Difference Between Hadith and Sunnah

Hadith vs Sunnah

Hadith and Sunnah are concepts in Islam that are often misinterpreted and misunderstood. Both terms have similarities but different connotations and also different status in Quran. In fact, assigning similar meanings to Hadith and Sunnah could create complications for the followers of Islam. This article attempts to differentiate between the two concepts by highlighting their features.


The word Sunnah has been used in Quran as the Sunnah of Allah which makes clear the implication of the term. It literally means a path that has been trodden; a path that is smooth and beaten. The almighty did a great favor upon the believers or the faithful by sending his prophet who took upon himself the job of instructing and purifying the people in the ways of Allah. The teachings of the prophet and the ways of dealing with friends and family could be deemed to have Allah’s approval or seal. In every sphere or walk of life, what prophet says, or to what he gives his tacit approval, serves as a guide for us. Through actual practice in his life, prophet has demonstrated to us the rules of conduct in Islam that are of great significance and importance.

However, the role of the prophet is certainly much more than that of courier who has been chosen to deliver the sayings of Allah as he also performs the role of the interpreter as well as teacher. Though the basic laws regarding zakat, umrah, fast, prayers, pilgrimage etc. have been laid in the holy Quran, there are no details pertaining to these subjects in the Quran. This is where the Sunnah of the Prophet comes in handy for the faithful.


Hadith is the tacit approval of the prophet to a behavior or way of doing. There are scholars in Islam called Muhaddithin who talk about two classes of Hadith namely Kahabar-i-Tawatur and Khabar-i-Wahid or multiple evidence Hadith and single evidence Hadith. According to these scholars, Hadith is taswib or the approval of the prophet. If a follower acted in a particular manner in the presence of the Prophet who did not say a thing and also did not disapprove of the behavior, it was considered as an approval of the prophet.

In general, Hadith is the narration of Prophet’s life and what he approved of in his life. Hadith literature is Islamic literature that contains narrations of the life of the Prophet and all things that he approved.

What is the difference between Hadith and Sunnah?

• Sunnah is always authentic while Hadith can be authentic as well as spurious.

• Hadith have been written and interpreted by scholars of Islam. Thus, these are dependent upon their ways of thinking, their character, and their memory and intellect.

• Sunnah has been passed on from one generation to another, so there is little chance of any error.

• Sunnah are related with certain aspects of life while Hadith are not confined to certain aspects of life.

• Sunnah means a path that has been trodden and treats Prophet as a messenger of the almighty.