The Arabic word hadith denotes “news” or “tidings” and “a word,” with the plural form being ahadith. In ancient Arabic, the term was employed to express important news and words that are esteemed. The Arabs used to refer to the news of their famous and important days in pre-Islamic Arabia as ahadith and would describe those expressions that had become idioms as sara hadithan or sara uhdutha, meaning “it has become a hadith,” or “it has become a thing, or matter, that is called of, told, or narrated, and transmitted”. The word hadith has been employed in the Qur’an to mean a special discourse. In the Qur’anic verses, “…let them produce a discourse like it,” (at-Tur 52:34) and “Allah sends down in parts the best of the words…,” (az-Zumar 39:23) hadith denotes a special word, or sign. The term also comes to mean “news” or “tidings.” The word is used in the verse, “Has the report of Moses come to you?” (Ta-Ha 20:9) refers to news.
Just as the word hadith is mentioned in the Qur’an, it is also referred to in the words of Allah’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurayra, one of those most avid to acquire knowledge from him, once came to him and inquired about the person who will be happiest with his intercession on the Day of Judgment. The Messenger of Allah said, “Abu Hurayra, I thought that none would ask about this hadith (this word) before you since I know your eagerness for hadith [i.e. learning].” The Messenger’s using the word hadith in reference to his own words constituted a model for his Companions. Thereafter, his words were referred to as hadith and the discipline constituting the study of these hadiths was called Ilm al-Hadith, or the Hadith Studies. The Hadith Studies has also been called Usul al-Hadith, or the methodology of Hadith criticism.
Hadith scholars have determined a set of rules for the preservation of the Prophet’s words and the communications of his Companions describing him, and to enable their transfer to succeeding generations without alteration; as such, they have put forth a specific methodology. The discipline wherein these methods are expounded has been referred to as the “science of Hadith methodology.” With the substance of its subject matter flourishing over time, all of its various branches have virtually each become separate disciplines unto themselves. Independent studies have been conducted in relation to each of these disciplines. The entirety of all these disciplines has together been referred to as the “Hadith Sciences” (Ulum al-Hadith). When reference was made to knowledge in the first Islamic century, the Hadith Sciences were specifically implied, by virtue of their significance.
When many separate disciplines arose examining the hadith from myriad perspectives, all of these were collectively referred to as Ulum al-Hadith. Author of one of the first works in the field of the Hadith Sciences, Hakim al-Nisaburi (d. 1014 CE), titled his book Ma’rifat Ulum al-Hadith. Ibn alSalah (d. 1245 CE) penned the most important work examining the Hadith Sciences, entitled Ulum al-Hadith. Topics expounded in these works such as sahih hadith and hasan hadiths have each been accepted as separate disciplines, for there are a great number of sub-branches and literature which have accumulated under each.
Written by wiseinstitute