Understanding the Hadith: The Sacred Traditions of Islam

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Noted Indian writer and polymath Ram Swarup explores the meaning of Islam through the words of the Sahih Muslim, considered by Muslims to be one of the most authoritative of the collections of "traditions" (Arabic Hadith) about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Like the Koran, these traditions are believed to be divinely revealed by Allah and they complement the verses of the Koran, in many cases expanding upon them and explaining the context of their revelation. As Swarup notes in his introduction, to Muslims the Hadith literature represents the Koran in action, stories of "revelation made concrete in the life of the Prophet." Among the orthodox they are considered as sacred as the Koran itself.
Swarup is plainly skeptical of the claim that the Hadith literature is divinely inspired. In the introduction he says, "The Prophet is caught as it were in the ordinary acts of his life - sleeping, eating, mating, praying, hating, dispensing justice, planning expeditions and revenge against his enemies. The picture that emerges is hardly flattering. . . . One is . . . left to wonder how the believers, generation after generation, could have found this story so inspiring. The answer is that the believers are conditioned to look at the whole thing through the eyes of faith. To them morality derives from the Prophet's actions. . . .his actions determine and define morality."
The Sahih Muslim, a massive work consisting of 7,190 traditions divided into 1,243 chapters, is hardly accessible to the average reader; so Swarup quotes representative selections that touch upon the main tenets of Islam: faith, purification, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, marriage and divorce, crime and punishment, religious wars (jihad), paradise, hell, repentance, and many other features of the religion.
To non-Muslims this work provides many insights into the mindset of the average Muslim who is raised on these traditions about Muhammad. It also underscores the gulf that exists between the sanctum of orthodox Islam and an increasingly secularized Westernized world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591020172
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST US
  • Pages: 258
  • Sales rank: 1,547,170
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Ram Swarup was one of India's leading intellectuals and a distinguished representative of renascent Hinduism. He wrote on many topics, not only comparative religion but on Gandhian economics, Maoism, and communism.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1. Faith (Iman) 13
2. Purification (Taharah) 25
3. Prayer (Salat) 35
4. The Poor Tax (Zakat) 45
5. Fasting and Pilgrimage (Sawm and Hajj) 55
6. Marriage and Divorce (Al-Nikah and Al-Talaq) 66
7. Business Transactions, Inheritances, Gifts, Bequests, Vows, and Oaths 87
8. Crime and Punishment (Qasamah, Qisas, Hadud) 94
9. Religious Wars (Jihad) 105
10. Government (Al-Imara) 124
11. Hunting, Food, and Drink 135
12. Clothing, Decorations, General Behavior, Greetings, Magic, Poetry, Visions, Dreams 145
13. Muhammad on Muhammad 159
14. The Prophet's Companions 168
15. Virtue, Destiny, Knowledge, Remembrance of God 188
16. Paradise, Hell, Their Inmates, the Last Day 200
17. Repentance (Tauba), I 217
18. Repentance, II (The Self-Criticism of Ka'b b. Malik) 224
19. Hypocrites (Munafiqin) 234
Bibliography 247
Index 251
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    anti-islam propaganda

    If you want to actually know something about Islam, don't buy this book. If you want lies, distorted views, and to hate Islam, then this is the book for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    A Great Help in Understanding Islam for non-Muslims

    This is one of those books that take a subject so large, so complex, and vast, and with such a rich history and tradition that you wonder how the author ever managed to organize a clear and concise book on the Hadith. If it's not in the Quran, it's in the Hadith, and if it's even mentioned in the Quran, it's also in the Hadith, clarifying right action and daily living practices for Muslims throughout the world. Swarup tours the Hadith by quoting representative selections that touch upon the main tenets of Islamic faith: purification, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, marriage and divorce, crime and punishment, religious wars (various jihads), paradise, hell, repentance, and many others. I bought this book for my nephew and he read it quickly and wanted to know more, for which I recommended a few websites and the local Islamic Knowledge Foundation. If you have a friend, acquaintance or relative who wants to know the deeper, yet more prevalent side of Islam, consider Swarup's book as a gift. I highly recommend it for filling out anyone's knowledge of Islam and its history within the Hadith tradition.

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