What are the Hadith collections apart from Kutub Al-Sittah? What is their role in the tradition of Islam?
The Hadith appeared during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah. These were the stories told by the Prophet’s companions, the people who talked to him, about the things which the Prophet said, did, approved or what other people said about the Prophet. In all these words and deeds of the Prophet was Divine Inspiration from Allah.
The words and deeds of the Prophet were the continuation of the Divine Revelation bestowed on men in the Quran. Collectively, they became the Sunnah, the Holy Tradition which detailed practical applications of the general commandments of the Quran. This division was brought forward by the Almighty Allah Humself. Its deepest meaning is in keeping the basic and global revelations about the foundations of this world and the universe and about the Omnipotent Allah as the Basis, the Beginning and the End of all that exists distinctly separate from the manifestation of these universal laws of Creation in a man’s day-to-day life.
Thus for the daily life of a man who observes the rules of the Muslim faith the Hadith are of immense value.
The collections of Hadith which have the highest authority among them are the collections of imams al-Bukhari, Abu Dawood, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasai and Ibn Majah. These collections are considred canonical and are known as the Six Books (Kutub al-Sittah). These are the Hadith that have the most wide-spread use and application in the matters of faith and law. But apart from them, other Hadith collections exist.
Many of them were the predecessors of the Six Books. For instance, imam Hammam ibn Munnabih, who lived at the time of the Prophet’s companion Abu Huraira, was his disciple and transcribed from his stories 138 Hadith about the deeds of the Messenger of Allah. From these Hadith he compiled the Sahifah Hammam, the first ever known Hadith collection. Imam Hammam is considered an authentic narrator as are the Hadith which he transcribed. In a hundred years after him the Hadith of Imam Hammam were included in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim. Sahifah Hammam was discovered in a library in Berlin and in Damascus in 1932.
Or, for example, imam Malik ibn Anas, the famous faqih and muhaddis, the founder of the Malikite madhhab of Muslim law. He lived in Medina at the beginning of the 8th century and attended gatherings of the disciples of Jafar al-Sadiq whose mother was a great-granddaughter of the Right Guided Caliph Ali and whose aunt was a friend of the Prophet’s wife Aisha from whom she heard many authentic Hadith. Needless to say, such narrators were treasured as the gems of the Sunnah. Ibn Malik spent forty years of his life collecting the Hadith, from the 20 thousand of them which he heard he only selected one tenth and included them in the collection which he called Muwatta. In it he for the first time divided all the Hadith by subject. They, too, were later included in the collections of al-Bukhari, Muslim and other authors of the Six Books.
The same holds true for Imam Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanifite madhhab of fiqh. He collected and transcribed 15 Hadith books with the Hadith of which he personally was one of the narrators. The collection became known as the Musnad Abu Hanifa. All of his Hadith were later checked and included by the subsequent collectors into their own collections.
The total number of primary Hadith sources runs up to 21 collections which served as the basis for the Six Books and continue to be important sources of faith profession. On top of those there are compilations of well known collections which select the more pertinent Hadith to make it easier for a Muslim to encompass all the main issues of Islam. Such collections include the Riyad al-Salihin or Mishkat al-Masabih. Their total number is 7