UPDATEDIts 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.