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The Science of 'hadith' is a process mostly used by Muslim scholars in the evaluation of hadith. It is described as the science of the principles by which the conditions of the matn, the sanad, the text of the hadith and the chain of narration are known. This science is basically concerned with the matn and the sanad and it aims at differentiating the sahih from any other principles. A hadith is composed of two main parts which are the chain of reporters and the text (Suhaib, 1994). During the time when the Prophet was alive and even after his death, some people he lived with would refer to the Prophet directly when quoting some of his sayings. Those who followed in the teachings of Islam would either quote the Prophet directly or some would completely omit the Prophet. The Muslims later came to realize that the missing link between the people and the Prophet was one person whom they called the Companion; hence the need for each isnad was realized at this point. The other reason of coming up with a companion was because a hadith might be fabricated by other religious sects that were found among the Muslims so as to fit their views. The science of Hadith is important to many scholars in that it distinguishes what is acceptable and what is not.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CLASSIFICATION OF HADITH
Due to the fact that there were two more reporters who got involved in each isnad, there was need to come up with rules to monitor the Hadith, these rules led to the classification of the Hadith. Scholars, who came later, carefully studied the isnads and they either accepted or rejected the reporters. Some of the early work of scholars to classify Hadith resulted in very many classifications but still some scholars felt that not all the work had been covered. After many revisions of the classifications of Hadith there emerged the work that up to date is used by many scholars and students; this was the work called ‘Ulum al-Hadith’ that was done by Uthman Ibn al-Salah while he was teaching in Syria. Later on developments have been made but they are all based on the work of this scholar (Al-Suyuti and Jalal, 1959).
STUDY OF THE REPORTERS OF HADITH
Due to the fact that there were so many reporters who were associated with the work of the Hadith there was need to evaluate each of them. After critical evaluation of the remarks made experts the reporters were then graded as either; Imam (leader), reliable, makes mistakes, weak, abandoned or a liar. The first two remarks were used to describe the reporters who contributed to sound isnad, while the middle two remarks made up isnad that was weak and lastly if an isnad contained the work of a reporter who is described by the last two remarks the this isnad was said to be very weak. In case there is any contradiction between the remarks of a certain reporter then a decision should be arrived at after deep analysis of the work of that reporter.
CLASSIFICATIONS OF HADITH
- According to the reference to a particular authority: In this class the following types of Hadith are considered; ‘Marfu’ (elevated type of hadith); this type of Hadith consists of a recitation from the Prophet for example saying “I Heard the messenger of Allah saying…” This kind of hadith applies when someone quotes the exact words of the Prophet or a successor or companion. The other type of Hadith is “Mauquf” which means stopped: This is a type of Hadith that comprises of a narration from only a companion of the Prophet; this means that it is his own statement as he made it. It is important to note that there can be some expressions that are used by the companion that may make the Hadith sound as if it is a “Marfu” but essentially it is a “Mauquf,” for example when a companion says “ we used to…” The last hadith in this classification is “Maqtu” which means severed. This type of Hadith is merely a narration from a Successor for example “Ibn Sirin said…” This class of hadith is important in that it enables people to distinguish the sayings of the Prophet from those of his Successors or Companions (The Encyclopedia of Islam).
- According to the links of the Isnad: In this class there are six categories of hadith; ‘Musnad;’ this is also called supported hadith and it is when an old teacher reports some information that he learnt from his mentors during the past and this continues with each teacher until the teaching gets to a companion who is well known and therefore he can report from the Prophet. ‘Munqati’ (broken): this is a type of hadith that is missing the link before the successor. ‘Mutassil’ (continuous): This is a type of hadith that has an uninterrupted isnad and therefore it can be traced back to a companion or a successor only. ‘Mursal’ (hurried): This is a type of isnad that is as a result of a missing link between the successor and the prophet, for example when a successor says that the prophet said “….” ‘Mu’allaq’ (hanging): this is a hanging type of hadith whereby the reporter quotes the prophet directly and omits all the isnad; therefore the isnad is missing the link from the beginning. ‘Mu’adal’ (perplexing): This is a type of hadith whereby the reporter omits consecutive reporters in the isnad.
- According to the number of reporters involved in each stage of the isnad; In this class there are five categories of the hadith; ‘Mutawatir’ (Consecutive): This is a type of hadith that has been reported by a very large group of people such that they cannot come to an agreement in case of a lie, all of them together. ‘Ahad’ (isolated): This is a type of hadith that is narrated by a group of people but their number does reach that of the ‘mutawatir.’ This hadith is later classified into; ‘Aziz’ (rare), this hadith is one whereby only two reporters at any one stage in the isnad are found to narrate the hadith. ‘Gharib’ (strange): A hadith in which at a specific stage of the isnad there is only one reporter found relating to the hadith. ‘Mash’hur’ (famous): This is a type of hadith that has been reported by more than two reporters.
- According to the nature of the text and the isnad: In this class there are two broad classifications; ‘Munkar’ (denounced): This is a type of hadith whose contents are against another hadith which is authentic and it is reported by a weak narrator. The other class is the ‘Mudraj’ (interpolated): This is a type of hadith which comprises of an addition made by a reporter on the hadith that is being narrated.
- Classification according to the reporters’ memory and the reliability: In this class there are four categories; ‘Sahih’ (sound): This is a kind of hadith that has been reported by many reporters who are known to be trustworthy in their religion and the reporters should be known as people who are truthful about their narrations. ‘Hasan’ (good): this is a type of hadith that is said to be good and its source is well known and the reporters should be unambiguous. ‘Da’if’ (weak): A type of hadith that is considered to weak and cannot be placed in the class of hasan. The hadith may be seen to be weak because of the following; due to discontinuity in the isnad or a hadith that has one of the reporters being a person who is not trustworthy due to lies, mistakes or one who opposes the narrations that have been made by more reliable sources. ‘Maudu’ (fabricated hadith): A hadith is considered to be in this class if it has been seen to be forged and/or its contents are against the teachings and the sayings of the Prophet. A hadith may be placed in this category if one of its reporters is a liar (Dr. Mustafa, 1998).
- Classification according to a hidden mistake that is in the isnad or the text of the hadith: A hadith is known as a ‘Mudtarib’ in case of a disagreement between the reporters on the text of the isnad and none of the opinions of the reporters may be preferred as a solution. A hadith can also be referred to as a ‘Maqlub’ when it’s changed or reversed or the reporter reverses the arrangement of the words in the sentence. A hadith may also be called a ‘Maqlub’ if a name of a reporter has been replaced with another name. A ‘Ma’lul’ or defective hadith is one which may appear to be sound but after carrying out extensive research on it, some disparaging factor is realized; an example of these factors can be indicating that a reporter narrated from his sheikh but in the real sense he did not meet the sheikh.
Suhaib Hasan, an introduction to the science of hadith, London, UK
Al-Quran Society, 1994
Al-Suyuti and Jalal al-Din, al-'Itqan fi 'ulum al- Qur'an, Tadrib al-rawi, Egypt, Al Madinah, 1959.
Tehran University, Library Catalogue, the Encyclopedia of Islam (English).
Dr. Mustafa Walleye’s, Outlines of the Development of the Science of Hadith, Al-Taw hid, Volume 1, Numbers 1, 2 and 3 (August, 1998) Translated from the Persian by 'Ali Quli Qara'i