Criticism of al-Albani’s Hadith Grading Method

By Muhaddith Sulayman ‘Alwan

The brother says that a group of people say that the authenticating of al-AlbanI isn’t accurate in comparison to the early scholars. And this is True, whether he authenticated the Hadiths or weakened the Hadiths, because the Usul that he follows in his authenticating and weakening is upon the Usul of the Later scholars, upon the Usul of ibn al-Salah, upon the Usul of al-Hafidh al-Iraqi, upon the Usul of ibn Hajr, he doesn’t follow in his Usui, the Usul of Yahya ibn Sa’d al Qattan, the Usul of ibn Mahdi, the Usul of Imam Ahmad, the Usul of al-Bukhari, Usul of Muslim, or upon the Usul of the early scholars, so he goes along the Usul of the later scholars, not the Usul of the Early scholars, and if those were the means that he goes along, it is considered a weak means, so usually the end result would be inconsiderable. So consequently, he has many things that he authenticates which goes against the Methodology of the early scholars, or he weakens that which has a clear difference to the Methodology of the early scholars, because the differences between the early & the later scholars are many, I’ll mention the most important of those differences to clarify the intent and meaning.

So from among that, al-Tadlees [covering up a break in the chain], whenever al-Tadlees is proven in the Hadlth, then it’s a ‘ila (hidden defect), and there’s no dispute in this, whereas the later scholars consider the “an ‘ana” [i.e. narrates by using the term “an” (from)] of the person described with Tadlees as “Tadlees”, and this hasn’t been stated by any of the early scholars, and al-Albani follows this principle, of the Usul of the later scholars, not the Usul of the early scholars. So he says about the hadith that it has ‘an ‘ana of al-Hassan, it has ‘an ‘ana of Qatadah, there is ‘an ‘ana of Abi Ishaq al-Sabi’i, there is ‘an ‘ana of al-A’mash, there is ‘an ‘ana of ibn Jurayj, there is ‘an ‘ana of ibn al-Zubayr and he defects the Hadiths in this way, he has weakened Hadiths in Muslim upon this way, and none of the early scholars were upon this Manhaj, and it’s not known from any of the Imams that they defected a Hadith by ‘an ‘ana of a Mudallis or the person described with Tadlees, rather the early scholars say “Dalas”, and they do not say “an ‘an”, so if it’s proven that he “Dalas” [cheated], we will defect the Hadith because this is a disconnection, and if he says ‘an ‘an and he didn’t “Dalis”, merely a ‘an ‘ana, this doesn’t affec t[the Hadlth], and this is what the early scholars are upon, and this is from the enormous differences between the early and the later scholars.

The second matter: Ziyadat ul-Thiqah [The addition of a trustworthy narrator].

The Madhab of the Fuqaha’ and Mutakalimeen is that the addition of a trustworthy narrator is accepted in all cases, and many of the later scholars have followed this, so ibn Hajr says in al-Nukhba “and the addition of its narrator is accepted, as long as it doesn’t go against that whom is more authentic” and this is not the Manhaj of the [early] Imams, and he has stipulated the Manhaj of the Early scholars in “Kitab al-Nukat ‘ala kitab ibn al-Salah”, and in that book, he has overlooked/
neglected in determining the Usul of the early Imams in this matter, so some of the later scholars or a group of later scholars as it’s the statement of the Fuqaha’ that the addition of a trustworthy narrator is accepted and this is well-known in the authenticating of the later scholars, “This is an addition of a trustworthy narrator, therefore it’s accepted”. The early scholars do not give the addition an absolute/general ruling, so at times they would accept the addition and sometimes they would reject the addition, and they do not give an absolute/
general ruling.

The third matter: Raising weak Hadiths to Hassan by Shawahid (finding supporting narrations), the early scholars do not expand in that, and among the later scholars, there is severe expansion, that most of their authentications & Hassan grading is when the Hadlth comes from different chains. And that is why the authentications by the later scholars have exceeded 50,000 Hadiths, and this is an exaggeration in the authenticating of Hadiths, and many of that is Munkar, it has no basis to it, the issue is not a Hadith or 2 Hadiths, when the Hadiths reach 5,000 hadiths, 4000 are all Munkar. The early scholars did not call a Hadith “Hassan” by Shawahid except by well known conditions and guidelines as a methodology among them, so from that, they don’t call a Hadith Hassan by Shawahid in the Usul [can’t be the main hadith which Fiqh and rulings are derived from the hadlth] and they do not accept it. And from that, is that they don’t call a Hadith Hassan by Shawahid if it goes against an authentic Hadlth. And from that, is that they don’t call a Hadith Hassan by Shawahid if there’s a liar or a person accused of fabricating or a fault or a Nakarah (discrepancy) in the Isnad(chain).

The fourth matter: Al-Tafarrud (singular narrations), the early scholars would consider the issue of Tafarrud a great concern, and they would sometimes not accept the Hadith of the Mutaffarid even if he was Trustworthy (Thiqah), and usually as a methodology that they had, they would reject the Hadith of the Saduq in the Usul, and this isn’t taken into consideration by the later scholars, and they do not differentiate between what is in the Usul [the main hadith which Fiqh and rulings are derived from the hadith & chapter] and what is in other than the Usul, and by the end result of the inability to apply this methodology, they authenticate many Munkar Hadlth. Because the Hadlth of the Saduq or the Hadith of a Thiqah who doesn’t narrate a lot of Hadlths, and isn’t known by many singular narrations, if he makes Tafarrud in an Asl, then this is a place of dispute, so from that, the hadith that was narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawud in his Sunan from the chain of Muhammad ibn ishaq from Abi ‘Ubaydah ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Zam’ah from his father from his mother from Umm Salamah that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“On this day you have been allowed to take off ihram when you have thrown the stones at the jamrahs, that is, everything prohibited during the state of ihram is lawful except intercourse with a woman. If the evening comes before you go round this House (the Ka’bah) you will remain in the sacred state (i.e. ihram), just like the state in which you were before you threw stones at the jamrahs”

And this report is Munkar, it’s not possible to accept the Tafarrud of ibn ishaq in it, and even if the Tafarrud of ibn Ishaq was accepted, it’s not possible to accept the Tafarrud of Abi ‘Ubaydah, and this is a followed principle among the early scholars, that in such a situation, the Tafarrud of the Saduq is not accepted who is not known with precision/accuracy and itqan (firmness/minimal errors) and a person who narrates many Ahadith, and this is merely an example, for the examples are many. The later scholars do not look except at what seems to be apparent of the chain and what ibn Hajr said in al-Taqreeb “Thiqah” or “Saduq” and in the end he says “its chain is authentic”.

And this is the fifth matter; that the later scholars go by the apparent look of the chains, they make hadith authentic based upon this, as for the early scholars, then no. They look at the chain and look at the matn (text), and when they look into the Isnad (chain), they look at several aspects:

The first aspect: The trustworthiness of the narrators.

The second aspect: Al-Sama’ at [Whether the narrators have met], they stress on the Sama’at a lot.

The third aspect: Al-Tafarrud [the narrator is alone in narrating a hadith], they stress on the chain and the Tafarrud.

The fourth aspect: Al-Mukhalafah [The differences between the narrators], they look at this very deeply.

The fifth aspect: al-Ikhtilaf [inconsistencies in who he’s narrating from], they look into it very deeply, sometimes they would rule upon it with Idtirab (shakiness).

The early scholars would consider this a very great concern; they wouldn’t be heedless to any of these aspects.

The sixth matter: The Majhul (unknown) Hadith, the later scholars weaken the Hadith of Majhul al-‘Ayn, or before that, they settled upon categorising Majhul into two types, Majhul Hal [2 people have narrated from him] and Majhul ‘Ayn [1 person has narrated from him].

So they weaken the Hadith of Majhul al-‘Ayn and some of them weaken the Hadith of Majhul al-Hal, and some of them authenticate it, but as for the early scholars, then no. They mention conditions for a man whenever he would be considered Majhul and whenever he wouldn’t be considered Majhul. So if he narrates from a narrator who’s trustworthy many times, who is not known to narrate from the weak narrators, nor from the Unknown, then this would cause his Jahalah [unknownness] to be raised by the one who he narrated from. And they stipulate that his narrator must be consistent and not make Tafarrud in an Asl [Main Hadith of the chapter/Original Version], and that he doesn’t go against the trustworthy narrators, and this isn’t taken into consideration among the later scholars. And it’s narrated from the early scholars that if a narrator narrates from a group of trustworthy narrators, his Jahalah [unknownness] would be raised from him, and by this, they make the issue of Tafarrud as an issue of Mukhalafah.

So these are the differences or some of differences between the Early & the Later scholars, and by applying these principles, your Usul [Foundations] would become upright, and if the Foundation is upright, the branches would follow, and the end result would be stable/good, and by the deficiency of applying these principles, you will destabilize the Usul, and if you’ve destabilized the Usul, shakiness would be found in the branches, giving the poor end result.

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