The original language of the ḥadīth literature is the standard Classical Arabic even though, unlike the Qur’ān, most of aḥādīth have not been transmitted verbatim; ideas have been transmitted rather than words. Nonetheless, the language of aḥādīth maintains a high standard. The quality of the language of aḥādīth is superior to many other earlier sources. It is extremely important to consider this aspect of the language of the prophetic sayings while pondering over them. By the grace of God, there are many ḥadīth collections. Recorded in an early period of oral tradition, the language of aḥādīth is nearer to that of the prophetic times. Having acknowledged that language keeps changing and evolving, we need to prefer the traditions whose language is more approximate to that of the time of the Prophet (sws) and the Companions (rta).
In the syntactic and morphological analysis of aḥādīth, the judgments of the expert grammarians, lexicographers and acknowledged authorities in the field always prevail. Therefore, while deciding on meanings of difficult words and explaining the complex sentence structures, their interpretations and views have to be preferred over one’s personal understanding.
For the serious student of the ḥadīth literature, expertise and competence in the language spoken during the time of the Prophet (sws) and the Companions (rta) as well as a taste and flavour for this language are crucial. This can help him differentiate the language of the prophetic time from that of the later times. If a person, engaged in the ḥadīth study, fails to understand this difference, it is very likely that he confuses non-prophetic statements with aḥādīth of the Prophet (sws). He can even be led to accept the non-Qur’ānic words as the part of the Book of God. A famous ḥadīth ascribed to ‘Umar (rta) claims that the Qur’ān once included the verse al-shaykh wa al-shaykhatu idhā zanayā farjumūhumā al-battata (When an old man and old woman commit extramarital sex, stone them to death). The truth of the matter is that, far from being part of a verse of the Qur’ān, these words do not even match the prophetic language. It is, at best, the language of a non-Arab jurist of the later times.
(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi from Islahi's Mabadi Tadabbur-i Hadith)