A hadith (Arabic plural: ahadith) is a saying, report, account, tradition attributed to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and his companions. While the Qur’an is the holy book of Islam, hadith literature is second in importance and is recognized as a major source of moral and legal guidance.
Hadith are the oral accounts of Muhammad’s life and teachings that were passed along during the first three hundred years of Islam’s development. Many thousands circulated, duplications and misstatements proliferated. In the eighth and ninth centuries, they were compiled and judged on the basis of text (how likely was it that Muhammed or his followers expressed the idea) and provenance (who told it to whom and how was the message carried forward). For the Sunnis, this process resulted in six books, the best-known of which are the Sahih al-Bukhari and the Sahih Muslim. The Shi’a reference four different compilations.
Hadith address all matters that impact humankind, from birth to death, physical to faith, moral to commercial, and along with the Qur’an, are the basis for Sharia law which rules on secular and religious behavior.