Status of Hadith (3)
An individuals statement can indeed be wrong, but that individuals statement, when mentioning what the prophet himself said is authenticated or denounced by scholars, whereas people in general do many things based literally on what they have only heard to be true, such as sacrificing animals on eid thinking it to be farz. A statement can be criticised or upheld, based on study, whereas peoples actions are often based on what they have heard from their parents. Just as Christian children may be told that Jesus is the son of God, or God himself, which we hold to be false, what muslims may be told by their parents to be farz, may actually be sunnah, though it can only be one of the two, which one may judge by consulting the Quran, or Hadith. This is how I see it, though I may be wrong.
When you see many people doing the same religious act in a colony of Lahore, it doesn't carry much value. But if you find that Muslims of Lahore, Cairo, Kuala Lumpur, and Makkah are doing the same religious act with the same understanding of its religious worth, then it is quite a different reality. While the former could be based on an innovation introduced at a later stage, the latter cannot be anything but a religiously authentic act introduced by the prophet.
An individual's information supported by the comments of scholars gives a hallowed status to it which it doesn't deserve. We can never have the comments of all the scholars on the authenticity of a certain report. And have the scholars stopped thinking, researching, and commenting? We'll therefore always rely upon the opinion of some scholars while accepting or rejecting a certain hadith.
If we feel comfortable with an arrangement which claims that prophet, alaihissalaam, said such and such thing because it provides a psychological feeling of satisfaction, I am no one to deprive people from having it. If on the contrary we are claiming that such reports promise to provide authentic religious information which everyone should accept because that's how God designed His religion to be delivered and understood, then I have reservations about the claim.
What I want to clarify is that a hadith is not the statement of the messenger. It is a claim that it is one. That claim can be right or wrong. I think, our elders did the right thing when they used follow the mention of the text of a hadith by making a clarifying statement: Au kama qala (or what he said).