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The Sunnah And Hadeeth

Whilst Muslims are agreed upon the Qur'an as being the Final Book of Revelations, there are disagreements about the Traditions - ie., sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad as recorded by scholars after his demise. The majority accept the validity of the Ahadeeth - of both major sects, Sunni and Shi'a: the rulings, beliefs and practices derived from them. There are a minority who reject the Hadeeth Compilations in their entirety, and adhere only to the Qur'an. There also exists a relatively small category who occupy the middle ground, neither accepting completely nor rejecting entirely the Traditions. Though disagreements are natural, given human nature, I believe differences when expressed with respect and courtesy, may benefit Muslim communities.

This short piece is centred upon the different categories of Traditions. First, however, a clarification of what Sunnah and Hadeeth actually mean in relation to the Prophet (pbuh).

Part 1

The Sunnah
Sunnah - plural, Sunan:
habitual practice,
customary procedure or action,
usage sanctioned by tradition;
As-Sunnah An-Naby: The sayings and doings of the Prophet.

The Sunnah may be described or defined as the over-all traditions of the Prophet.

1) The Sunnah constitutes the sayings of the Prophet: Hadeeth;

2) The Sunnah comprises the actions of the Prophet;

3) The Sunnah also represents what the Prophet witnessed or heard, but found no objections in them;

4) The Sunnah is: what the Prophet saw and confirmed it.

Part 2

The Hadeeth
Hadeeth - plural, Ahadeeth:
small talk,

The Traditions form just one aspect of the Sunnah of the Prophet. There are a number of categories under which Hadeeth are classified.

1) Sahih - considered to be the best or the most authentic.

2) Mutassill - all chains of narrators are connected to the Companions and/or the Prophet.

3) Hasan - the chain is reliable. It is acceptable, though does not reach the level of Sahih.

4) Da'eef - weak narration. People in the chain may be unreliable, or the wording of the tradition may not be clear. Such Ahadeeth are not employed for arriving at Islamic decisions or verdicts. Occassionally, these traditions may be accepted if they do not contradict Islamic beliefs.

5) Majhul - unknown. One of the narrators in the chain is unknown.

6) Ghareeb - unfamiliar. Person reporting the account may be unknown, or the version of Hadeeth may be unfamiliar or strange.

7) M'udal - faulty. One or two narrators missing from the chain.

8) Maqtu'a - interrupted. Interruption in chain of narrators towards its end - that is, no-one found to link back to the Prophet.

9) Mawquf - no Companion amongst the chain of narrators is mentioned. The Followers - At-Tabi'een - may be referred to, but the report cannot be traced to any Companion.

10) Mu'allaq - literally means "hanging" In such Ahadeeth, the entire chain of narrators is missing: The report begins with a direct reference to the Prophet, "The Prophet said.."

11) Mursal - broken. The chain of narrators is missing. The first narrator linking his report directly to the Prophet.

12) Maqru - a Hadeeth which clearly contradicts another tradition declared to be Sahih.

13) Mawdu'a - fabricated. The whole report flatly contradicts the Qur'an and Sahih Hadeeth. (A narrator may be a known liar; any dates mentioned in report may not match historical incident related to it; etc.)

14) Marfu'an - a Tradition which has no Isnad, chain of narrators, but is reported directly from the Prophet (pbuh) or from the person narrating it (eg., 'Ayeshah rda)

Part 3


The great majority of Muslims adhere to various sects and scholars. Most of them depend, to a large extent, upon the Ahadeeth of their preferred schools of thought. To question or challenge this reliance meets with resistance and opposition, sometimes anger and occassionally threats. It is not uncommon for a Muslim who has the audacity to express opinions contrary to the established norm, to be declared a Kaafir - denier of the truth. It is unfortunate that free and independant thinking has become the exception rather than the rule of Muslim communities.

To conclude this short piece, a reminder may be worthwhile. Nowhere in the Qur'an is the term "Hadeeth Nabawi" - speech of the Prophet - mentioned, nor the phrase "As-Sunnah An-Naby" - the sayings and actions of the Prophet. What we do find, however, are references to the Hadeeth and Sunnah of Allah SWT -

Surah 7 Al-A'raaf, Verse 185
Au-Wa-Lam Yandhuru Fi Malakuti-S-Samwaati Wa-L-Ardi Wa Ma Khalaqa Allahu Min Shayin Wwa-An 'Asaa An Yakuna Qad Iqtaraba Ajaluhum. Fa-Bi-Ayee Hadeethin B'adahu Yu'minun?

Do they not look at the heavens and the earth and all things Allah has created; and that it may be that the end of their lives is near. In what Message - Hadeeth - after this will they then believe?

Surah 35 Al-Faatir, Verse 43
...Fa-Lan Tajida Li-Sunnati-Llahi Tabdeela, Wa-Lan Tajida Li-Sunnati-Llahi Tahweela.

..So no change will you ever find in Allah's Way - Sunnat-Allah; and no deviation will you ever find in Allah's Way - Sunnat-Allah


The following sums up both the Sunnah and Hadeeth of the Prophet most beautifully:

Surah 6 Al-An'aam, Verses 162-163
Qul (Say!) "Behold, my prayer and (all) my acts of worship, and my living and my dying are for Allah (alone), the Sustainer of all the worlds,
in Whose Divinity none has a share: for thus have I been bidden - and I shall (always) be foremost amongst who surrender themselves to HIM."

Allahu 'Alam.

Dictionary defintions from:
"Hans Wehr: A Dictionary Of Modern Written Arabic." Edited by J.Milton Cowan.

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