It Is Reported That The Prophet Said…
One often reads “It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings
be upon him) said…” or similar words. These reports are known as
Hadiths (meaning “statements”, but often called Traditions in English).
They have been handed down to us from the Companions, the Muslims who
lived at the time of the Prophet.
Actually, a Hadith might be a report of what the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) said, did, or what he approved or disapproved
of. The collection of the deeds, practices, and words of the
Prophet—known from the Hadiths—is known as the Sunnah, and it forms the
second source of Islamic Law after the Qur’an.
Muslims accept the Sunnah as equivalent to the Qur’an, the Book of
Allah (God), and its ordinances are of equal weight to the ordinances
of the Qur’an. This is because both the Qur’an and Sunnah are from
Sometimes the Qur’an gives a general principle, and the details are
known only from the Sunnah. An example of this is the five daily ritual
Prayers (Salah). The Qur’an instructs us to remember Allah at various
times of the day, but the details of exactly when and how to perform
Salah are known from the Sunnah, the words and actions of the Prophet
himself (peace and blessings be upon him).
Some Hadiths were written down during the life of the Prophet, while
others were passed on orally and collected later. Scholars study the
Prophetic Hadiths and their chains of oral transmission to determine
which are valid or authoritative. No Hadith is held true or cited as a
proof unless it can be authentically attributed to the Prophet (peace
and blessings be upon him).
There are six well known collections of Hadiths, the most authoritative
of which are those by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. After a Hadith is quoted,
it is common to cite the collection(s) from which it came. If the same
Hadith appears in all of them, the words “agreed upon” or “the group”
will usually follow it.
There are approximately 10,000 Hadiths. They are widely available in
libraries and bookshops throughout the Muslim world. Some of the
collections have been translated into English and other languages. But
like the Qur’an, they can only be fully understood in Arabic, and only
the Arabic text can be used in making religious rulings.