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The term ḥadīth—refers to the sayings (qawl), actions (fiʿl) and tacit approval (taqrīr) of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him). Many different types of books have been written on the subject of ḥadīth. They have been categorised into different types by the hadith masters (ḥuffāẓ). Some of them will be mentioned below.

Al-Jawamiʾ

Al-Jawāmiʾ is the plural of Jāmiʾ (“compendium”). A Jāmiʾ compilation denotes a hadith work which includes the following eight subjects: (1) belief (2) tārīkh and siyar (historical and biographical matters) (3) seditions and crises (fitan) (4) virtues (manāqib) and defects (mathālib) of various people, places etc. (5) Quranic commentary (tafsīr) (6) laws and rulings (aḥkām) (7) manners (ādāb) (8) piety and asceticism (riqāq).

The first ever Jāmiʾ compiled was that of  Maʿmar ibn Rāshid. Maʿmar ibn Rāshid (d. 153) was a close student of Imam al-Zuhrī (d. 124). The second  Jāmiʾ was compiled by Imam Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 161). Both of these are unavailable. The third of the Jāmiʾ collection is Jāmiʾ ʿAbd al-Razzāq, which is better known as Muṣannaf ʿAbd al-Razzāq. The most well-known of the Jāmiʾ works is the Jāmiʾ al-Ṣaḥīḥ of Imam al-Bukhārī, al-Jāmiʾ al-Ṣaḥīḥ of Imam Muslim and the Jāmiʾ of al-Tirmidhī.

Al-Sunan

These types of works were initially referred to as al-abwāb [“chapters”]. These are collections which contain aḥādīth al-aḥkām (legal-liturgical traditions), and are arranged upon the ordering of works of fiqh [“jurisprudence”]. The compilations will usually begin with a chapter on purification (al-ṭahāra).

Some of the famous collection of Sunan include: Sunan of Abu Dāwūd, Sunan of al-Nasā’ī, Sunan of al-Tirmidhī (which is also a Jāmiʾ collection), Sunan of al-Dāraquṭnī (d. 385), Sunan of Abu Muslim al-Kashshī (d. 262), Sunan of Saʿīd b. Manṣūr (d. 229).

Overview of types of Prophetic Narrations

Al-Musnad

Its plural is al-masānīd. The hadiths in these works are arranged according to the names of their original narrating authorities, irrespective of subject matter. The musnad works themselves, however, differ in the detailed arrangement of the authorities who originally related them. In some of them, their names are arranged in alphabetical order. In others, they are arranged according to their respective merit in the acceptance of Islam and in taking part in the early important events of the Prophet’s s mission. 

Some of the famous works of musnad are: Musnad of Abu Dāwūd al-Ṭayālisī (d. 204, aged 80)—which begins with the musnad of our master Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddīq—Musnad of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 233)—contains more than 30000 hadiths narrated by 700 Companions, and, ʿAbdullah b. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 290) and Abu Bakr al-Qaṭīʿī (d. 368) added much to it—Musnad of Ibn Najjār (extant), which is said to have contained the traditions related by all the Companions, Jāmiʾ al-masānīd al-imām al-aʿẓam, a compilation of the Chief Judge (qādī al-quddāt) Abu Mu’ayyad al-Khwārizmī (d. 655), Musnad of ʿAbd b. Ḥumayd b. Naṣr al-Kashī (d. 243).

Al-Muʿjam

The hadith in this collection are arranged in order of the names of the Traditionists (shuyūkh) from whom the compiler received them. The names of such Traditionists are arranged alphabetically.

Two of al-Ṭabarānī’s (d. 360) collections belong to this class, Muʿjam al-Ṣaghīr and Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ—the largest collection, Muʿjam al-kabīr, is in reality a musnad work—Muʿjam of Ibn Jumayʾ (d. 402), Muʿjam of Ibn Qāniʾ (d. 351), Muʿjam of al-Dimyātī (d. 705)—in 4 volumes and relating from 1300 Traditionists.

These are only a few of the major types. There are many more categories of Hadith collections. From this we understand the vastness of the science of Hadith; where there is a categorisation not only for the Hadith, but for the books also. 

May Allah shower countless blessings upon our predecessors who devoted their entire lives to the preservation and propagation of Hadith, those who left no stone unturned in rigorously authenticating each and every Hadith and those who provided us with the correct understanding and commentary.