DR. AISHA MUSA is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at FIU. She received her PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Her forthcoming book, 'Hadith as Scripture,' explores the development of the doctrine of duality of revelation and issues surrounding the relative authority of the Quran and the Prophetic Traditions in Islam.
Hadith are such an integral part of traditional Islam in all its variations, that when someone suggests that the Qurâ€™an alone should serve as the source of religious law and guidance for Muslims, the idea is usually met with shock and amazement. So, those who advocate following the Qurâ€™an alone must address the issue of hadith.
The Arabic word "hadith," means a story, or saying. Any story, or saying, from anyone. For traditional Muslims, it has come to mean specifically a story or saying told about, or attributed to the prophet Muhammad.
Discussions of hadith have traditionally focused on the question of authenticity. This is true of discussions among those who advocate following hadith and between them and those who advocate following the Qurâ€™an alone. God willing, we will see how this focus on the question of authenticity has overshadowed other crucial questions about hadith.
For traditional Muslims the focus on authenticity is an attempt to insure that people can judge the veracity and reliability of hadiths, in order to determine which are valid as sources of law and guidance.