It means Traditions (plural: Ahadith). These are the alleged sayings or deeds of Muhammad; they are reports of Muhammad's SUNNA (Example).
They are supposed to be the deeds, actions and conversations that Muhammad had with his wives, companions and intimate friends regarding the meaning of words, ideas, precepts and verses that were not clear to his followers.
These reports are the foundation upon which the Sunna (acts and actions of Muhammad) is built. The Hadith collections are the most important source of the SUNNA, that is the established model of Muhammad's alleged words and deeds, which the believers should follow.
At first these Traditions were memorised by the Companions to be passed on and committed to writing later by the Tabi'un. The latter had never met Muhammad.
It is a fact that the earliest traditionists rarely used Isnad(chain of reporters) to corroborate their reports since they were so much nearer to the events of the time of Muhammad.
The most revealing book about the biography of Muhammad is Muhammad Ibn Ishaq's:Sirat Rassoul'Allah - written within 150 years from the date of his death - which represents the accounts of the life, sayings and deeds of Muhammad.
Although the original book is not available, most of it is quoted in the abridged and sanitized version of Ibn Hisham and the more truthful one by Al Tabari's: History. These three with Bukhari and Muslim hadiths represent the very foundations of MuhammadanIslam and without which the Quranwould be unintelligible gibberish.
By the middle of the third century after the Hijra (9-10th century AD) the form of the hadith mattered more than its contents, and provided that the chain of the narrators was trustworthy, anything could be included. Thus began the Science of Hadith.
As this literature grew, it became evident that strict rules and regulations had to be implemented to separate what was fact from fiction. Memories of individuals, even of the same event, are rarely consistent especially since memory is extremely subjective: some may remember better than others; some will remember one or more aspects of an event better or more vividly than others.
It is also true that no matter how 'objective' one tries to be, subjectivity invariably wills out. Because of all of the above, and more, strict rules of evidence had to be formulated and acted upon by examining and testing the 'memories' of the events to establish the 'truthful' result.
Among the Ahadith which are attributed to Muhammad, there are some which are Sahih/Sound & Trueconcerning which there is no doubt that they are his words. There are, on the other hand others - the majority - which are Dha'eef/ Weakwhich are doubted that they are his words. Even these final 'results' of the Hadith had to be scrutinised further and refined even more by the rules ofIsnad and the chain of narrators and Matn (Content) of the text.
The Hadith literature touched on many different subjects such as Ethics, Theology and Exegesis (explanations of the Quran). Each of the above subjects in turn was expanded upon.
Sahih Bukhari is a collection of the alleged sayings and deeds of Muhammad(Sunna). Bukhari lived a couple of centuries after Muhammad's death and worked extremely hard to collect his ahadith. Each report in his collection was checked for compatibility with the Quran, and the veracity of the chain of reporters had to be painstakingly established.
Bukhari's collection is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muhammadan world to be one of the most authentic collections of the Sunna of Muhammad.
His full name Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ibrahim bin al-Mughira al-Ja'fai was born in 194 A.H. and died in 256 A.H. His collection of hadith is considered second to none. He spent sixteen years compiling it, and ended up with 2,602 hadith (9,082 with repetition). His criteria for acceptance into the collection were amongst the most stringent of all the scholars of ahadith.
It is important to realize, however, that Bukhari's collection is not complete: there are other scholars who worked as Bukhari did and collected other authentic reports. The earliest collection of Hadiths date from 150 to 200 years after the death of Muhammad. This vast accumulation of genuine, partly true and totally spurious traditions were assimilated, digested and put together in a collection of books called Ahadith of which six are considered canonical:
Sahih Bukhari (d.256/870);
Sahih Muslim (d. 261/ 875);
Sunan Ibn Maja (d. 273/886);
Sunan Abu Dawood (d. 275/888);
Jami' al Tarmidi (d. 279/892);
Sunan al Nasi ( d. 303/915).
There are many Hadith reports that contradict each other making it clear that a lot of them cannot be depended upon as being truthful because they were FABRICATED to suit a sect, a theological position or to 'prove' a legal point.
For example, Al Bukhari collected over 600,000 (some other reports assert 900,000) reports of which he kept only 7397 as being dependable and true;the number of forgeries is astounding.
The Quran contains scant details of many of the duties of the Believers such as prayers, pilgrimage, fasting, alms, business interest, etc. It fell to the Hadiths to fill this void by providing the details; in this manner it regulates the life of a Muhammadan. Not all 'Muslims' believe in the hadiths nor is there a single hadith to follow.
From the beginnings of 'Islam', the Sunnis and Shiites have different collections of hadiths to which they relate as suits their agenda but they invariably accept those that glorify Muhammad and reject those that discredit him.
On the one hand, Muhammadan scholars admit that many of the Hadiths are fabricated and numerous important examples can be put forward to substantiate this.
On the other hand, Orthodox Muhammadans allege that these Hadiths were divinely inspired and hence are equal to the Quran.
These spurious claims and assertions are - as usual - not supported by the historical records since had the Quran and Hadith been of EQUAL importance, then Muhammad'sCompanions would have had his sayings meticulously written down which of course is not the case.
None of the Caliphs who followed him, nor his companions deemed it necessary to do so unlike in the case of the Quran which was written in the days of the first Khalifa/Caliph Abu Bakr, after his death.
It is a fact that the Quran does not contain any ruling that the Ahadith must be followed.
Since Muhammad was only an ordinary man with a mission from Allah, then only his acts and utterances that are compatible with the Quran should be followed and emulated. Being a mere mortal, he was subject to error and sin.
18:110 "Say: I am but a man like yourselves (but) the inspiration has come to me that your God is one God: whoever expects to meet his Lord let him work righteousness and in the worship of his Lord admit no one as partner"
The Ahadith reports themselves carry the seeds of their own destruction since they contradict each other and the Quran- for example regarding lashes,Zakat and the number of prayers just to name a few - on numerous important subjects and events.
Since the Ahadith were transmitted by simple people over a long period of time, they had to be, and were,made subjective to their feelings, inclinations, prejudices and preferences.
Modern Muhammadan scholars do their very best to paint an image of Muhammad, his charcter, his deeds, his family etc. which not only contradicts the historical record but also the Ahadith themselves, such as:
that he was sinless (in emulation of Jesus);
a magnificent warrior;
leader of huge and pivotal battles;
noble to a fault to friends and enemies;
merciful (again like Jesus);
judicious and fairminded;
egalitarian etc., etc.
In reality, the historical record, the Hadiths as well as the Quran prove that he was none of the above.
Take for example the following items:
1Of his 23 years as the alleged prophet, his battles lasted in total less than a MONTH;Badr and Uhud were over in less than a day each with losses that are incomparably small even in terms of warfare in that century.
2His legendary heroism is betrayed by the fact that of more than 75 skirmishes, he was involved in between 15-19 of them (Bukhari Hadith 5: 747-9) as the commander in charge - but not actually participating in the fighting.
These were actually PIRATICAL RAIDS to steal, kill, rob, rape and enslave, UNSUSPECTING caravans or small communities in Arabia. In this manner he increased his wealth and authority and was thus able to bring to his lair through bribery and greed, more likeminded bloodthirsty pirates of the desert.
He always sent others to their 'glorious death' in raids, ambushes and 'battles' with promises of great rewards of sex and unlimited pleasures in Paradise.
3He ordered the murder of any and all of his political, theological or satirical opponents (the news-media of Arabia) male or female, young or old, without mercy or decency since they were invariably tricked to their deaths and murdered when unarmed such as in the cases of :
Abu Afak(120 years old- Ibn Ishaq Sirat Rassul Allah p: 675; Ibn Sa'ad 2:2);
Asma bint Marwan of Medina(mother and children-Ibn Ishaq p: 675/6);
K'ab bin al Ashraf of Medina (Bukhari 3:687;4:270;4:271;5:369) & (Ibn Ishaq's P. 364/45);
Khayber settlement; etc.
4Most of his raids were carried during the PROHIBITED MONTHS and contrary to any and all of Arabia's rules of warfare; invariably treacherously and in underhand manner.
5He showed his 'compassion' in acts of extreme cruelty as in the following examples:
The 'battle' of Badr, when he allowed the mutilation of some of the slain Quraysh fighters
The Meccan Ten (Ibn Sa'ad 2:168; Ibn Ishaq p: 550);
Kinana of Khayber(Ibn Ishaq p: 515);
Muslims of Uraynah(Tabari 8:97/8; Bukhari 1:234, 2:577, 8:795, 8:797; Ibn Ishaq p: 677/8);
Apostates from Islam(Sura 9:73/4 & 47:23/8); etc.
6He TREACHEROUSLY broke every promise or treaty that he made with all those who conducted them with him such as in the case of the Jews, the Christians and with the Quraysh at Hudaybiya.
7Before his 'revelations', he was a pagan like the others of his tribe and used to offer sacrifices to al Uzza. Zayd b Amr upbraided Muhammad for eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols (Qarawayoun Manuscript fos 37b-38).
Al Tabarirecorded that Abdul Muttalib presented the child Muhammad to Hubal in the middle of the Ka'ba.
In repeated verses in the Quran, Muhammad is described as only the mortal messenger of Allah, whose SINSAllah had forgiven. Even the Hadith tells us that prior to his alleged Night Journey,Muhammad was purified from sin and unbelief.
8The Ahadith are replete with hundreds of stories about Muhammad's treachery, deception, total lack of veracity, predation, cruelty, cowardice etc.