Some Really Helpful Resources for Students of the Arabic Language

ArabicTools

Please note that the following is not a complete list of beneficial materials out there on the topic. It is only a reflection of my own personal experience and things which I’ve found beneficial. It is also assumed that the reader does not plan to study Arabic in the Middle East. For those who do plan or are currently studying Arabic overseas, then please refer to this great article on the topic.

Arabic Grammar (video courses)

I personally believe Arabic grammar should be learned under a teacher for best results. However, if you have no other access to learn the language, then following video courses may be very helpful for you. The only way to learn Arabic is through a longer term consistent program (2+ years). There is no other way around it. Therefore, if you are going to go through one of the following programs, then make sure you finish it.

Medina Books – A popular three series book to learn Arabic grammar. This is free.

Al-Arabiyya Bayna Yadayk (Arabic Between Your Hands) – Another popular three series book to learn Arabic grammar. This is free.

Both of the above books focus on teaching Arabic to non-Arab speakers.

Introduction to Qur’anic Arabic – This is a three level course and is completely free. The goal of the course is to teach the student the fundamentals of Qur’ānic Arabic and its grammar. The only requirement is that the student should have basic Arabic reading skills (i.e. they should be able to read the Qur’ān). There is little focus on conversational Arabic, which is left aside for later study. Instead, there is a keen focus on the grammar and vocabulary of the Qur’ān. The course avoids technical Arabic grammar terminology when possible and clarifies challenging Grammar concepts in simplified and clear examples. Lectures are filled with numerous examples taken directly from the Qur’ān. They claim that the student who successfully completes Introduction to Qur’ānic Arabic, Levels 1 and 2 should gain the ability of basic Qur’ānic reading comprehension (with the help of a Dictionary). Furthermore, the student should also be able to translate Ḥadīth and Classical Arabic literature at a basic level. Nonetheless, these students should continue to learn and develop their Arabic skills and take a higher-level Intermediate Qur’ānic Arabic course. If your a complete beginner, it may be good to start Arabic from here and then jump into one of the previous two courses mentioned above.

Bayyinah’s Access Online Program – This is a new initiative by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan and is geared towards those who cannot travel for Arabic. It is all online based.  The course is about four months long. It looks very promising. However, it is not free. It is divided into three semesters. It focuses on Grammar (Nahwu), Word Morphology (Sarf), and a study of Surah Yaseen (chapter 36).

Studio Arabiya – I’ve personally never studied with them but I’ve heard good things about them. They are not free so there is a monthly fee involved. The main feature about them is that they connect you with native Arab speaking instructors online to teach you Arabic live. They offer a trial period as well so you can test it.

Dictionaries

A good dictionary is the most important possession of a foreign language student. If you are not constantly looking up Arabic words, then I’m not sure if you’re properly learning the language. Following is what I personally use to look up words in Arabic.

Note 1: If your using Android apps for some of the following, make sure you turn on the Arabic keyboard feature in settings. You can alternate between English and Arabic keyboards. This will let you type in the words directly in Arabic in the apps.

Note 2: When I am speaking about root words below, I am mainly referring to Arabic verbs that are conjugated in different forms and knowing their roots.

Google Translate – Hard to believe, but yes it does carry some legitimacy. This is a great tool to use for modern Arabic especially in the beginning phase of learning Arabic. The neat feature about it is that you do not need to know the root, it will give you the translation regardless. You can just copy and paste a word or type it up using it’s handy Arabic keyboard. The translation/definition is quite accurate when it comes to individual words, especially if you know the root [though there have been exceptions], but when it comes to complete sentences, then it would be better if your more familiar with the language because it tends to give very odd translations at times. I’ve had to modify translations multiple times for complete sentences. Another great feature is that once in a while, I’ll come across a word that I cannot find the root for anywhere [mostly due to my still learning the language and getting use to it] and Google Translate will translate it literally, which has been very helpful. However, sadly this is not always the case. I also have this as an app on my Android. I used this app heavily on Hajj to communicate with locals. I downloaded the Arabic offline Android package for it [so you don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it]. Again, you need to be familiar with the language enough to be able to modify sentences it gives you for it to be grammatically correct. Also, I don’t recommend Google Translate to be used with classical texts or the Qur’an because it gives very odd meanings unless you know what your doing. It’s best used for modern Arabic.

Al-Mawrid – This is perhaps the most popular dictionary with beginner level Arabic students. However, it is mostly helpful if you know the root word. Since students focus on root words in the beginning, they tend to rely on this dictionary a lot. It is important to note that the Arabic language is based on its root words. Once you recognize the root words, the language becomes much easier to digest and you can figure out the meaning of any word. I recently found an app for Android that has this dictionary and I have to say, I have been using it a lot! It’s made my life easier because I can just type in the root word and it goes right to it. Not sure if Apple has it on itunes or not. If you find it, let me know in the comments section.

Al-Maany (Arabic-English) – This is the dictionary I resort to when the above two fail. It’s starting to become my default dictionary. However, you must know the root, otherwise, it can be useless. I love this dictionary because it gives you many ways of how a word is used differently in the language with its various meanings. It’s been very helpful with translations of classical texts. There is also an Android app for it. The app is partial, the website has more words. There is a feature in the app that takes you directly to the website to look it up if the app doesn’t find it.

Al-Maany (Arabic-Arabic) – This is the dictionary I resort to when even the above one fails. This is an Arabic only dictionary. This is only useful if you know Arabic to a certain extent, otherwise, it may not be very helpful. The best feature of this dictionary is that you do not need to know the root. You just type in the word and it will give you the root with its definition in Arabic. I use this dictionary all the time to find roots of words so that I can look them up in Al-Mawrid or Al-Maany (Arabic-English). There is an Android app for it. The app is partial, the website has more words. There is a feature in the app that takes you directly to the website to look it up if the app doesn’t find it.

Verb-Ace-Pro – This is a good dictionary if your willing to pay for it. It offers a trial period. I stopped using it once my trial was over because of the other dictionaries above but it’s a good tool. The key feature of it is that you can download it onto your desktop and just copy and paste words and get the translation. You can also just highlight words in Arabic on websites and it gives you the translations for them. It does the same for English websites to translate words into Arabic. It’s kind of like Google Translate but only that it is more accurate in translation of words.  I don’t recall it being able to do complete sentences. It only focuses on individual words.

Arab Speakers in Your Community – There will be times when all of the above will fail. I cannot recall how many times I’ve gone up to local imams, shaykhs, educated Arabs familiar with fusha and asked them to help me understand a word or sentence because I cannot wrap my head around it. Take advantage of such people in your local mosque and/or community. Don’t be shy, they will love to help you. They really appreciate that your looking to understand the language. I’ve had one Syrian brother sit with me for an hour explaining to me an Arabic article that I had printed.

Arabic Almanac – Intermediate and advanced level students will appreciate this page. It allows searching in Hans Wehr, Lane’s Lexicon and J. G. Hava all on a single page, 20 root based arabic dictionaries in 6 different languages.

Books

Arabic Grammar Made Easy – This is one of the earliest books that I studied in Arabic language. It was very helpful and easy to understand. If you can find someone to teach it to you, it will really help you grasp understanding over the basics.

501 Arabic Verbs: Fully Conjugated in All Forms – This is a very useful book. The key feature of this book is that it has collected 501 of the most used verbs in the Arabic language. Not only that, but it also conjugates them in all its forms (past, present, future, command, active, passive, singular, plural, dual, etc.). I memorized a few conjugations from this book and it really helped. These verbs really are common in the Arabic language. I’ve seen them over and over again. I hope to one day memorize every word with at least two conjugations (past and present) from this book. Also, it gives you the English meaning of the word and provides sample sentences. The only fault with this book is that there is no English-Arabic index in the back, so it’s really difficult when your trying to write English to Arabic sentences. I actually went through the whole book and created my own index.

Practice

Go Speaky – This is a very useful free tool to utilize. It brings together native speakers of different languages from all over the world who wish to practice another language. It’s a sort of pen pal system, where you send each other messages back and forth to become more efficient in the language. It’s just a way to practice what your learning. For example, you can speak to someone in Morocco, Egypt, or any other country whose native language is Arabic and speak with them in Arabic. At the same time, they will want to speak to you in English because they want to practice their English. When I use it, I write in both languages and my pen pals do the same. So, I’ll say for example:

Where do you study English? / أين تدرس النجليزية

or

i am studying in an Islamic University on the internet / أنا أدرس في جامعة إسلامية على الإنترنت

Another benefit is that some of the pen pals are willing to set up a Skype conversation with you so that you can speak to each other and practice the language. The only fault with this tool is that many of the users are not consistent. They create their accounts and speak to you a few times and then disappear completely never to be heard from again. But if you can find a consistent user, then this is very helpful. Also, just take precautions and never give personal information away. If you feel someone is too odd, then don’t engage with them.

iTalki – This is a website that allows you to find an online teacher for personal language lessons. The teachers are usually native speakers. However, it is not free. The teachers do require a fee. You can browse through and select a teacher that fits within your budget. The teachers vary in their price. Some are willing to do it for cheap while others charge more.

Qisas an-Nabiyin – After 1.5-2 yrs of Arabic, you should go through this book. This is a very helpful book to practice your Arabic. It is basically stories of the prophets written in the Arabic language. The main objective of it is to teach proper Arabic to children. Your main goal should be to go through it and look up all of the words that you don’t know and then memorize them. Many Arabic institutes use it to teach Arabic to students. There is an English translation of it as well [which I have not yet reviewed], if you want help with defining certain words or see how they were translated. If your serious about Arabic, then use the English translation only to compare the translation with your own and see if your way off on certain words. You need to build the habit of figuring out the language on your own.

Arabic Keyboard – This is a good tool I used to write short Arabic essays for my class. It’s very easy to use.

Learn Arabic w/ Al-Jazeera – This is a good tool to use to practice Arabic reading. The neat feature about it is that it focuses on modern Arabic and discusses current events in the news. It also has quiz features to help you measure how much you’ve actually comprehended from the story. It also gives you a vocabulary list on the side of the articles and a link to the main article. Another cool feature of it is that it has short Arabic animation videos as well and you can choose to display the English/Arabic at the bottom of it in text format so you can follow along. I’ll be honest, I haven’t played around with this site too much because of my other occupations but it’s a great tool.

Note Cards – If you don’t have a process in place where your constantly writing down words that you don’t know, memorizing them, and continuously reviewing them, then your wasting your time with Arabic. Note cards are one of the most efficient ways to memorize vocabulary. One of my main mistakes in learning Arabic was that I didn’t pay much attention to vocabulary. I put too much focus on concepts and grammar rules. I used to memorize vocabulary for only my short term memory so that I can pass the exams and move on to the next level. I didn’t pay any more attention than that. This mistake is still hurting me today and is one of the main reasons I’m still not fluent in the language. You must memorize vocabulary for long term memory usage from the very beginning. Arabic is not just about mastering the grammar but also mastering the vocabulary. Once you start memorizing vocabulary, the language will begin to seem more and more fluid and easy to you because words are repeated constantly in the language. Focus particularly on memorizing root words and their meanings. The whole language is based on it. I now have whole stashes of note cards with 1000+ words which I go through constantly on a weekly basis. You need to have a process in place where you memorize new words and review old ones. As an example, I have five stashes of note cards and I go through each stash everyday, hence, I am reviewing all my vocabulary every five days. Once, the stashes get larger and larger, I will separate them into more days (so reviewing vocabulary every 7, 8 9, ….20, etc. days). I add about 20-25 words to my vocabulary every week, which I then memorize everyday for seven days by repeating it 20 times (a total of 140 times over seven days) and then I add them to my stash of review vocabulary. You can increase or decrease the number of times you repeat a word on a daily basis based on the strength or weakness of your memory. This is my method. Your welcome to try it or try something else of your own. But the point is that you need to be memorizing vocabulary for the long term. You need to be able to recall Arabic words with their meaning at first look wherever they may appear.

Practice Using TED Talks – This is a really nice article on how to use TED talks on the web, which are completely free, to learn a new language.

Materials written in Arabic w/ English counterparts – There are books available that have been translated from Arabic. You can buy both the Arabic book and its English translation and practice with it. Try to figure out the Arabic yourself and then check your translation with its English equivalent. You can also check the English translation if you get stuck on a sentence or word and can’t figure it out. A good example of this would be Tafsir-Al Jalalayn. It has been translated into English and is also available in Arabic. I believe both are available online somewhere as well. However, this is just one example. There are many examples like this. It is your job to find them. You can also refer to websites like Islam-QA. Once there, you will find that every question that they have answered, there is an “ar” label on top of the page. Click on this to get its Arabic equivalent. This is a great feature for you to be able to see how Arabic is translated. Practice with this website. Print out some Arabic fatwas and try to translate them. Then compare your translation with theirs. A great feature about this site is that it quotes heavily from classical texts. So you get a bit of exposure to both, classical and modern Arabic. I know this website is controversial especially in the West but you are using it to learn Arabic and not necessarily trying to follow everything they say.

Qur’an – This is your main objective to learning Arabic: to be able to understand the Qur’an without translation. Make sure you are constantly reading it and trying to figure it out. If you can figure out the Qur’an, you can figure out any Arabic text because the Book of Allah is the epitome of eloquence in the Arabic language. All of the grammar rules in Arabic are derived from the Qur’an. After 1.5+ years of Arabic, I suggest you pick up the Qur’an and start trying to figure it out. Any vocabulary that you do not recognize, write it down on note cards in the method described above and memorize it for longer term. Afterwards, read it and review that portion of the Qur’an over and over again. The good thing about it is that there are many Qur’an specific dictionaries already available in the market. The research has already been done for you. I personally recommend The Easy Dictionary of the Qur’an [start from page 69 (Fatiha) of the pdf] By Shaykh Abdul Karim Parekh but there are also others available in the market, such as, The Quranic Arabic CorpusMeaning of Noble Qur’an Word for WordWord for Word Meaning of QuranNoble Quran Word-for-Word, and many others.

Islamic Studies Options for Those Residing in the United States

Many young Muslim students in the United States who aspire to learn Islamic sciences have a strong desire to travel overseas in order to learn their religion.  However, for most of them it is not a possibility due to personal, work, or university obligations.  Many of them hold on to a false hope that they will eventually travel overseas to master the sciences of their religion and return as qualified Islamic da’ees or instructors.  This leads them to become lazy and neglectful to do anything to further their knowledge of the religion with the resources that are available in their lands.  Even though traveling to a Muslim country to learn from numerous Islamic scholars is probably the best option, it should not hinder a true student of knowledge from fulfilling his thirst for Islamic sciences if going abroad is not an option for him/her.  There have been many efforts made to make the goal of learning Islam easier for those Muslims who cannot travel overseas to study.

Following is a list of some options currently available (there may be others as well):

  1. Islamic Online University
  2. Bayyinah Institute
  3. Mishkah: Islamic University of North America
  4. Foundation for Knowledge & Development
  5. Jamaal Zarabozo’s Website
  6. American Open University
  7. Tooba University
  8. AlMaghrib Institute
  9. Knowledge International University
  10. Islamic University of Minnesota
  11. Arees Institute
  12. New Muslim Academy
  13. Islamic Learning Foundation

The Youth Should Have Open Minds & Hearts Regarding Differences of Opinion Among the Scholars

Source: The Islamic Awakening, Pgs. 67-71, by Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen [d.1421H], Translated by Faisal ibn Muhammad, Published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution

The youth who adhere to their Religion and are concerned with the da’wah should have open minds and hearts regarding differences of opinion among the scholars, finding a good excuse for the scholar who supports a view, which in their mind, is wrong. This is an issue of paramount importance, for there are those who search out for and scrutinize the mistakes of others, with the intention of ruining their reputation, and this is from the greatest of mistakes. If backbiting a common man [i.e., one who is neither a scholar nor a student of knowledge] is from the gravest of sins, then backbiting a scholar is graver and more severe. The harm of backbiting a scholar is not limited to his person, but it also extends to the Islamic knowledge he carries with him. If a scholar is lowered in the eyes of the people, what he says is also lowered. So if he speaks the truth and guides others to it, then backbiting him acts as a barrier between the people and the knowledge he has with him. And the danger involved in this occurring is considerable.

It is necessary for the youth to attribute good intentions to scholars when there is disagreement among them. At the same time, there is no harm for the youth to go to a scholar they think made a mistake, and discuss the matter with him, for it may happen that that scholar will be able to show them that he was in the right all along. Often times one imagines that a scholar erred, but after discussing the issue with him, one comes to realize that he was right.

“Everyone from the children of Adam errs frequently, and the best of those who err frequently are those who repent.” [33]

When people begin to rejoice over the mistakes of the scholars, spreading news of those mistakes to the people, discord and disunity will result, and that is not the way of the pious predecessors.

Likewise, in the case of rulers: it is not permissible for us to use their mistakes as a pretext for vilifying them in a general way, and yet remain blind to their good qualities and actions. Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] says in His Book:

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” [Al-Ma’idah 5:8]

This means: do not let the hatred you have for a people lead you to being unjust, for justice is compulsory. And it is not permissible for one to take the mistakes of rulers, scholars, or anyone else for that matter, and then spread news of those mistakes to the people, while remaining quiet about their good qualities and deeds. This is not justice.

Always use yourself as a gauge in such matters. If one were to spread news of your bad qualities to the people and hide your good qualities, you would say that he committed a crime against you. If that is your attitude regarding your own self, then you must maintain the same attitude regarding others as well. I already mentioned the solution to this problem: contact the person you think made a mistake and directly discuss the issue with him, and then matters should become clearer [to you or to him] after the discussion.

How often it occurs that one rescinds one of his opinions after discussing it with someone else:

“The example of a believer in relation to another believer is that of a building; parts of it strengthen its other parts.” [34]

And the Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:

“Whomsoever it pleases to be taken away from the Hellfire and to enter Paradise, then let his death come to him while he believes in Allah and the Last Day. And let him take [or give] to the people that which he loves to come to him.” [35]

This is justice and uprightness

The heart of the caller should be open to those who differ with him, especially when he knows that the other party has good intentions, differing only because of some proof he considers to be stronger. One must be flexible in such matters, not allowing differences of opinion lead to enmity and hatred between brothers, except in the case of a man who is obstinate in his view: the truth becomes clear to him, yet he persists upon his falsehood. Such a person should be warned against; his enmity to the truth became established when the truth became manifestly clear before him, yet he still refused to follow it.

Nevertheless, we must make a distinction here: there are secondary issues that people differ in, and in reality, Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] made such matters in such issues wide and spacious for His slaves; here I am referring to issues that are not from the primary teachings of the Religion; those teachings regarding which the one who opposes is ruled to be a disbeliever. Other than those primary teachings, Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] made matters spacious for His slaves; the Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:

“When the judge rules after making Ijtihad [using all resources – proofs and sound principles of deduction – available to him in order to arrive at a ruling], and is then correct, then he has two rewards. And if he is mistaken, then he has one reward.” [36]

In any case, whether he is wrong or right, the judge is rewarded, with two rewards if he is right and with one reward if he is wrong.

If you do not want anyone to differ with you, keep in mind that every other person also does not want anyone to differ with him. And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] clarified the returning point for any disagreement:

“And in whatsoever you differ, the decision is with Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] [He is the ruling Judge].” [Ash-Shura 42:10]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said:

“[And] if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it back to Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam], if you believe in Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [An-Nisa 4:50]

Whenever two parties disagree among themselves, they must defer to these two primary sources – the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]. It is categorically forbidden to oppose the speech of Allaah and His Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam], no matter whose speech it is that one is giving preference to. When the truth becomes clear to you, it is incumbent upon you to “strike the saying of anyone who opposes that truth against the side of a wall,” and you must never look back at that saying, no matter how high the status and knowledge is of the person who said it. Human beings err, but there is not a single error in the speech of Allaah and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam].

It greatly saddens me to hear that some people who are considered to be serious in their pursuit of the truth, are divided, with each one of them taking on a different title or descriptive quality. In reality, this is a serious mistake, for Allaah’s Religion is one, and the Ummah [Nation] of Islam is one. Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] says:

“And verily! This, your religions is one religion, and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to me.” [Al-Mu’minun 23:52]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said to His Prophet, Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]:

“Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you [O Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]] have no concern in them in the least. Their affair is only with Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala], Who then will tell them what they used to do.” [Al-An’am 6:159]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said:

“He [Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala]] has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Nuh, and that which We inspired in you [O Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]], and that which We ordained for Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it [religion] [i.e. various sects in religion].” [Ash-Shura 42:13]

Because this is the guidance of Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala], we must follow and implement it. We must gather and discuss issues in order to improve and rectify our situation, and not in order to accuse another or exact retribution from one another. Whenever one debates an issue with another person, intending to achieve victory for his view and to belittle the view of his opponent, without intending betterment, then for the most part, he will leave the debate in a way that does not please Allaah and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam].

In matters of discord, we must truly become one Nation. I am not saying that no one makes mistakes; people are sometimes right and sometimes wrong in their views. But what we are discussing here is how to rectify and mend what is wrong. I am not helping to change a person’s incorrect view by backbiting and slandering him. The way to help him is to meet him and to discuss the situation with him, and if he stubbornly persists in his falsehood, I then have the right, or rather the duty, to clarify his mistake and to warn people against it. And by following this methodology, we can help improve matters.

As for division or the forming of factions, this is something that pleases no one save the enmeies of Islam and of Muslims.

Footnotes:

[33] Related by Ahmad in his Musnad [3/198]; by Al-Darimi [2727] in the chapter, “About Repentance.” Al-Tirmidhi related it [2499] in chapter 49, Ibn Majah [4251] related it in the chapter, “About the Mention of Repentance.” In Sahih al-Jami’ [4/171], Al-Albani related that it is hasan. In Sharh al-Sunnah [5/92], Al-Arna’ut said, “Its chain is hasan,” from the hadeeth of Anas [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[34] A portion of a hadeeth related by Al-Bukhari [6026] in the chapter, “The Believers Cooperating with one Another.” Muslim [2585] related in the chapter, “The Mutual Mercy, Compassion, and Help of the Believers,” from the hadeeth of Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[35] A portion of a hadeeth related by Muslim [1844] in the chapter, “It is Compulsory to be Faithful to One’s Pledge to the Khalifah…” from the hadeeth of ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[36] Related by Al-Bukhari [7352] in the chapter, “The Reward of a judge when he makes Ijtihad…” And Muslim related it [1716] in the chapter, “Clarification of the Judge’s Reward when he Makes Ijtihad…” from the hadeeth of ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

Studying Hadith: Tips and Resources

The Arabic word hadith basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’. However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salaah, zakaah), its meaning changed in Islaam. From the time of the Prophet (ρ), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadith began to be used almost exclusively for reports which spoke of his actions and sayings.

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 4

During the life of the Prophet (ρ) there was no pressing need to write down all of his various statements or record his actions because he was present and could be consulted at any time. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (ρ) himself made a general prohibition against writing down his statements which were other than the Qur’aan itself. This was to prevent the possibility of mixing up the Qur’aan with his own words during the era of revelation. Consequently, the greatest stress regarding writing was placed on recording the Qur’aanic verses. However, there are many authentic narrations collected by the Scholars of Hadith, that prove that Hadith were recorded in writing even during the lifetime of the Prophet (ρ). For example, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr said: “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) with the intention of memorizing it. However, some Qurayshites forbade me from doing so saying, ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him, while the Messenger of Allaah is a human being who speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah (ρ). He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said: ‘Write! By Him in whose hand is my soul, only truth comes out from it.’

Aboo Hurayrah said: When Makkah was conquered, the Prophet (ρ) stood up and gave a sermon [Aboo Hurayrah then mentioned the sermon]. A man from Yemen, called Aboo Shaah got up and said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Write it down for me.” The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) replied, “Write it for Aboo Shaah.”14 Al-Waleed asked Aboo ‘Amr, “What are they writing?” He replied, “The sermon which he heard that day.”

Aboo Qaabeel said: We were with ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So ‘Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said, “Take out the book from it.” Then ‘Abdullaah said, “While we were with the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) writing, The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) was asked, “Which city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Rome?” So Allaah’s Messenger (ρ) said: “The city of Heracilius will be conquered first.” meaning Constantinople.”

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 8

Hadith Classification

Hadith Saheeh (authentic; sound)

Conditions of Sihhah

A hadith must meet the following five criteria in order to be accepted according to Islamic law as a source of legal ordinance.

1. Ittisaal as-Sanad (Continuity of the chain of transmitters)

The chain of Rawwaah (narrators or transmitters) who are relating the Matn (text), has to be unbroken for the hadith to be considered. That is none of the transmittors must be missing from the chain and each narrator, Raawi, has to have met the transmitter directly preceding him as well as the one directly following him. Each Raawi has to be a known individual also, otherwise he is classified as majhool (unknown) and the sanad is considered broken.

2. ‘Adaalah (integrity)

The integrity of the narrators is the second key condition for a hadith to be considered valid. By integrity we mean that the narrator was a practicing Muslim and was not known to have done any of the major (forbidden things) if he was a known liar he is classified as kaththaab and the hadith which he has transmitted is classified as da‘eef. These are the conditions verified through the biographical science of hadith Kutub ar-Rijaal.

3. Dabt (accuracy)

The accuracy of the text is determined by two factors either of which is sufficient by itself

(a) Dabt as-Sadr (Soundness of memory)

Each narrator must be known for his ability to memorize and repeat with a high degree of accuracy if he had a tendency to repeat hadith in a number of different ways such a hadith in classified as Mudtarib (confused) and any other hadith which he may narrate will be classified ad Da‘eef.

(b) Dabt al-Kitaabah (Written accuracy)

Each narrator who does not fulfill precondition “a”, must be known for recording his haetth in books accurately and his narrations only be from his books, these two preconditions (a,b) are also verified by Kutub ar-Rijaal.

4. Ghayr Shaathth (conformity)

It is critical that the hadith confirmed with similar hadith narrated on the same topic whose chains are stronger. If the test of a hadith contradicts that of other well-known texts whose chain of narration is stronger, it is classified (exceptional) which is one of the categories of hadith dae’ef.

5. Laa ‘Illah (absence of hidden defect)

The hidden defect is one that causes the hadith to appear to be sound and only become evident after deep investigation. For a hadith to be considered sound (saheeh) it has to be free of hidden defects.

A hadith which fulfills all the five conditions of sihhah is referred to as a hadith Saheeh. Such a hadith can be used to establish points of Islaamic law and, if it isn’t abrogated, it must be accepted and applied. The ruling of a hadith saheeh can only be superceded by that of another hadith saheeh stronger than it.

The hadith Saheeh may be further subdivided into Saheeh li Thaatih and Saheeh li Ghayrih. Hadiths fulfilling the five conditions completely were also referred to as Saheeh li Thaatih. That is, it is saheeh by itself, without any external considerations. The Saheeh li Ghayrih is a hadith hasan which has been elevated to the status of saheeh due to supporting narrations.

Hadith Hasan (good)

A hadith is considered Hasan if it fulfills all the requirements of Saheeh except Dabt (accuracy). If the memory of a narrator was only considered fair (sadooq), that is, he was known to make a few mistakes. The hadith is lowered from the level of saheeh to the level of Hasan. In the early days, there was no distinction made between the hadith saheeh and the hadith hasan. The hadith hasan is valid for establishing points of Islaamic law and should not be rejected unless abrogated or superseded by a hadith saheeh. This category is also called Hasan li Thaatih as distinct from a second category of hasan hadiths called Hasan li Ghayrih.

Hadith Hasan li Ghayrih

If the narrator belonged to a lower grade (i.e. grades 5 or 6 rendering the hadith da‘eef) and there are other hadiths supporting it in form or sense, it would be reclassified as hasan li ghayrih. It should be noted that the overall acceptability of an isnaad is based on its weakest link. Consequently, if all of the narrators were highly reliable (thiqah) and one, anywhere in the chain was classified as a liar (kaththaab), the hadith would be classified as fabricated, even if proved authentic by other isnaads.

Hadith Da‘eef (weak)

This is a hadith in which any one or more of the five conditions of Sihhah have not been met. It is also referred to in classical works as al-Khabar al-Mardood (Rejected Narrations). The inauthentic hadith is one in which the truth of the report is highly unlikely due to the loss of one or more of the conditions for the acceptance. Some da‘eef hadiths may be reclassified due to supportive factors while others are totally rejected. The inauthentic hadith may be further subdivided into different categories based on which of the five criteria has not been met.

The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 24-25

Resources on Hadith:

Audio/Video

  1. Sciences of Hadith by Suhaib Hasan (audio)
  2. The Sciences Of Hadith by Bilal Philips (audio)
  3. Usool ul Hadith by Yasir Qadhi (audio)

Articles

  1. Terminology of Hadith and Methodology of Hadith Scholars by Tariq Abdelhaleem
  2. Notes on Science of Hadith Extracted from “Tayseer Mustalahil Hadith” by Mahmood at-Tahhaan
  3. Notes on Ibn Hajar’s Nukhbatul Fikr
  4. Hadiths: False Tales or Authentic Narrations?
  5. Ulum al-Hadith Curriculum by islamclass.wordpress.com

Books

  1. An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith : In the Light of the Sahifah of Hammam ibn Munabbih by Muhammad Hamidullah
  2. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Suhaib Hassan
  3. An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri
  4. Usool al-Hadeeth : The Methodology of Hadith Evaluation by Bilal Philips
  5. Studies in Early Hadith Literature by M.M. Azami
  6. Studies in Hadith Methodology & Literature by M.M. Azami
  7. Imam Nawawi 40 Hadith with Explanation by Ibn Daqîq al-‘îd’s