Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hadith types

Its interesting how the Islamic scholars have institutionalized the Hadiths of prophet Muhammad. I'm going through this book by Ahmed Omar Hashem about Hadith Fundamentals, which is taught at the Institute of Islamic Studies.

The book touches briefly on how the Hadiths are collected and the rules for classifying hadiths, the different sciences of hadiths, types of hadith tellers (rowah), how to categorize a hadith, types of hadiths, levels of some types of hadiths (marateb alhadith), rules of working by the different types of hadiths, identifying faults with hadiths, and some other stuff that I don't understand. Actually there's alot that I don't understand, including some words that require me to consult a mo3gam to get its meaning. This book is taught to students with no religious studies background, so I wish those students the best of luck.

I'm trying to go through the book to figure out how many types of hadiths there are. From the table of contents, I've been able to count 32 types (categories and subcategories) of hadiths. I don't know how to do this and how to translate this, but I want to list some sample categories of hadiths as a teaser.

One main categorization of hadiths is, Saheeh, Hassan, and Da'eef. That would be Correct, OK, and Weak (did i really translate Hassan to mean OK!).

Saheeh, is a hadith that has continuous "good" references from the first reference to the last, and is not "weird" or "faulty". This is really terrible translation. The guy spends 32 pages describing different aspects of the hadith saheeh, so there is no way I can summarize or translate here. But there are elaborations as to the means used back then to identify a good reference, a group of references versus a single reference, and the definition of "faulty" and "weird", as well as how to handle doubt in a hadith for example. The two main agreed upon (by the scholars) collection of hadiths are the Bokhary and Moslem collection of hadiths. AlBokhary has 1,600 hadith Saheeh in his collection, and Moslem has 4,000 in his.

There are also another classification of hadiths, classifying them into motawater and a7ad. Motawater is continuous by groups of references, with the impossibility of such groups to be lying or to have agreed to lie. There is a syntactic motawater hadith and a semantic motawater hadith. The a7ad hadith does not have as many solid references, as well as some other factors.

Here are some nice sounding Hadith types, mo3an3an, mo'annan, makloub, mottareb, marfou3, mawkouf, maktou3, matrou7, modallas, shaz.

I probably did more ill than good by writing this post. I myself would like to get more details about those two main types of hadiths I mention saheeh and motawater. I attended a lecture once focusing on what a motawater hadith is. Was pretty interesting, but unfortunately don't remember much of it. In any case, I'm not going to answer any questions about Hadiths here, because I have no clue how to.

TIC raises some good points in the comments below making me want to distinguish between who should learn what in Islam. I made an analogy here before between Islamic scholars and physicists, comparing the similarities between how a physicist deciphers nature and how a scholar deciphers the word of God. The analogy is worth mentioning in this context as well.

An Islamic scholar interprets the word of God to facilitate a faith for the users (Muslims faithfuls) of that religion. Let's think of a modern day familiar scientific researcher, say wireless communication researcher. Such a scientist would research the best way to use the air interface (God's medium) to facilitate wireless communication between mobile phone users. Now, mobile users may use that technology in a proper way or can misuse it. It doesn't make the technology bad, and it doesn't mean that the scientist that facilitated such technology was wrong or at fault either. Now, everyone wants to learn how to use their mobile phone, and make use of all the cool gadgets and features that come with it (that would be similar to non-scholastic Muslims learning about their religion). Some people even read their phone manual and think they know everything about mobile technologies. But for me to use my mobile phone and benefit from the wireless communication technology I don't have to understand how my voice and data travels over the air, which was thankfully achieved by that scientist and his colleagues.

Another interesting analogy is the modern Islamic preachers. I can think of them like those companies advertising SMS services. There are companies that encourage people to make good use of the technologies at hand, and others that push for misuse of the technology.

I know that all the spiritual muslims will hate me for this analogy. But this is how I think of it.


Haal said...

There is more to hadith than just categorizing it. I mean, it is a huge field where tons of work had been dedicated. check J. Schact for instant. You will see what I mean.

TIC said...

Islamic theology is as rich as the Arabic language and unfortunately, neither are taught properly here. It's sad because this is an Arab and Muslim country and most Egyptians know very little about either. No wonder most people derive their religious info from TV, mosques, 'lessons', word of mouth etc. And needless to say, most Egyptians don't master the Arabic language and most educated ones prefer expressing themselves in a foreign language, usually English and not necessarily native English either..
Says a lot about who we are.

Mohamed said...

Haal, definetely there are more to it than the types. And the book is not talking about just the types. I just chose this aspect of it to hint about.

Yes, TIC, unfortunately I fall in that group of people that you mention. However, we are not really required to study things like Science of Hadith and usul alfiqh in order to be good muslims. We just need to know that there is a very rich amount of work that has been done by early and modern scholars that should not be taken lightly.

Apparently I am correct, this post is so clumsy that its misleading. Its just a teaser guys.

TIC said...

Well yes, we're not required to study Islamic theology, but we have the right to know what's right for heaven's sake and not wait for Amr Khaled to tell us what we're supposed to do in the last 10 days of Ramadan for example. We lack that kind of background.

Mohamed said...

Well TIC, no one is stopping us from studying any aspect of our religion that we'd like to know about. There are tons of books out there, and many "right" people to ask.

TIC said...

If its so easy as you make it sound to be now, why do you feel sorry for students who have to study Omar Hashem's book?
Are you telling me its so easy to study Islamic religion? In a country where religion is deemed very important, I think we should graduate from shools with enough solid knowledge of the basics and how to develop our religious background. This is sorely lacking. And although 'Egyptian Islams' is rated as 'progressive' in comparison to Gulfy Islam for example, we are lagging behind. I mean look at the huge amount of veiled girls who wear tight tops and tight low-cut denims to say the least (I wont touch upon personal behaviour). I claim that most Egyptians demonstrate shallow info on religion and its the duty of the state (a joke, I know) to introduce a healthy and solid understanding of relgious basics.

Mohamed said...

I'm not sorry for those students, I just wish them good luck. Its a touch topic. fee eih ya Cairo! I would wish students with moderate math background good luck studying digital signal processing as well.

I'm not saying its easy to study Islamic sciences, on the contrary. I'm saying 1) most muslims are not required to study the sciences to be good muslims. 2) for those who are seeking more knowledge of their religion, they have the means to do it if they want. And that does not have to be studying the Islamic sciences. The other stuff that we're required to know is easier to know, for sure, and there are many means to do it. 3) for anyone who is interested in studying the Islamic sciences they are free to do so if they can.

I think you're right, most Egyptians demonstrate shallow information of our religion (and I said I'm one of those). I said before at Haal's blog (re Amr Khaled) that most Egyptians are ready to be brain washed and are actually asking for it. It might be the duty of the state to introduce a healthy religious education, but its mostly our duty more than anyone else's.

Haal said...

What is the relation between 'huge amount of veiled girls who wear tight tops and tight low-cut denims' and learning islamic sciences? It is a little shallow to attribute it to 'shallow info on religion.' I honestly would think it has nothing to do with religion, as much as of how we approach everything in life. Hypocracy! Nothing to do with religion.

The Sandmonkey said...

"In a country where religion is deemed very important, I think we should graduate from shools with enough solid knowledge of the basics and how to develop our religious background."

TIC, let me disagree with you there. It is not the school's job to teach religion to us the "correct way". Religion is a private matter, something that should be either thought to you by your parents- as a part of your upbringing- or by private lessons in mosques or whatever, if they care that much and yet manage to be ignorant about religion. The schools are not the place to do that, for 2 reasons: They are suppsoed to educate you in languages and sciences and histroy,not foster your religious beliefs, which are part of your upbringing. A school is for educating, not raising, kids. That's the parents job.

the second reason is the quality, or lack therof, of education the schools offer in this country. If you want to study religion you have to understand it, and in case u havn't noticed, our educational system is more about memorizing then understanding. It is designed to create parrots instead of analytical thinkers, and it's designed this way for a reason. The last thing that i want is for someone to jam down more religion into young people's heads without making them understand it first. That's kind of dangerous TIC. It's the reason why we have "fundemntalists". They are a product of a culture that emphasizes memorizing and taking things at face value instead of thinking and analyzing them. With the school system being the way it is, that's what you are bound to get with more religious teaching.

Just saying!

Mohamed said...

Sandmonkey, I both agree with you and disagree. Religious beliefs is a personal matter indeed, and schools shouldn't push in a certain direction for a faith. However, I agree with TIC that schools have a very important role in religion education, not religious education however, if you get what I mean. They should teach us more about religion to gain more knowledge and better understanding of our religion (the priority), and possibly other religions as well. I believe that this is very important. They have to teach me about my religion in school (atleast build up the basics were I can easily take it from there), but they shouldn't push me or tell me how to be religious. So while they should provide me with the knowledge and the know-how, they shouldn't push me to wear a veil or to pray in school for example. Not sure if I'm clarifying the difference good enough here.

TIC said...

Haal, thank you for pointing it out, I am indeed very shallow.

Sandmonkey, they teach us religion in schools. Secondly, I beg to disagree on the 'fundamentalists' part. While no one can claim they know precisely how they become so, do not forget the role of the police state in this respect.

Twosret said...
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Don Cox said...

"However, I agree with TIC that schools have a very important role in religion education, not religious education however, if you get what I mean. They should teach us more about religion to gain more knowledge and better understanding of our religion (the priority), and possibly other religions as well."

When I was at school in England, we had one or two lessons per week about religion, which was mainly the historical background to Christianity, the historical parts of the Bible. But I remember we were also taught about the basic practices of Judaism, what happens in a service in a synagogue, etc. I think this made us more tolerant of other religions. At that time there were very few Muslims in Britain.

tota said...
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munshi little said...

In my country,we here have to learn every religions in Malaysia such as Islam, Christianity,Buddhism,Taoism,Confucios,Hinduism,and many more.At least we have the picture what other people practice in their religion.Islamic Studies is a must subject in every school in this country from primary to uni.Alhamdulillah cause in the uni even the nonmuslims have to take this paper.Hope this will last forever.Amin.

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