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The Classification of Hadeeth

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The Definition of Hadeeth

Hadeeth literally means a saying or conversation, as in the following Qur'aanic verses:

“Let them then produce a saying (Hadeeth) like unto it.”
Soorah at-Tur (52):34
“And when the Prophet spoke (Hadeeth) secretly to one of his wives.”
Soorah at-Tahrim (66):3

But in Islaamic Terminology, Hadeeth is synonymous with Sunnah, though the word ‘Hadeeth’ is generally used to refer to only the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed . The Hadeeth have been recorded by the Companions and collected in the books of Hadeeth.

If the word ‘Hadeeth’ is used without any adjective, it always means the Hadeeth of the Prophet, but if any Companion or Successor (Taabiee) is meant, clarification is needed by adding Mauquf for the Companion and Maqtu for the Successor.

The following is an example of what a Hadeeth looks like:

Musaddad told us that Yahyaa informed him from Shu’bah, from Qataadah from Anas from the Prophet that he said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Collected by al-Bukhari

This means that the Hadeeth scholar Muhammed ibn Ismaa’el al-Bukhari recorded in his book of the collection of Hadeeth called Sahih al-Bukhari the statement: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”, which he heard from his Hadeeth teacher Musaddad, who heard it from his teacher Yahyaa, who was informed by his teacher Shu’bah that he heard it from his teacher Qataadah, a student of the Prophet’s Companion, who heard it quoted by the Sahabee (Companion) Anas ibn Maalik  from the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him).

The Structure of Hadeeth
A Hadeeth consists of two main parts: the Sanad and Matn

The Sanad:
Sanad or Isnad, is the chain of narrators that leads to the text of the Hadeeth. The Sanad consists of all those who narrated the text, starting with the last narrator (who records the Hadeeth in his book) and ending with the Prophet. Following is the Sanad of the Hadeeth mentioned before...

Al-Bukhari >  Musaddad  >  Yahyaa  >  Shu’bah  > Qataadah  >  Anas >  Prophet Muhammed (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam)

The Matn:
The text of the Hadeeth or what the Prophet actually said or did is called the Matn. In the Hadeeth mentioned before, the Matn isNone of you truly believes until...”


The Preservation of Hadeeth

The Writing down of Hadeeth [1]
There are many authentic narrations collected by the Scholars of Hadeeth, that prove that Hadeeth were recorded in writing even during the time of the Prophet.

Imaam Abu Dawood gives a few examples in his Sunan

Abdullah bin Amr said: “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allah . I intended (by it) to memorize it. The Quraish prohibited me, saying ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him, while the Messenger of Allah is a human being (Bashr), he speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah. He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said: ‘Write, by Him in whose hand my soul lies, only right (Haqq) comes out from it.’
Sunan Abu Dawood vol.3, no. 3639 and authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan Abu Dawood no.3099. The collection of Hadeeth of Abdullah bin Amr is known as ‘Sahifah Sadiqah’

Abu Hurairah  said: When Meccah was conquered, the Holy Prophet  stood up. He (Abu Hurairah) then mentioned the sermon of the Holy Prophet . A man from Yemen, called Abu Shah got up and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Write it for me.” The Messenger of Allah  said, “Write it for Abu Shah.”
Sunan Abu Dawood vol.3, no. 3641 and authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan Abu Dawood  no.3100

“Al-Walid said, I asked Abu Amr  - “What are they writing? He said, “The sermon which he heard that day”
Sunan Abu Dawood vol.3 no.3642 and authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan Abu Dawood no.3101

Imaam Bukhari mentions a few more examples in his Saheeh in the “Book of Knowledge”, chapter “The writing of Knowledge”:

The Prophet’s Companion, Abu Hurairah has narrated an incident in which a man from Yemen came to the Prophet, while the Prophet was addressing his Companions about the sanctity of Mecca, and asked the Prophet to get what he said written. The Prophet ordered his Companions to write that for him.”

Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, no.112

“From Abu Qabeel who said: We were with 'Abdullaah ibn 'Amr ibn al 'Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So 'Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said, “Take out a book from it”. Then 'Abdullaah said, “Whilst we were with the Messenger of Allaah writing, The Messenger of Allaah was asked, “Which city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Rome?” So Allaah's Messenger  said: “The city of Heracilius will be conquered first " meaning Constantinople.”

Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (2/176), ad-Daarimee (1/126) and al Haakim (3/422).
The Prophet approved and encouraged the writing down of the Hadeeth when he said to his Companions, during the last few days of his life, “Bring for me a paper and I will write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.”
Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, no.114
The Memorizing of Hadeeth

Narrated by Abu Hurairah, “...I used to stick to Allah’s Messenger contended with what will fill my stomach and I used to attend that which they (the emigrants to Madeenah) did not attend and I used to memorize that which they used not to memorize.”

Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, no.118

Abu Huraira said, "You people claim that Abu Huraira narrates many narrations of Allah's Apostle. (Anyhow) with Allah will be our appointment. I was a poor man, and used to stick to Allah's Apostle contented with what will fill my stomach, and the Muhajirin (emigrants) used to be busy trading in the markets, and the Ansar used to be busy looking after their properties. One day I heard Allah's Apostle saying, 'Who will spread his Rida' (a garment covering the upper part of the body) till I finished my speech and then fold it, (i.e. wrap it over your body), in which case he will never forget anything he had heard from me." So I spread my garment which I was wearing; and by Him Who sent Muhammad with the Truth, ever since, I have never forgotten whatever I heard from him (the Prophet)."

Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.9, no.452

Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah, "The Prophet (p.b.u.h) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara (Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning any job or a deed), in all matters as he taught us the Soorahs (chapters) of the Quran...."

Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.2, no.263

[1] Imaam Abu Dawood has collected the Hadeeth in “Kitaab al-Ilm - the book of Knowledge” in the chapter “Writing the Knowledge”. There are four narrations, three of which are mentioned above. The fourth narration [no.3640] has a weak (Da’if) isnad. see Da’if Sunan Abu Dawood no.787

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