Sources of Sunna - Sira and Hadith

Course Description:

                 The amount of attention that Muslims give to their messenger Muhammad can hardly be overestimated. Much of the attention gathers around the Islamic concept of sunna—the life example, practice, behavior and sayings attributed to the messenger of Islam. With time, Muslims came to claim that Muhammad was the “perfect human,” and that all of humanity should follow his example and grant authority to the sayings attributed to him. This course examines the Islamic primary sources that laid the foundation for the story of Muhammad in the minds of Muslims.  


                   The Islamic concept of sunna in turn laid the foundation for the development of Islamic Law by the Muslim scholars and jurists during the early centuries after the Arab Conquest of the Middle East. The scholars finally decided that all of law needed to be traced back to the mouth of Islam’s messenger in order to carry authority for the Muslim Empire. While the sources of Islamic Law are said to also include the Qur’an, ijma and qiyas, the sunna is arguably much more important than the other three.


                   Students will be encouraged to respect Muslims as fellow humans created by God in His image. At the same time, the truth claims embedded in the Muslim concept of sunna have serious consequences not only for the behavior of humans in today’s world, but also for the New Testament affirmations about Jesus. Love for people for whom the Messiah died must go together with an unshakable loyalty to the one who died.   

Course Objectives:

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:


  1. Tell the main lines of the story of the messenger of Islam as Muslims understand it.

  2. Show familiarity with the primary sources of Muhammad’s narrative and sayings.

  3. Explain insights of the best scholarly studies on the development of these traditions.  

  4. Write up their own research in a smooth flow of description, analysis and evaluation.

  5. Identify key truth claims about Muhammad and articulate helpful avenues of response. 

Excerpts from a sample lecture
Lesson 1:  Introduction to the sunna and it sources 
Lesson 2:  Sira readings 1 – predictions of a prophet; Mecca
Lesson 3:  Sira 2 – expeditions, battles, assassinations, etc
Lesson 4:  Sira 3 – encounters with Jews and Christians 
Lesson 5:  Other narrative sources; analysis and evaluation 
Lesson 6:  Introduction to the Ḥadīth 
Lesson 7:  Hadith 1 – details of ritual practices 
Lesson 8:   Hadith 2 – books of jihād and maghāzī 
Lesson 9:    Hadith 3 – End-times picture and other topics 
Lesson 10:  Reliability of the sources; analysis and evaluation