These are the four main ways of compiling ahadeeth, Musnad, Sahih, Sunan, and the Mujum. There are other ways as well but these are the four main ones. The six books famous books of ahadeeth are Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Thirmidhi, An-Nasaee, and Ibn Majah. Except for Bukhari and Muslim there is no preference over the other works of ahadeeth. These are the six most important books of Sunnah and Allah (swt) has written for them acceptance in the sense that it is easy to buy a copy of At-Thirmidhi but to buy a copy of At-Tabarani would be difficult. Regarding the six books, many people have discussed them, talked about them, explained them, wrote commentaries about them, but these six aren’t the only works of the Sunnah. One of the reasons these six where so famous is because they were comprehensive, if we were to put these six works together basically we would have the Sunnah preserved in them.
*Note: The difference between Sunan and Jamia is that Jamia is more comprehensive. Sunan only talks about legal aspects, fiqh. The Jami will include Seerah, Tafseer, etc.
What NOT to quote as a reference when writing or talking about Islam
Many times in English and urdu books you’ll find references that are not source references. A source reference is a reference is when you go back to it, it is the first time that hadeeth has been compiled. Many people, who are not qualified to write, write. When they write, they reference books that are not source references. For example, they’ll reference 40 Ahadeeth Nawawi, this is not a book to reference, Imam Nawawi won’t doesn’t quote the isnad in his book. So it is not proper to reference a hadeeth to a non-source work. Another book that is commonly referenced is Riyadh us-Saliheen. Although this book is very comprehensive and beautiful book it is not a source book. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi recommends Riyadh us-Saliheen for all laymen Muslims; it is very practical and beneficial for Muslims to read. If authors reference these types of books, we should know that that author is not really scholar. Another book that is reference is Al-Mishkat Al-Masabih by At-Tabreezee, this is not a source book, and it is more of a compilation of books. Likewise another book is Al-Munziree’s At-Targheeb Wat-Tarheeb, this book is not a source book, it is a compilation of ahadeeth from the source books. Lastly, Kanzul Ummaal by Taqi-Ud-deen Al-Hindi, this book is the largest collection of ahadeeth under two covers, it consists of over 20,000 – 30,000 ahadeeth arranged by topic. Al-Hindi tried to make a encyclopedia of all the ahadeeth that came before him, but this is not a source reference. One way to tell if a book is scholarly is it will reference to classical works such as Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, etc.
How to search for ahadeeth
Realistically you have to be a real student of knowledge who knows the language of Arabic and knows the sciences of ahadeeth. Just to get an idea or a feel for it, there are four main ways to do this:
1 – By the narrator or isnad
2 – Look it up by the matan (text
of hadeeth) alphabetically
3 – By topic (longer method)
4 – By any word in the hadeeth
The last way to look up ahadeeth is the easy way out, to look it up by computer. CD software and programs of ahadeeth are sold and can be used to search ahadeeth. But the drawback is that these programs are written by non-scholars so they are not very accurate in the hadeeth spellings and stuff like that.
How do we know the
authenticity of a hadeeth?
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