A hadith (Arabic: حديث) is a report of the words or actions of the Prophet, his daughter Fatima, and the Twelve Imams. It usually consists of two parts: the chain of narrators, which consists of the names of the people who report the narration. The chain is usually vertical, with "so-and-so" reporting from "so-and-so" reporting from "so-and-so" back to the original source. The actual text of the hadith is referred to as the matn (متن).
After the Qur'an, the ahadith (plural of hadith) are seen as the source of Islamic religious law. Most of the times, the ahadith supplement the Qur'an
Hadith literally means an event. Sometimes narrations are also referred to as a khabr (خبر) in the singular or as akhbar (أخبار) in the plural, which literally means a report. They are also sometimes referred to as a riwayah (رواية) in the singular or riwayaat (روايات) in the plural, which means a narration.
There are a number of levels of classifying narrations.
- A mutawatir (متواتر) narration is one that has so many chains of narration that there is no doubt about its authenticity. So many different people have reported it that it is impossible for them to have collectively forged it, or collectively erred in reporting it. Tawatur (تواتر) (the status of being mutawatir) is a logical concept, not one based on religious evidences. As such, there is no tightly defined limit to what makes a hadith mutawatir or not. If a hadith has been narrated by a thousand people, but for whatever reason there is still doubt as to its authenticity, then it is not mutawatir, by definition. If a hadith has been narrated by only a handful of people, but for whatever reason it is enough to give certainty about its authenticity, then it is mutawatir.
- A single narration hadith (خبر الواحد) is a hadith that is not mutawatir. It may still have multiple chains of narrators, but enough to give certainty as to its source. A hadith that has multiple chain of narrators but not enough to make it certain is classified either as a mustafida (مستفيضة) or a mashurah (مشهورة).
Scholars of the Usuli school of Shi'ite jurisprudence primarily classify single-narration reports in terms of their narrators. A hadith that has a complete chain of narrators is called musnad (مسند). A hadith that does not have a complete chain of narrators, or lacks any chain at all, is referred to as mursal (مرسل).
Musnad narrations are given four, broad categories:
- Sahih (صحيح): A sahih narration is one that has a complete chain of narrators, and all the narrators are pious, trustworthy, Twelver Shi'ite narrators. It is a hadith free of any kind of fault related by several continuous chains of veracious transmitters with more than one first recorder.
- Hasan (حسن): A hasan hadith is one that all the narrators are Twelver Shi'ites, but not all the narrators have been reported as absolutely reliable and trustworthy in the various books that report on the status of hadith narrators. Nonetheless, all the narrators have at least been praised. Scholars have had some dispute about whether or not such a narration is acceptable, or whether or not this category even really exists (insofar as praise given to a narrator might be equivalent to saying: "This person is reliable.")
- Muthiqah (موثقة): A muthiqah narration is one where all the narrators are reliable, but not all are pious and/or Twelver Shi'ite. Most usuli jurists consider this category to be acceptable, arguing that the main criteria in accepting a narration is the reliability of the narrator, not necessarily their piety or the soundness of their beliefs.
- Da'eef (ضعيفة): A hadith that is weak is one that contains a narrator who is known to be unreliable. Such a narration is considered to be without legal value, unless there is some other context which gives it legal value, like conformity to the Qur'an, or conformity to other. Another type of weak hadith is one which contains an unknown narrator. Such a narration is known as a majhulah (مجهولة), and an unknown narrator is known as majhul al-haal (مجهول الحال). Such a narration is treated as a weak narration, and the vast majority of weak narrations are in fact majhulah. Again, this does not mean that the hadith is "unauthentic"; rather, it simply means that it has no legal value.
Collection of Hadith
Main article: Collection of Hadith