"And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it,
and whatever he forbids you, leave it.
And fear Allah: truly Allah is severe in punishment. "
In Islam, the Arabic word sunnah has come to denote
the way Prophet Muhammad (saas), the Messenger of Allah, lived his life.
The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence, the first being
the Qur'an. Both sources are indispensable; one cannot practice Islam
without consulting both of them. The Arabic word hadeeth
(pl. ahadeeth) is very similar to Sunnah, but not identical. A hadeeth
is a narration about the life of the Prophet (saas) or what he
approved - as opposed to his life itself, which is the Sunnah as already
In M. M. Azami's Studies in hadeeth Methodology and Literature,
the following precise definition of a hadeeth is given,
According to Muhaddithiin [scholars of hadeeth -ed.] it stands for
'what was transmitted on the authority of the Prophet, his deeds, sayings,
tacit approval, or description of his sifaat (features) meaning his
physical appearance. However, physical appearance of the Prophet is
not included in the definition used by the jurists.'
Thus hadeeth literature means the literature which consists of the
narrations of the life of the Prophet and the things approved by him.
However, the term was used sometimes in much broader sense to cover
the narrations about the Companions [of the Prophet -ed.] and Successors
[to the Companions -ed.] as well.
The explosion of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries confronted Islamic
scholars with a daunting task: to preserve the knowledge of the Sunnah
of the Prophet (saas). Hence the science of hadeeth evaluation was born.
We recommend that you read the "Introduction to the Science of hadeeth"
below to understand the tremendous efforts that were required to sift
the true reports from the false reports. The success of the early scholars
is also captured below by some collections of hadeeth.