Hadith and the Prophet Muhammad

Table of Contents

Hadith, Hadith Collections, and Searchable Hadith Database sayings and accounts of the Prophet
Biographies of the Compilers of the Primary Hadith Collections
Hadith Scholarship and Criticism
Sirah, Hagiographies of the Prophet, including also information on his wives, and companions
Western Revisionist Approaches to the Prophet Muhammad and Critical Responses
Important Online Hadith Texts in Arabic
Downloadable Arabic Research Library

Hadith, Hadith Collections, and Searchable Hadith Database

A hadith is a saying of Muhammad or a report about something he did. Over time, during the first few centuries of Islam, it became obvious that many so-called hadith were in fact spurious sayings that had been fabricated for various motives, at best to encourage believers to act righteously and at worse to corrupt believers' understanding of Islam and to lead them astray. Since Islamic legal scholars were utilizing hadith as an adjunct to the Qur'an in their development of the Islamic legal system, it became critically important to have reliable collections of hadith. While the early collections of hadith often contained hadith that were of questionable origin, gradually collections of authenticated hadith called sahih (lit. true, correct) were compiled. Such collections were made possible by the development of the science of hadith criticism, a science at the basis of which was a critical analysis of the chain of (oral) transmission (isnad) of the hadith going all the way back to Muhammad. The two most highly respected collections of hadith are the authenticated collections the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. (Sahih literally means "correct, true, valid, or sound.") In addition to these, four other collections came to be well-respected, although not to the degree of Bukhari and Muslim's sahih collections. These four other collections are the Sunan of Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and Abu Da'ud. Together these four and the two sahih collections are called the "six books" (al-kutub al-sitta). Two other important collections, in particular, are the Muwatta of Ibn Malik, the founder of the Maliki school of law, and the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of law.

  • Hadith (Encyclopedia Iranica) A detailed scholarly introduction by Shahab Ahmed. Published not before 2002, it contains useful recent bibliographic citations.

  • English Translation of the Sahih of Bukhari This online version, translated by M. Muhsin Khan, has a useful table of contents. Bukhari included 7275 hadith in his Sahih, many of which were variants of others with different chains of transmission. Of these, 2712 were not duplicates. It was reported that he had originally collected 600,000 hadith before subjecting them to his critical method.
  • English Translation of the Sahih of Muslim by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui. This, like the Sahih of Bukhari, has a useful table of contents. Muslim included 9200 hadith, of which 4000 were not duplicated. Originally, he had collected 300,000 hadith; so out of these 300,000, 9200 met his criteria of authenticity.

    Searchable Hadith Database Translations of the entirety of the hadith collections of Bukhari (Sahih) and Malik (Muwatta) and part of the collections of Muslim (Sahih) and Abu Dawud (Sunan) are on-line and searchable at the MSA-USC Hadith Database.

    Imam Nawawi's Forty Hadith (link fixed 17 August 2005) This selection of the sayings of the Prophet compiled by Nawawi, a very important medieval Islamic scholar, has been a favorite of Muslims since its compilation in the 13th century CE. (Back on line 1/18/98.)

    Imam al-Nawawi's Forty Hadith recited and explained in both Arabic and English. This is especially useful for intermediate and advanced level students of Arabic Islamic texts.

    A selection of hadith by Sir Abdullah Suhrawardy entitled Sayings of the Prophet. This has a useful topic index.

    Forty Hadith Qudsi Hadith in which the Prophet reports non-Qur'anic words of God are called hadith qudsi.

    Mishkat al-masabih, an online book by a Muslim scholar Moulana Yunus Osman, deals with hadith in general but focuses on a popular collection of hadith that has been translated into English by James Robson.

    The Sunna Project of the International Hadith Study Association Network (IHSAN)contains online their Hadith Encyclopedia database containing a searchable version of the Arabic text and indices of the Seven Canonical Hadith Collections: Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abi Daud, Sunan al-Tirmidhi,Sunan al-Nasaíi, Sunan IbnMajah and the Muwattaí lik, as well as comments and footnotes. Until February 2003, this service will be in beta testing and be free of charge.

    Biographies of the Compilers of the Primary Hadith Collections

  • Imam Bukhari (194-265 AH), the life of Imam Muhammad ibn Ism‚`Ól al-Bukh‚rÓ (from Bukhara, in what is today Uzbekistan), written by `All‚ma Ghul‚m RasŻl Sa`ÓdÓ, translated by `All‚mah Ishfaq Alam Qadri and M. Iqtidar (Minhaj-ul-Qur'an, March 1995, pp. 30-37).
  • Imam Muslim (202 or 206-261 AH / 817 or 821-875 CE) the life of Muslim ibn Hajjaj al-Qushayri al-Naysaburi (from Naysabur/Nayshapur/Nishapur, in northeastern Iran), the compiler of Sahih Muslim; written by Dr. Abdul Hamid Siddiqui.
  • Imam Abu Da'ud (202-275 AH) Abu Da'ud Sulaiman ibn Ash`ath Sijistani compiler of the Sunan Abi Da'ud, written by Alimah Alisha Akaloo.
  • Imam Tirmidhi (209-279 AH) Abu 'Isa, Muhammad ibn 'Isa ibn Sawra al-Tirmidhi, from Tirmidh, in what today is southern Uzbekistan, just inside the Uzbek border and due north of the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.
  • Imam al-Nasa'i (215-303 AH), Abu 'Abd al-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu'ayb ibn 'Ali ibn Sinan ibn Bahr al-Khurasani al-Nasa'i, from Nasa', which today is in Turkmenistan. His most well-known hadith collection is called the Sunan al-Nasa'i or more precisely al-Sunan al-mujtaba (The Selected Sunan), which is actually a selection of a larger work of his, al-Sunan al-kubra, which still appears not to have been published.
  • Imam Ibn Majah (209-273 AH), Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn Yazid al-Rab'i al-Qazwini, from Qazwin in Iran. His hadith collection is called the Sunan Ibn Majah.
  • Imam Malik ibn Anas (93-179 AH), compiler of the Muwatta and origin of the Maliki madh'hab (school of law); written by Dr. G. F. Haddad.
  • Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH), compiler of the Musnad Ibn Hanbal and origin of the Hanbali madh'hab (school of law); written by Dr. G. F. Haddad.
  • Al-H‚kim, Muhammad ibn `Abd All‚h al-NaysabŻrÓ, known as Ibn al-Bayyi` (321-405 AH), compiler of the well-known al-Mustadrak `al‚ al-SahÓhayn, supplement to the collections of Bukhari and Muslim; written by Dr. G. F. Haddad.

    Hadith Scholarship and the Critical Study of Hadith

    Because of the epistemological importance of hadith for Muslims, they developed an entire field of scholarship or science ('ilm) based on the study of hadith. The traditional Islamic study of hadith is outlined in The Science of Hadith page.

    A more detailed discussion is given in An Introduction to the Science of Hadith. by Suhaib Hassan.

    A surprisingly high percentage of hadith scholars were women. Women Scholars of Hadith by Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi, is a scholary and well-documented article on this subject.

    A well-done annotated bibliography of hadith collections and scholarly studies on hadith is B. Sadeghi's Hadith Bibliography.

    Sirah, Hagiographical Literature on the Prophet

    The Prophet's life-story was transmitted by story tellers and then compiled in books called sirah (pronounced as seera.) In the works of this genre, the Prophet Muhammad's virtuous character is made clear. Even before receiving the revelation of the Qur'an, the Prophet Muhammad was well-known for his good character. One example of his character can be seen in the well-attested hadith transmitted by Umm al-'Ala', an Ansari woman [of Madina] who made the pledge to the Prophet. She narrated the following hadith: At the death of Abu Sa'ib 'Uthman ibn Maz'un, she said, "O Abu Sa'ib, I testify that God has enobled you." The prophet said, "How do you know that God has enobled him?" So I [Umm al-'Ala'] said, "May my father be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of God! Whom does God enoble?" Then the Prophet said, "As for him, [the] certainty [of death] has indeed come to him, and by God, I hope the best for him. By God, I do not know--even though I am the messenger of God--what will be done with me." She said, "By God, I never attested to anyone's piety after that." (Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 419-20; M. M. Khan, v. 2, p. 189-90 Jana'iz, bab 3, #2 (#334); Ibn Hajar, Irshad al-sari, vol. 2, p. 376-77).

    A well-written on-line Biography of the Prophet Muhammad is that of the contemporary Muslim scholar Muhammad Hamidullah.

    A useful on-line translation of the first chapter of a widely read medieval Islamic text by the well-known Qadi Iyad deals with God's praise of and high regard for the Prophet Muhammad. The title, Kitab al-Shifa', means "The Book of Healing."

    A prominent Christian scholar of Islam, W. Montgomery Watt, has written the following--generally positive--assessment of Muhammad as Prophet and Statesman.

    One of the many critical events in the life of the Prophet Muhammad is the "Night Journey," when, while in a state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, he was taken from the Ka'ba (link fixed, Sept. 3, 2000) in Mecca to what the Qur'an (17:1) refers to as "Furthest Mosque" --in Jerusalem-- where the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque stand today. From there he was transported through the heavens and then back to this world during what is called his mi'raj (ascension).

  • The Wives of the Prophet (link fixed 17 August 2005), written by Muslims affiliated with the Alharamain Islamic Foundation, consists of short but useful biographies of all of Muhammad's wives. One of the difficulties that non-Muslims encounter when reading about Muhammad is that unlike Jesus, who lived a celibate life, Muhammad was married. Furthermore, after the death of Khadija (his first wife) in 619 CE until the time of his death in 632 CE, Muhammad married a total of 11 more wives. Muslims, however, are not alarmed by his numerous marriages, since they know the following: 1)that it was not unusual for a powerful Middle Eastern chieftan to marry a number of wives, and 2) that almost all of these 11 other wives were widows when he married them, and 3)for the most part these marriages were contracted in order to cement political ties with the tribes of the wives.

  • The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad, is the English translation of a medieval Arabic work by the highly regarded Muslim scholar, Ibn Kathir. Note that when you reach the bottom of the first page at this site, choose "next" in order to see the remainder of the site.

  • Why Did the Prophet Muhammad Marry Young 'A'isha? This is a response written by a Muslim scholar, Sabeel Ahmed, to the contemporary polemical accusation that the Prophet in marrying 'A'isha (while she was young) was committing paedophilia and child abuse.

  • Answer to the Question of A'isha's Age at the Time of Her Marriage to the Prophet Based on an analysis of the relevant hadiths, the Muslim author of this article argues--in contrast to some hadith reports- that 'A'isha was about 15 years of age when her marriage to the Prophet was consumated. The author elaborates on his initial argument during the course of his answers to the questions listed at the bottom of the page.

    The Prophet Muhammad lived next to main mosque that he established in Madina. When he died he was buried in his house. Today, the mosque encompasses his tomb. Muslim often make a pilgrimage to the Prophet's Mosque and tomb after they perform the Hajj in Mecca. From here you can make a virtual pilgrimage to the Prophet's Mosque.

  • The Companions of the Prophet Muslims who were alive at the time of the Prophet and had seen him were called "companions" (sahaba). This online book consists of biographies (in English) of many of the companions. At least some of the biographies here are from the book, Companions of the Prophet, by Abdul Wahid Hamid.

    Western Revisionism about the Prophet Muhammad and Critical Responses

    Up until fairly recently Western revisionist scholarship on Islam (though now often discredited) has largely been focused in two areas: attempting to criticize accepted Muslim beliefs about the compilation of the Qur'an (dating it much later than have Muslims), examples of which were in the work of Wansbrough and Crone and Cook; and attempting to criticize Muslim criticism of hadith, arguing that early accepted chains of transmission were fabricated, examples of which were in the work of Schacht and Juynboll. In 2009, Prof. David S. Powers, in his volume Muhammad is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet, attempted to revise certain accepted aspects of Muhammad's life in the light of his (Powers') historical-linguistic scholarship. See Powers' own summary of his book Muhammad is Not the Father of any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet Rorotoko: Cutting-Edge Intellectual Interviews (Sept. 4, 2009). Prof. Walid Saleh has strongly criticized Powers' arguments in his (Saleh's) detailed review article concerning Powers' book. See Comparative Islamic Studies, 2011 for the print version of Saleh's review.

    Important Online Hadith Texts in Arabic

  • The Major Hadith Collections in Arabic at al-islam.com . This is a searchable index of the "Six Books" (al-kutub al-sitta), which are the most authoritative of the hadith collections, in addition to three other well respected collections, the Musnad of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, the Sunan of al-Darimi, and the Muwatta' of Imam Malik; along with important commentaries by traditional scholars.
  • Nazm al-mutanathir fi al-hadith al-mutawatir by Muhammad ibn Ja'far al-Kattani. This is a collection of 310 mutawatir hadith, namely hadith heard by multiple transmitters. Hence these are considered to be the most reliable hadith.
  • Kashf al-khafa' of Ajluni, which is a major compilation consisting largely of fabricated (mawdu') or weak (da'if) hadith.
  • Tadhkirat al-mawdu'at by Muhammad Tahir ibn 'Ali al-Siddiqi al-Fitani, is a compilation of fabricated (mawdu') hadith.
  • Kanz al-'ummal by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, is an enormous compendium of hadith without isnads (chains of transmission).
  • Ahadith mashhura da'ifat al-sanad (Well-known hadiths with a weak chain of transmission) [author not noted, but contemporary, post Al-Albani] This cross-references a few other works for most of the hadiths.
  • Ahadith la tasihhu (Hadiths that are not authentic) by Sulayman ibn Salih al-Kharrashi. This, like the text at the previous link, is a listing of popular hadiths that are criticized as being inauthentic. Also cites Al-Albani.

    Comprehensive Downloadable Arabic Library for Research in Primary Islamic Sources

    This invaluable free service includes all the major hadith texts (and many of the minor ones) as well as works of hadith criticism, some important tafsirs, dictionaries, and works of fiqh. These can be downloaded --and NOW SEARCHED and READ ONLINE!!! (click on "English" to get the instructions in English)-- from the Al-Muhaddith Islamic Library and Search Program. They are essential for university libraries as well as for scholars who wish to pursue original research in Islamic primary sources.

    In addition to the hadith collections, one can also download various Arabic tafsirs such as Tafsir Jalalayn,Suyuti's al-Durr al-manthur (which uses hadith to clarify and expand on the meaning of the Qur'an), and an abridged version of the Tafsir al-Qurtubi.

    The library includes as well a number of important general dictionaries such as Ibn Manzur's Lisan al-'Arab and Fayruzabadi's al-Qamus al-muhit; Ibn al-Athir's dictionary of rare words used in hadith, al-Nihayah fi gharib al-hadith; Asfahani's dictionary of the Qur'an, Mufradat alfaz al-Qur'an; and even an Arabic-English and English-Arabic dictionary.

    A PC running Arabic Windows95 is necessary in order to read the texts, although Arabic Windows98 is recommended.

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