Author Alan Shlemon
Published on 11/04/2019
Other Worldviews

The Role of Hadith Literature in Islam

Alan explains hadith literature and its role as a source of authority in the lives of Muslims.


A second source of authority is what’s called the hadith—or the hadith literature. And hadith literature are simply written traditions that record what Mohammed said, did, or approved of, and these are categorized by subject.

So, for example, maybe Mohammed one day in Saudi Arabia was walking around, and somebody comes up to Mohammed and says to him, “Hey, Mohammed, these men over here are praying, but there are some dogs barking over here, and this is very distracting. What should we do?” And Mohammed might say, “Well, whenever someone’s praying, we don’t want any dogs barking near them, so no dogs for 50 yards” (not that they used yards as a measure of distance at the time, but you know what I mean). And so these people remembered that, okay, Mohammed said no dogs when people are praying. And eventually, hundreds of years later, people wrote that down and said, okay, this is what Mohammed said about prayer—or regards to prayer.

And so Mohammed said a whole bunch of things about prayer, about fasting, about fighting, about marriage, about divorce, about a whole host of subjects. And everything that Mohammed said, did, or approved of, has been brought together and categorized by subject and put into these large volumes called hadith literature.

Now, it’s important to realize that hadith literature is not on par with the Quran, but nevertheless, hadith literature is extremely authoritative, and here’s why. The hadith literature provides very practical applications to the broad principles that are taught in the Quran. So, for example, the Quran might command a Muslim to pray, but the hadith will tell you how to pray, when to pray, what to do before prayer, what to do during prayer, what to do after prayer. The Quran might command a person to fight, but the hadith will tell you how to fight, when to fight, when to start, when to stop, what are the conditions in order for you to begin fighting, and so on and so forth. And that’s what I mean by, the hadith literature gives very practical applications to the broad principles that are in the Quran, and it helps the Muslim know how to live.