The ‘sunnah’ refers to the traditions and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, which are believed by Muslims to be a model for them to follow. The sunnah are documented in the hadith, which are the records of Muhammad’s teachings, deeds, and sayings, as noted by his companions. Alongside the Qur’an, these are the divine revelations (wahy) which God delivered through Muhammad, constituting the main sources of Islamic teachings and the basis for sharia (Islamic religious law). Compared with the Qur’an, hadith give far greater detail about the practices which Muslims should adhere to in their daily lives. Hadith usually have two sections: the ‘isnad’ (the chain of narrators transmitting the report), and the ‘matn’ (the main text of the report).
Some hadith include confusing and contradictory statements, and as a result, Islamic scholars seek to authenticate hadith, classing them as sahih (authentic), hasan (good), or da’if (weak). Different scholars may disagree over the classifications of different hadith. Most Sunni Muslims believe there are six canonical collections of hadith: the Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim (which both have the highest status), and the Sunan Abu Dawood, Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, Al-Sunan al Sughra and Sunan ibn Majah. Most Shi’as believe there are four canonical collections of hadith: Kitab al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih, Tahdhib al-Ahkam, and Al-Istibsar.