Categories of Hadith and their Meanings

Question 059: What does ‘hadith’ mean? What are the different categories of Hadith and their Meanings?

Answer 059: The Arabic word ‘hadith’ means, statement or talk. In the Shari’ah, the word hadith means, those things or actions, which the Holy Prophet (saws) said or did.

A collection of traditions containing sayings of the Holy Prophet (saws) which, with accounts of his daily practices (I.e. the Sunnah), constitute the major sources of guidance for Muslims apart from the holy Qur’an.

Hadith is the collections of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saws) and the infallible Imams (a.s). The term comes from the Arabic: حديث, plural: أحاديث, meaning “report,” “account” or “narrative”.

The hadith literature is based on oral reports. Hadith also refers to the speech of a person.

Hadith is known as the second religious source after the Holy Quran. It is widely known among Muslims all over the world that any specific wording of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) on a given topic or theme of subject is known as a “Hadith”. It is obligatory upon every disciple of Islam to know, act upon and spread the Proverbs of Rasulullah (pbuh) as these are the words full of wisdom which result in one`s success both in this world and in the hereafter.

Hadith, according to the late Shia scholars, divided into two categories: Sahih and non-Sahih. This means that they whether accept a hadith which is known as Sahih or reject it as it is considered as non-Sahih.[1] But, now, Hadith in general is composed of three basic components which are given below:

  1. Matn/Content: It is the main passage which is the actual centre of attraction for the reader. It normally tells about the right way of actions in different circumstances of life.
  2. Isnad/Sequence of Reporters: A series of correspondents through which Hadith has spread.

These are the necessary three constituents which need to be present in any text for naming it as a Hadith.

Categorization of Hadith

The taxonomy of the Prophetic (PBUH) axioms has been very carefully devised according to different sets of classifications along with their further kinds. Following are the five basic arrangements of Ahadiths on the basis of particular grounds:

  1. According to reference to a particular Authority
  2. According to the links of Isnad
  3. According to a number of reporters
  4. According to nature of Matn and Isnad
  5. According to Authenticity of Correspondents

Now let us briefly discuss these classes of Hadith one by one:

  1. i) According to Reference to a Particular Authority

According to careful research, Hadith is divided into four additional kinds under this category:

  1. Qudsi: meaning “Divine”. It is a Heavenly text which was directly sent upon the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Who passed it on to His followers Himself.
  2. Marfu`: meaning “Elevated”. It has got very important status in Islam as it was directly heard from the Messenger (PBUH) of God Himself by His companions and was brought forward.
  3. Mauquf: meaning “Stopped”. It is a kind of command which was directly given by Rasulullah (PBUH) to His cohorts who forwarded it.
  4. Maqtu`: meaning “Severed”. It is a form of Instruction which is plainly described by Successor in his own words.
  1. ii) According to the links of Isnad

Hadith is further divided into six groups under this category:

  1. Musnad: meaning “Supported”. Isnad being reported by a well-known companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) although final narrator might not be with Him at that time.[2]

The Hadith Musnad is, according to the existence of the name of Infallible (as) based on its Sanad, divided into two kinds: Mudmar and Musarrah. Mudmar is when the narrator of a Hadith has not specifically mentioned the name of Imam by mentioning only pronoun. Like “Sa’altahu’, ‘Qa’la’ or ‘An’hu’.[3]

  1. Muttasil: meaning “Continuous”. The one with undisturbed Isnad relating back to rightful friend or its heir.
  2.  Mursal: meaning “Hurried”. It missed a connection between the storyteller and the Infallibles (pbuth).[4]
  3. Munqati`: meaning “Broken”. Hadith with a link being absent before it reaches the Successor of the actual narrator.
  4. Mu`adal: meaning “Perplexing”. The one in which narrator misses multiple reported in an order in Isnad of the Hadith.
  5. Mu`allaq: meaning “Hanging”. It fails to spot the complete Isnad of the Hadith.

iii) According to a number of reporters

It is divided into two more sub-groups:

  1. Mutawatir: meaning “Consecutive”. Hadith being reported such a large number of rightful companions that it is agreed upon as authentic.
  2. Ahad: meaning “Isolated”. The one which has been narrated by a countable number of people.[5]

It has been further categorized into these followings sub-types:

  1. Mash’hur: meaning “Famous”. Hadith which is related by more than two individuals.
  2. Mustafidh: meaning that the number of narrators are two or more than three but not as much as Mutawatir Hadith.[6]
  3. Aziz: meaning “Rare yet Strong”. The one having only two reporters in its Isnad.
  4. Gharib: meaning “Strange”. Saying of Holy Prophet (PBUH) with only one narrator in its Isnad.
  1. iv) According to nature of Matn and Isnad

It is split into two major kinds:

  1. Munkar: meaning “Denounced”. A Hadith belonging to a weak reporter.
  2. Mudraj: meaning “Interpolated”. The one having some adding up of words to the authentic Hadith by its narrator.
  1. v) According to Authenticity of Correspondents

It has the following three categories:

  1. Sahih: meaning “Sound”. A hadith reported by a trustworthy reporter known for his truthfulness, knowledge, correct way of narrations and all of them are Just and follower of the Twelve Shia Imams (pbuth). [7]
  2. Da`if: meaning “Weak”. A hadith ranking under that of Hasan because of failing to.[8]
  3. Hasan: meaning “Good”. The one whose reporters are known and is clear-cut and all of them are Just and follower of the Twelve Shia Imams (pbuth).
  4. Da`if: meaning “Weak”. A hadith ranking under that of Hasan because of failing to address the Isnad properly.[9]
  5. Maudu`: meaning “Fabricated”. Hadith having wording opposite to the confirmed Prophetic (PBUH) traditions.

In short, Hadith is an integral part of Islamic teachings through which Muslims all over the world get insight about many aspects of life. Therefore, one must know about its different kinds so as to become able to distinguish the authentic ones from the rest which have weak links in its key constituents.[10]

[1] . Seifi Mazandarani, Ali Akbar, Miqyas al-Rivayah fee Elm al-Dirayah, Pg. 44, Islamic Publication Institution, Qom, 1421 A.H.

[2] . Usul al-Hadith, Pg. 175.

[3] . Usul al-Hadith, Pg. 100.

[4] . Farhang Istilahat Hadith, Pg. 121.

[5] . Al-Fadli, Abdul Hadi, Usul al-Hadith, Pg. 72, Ummul Qura Institution, Beirut, 1420 A.H; Ibid, Pg. 82.

[6] . Farhang Istilahat Hadith, Pg. 123.

[7] . Jabal A’meli, Jamal al-Din Hassan (son of Shahid Thani), Muntaqi al-Jaman, Vol. 1, Pg. 4, Nash Islami Institution, Qom.

[8] . Ibid, Pg. 4.

[9] . Usul al-Hadith, Pg. 108.

[10] . For further information in this regards, please refer to: Al-Fadli, Abdul Hadi, Usul al-Hadith; Farhang Istilahat Hadith.