Monthly Archives: June 2012

An introduction to Hadith (Part I)

this entry is merely the tip of the iceberg, written with the intention to give a general idea of this area of study. For further, in-depth information, do seek out an ‘alim on the subject.

[caution: this article contains many Arabic terms.]

The study of Hadith is one of the most extensive and excruciatingly detailed fields of study in Islam. It emphasizes greatly on verification and authenticity, and a lot of investigation has gone into the collections of Hadith that we see today. What is generally accepted amongst the Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaah are the Sunan Sittah (the 6 books of Sunnah, also known as Kutub as-Sihah), which comprises the Hadith collections of Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Nasa’i, Imam Abu Daud, Imam Ibn Majah and Imam Tirmidzi. These are collections of what are generally ranked as Sahih.

What most Muslims are unaware of, is that there are actually thousands of similar Hadith collections, owing to the fact that there are numerous categories of Hadith. This is also known as Mustalah al-Hadith (the categories of Hadith) which is mainly studied for judicial reasons. When the need for a new ruling on a certain matter arises, a stronger Hadith is preferable to be used as a basis to the ruling. Of course, complimentary to this, one is required to know other fields of study in relation to jurisprudence (e.g Usul al-Fiqh, Hadith al-Ahkam, Tarikh at-Tashri’ and so on) as well as other fields pertaining to the study of Hadith itself (e.g Ma’rifah al-Sahabah, al Nasikh wal Mansukh, Tabaqah at-Tabi’in to name a few).

Suffice to say, whether a Hadith is Sahih, Hasan or Dha’eef is mainly the concern of the Mujtahidun, or any council that’s concerned with the legal provisions of the Muslim society. For the general public (like you and I) to fuss over such matters, we will first have to study in-depth the above fields (as well as a long list of other subjects that were not mentioned) and master them.

Of course, it is always useful to know the basic, technical terms used in this field – purely for personal understanding and development. Some commonly used terms in relation to Hadith are as follows: –

Firstly, a Hadith generally comprises an Isnad (الإِسْنَاد ), a Matn (مَتْن ) and a Rawi(رَاوٍ ) .

The term I will be using here is Khabr (literally meaning news), because every Hadith is generally a form of relayed news via a chain of transmitters. For example, we may have:

حدثنا عثمان بن أبي شيبة, ثنا معاوية بن هشام, ثنا سفيان, عن أسامة بن زيد, عن عثمان بن عروة, عن عروة, عن عائشة, قالت: قال رسول الله (صلى الله عليه و سلم): ((إنّ الله و ملائكته يصلون على ميامن الصفوف)) – رواه ابن ماجه

We were informed by ‘Uthman ibn Abi Shaybah, followed by Mu’awiyyah ibn Hisham, followed by Sufyan, from Usamah ibn Zayd, from ‘Uthman ibn ‘Urwah, from ‘Urwah, from ‘Aishah, who said, the Prophet (Pbuh) said, “verily Allah and His Angels send their blessings upon the dextropositioned rows” Reported by Ibn Majah

The names ‘Uthman ibn Abi Shaybah, all the way to ‘Aishah, are what we call the Isnad. These are the people in the chain of narrators concerned with passing on the Khabr. The actual content of the khabr is purely what was mentioned by the Prophet (pbuh) – “verily Allah … dextropositioned rows” – and this is called the Matn. The Rawi, on the other hand, is the person who collected and reported the Hadith, which is in this case, Ibn Majah.

There are also some very commonly used terms we encounter when reading Hadith, such as:

Sahih (صحيح )

This literally means correct, and is a Hadith of unquestionable authenticity. There are 5 requirements for a Hadith to be Sahih:

  1. The chain of narration has to be continuous, i.e, no person in the chain is skipped or hidden.
  2. The condition of the narrators must be stable at the time of transmission. Meaning, they have to be Muslim, matured, rational and not possess any questionable or doubtful character (e.g notorious sinners or apostates)
  3. The narration has to be precise – and, if not written down prior to the transmission, this requires a strong memory.
  4. It must not be in conflict with any other Daleel (source of reference, namely the Qur’an and Sunnah)
  5. There must not be any inadequacies in the narration (e.g slurs or imposed accents)

If a Hadith does not meet these 5 criteria, it will fall under either Hassan or Dha’eef, depending on how many requirements it fails to fulfil.

Hasan (حسن )

This is the second tier of Hadith, whereby every criteria of Sahih is met except for (c.) the matter of precision (according to the Muhaddith Ibn Hajr). However, because it is a midpoint between Sahih and Dha’eef, there are slight variations as to where exactly that midpoint lies. This definition is the most commonly used one. If a Hasan Hadeeth can be backed by another Hasan Hadeeth of similar content, it may be raised to Sahih.

Some collections of Hasan Hadith include Sunan Tirmidzi, Sunan Abi Daud and Sunan Daraqutni.

Dha’eef ( ضعيف )

There are many, many reasons for a Hadith to be Dha’eef (literally meaning weak). It could be due to a questionable personality in the chain of narration, or missing narrators, or a conflict with other narrations, or simply not enough transmitters at any point of narration, and so forth. Each reason is categorized by the nature of defect, ranked according to different degrees of severity, and given respective names to identify with. For example Mu’allaq, Mursal, Mu’dhal and Munqati’ are all used to describe different scenarios in which narrators are missing from the chain.

It should be noted here, however – that if under certain conditions a Dha’eef Hadith is backed by other narrations with similar content, it may be raised to Hasan.

Muttafaq ‘Alaih (مُتَّفَق عَلَيه )

Literally meaning “agreed upon”, this is a Hadith that has been collected by the Shaykhain (the two Shaykhs, namely Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim), with both narrations quoting the same Matn (content) and Isnad (chain of narrators), and both narrations collected as Sahih. If the Hadith is of the same Matn but taken from different chains of transmission, it is not Muttafaq ‘alaih, it is instead said to be akhrajahu ash-shaykhain (collected by the Shaykhain).

Mutawatir (مُتَوَاتِر )

This is a category of Hadith whereby there are many narrators at each level of transmission. There has been a difference of opinion of the minimum number of narrators for a Hadith to be Mutawatir, but the general opinion is 10. There are also other requirements for a Hadith to be Mutawatir. For example, the conditions of transmission and the state of the narrators must be so that it is impossible for them to connive in misrepresenting the narration. Also, the Hadith must be something physically experienced, thus it should begin with “we heard…” or “we saw…” and so on. A popular example of this would be Hadith Jibreel.


And Allah knows.

(for a continuation of this article click here)

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Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Hadith


Imam ash-Shafi’ee on Travel


Al-Imam ash-Shafi’ee (r.a) (150 H/766 M – 204 H/820 M) is known as the establisher of the shafi’ee school of jurisprudence, or mazhab of Fiqh, widely used by Muslims in South East Asia. He was one of the ahlul bayt – his lineage can be traced back to ‘abd Manaf ibn Qusay, who is also in the Prophet’s (pbuh) ancestral line. He was known as the Mujaddid (one who renews the religion) of his time, and was the first scholar to lay the foundations of the field of Usul al Fiqh (the origins of jurisprudence). He was the first to write a book on this field of study and it was named al-Risalah.

Like most other scholars of Islam, Imam ash-Shafi’ee was well-versed in Arabic linguistics and literature, for such is the requirements for one to understand the Qur’an and Hadith. Besides being a scholar of various religious fields (including Hadith and Quranic sciences), he was also a brilliant poet in his own right. The following is taken from his famous (and only) poetry collection, Diwan Ash-Shafi’ee.

Again, each bayt (verse in Arabic poetry, consisting of two sub-verses) is followed by my own inadequate translation.

ما في المقام لـذي عقـلٍ وذي أدبٍ
من راحة فـدع الأوطـان واغتـرب

There is no rest for the one of intellect and refinement in his locality, so leave your homeland and emigrate

سافر تجـد عوضـاً عمـن تفارقـه
وانصب فإن لذيذ العيش في النصـب

Travel, and you will find a replacement for that which you left, and exhaust yourself for therein is the sweetness of life

إني رأيـت وقـوف المـاء يفسـده
إن ساح طاب وإن لم يجر لم يطـب

Verily I saw water become putrid in its stagnation, and become sweet when it flows.

والأسد لولا فراق الأرض ما افترست
والسهم لولا فراق القوس لم يصـب

And the lions would not be fierce if they didn’t leave their grounds, and the arrow would not strike if it didn’t leave the bow

والشمس لو وقفت في الفلك دائمـه
ًلملها الناس من عجـم ومـن عـرب

And if the sun stayed in its place in the universe, people would have grown tired of it

والبدر لولا أفول منه ما نظرت
إليه في كل حين عين مرتقب

And if the moon did not disappear every now and then, the anticipating eye would never spare a glance at it

والتبر كالترب ملقـي فـي أماكنـه
والعود في أرضه نوع من الحطـب

And raw gold is as good as the dust that covers it, and the staff covered in dust is mere firewood.

فـإن تغـرب هـذا عـز مطلـبـه
وإن تغـرب ذلـك عـز كالـذهـب

In leaving your destiny will change, and in emigration you will become precious, like gold.

And Allah knows.

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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Arabic, Poetry


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The requirements of being an Educator


This is one of the most notable works by Abu al-Aswad ad-Du’ali (16-69 H), one of the greatest forefathers of Arab grammar. He is of the tabi’in (the generation after the Prophet pbuh) and played a major role in assigning the markings (shakl) in the Holy Qur’an. Much reference has been made to this (especially the last line) in studies of Arabic literature and grammar.

Each line is followed by my own inadequate translation.

يا أيها الرجل المعلم غيره | هلا لنفسك كان ذا التعليم
O ye who teaches others, why haven’t you educated yourself?

تصف الدواء لذي السقا و ذي الضنا | كيما يصح و أنت سقيم
You prescribe remedies to the thirsty and the one in hardship, as if it cures – while you remain sick,

و نراك تصلح بالرشاد عقولنا | و أبدا و أنت من الرشاد عديم
You attempt to solve our problems by guiding our discretion, yet you are most obviously in need for guidance,

ابدأ بنفسك فانهها عن غيرها | فإذا انتهت عنه فأنت حكيم
Begin with yourself and restrain it from others, and once (your training) is complete, then you are wise.

و هناك يقبل ما تقول و يشتفى | بالقول منك و ينفع التعليم
Thereafter will there be acceptance of your words and a cure (that comes from it), and your teaching will be of benefit,

لا تنه عن خلق و تأتي مثله | عار عليك إذا فعلت عظيم
Do not condemn an action and then behave in that same manner, it is a terrible disgrace upon you.

Here Du’ali has made an explicit reference to undesirable characteristics in the transmitters of knowledge. He uses a firm, reprimanding tone against the self (the word used here being nafs) – an adequate warning universally applicable then and now.

And Allah Knows.

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Arabic, Poetry


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Some Rhymes and a Lot of Nonsense

The following are some of my unremarkable attempts at wordplay and alliteration.

The sultry Sunday slipped secretively
Through my fingers, sandlike and slippery,
Surreal it was, point- blank, serenity,
Slithering silently into eternity.

It was apparent poison in plain perception
As I beheld the pain in pale apprehension,
Panic erupted and pelted my vision,
and drew perfect parallels with my discretion.

Unhappily he handed, hurried and haughty
A handsome horse, hitched and gaudy,
Held up and hesitant, his face did show,
Cast here, high on his worried brow.


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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Poetry, Rants


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Purity and Purification

unreasonably excessive use of water is eschewed in Islam and may even nullify the wudhu’.

At the basis of any act of worship in Islam is the state of physical and spiritual purity that a Muslim is required to maintain. This is done by taking a ritual bath (Ghusl) or the ritual cleansing of specific parts of the body (Wudhu’). Once in this state, it is important to be careful not to engage in any activity that nullifies it (until the intended act of Worship is complete, at least). These restrictions are primarily for the sake of raising one’s own spiritual awareness and not neglecting the original intention of worship.

Such acts are (according to the Shafi’e fiqh):

  1. Excretion via the anus/urinary tract
  2. Deep sleep
  3. Loss of consciousness or sanity
  4. Touching one’s husband or wife, or any unrelated person of the opposite gender
  5. Touching the private parts

In addition to this, it is best to maintain the physical cleanliness of one’s body, clothes and area of worship. These are some general guidelines of what a Muslim should avoid coming in contact with before entering prayer (or any other act of worship that requires wudhu’):

  1. Alcohol
  2. Dogs and pigs
  3. Corpses (exceptions from this are: human corpses, fish and grasshoppers)
  4. Blood and pus
  5. Urine and faeces
  6. The milk of prohibited animals (e.g donkeys)

It should be noted that coming in contact with these entities does not nullify the Wudhu’. One must, however, ensure that he cleanses off any traces before he enters prayer.

However, as it goes with any law, there are always exceptions to the rule. The shari’a was never meant to be overbearing, thus the following are excused and it is not incumbent upon one to cleanse himself from these items before prayer (out of the long list here I only quote those immediately relevant to this age and lifestyle):

  1. When the impurity is indiscernible, i.e, one knows it is an impurity but is unable to identify what exactly it is, then it suffices to simply rinse it off by sprinkling water (this is the method used to cleanse the lowest degree of impurity).
  2. Small amounts of blood and pus, be it from insect bites or minor cuts.
  3. Blood and pus from one’s own wounds – of which he did not inflict upon himself.
  4. The blood on meat.

And Allah knows best.

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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Fiqh