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"Ḥadīth (/ˈhædɪθ/ or /hɑːˈdiːθ/; Arabic: حديث‎ ḥadīṯ Arabic pronunciation: [ħadiːθ], pl. aḥādīth, أحاديث, ʾaḥādīṯ, Arabic pronunciation: [ʔaħadiːθ], literally means "talk" or "discourse") or Athar (Arabic: أثر‎, ʾAṯar, literally means "tradition") in Islam refers to what the majority of Muslims believe to be a record of the words, actions, and the silent approval of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

In Quranic perspective, Hadith is also called the vast explanation (Arabic: بَيَانَهُۥ ʾbayānahu, literally means "it’s explanation") of the Quran, for verse number 16-19 of Surah Al-Qiyama.

Hadith have been called "the backbone" of Islamic civilization, and within that religion the authority of hadith as a source for religious law and moral guidance ranks second only to that of the Quran (which Muslims hold to be the word of God revealed to his messenger Muhammad). While the number of verses pertaining to law in the Quran is relatively few, hadith give direction on everything from details of religious obligations (such as Ghusl or Wudu, ablutions for salat prayer), to the correct forms of salutations and the importance of benevolence to slaves. Thus the "great bulk" of the rules of Sharia (Islamic law) are derived from hadith, rather than the Quran.

Ḥadīth is the Arabic word for things like speech, report, account, narrative. Unlike the Quran, not all Muslims believe that hadith accounts (or at least not all hadith accounts) are divine revelation. Hadith were not written down by Muhammad's followers immediately after his death but many generations later when they were collected, collated and compiled into a great corpus of Islamic literature. Different collections of hadīth would come to differentiate the different branches of the Islamic faith. There are many modern Muslims (some of whom call themselves Quranists but many are also known as Submitters) who believe that most Hadiths are actually fabrications (pseudepigrapha) created in the 8th and 9th century CE, and which are falsely attributed to Muhammad.

Because some hadith include questionable and even contradictory statements, the authentication of hadith became a major field of study in Islam. In its classic form a hadith has two parts—the chain of narrators who have transmitted the report (the isnad), and the main text of the report (the matn).

[Surah Al-Jumu'ah, Verse number 2-3]

Individual hadith are classified by Muslim clerics and jurists into categories such as sahih ("authentic"), hasan ("good") or da'if ("weak"). However, different groups and different scholars may classify a hadith differently.

Among scholars of Sunni Islam the term hadith may include not only the words, advice, practices, etc. of Muhammad, but also those of his companions. In Shia Islam, hadīth are the embodiment of the sunnah, the words and actions of Muhammad and his family the Ahl al-Bayt (The Twelve Imams and Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah)."

            (from Wikipedia)

 

     Orientalists' Perspectives on Hadith by Shaffat, et al.