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Hadith

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

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    Hadith

    Report of the words and deeds of Muhammad and other early Muslims; considered an authoritative source of revelation, second only to the Quran (sometimes referred to as sayings of the Prophet). Hadith (pl. ahadith; hadith is used as a singular or a collective term in English) were collected, transmitted, and taught orally for two centuries after Muhammad's death and then began to be collected in written form and codified. They serve as a source of biographical material for Muhammad, contextualization of Quranic revelations, and Islamic law. A list of authoritative transmitters is usually included in collections. Compilers were careful to record hadith exactly as received from recognized transmission specialists. The six most authoritative collections are those of al-Bukhari , Muslim , al-Tirmidhi , Abu Daud al-Sijistani , al-Nasai , and al-Qazwini . The collections of Malik ibn Anas and Ahmad ibn Hanbal are also important. Shiis also use these collections but recognize only some Companions as valid authorities; they consider hadith reports from descendants of Muhammad through Ali and Fatimah as fully authoritative. Other important Shii collections are those of al-Kulayni , al-Qummi , and al-Tusi . The science of hadith criticism was developed to determine authenticity and preserve the corpus from alteration or fabrication. Chains of authority and transmission were verified as far back as possible, often to Muhammad himself. Chains of transmission were assessed by the number and credibility of the transmitters and the continuity of the chains (isnad). The nature of the text was also examined. Reports that were illogical, exaggerated, fantastic, or repulsive or that contradicted the Quran were considered suspect. Awareness of fabrication and false teaching has long existed but became a major issue in academic circles in the twentieth century due to early reliance on oral, rather than written, transmission. Traditionally, the body of authentic hadith reports is considered to embody the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslim reformers encourage Muslims to be more discerning in acceptance of hadith.

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