Definition of Hadith

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Hadith حديث

Literal Meaning : The Arabic word Hadith literally means ‘statement’ or 'talk'.

الحديث الكلام قليله و كثيره

“Hadith is a talk which may be brief or detailed.’

Ahaadith (أحاديث): Ahaadith is plural of Hadith.

Haadith and Qadeem (حادث اور قديم)

Haadith in Arabic is used as opposite to Qadeem. Qadeem means something without a beginning which obviously is none but Allah Ta'ala. The opposite of Qadeem is Haadith which means something with beginning. In other words it means ‘Created (Makhlooq). As per this meaning, the Qur’an is the word of Allah hence is Qadeem, whereas Hadith means that word which is created and since Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) himself is among Makhlooq, so his statements are called Hadith.

Technical meaning of Hadith used in Shari’ah

In technical terms Hadith stands for the report of words and deeds, approval or disapproval of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). Whatever Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said or did constitute the Hadith. If someone said or did something in presence of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and he approved or disapproved those words or deeds is also included in the definition of Hadith. The word Sunnah is used synonymously with Hadith but usually Sunnah word is used while reporting the deeds of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) whereas the word Hadith is used while reporting the Statements of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam).

As companions of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to say: “Such and such thing was made guide to us by Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) (Here word Sunnah was used) and they used to say:

سنن رسول الله لنا كذا و كذا

“Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stated such and such things for us (Here word Hadith is used)".

Word Hadith as used in Qur’an

وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ

“But the Bounty of thy Lord rehearse and proclaim.”(93:11)

In this Surah Allah Ta’ala reminds Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) of His bounties which He bestowed upon him. Allah Ta’ala tells him that He found him in search of guidance and He guided him, and He found him in need and made him independent. After reminding him of these bounties Allah Ta’ala directs Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) to proclaim and share these bounties with people.

Allamah Shabir Uthmani says: “Probably it is because of this verse (in which Allah Ta’ala uses word Hadith while directing Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) to proclaim His Divine bounties) that the statements of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) are called Hadith."

Another thing which can be inferred from this verse is that whatever Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) did or said, was all under the Divine Guidance and Control. In other words we can say that Hadith is a Divine Word but indirectly as compared to the Qur’an which is directly a Divine word.

The Qur’an also uses word Hadith in the meaning of story or incident:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ

“Has the story reached thee of the honoured guests of Ibrahim.”(51:24)

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَى

“Has the story of Moses reached thee.” ( 79:15)

Word Hadith used by Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)

Tirmidhi has reported a Hadith on the authority of Zayd bin Thabit (RA):

نضر الله أمرا سمع منا حديثا حفظه حتى يبلغه غيره

"May Allah bestow freshness upon one who listens Hadith from me and conveys it to others.”

In this tradition Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) himself uses the word Hadith for his statement. The message conveyed in this Hadith by Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was very well taken by the distinguished men of this Ummah, who, in every generation dedicated their lives for this purpose. The sole aim in their life was to collect Hadith, preserve it in pristine purity and convey it to the future generations.

Word Hadith used by Sahaabah (RA)

Sahih Bukhari reports that once Abu Hurairah (RA) asked Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam):

إني أسمع منك حديثا كثيرا النساه

“I listen many Hadith from you (but) I forget"

Some common terminology used in Ilm-Hadith

Athar (اثر)

Literal meaning: Left over part of something, sign.

Technical meaning: It is used in three ways viz.,

1. Synonymous with Hadith.

2. That statement or act which is attributed to Sahaabah, Taabaeen.

3. That thing which is attributed to Sahaabah.

Sunnah (السنّة)

Literal meaning: Practice, habit.

Technical meaning:

1. Same as Hadith.

2. Practices of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)

3. That commandment which is proved by Qur’an and sunnah.

4. Antonym of Bid'at (innovation).

5. Demanded by Shari’ah in addition to Fardh and Wajib; on performance of which is reward and on avoidance of which there is punishment.

Sanad (سند)

Literal meaning: Support.

Technical meaning: Chain of transmission (The sequential list of names of a group of narrators who narrate a particular Hadith).

Matan (متن)

Literal meaning: The elevated hard part of earth.

Technical meaning: It is the text of the Hadith (that part of Hadith which is actually meant to be stated). It comes after Sanad i.e., chain of transmission.

Raawy (راوي)

Literal meaning: Narrator, one who narrates.

Technical meaning: Narrator of Hadith, everyone whose name comes in Sanad.

Marwy (مروي)

Literal meaning: That thing which has been narrated.

Technical meaning : Same as matan which comes after Sanad.

Muhaddith (محدّث)

That scholar who has enough knowledge of both wordings as well as the meanings of Hadith and is also well versed with the knowledge of narrations and narrators of Hadith.

Muhadditheen (محدّثين)

Plural of Muhaddith.

Haafiz-e-Hadith (حافظِ حديث)

It is defined in three ways:

1. One who has full knowledge of at least one lakh Hadith. (Uloom-ul-Hadith,Tadreeb)

2. Synonymous with Muhaddith.

3. Muhaddith who has enough knowledge about all the generations or Tabqat of narrators of Hadith.

Hujjat-e-Hadith (حجتِ حديث)

The Muhaddith who has complete knowledge of about three lakh Hadith. (Uloom-ul-Hadith)

Hakim (حاكم)

That Muhaddith who has such a strong hold on the knowledge of Hadith that hardly any part of it is left out of his knowledge. (Sharah-ul-Qari)

Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen fil Hadith (أمير المؤمنين في الحديث)

That Muhaddith who is superior to all the above mentioned Muhadditheen in all respects and whose opinion and research is seen with honour by all other contemporary Muhadditheen.

Some of the famous Muhadditheen who have been given this title are Sufiyan Thouri, Abdullah bin Mubarak, Ahmad bin Hambal, Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. (Uloom-ul-Hadith)

Riwayat fil Hadith (رواية في الحديث)

It means to memorize or to write a Hadith first (Sanad and Matan), and then quote and pass on the same wordings to others.

Dirayat fil Hadith (دراية في الحديث)

It includes analysis of Hadith with its all related aspects. Only after such in depth analysis decision is taken whether one has to act as per this Hadith or not.