A Response to Doubts raised by Maududi on the Science of Hadith Verification

Maududi expounds his views extensively on hadith and the science of hadith verification in his book Tafhimaat (vol.1, p.359–362 / Islamic Publications Limited, Lahore 2000 CE). Under the heading, ‘Maslak-e-Eitidaal (The Moderate Position)’, he says,

“…Rather our intention is to clarify that those (the Muhadditheen) who have criticized or praised individuals were after all human. They too had human weaknesses. Is it necessary that those whom they have declared as trustworthy were trustworthy beyond doubt and trustworthy in all their narrations… Moreover, to accurately ascertain each individual’s memory, good intention and self-restrain, etc., is further difficult…

It is due to this and similar reasons that the knowledge of isnad, Jarh and Ta’deel cannot be considered correct in its entirety. This material is reliable to the extent that it helps in the research of Prophet’s Sunnah and Aathaar and it may be given due consideration, but it is not of the status that it may be relied upon completely.”

On page, 356-57 he writes,

“The first thing that is examined in judging a narration is the  status  of  the  narrators.  In  this  regard,  each  and  every narrator  is  examined through various manners, whether he is  a  liar,  careless  in  narrating  narrations,  sinner  or  heretic, dubious  or  weak  in  his  memory,  whether  his  condition  is unknown or his condition is known. By all these conditions the  status  of  the  narrators  were  examined  by  the Muhadditheen,  and  they  thus  presented  a  glorious collection  on  Asmaa’  ar-Rijaal  (the  study  of  the  narrators) which  are  beyond  doubt  invaluable.  But  what  amongst  this is  not  prone  to  mistakes?  Firstly,  it  is  difficult  to  accurately know  the  biography  of  the  narrators,  their  memory  and their  other  inner  qualities.  Secondly,  those  people themselves  who  formed  an  opinion  about  them  were  not free  from  human  weaknesses.  Nafs  (desires)  accompany everyone  and there  is  a  strong  possibility  that  personal opinions  interfered  in  forming  an  opinion,  good  or  bad, about individuals…

Clarification

Firstly:  The science  of hadith and isnads (chains of narrators) is one of  the  special  characteristics  of  this  ummah.  No  other nation  paid  attention  as  this  ummah  did  to  the chains  of  narration  through  which  their  books and  their  religion  were  transmitted.  This  is why  the  texts  of  other  nations  were subjected  to  distortions  and  fabrications, and it became impossible for them to know  the  pure  religion  and  to  find  out  about  the  stories  of  the Prophets in a sound and authenticated manner.

The  scholars  of  hadith  have  striven  hard  and  reached  a prominent  position  in  that  field,  as  Allah  has  honoured  them  with efforts  to preserve His religion and the Sunnah of His Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)

Muhammad ibn Haatim ibn al-Muzaffar (rahimahullah) said,

“Allah  has  honoured  this  ummah  and  favoured  it  over others  by  blessing  it  with  the  isnaad.  No  other  nation  has  this blessing,  and  they  do  not  distinguish  between  that  which  was revealed  in  the  Tawrah  and  Injeel  and  was  brought  by  their Prophets, and that  which  was added to their books of narrations transmitted  from  inauthentic  sources.  This  ummah  narrates hadith  from  a  trustworthy  individual  who  was  known  at  his own  time  for  sincerity  and  honesty,  from  another  of  similar character,  and so on until the end of the chain of narrators. Then they  researched  very  carefully  to  find  out  who  had  the  stronger memory  and  was  more  precise,  and  who  spent  more  time  with the  one  from  whom  the  report  was  transmitted,  and  who  spent less  time,  then  they  would  write  down  the  hadith  from  more than  twenty  chains  of  narration,  so  that  they  could  be  sure  that they had eliminated  any  mistake or error from it,  and they  wrote it  exactly  as  it  was  narrated.  This  is  one  of  the  greatest  blessings that  Allah  has  bestowed  upon  this  ummah.  We  ask  Allah  to inspire us to thank Him for this blessing and we ask Him to make us  steadfast  and  to  guide  us  to  that  which  will bring  us  closer  to Him  and  make  us  adhere  to  obedience  to  Him.” [End  quote  from Sharaf Ashaab al-Hadith (40)]

Secondly: They are the best people who strove the most to ensure that their judgement and transmission of hadith was done on the basis of honesty  and sincerity,  and  they  were  the  ones  who strove the most to avoid  errors  and  mistakes  to  the  extent  that  they  set  the  highest example  of  fairness  and  avoiding  favoritism  when  it  comes  to preserving the religion of Allah. 

So we see ‘Ali ibn al-Madini  ruling that his father was da’eef (weak),  and  he  knew  that  this  ruling  regarding  his  father  would guarantee an end to his position as a scholar, but  that  did  not  prevent him from stating his opinion concerning him.

Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi (rahimahullah) said,

“None  of  the  people  of  hadith  should  show  any  favoritism with regard to the science of hadith, whether it is to his father or his  son.  ‘Ali  ibn  ‘Abd-Allaah  al-Madini,  who  was  a  prominent scholar  of  hadith  in  his  time,  never  narrated  even  a  letter  to suggest  that  his  father  was  strong  in  hadith,  rather  what  was narrated from him was the opposite of that.” [End  quote  from  Sharaf  Ashaab  al-Hadith  (41)]

Ibn Hibbaan said in al-Majrooheen (2/15),

“Ali  ibn  al-Madini  was  asked  about  his  father  and  he  said, ‘Ask  someone  else.  They  said,  ‘We  asked  you.  He paused  then  he  raised  his  head  and said,  This has  to  do with religion;  my  father  is  da’eef (weak).” 

Yahya  ibn  Ma’een (rahimahullah) spoke about a friend of his whom  he  loved,  and  al-Husayn ibn Hibbaan narrated that he said of Muhammad ibn Saleem al-Qaadi,

“By Allah, he is our friend, and he is dear to us, but there is no way  to  praise  him  and  I  do  not  recommend  anyone  to  narrate from him or encourage others to do so.” and he said, “By Allaah, he heard  a  great  deal  and  he is  well  known, but he  does not limit himself  to  what  he  heard,  rather  he  includes  things  that  he  did not  hear.”  I  said  to  him,  “Should  he  be  narrated  from?”  He  said, “No.”                                   [See, Tareekh Baghdaad (5/325)]

Jareer ibn ‘Abd al-Hameed said concerning his brother Anas, “He should not be narrated from. He tells lies when he talks to people.”           [Al-Jarh wal-Ta’deel (2/289)]

Imam  al-Bukhari (rahimahullah) narrated  a  great  deal  in  his  Sahih  from  his Shaykh,  Muhammad  ibn  Yahya  al-Dhuhali  in  spite  of  the  harm  that he  was  subjected  to  as  a  result  of  a  misunderstanding  between  him and the Shaykh who forsook him. But that enmity did not prevent him from accepting and narrating his hadith.

They  would  accept  hadith  from  those  who  held  different opinions and beliefs to their own – if it was proven that (the narrator) was  honest  and  sincere.  The  fact  that  a  narrator  was  a  follower  of bid’ah did not prevent them from judging him on the basis of fairness, because  they  paid  heed  to  the  Words  of  Allah,  “O  you  who  believe! Stand  out  firmly  for  Allaah  as  just  witnesses;  and  let  not  the  enmity and  hatred  of  others  make  you avoid justice.  Be  just,  that  is  nearer  to piety,  and  fear  Allah. Verily,  Allaah  is Well  Acquainted with  what  you do.” [Surah al-Maidah 5:8]

Yahya ibn Ma’een (rahimahullah) was asked about Sa’eed ibn Khuthaym and he said,

“He  is  a  Kufi  and  there  is  nothing  wrong  with  him;  he  is trustworthy.”
It was said to Yahya, “Is he Shi’i?”
He said, “A trustworthy Shi’i, a trustworthy Qadari.” [Tahdheeb  al-Kamaal  (10/414)]

Abbaad  ibn  Ya’qoob  al-Rawaajini  al-Kufi  was  a  fanatical  Shi’i,  but despite that Ibn Khuzaymah said in his Sahih (2/376), “The  one  who  is trustworthy  in  his  narration  but  dubious  in  his religious commitment, ‘Abbaad ibn Ya’qoob, told us… ”

Thirdly:  Just  as  they  understood  the  seriousness  of  tarnishing people’s  honour  unlawfully,  they  also  understood  the  seriousness  of speaking  badly  about  any  of  the  narrators,  because  it  could  affect  the issue of accepting or rejecting the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) from  them.  Muhammad  ibn  Sireen (rahimahullah)  said,  “This  knowledge  is  the (foundation  of)  religion,  so  watch  from  whom  you  learn  your religion.”  [Narrated by Muslim in the Introduction to his Sahih]

Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eid said,

“The  honour  of  the  Muslims  is  a  pit  of  Hellfire.  Two  groups are  standing  at  the  edge  of  this  pit;  the  muhadditheen  and  the judges.”         [See: Tadreeb al-Raawi (2/369)]

Such great  piety  and  awareness  must  inevitably have  a  great  effect  of fairness  and  seeking  to  be  right  when  judging  narrators.  This  is  what was  stipulated  by  the  scholars  for  everyone  who  wants  to  examine narrators and pass judgement concerning them.

Al-Dhahabi said in al-Mooqizah (82),

“Judging narrators requires a great deal of piety and freedom from  whims  and  desires  and  bias,  along  with  complete experience in the science of hadeeth and the faults and narrators thereof.” 

Al-Mu’allimi (rahimahullah) said in al-Tankeel (1/54),

“The  imams  of  hadith  are  knowledgeable  and  careful, andthey  strive  to  avoid  mistakes,  but  they  differ  with  regard  to that.”  

Fourthly:  Yes,  none  of  them  is  infallible  and  it  is  possible  that  there may be mistakes in what some of them say. It is also possible that the cause  of  some  of  these  mistakes  may  be  love  or  hate  for  someone. Some  things  of  that  nature  did  indeed  happen,  for  no  human  being can  be  entirely  free  of  that.  But  that  should  not  be  a  reason  for doubting all of their judgements, and this is for the following reasons:

1  – Because these are a few mistakes when compared with the great  legacy  that  the  leading  scholars  of  hadith  and al-jarh  wa’l-ta’deel  have  left  behind,  the  vast  majority  of which  is  based  on  honesty  and  fairness,  so  it  is  unfair  to overlook that because of a few mistakes.

2  –  Because  the  scholars  highlighted  these  mistakes  and pointed them out in their comments. Whatever the motive was,  whether  it  was  enmity,  envy  or  a  difference  of madhhab, they would reject unfair judgements and would issue fair judgements concerning a specific narrator.

Hence none of the scholars accepted the view of Imam Malik (rahmatullah alayh) concerning  Muhammad  ibn  Ishaaq,  the  author  of  al-Maghaazi,  that he  was one of the  fabricators,  when  they  realized  that  this  statement was  based  on  resentment  and  personal  reasons;  rather  they  judged him  as  “hasan  al-hadith”  (i.e.,  a  good  narrator)  and  the  leading scholars  of  hadith  used  his  reports  as  evidence.  And  they  did  not accept the view of al-Nasaa’i concerning Ahmad ibn Salih al-Masri, or the  view  of  Rabi’ah  concerning  Abu’l-Zinnaad  ‘Abd-Allaah  ibn Dhakwaan. [See, al-Raf’ wa’l-Takmeel (409-432)].

Abu Hatim al-Raazi (rahimahullah) said,

“There has never been in any nation since Allah created Adam (alayhissalaam), safekeepers  who preserve the  legacy of the Messengers except in this  ummah.  A  man  said  to  him,  “O  Abu  Hatim,  perhaps  there were  narrations  which  have  no  basis  and  are  not  sound?”  He said,    “Their scholars will recognize the sound from the unsound. So  they  preserved  this  science  (of  hadeeth)  so  that  the  people who  came  after  them  were  able  to  distinguish  between  reports and  preserve  them.”  Then  he  said.  “May  Allah  have  mercy  on Abu Zur’ah; by Allah he strove very hard to preserve the legacy of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).”        [Sharaf Ashaab al-Hadith (43)]

You should understand that Allah has  preserved  this religion  by  His  grace  and  blessing  and  that  the Sunnah  has  been  preserved  as  Allah guaranteed  to  preserve  His  religion.  So  it  is not  possible  for  the  scholars  to unanimously agree to authenticate  a weak narrator  or  to  criticize  or  condemn  a sound narrator. Rather you will inevitably find  that  truthfulness  and  fairness  are very  apparent  in  the  views  of  the  majority of scholars and in most issues of religion.

Imam  al-Dhahabi  (rahimahullah)  said  in  al-Mooqizah (84),

“The  same  Imam  may  be  more  generous  or  more kind  with  regard  to  a  report  that  is  in  accordance  with  his madhhab  or  the  madhhab  of  his  Shaykh  than  with  regard  to other  reports  that  say  the  opposite.  But  it  is  only  the  Prophets who are infallible.  But this religion  is  supported and protected by Allah, may He be  exalted,  and  its  scholars  will  never  agree  on  misguidance, either deliberately or by mistake. So no two scholars will agree on classing  a  weak  narrator  as  sound,  or  a  sound  narrator  as  weak. Rather  their  differences  will  be  with  regard  to  how  strong  or weak a narrator is.  The  one  who passes such judgements speaks on  the  basis  of  his  own  effort,  strength  and  knowledge.  If  it  so happens that  he  makes a  mistake in  judging,  then  he will have  a single reward. And Allah is the source of strength.” 

Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) said in al-Baa’ith al-Hatheeth (1/11),

“As  for  the  words  of  these  imams  who  took  on  this  task  (of examining  hadith),  they  should  be  accepted  without questioning  or  mentioning  the  reason  because  of  their knowledge  of  it  and  their  deep  understanding  of  this  field  and because  of  their  being  known  to  be  fair,  religiously  committed, experienced  and  sincere,  especially  if  they  agree  unanimously that a narrator is weak, or matrook (to be ignored) or a liar and so on.  The  skilled  muhaddith  will  not hesitate  to  agree  with  them  when they  take  a  decision  of  that  nature because  of  their  honesty, trustworthiness  and  sincerity.  Hence  al-Shafi’i (rahimahullah) said  in  many  instances  when commenting  on  Ahadith,  “None  of  the scholars would regard this hadith as sound,” so he would reject it and not quote it as evidence on that basis.” 

Finally, one should be content with the blessing that Allah has bestowed  upon  this  ummah  by  means  of  this  noble  branch  of knowledge, and do not get carried away with doubts about the sahih ahadith.  Reason  dictates  that  we  should  not  reject  the  efforts  of thousands of sincere scholars throughout the centuries on the basis of a  few  mistakes  here  and  there.  To  appreciate  the  science  of  Hadith verification,  one  must  strive  to  read  the  numerous  books  on  the subject,  and  one  cannot  help  but  be  astonished  by  the  huge  efforts that  were  put  into  verifying  a  single  hadith

Even  the  Orientalist Margoliouth said, “The Muslims may boast about their science of hadith.”

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