What are the Quran and Hadith?
Muslims believe the Quran is the revealed word of Allah (God). The Quran is absolutely central to Islam. Muslims believe that it is the literal, verbal communication of Allah. Quran means “recitation” Through it Allah gives guidance to all humanity, showing them how to live according to Allah’s will.
“And it is not the words of Satan , the outcast. Then where are you headed to? Verily, this Quran is none other than a reminder to the worlds, to whomsoever among you wants to walk the straight path. (However,) you cannot unless that is willed by Allah, the Lord of the Worlds” ( Quran chapter 81, verses 25 - 29)
Following its guidance is the path to happiness and fulfilment in this life and the next. It must be stressed that the Messenger Muhammad is the conveyor of the Quran , not its author.
“He does not speak of his own desire, rather it is revelation revealed” ( Quran chapter 53, verses 3-4)
Muslim understanding of revelation differs markedly from Christian understanding. Whereas, for Muslims the Quran is the speech of Allah, the New Testament Bible is a collection of observations of people regarding the revelation. The Quran is the final revelation, in a series of revelations, to the final Messenger, Muhammad .
The Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, yet in it a challenge is issued to the whole of creation to produce a small chapter like it, if there is any doubt about its authenticity. The Quran is the miracle given to Muhammad to prove his messengership. It was revealed over twenty three years, with some chapters sent down while Muhammad was living in Mecca, and the others while in Medina. The content of the Quran is varied. In it Allah tells us to think and reflect on the creation of the universe; to believe in Him and His messengers . There are descriptions of the last day, heaven and hell. Allah relates stories of previous prophets as examples for us to learn from. There are also rules and advice among other issues. The Quran is the primary source of law for Muslims.
The hadith are the sayings of Muhammad , his actions and examples of things that happened around him that he remained silent on, thus giving his consent. The hadith is the second source of Islamic law. It is seen as the detailed explanation of the Quran , as Muhammad would explain what was revealed to him to his companions. The Quran established the authority of the Messenger Muhammad explaining that his prophetic way must be followed.
“And whatsoever the messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbade you, leave it” ( Quran chapter 59, verse 7)
As such, the Quran and hadith oblige Muslims to follow Islam in all aspects of their lives, in family, in community and at the government level.
The hadith were recorded by his companions, who narrated what Muhammad said and did. They were memorised and written down during his lifetime, then transmitted, generation to generation, then meticulously checked and commented upon by scholars before being compiled in categorised book collections.
The hadith contain two aspects: the ‘text’ and the ‘chain of narration’. For example, A told me that B told him and C told him that Muhammad said. The text is what was actually said by Muhammad . The chain of narrators, A,B and C, are checked for trustworthiness and so the hadith are categorised accordingly.
In summary, the Quran is the speech of Allah, divinely inspired to Muhammad , told to us by Muhammad , whereas, the hadith is the speech of Muhammad in which he received inspiration as to its meaning from Allah.