Islam is a religion based on oral tradition. It is very important because many of what we know of Islam in the present is based on orally transmitted information. Even when it comes to the authorities of the religion it can be traced to oral tradition. In this essay the emphasis would be put on how oral tradition sets up authority in the religion, in both sunni and and shi' ite sects.
Why is oral tradition so important in Islam? During the time when Muhammad was alive, unfortunately nothing was ever recorded. In the pre-Islamic times, there were Arab tribes. These tribes were heavily into poetry. Many believe that this may have helped in the recollection and transmission of oral history in Islam. The Quran is the central religious text of Islam. It is said to be the literal words of Allah recited to Muhammad. This is the first of oral authority in Islam. The Quran at first was not compiled. Several years after Muhammad passed away, in the Uthmanic period around 650, they gathered the sayings of Allah and created the Uthmanic Codex. At that time this was the most important authority on judging what is right and what is wrong in the religion. The idea of Quran being the utmost important in authority is generally accepted in the Muslim religion. All though there are some controversies between the two sects about the Quran, neither would deny the importance and the authority of the Quran. Unfortunately, although the Quran, states what we should do in order to be on the right path, but it never tells us how. This is the part where oral history becomes very important. Most of what and how we practice in this religion has been transmitted orally.
There is no other superior authority in the Sunni sect. of Islam then that of the Quran and the Hadith. What is the Hadith? It is a compilation "of statement[s] made or description of an act performed by the Prophet Muhammad" (Islam p.13). They legitimate the hadiths through isnad, which is a list of...
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