The Arabic word hadeeth basically means 'an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,' whether historical or legendary, true of false, relating to the present or the .past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is 'new' as opposed to 'qadeem' (old). However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salah, zakah), its meaning changed in Islam. From the time of the prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadeeth began to be used almost exclusively for reports that spoke of his actions and sayings.
Usage of the word Hadeeth
The term hadeeth has been in used in both the Qur'an and the prophetic traditions according to all of its linguistic meanings. The following three categories are the most notable usages. It has been used to mean:
1. The Qur'an itself, and hadeeth: "Fadharnee wa man yukadhdhib bi haadhal hadeeth" (Then leave me alone [O Muhammad] with those who reject this communication ... ) (Q68[Qalam]:44) "Inna asdaqal hadeeth kitaabullaah" [Indeed the best form of communication is the Book ofAllaah ... ] (Muslim)
2. A historical Story: "Has the story of Musa reached you?" (Q20[TaHa]:9) "You may speak about the children of Israel there is no harm." (Bukhari)
3. A general conversation: "When the Prophet confided in one of his wives ... " (Q66[Tahrim]:3) "Molten copper will be poured in the ear of whoever eavesdrops on the conversation of people who dislike doing so or flee from him. (Bukhari)
Among the hadeeth scholars the term hadeeth means 'whatever is transmitted from the Prophet of hisactions, sayings,tacit approvals, or physical appearance of the Prophet in their definition.
Importance of hadeeth
1. Revelation: the Prophet's sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allaah and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second only to the Qur'an. Allaah in the Qur'an said concerning the Prophet: "[Muhammad] does not speak from his desires; indeed, what he says is revelation."
Therefore, the hadeeth represents a personal source of divine guidance which Allaah granted His Prophet which was similar in its nature to the Qur'an itself. The Prophet reiterated this point in one of his recoded statements:
"Indeed. I was given the Qur'an and something similar to it along with it. (Abu Dawud)
2. Tafseer: The preservation of the Qur'an was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Were that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording. However, Allaah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of the Qur'an to the Prophet himself. Allaah states the following in the Qur'an regarding its interpretation:
"And I revealed to you the Reminder [Qur'an] in order that you explain to the people what was revealed to them ... "(Q16[Nahl]:44)
To be continued
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited