practical human situations.

If a person is able to deepen his understanding to an extent that he is able to visualize the background while reflecting on the hadith this will be like being in the presence of the Prophet.

Another very effective method of enhancing the impact of hadith is to sit in a group, preferably in a mosque and for one person from the group read out the hadith. Listening enhances retention and is a preferred method of approaching religious learning vis-à-vis reading. Angels surround a gathering in which Allah is praised and in which believers are trying to enhance their understanding of Islam. In this way, there will be a manifold enhancement of his impression of hadith. This recreates the manner of the gathering of the Companions (Sahabah) around the Prophet in the Mosque of the Prophet.

If a person repeatedly engages in such a practice, he will see that slowly the light of Allah shall penetrate his soul and he will become evermore distinguishing and conscientious. The unwholesome impact of the world shall be reduced and his natural state affirmed.

This is one of the creative ways of studying the Hadith. And studying the Hadith in this creative manner is undoubtedly the greatest source of purification (tazkiyah).