Hadith is believed to have been collected beginning 150 years after Mohammed’s death in 632 A.D. and it is the basis of jurisprudence for Islamic law, or Sharia law.
To begin to understand Islam, one must understand what parts make up hadith, how hadith is classified, and how hadith is legitimized to mold Sharia.
Hadith has two parts. The first part is matn, which is the specific content or text of the statements and actions of Mohammed and his companions.
The second part is isnad, which is the record of the chain of transmitters all the way back to Mohammed, similar to a family tree. Although an isnad containing Mohammed’s bloodline carries more weight, one does not have to be related to Mohammed to be a transmitter.
Muslims classify hadith in four different categories.
The first three categories refer specifically to Mohammed. Awl are the transmissions of Mohammed’s statements, fi’li are the transmission of Mohammed’s deeds or actions, and taqrir are the actions or deeds of the Prophet’s companions or others that Mohammed has approved of.
The fourth category of classification is qudsi which are the Prophet’s words, inspired by Allah, that are not recorded in the Quran.
Once hadith undergoes critical analysis, it becomes authenticated, lending legitimacy to Sharia by offering legal proof.
The process begins when Muslim scholars complete a thorough examination of the isnad. They look for information about the transmitters and the transmissions and examine the matn in historical context.
Once the analysis is complete, the hadith is given a rating as sahih (authentic), hasan (good), da’if (weak), and mawdu or batil (forged).
If a hadith is found to be sahih or hasan, it is admissible as Sharia.
In addition to offering legal proof for Sharia, the authentication and interpretation of hadith has had significant influences on the different sects of Islam.
Each sect of Islam views different collections of hadith to be the legitimate collection. They decide which hadith to trust and which hadith is unreliable. Hadith is also examined against the Quran and any hadith that conflicts with the Quran is thrown out.
Muslims consider the Quran the Divine Word of Allah, and it is above all else in Islam.
Hadith is second with believers trusting the words and deeds of Mohammed, so it helps to provide supplementation and clarification to the Quran.
Hadith provides to Muslims a window to look at the Prophet’s way of life and offer examples of what he did or said so they may follow in his footsteps.