Hadeeth (arabic, plural ahadeeth) – A saying, statement of story that can be authentically traced to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah send the prayers of peace and blessing upon him. So to be “People of Hadeeth” or “Companions of Hadeeth” is for a person to let the hadeeth guide him, teach him what the Qur’an means, inform him of the various decisions of everyday life that keep him on the right path; in essence it is to be “saved” from every evil and guided-to and rewarded-with every good.
A very beneficial, brief, yet comprehensive, survey of the characteristics of this group can be found in the following words of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee, may Allah have mercy on him.
al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (d.463H) said,
“And if only the people of blameworthy opinion [about the religion] busied themselves with beneficial knowledge, and seeking the Sunnah [hadeeth] of the Messenger of the Lord of Creation, and followed the way of the fuqahaa’ [scholars of fiqh] and muhaddithoon [scholars of hadeeth] – then they would find that this would be sufficient for them.
And the narration would take the place of his opinion which he used to hold; since the Hadeeth comprehends the fundamentals of Tawheed, the reported Threats and the Promises, the Attributes of the Lord of Creation – who is High above the saying of the apostates, it also contains information about Paradise and Hell-Fire, and what Allaah has prepared therein for the pious and the wicked, and what Allaah has created in the earths and the heavens, and the remarkable things and great signs, and a mention of the nearest Angels – those drawn up in ranks and those who recite tasbeeh [rememberance of Allah].
And the Hadeeth comprehends stories of the about the pious ascetics and Awliyaa’ [friends of Allah], wonderful admonition and sayings of the Scholars. It contains histories of the kings of the ‘Arabs and non-‘Arabs, and the accounts of past nations, and descriptions of the battles of the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam); his expeditions, rulings, judgements, sermons, warnings, predictions and miracles. It also contains information about the number of his Wives and Children, his Relatives and Companions, and a mention of their excellence and merit, and a mention of their lives, their actions and their ancestry. And the Hadeeth contains tafseerof the Qur’aan, information and the wise remembrance contained in it. It contains the sayings of the Companions about its preserved rulings, the different sayings they held, as well as those of the Scholars and mujtahideen [scholars who exert great effort in understanding the rulings and giving decisions on issues].
And Allaah made Ahlul-Hadeeth (the People of Hadeeth) the pillar of the Sharee’ah [Divine Law] and the destroyer of every despicable innovation. So they are Allaah’s wardens amongst His creation, and the link between the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Ummah, and the strivers to preserve His Religion. So their light shines brightly, their excellence remains, their signs are clear, their positions evident and their proofs are over-powering.
And all the sects coil themselves around vain desires and prefer opinion which they cling to – except for Ahlul-Hadeeth, since the Book is their provision, the Sunnah is their proof, the Messenger their leader and to him is their ascription. They do not deviate upon vain desires, nor turn to mere conjecture. They accept what is reported from the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and they are the trustworthy and reliable ones, who memorise the Religion and are its treasurers, its storehouses of knowledge and its bearers. If anyone differs about a hadeeth, then it is referred back to them [scholars of Hadeeth who refer it back to the Quran and the Sunnah]. Thus, their judgement is accepted and listened to. From them is every Scholar and Imaam, and every true ascetic, and one of excellence, and precise reciter and righteous Khateeb. They are the Saved-Sect and their way is the straight one…”**
Many people have heard of or believe they know what “Salafi” or “Salafiyya” is and it is mostly wrong. The above description by al-Baghdaadee is exactly what Salafiyya is. It isn’t hatred for the illustrious Imaams, it isn’t about deducing fiqh for yourselves (as is commonly misuderstood or propagated)…it is precisely: (1) How do you follow and understand the religion of Islam and (2) Who/What do you turn to for that understanding and direction. It’s that simple. This is all falls under the rubric of Islamic Methodology.
**Sharafu Ashabul Hadeeth pgs7-9 (The Honor/Nobility of the People of Hadeeth)