I know this must be a basic question so please forgive my ignorance, but I'm unfamiliar with the textual difference/similarities among the texts. I was able to discern that Khabar means "historical reports" -- but I couldn't tell if this is a subset of Hadith and how the other texts (Sira, Akbar, & Sunnah) relate to/branch off it -- if at all.

Can someone please clarify this for me, please? I think a diagram would help me to visualize their various roles, but I was unable to locate one. I couldn't even find a for "khabar" on google really.

  • This isn't a basic question at all. Because these are technical terms which laymen can't differentiate as most people consider all kinds of narrations as hadith. Maybe they make a difference between sira and hadith as a whole but the transition is mostly smooth.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 8:54

2 Answers 2


I've consulted two fatwas on the difference between hadith الحديث (sunnah السُّنة), athar الأثر and khabar الخبر.

First a translation of the literal meaning of each term:

  • Al-Hadith is a narration, statement or idle tale ...
  • As-Sunnah is the route, way, norm practice, line of conduct ... (no matter whether it is a good path or wrong)
  • Al-Athar is a tradition, a trace, a mark or imprint ...
  • Al-Khabar is literally meaning news, information or announcement ...

Now in the context of hadith scholars there's a smooth transition between the terms and it seems a difference or no real consensus about the meaning of some terms:

  • Al-Hadith: is anything which is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad () be it a statement, an act or attribution.
  • As-Sunnah: is practically as the hadith the same however it is also defined as anything which is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad () be it a saying (statement), an act or action, an affirmation, or an attribution.
  • Al-Athar: is usually anything which is attributed to a sahabi (companion of the Prophet) or tabi'i (a person who has met a sahabi one could say the 2nd generation of Muslims), but can also refer to a prophetic tradition if one says in al-Athar it was narrated from the Prophet () ..., some scholars say it is what is attributed to Muhammad () and his companions, while others say it's what is attributed to the companions only!
  • Al-Khabar: some say if it refers to a hadith then it is a hadith, it can also refer to what is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad () and his companions and therefore it would be more general than hadith. So it is used as a synonym of hadith and some also say it is a statement attributed to Muhammad and others. The last statement is the link between hadith and sira as people who deal with hadith are called Muhaditheen while people who dealt or deal with biographies and history are or were called Ikhabry.

Sources islamweb #162959 and alukhah.


It depends on the author, and his purpose. Those who look for direction from the conduct of the prophet to draw ByLaws (Faqeeh)consider only established practice of the prophet as Sunnah. Imam Malik had 300-500 Ahadith, news, confirmed actions in his Muwatta. On the other hand, some people consider every news about the prophet as Hadith. At various times, there have been up to 1.4 million Ahadith. Majority are non-verifiable.

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