Know Your Hadith: Part I

By Huda Shaka`

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI


There is a growing trend of lack of trust in hadith (to put it mildly), from within the Muslim community. I have been hearing alarming statements like: “Don’t give me proof from Hadith, give me proof from the Qur’an,” or “I don’t believe in the Hadith; I follow only the Qur’an” much more frequently in the past few years. Unfortunately, often times those statements are accepted and go undisputed. Sadly, it all comes down to gross ignorance within the global Muslim community on the fundamentals of what we claim to be our deen (way of life): Islam.

Then, there are many texts circulating in the global media, which add to the confusion by propagating dangerous misconceptions about the second source of legislation in Islam. I will not go into the details, but will say that these simply ignores the work of thousands of great scholars who have completely dedicated their life to the collection, authentication, and study of Hadith.

I previously began studying the topic of Hadith through a weekly class on Science of Hadith. When I went into the class, I had minimal knowledge on Hadith and the process of its collection, and have since learnt many fascinating details on the topic. I found some stories and aspects particularly striking and awe-inspiring, and I hope to share those glimpses through this series of posts.

This is the least I can do to stand up for the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at a time when it is being viciously attacked. However, the information shared will only be the tip of the iceberg. I greatly encourage every Muslim reading this to study this topic further, whether by reading a good book on it or preferably attending a class (if available).

For reference, the book I will be quoting (which is the one I studied from) is Usool Al-Hadith: its Sciences and Terminologies by Dr. Muhammad Ajaj Al Khatib (Arabic).  I will do my best to translate and re-phrase small portions from the book.  I ask Allah (swt) to help me benefit others with the little knowledge He has blessed me with, and to help others benefit from this humble effort.

Since I’ve already used up half of the post for the introduction, I will start with a very brief set of questions and answers, to make sure we all start on the same page:

What is the Science of Hadith? It is the science associated with the accurate propagation of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, and characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) (called Riwayah in the Science of Hadith), and the science establishing the guidelines and criteria for classifying and authenticating the narrators of hadith and the text of the narrations (called Dirayah).

In the Science of Hadith, Dirayah is also referred to as `Uloom al-Hadith, Mustalah al-Hadith, and Usool al-Hadith.

What is Sunnah? To the scholars of Hadith, the Sunnah is all that has been known of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, characteristics, and life-story (seerah) of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whether before or after revelation. In this sense, Sunnah is synonymous to Prophetic Hadith (Hadith Nabawi).

Stay tuned for Part II – Why is Sunnah a source of Legislation?

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  1. omar says:


    For many years I traversed the road of this type of ignorance, and for many years i preached this ignorance to others! I pray to God everyday that he forgives me for this sin. I even convinced my own family that Hadith was “not important” and “had no place in Islam.” (Sta3firAllah)

    It was only after I gave myself the opportunity to sit down and listen to Sheyookh like Suhaib Webb that I started opening up my eyes. The problem is even in this article, you have understated how widely held this belief is in the Ummah . MOST MUSLIMS I KNOW DISREGARD THE HADITH. It really is ashame.

    I look forward to this series!

  2. Marzuki says:

    I’ve recently been intrested to know more about hadith – like how does one know if the hadith is strong or weak and stuffs like that. Am looking forward to this series.

    However, im already confused between hadith and sunnah. Am i right to say that everything that is written in the hadith a sunnah?

    • Zubair Khan says:

      Assalamu alaykum,

      Sunnah in this context refers to all that is narrated from the Prophet (sw): his acts, his sayings, and whatever he tacitly approved. Sunnah as a whole falls under this verse in the Qur’an:

      “Whatsoever the Messenger gives you then take it and whatsoever he prohibits you from then refrain from it.” (al-Qur’an 59:7)

      The Sunnah of the Prophet (sw) has reached us by the means of al-ḥadīth. The aḥadīth (pl. of ḥadīth) consists of a combination of a text (matn) and a chain of narration (isnaad) beginning from the Prophet (sw) and ending at the scholar who is narrating the ḥadīth.

      Note: in different connotations, the term Sunnah can mean different things. To the scholars of Fiqh (Islamic Law), Sunnah refers to recommended acts and to the scholars of Uṣūl al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Sunnah, along with the Qur’an, is the primary source of legislation from which Islamic rulings are derived.

      And Allah knows best.

  3. Shireen says:

    Great article, JazakAllah Khair.
    I’ve always reflected upon ahadith and such, but my question is more towards fatawi. Nowadays we hear a lot of different fatwas regarding certain matters, are we to go along with them or does this depend on what mathhab you follow? What if you don’t follow a certain mathhab?

    • Zubair Khan says:

      Assalamu alaykum,

      For the laymen like you and me, it’s better to stick to a madhhab if possible. However, if you have a trusted scholar in your area and you ask him questions, you can follow his fatawa even if they don’t agree with your madhhab (if you follow one), and as long as they are based on sound evidences. If you don’t have such a scholar, a good website that you can go to for fatawa is IslamOnline.

      And Allah knows best.

  4. Wafaa says:

    well said! Jazak Allahu Khairan.

  5. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    This article is an amazing appetizer! When can we expect the main course?


  6. Sister in Islam says:

    Asalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.

    I agree, mashallah a great appetizer! Please can we have a main course? Perhaps you can teach live on media such as paltalk on a weekly basis inshallah so that we can benefit?

    Please share your ilm.

    Jazakallah khair.

    Walaikum asalam.

    Your sister in Islam

  7. Isa says:

    jazaakillaahu khayran

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