SOME COMMON MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT HADITH and their usage
There are more Muslims these days who have Hadith books (narrations attributed to the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) There are more Muslims walking around quoting Hadith, also. Some of this usage is correct, and some incorrect.
Throughout history, the Scholars have carefully collected and categorized those things narrated about Prophet Muhammad. They studied and cross-referenced between hundreds of thousands of Narrations from tens of thousands of narrators. They applied rules to determine the authenticity of the Narrations – some are classified as Sound, Good, Weak, or Fabricated.
The Scholars have known that some Narrations (Hadith) are useful for determining Islamic Law, and some are not. But their use for determining Law has been limited to the specialist Scholars. They were able to know, among the many Narrations, which were most relevant as evidence in Law. Therefore, it is improper for Muslims today to read or quote Hadith as evidence, because that evidence has already been judged by the great Scholars of the past. This is why, in Law, we follow the 4 Schools, as they have already weighed all the evidence and determined the Rulings. Muslims who frequently quote Hadith today for rulings are deluded and make serious mistakes. Don’t do that. Imam Shafi’i said: “For it is not permissible for … a layman to act independently with what he takes to be a proof from the hadith.”
But there are other types of Hadith (Narrations) that are useful to the common Muslims. Their content is not primarily of a legal nature, but may rather be encouraging or warning about things. It is encouraged for Muslims to read such Hadeeth and quote them to others. Here are some examples.
An Encouragement Narration: “Whoever recites one letter from the Book of Allah then he will receive a good deed, and every good deed is rewarded with ten times its like. I do not say that Alif Laam Meem is one word but Alif is one word, Laam is one word and Meem is one word.”
A Wisdom Narration: “Whenever you do something, do it the best.”
A Warning Narration: “He who expropriated the right of a Muslim by (swearing a false) oath, Allah would make Hell-fire necessary for him.”
About Paradise: “There are tents in Paradise made of a single hollow pearl that is 60 miles in height.”
About Character: “Allah is in the aid of His servant so long as His servant is in the aid of his Brother.”
So, we must distinguish between reading or quoting Hadith for Rulings or Encouragement. Common Muslims are not qualified to make Rulings from Hadith, though we see this mistake everyday.