Category Archives: Principles of Hadith

The Narrators of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah and the Narrators of the Shia

Our Deen is based on the Qur’aan Majeed and Mubaarak Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). If one examines the Qur’aan Majeed and Mubaarak Sunnah, he will find that both are transmitted to the ummah via the illustrious Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), those regarding whom Allah Ta’ala had granted the glad tidings of Jannah in this very world. Allah Ta’ala declares in the Qur’aan Majeed:

رَضِیَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوْا عَنْهُ

Allah Ta’ala is pleased with them and they are pleased with Allah Ta’ala.

In the Mubaarak Ahaadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) bore testimony to the fact that his Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) are the greatest of this ummah. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “My Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) are like guiding stars for my ummah. Whichever of them you follow, you will be rightly guided.” (Muntakhab Musnad Abd ibnu Humaid #781)

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had cursed all those who revile his Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) saying, “May the curse of Allah Ta’ala be on such people who are the worst of the creation.” (Sunan Tirmizi #3866)

The crux of the matter is that the Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) – the greatest of this ummah – are the narrators of the Qur’aan Majeed and Hadith and their integrity and reliability is impeccable.

On the contrary, when we study the religion of the Shia, we find that their religion is based on the statements of their Imaams. They regard the statements of their Imaams to be higher than the statements of the Ambiya (alaihimus Salaam).

Khumaini, an Iranian shia scholar, writes regarding the rank of their Imaams:

وإن من ضروريات مذهبنا أن لأئمتنا مقاما لا يبلغه لا ملك مقرب ولا نبي مرسل

“Among the essential and fundamental beliefs of our religion (Shia) is the belief that our Innocent Imaams hold the station which could not be reached by any favoured Angel, Prophet or Messenger” (Alhukumatul islaamiyyah Pg. 52)

We have witnessed that the Sahaabah (radhiyallau ‘anhum) – the narrators of the Qur’aan and Hadith – are the greatest of the Ummah, as testified to by Allah Ta’ala and Rasulullah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam). Let us now examine the narrators of the Shia religion, those who narrate from their Imaams.

Among the main books of the Shia is the book “Usool-ul-Kaafi”. This book holds an extremely high position among them similar to the position of Saheeh Bukhaari among the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah. When one has to examine the narrations found in this kitaab (as well as other Shia books), he will find that a great portion is narrated on the authority of a person named Zuraarah.

Zuraarah reports from personalities whom the Shiah consider to be among their twelve Imaams viz. Imaam Muhammad Baaqir (rahimahullah) and Imaam Ja‘far Saadiq (rahimahullah).

When Imaam Ja‘far Saadiq (rahimahullah) was asked regarding the narrator Zuraarah who narrates from him, he said,

ما أحدث أحد في الإسلام ما أحدث زرارة من البدع عليه لعنة الله

“No person has innovated in Islam the innovations which Zuraarah has innovated. May the curse of Allah Ta’ala be upon him” (Rijal al Kashshi pg. 149)

On another occasion, Imaam Ja‘far Saadiq (rahimahullah) said regarding Zuraarah:

زرارة شر من اليهود والنصارى، ومن قال: إنّ مع الله ثالث ثلاثة

Zuraraah is worse than the Jews, the Christians, and those who say that Allah is but one of the trinity. (Rijal al Kashshi pg. 160)

Despite this being the pathetic condition of the Shia narrator, Zuraarah, who formed the basis of a great portion of the Shia religion, and despite their Imaams declaring him a fabricator and liar, they still latch onto his narrations in their religion.

The Importance of Hadith Rijal

[By Bilal Mohammed]

The science of grading chains (rijal) is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is one of the greatest achievements of Islamic scholarship. Islam was the first religion to critically evaluate the biographies of narrators and transmitters of religious knowledge. It did so with rigorous detail — citing birth and death dates, character flaws, and varying opinions of scholars. The Talmud cited rabbinical discourses, but without chains of narrators, and with a subjective hermeneutical dependence on the views of Hillel.

With this in mind, we should note that in the last century especially, there has been a radical shift in how rijal is used. The system was designed to be cautious, but not hyper-skeptical. One of the hallmarks of modernity is to be hyper-skeptical about all religious and traditional concepts. The Quranists went to the extreme of doubting the historicity of the hadith corpus altogether based on their (quasi-naturalist) skepticism. Some like Abu Layth (Nahiem Ajmal) use rijal to even cast doubt in entire books and traditional positions.

What the radical rijalists have done is made Ibn Hajar or Najashi the crux, nucleus, and criterion of the Islamic tradition: whatever is strengthened through their methods is haq, and whatever is weakened through their methods is batil. It is arguable that this was not even the intention of Ibn Hajar et al: he makes it very clear in his introduction that rijal is only necessary for ‘aqa’id and aHkam, but that weak hadiths are still accepted in the study of history, tafsir, and in muwa’ith (da’wa, preaching, and bringing up the faith — ironically — of the Muslims). Ibn Taymiyya et al have even used “weak hadiths” in some of their aHkam (like the issue of female imamah).

The modernist usage of rijal has created a Protestantization of Islam, where much of the Islamic tradition was affectively destroyed, including most of the asbab an-nuzul genre. If you open modern prints of Ibn Kathir’s tafsir, you’ll see most of it missing, because the editors thought it was mostly “weak.” If you open up a modern copy of Tirmidhi, you’ll find the gradings of “Darussalam”, which weaken many of the traditions that he himself strengthened.

We should acknowledge that the system has its inherent flaws and circular reasoning. The rijal scholars give mostly posthumous, melodramatic evaluations that cast one group of narrators as always trustworthy / always honest (even if they were involved in some heinous acts), and another group of narrators as always unreliable. This scheme itself is unrealistic, as most fallible human beings fall somewhere in the middle; or they enter phases of guidance and misguidance, which is selectively highlighted or ignored.

Next, there’s the anomaly that rijal gradings are sometimes themselves not based on isnads or sihha, and even if they are, that sihha would be paradoxical. So we are asked to be certain in a system that is itself based in uncertainty.

Then there’s the issue of lost books, including many lost rijal books. Their rediscovery would change the entire evaluation system and make our current evaluations moot. The same goes for the discovery of manuscripts of existing books, as there are always discrepancies between manuscripts. Some books like Ibn Ghada’iri are lost for centuries and rediscovered, how can we guarantee that there hasn’t been tampering?

Furthermore, who is to say that Dhahabi’s rijal views should override Tirmidhi’s, or Najashi’s should override Kulayni’s? It’s natural that scholars will disagree when dealing with thousands of narrators. But sometimes the later views are subjectively preferred over the earlier views. Sometimes the earlier hermeneutics, which are closer to the period we are investigating, are actually more lenient — such as accepting the tadlees of Sa’eed b. Musayyib in the Sunni tradition. Strong narrators often relied on and narrated from weak narrators, implying that they also believed in what they were narrating.
If you read Dr. Jonathan Brown’s paper on matn-criticism, it is clear that at least some of the evaluations in rijal are not based on the character of narrators, but on the content of their hadiths. In other words, the narrators that confirmed the dominant views may have been strengthened over narrators that espoused “deviant” views.

It is noteworthy that no historian worth his salt takes rijal seriously enough to base historical events entirely on it. Much of the biographical information we have is not transmitted by isnad.

Even the rijal vocabulary is not as dramatic as people make it out to be. Hasan, dha’if, and even mawdu’ do not mean “fabricated”. Hasan is one of the best words in the Arabic language, but we treat it like it’s not enough for our stingy attention.

This is a man-made system. It is not an exact science like math, but more of a soft science or art. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we have to acknowledge that it was not revealed to us, yet it is treated better than revelation. It encourages a su’ ath-thann outlook on our tradition, where our immediate reaction to all hadith is suspicion, and where we assume that the early Muslim community was ridden with liars and fabricators.
This is not a case for blind naïveté. Religion is the pursuit of truth, and the rijal sciences were established to get us to that end. But in the same way that a wrench can’t be used to fix an essay, an incorrect usage of rijal will just create doubt and destruction. I have found over the last few years that rijal can be useful in dealing with contradictions in fiqh, but I also found that a flexible thinker can usually reconcile hadiths that may seem to conflict on the apparent.

This is also not a case for taking every single tradition ever written to their most literal conclusions. Matn criticism (which is more nuanced and scholarly) should be encouraged, so long that it is based in sound presuppositions. Till now so much of our fiqh is ‘uthr-oriented rather than kashf-oriented. We should also have holistic views of each genre of hadith — tawatur bil ma’na, identifying hadiths that are shadh by matn and not just isnad. The ethos of Islam is submission and husn al-thann of the Muslims.

Demolishing the Stupid Claim of “Saheeh Hadeeth” by the Ahle Hadees / Salafi Group

By Maulana Abu Huzaifa bin Adam

The foolish claims and statements made by the “Ahle Hadees” sect are many, but in this article we shall briefly refute just one.

Since the time of al-Albaani and his botched, miserably failed attempt at re-grading the Sihaah Sittah and other Kutub of Hadeeth, an attempt in which he ended up contradicting himself several times in the grading of just a single Hadeeth, sometimes declaring it to be Saheeh, other times declaring it to be Hasan, other times declaring it to be Dha`eef, Dha`eef Jiddan, etc., his ventures in the field of Hadeeth and Jarh wat-Ta`deel and the books written by him in those subjects, which in subsequent years were made available online, on websites, available for download as programs, and later on available as apps for mobile, led to the rise of Juhhaal in contemporary times who reject Ahaadeeth on the basis that, “It’s not in Saheeh Bukhaari”, or “It’s not a Saheeh Hadeeth” (and by that they mean it was not graded as Saheeh by al-Albaani, even if illustrious Muhaddithoon of the past had graded it to be Saheeh), and in this manner they reject great Kutub of Deen with contempt, averring: “It’s filled with Dha`eef Hadeeths”. Most of these people are not even aware of the meaning of those terms and have not even heard of Mustalahul Hadeeth or Jarh wat-Ta`deel. They are happy to blindly follow (make Taqleed of) al-Albaani whilst hypocritically condemning those who follow the Four Madhaahib of Haqq.

In this brief article, what we would like to clarify is: “Are all Dha`eef Ahaadeeth to be rejected? Are Dha`eef Ahaadeeth to be treated as Mawdhoo` (fabrications)? When can Dha`eef Ahaadeeth be accepted and quoted?”

We shall therefore be presenting some statements from the illustrious `Ulamaa of the past on this topic so that the readers may understand what the correct stance has been for over a thousand years.

Imaam `Ali al-Halabi said in Insaan-ul-`Uyoon fee Seeratil Ameenil Ma’moon: “It is not hidden that the (books) of biographies (history) encompasses that which is Saheeh, that which is Saqeem, that which is Dha`eef, that which is Mursal, that which is Munqati` and that which is Mu`dhal, but not that which is Mawdhoo` (fabricated). Imaam Ahmad and others from the A’immah had said: ‘When we narrate concerning Halaal and Haraam, we are strict (severe), but when we narrate concerning Fadhaa’il (virtues) and such matters, we are lenient.”

This statement is also narrated by al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi in al-Kifaayah.

Mulla `Ali al-Qaari رحمة الله عليه writes in al-Hazzhul Awfar fil Hajjil Akbar, after mentioning the Hadeeth: “The most virtuous of days is the Day of `Arafah. When it falls on the Day of Jumu`ah, then it is better than 70 Hajj.” (After quoting this, he says) “It is reported by Razeen. As for what the Muhadditheen have mentioned regarding the Isnaad of this Hadeeth, that it is Dha`eef, then, even if it is so, it does not harm the objective, because a Dha`eef Hadeeth is accepted when it comes to Fadhaa’il-ul-A`maal (the virtues of deeds), and this is so according to the majority of the `Ulamaa.

He also writes in “al-Mawdhoo`aat“, after mentioning the Hadeeth: “Masah (wiping) of the neck is a protection from shackles (i.e. from being shackled on the Day of Qiyaamah).” (He says) “A Dha`eef (Hadeeth) is acted upon when it comes to Fadhaa’il-ul-A`maal (virtues of deeds), and this is according to Ittifaaq (consensus). For this reason, our A’immah (of the Hanafi Madh-hab) have said that Masah of the neck is Mustahabb or Sunnah.”

Imaam as-Suyooti writes in at-Ta`zheem wal-Minnah fee Anna Abawayi Rasoolillaahi صلى الله عليه وسلم fil-Jannah: “I gave the Fatwaa that the Hadeeth mentioning that Allaah brought back to life the mother of (Rasoolullaah صلىالله عليه وسلم) is not Mawdhoo` despite what a group among the Huffaaz (of Hadeeth) had claimed; rather, it is from the category of Dha`eef, and there is permission to narrate (Dha`eef Ahaadeeth) when it comes to Fadhaa’il (virtues).”

Speaking on this same issue of the Hadeeth that mentions that the parents of Rasoolullaah صلى الله عليه وسلم were brought back to life and accepted Islaam, Imaam as-Suyooti رحمة الله عليه writes in al-Maqaamatus Sundusiyyah fin Nisbatish Shareefatil Mustafiyyah: “The people of `Ilm and Hadeeth, both in the times of old and now, they narrate this report and place it amongst the specialities and Mu`jizaat (of Rasoolullaah صلى الله عليه وسلم), and they count it as being from his Manaaqib (virtues) and honours, and they held that the Dhu`f (weakness) present in the Isnaad (of this Hadeeth) is forgiven, and that it is accepted to narrate that which is not Saheeh when it comes to Fadhaa’il and Manaaqib.”

Haafiz al-`Iraaqi رحمة الله عليه writes in Sharh Alfiyyatil Hadeeth: “As for those narrations which are not Mawdhoo` (i.e. those that are Dha`eef), then they (the `Ulamaa) have permitted leniency in its Isnaad and also narrating it without explaining its Dhu`f (weakness), when it is not with regards to issues of Ahkaam (rulings) or `Aqaa’id (beliefs), but rather in issues of encouraging people (to do good), warning them, admonishing them, stories, virtues of deeds, etc. As for when it is with regards to Ahkaam of the Sharee`ah such as Halaal and Haraam, or with regards to `Aqaa’id such as the Sifaat of Allaah Ta`aalaa, etc., then they did not permit leniency in that. From the `Ulamaa who explicitly mentioned this are `Abdur Rahmaan ibn Mahdi, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, `Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak and others.”

Imaam an-Nawawi writes in at-Taqreeb: “According to the people of Hadeeth (i.e. the Muhadditheen) it is permissible to have leniency with regards to the Asaaneed that are weak and to report that which is not Mawdhoo` (fabricated), and acting upon it without explaining its Dhu`f (weakness) when it is not (Ahaadeeth) pertaining to the Sifaat of Allaah or Ahkaam.”

Imaam al-Kamaal ibn al-Humaam رحمة الله عليه writes in Kitaab-ul-Janaa’iz in Fat’hul Qadeer: “Istihbaab (something being Mustahabb) is also established from that which is Dha`eef, but not from that which is Mawdhoo` (fabricated).”

Imaam an-Nawawi رحمة الله عليه writes in al-Adhkaar: “The Muhadditheen and the Fuqhaa have stated that it is permissible – in fact, Mustahabb – to make `amal (act) upon a Dha`eef Hadeeth when it comes to issues of Fadhaa’il (virtues), exhortations, warnings, as long as it is not Mawdhoo` (fabricated). As for when it comes to Ahkaam such as Halaal and Haraam, business, marriage, divorce, etc., then in such cases one does not act except upon a Hadeeth that is Saheeh or Hasan, unless it is out of precaution in one of those issues (i.e. if there is a Dha`eef Hadeeth urging caution regarding something, so one abstains as a precautionary measure).”

Imaam ibn Hajar al-Makki al-Haytami رحمة الله عليه writes in al-Fat’hul Mubeen: “The `Ulamaa have Ittifaaq (consensus) regarding the permissibility of acting upon Dha`eef Ahaadeeth when it comes to Fadhaa’il-ul-A`maal (the virtues of deeds), because if the Hadeeth is Saheeh in and of itself, then it has been given its right by us acting upon it, and if it is not (Saheeh) then too in practicing upon it no harm has ensued such as Halaalizing something which is Haraam or prohibiting something that is Halaal, nor the loss of any person’s Haqq.”

It is mentioned in al-Qowlul Badee` and elsewhere that the Madh-hab of Imaam Abu Haneefah رحمة الله عليه is that a Dha`eef Hadeeth is better than Ra’i (opinion) and Qiyaas (analogy), when a (Saheeh) Hadeeth is not found regarding that particular issue.

Imaam ibn Mahdi رحمة الله عليه said, as is narrated from him by Imaam al-Bayhaqi رحمة الله عليه in al-Madkhal: “When we narrate from Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم regarding Halaal and Haraam and the Ahkaam, then we are severe with regards to the Asaaneed (chains of narrations) and in criticising the Rijaal (narrators), but when we narrate regarding virtues, reward and punishment, then we are lenient regarding the Asaaneed and the Rijaal (narrators).”

The Muhaddithoon have also stated that when the Ummah has accepted a particular Dha`eef Hadeeth and acted upon it all the years (meaning, all the years the Fuqahaa had accepted a particular Hadeeth and acted upon it), then we will act upon that Hadeeth as though it is Saheeh (i.e. the fact that the Fuqahaa had accepted it all the years raises it to this level).

We shall suffice with this amount from the quotations of the A’immah. For those with some knowledge of the history of Islaam, they will know that the names of the A’immah we have mentioned above are not lightweights; these were all giants in the Deen.

This should be sufficient to debunk the ridiculous claim that if a Hadeeth is not found in Saheeh al-Bukhaari, it must be rejected. Many of these people are ignorant of even Masaa’il pertaining to Istinjaa, but they are bold in throwing forward their views when they are entirely devoid of any `Ilm of Deen, some of them being unable to read even a single word of Arabic. Thus, you will hear them making ridiculous statements such as, “The book‘Hayaatus Sahaabah’  must be rejected because it’s filled with Dha`eef Ahaadeeth.” Any person who has actually studied Hadeeth even to a minute extent would know how laughable their claims are.

We would like to end this article by listing some important points:

When it comes to the grading of Ahaadeeth, we follow the illustrious Muhadditheen of the past, not a person who passed away in 1999 like al-Albaani. The Ahaadeeth have already been graded long ago by such Muhadditheen whom Allaah Ta`aalaa has honoured and elevated, that for all the years of Islaam their Kutub have been taught and accepted by the entire Ummah at large.

It is the height of hypocrisy to condemn a person for following one of the Four Madhaahib of Haqq, and then blindly follow a man who passed away the other day. Addressing these people, we say: “Yes, you are making Taqleed of him regardless of your denial. When it comes to Hadeeth grading, why do you blindly believe that a Hadeeth is Saheeh, or Hasan, or Dha`eef, or Mawdhoo`, simply because he said so? Have you studied Hadeeth yourself, studied Mustalahul Hadeeth, Jarh wat-Ta`deel, `Ilm-ur-Rijaal, Usool-ul-Hadeeth, etc., and thereafter analysed the Asaaneed of those Hadeeth to know whether or not they are Saheeh? The majority of those who quote him today quote him from English translations because they are not even capable of reading the original Arabic texts.

The `Ulamaa have cited Ittifaaq (consensus) on the permissibility of quoting and acting upon Dha`eef Ahaadeeth when it comes to Fadhaa’il (virtues). Thus, to reject a Kitaab like Fadhaa’il-e-A`maal on the basis that, “It’s filled with weak Hadeeth”, is stupid. The author, Hadhrat Shaykh Zakariyya رحمة الله عليه, was an `Aalim with greater knowledge and understanding of Hadeeth than these “Ahle Hadees” would have even if they lived several times over.

May Allaah Ta`aalaa grant us the correct understanding, Aameen.

والله تعالى أعلم وعلمه أتم وأحكم

The Question of Hadith & Politics

By Abdullah Feras from Muslim Discourse Initiative

A concern that regularly surfaces amidst discussions on the reliability of early Islamic primary sources is whether the authorship of those sources was under direct influence of governments and political authorities of the time. Such appeals put the integrity of those sources into question: how can we rely on sources that were prone to influence by a multitude of external factors that may have compromised the integrity and sanctity of their contents?

Such concerns, in my opinion, are understandable. The next step, however, would be to evaluate this claim and directly assess Islamic primary sources for indicators that may give us further insight on this matter. If the early hadith collections were authored under direct supervision and influence of past governments, then one would expect to observe certain trends along with a variety of indicators and phenomena in these texts, such as:

The abundance of “pro-government” reports that promote the interests of governments that existed when these primary sources were authored.A lack/scarcity of “anti-government” reports that conflict with the interests of those governments.Strong ties between the authors of hadith collections and their respective government authorities.The wide-scale (and arbitrary) authentication of “pro-government” reports by early hadith authorities.

The absence of these phenomena in the classical hadith corpus perhaps may be sufficient of a reason to reevaluate the merit behind the claims presented above. In fact, the existence of antithetical phenomena in these sources may even serve to dispel this entire narrative regarding the hadith corpus.

The Abundance of “Anti-Government” Reports in the Hadith Collections

It is not in the interest of governments to disperse and circulate reports that conflict with their interests. Such “anti-government” reports span reports that may potentially undermine the governments’ authority, legitimacy or influence. Thus, the abundance of such reports in early Islamic sources would serve as an indicator that that the authorship of these sources was not under direct influence of political authorities of the time.

A careful analysis of the various early hadith collections will present a vast array of reports that could be labeled as “anti-government” reports. These reports vary in nature: some are directed at Muslim rulers, holding them to a higher standard and emphasizing on their accountability. Other reports are directed at the Muslim public, encouraging them to shun corrupt leaders and to disobey political authorities that command them to do things that displease Allah. Such reports also often emphasize openly enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil.

Tareq b. Shihab reported that a man once asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ: “What is the best jihad?”

The Prophet replied: “A word of truth uttered in front of a tyrannous ruler.”

(Ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmed 126)

Ka’b b. ‘Ajrah said: The Messenger of Allah once came to us, and we were a group of nine: 5 and 4. One of those numbers consisted of Arabs, and the other one consisted of non-Arabs. The Messenger of Allah then said: “Listen. Have you heard that there shall be rulers after me? Whoever enters upon them and believes them in their falsehood and assists them in their tyranny, then he is not from me and I am not from him; and he shall not approach me at the pond [of Al-Kawthar]. Whoever does not enter upon them, does not assist them in their tyranny, and does not believe them in their falsehood, then he is from me and I am from him; and he shall approach me at the pond [of Al-Kawthar.]”

After transmitting this report, Al-Tirmidhi comments saying: “This hadith is Sahih Gharib…”

(Al-Tirmidhi 95)

Tareq b. Shihab said: The first man to carry out the Khutbah before theSalah on Eid was [the governor] Marwan b. Al-Hakam. Thus, a man stood up and told him: “You have went against the Sunnah!”

Marwan responded saying: “It has already been left.”

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri thus said: “Regarding this man [who stood up], he has fulfilled his duty. I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘Whoever sees an act of evil, then let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue; and if he cannot do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of Eman.’ “

(Al-San’ani 284)

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said: “We visited Ma’qal b. Yasar [when he was ill]. Then, ‘Ubaydullah b. Ziyad (the governor of Basrah) entered upon us, and Ma’qal told him: “I shall tell you of a hadith I heard from the Messenger of Allah. He said: ‘There is not a ruler who assumes leadership over Muslim subjects and dies while he is deceiving them, except that Allah shall make Jannahforbidden for him.”

(Bukhari 64)

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“Every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be asked about his duties. A governor is a guardian, and he shall be asked about his subjects. A man is a guardian of his family, and he shall be asked about it. A wife is a guardian of her husband’s house, and she shall be asked about it. A slave is a guardian of his master’s property, and he shall be asked about it. Indeed, all of you are guardians and you shall all be asked about your duties.”

(Al-Bazzar 128)

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “It is obligatory upon the Muslim to obey and listen to [the ruler] in what he likes and dislikes, so as long as he is not commanded to commit a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then he needs not obey or listen [to the ruler.]
(Ibn Abi Shaybah 543)

The Criticism of “Pro-Government” Reports

Another notable phenomenon in the hadith corpus is the criticism of “pro-government” reports by the early hadith critics. Had the Muhaddithin been part of a greater conspiracy to fabricate and circulate hadiths that promoted their respective governments’ interests, then one would not expect to see the hadith critics criticizing and weakening such reports in their works, as that would be counterintuitive. Rather, we would expect to see them arbitrarily authenticating these accounts, since they bolstered government interests.

In the books of hadith, however, we find the Muhaddithin and hadith critics weakening and criticizing such reports on many occasions.

In ‘Ilal Al-Hadith, Ibn Abi Hatem said:

I asked my father about a hadith transmitted by Khaled b. Khidash, from Abu ‘Awn b. Abi Rukbah, from Ghaylan b. Jarir, from Anas that the Messenger of Allah said:

“The Sultan is the shade of Allah on His land.”

Abu Hatem commented saying: “This hadith is munkar(disapproved), for Ibn Abi Rukbah is unknown.”

(Ibn Abi Hatem, ‘Ilal Al-Hadith 538)

On another occasion, Ibn Abi Hatem also said:

I asked my father about a hadith transmitted from Abu Samir, from ‘Abdulmalik b. ‘Umayr, from Al-Rabi’ b. ‘Umaylah, from ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“You shall be ruled by rulers who shall cause corruption, but the good that Allah conduct through them is greater [than their corruption.] Thus, whoever of them does good, then they shall have their reward and you must be thankful. Whoever of them does otherwise, then the sin is upon them, and you must be patient.”

Abu Hatem responds saying: “This hadith is munkar (disapproved), and Abu Samir is abandoned [in hadith.]”

(Ibn Abi Hatem, ‘Ilal Al-Hadith 554)

In Al-Muntakhab min ‘Ilal Al-Khallal, Al-Khallal is quoted quoting Muhanna b. Yahya saying:

I asked Yahya [b. Ma’in] about Habib b. Khaled Al-Tahhan.

He said: “I have met him and heard hadith from him, and he is a Kufan who has a hadith we heard from him.”

I asked: “How is he?”

Yahya responded: “I was informed that he transmitted a disapproved (munkar) hadith from Al-A’mash. He transmitted it from Al-A’mash, from Zayd b. Wahab, from Hudhayfah that he said: ‘It is not from the Sunnah to bear arms against theSultan.’

This hadith is not known as a report from Al-A’mash; rather, it is from the transmission of Sufyan, from Habib b. Abi Thabet, from Abu Al-Bakhtari, from Hudhayfah.”

Muhanna said: I asked Ahmed [b. Hanbal] and Yahya [b. Ma’in]: “Did Abu Al-Bakhtari ever hear from Hudhayfah?”

They said: “No.”

Then I asked: “Did Zayd b. Wahab hear from Hudhayfah?”

They said: “Yes.”

(Ibn Qudamah 171)

In the example above, Muhanna b. Yaha quotes Yahya b. Ma’in declaring a redaction of the report, “It is not from theSunnah to bear arms against the Sultan”, to be munkar (disapproved). Yahya then proceeds to list the correct rendition of the report, which he (and Ahmed) proceed to weaken due to a disconnection in its chain of transmission.

When addressing the report where the Prophet is quoted saying:  “Listen to and obey [the ruler], even if he strikes  your back and usurps your wealth”, Al-Daraqutni said:

Muslim transmitted the hadith of Mu’awiyah b. Sallam, from Abu Sallam, who said: Hudhayfah said: “We were in a state of evil, then Allah brought to us good…..”

Al-Daraqutni then said: “In my opinion, this hadith is mursal(disconnected), for Abu Sallam did not hear from Hudhayfah nor did he hear from any of his contemporaries who settled in Iraq. That is because Hudhayfah died a few nights after the murder of ‘Uthman….”

(Al-Daraqutni 182)

In these few examples (among many), we see some of the most notable hadith critics criticizing reports that are directly in-line with government interests. Such reports may have otherwise been employed by rulers and government authorities to promote those interests. The fact that these hadiths were criticized and even dismissed by the early hadith critics is indicative that these muhaddithin were not motivated by a supposed “pro-government” bias when grading reports.

Hadithists’ Relationships with Government Authorities

When evaluating the claim that the compilation of the hadith corpus was under direct influence of past government authorities, one must take into account the relationship the muhaddithin had with their respective governments. Had the authors of the hadith collections been part of a greater government conspiracy to fabricate and circulate reports that promoted government interests, we would thus expect to observe a very strong relationship between the hadithists and their governments.

The reality of the matter, however, is that major transmitters and compilers of hadith often varied in their political/theological leanings. This variation manifests in the diversity of sources from which the Sunni hadith corpus draws its material. Consequently, the hadithists were not a monolith with respect to their relationship with government authorities.

In his PhD thesis, Al-Muhaddithun wal-Siyasah, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ajlan divides hadithists into 5 broad categories with respect to their relationship with government authorities:

⚫ Transmitters who openly interacted and cooperated with government authorities to ensure public interests. (Al-Ajlan 48)

⚫ Transmitters who avoided any form of interaction or association with government authorities and institutions. (Al-Ajlan 59)

⚫ Transmitters who criticized and advised government officials. (Al-Ajlan 65)

⚫ Transmitters who rejected gifts and appointments to official posts from government officials. (Al-Ajlan 87)

⚫ Transmitters who participated in armed revolts against authorities. (Al-Ajlan 96)

In each of the categories, Dr. Al-Ajlan lists many eminent and prolific transmitters of hadith. To demonstrate this point, I shall list some of the names Al-Ajlan included in the last category, which spans transmitters who participated in armed revolts against authorities. Under this category, he lists a plethora known figures, such as: Sa’id b. Jubayr, ‘Amer Al-Sha’bi, ‘Abdurrahman b. Abi Layla, Jaber b. Zaid, ‘Abdulaziz Al-Darawardi, Muhammad b. ‘Amr b. ‘Alqamah, Muhammad b. ‘Ajlan, Yazid b. Harun, Abu Khaled Al-Ahmar etc.

These different categories serve to demonstrate the fact that such blanket generalizations made against the hadith corpus are not accurate nor representative of reality. Rather, many of the most eminent hadithists and compilers of hadith across history were in direct clash with their respective governments. Notable prolific compilers of hadith, such as Malik b. Anas, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ahmed b. Hanbal and others, were even persecuted by their governments at various points in history.

The Criticism of Transmitters Who Were Involved in Government Affairs

Another noteworthy phenomenon that must be studied when evaluating the relationship the muhaddithin had with their respective governments is the hadithists’ perception of transmitters who were directly involved in government affairs. In Muslim biographical sources, one observes several examples of notable hadith critics criticizing certain transmitters for being involved with “the Sultan” and other government institutions. The fact that associating oneself with a benign government institution was enough for a transmitter to be criticized by some hadith critics may perhaps give insight regarding the relationship the muhaddithin had with government authorities in their time.

Yahya b. Ma’in said:

“Al-Mansur’s transmission from Ibrahim, from Al-Aswad, from ‘A’isha is more preferable to me than Hisham b. ‘Urwah’s transmission from his father, from ‘Aisha.

Yahya was then asked: “What about Al-Zuhri’s transmission from ‘Urwah from ‘Aisha?”

He responded: “They are the same, but Mansur is more preferable to me because Al-Zuhri was aSultani (intertwined with authorities) .”

(Ibn Al-Junaid 355)

‘Abdullah b. Ahmed said:

“I asked my father about Khaled Al-Tahhan and Hushaym; which one of them is better?”

Ahmed said: “Khaled is more preferred to us, for he was not involved in any of the affairs of theSultan.”

(Ibn Hanbal, Al-‘Ilal wa Ma’rifat Al-Rijal 434)

Dr. Ibrahim Al-‘Ajlan, in his thesis, lists other examples I had not encountered (Al-Ajlan 260):

Yahya b. Sa’id said: “Muhammad b. Sirin used to not approve of Humayd b. Hilal”

Ibn Abi Hatem then said: I mentioned this to my father, and he said: “He was involved in the affairs of the Sultan, and that is why he did not approve of him; and he was reliable in hadith.”

(Ibn Abi Hatem, Al-Jarh wal-Ta’dil230)

Abu ‘Arubah described Ibn Al-Banna’ saying: “He is not trustworthy in and of himself.”

Ibn ‘Adiyy then comments saying: Regarding Abu ‘Arubah’s statement, “He is not trustworthy in and of himself”, he [Ibn Al-Banna’] initially carried out some affairs of theSultan, such as the docks and other affairs. Abu ‘Arubah merely referred to his involvement with the Sultan.”

(Ibn ‘Adiyy 570)

These examples serve to demonstrate the fact that some of the most prominent hadithists and hadith critics were not fond of transmitters who cooperated and regularly interacted with government institutions.

There are a plethora of other general statement from many renowned hadithists where they further express their sentiments regarding the cooperation and interaction with government authorities; however, these examples shall suffice to exemplify this phenomenon. Had the hadithists, quoted above, been part of a greater government conspiracy to fabricate and circulate reports that promoted government interests, then their statements would be rendered pointless and even counter-intuitive.


When evaluating the claim that the authorship of extant Islamic primary sources was under direct influence of government authorities of the time, we find that the data contradicts these conspiratorial claims. The numerous indicators cited in this paper (along with many others) cumulatively dispel this inaccurate narrative that misconstrues the integrity of early Islamic primary sources. Rather, it is evident that many of the most notable hadithists operated independently of government authorities across their works.

Works Cited

Al-Ajlan, Ibrahim bin Salih. Al-Muhaddithun Wal-Siyasah. 1st ed., vol. 1 1, Risalat Al-Bayan, 2017.

Al-Bazzar, Ahmed b. ‘Amr. Musnad Al-Bazzar. Edited by Adel Saad, 1st ed., vol. 12 18, Maktabat Al-Ulum Wal-Hikmah, 2009.

Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma’il. Sahih Al-Bukhari. Edited by Muhammad Zuhayr Al-Naser, 1st ed., vol. 9 9, Dar Tawq Al-Najah, 2001.

Al-Daraqutni, Ali b. ‘Umar. Al-Ilzamat Wal-Tatabbu’. Edited by Muqbil bin Hadi Al-Wadi’i, 2nd ed., vol. 1 1, Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, 1985.

Al-San’ani, ‘Abdurrazzaq. Al-Musannaf. Edited by Habib Al-Rahman Al-Azmi, 2nd ed., vol. 3 11, Al-Maktab Al-Islami, Beirut, 1983.

Al-Tirmidhi, Muhammad b. ‘Isa. Al-Jami’ Al-Kabir. Edited by Bashar Awwad Marouf, vol. 4, Dar Al-Gharb Al-Islami, 1998.

Ibn Abi Hatem, ‘Abdurrahman. Al-Jarh Wal-Ta’dil. 1st ed., vol. 3 9, Dar Ihyaa’ Al-Turath Al-‘Arabi, 1952.

—. ‘Ilal Al-Hadith. Edited by Saad Al-Humayyid and Khalid Al-Juraysi, 1st ed., vol. 6 7, Matabi’ Al-Homaidhi, 2006.

Ibn Abi Shaybah, ‘Abdullah. Al-Musannaf Fi Al-Ahadith Wal-Athar. Edited by Kamal Al-Hoot, 1st ed., vol. 6 7, Maktabat Al-Rushd, 1988.

Ibn ‘Adiyy, ‘Abdullah. Al-Kamil Fi Du’afaa’ Al-Rijaal. Edited by Adel Abdulmawjood and Ali Mawadh, 1st ed., vol. 7 9, Al-Kotob Al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1997.

Ibn Al-Junayd, Ibrahim. Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd Li-Abi Zakariyya, Yaha b. Ma’in. Edited by Ahmed Saif, 1st ed., vol. 1 1, Maktabat Al-Dar, Medina, 1988.

Ibn Hanbal, Ahmed. Musnad Ahmed. Edited by Shuayb Al-Arnaout and Adel Murshid, 1st ed., vol. 31 45, Muassasat Al-Resalah, 2001.

—. Al-‘Ilal Wa Ma’rifat Al-Rijal, Riwayat ‘Abdullah. Edited by Wasiullah Abbas, 2nd ed., vol. 1 3, Dar Al-Khani, 2001.

Ibn Qudamah, ‘Abdullah. Al-Muntakhab Min ‘Ilal Al-Khallal. Edited by Tareq Awadallah, 1st ed., vol. 1 1, Dar Al-Rayah, 1998.

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.

In Defense of Hadith Method


By Brother Abdullah Moataz



Allah blessed our Muhammadi nation by perfecting our religion for all times, places and people, making it then universal for all of creation and completing the tradition of prophecy with our Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). This decree of Allah necessitated the accurate preservation and transmission of our religion and its texts throughout the ages. Allah – in his perfect wisdom – did preserve it, yet He utilized the intelligence and abilities of our Nation, as opposed to preserving it in a divine or extraordinary manner. This is from Allah’s mercy to our Nation, as not only was the faith preserved and protected for all times, but since it was done through the work of the Nation, it allowed them to reap the divine rewards for their endeavors in the next life. 

From the finest minds of our Nation, the Hadith Method was developed, which I would argue is the most important intellectual contribution and central discipline of our faith. Due to the central nature of Hadith Method to our faith, it has always been the subject of relentless attacks of its detractors. They attempt to show this method of ours isn’t suitable for the task of authentication, due to its subjectivity and arbitrary application, thereby exposing their own ignorance on the subject. 

The goal of this very brief eBook is twofold. Firstly, to defend the Hadith Method from its detractors and in the process, perhaps upon up some of their eyes to information they may not have been privy to previously. Secondly, it will serve as means to educate the Muslims on this topic which has certainly not been given justice to and in the process strengthen their certainty in hadith literature – our second most important source of Islamic legislation and the most important sources we have on the Prophet’s life and example.

The chapters follow a logical progression. The first chapter starts by acknowledging the occurrence of mistakes in Al-Jarh wal Ta’dil, all the while discussing the frequency and the scope of the mistakes. The second chapter progresses by surveying two methods used by hadith critics in judging transmitters and demonstrating the rationale behind it. The third chapter seeks to prove the objectivity of the hadith critics. The fourth and last chapter shows the sincerity and honesty of the hadith critics, who put the integrity of the field before all else.

It should be noted that this is a mere glimpse into the Method and that this e-Book is summarized from my larger work on the topic which has yet to be completed, entitled, “Hadith Method: Defense and Establishment.” Perhaps it will interest some others in getting involved in hadith!

I ask Allah to benefit myself and others thru this brief work!

_Abdullah Moataz 

Chapter One: The Recognition of Bias 

In any discussion, it is of utmost importance to pinpoint the actual area of contention between the various parties involved. What is it that we are actually debating? Where does our actual disagreement start at? A debate on the veracity of Hadith method is no different; we must highlight where our disagreement lies. For many detractors of Hadith Method, they focus on the hadith critics themselves and seek to draw conclusions from the very fact they are human and those prone to error, a point about which there is no disagreement. Because much of Hadith Method relates to pinpointing errors of transmitters, and subsequently either endorsing their reliability or criticizing their inaccuracies, known as Al-Jarh wal Ta’dil, the  detractors of Hadith Method point out that these criticisms and endorsements cannot be taken at face value because of the various biases that hadith critics are subject to. But it is not our claim that hadith critics were perfect or that they would never fall prey to their personal biases and grudges. Our claim is that mistakes due to personal grudges – for example – did occur, yet they were the exception and not the rule and at that, the earliest hadith critics were aware of this. 

Section A – Theory 

In theory, the hadith critics did recognize the problem of bias and were acutely aware of the possibility of its occurrence. For instance, Yahya b. Ma’in recognized this when discussing Abu Nu’aym’s criticisms of others. Ibn Al-Junayd writes:

I heard Yahya b. Ma’in say: “Abu Nu’aym, if he mentions a person and says, ‘He is good,’ and praises him, then he must be a Shi’ite. And if he calls a person a Murji’, then he must be orthodox, nothing wrong with him.” [Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (469)]

In this quote, Yahya is pointing out that, due to certain theological leanings of Abu Nu’aym, he was prone to describe transmitters with theological labels that may be less than accurate in the eyes of Yahya. 

Another important quote on this topic that shows early hadith critics understood the problem of biased criticism is a quote by  Abu  Zur’ah Al-Razi (d. 264). Al-Bardha’i quotes Abu Zur’ah as saying:

“Anyone who doesn’t speak about this field religiously, they throw themselves into destruction. Anyone who has a problem or calamity between them and another, it is possible for them to mention it. Though Al-Thawri and Malik used to critique transmitters religiously, hence their opinions were acted upon. Whoever doesn’t speak in this discipline religiously, it will come back to [haunt] them.” [Su’alat Al-Bardha’i (2/329)]

In this quote from Abu Zur’ah, he is warning others from falling into the pitfall of unfair criticism against hadith transmitters and implicitly accepts the fact that it occurs, then pointing out that Al-Thawri and Malik were generally safe from prejudice, hence the popularity of their rulings. 

Section B – Application 

In terms of practical examples where hadith critics reject a criticism against another transmitter due to biases of those involved, there are several. For example, while questioning Al-Hakim (d. 405), Al-Sijzi writes:

And I asked him (i.e. Al-Hakim) about Ibrahim b. ‘Abdillah Al-Sa’diy, so he said, “He is reliable and trusted though he used to belittle Muslim b. Al-Hajjaj, and thus Muslim impeached him without justification.” [Su’alat Al-Sijzi Lil Hakim (82)]

Al-Hakim attributes the motivation behind Muslim’s criticism of Al-Sa’diy to a personal problem between the two and ends by declaring it to be unjustified. 

In the following quote from Abu Ya’la Al-Khalili (d. 446), he attributes Al-Nassa’i’s criticism of a transmitter to be based on a form of prejudice against him and declares that it is unacceptable. He writes:

“Ahmed b. Salih Al-Misri: a reliable (thiqah) Authority (Hafiz). Al-Bukhari recorded from him, and Muhammad b. Yahya Al-Dhuhli wrote from him, as did Abu Zur’ah and Abu Hatim. Abu ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Nasa’i criticized him, but the authorities (Huffaz) agreed that his criticism is prejudice, and the criticism from his likes (i.e. Al-Nassa’i) doesn’t harm him.“ [Al-Irshad fi Ma’rifat  ‘Ulama’ Al-Hadith (1/424)]

In the last quote, it shows Al-Hakim wondering if Yahya b. Sa’id criticisms against a particular transmitter were justified or not. Al-Hakim reported that he asked Al-Darauqtni:

“I (i.e. Al-Hakim) said: Ibrahim b. Al-Muhajir? He (i.e. Al-Daraqutni) replied: They weakened him; Yahya Al-Qattan and others criticized him. I said: Rightfully so? He said: Of course! He transmitted hadith reports that he hasn’t been corroborated on. Shu’bah also criticized him.” [Su’alat Al-Hakim Lil Daraqutni (180)]

No quote will better summarize what preceded than Al-Dhahabi’s words on the topic in his Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala’. He says, “We don’t claim infallibility for the authorities of Jarh Wal-Ta’dil, but they are the most accurate, least prone to mistakes, most fair and the furthest from prejudice.” [Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala’ (11/82)]

Chapter Two: Methods in Judging Transmitters

The methods of judging transmitters and determining their reliability are diverse and the final judgment on a given transmitter is usually the result of applying several of these methods to the transmitter and not sufficing with only one method. This diversity in application lends the results a great deal of credibility. When multiple methods lead us to believe a transmitter is reliable, it probably means we are on to something. The opposite applies as well; when multiple methods lead us to believe a transmitter to be dishonest or unreliable, we should be confident in these results.

For the purpose of this book, we will only survey two of these methods. Before we do that, the reader should note that the implications of these methods differ. For some methods, the results would be indicative of honesty but nothing else. For other methods, the results would indicate accurate retention and precision as well as honesty by implication.

The first method used by hadith critics in determining the reliability is the cross-examination of a transmitter’s transmission to that of others. A collection of all or most of a certain transmitter’s transmission may be termed as a “pool of transmission.” A hadith critic would choose a specific transmitter and begin cross-examining the transmitter’s pool of transmission to what others transmit. What the hadith critic looks for is, in effect, how this particular transmitter’s pool of transmission interacts with other pools of transmission. Is the pool of transmission consistent with other pools of transmission? Does this particular pool of transmission contain much unique transmission, exclusive to it, to the exclusion of others? Or worse yet, does this specific pool of transmission contradict other pools of transmission? The hadith critics will even look at a specific pool of transmission and observe how the transmission contained therein to interact with each other. Is the transmission contained in this particular pool consistent with each other? Or are their inconsistencies contained therein? If it can be shown that there is a level of corroboration, such that the pool of transmission in question is in agreement with its sister pools on the common transmission between them and the pool is internally intact from inconsistencies, this is a clear indication that the transmitter responsible for this pool of transmission is both accurate in their retention and honest in their transmission. 

What preceded isn’t an ad hoc explanation of the rulings by early hadith critics, where modern ideas of authenticity are projected on unclear practices or  ambiguous quotes by early scholars. On the contrary, these ideas are found expressly in the words as well as practices of the early hadith critics. 

Al-Shafi’i (d. 204) said while explaining the pre-requisites to accepting the reliability of a transmitter, “If he participates in the transmission of a hadith along with those of accurate retention (ahl al-hifz), it [should] match their transmission.[Al-Risalah (371)]” Al-Shafi’i isn’t alone in this theory. In fact Muslim b. Al-Hajjaj (d. 261), one of the most famous hadith critics and compilers of hadith said, “He participates along with reliable transmitters, those of knowledge and retention, [in transmitting] a portion of what they transmit and [in doing so] is predominantly in agreement.[Sahih Muslim (10)]” Thus it is clear that this meaning was understood by early critics, at least in theory. 

In practice, the application of this theory can be observed with clarity. For example, Ahmed b. Hanbal (d. 241) relayed that, “Yahya b. Sa’id was skeptical of Hammam until Mu’adh b. Hisham arrived and corroborated Hammad in his transmission. [Al ’Ilal wa Ma’rifah Al-Rijal li Ahmed – Riwayah Al-Marrudhi wa Ghayrih (43)]” Yahya b. Sa’id was suspicious of Hammam, due to what he presumed to be an undue amount of unique transmission exclusively transmitted by Hammam. It was only after Yahya b. Sa’id realized that, in fact, these particular reports were corroborated by Mu’adh b. Hisham and not really exclusive to Hammam did he relent. 

Similarly, Yahya bin Ma’in, the famous hadith critic of the late second and early third century of Islam relates an incident that occurred between him and Ibn ‘Ulayyah, a well-known Hadith transmitter. Ibn ‘Ulayyah came to him, inquiring about Yahya’s opinion on his level of accuracy in transmitting Hadith. [As my brother commented, “This is the ancient equivalent of googling your own name.”] When Yahya replied, confirming Ibn ‘Ulayyah’s precision in Hadith transmission, Ibn ‘Ulayyah prodded Yahya further, asking, “How did you know that?” Ibn Ma’in explained, “We compared it to the reports of others, and we found it accurate. [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Ibn Muhriz (2/39)]” Here, Ibn Ma’in is justifying his endorsement of Ibn ‘Ulayyah’s reliability by the cross-examination that he did. 

When it comes to the internal consistency of a transmitter’s pool of transmission, Al-Tirmidhi writes:

It is mentioned of Yahya bin Sa’id that if he were to see a person transmitting [an account] from his memory, once like this, and once like that, not remaining consistent on one version, he would abandon him. [Sharh ‘Ilal Al-Tirmidhi (1/104)]

It is clear from this quote that Yahya b. Sa’id was worried about how consistent a transmitter was in their transmission. If the transmitter didn’t remain consistent, he would reject him as a transmitter. Internal inconsistency is a sign that the transmitter has not accurately and precisely retained the information they are reporting.

The second method requires examination of a transmitter’s pool of transmission, but instead of looking for how the pool of transmission interacts with itself and other pools, the hadith critics look for other types of indicators which may be termed as: transparent practices in transmission. When found, this type of indicator alludes to both the honesty as well as the accuracy and precision of the transmitter. What are these transparent practices in the transmission? It is any practice where the transmitter exerted more effort, to be honest, and precise, even though had they not been so honest, they may have been able to get away with it. Since this is a bit theoretical at the moment, let’s consider a scenario. 

Let’s say transmitter A used to constantly attend a weekly gathering of hadith where he would learn from his teacher B ten hadith reports. After several months of regular attendance, transmitter A missed the weekly gathering, thereby missing ten hadith. So as to not lose the benefit, he went to two of his classmates C and D on a separate occasion and each transmitted half of the hadith he missed from that session (five hadith from each). When it comes time to transmit, transmitter A has several hundred reports that he directly took from teacher B, but is stuck with the ten hadith that he missed, five of which he heard from his classmate C and the other five which he heard from classmate D. What does transmitter A do in this case? If he wanted to, he probably could get away with dishonestly transmitting the ten hadith he missed, directly from his teacher B, and none would be the wiser since he was known to regularly attend the gathering. On the other hand, if he is both honest and precise, he will make a clear distinction between the several hundred hadith he heard directly from his teacher B versus the ten hadith he learned from his classmates C and D, who in turn had taken it from their mutual teacher B. If he does this, it shows honesty, since he could have gotten away with dishonestly dropping his classmates from the chain yet did not and it shows precision since he is able to distinguish between the reports which he heard directly from his teacher B as opposed to the reports he heard from his classmates C and D who took them from teacher B.  

As was the case with the other method, this reasoning is found among the early hadith critics, and they readily use it when judging transmitters. For example, Ibn ‘Adiyy (d. 365) writes about Suhail b. Abi Salih:

Suhail transmits from a number of people from his father (His father being: Abu Salih), and this shows the reliability of the man. Suhail transmits from Sumay from Abu Salih; Suhail transmits from Al-A’mash from Abu Salih; Suhail transmits from Abdullah b. Muqsim from Abu Salih. This shows the discernment of the man and [his ability to] discern what he [directly] heard from his father without any intermediary between them, and what he heard from Sumay and Al-A’mash and authorities other than them. [Al-Kamil (4/526)] 

In this passage, Ibn ‘Adiyy is impressed with Suhail b. Abi Salih due to his precision. Firstly, Suhail is admitting that he didn’t hear a certain amount of hadith from his father, even though he could have easily gotten away with dishonestly transmitting had his personal integrity not stopped him. Secondly, he is able to distinguish between multiple things:

1. What he heard directly from his father
2. What he took indirectly from his father through Sumay  
3. What he took indirectly from his father through Al-A’mash, etc.

The theoretical scenario presented first and then the practical scenario presented secondly are not the only types of scenarios that would fall under transparent practices in transmission.

Chapter Three: The Objectivity of the Hadith Critics

Objectivity in analyzing hadith and determining its authenticity means to study the hadith historically and judge according to the evidence surrounding each hadith; irrespective of the Critic’s personal biases and opinions. Establishing the objectivity and impartiality of the Hadith Critics is crucial in defending the Hadith Method. If they were not objective, their rulings would be arbitrary and thus, without value. How could Hadith Method be suitable to sift through transmission if it is not practiced objectively? 

As Sunnis, the objectivity of the Hadith Critics is taken for granted; a fact that needs no further research, hence if questioned about the justification for this position, some may falter even though there is ample reason to believe so. For this, the reason why it is taken for granted is not simply the result of Sunni dogma, but because it is quite apparent to whoever looks at the information impartially. 

The objective application of Hadith Method by Hadith Critics is exhibited through many examples and practices. I have chosen to only highlight three scenarios where their impartiality is most obvious.

In the first scenario (Section A), we look at how Hadith Critics dealt with their theological opponents.

In the second scenario (Section B), we look at how Hadith Critics dealt with some of those who shared their theological stances. 

In the third scenario (Section C), we look at how Hadith Critics dealt with hadith reports that expressly support their theological biases.  

These three scenarios where chosen, because they are contentious scenarios where true objectivity is tested. It is not hard for a person who has nothing at stake in an issue to be objective, but true objectivity is noted when a person must take a stand between personal bias and principle. Will a Critic undermine a reliable transmitter from a competing theological school? Will a Critic overlook the weakness of a transmitter who happens to be from his own theological persuasion? Will a Critic overlook impairing defects in hadith simply because it supports his own theological persuasion?

Section A – Hadith Critics and  Their Theological Opponents

Yahya b. Ma’in (d. 233) is one of the most famous and influential Hadith Critics who spoke extensively on hadith transmitters, criticizing and endorsing them. Due to this, I have chose to use his rulings as lense by which the objectivity of hadith critics may be observed in applying the hadith method to a critic’s theological opponents. Yet, the objectivity exhibited by Yahya here is not exclusive to him, but can also be observed in the writings of many other Hadith Critics in the formative era of hadith transmission and Criticism. In my original work, I give dozens of similar examples from Ahmed b. Hanbal, the two Razis (Abu Zur’ah and Abu Hatim) and Al-Jawzajani.

Yahya b. Ma’in and Shi’i Transmitters 

When it comes to the superiority of the companions and the proper order they fall into, Yahya was very clear about his opinion.   Yahya said, “And I say: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. This is our opinion and view.” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (3/465)]

Furthermore, Yahya considered anyone who preferred ‘Ali over ‘Uthman to be a Shi’i[Ibid]. From this, it is clear that the Shi’a are clearly in opposition to Yahya. The question that asks itself: How then does Yahya deal with their transmitters? Does he let his theological biases get the best of him? Or does he objectively rate them, irrespective of the differences? 

In theory Yahya b. Ma’in admits that Shi’i transmitters can be reliable. He said, “A Shi’i can be reliable.[Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (421)]” This theory is further supported by Yahya’s practice. Let us consider the following quotes from Yahya b. Ma’in.

1. Yahya said, “Fatr b. Khalifah is reliable (thiqah) and he is a Shi’i.[Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (421)]” 

2. Yahya said, “Muhammad b. Kathir Al-Kufi transmits from Layth. He was a Shi’i and there was nothing wrong with him (Lam yakun bihi ba’s).[Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (3/478)]”

3. Ibn Al-Junayd said: I asked Yahya b. Ma’in about Sa’id  b. Khuthaym Al-Hilali and he said, “He is a Kufan Shaykh, there is nothing wrong with him (Laysa bihi ba’s), reliable (thiqah).” A man then said to Yahya, “He is Shi’i?” (This can either be understood as a question or an objection. My assumption is that it was an objection, hence explaining Yahya’s reply to the man. He said, “A Shi’i can be reliable and a Qadari can be reliable.” [Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (421)]

Yahya b. Ma’in and Qadari Transmitters 

Another group Yahya was diametrically opposed to was the Qadariyyah. Yahya said, “I don’t pray behind a Qadari if he proselytizes. [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (3/466) ]” He also used to say that if a person has no other choice but to pray behind a Qadari, he should redo his prayers [Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (466)]. Clearly, Yahya is opposed to this group, refusing to pray behind them, and commanding others to do so as well, something he didn’t practice with Shi’ah. Yet this didn’t prevent Yahya from impartially rating Qadari transmitters.

In theory, Yahya admits that a “Qadari can be reliable.[Su’alat Ibn Al-Junayd (421)]” As was the  case with the Shi’i transmitters, Yahya’s theory is supported and backed by his practice. Let us consider the following quotes from Yahya b. Ma’in.

1. Yahya b. Ma’in said, “’Abdul-Hamid b. Ja’far, there is nothing wrong with him (Laysa bihi ba’s) and he was a Qadari.” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (3/190)]

2. Yahya b. Ma’in said, “Muhammad b. Rashid is reliable (thiqah) and he was a Qadari.” [Min Kalam Abi Zakariyya Yahya b. Ma’in fi Al-Rijal (36)]

3. Yahya b. Ma’in said about Abu Qatn, “There was nothing wrong with him (Lam yakun bihi ba’s), but he used to speak about Qadr; he was truthful (Saduq).” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Ibn Muhriz (1/81)]

In the preceding examples, we observed Yahya b. Ma’in objectively looking and rating the transmitters, even though, as we showed, they belonged to two opposing theological groups (Shi’ah and Qadariyyah), some of which he was particularly harsh about. What truly mattered to Yahya, in his capacity as a Hadith Critic, was the transmitter’s ability to honestly and accurately retain and subsequently reproduce transmission, and not their theological leanings or heresies.

Section B – Hadith Critics and Transmitters of their Persuasion

Another important angle to look at this issue from is to see how Hadith Critics dealt with their own kind; those who were of the same theological leanings and orientation as them. Were they allowed to get away with forgery? Was their weakness ignored for the sake of the shared theology between the Critic and the transmitter? 

Al-Jawzjani (d. 259) was a hadith critic who has a reputation of being strict, as well as being a theological bigot of sorts. In his book “Ahwal Al-Rijal” he makes several points on the subject. Besides showing that not all heretics are liars, but some are actually honest, he points out that there are some forgers who were not known to him for heresy, though he notes “lying is a sufficient heresy. [Ahwal Al-Rijal (11)]” This is an important quote, as it shows that in theory even someone who has a reputation for being a theological bigot and very strict was not willing to give those who may have the same theological orientation as him a free pass. 

This theory is backed up in practice by Hadith Critics, who did criticize their theological brethren as needed.

Let’s take a look at Kharijah b. Mus’ab b. Kharijah. He was important enough of a figure to be quoted by Al-Bukhari in his “Khalq Af’al Al-’Ibad” excommunicating the Jahmiyyah, and detailing the ways in which they disbelieved [Khalq Af’al Al-’Ibad (2/20)]. Yet Al-Bukhari himself wrote about him:

Yahya b. Yahya said, “He used to deceptively transmit (yudallis) from Ghiyath b. Ibrahim.” Ghiyath b. Ibrahim’s hadith was lost, and thus his authentic transmission is not known from his inauthentic transmission. [Tahdhib Al-Kamal (8/20)]

While Al-Bukhari certainly doesn’t believe him to be a liar or dishonest, on the same token doesn’t believe his transmission to be entirely acceptable. Others, including Abu Hatim Al-Razi, Al-Daraqutni both of whom are equally in agreement with his theology, criticize him expressly. [Ibid]

Another transmitter known for his tough theological stances, in agreement with Ahl Al-hadith was Nu’aym b. Hammad Al-Khuza’i. His unwavering theological stances earned him a place in the prisons of the mihna, from which he inevitably passed away. Clearly, his stances earned him the admiration of many Hadith Critics, who either suffered as he did, or held the same unwavering theological stances. It is not surprising then when one finds much praise of him. At the same time, there is an express criticism of him, and many examples of his mistakes and objectionable reports. Abu Dawud said about him, “Nu’aym b. Hammad has about 20 hadith from the Prophet that is baseless. [Tahdhib Al-Kamal (29/475) ]” Salih Jazarah said, “Nu’aym used to transmit from his memory and he has many objectionable reports that no one corroborates him on. [Ibid]” Salih Jazarah also quotes Yahya b. Ma’in as saying about him, “He is worthless in hadith, though was a person of sunnah (Sahib Sunnah). [Ibid]”

It should be noted that Yahya also has several instances where he praised Nu’aym, as well as several other instances where he pointed out various mistakes of Nu’aym, even once in Nu’aym’s presence, all of which can be found in Nu’aym’s biographical entry in Tahdhib Al-Kamal. 

Al-Nasa’i is another hadith critic who praised him for his knowledge but expressly stated that he was weak and may not be used as an evidence. [Tahdhib Al-Kamal (29/476)]

Section C – Hadith Critics and Hadith in Support of their Biases

The last angle through which we will consider this issue is how hadith critics treated hadith reports in support of their biases. The following four examples all relate to theological biases.

Al-Duri relates that Yahya b. Ma’in mentioned a specific transmitter and said about him:

He transmitted an objectionable (munkar) hadith from ‘Ali b. Thabit from Isra’il from Ibn Abi Layla from Nafi’ from Ibn ‘Umar who said: The Prophet said, “Two groups who have no claim to Islam: The Murji’ah and the Qadariyyah.” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (4/385)]

In our first example, Yahya b. Ma’in rejects this hadith that strongly criticizes and rebukes his theological opponents: the murji’ah and qadariyyah. Yahya’s opposition to the Qadariyyah has preceded in Section B. With regards to the Murji’ah, Yahya is opposed to them as he explicitly states, in opposition to them, “Belief is speech and actions; it increases and decreases.” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Al-Duri (4/391)] Furthermore, he seems to have a quite unfavorable view of them, as he quotes Shareek saying about the Murji’ah, “The Murji’ah are the enemies of Allah.” [Tarikh Ibn Ma’in – Riwayah Ibn Muhriz (1/165)] Yahya doesn’t comment on Shareek’s statement.

In his compilation on defective hadith, Ibn Abi Hatim posed the following question to his father Abu Hatim Al-Razi: 

I asked my father about a hadith transmitted by Baqiyyah from Habib b. ‘Umar from his father from Ibn ‘Umar from ‘Umar from the Messenger of Allah that he said, “An announcer will announce on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Let the opponents of Allah stand’ and they are the Qadariyyah?” He replied, “This hadith is objectionable (munkar); Habib b. ‘Umar is weak in hadith; unknown; none except Baqiyyah transmit from.” [‘Ilal Ibn Abi Hatim (6/621-622)]

If we look at the hadith Abu Hatim is questioned about all we see is a hadith discussing the happenings of the day of judgment, a well-known genre in hadith that in principle Abu Hatim has no qualms of authenticating. Furthermore, the hadith is in essence strongly rebuking the qadariyyah, a group Abu Hatim was in opposition to and considered heretical. Indeed, Abu Hatim and Abu Zur’ah both dictated to Ibn Abi Hatim in their text that became known as “Aqidah Al-Raziyyayn,” “And the heretical Qadariyyah are misguiders.” [Sharh Usul I’tiqad Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal Jama’ah (1/197) ] Yet, in sticking to his hadith principles, he rejected the hadith due to Habib b. ‘Umar, and didn’t let the acceptability of the genre to himself or the contents in support of his biases against the qadariyyah affect his decision. 

Abu Hatim was also asked about another hadith that reads, “Every Nation has a Majus and the Majus of my Nation are the Qadariyyah.   If they get sick, don’t visit them and if they die, don’t pray over them.” He replied, “This hadith is false.” [Al-Jarh Wal Ta’di (7/52)] In this second hadith Abu Hatim is asked about, note that the hadith support his biases against the qadariyyah. Furthermore, the hadith belongs to the Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah (Proofs of Prophethood) genre, as it foretells the existence of a heretical group known as the “qadariyyah.” Instead of accepting this hadith that falls in line with his bias, and hailing it as a miracle, due to the Prophet allegedly foretelling the Qadariyyah, he rejects the hadith report in accordance with his hadith principles. 

When Abu Zur’ah was asked about the hadith, “The discourse of the Qadariyyah is disbelief,” he replied, “This is false in my opinion.” [Su’alat Al-Bardha’i (2/325)] The same that was said about Abu Hatim, may also be said about Abu Zur’ah as well. He has no qualms with the genre of prophecies, of which this hadith is from, and there is no love lost between him and the qadariyyah; his and Abu Hatim’s express statements on the qadariyyah have already been mentioned.

In the four hadith examples presented, we observed that the rulings of the hadith critics on these reports were informed by their hadith principles, as opposed and in spite of their biases.  

While the Hadith Critics mentioned here were clearly not without strong opinions on issues and biases, through the examples given, their objective application of hadith method became apparent. When it came down to it, even though a transmitter was from a competing and opposing theological group, the Hadith Critic didn’t allow this to impair his judgment on the reliability of the transmitter. On the flip side of the coin, if one of their theological brethren was worthy of being criticized, their shared theological ascriptions and biases didn’t lead them to overlook the obvious problems in said transmitters. Additionally, as observed in the preceding examples, their theological biases didn’t cloud their judgment on hadith reports in express support of those same theological biases.

Chapter Four: Sincerity and Honesty of Hadith Critics  

Moving on from the objectivity of Hadith Critics, we will take a look at something of equal importance: the sincerity and honesty of Hadith Critics. Were the hadith Critics sincere to the field of hadith? Did they uphold the integrity of the hadith field? Were they honest in contributing to the field? Or was their personal resume and fame as Critics more important than the field of hadith?

In this chapter, we will observe two practices which are indicative of their sincerity and honesty to the field of hadith. The first practice will show the Critics opting for honesty in a scenario where they could have increased their personal hadith resume and claimed more teachers than they really had. The second practice will show that when faced with a question they didn’t know the answer to, they would let the questioner know, as opposed to making up information.

Section A – First Practice 

While reading through Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib by Ibn Hajar, I began to notice a recurring theme among several hadith critics. Essentially, a critic would mention a hadith transmitter – either as an answer to a question or by their own accord – and while affirming the transmitter’s reliability, they would also admit that either he never met the other transmitter, or if he did, that he never acquired hadith from him directly. The only viable explanation for a critic doing this (i.e deny learning from a transmitter who is otherwise sought out due to their reliability) is honesty. These critics were not willing to sacrifice their honesty, not the integrity of their field to increase their teachers and bolster their hadith resumes. Let’s consider a few examples.

1. Abul-Azhar said about himself, “I saw Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah but he didn’t transmit to me. [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (1/15)]

Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah is a famous authority, whom a connection with would be a source of pride and honor for a hadith transmitter like himself. Yet, Abul-Azhar admits that, even though he met Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah, he never actually acquired any hadith from him. 

2. Abu Zur’ah Al-Razi said about Ahmed b. Ishkab, “A person of hadith (Sahih Hadith), I had the chance to meet him (adraktuh), but I didn’t write from him.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (1/16)]

Ahmed b. Ishkab’s reliability is unanimously endorsed and his own colleague and partner Abu Hatim Al-Razi, as well as Al-Bukhari and others are counted amongst his students who acquired hadith from him. In this case, not only is Abu Zur’ah admitting not have taken from a transmitter though it would have been possible to take from him, it is a transmitter that his other contemporaries are acquainted with and have taken from. 

3. Ibn Abi Hatim said about Ahmed b. Harb Al-Mawsili, “I had the chance to meet him (adraktuh) but I didn’t write from him; and he was truthful.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (1/19)]

In this case, Ibn Abi Hatim is endorsing the honesty of a transmitter from the students of Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah and Abu Mu’awiyyah, whom he possibly could have taken from but did not. Sufyan, as stated before is an authority and Abu Mu’awiyyah is one of the more important transmitters from Al-A’mash. 

4. Abu Hatim Al-Razi said about Ahmed b. ‘Abdir-Rahman b. Bakkar Al-Dimashqi, “I saw him transmitting but I didn’t write from him and he was truthful.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (1/33)]

In this case, Abu Hatim Al-Razi endorses a transmitter whom he met and had a chance to acquire hadith from, yet he never actually wrote from him as he stated. 

5. Abu Dawud (d. 277) said about Ahmed Al-Khallal, “Reliable; I didn’t hear from him.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (1/27)]

Once again, another hadith critic, this time Abu Dawud, the author of the Sunan compilation affirms the reliability of the transmitter at hand, yet admits not acquiring hadith from him.

6. Al-’Ijli said about Habban b. Hilal Al-Bahili, “Reliable. I didn’t hear from him; he was difficult.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (2/170)]

In this quote, Al-’Ijli affirms the reliability of a transmitter and then negates acquiring hadith from him while pointing out that he used to give students a hard time. This last point is interesting, as I imagine acquiring hadith from a transmitter who was known to be difficult would be a resume booster. Furthermore, lying about such an incident would be relatively easy to get away with. If the transmitter is so difficult how many students does he actually have who could deny Al-’Ijli’s presence in the hadith sittings? 

7. Abul-Walid Al-Tayalisi said about Harb b. Surayj, “He was our neighbor; there is no problem with him but I didn’t hear from him.” [Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib (2/224)]

Abul-Walid Al-Tayalisi affirms the reliability of the transmitter,  yet  denies acquiring hadith from him, despite the fact that they are neighbors.

Section B – Second Practice 

A noticeable theme throughout the books on transmitters of hadith is that the hadith critics are not shy to express uncertainty about or ignorance of a hadith or a particular transmitter of hadith. To quote examples of this would be a disservice, as there are hundreds of examples. Suffice it to say that because of their honesty in expressing their ignorance on who transmitters may be, a special term was even developed to accommodate this practice. Transmitters that are unknown are termed as Majhul by later hadith critics and writers.

Yet, if the critics were dishonest and their rulings arbitrary, why not simply fabricate information about the transmitter? In fact, this would be a perfect way to show superiority over another hadith critic. One could claim exclusive information on a transmitter, to the exclusion of the other critics, further boosting his hadith credibility. But, as noted, this does not happen and the hadith critics preferred the integrity of the field of hadith to any personal gains to be gotten by feigning knowledge or falsely increasing the number of their teachers.


In the first chapter, we discussed erroneous judgments by hadith critics rulings motivated by their own personal biases. While no one disagrees on the occurrence of these types of errors, two important points were made. Firstly, that these occurrences were not “news” to the hadith, nor were they taken surprised by it. They recognized its existence in theory and in practice they were careful to point it out when it did occur. Secondly, that these mistakes were the exception and not the rule, as proven by the discussion on objectivity in the third chapter.

In the second chapter, a brief synopsis was given on the most important methods used by hadith critics in determining the reliability of transmitters. How these methods were applied and the implications of these results from the methods were observed through various theoretical and practical examples. The takeaway from this chapter was to demonstrate the rationale behind the methods used by hadith critics in judging transmitters. It is based on rational and historical principles not subjective and arbitrary ideals. 

In the third chapter, the objectivity of the hadith critics in applying their principles on judging transmitters was looked into from three different angles. The first angle was to show how the hadith critics dealt with transmitters of opposing theology. The second angle was to show how the hadith critics dealt with transmitters of their theological leanings. The last angle was to show how the hadith critics dealt with hadith reports that expressly support their biases. Through each of these angles, it was demonstrated that the hadith critics were very objective in their application of principles. Weakness was not overlooked due to brotherhood, nor was reliability ignored due to opposing theological views and the appeal of certain hadith reports due to their express support of their ideological biases did not impair their judgment on its authenticity. 

In the fourth and last chapter, several examples from a wide array of hadith critics were surveyed and points indicative of their honesty and sincerity were highlighted. Throughout the examples discussed, we saw the hadith critics sacrifice personal gain on their hadith resumes to preserve and maintain the integrity of the field of hadith.

Abdullah Moataz is a student of Hadith – His area of research covers the historiography of the Uloom of Hadith and genealogy of Hadith Narrators.

اصول محدثین ضعیف حدیث “تلقی بلقبول” کے سبب صحیح کا حکم رکھتی ہے

اصول_محدثین : ضعیف حدیث “تلقی بلقبول” کے سبب صحیح کا حکم رکھتی ہے:
مسائل کا ایک اہم مآخد “(علماء کا) اجماع” اور اس بات پر محدثین کی تائید:

قرآن-و-سنّت کے احکام میں “نسخ” کا احتمال ہوتا ہے کہ وہ منسوخ ہے یا نہیں ہے.
[کما قال امام الغزالی رح – المستصفى مع مسلم الثبوت:٣/٣٩٢؛ و کما قال امام ابن_تیمیہ رح – مجموع الفتاویٰ:٢٨/١١٢]

جیسے قرآن میں ارشاد ہے:

مَا نَنۡسَخۡ مِنۡ اٰیَۃٍ اَوۡ نُنۡسِہَا نَاۡتِ بِخَیۡرٍ مِّنۡہَاۤ اَوۡ مِثۡلِہَا ؕ اَلَمۡتَعۡلَمۡ اَنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ قَدِیۡرٌ (٢/البقرہ:١٠٦)

“جو بھی کوئی آیت ہم منسوخ کرتے ہیں، یا اسے (ذہنوں سے) بھلا دیتے ہیں، تو ہم لے آتے ہیں اس سے کوئی بہتر آیت، یا اسی جیسی، بیشک اللہ ہرچیز پر پوری قدرت رکھتا ہے”.(اس آیت کی تفسیر ضرور پڑھیے)

مگر “اجماع” میں نسخ کا احتمال نہیں ہوتا اور وہ معصوم ہوتا ہے. [تفسیر_ابن_کثیر، سورہ نساء، آیت : ١١٥؛صحيح البخاري » كِتَاب الِاعْتِصَامِ بِالْكِتَابِ وَالسُّنَّةِ » بَاب قَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا (البقرہ :١٤٣) وَمَا أَمَرَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِلُزُومِ الْجَمَاعَةِ وَهُمْ أَهْلُ الْعِلْمِ =

ترجمہ: صحیح بخاری:جلد سوم: کتاب اور سنت کو مضبوطی سے پکڑنے کا بیان : اللہ تعالیٰ کا قول کہ ہم نے اسی طرح تم کو بیچ کی امت بنایا۔ (البقرہ:١٤٣) اور اس کے متعلق کہ رسول الله صلے الله علیہ وسلم نے جماعت کو لازم پکڑنے کا حکم فرمایا اور آپکی مراد جماعت سے اہل_علم کی جماعت تھی.
؛فاتح الباری، لامام ابن_حجر: ١٣/٣١٢]

اور (اسی طرح) امام نووی رح اپنے شیخ حافظ ابو عمرو سے مروی ہیں:

“الأمة في إجماعها معصومة من الخطاء” يعني امت اجماع میں خطا سے معصوم ہوا کرتی ہے [مقدمہ صحیح مسلم: صفحه# ١٤]

اور مشھور ائمہ_محدثین رح جیسے شافعی، بخاری، ترمذی، سیوطی، سخاوی، شوکانی وغیرہ (رحمہ الله علیھم اجمعین) نے اس اصول کا تعین کیا ہے کہ عملی طریقوں کا انحصار (دارومدار) تعامل_امت (اتفاق-و-اجماع سے امت کے جاری عمل پر) ہے. جب امت کا عمل کسی حدیث پر جاری ہو، اگرچہ وہ ضعیف ہو، تو اس کی سند پر بحث کی ضرورت نہیں. یعنی جس ضعیف حدیث پر بھی تعامل_امت (اتفاق-و-اجماع سے امت کا جاری عمل) ہو، تو اس حدیث کو مانا جائیگا، اگرچہ ضعیف ہو.[المعجم الصغیر لطبرانی: باب التحفة المرضية في حل مشكلات الحديثية، ٢/١٧٧-١٩٩]

قال ابن عبد البر في الاستذكار لما حكي عن الترمذي ان البخاري صحح حديث البحر “هو الطهور ماؤه” و أهل الحديث لا يصححون مثل اسناده لكن الحديث عندي صحيح لان العلماء تلقوه بالقبول.[تدريب الراوي : ٢٩]

ترجمة: علامة ابن عبد البر “الاستذكار” میں یہ بات امام ترمذی رح سے نقل کرتے ہوۓ فرماتے ہیں کہ امام بخاری رح (اس) حدیث_بحر “ھو الطھور ماوه” کو صحیح کہتے ہیں، حالانکہ محدثین اس جیسی سند (والی حدیث) کو صحیح نہیں کہتے لیکن حدیث میرے (ابن عبدالبر کے) نزدیک صحیح ہے 
حافظ ابن حجر عسقلانی (شافعی) رح نے فرمایا:

ومن جملة صفات القبول التي لم يعترض شيخنا الحفيظ يعنى زين الدين العراقي أين يتفق العلماء على العمل بمدلول حديث فانما يقبل حتى يعمل به وقد صرح بذلك جماعة من أئمة الأصول.

ترجمة:…منجملہ (صحت حدیث کی) صفات_قبولیت میں سے ایک وہ بھی جس کی طرف ہمارے شیخ یعنی زین الدین العراقی نے تعرض کیا ہے وہ یہ ہے کہ علماء مدلول_حدیث پر عمل کرنے میں متفق ہوجائیں، پس اس حدیث کو قبول کرلیا جائیگا، یہاں تک کہ اس پر عمل واجب ہوگا، اس بات کی تصریح کی ہے علماء_اصول کی ایک جماعت نے. (المصاح على نكت أبن الصلاح)

دو سو کے قریب کتب کے مصنف محدث، فقیہ، اصولی، مؤرخ علامہ سخاوی رح لکھتے ہیں:

“وكذا إذا تلقت الأمة الضيف بالقبول يعمل به الصحيح حتى أنه ينزل منزلة المتواتر”

ترجمة: اسی طرح جب امت ضعیف حدیث کو قبول کرلے تو اس کے ساتھ صحیح والا معاملہ کیا جائیگا.حتیٰ کہ وہ متواتر کے درجہ میں ہوجائیگی.
آگے لکھتے ہیں:

“ولهذا قال الشافعي رحمة الله في حديث “لا وصية الوارث” أنه لا يثبت أهل الحديث ولكن العامة تلقته بالقبول وعملو به حتى جعلوه ناسخا لاية الوصية”

ترجمہ: اسی وجہ سے امام شافعی رح (اس) حدیث “لا وصية لوارث” کے مطلق فرماتے ہیں کہ محدثین اسے صحیح نہیں قرار دیتے لیکن جمہور علماء نے اس کو قبول کیا ہے اور اس پر عمل کیا ہے حتیٰ کہ اس کو آیت_وصیت کے لئے ناسخ بنادیا.[فتح المغيث بشعره ألفية الحديث: ص # ١٢٠]

٦٠٠ کے قریب کتب کے مصنف علامہ جلال الدین السیوطی (الشافعی) رح لکھتے ہیں:

“قال بعضھم يحكم للحديث بالصحة إذا تلقاه الناس بالقبول وإن لم يكن له أسناد صحيح.[تدريب الراوي: صفحة # ٢٩

ترجمہ: بعض محدثین فرماتے ہیں کہ حدیث پر صحت (صحیح ہونے) کا حکم لگا دیا جاۓ گا جب امت نے اسے قبول کرلیا ہو اگرچہ اس کی سند صحیح نہ بھی ہو.

المقبول ما تلقاه العلماء بالقبول وإن لم يكن له أسناد صحيح،[شرح نظم الدرر المسمى بالبحر الذي ذخر

ترجمہ: مقبول وہ حدیث ہے جسے علماء قبول کرلیں اگرچہ اس کی سند صحیح نہ بھی ہو.

قال ابن السمعاني وقم يدل لتضمنه تلقيهم له بالقبول. [تدريب الراوي : ١٧٢]

ترجمة: ابن سمعاني اور ایک جماعت یہ کہتی ہے کہ حدیث کے موافق اجماع کا ہونا یہ حدیث کی صحت پر دلالت کرتا ہے اس حدیث کے اس بات کو متضمن ہونے کی وجہ سے کہ اس کو تلقی بلقبول حاصل ہے.

وصحح الآمدي وغيره من الاصوليين إنه حكم بذلك.[تدريب الراوي: ١٧١]

ترجمہ: (علم کا کسی حدیث پر عمل یا دلیل لیتے فتویٰ دینے کی وجہ سے) آمدی اور ان کے علاوہ دیگر اصولیین نے اس بات کو صحیح قرار دیا ہے کہ اس حدیث پر صحت کا حکم لگایا جاۓ گا.

قال (ابن عبدالبر) في التمهيد روي جابر عن النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم الدينار أربعة و عشرون قيراطا، قال وفي قول جماعة العلماء و إجماع الناس على معناه غني عن الاسناد فيه.[تدريب الراوي: ٢٩]

ترجمہ: ابن عبدالبر “التمہید” میں فرماتے ہیں کہ حضرت جابر (رضی الله عنہ) نے نبی (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) سے روایت کی “دینار چوبیس قیراط کا ہے” فرمایا: جماعت_علماء کا قول اور لوگوں کا اس کے معنا پر اجماع اس کی سند سے مستغنی کردیتا ہے.

علامة ابن مرعي ألشبرخيتي المالكي رح

“ومحل كونه لايعمل بالضعيف في الأحكام ما لم يكن تلقته الناس بالقبول فان كان كذلك تعين وصار حجة يعمل به في الاحكام وغيرها.[شرح الأربعين النووي]

ترجمة: اس بات کا محل کہ ضعیف حدیث پر احکام میں عمل نہیں کیا جاتا یہ ہے کہ اس کو تلقی بلقبول حاصل نہ ہو، اگر اسے تلقی بلقبول حاصل ہوجاۓ تو وہ حدیث متعین ہوجاۓ گی اور حجت ہوجاۓ گی اور احکام وغیرہ میں اس پر عمل کیا جاۓگا.

اہل_ظواہر (غیر مقلد) کے پیشوا قاضی شوکانی (زیدی شیعہ) لکھتے ہیں:

ثم حكم أبن عبدالبر مع ذلك بصحته لتقي بالعلماء له بالقبول فرده من حيث الأسناد وقبله من حيث المعنى وقد حكم بصحته جملة من الحديث لاتبلغ درجة هذا ولا تقاربه.[نيل الأوطار: ١/١٨]

ترجمہ: پھر ابن عبدالبر رح نے باوجود (ضعف سند کے) اس کی صحت (صحیح ہونے) کا حکم لگایا ہے، علماء کے اس کو قبول کرلینے کی وجہ سے، پس رد کیا ہے اس کو سند کے اعتبار سے اور قبول کیا ہے اس کو معنا(مضمون) کے اعتبار سے، اور حکم لگایا ہے ایسی بعض احادیث پر جو اس درجہ تک نہیں پہنچتی بلکہ اس کے قریب بھی نہیں پہنچتیں.

اتفق أهل الحديث على ضعف هذه الزيادة لكن قد وقع الإجماع على مضمونها.[الدراري المضية شرح الدرر البهية؛ الروضة الندية شرح الدرر البهية في صفحة ٥، مطبوعه دار الجليل بيروت لبنان]

ترجمہ: محدثین اس زیادتی (اضافہ) کہ ضعف (کمزوری) پر متفق ہیں لیکن اس کے مضمون (معنا) پر اجماع منعقد ہے. (فتاویٰ علماۓ حدیث : ٧/٧٣ ; فتاویٰ غزنویہ :١/٢٠٦)

امام ابن_تیمیہ (الحنبلی) رح(المتوفي ٧٤٨ھ:
هذا حديث صحيح متفق على صحته تلقته الامة بالقبول والتصديق مع انه من غرائب الصحيح.[فتاوى إبن تيمية:١٨/٢٤٨]

ترجمہ: یہ حدیث (صحیح بخاری کی “انما الاعمال بالنیات”) صحیح ہے (کیونکہ) اس کی صحت پر اتفاق ہے، امت نے اسے قبول کیا ہے اور تصدیق کی ہے، باوجود اس کے کہ وہ صحیح (بخاری) کی غریب حدیث میں سے ہے.


علامہ ابن القیم الجوزی (الحنبلی) رح لکھتے ہیں:
على ان أهل العلم قد نقلوه واحتجوا به فوقفنا بذلك على صحته كما وفقنا على صحة قول رسول الله (صلي الله عليه وسلم) “لاوصية لوارث” وقوله في البحر “هو الطهور ماؤه و حل الميتة” وقوله “إذا إختلف المتبايعان في الثمن والسلعة قائمة فحالفا وتر ادا البيع” وقوله “الدية على العاقلة” وان كانت هذا الأحاديث لا ثبتت من جهة الإسناد ولكن لما تلقته الكافة عن الكافة غنوا بصحتها عندهم عن طلب الأسناد لها فكذلك حديث معاذ (رضي الله عنه) لما احتجوا جميعا غنوا عن طلب الإسناد له.[أعلام الموقعين:١/١٥٥، مطبوعه مكة المكرمة]

ترجمہ: مزید یہ کہ اہل_علم نے اسے نقل کیا ہے اور اس سے استدلال کیا ہے. پس علم ہوگیا ہمیں اس بات کا کہ یہ حدیث ان کے نزدیک صحیح ہے. جیسا کہ ہمیں معلوم ہوا رسول الله صلی الله علیہ وسلم کے قول “لاوصية لوارث”، اور آپ (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) کے فرمان سمندر کے بارے میں “هو الطهور ماؤه و الحل الميتة”، اور آپ (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) کے فرمان “إذا إختلف المتبايعان في الثمن والسلعة قائمة فحالفا وتر ادا البيع” اور آپ (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) کے فرمان “الدية على العاقلة” کی صحت کا. اگرچہ یہ احادیث (صحیح) سند کے ساتھ ثابت نہیں ہے لیکن اس کو (ہر دور میں علماء_امت کی) جماعت نے جماعت سے قبول کیا تو مستغنی کردیا ہے اس کی صحت کو اس کی سند طلب کرنے سے، اسی طرح حدیث معاذ(رضی الله عنہ) ہے، جب دلیل پکڑی ہے تمام نے اس سے تو اس کی سند کو طلب کرنے سے مستغنی(بے-پرواہ/غیر-لازم) کردیا ہے.

علامہ جمال الدین الملطی(الحنفی) رح لکھتے ہیں:

وخبر الواحد اذا تلقتھ ألأمة بالقبول عملا به و تصديقا له يفيد العلم (اليقيني) عند جماهير الأمة وهو أحد قسمتي المتواتر ولم يكن بين سلف الأمة في ذلك نزاع.[شرح عقيدة الطحاوية: ٣٥٥]
ترجمہ: اور خبر واحد کو جب امت قبول کرلے اس کی تصدق اور اس پر عمل کرتے ہوۓ تو جمہور علماء_امت کے نزدیک علم یقینی کا فائدہ دیتی ہے اور یہ بھی متواتر کی ایک قسم ہے. اسلاف_امت میں اس بارے میں کوئی نزاع نہیں.

فقہ حنفی کے عظیم محدث محقق، فقیہ، اصولی شیخ زاہد بن الحسن الکوثری رح لکھتے ہیں:

واحتجاج الأئمة بحديث تصحيح له منهم بل جمهور أهل العلم من جميع الطوائف على ان خبر الواحد إذا تلقته الأمة تصديقا له أو عملا به يوجب العلم.[مقالات الكوثري:٧٠]

ترجمہ: ائمہ کا بطور_دلیل کسی حدیث کو لےلینا یہ ان کی طرف سے اس حدیث کو صحیح قرار دینا ہوگا، بلکہ تمام جماعتوں کے جمہور اہل_علم اس اصول پر ہیں کہ خبر_واحد کو امت جب اس کی تصدق کرتے ہوۓ قبول کرلے تو یہ علم_یقینی کا فائدہ دیتی ہے.


(١) جس حدیث کو امت قبول کرلے یا اس پر کسی مسئلہ یا عقیدہ کی بنیاد رکھ لے، وہ حدیث صحیح کے درجہ سے متواتر کے درجہ میں ہوتی ہے اس کی سند پر بحث کرنا اصول_محدثین کے خلاف ہے.

(٢) اگر کئیاخبار آحاد (واحد کی جمع) ہوں، ان سے ایک معنی “مشترک” طور پر سمجھ میں آتا ہو، تو اس بات کو تواتر_معنوی حاصل ہوگا.

(٣) تواتر کی تمام اقسام یقین کا فائدہ دیتی ہیں.

(٤) اگر اخبار آحاد پر فردا فردا اعتراضات ہوں لیکن ان سے ثابت ہونے والے مفہوم پر وہ اعتراض وارد نہیں ہوگا، جیسے حضرت عیسیٰ علیہ السلام کی حیات تواتر_معنوی سے ثابت ہے، ان کی بعض روایات پر جرح اس اصل مسئلہ کے ثبوت میں کوئی نقصان نہیں پہنچاۓ گی، بلکہ ایسی روایات پر جرح کرنا ہی بے-فائدہ اور بے-کار ہوگا اور ایک اتفاقی مسئلہ کو مشکوک بنانے کی سعی لاحاصل ہوگی.

(٥) اجماع اسناد سے قوی ہے یعنی جس بات پر اجماع ہوجاۓ اس کی روایات کی جانچ پرکھ کی ضرورت نہیں.

موجودہ زمانہ میں اکثر حضرات ان اصولوں سے ناواقف ہیں، اس لئے وہ ہر حدیث کو سند کے اعتبار سے پرکھنا شروع کردیتے ہیں اور (مسلموں کی جماعت سے دور) گمراہی کے گڑھے میں جاگرتے ہیں. منکرین_حیات انبیاء (علیہ السلام) نے مسئلہ_حیات کا انکار اسی وجہ سے کیا ہے، حالانکہ احادیث_حیات تواتر تک پہنچی ہوئی ہیں.

إن من جملة ما تواتر عن النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم حياة الانبياء في قبورهم”. [نظم المتناثر من أحاديث المتواتر]

ترجمہ: جو روایات نبی (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) سے متواتر ہیں ان میں انبیاء (علیھم السلام) کا قبروں میں زندہ ہونا بھی ہے.

٦٠٠ کے قریب کتب کے مصنف علامہ جلال الدین السیوطی (الشافعی) رح لکھتے ہیں:

حياة النبي (صل الله عليه وسلم) في قبره هو وسائر الانبياء معلومة عندنا علما قطعيا لما قام عندنا من الأدلة في ذلك وتواترت له الأخبار الدالة على ذلك.[الحاوي للفتاوى: ٢/١٣٩]

ترجمہ: نبی اقدس (صلی الله علیہ وسلم) کی اور دوسرے انبیاء (علیھم السلام) کی قبر میں حیات ہونا ہمیں یقینی طور پر معلوم ہے، اس لئے کہ ہمارے نزدیک اس پر دلائل قائم ہیں اور اس مسئلہ پر دلالت کرنے والی روایات ہمارے نزدیک متواتر ہیں.

اور علامہ ابن القیم رہ نے “کتاب الروح” میں ابو عبدالله قرطبی سے بھی اسی طرح کی بات نقل کی ہے کہ ان کے نزدیک اس پر دلائل قائم ہیں اور اس مسئلہ پر دلالت کرنے والی روایات ہمارے نزدیک متواتر ہیں.

چونکہ احادیث حیات الانبیاء (علیھم السلام) کو تواتر حاصل ہے، اس لئے اس کا انکار کرنے والا اہل_سنّت والجماعت سے خارج (بدعتی) ہے، اور اس کے پیچھے نماز پڑھنا مکروہ_تحریمی ہے.

Can a Hadith be Rejected on the Excuse that “It Contradicts ‘Intellect’/‘Reason’ or the Principles of Sharī‘ah”??

Can I Reject a Ḥadīth because I feel that it contradicts ‘Intellect’/‘Reason’ or the Principles of Sharī‘ah?

By Mufti Muadh Chati


Bismillāhir Raḥmānir Raḥīm,

Indeed, the Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam hold a sacred place in the hearts of Muslims. The Aḥādīth are considered a primary source of Sharī‘ah and contain essential commands and advices that construct the edifice of Sharī‘ah.

Allah the Almighty says:

ﻟَﻘَﺪْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻟَﻜُﻢْ ﻓِﻲْ ﺭَﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺃُﺳْﻮَﺓٌ ﺣَﺴَﻨَﺔٌ ﻟِﻤَﻦْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻳَﺮْﺟُﻮﺍ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻴَﻮْﻡَ ﺍﻵﺧِﺮَ ﻭَﺫَﻛَﺮَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﻛَﺜِﻴْﺮًﺍ

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah the most excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often”

[Surah Al-Aḥzāb, verse 21]]

Allah the Almighty says:

ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﻳَﻨْﻄِﻖُ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﺇِﻥْ ﻫُﻮَ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻭَﺣْﻲٌ ﻳُﻮْﺣَﻰ


“He (the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) does not speak through his own inclination; it is but a [divinely] revealed revelation”

[Surah Al-Najm, verse 3-4]

Recently, claims have been made by reformists that it is permissible to reject a noble Ḥadīth if one feels that it contradicts one’s intellect or one feels that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah.

For example, these reformists have claimed that a narration found in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that one wing of a fly contains an illness while the other contains a cure contradicts the intellect. This is despite the fact that it does not contradict the intellect at all, in fact, many modern-day cures contain remnants of the disease itself, as is the case with anti-venom; it is made using venom.

Some reformists have claimed that the narration narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that Mūsā ‘Alayh al-Salām placed his clothes on a stone that ran away, contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah as it involves an unclothed Prophet running after his clothes. This is despite the fact that this does not contradict the principles of Sharī‘ah at all, in fact, the Qur’ān informs us of the story of Ādam ‘Alayh al-Salām and Hawā ‘Alayhā al-Salām, which contains similar elements to this narration.

Other reformists have claimed that a narration narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam was temporarily affected by black magic that had been casted by his enemies contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah as it involves a Prophet being affected by black magic. This is despite the fact that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam was a human being, and thus, he experienced many of the difficulties that a human being goes through, such as illnesses and the pangs of death.

These claims of rejecting Aḥādīth on the assumption that they contradict the intellect or the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah are claimed to be validated by statements of the scholars of the past such as Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH).

In the coming article, we intend to discuss two issues:

1) Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it is contradictory to intellect/reason?

2) Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?

Note: In order to gain a better grasp of this article, readers are advised to read the entire article.

Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it is contradictory to ‘intellect’/‘reason’?

The Role of the Intellect/Reason in Sharī‘ah

An intellectual person is able to comprehend that his eyes, ears, nose, and other limbs have limitations. Human beings do not have the ability to see in the dark, nor do they have the ability to hear certain sound frequencies, and nor are they are able to smell certain odors. It then makes sense to state that if all the faculties of our body are confined by boundaries, then our intellect must also have a limit.

If this is coupled with the fact that we have been obliged to follow the commandments of the noble Sharī‘ah, whatever they may be, we are able to deduce that we are required to follow the commandments of Sharī‘ah regardless of whether they fall within the limitations of our intellect or outside of the limitations of our intellect.

If the Sharī‘ah were to be based exactly in accordance to our intellect, there would be no aspect of faith/belief (Ῑmān ) and the Sharī‘ah would inevitably serve the dictates of our innate self (nafs). The Sharī‘ah was sent in order to free each individual from the grasps of his innate self (nafs), it was not sent to become subservient to the innate self (nafs).

Imām Al-Bazdawī Raḥimahullah (d.482 AH) writes:

ﻭَﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻌَﻘْﻞَ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻨْﻔَﻚُّ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﻓَﻠَﺎ ﻳَﺼْﻠُﺢُ ﺣُﺠَّﺔً ﺑِﻨَﻔْﺴِﻪِ ﺑِﺤَﺎﻝٍ
“And the intellect/reason is not free from desires (hawā ), thus it alone can never serve as evidence”

[Imām Al-Bazdawī Raḥimahullah, ‘Uṣūl al-Bazdawī’, (Karachi: Mīr Muḥammad Kutub Khānāh, n.a), pg.323]

We are required to follow the commandments and dictates of Allah and His Messenger Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam; this is regardless of whether their commandments gain the support of our feeble intellect or the support of capricious scientific research.

As ‘Allāmah al-Qurṭubī Raḥimahullah (d.671 AH) explains:

ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﺳُﺒْﺤَﺎﻧَﻪُ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺒْﻦِ ﺃُﻣُﻮْﺭَ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳْﻦِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟْﻌِﺒَﺎﺩِ ﻭَﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﻌِﺪْ ﻭَﻟَﻢْ ﻳُﻮْﻋِﺪْ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻣَﺎ ﺗَﺤْﺘَﻤِﻠُﻪُ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻟُﻬُﻢْ ﻭَﻳُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻮْﻧَﻬَﺎ ﺑِﺄَﻓْﻬَﺎﻣِﻬِﻢْ ﺑَﻞْ ﻭَﻋَﺪَ ﻭَﺃَﻭْﻋَﺪَ ﺑِﻤَﺸِﻴْﺌَﺘِﻪِ ﻭَﺇِﺭَﺍﺩَﺗِﻪِ ﻭَﺃَﻣَﺮَ ﻭَﻧَﻬَﻰ ﺑِﺤِﻜْﻤَﺘِﻪِ ﻭَﻟَﻮْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻛُﻠَّﻤَﺎ ﻟَﺎ ﺗُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻪُ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻣَﺮْﺩُﻭْﺩًﺍ ﻟَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﺃَﻛْﺜَﺮَ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮَﺍﺋِﻊِ ﻣُﺴْﺘَﺤِﻴْﻠًﺎ

“Indeed, Allah, The Exalted, did not base the matters of Dīn upon the intellect of the servants, and He did not promise or warn in accordance to what their intellects expect and understand, rather, he promised and warned according to His liking, and He commanded and prohibited with His wisdom. And if everything that the intellect does not comprehend were to be rejected, then the majority of the Sharī‘ah would be made redundant”

[‘Allāmah al-Qurṭubī, ‘Kitāb al-Tadhkirah bi-Aḥwāl al-Mawtā wa-Umūr al-Ākhirah’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1431 AH), pg.644, v.2]

The same applies to scientific discoveries; they are dependent upon research and investigations, the findings of which may change from time to time. Our Sharī‘ah is neither dependent nor confined by the discoveries of the modern-age. As ‘Allāmah Khaṭtābī Raḥimahullah (d.388 AH) explains:

ﻭَﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﺑِﻨَﺎ ﺣَﺎﺟَﺔٌ ﻣَﻊَ ﻗَﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺩِﻕُ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺼْﺪُﻭْﻕُ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻱْ ﻳَﺄْﺗِﻴْﻪِ ﺍﻟْﻮَﺣْﻲُ ﺑِﺄَﺳْﺮَﺍﺭِ ﺍﻟْﻐَﻴْﺐِ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺈِﺳْﺘِﺸْﻬَﺎﺩِ ﺑِﺄَﻗَﺎﻭِﻳْﻞِ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟﻄِّﺐِّ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﻭَﺻَﻠُﻮْﺍ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣَﺎ ﻭَﺻَﻠُﻮْﺍ ﺇِﻟَﻴْﻪِ ﻣِﻦْ ﻋِﻠْﻤِﻪِ ﺑِﻤُﻘَﺪَّﻣَﺎﺕِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺠَﺎﺭِﺏِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻣْﺘِﺤَﺎﻥِ ﻭَﻣِﻦْ ﻗَﻮْﻝِ ﺃُﺳْﺘَﺎﺫِﻫِﻢْ ﺑِﻘُﺮَﺍﻁَ ﻓِﻲْ ﺃَﻭَّﻝِ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻪِ : ﺍﻟﺘَّﺠْﺮِﺑَﺔُ ﺧَﻄَﺮٌ


“We have no need to present with the statement of the Prophet Sallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam – the truthful, the accepted, the one to whom the revelation brought secrets of the unseen – as support, the statements of doctors, who have only acquired what they have acquired from their knowledge through experimentation and investigation, and in the words of one of their peers, Hippocrates, at the start of his book (titled Aphorisms): ‘experimentum periculosum’ (experiments are deceitful)”

[‘Allāmah Khaṭtābī, ‘A‘lām al-Ḥadīth’, (Makah: Jami‘ah Ummul Qurā, 1406 AH), pg.1126 v.3]

It is our belief that because our intellect is limited, that which benefits us can only be determined by our Creator – Whose knowledge is limitless.
Imām al-Shāṭibī Raḥimahullah (d.790 AH) writes:

ﻗَﺪْ ﻋُﻠِﻢَ ﺑِﺎﻟﺘِّﺠَﺎﺭِﺏِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺨِﺒْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺴَّﺎﺭِﻳَﺔِ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﻟَﻢِ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻭَّﻝِ ﺍﻟﺪُّﻧْﻴَﺎ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﻴَﻮْﻡِ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝَ ﻏَﻴْﺮُ ﻣُﺴْﺘَﻘِﻠَّﺔٍ ﺑِﻤَﺼَﺎﻟِﺤِﻬَﺎ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺠْﻠَﺎﺑًﺎ ﻟَﻬَﺎ ﺃَﻭْ ﻣَﻔَﺎﺳِﺪِﻫَﺎ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺪْﻓَﺎﻋًﺎ ﻟَﻬَﺎ


“Indeed, it has been known through experience and normative understanding in the universe, from the beginning of the world until today, that the intellect is not independent in knowing that which is beneficial for it; so that it may acquire it, or [in knowing] that which is harmful for it; so that it may refrain from it”

[Imām al-Shāṭibī, ‘Al ‘Itiṣām Bi al-Kitāb wa’l- Sunnah’, (n.a: Maktabah al-Tawḥīd, n.a), pg.57, v.1]

Shāh Waliullah al-Muḥaddith al-Dehlawī Raḥimahullah (d.1176 AH) writes:

ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲُّ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺃَﻭْﺛَﻖُ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻧَﺎ ﻣِﻦْ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻟِﻨَﺎ


“The Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam is more reliable to us than our intellect”

[Shāh Waliullah al-Muḥaddith al-Dehlawī, ‘Hujjatullah al-Bāligah’, (Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 2005), pg.30, v.1]

Of course, this is not to say that the human intellect and reason have no place in Sharī‘ah. It is possible for a person to recognise the existence and greatness of Allah the Almighty through his intellect and reason.

Scholars including the likes of Ibn Abī al-Dunyā Raḥimahullah (d.281 AH), Ibn Ḥibbān Raḥimahullah (d.354 AH), al-Ghazālī Raḥimahullah (d.505 AH), Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH), Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah (d.606 AH), and Imām al-Shāṭibī Raḥimahullah (d.790 AH) have written on the incredible gift from Allah, that is, the human intellect and reason.

However, the human intellect has its limits, it cannot be used to supersede and override the indisputable commands of Allah and the authentic commands of His Messenger Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam. Accordingly, our approach to the human intellect and reason should be balanced.
The Malikī scholar, Zayn al-Dīn Ibn al-Munayyir Raḥimahullah (d.695 AH) said:

ﻣَﻦْ ﺯَﻋَﻢَ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣْﻜَﺎﻡَ ﻛُﻠَّﻬَﺎ ﺗَﻌَﺒُّﺪِﻳَّﺔٌ ﻟَﺎ ﻣَﺠَﺎﻝَ ﻟِﻠْﻘِﻴَﺎﺱِ ﻓِﻴْﻬَﺎ ﺃَﻟْﺤَﻘَﻪُ ﺑِﺠُﺤُﻮْﺩِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﺒْﺮِﻳَّﺔِ ﻭَﻣَﻦْ ﺯَﻋَﻢَ ﺃَﻧَّﻬَﺎ ﻗِﻴَﺎﺳِﻴَّﺔٌ ﻣَﺤْﻀَﺔٌ ﺃَﻟْﺤَﻘَﻪُ ﺑِﺘَﻬَﻮُّﺭِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻌْﺘَﺰِﻟَﺔِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻮَﺳُّﻂِ ” ﻭَﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻗَﻮَﺍﻣًﺎ”


“If one considers the rulings [of Sharī‘ah] to be entirely literal in which there is no scope for intellectual reasoning, then this shall lead him to the denial perpetrated by the al-Jabariyyah sect (a deviant sect), and if one considers them (the rulings of Sharī‘ah) to be completely [based upon] intellectual reason, then this shall lead him to the mistakes perpetrated by the al-Mu‘tazilah sect (a deviant sect), and the correct [approach] is a middle-path/moderation; [Allah the Almighty says], ‘And they are steadfast in the middle [path]’”

[‘Allāmah al-Zarkashī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ’, (Cairo: Wuzārah al-Awqāf, 1992), pg.27, v.5]

A balanced approach towards human intellect and reason in Sharī‘ah may be understood with a parable presented by a renowned scholar. Consider three individuals leaving their homes with the intention of climbing a steep mountain. Each of the three individuals possesses a horse. The first individual considers a horse a critical asset, thus he rides his horse from his home until he reaches the mountain, after reaching the mountain; he begins to climb the steep mountain while riding his horse, almost immediately, both the horse and the rider fall of the mountain. The second individual considers a horse a useless asset, accordingly, instead of riding the horse, he begins to walk from his home towards the mountain, however, when he reaches the mountain, he is too exhausted to climb the mountain. The third individual has a balanced approach towards the horse, he knows that while the horse has its capabilities, it also has its limitations, thus he rides the horse until he reaches the mountain, he then dismounts from the horse and begins to climb the mountain on foot. He succeeds in climbing the mountain.

The third individual succeeds in climbing the mountain because he used his horse at the correct juncture and left his horse at the correct juncture, while the first individual relied entirely upon his horse, such that he used his horse at an incorrect juncture, and the second individual did not valorize his horse at all.

We cannot reject the tenets of our religion and the authentic Aḥādīth if we ‘feel’ that they contradict our reasoning or intellect.

The irresolute/fickle morals, ethics, opinions, and beliefs of the modern society cannot be made a standard for the resolute and firm principles of Islām. The modern society considers correct today what it considered incorrect yesterday and it will consider correct tomorrow what it considers incorrect today. Similarly, the modern society considers absurd today what it considered comprehensible yesterday and it will consider comprehensible tomorrow what is considers absurd today.

Can I use my Intellect/Reason to reject Aḥādīth?

Recently, we have seen a wave of attacks hurled at the noble Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam. Individuals claiming to be championing a supposed ‘voice of reason’ have forced their intellect and reasoning onto the noble Prophetic narrations, thus rejecting narrations that supposedly contradict their intellect and reasoning.

Using the statements of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) and others, these individuals are claiming that it is possible for every individual to reject Aḥādīth.
In explaining what is meant by the notion of when a text of Ḥadīth contradicts intellect, modernists and Islamic reformists take great pleasure in quoting the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH):

ﻭَﻛُﻞُّ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺭَﺃَﻳْﺘَﻪُ ﻳُﺨَﺎﻟِﻒُ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝَ ﺃَﻭْ ﻳُﻨَﺎﻗِﺾُ ﺍﻟْﺄُﺻُﻮْﻝَ ﻓَﺎﻋْﻠَﻢْ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﻣَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻉٌ ﻓَﻠَﺎ ﺗَﺘَﻜَﻠَّﻒْ ﺍﻋْﺘِﺒَﺎﺭَﻩُ


“And every Ḥadīth that you see contradicting the intellect or breaking the principles [of Sharī‘ah], then know that it is fabricated, so do not exert yourself in considering it”

[Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al Mawḍū’āt Minal Aḥādīth Al Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.151, v.1]

‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah (d.904 AH) explains:

ﺍﻟﺮِّﻛَّﺔُ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻌْﻨَﻰ ﻛَﺄَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣُﺨَﺎﻟِﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻠْﻌَﻘْﻞِ ﺿَﺮُﻭْﺭَﺓً ﺃَﻭْ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺪْﻟَﺎﻟًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘْﺒَﻞُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺄْﻭِﻳْﻞَ ﺑِﺤَﺎﻝٍ ﻧَﺤْﻮَ ﺍﻟْﺈِﺧْﺒَﺎﺭِ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﻤْﻊِ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟﻀِّﺪَّﻳْﻦِ ﻭَﻋَﻦْ ﻧَﻔْﻲِ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﻧِﻊِ ﻭَﻗِﺪَﻡِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺟْﺴَﺎﻡِ


“Feebleness in the meaning, such as it being contradictory to the intellect logically or calculatedly, and it does not accept reconciliation in any way, such as a narration that informs of two opposites coming together or it rejects a creator or it informs that the bodies are pre-eternal (all of which contradict the intellect)”

[‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]

‘Allāmah Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah explains:

ﺃَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣُﺨَﺎﻟِﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻠْﻌَﻘْﻞِ ﺑِﺤَﻴْﺚُ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘْﺒَﻞُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺄْﻭِﻳْﻞَ


“…that it contradicts the intellect in a manner that it cannot be reconciled

[‘Allāmah Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyāḍ: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.434, v.3] [Also see: al-Biqa‘ī Raḥimahullah, ‘al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah’, (Riyad: Maktabah al-Rushd), pg.578, v.1] [Also see: Ibn al-Mulaqqin, ‘Al-Muqni‘’, (Makah: Jami‘ah Ummul Qurā, 1403 AH), pg.114]

It is clear from the quotes above that when Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) mentioned that a Ḥadīth may be labeled as fabricated if it contradicts the intellect, he was not referring to Aḥādīth that contradict the understandings and morals of the fickle modern-day society, rather, he was referring to Aḥādīth that contradict basic logic. For example, if the words of a supposed Ḥadīth were to claim that Allah does not exist, or that 1 + 1 = 3, then this supposed Ḥadīth would be rejected.

[See: Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah (may Allah preserve him), ‘Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyāḍ: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.434, v.3] [Khalīl Mullā Khāṭir, ‘Al-Isabah Fī Ṣiḥhati Ḥadīth al-Dhubābah’, (Jeddah: Dār al-Qiblah, 1405 AH), pg.99]

This is supported by the fact that Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) mentions this statement after quoting a fabricated narration that claims that Allah the Almighty created Himself (this is logically impossible as the created cannot be a creator). Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) also precedes the above-mentioned statement with the words:

ﻟِﺄَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﺘَﺤِﻴْﻞَ ﻟَﻮْ ﺻَﺪَﺭَ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺜِّﻘَﺎﺕِ ﺭُﺩَّ


“…because if a logically impossible (Mustahil – such as a supposed narration claiming that Allah does not exist) statement were to be made by reliable narrators, it would be rejected”

[Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al Mawḍū’āt Minal Aḥādīth Al Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.150, v.1]

As for when a Ḥadīth heralds a meaning of miracles or other concepts that the intellect cannot comprehend or fathom, then such a Ḥadīth cannot be impetuously rejected.

It is for this reason that a leading scholar of Ḥadīth of our time, Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah, may Allah preserve him, explains:

ﺍﻟْﻌَﻘْﻞُ ﺍﻟﺴَّﻠِﻴْﻢُ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻋِﻲُ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺎﻟِﻲْ ﻣِﻦْ ﺷَﻮَﺍﺋِﺐِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻧْﺤِﺮَﺍﻑِ ﻭﻟﻮﺛﺎﺕ ﺍﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﺔ ﺍﻟﻤﻌﺎﺻﺮﺓ ﻭﺍﻟﻤﺎﺩﻳﺔ ﺍﻟﻤﻠﺤﺪﺓ ﻭَﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳْﻦُ ﺃُﻟْﻌُﻮْﺑَﺔً ﻟِﻜُﻞِّ ﺫِﻱْ ﻫَﻮًﻯ ﻭَﺿَﻠَﺎﻟَﺔٍ ﺗَﺤْﺖَ ﺷِﻌَﺎﺭِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻤَﺴُّﻚِ ﺑِﻤِﺜْﻞِ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﺼُﻮْﺹِ ﻭَﻧَﺤْﻦُ ﻧَﻌِﻴْﺶُ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻔَﺎﻫِﻴْﻢَ ﺍﻟْﺂﻥَ !!


“The type of intellect (that is considered in assessing a Ḥadīth) is one that is sound, bound by Sharī‘ah, and free from the clamours of desire and heresy and the contamination of the modern society and the atheistic environment, otherwise, the Dīn would become a play for every deviant and misguided person under [the pretense] of holding firm to such statements (that mention that intellect plays a role in Ḥadīth), and we are now living in the time of such thoughts!”

[Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah (may Allah preserve him), ‘Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.559, v.2]

To reiterate, the irresolute/fickle morals, ethics, opinions, and beliefs of the modern society cannot be made a standard for the resolute and firm principles of Islām. The modern society considers correct today what it considered incorrect yesterday and it will consider correct tomorrow what it considers incorrect today. Similarly, the modern society considers absurd today what it considered comprehensible yesterday and it will consider comprehensible tomorrow what is considers absurd today.

Can a narration be labeled as a fabrication if I feel that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?

We have acquired our Aḥādīth through chains of narrations. These chains of narrations were rigorously scrutinized by the Ḥadīth scholars of the past who analysed the intricate details of a chain of narration in order to deduce whether a narration is sound, apocryphal, or fabricated. At times, masterful Ḥadīth scholars of the past scrutinised a narration based upon the fact that the text of the narration contradicts a fundamental and bonafide principle of Sharī‘ah. However, this was a delicate task, undertaken by a privileged few, as performing this daunting task required one to have profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth. It was in no way permitted for the laity.

Islamic reformists have made an attempt to allow the layman to also engage in criticism of a narration based upon whether its text is in conformity with the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah or not. This is despite the fact that a layman does not even have basic knowledge of Sharī‘ah, never mind the delicate and complex knowledge required to make such precarious decisions.

Modernists and Islāmic reformists take great pleasure in quoting statements of scholars such as Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH), Al-Ḥāfiẓ Al Ya‘murī Raḥimahullah (d.734 AH); et al. who have mentioned that if a narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Islām, then it may be rejected even if the chain of narration is sound.

However, what they fail to realize is that the early scholars who ruled certain Aḥādīth to be fabricated based upon the text of the Ḥadīth contradicting the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah did so through
profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth.

If an individual wishes to assess whether a coin is genuine or counterfeit, he ensures to take it to a specialist, within seconds the specialist would be able to determine whether or not the coin is genuine due to his profound knowledge of coins. In the same manner, beyond their meticulous examination of the chains of narration, some of the early scholars of Ḥadīth were
gifted with an ability to deduce whether a narration is authentic by looking at the text of the narration due to their profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth . Profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah in this context means that the knowledge of Sharī‘ah and the sciences of Ḥadīth were embedded and ingrained within them such that they could at will recite hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth with their chains of narration from memory.

We shall soon demonstrate this with examples from the lives of some of these scholars of Ḥadīth.

When Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) said:

ﻭَﺍﻋْﻠَﻢْ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻨَﻜَﺮَ ﻳَﻘْﺸَﻌِﺮُّ ﻟَﻪُ ﺟِﻠْﺪُ ﺍﻟﻄَّﺎﻟِﺐِ ﻟِﻠْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﻭَﻳَﻨْﻔَﺮُّ ﻣِﻨْﻪُ ﻗَﻠْﺒُﻪُ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻐَﺎﻟِﺐِ


“And know! That a rejected Ḥadīth, the skin of a seeker of noble knowledge trembles from it, and, in most cases, his heart turns away from it”

[Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Mawḍū’āt Min al-Aḥādīth al-Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.146, v.1]

The scholars of the sciences of Ḥadīth stepped in to explain that this is definitely not for everyone. Thus, Imām Al-Biqā’ī Raḥimahullah (d.885 AH) relates in his Al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah , the majority of which is taken from Ḥafiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH)’s lectures delivered on Al-Tabṣirah wa’l-Tadhkirah , with regards to the statement of Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) recorded above:

ﺍﻟﻄَّﺎﻟِﺐُ ﻟِﻠْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﺃَﻱْ ﺍﻟْﻜَﺜِﻴْﺮُ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺨَﺎﻟَﻄَﺔِ ﻟِﺄﻧْﻔَﺎﺱِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﻤَﻜِّﻦُ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟﺴَّﻨَﺪِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺪِﻳْﺪُ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭَﺳَﺔِ ﻟِﻠﺸَّﺮِﻳْﻌَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﺭِﻑُ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻤَﻘْﺒُﻮْﻝِ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺩُﻭْﺩِ ﻟَﺎ ﻛُﻞُّ ﻃَﺎﻟِﺐٍ


“‘Seeker of noble knowledge’ – i.e. [Ibn Al-Jawzi is referring to] one who has perpetually engrossed himself with the breaths (Aḥādīth) of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and he is an expert in the chains of narration, and he has extraordinary mastery with the principles of Sharī‘ah, and he is able to distinguish accepted from unaccepted, not every seeker [of noble knowledge]

[Al-Biqā’ī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah’, (Riyad: Maktabah al-Rushd, 2007), pg.578 v.1] [Shaykh Aḥmad Ma‘bad ‘Abd al-Karīm, ‘Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī wa-Atharuhu Fil Sunnah’, (Riyad: Aḍwā al-Salaf, 2004), pg.1999 v.5]

Effectively, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH) ruled out the possibility for those who do not have profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah to use Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH)’s statement as a conduit to reject Aḥādīth. We shall soon explain what we mean by profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah in this context.

‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah (d.904 AH) explains the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) as follows:

ﻭَﻋَﻨَﻰ ﺑِﺬَﻟِﻚَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱَ ﻟِﺄَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻉِ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺒِﻴْﺮَ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺑِﺮَﻭْﻧَﻘِﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺑَﻬْﺠَﺘِﻬَﺎ


“And he (Ibn al-Jawzī) intends by this (a seeker of sacred knowledge): one who is perpetually engrossed in the texts of Sharī‘ah, and he has profound knowledge of them (the texts of Sharī‘ah) and their essence and objectives”

[‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]

Ibn al-‘Ajamī Raḥimahullah (d.1086 AH) comments under the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH):

ﻃَﺎﻟِﺐُ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ : ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱُ ﻟِﺄَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻉِ ﺣَﺘَّﻰ ﻳَﺤْﺼُﻞَ ﻣَﻠَﻜَﺔً ﻗَﻮِﻳَّﺔً ﻭَﻫِﻤَّﺔً ﺭَﺍﺳِﺨَﺔً ﻳُﻔَﺮِّﻕُ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻉِ ﻭَﻏَﻴْﺮِﻩِ


“Seeker of knowledge: i.e. one who is perpetually engrossed in the texts of Sharī‘ah such that he has achieved an incredible ability and firm prowess such that he may distinguish with it between fabricated and non-fabricated”

[Ibn al-‘Ajamī, Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.432, v.3]

After establishing that criticism of a narration based upon the text of the narration was reserved for those who had deeply profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth, let us demonstrate what denotes profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp of Ḥadīth through the lives of the scholars who heralded this quality.

The Benchmark for Profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth through the lives of the scholars of the past

Imām Al-Layth Ibn Sa’d Raḥimahullah (d.175 AH)

ﻗِﻴْﻞَ ﻟِﻠَّﻠﻴْﺚِ ﺃَﻣْﺘَﻊَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺑِﻚَ ﺇِﻧَّﺎ ﻧَﺴْﻤَﻊُ ﻣِﻨْﻚَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚَ ﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻚَ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﺃَﻭَﻛُﻞُّ ﻣَﺎ ﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻲْ؟ ﻟَﻮْ ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﻣَﺎ ﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﻣَﺎ ﻭَﺳِﻌَﻪُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﻛَﺐُ


“It was said to Layth ibn Sa’d, ‘May Allah reward you, indeed we hear from you Aḥādīth that are not in your books’, so he responded, ‘Is everything that is in my heart in my books? If I were to write everything that is in my memory, then it would not fit inside this ship’”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah Al Risālah, 1985), pg.153 v.8]

Imām Yaḥyā ibn Ma‘īn Raḥimahullah (233 AH)
Muḥammad ibn Naṣr al-Ṭabarī Raḥimahullah said:

ﺩَﺧَﻠْﺖُ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻌِﻴْﻦ ﻓَﻮَﺟَﺪْﺕُ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻩُ ﻛَﺬَﺍ ﻭَﻛَﺬَﺍ ﺳِﻔْﻄًﺎ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﺩَﻓَﺎﺗِﺮًﺍ ﻭَﺳَﻤِﻌْﺘُﻪُ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻗَﺪْ ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﺑِﻴَﺪَﻱَّ ﺃَﻟْﻒَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ


“I visited Yaḥyā ibn Ma’īn and found by him such and such amounts of parchments, i.e. books, and I heard him say, ‘Indeed, I have written with these two hands of mine, a million narrations”

[Ḥāfiẓ al-Mizzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Taḥdhīb al-Kamāl’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1992), pg.548, v.31]

Imām Isḥāq Ibn Rāhwayh Raḥimahullah (d.238 AH)
Abū Dāwūd al-Khaffāf Raḥimahullah said:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻟَﻜَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣِﺌَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻲْ ﻭَﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻔًﺎ ﺃَﺳْﺮُﺩُﻫَﺎ


“I heard Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh say, ‘Indeed, it is as though I am looking at 100,000 narrations in my books and 30,000 [narrations] I am able to recite”

Al-Khaffāf then states:

ﻭَﺃَﻣْﻠَﻰ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺃَﺣَﺪَ ﻋَﺸَﺮَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺮَﺃَﻫَﺎ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﻓَﻤَﺎ ﺯَﺍﺩَ ﺣَﺮْﻓًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻧَﻘْﺺَ ﺣَﺮْﻓًﺎ


“Isḥāq dictated 11,000 narrations to us from his memory, he then read them out to us [again] without adding or removing a single letter”

Abū Yazīd Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā ibn Khālid Raḥimahullah said:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺇِﺑْﺮَﺍﻫِﻴْﻢَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻨْﻈَﻠِﻲَّ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻓِﻲْ ﺳَﻨَﺔِ ﺛَﻤَﺎﻥِ ﻭَّﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﻭَﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻴْﻦِ ” ﺃَﻋْﺮِﻑُ ﻣَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻛَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻴْﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺳَﺒْﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻇَﻬْﺮِ ﻗَﻠْﺒِﻲْ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺤَﺔٍ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﺃَﺭْﺑَﻌَﺔَ ﺁﻟَﺎﻑِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣُﺰَﻭَّﺭَﺓٍ ﻓَﻘِﻴْﻞَ ﻣَﺎ ﻣَﻌْﻨَﻰ ﺣِﻔْﻆِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺰَﻭَّﺭَﺓِ؟ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺇِﺫَﺍ ﻣَﺮَّ ﺑِﻲْ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٌ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣَﺎﺩِﻳْﺚِ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺤِﻴْﺤَﺔِ ﻓَﻠَﻴْﺘُﻪُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﻓَﻠْﻴًﺎ


“I heard Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Hanẓalī (Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh) say in the year 238 AH, ‘I know the locations of 100,000 narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration as well as the statements of the Ṣaḥābah) as though I am looking at them, and I have memorized 70,000 narrations from them that are authentic and they are in the crevices of my heart, and I know 4000 fabricated narrations’, it was asked of him, ‘What do you mean by memorising fabricated narrations?’ He replied, ‘When I come across a [fabricated] narration from [my tomes of] authentic narrations, then I swiftly remove it”

[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Jāmi‘ Li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa-Ādāb al-Sāmi‘’, (Beirut: Dār al-Garb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.381, v.2]

Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.242 AH)

A contemporary of Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d.242 AH), Abū Zur’ah al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah:

ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﺑْﻦُ ﺣَﻨْﺒَﻞَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﺃَﻟْﻒَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ


“[Aḥmad] ibn Ḥanbal had memorized a million narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah)”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.187 v.11] [Ibn al-Jawzī, Manāqib al-Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal’, (Giza: Dār Hijr, n.a), pg.73]

Imām al-Bukhārī Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH)

Muḥammad ibn Khamīrwayh Raḥimahullah said:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ” ﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺢٍ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻏَﻴْﺮِ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺢٍ


I heard Muḥammad ibn Ismā’īl say, ‘I have memorized 100,000 authentic narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah), and I have memorized 200,000 inauthentic narrations’”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.415 v.12]

‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Asim al-Baykandī Raḥimahullah states:

ﻗَﺪِﻡَ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﻓَﺎﺟْﺘَﻤَﻌْﻨَﺎ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻩُ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﺑَﻌْﻀُﻨَﺎ ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻛَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺳَﺒْﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻲْ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﺃَﻭْ ﺗَﻌْﺠَﺐُ ﻣِﻦْ ﻫَﺬَﺍ؟ ! ﻟَﻌَﻞَّ ﻓِﻲْ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟﺰَّﻣَﺎﻥِ ﻣَﻦْ ﻳَﻨْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻪِ ﻭَﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﻋَﻨَﻰ ﺑِﻪِ ﻧَﻔْﺴَﻪُ


“Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl came to us, so we gathered by him, then some of us said, ‘I heard Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh say, “It is as though I am looking at 70,000 narrations from my books”’, so Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl said, ‘Are you amazed by this?! It is possible that there is someone in this age who is looking at 200,000 narrations in his book’ – referring to himself”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.416 v.12]

Imām Muslim ibn Ḥajjāj Raḥimahullah (d.261 AH)

Al-Husayn ibn Muḥammad al-Māsarjisī states:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﻣُﺴْﻠِﻤًﺎ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺻَﻨَّﻔْﺖُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ” ﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﻨَﺪَ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺤِﻴْﺢَ ” ﻣِﻦْ ﺛَﻠَﺎﺙِ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣَﺴْﻤُﻮْﻋَﺔٍ


“I heard Muslim [ibn al-Ḥajjāj] say, ‘I wrote this ‘al-Musnad al-Ṣaḥīḥ’ from 300,000 narrations [that I have] heard’”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.565 v.12]

Imām Abū Zur‘ah al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah (d.264 AH)

Abū ‘Abdillah ibn Mandah relates from Abul ‘Abbas Muḥammad ibn Ja‘far ibn Ḥamkawayh that he said:

ﺳُﺌِﻞَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻋَﻦْ ﺭَﺟُﻞٍ ﺣَﻠَﻒَ ﺑِﺎﻟﻄَّﻠَﺎﻕِ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻫَﻞْ ﺣَﻨَﺚَ؟ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﻟَﺎ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﺍﻟْﺈِﻧْﺴَﺎﻥُ ” ﻗُﻞْ ﻫُﻮَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺃَﺣَﺪٌ ”


“Abū Zur‘ah was asked about a man who has taken an oath that his wife shall be divorced if it is untrue that Abū Zur‘ah has memorized 200,000 narrations, that will his divorce take place? So he replied, ‘I have memorized 200,000 narrations like how a person has memorized Qul Huwallahu Aḥad (Surah Ikhlās)”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.68 v.13] [See: ‘Allamah Tāj al-Subkī, ‘Ṭabqāt al-Shāf‘iyyah’, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.a), pg.65, v.1]

Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.241 AH) said:

ﺻَﺢَّ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺳَﺒْﻊُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻭَﻛَﺴْﺮٌ ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻔَﺘَﻰ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻗَﺪْ ﺣَﻔِﻆَ ﺳِﺖَّ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒٍ


“700,000 Aḥādīth (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration as well as the statements of the Ṣaḥābah) and a little more from the Aḥādīth are authentic, and this youngster (Abū Zur‘ah) has memorized 600,000 Aḥādīth”

[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārīkh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Garb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.41, v.12]

Imām Abū Dāwūd Raḥimahullah (d.275 AH)

Al-Fallās Raḥimahullah states:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺩَﺍﻭُﺩَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺃَﺳْﺮُﺩُ ﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻓَﺨْﺮَ ﻭَﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﺍﺛْﻨَﺎ ﻋَﺸَﺮَ ﺃَﻟْﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻌُﺜْﻤَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺮِّﻱْ ﻣَﺎ ﺳَﺄَﻟَﻨِﻲْ ﻋَﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺃَﺣَﺪٌ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺼْﺮَﺓِ ﻓَﺨَﺮَﺟْﺖُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﺻْﺒَﻬَﺎﻥَ ﻓَﺒَﺜَﺜْﺘُﻬَﺎ ﻓِﻴْﻬِﻢْ


“I heard Abū Dāwūd say, ‘I [can] recite 30,000 narrations and there is no arrogance [in this] and in my heart there are 12,000 narrations of ‘Uthmān Al Birrī that none from the people of Baṣrah have asked me about, so I went to Aṣbahān and I narrated these narrations to them”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.383 v.9]

Abū Bakr ibn Dāsah Raḥimahullah states that he heard Abū Dāwūd Raḥimahullah (d.275 AH) say:

ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﻋَﻦْ ﺭَﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺧَﻤْﺲَ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺍﻧْﺘَﺨَﺒْﺖُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺎ ﺿَﻤَﻨْﺘُﻪُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻜِﺘَﺎﺏِ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺏَ ” ﺍﻟﺴُّﻨَﻦِ”


“I have written 500,000 narrations of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and I extracted from them that which I have placed in this book, i.e. the Sunan”

[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārikh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.78, v.10]

Abū ‘Imrān Aḥmad ibn Naṣr al-Khaffāf (d.299 AH)

Al-Ḥākim Raḥimahullah said:

ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺒْﻐِﻲُّ ﻏَﻴْﺮَ ﻣَﺮَّﺓٍ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻛُﻨَّﺎ ﻧَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺇِﻥَّ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﻋِﻤْﺮَﺍﻥَ ﻳَﻔِﻲْ ﺑِﻤُﺬَﺍﻛَﺮَﺓِ ﻣِﺌَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ


“I heard Al-Ṣabghī say more than once, ‘We used to say that Abū ‘Imrān can recite 100,000 narrations’”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.561 v.13]

Abū Muḥammad ‘Abdān (d.306 AH)

Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥāfiẓ Raḥimahullah said:
ﻓَﺄَﻣَّﺎ ﻋَﺒْﺪَﺍﻥُ ﻓَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺌَﺔَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ


“As for ‘Abdan, he had memorized 100,000 narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah)”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.169 v.14]

Imām Ali ibn Umar al-Daruqutnī Raḥimahullah (d.385 AH)

Abū Bakr al-Birqānī Raḥimahullah states:

ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟﺪَّﺍﺭِﻗُﻄْﻨِﻲُّ ﻳُﻤْﻠِﻲْ ﻋَﻠَﻲَّ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠَﻞَ ﻣِﻦْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ


“Al Daruqutnī dictated ‘Al ‘Ilal’ to me from his memory”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.454 v.16]

The book ‘Al ‘Ilal’ contains well over 15,000 narrations.

A corollary principle understood from the above examples is that it is not possible to issue a ruling upon a narration simply based upon the basis that its text contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah until one has memorized equivalent to that which the scholars mentioned above had memorized; this would be a minimum of 100,000 Aḥādīth with their chains of narration. Only then could one claim that he has the right to deduce whether a narration is fabricated simply by looking at the text of the narration.

Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Daqīq al-‘Ῑd Raḥimahullah (d.702 AH) writes:

ﻭَﻛَﺜِﻴْﺮًﺍ ﻣَّﺎ ﻳَﺤْﻜُﻤُﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﺬَﻟِﻚَ – ﺃَﻱْ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻮَﺿْﻊِ – ﺑِﺎِﻋْﺘِﺒَﺎﺭِ ﺃُﻣُﻮْﺭٍ ﺗَﺮْﺟِﻊُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﻭِﻱِّ ﻭَﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺣَﺎﺻِﻠُﻪُ ﻳَﺮْﺟِﻊُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﺣَﺼَﻠَﺖْ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﻟِﻜَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﻣُﺤَﺎﻭَﻟَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲِّ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﻫَﻴْﺌَﺔٌ ﻧَﻔْﺴَﺎﻧِﻴَّﺔٌ ﻭَﻣَﻠَﻜَﺔٌ ﻗَﻮِﻳَّﺔٌ ﻳَﻌْﺮِﻓُﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺎ ﻳَﺠُﻮْﺯُ ﺃَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﺒُﻮَّﺓِ ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﺠُﻮْﺯُ


“And many times, they (the early scholars of Ḥadīth) issue this ruling, i.e. of fabrication, in consideration of matters related to the texts of the narration and the words of the narration, and the conclusion of this returns to the fact that due to perpetual engrossment with the words of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, they have acquired an innate nature and extraordinary ability through which they are able to recognise that which could be the Prophetic word and that which cannot”

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Daqīq al-‘Ῑd, ‘Al-Iqtirāḥ’, (Jordan: Dār al-‘Ulūm Lin Nashr wal-Tawzī’, 2007), pg.311-312] [‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]

Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah (d.748 AH) has also echoed these sentiments in his abridgement of Al-Iqtirah, Al-Mūqiẓah ; he explains that recognizing whether a Ḥadīth contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah (Al Qawā’id) is reserved for those who have rigorously acquainted themselves with the Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam such that their expertise in Ḥadīth is like the expertise of a certified gemologist in gemstones.

[Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Mūqiẓah’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah, 1405 AH), pg.37] [Also see the parable presented by: Ḥāfiẓ al-Mughlaṭāy, ‘Iṣlāḥ Kitāb Ibn Ṣalāḥ’, (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Islāmiyyah, 2007), pg.143]

Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Raḥimahullah (d.795 AH) writes while commentating upon a narration:

ﻭَﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﺗُﺤْﻤَﻞُ ﻣِﺜْﻞُ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣَﺎﺩِﻳْﺚِ – ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺗَﻘْﺪِﻳْﺮِ ﺻِﺤَّﺘِﻪِ – ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺃَﺋِﻤَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﻬَﺎﺑِﺬَﺓِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﻘَّﺎﺩِ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﻛَﺜُﺮَﺕْ ﻣُﻤَﺎﺭَﺳَﺘَﻬُﻢْ ﻟِﻜَﻠَﺎﻡِ ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲِّ ﺻَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﻭَﻛَﻠَﺎﻡِ ﻏَﻴْﺮِﻩِ ﻭَﻟِﺤَﺎﻝِ ﺭُﻭَﺍﺓِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﻧَﻘْﻠَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺧْﺒَﺎﺭِ ﻭَﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺘِﻬِﻢْ ﺑِﺼِﺪْﻗِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﻛَﺬِﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺣِﻔْﻈِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺿَﺒْﻄِﻬِﻢْ ﻓَﺈِﻥَّ ﻫَﺆُﻟَﺎﺀِ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﻧَﻘْﺪٌ ﺧَﺎﺹٌّ ﻳَﺨْﺘَﺼُّﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﻤَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺘِﻪِ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﻳَﺨْﺘَﺺُّ ﺍﻟﺼَّﻴْﺮَﻓِﻲُّ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺎﺫِﻕُ ﺑِﻤَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﻘُﻮْﺩِ ﺟَﻴِّﺪِﻫَﺎ ﻭَﺭَﺩِﻳْﺌِﻬَﺎ


“And indeed, narrations such as this – if authentic – are based upon the knowledge of the meticulous and assiduous Imāms of the Prophetic narration, whose engagement with the narrations of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam and the narrations of others (such as the Ṣaḥābah and Tābi‘ūn) is intense, as well as their engagement with the status of the narrators of Ḥadīth and the recorders of the narrations, as well as their knowledge of the truthfulness and untruthfulness [of the narrators of Ḥadīth], and the memory and recollection [of the narrators of Ḥadīth], for indeed, these [Imāms] have a specialised method of criticism that only they are capable of, just as a certified money-exchanger specialises in the knowledge of coins; in recognizing the reliable [coins] from the counterfeit [coins]”

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Raḥimahullah, ‘Jāmi‘al-‘Ulūm wal-Ḥikam’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1999), pg.105, v.2] [Also see: Shaykh Aḥmad Shākir, ‘Footnotes on Ṣaḥiḥ Ibn Ḥibbān’, (Egypt: Dār al-Ma‘ārif), pg.221, v.1]

It was for this reason that Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī Raḥimahullah (d.761 AH) said:

ﺍﻟْﺤُﻜْﻢُ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺑِﻜَﻮْﻧِﻪِ ﻣَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻋًﺎ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﺄَﺧِّﺮِﻳْﻦَ ﻋَﺴِﺮٌ ﺟِﺪًّﺍ ﻟِﺄَﻥَّ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﺘَﺄَﺗَّﻰ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﺑَﻌْﺪَ ﺟَﻤْﻊِ ﺍﻟﻄُّﺮُﻕِ ﻭَﻛَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻔْﺘِﻴْﺶِ … ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺑِﺨِﻠَﺎﻑِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺋِﻤَّﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﻘَﺪِّﻣِﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﻣَﻨَﺤَﻬُﻢُ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺒَﺤُّﺮَ ﻓِﻲْ ﻋِﻠْﻢِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺘَّﻮَﺳُّﻊِ ﻓِﻲْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ ﻛَﺸُﻌْﺒَﺔَ ﻭَﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﺳَﻌِﻴْﺪِ ﺍﻟْﻘَﻄَّﺎﻥِ ﻭَﻋَﺒْﺪِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣْﻤَﻦِ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻬْﺪِﻱْ ﻭَﻧَﺤْﻮِﻫِﻢْ ﺛُﻢَّ ﺃَﺻْﺤَﺎﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﺜْﻞِ ﺃَﺣْﻤَﺪَ ﺑِﻦْ ﺣَﻨْﺒَﻞَ ﻭَﻋَﻠِﻲِّ ﺑْﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺪِﻳْﻨِﻲِّ ﻭَﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﻭَﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕِ ﺑْﻦِ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻭَﻃَﺎﺋِﻔَﺘِﻬِﻢْ ﺛُﻢَّ ﺃَﺻْﺤَﺎﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﺜْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﺒُﺨَﺎﺭِﻱِّ ﻭَﻣُﺴْﻠِﻢٍ ﻭَﺃَﺑِﻲْ ﺩَﺍﻭُﺩَ ﻭَﺍﻟﺘَّﺮْﻣِﺬِﻱِّ ﻭَﺍﻟﻨَّﺴَﺎﺋِﻲِّ ﻭَﻛَﺬَﻟِﻚَ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺯَﻣَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺪَّﺍﺭِﻗُﻄْﻨِﻲِّ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺒَﻴْﻬَﻘِﻲِّ ﻣِﻤَّﻦْ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺠِﻴْﺊ ﺑَﻌْﺪَﻫُﻢْ ﻣُﺴَﺎﻭٍ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﺑَﻞْ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻣُﻘَﺎﺭِﺏٍ


“To rule a narration as fabricated is extremely difficult for the later scholars, as such a ruling cannot be placed except after gathering all of the chains of narration and after extensive investigation…and this is in contrast to the earlier scholars, those whom Allah blessed with profound knowledge of the field of Ḥadīth and vastness in memorising [the narrations], such as Shu‘bah, Yaḥyā ibn Sa‘īd Al Qaṭtān, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Mahdī, and others like them, then their companions, such as Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī, Yaḥyā ibn Ma‘īn, Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh, and their group, then their companions, such as Al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd, Tirmidhī, like this until the age of Al-Daruquṭnī and Al-Bayhaqī, who were from amongst those whom none came after them that were capable of equaling them or coming close to them”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī, ‘Al-Naqd al-Ṣarīḥ Limā U’turiḍa ‘Alayh Min Aḥādīth al-Maṣābīḥ – Majmū’ Rasā’il Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī’, (Cairo: Al-Fārūq al-Ḥadīthiyyah, 2013), pg.72, v.4] [See: ‘Allāmah Badr al-Dīn al-Zarkashī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Alā Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’, (Riyad: Aḍwā al-Salaf, 1998), pg.267, v.2]

The early scholars – who were afforded this privilege of being able to deduce whether a narration is fabricated or not by looking at its text due to their
profound knowledge of Sharī’ah – had not only memorised hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth, they had even memorized the wordings of the chain of narration. Consider the following example:

ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺧَﻠْﻒُ ‏( ﺑْﻦُ ﺳَﺎﻟِﻢٍ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺨْﺮَﻣِﻲُّ ‏) ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺳُﻔْﻴَﺎﻥَ ﺑْﻦَ ﻋُﻴَﻴْﻨَﺔَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻧَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮُﻭ ﺑْﻦُ ﺩِﻳْﻨَﺎﺭٍ ﻳُﺮِﻳْﺪُ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮٌﻭ ﺑْﻦُ ﺩِﻳْﻨَﺎﺭٍ ﻓَﺈِﺫَﺍ ﻗِﻴْﻞَ ﻟﺨَﻠَﻒ ﻗُﻞْ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮٌﻭ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﻟَﺎ ﺃَﻗُﻮْﻝُ ﻟِﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﻟَﻢْ ﺃَﺳْﻤَﻊْ ﻣِﻦْ ﻗَﻮْﻟِﻪِ ” ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ” ﺛَﻠَﺎﺛَﺔَ ﺃَﺣْﺮُﻑٍ ﻟِﻜَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺰِّﺣَﺎﻡِ ﻭَﻫِﻲَ ﺡَ ﺩَّ ﺙَ


“Khalaf (Sālim al-Mukharrimī) said, ‘I heard Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah say, ‘To us ‘Amr ibn Dīnār’, intending by this ‘Narrated to us ‘Amr ibn Dīnār’, thus when it was asked of him (i.e of Khalaf), ‘[Why don’t you] say, “Narrated to us ‘Amr”’, he replied, ‘I will not say [that] for indeed I did not hear from his (Sufyān ibn ‘Uyanah’s) statement ‘Narrated to us’ three letters; ﺡ ﺩ ﺙ (which translates to: Narrated) due to a loud noise”

[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Kifāyah Fī ‘Ilm al-Riwāyah’, (n.a: Dār al-Hudā, 2003), v.1, pg.242]

The dedication and engrossment of the scholars of the past in memorizing and narrating Aḥādīth may be understood from the story of Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān al-Bāgandī Raḥimahullah (d.312 AH). ‘Umar ibn Aḥmad al-Wā‘iẓ Raḥimahullah states:

ﻗَﺎﻡَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺑَﻜْﺮٍ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺎﻏَﻨْﺪِﻱُّ ﻟِﻴُﺼَﻠِّﻲَ ﻓَﻜَﺒَّﺮَ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺳُﻠَﻴْﻤَﺎﻥَ ﻟُﻮَﻳْﻦُ ﻓَﺴَﺒَّﺤْﻨَﺎ ﺑِﻪِ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ” ﺑِﺴْﻢِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣْﻤَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣِﻴْﻢِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻤْﺪُ ﻟِﻠﻪِ ﺭَﺏِّ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﻟَﻤِﻴْﻦَ ”


“Abū Bakr al-Bāgandī stood up to perform Salah, he read aloud the Takbīr, then said, ‘Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān Luwayn has narrated to us’, so we began to recite the Tasbīḥ (in order to alert him of the mistake), and so he began to read, ‘Bismillāhir Raḥmānir Raḥīm Alḥamdulillāhi Rabbil ‘Ālamīn’”

[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārikh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.345, v.4]

It was through this incredible engrossment with Ḥadīth that these few eminent scholars of the past developed profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and its principles. Their entire days and nights were dedicated to Aḥādīth.
In conclusion, the notion of issuing a ruling on a narration based upon when the text of the narration is contradicting a principle of Sharī‘ah was a privilege reserved only for a few selected scholars of Islām, whose knowledge of Sharī‘ah was of the caliber that we have demonstrated above.

Was it easy for the scholars of the past to deduce whether a narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?

Even during the age of these privileged scholars of Islām , to issue a ruling of fabrication upon the authenticity of a narration because it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah was not an easy task.

The authoritative scholar, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajr al-‘Asqalānī Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH), writes:

ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻔَﻦُّ ﺃَﻏْﻤَﺾُ ﺃَﻧْﻮَﺍﻉِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺃَﺩَﻗِّﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺴْﻠَﻜًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻡُ ﺑِﻪِ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻣَﻦْ ﻣَﻨَﺤَﻪُ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺗَﻌَﺎﻟَﻰ ﻓَﻬْﻤًﺎ ﻏَﺎﻳِﺼًﺎ ﻭَﺍﻃِّﻠَﺎﻋًﺎ ﺣَﺎﻭِﻳًﺎ ﻭَﺇِﺩْﺭَﺍﻛًﺎ ﻟِﻤَﺮَﺍﺗِﺐِ ﺍﻟﺮُّﻭَﺍﺓِ ﻭَﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔٍ ﺛَﺎﻗِﺒَﺔٍ ﻭَﻟِﻬَﺬَﺍ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺘَﻜَﻠَّﻢْ ﻓِﻴْﻪِ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﺃَﻓْﺮَﺍﺩُ ﺃَﺋِﻤَّﺔِ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺄْﻥِ ﻭَﺣُﺬَّﺍﻗِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺇِﻟَﻴْﻬِﻢُ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺟَﻊُ ﻓِﻲْ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻟِﻤَﺎ ﺟَﻌَﻞَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻓِﻴْﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﻦْ ﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻃِّﻠَﺎﻉِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻏَﻮَﺍﻣِﻀِﻪِ ﺩُﻭْﻥَ ﻏَﻴْﺮِﻫِﻢْ ﻣِﻤَّﻦْ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱْ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ


“And this field (the field of Al ‘Ilal) is the most complex of the fields of Ḥadīth, and the most delicate to approach, and none have stood up to it except those whom Allah the Almighty blessed with a deep understanding, encompassing research, knowledge of the categories of narrations, and a sagacious intellect. It is for this reason that none spoke in this [field] except a few of the scholars of Ḥadīth and its most intelligent personalities, and reliance is upon them in this field, due to that which Allah had given to them from the knowledge of this [field] and research upon its intricacies, none besides them from amongst those who have not acquired this”

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajr Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Alā Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’, (Ajman: Maktabah al-Furqān, 2003), pg.187, v.2]

There are examples of early scholars who criticized the text of a narration based upon their understanding of the narration (as they felt that it contradicted the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah) but were then refuted by other early scholars of their caliber who understood the correct meaning of the Ḥadīth and found no qualms in its connotations.

[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Lisān al-Mīzān ’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāir al-Islāmiyyah, 2002), pg.180, v.4 – entry: Sulayman ibn Harim]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Naṣb al-Rāyah ’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Rayyān, 1997), pg.174, v.4]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā ’, (Beirut: Mu’assash al-Risalah, 1984), pg.98, v.16]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Mīzān Al I’tidāl ’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah,), pg.101, v.2 – entry: Zayd ibn Wahab]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Lisān al-Mīzān ’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāir al-Islāmiyyah, 2002), pg.222, v.1 – entry: Abān ibn Sufyān]

[See: Al-Jawraqānī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Al-Abāṭīl wal-Manākīr wal-Ṣiḥāḥ wal-Mashāhīr ’, (India: Idarah al-Buhuth, 1983), pg.80, v.1]

[See: ‘Allamah Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi Rahimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Ala Ibn al-Salah ’, (Riyad: Adwa al-Salaf, 1998), pg.270, v.2]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Fatḥ al-Bārī ’, (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Ṣalafiyyah), pg.16, v.7]

[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Fatḥ al-Bārī ’, (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Ṣalafiyyah), pg.401, v.13]

Accordingly, memorization of Aḥādīth alone is not enough; rather, one is also required to have an expert understanding of the teachings of Sharī‘ah and the Aḥādīth that he has memorised.

‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī Raḥimahullah (d.234 AH) said:

ﺍﻟﺘَّﻔًﻘُّﻪُ ﻓِﻲْ ﻣَﻌَﺎﻧِﻲ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻧِﺼْﻒُ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ


“Understanding of the meanings of Ḥadīth is half of knowledge”

[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah Al Risālah, 1985), v.11, pg.48]

In conclusion, determining whether a Ḥadīth contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah was solely reserved for those illustrious scholars of the past whose knowledge of Sharī‘ah was so profound, that they could at will recite hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth with their chain of narration; the likes of Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.241 AH), Imām Al-Bukhārī Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH), et al. These scholars were also blessed with an incredible understanding of the Aḥādīth that they had memorized.

As for the guidelines presented by the likes of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah Raḥimahullah (d.751 AH) in his Al-Manār al-Munīf and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi Raḥimahullah (d.606 AH) in his Al-Maḥṣūl for recognizing a fabricated narration, then these guidelines are no different to Fiqh Maxims ( Al-Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah ), in the sense that a narration cannot be labeled a fabrication simply based upon these guidelines just as a Fatwa cannot be issued based upon Fiqh Maxims ( Al-Qawāid al-Fiqhiyyah ), rather, the rulings of the expert scholars of the past must be followed.

Thus, a claim that a certain Ḥadīth should be rejected because it contradicts the principles and objectives of Islām may be refuted with the question; exactly how many Aḥādīth have you memorized with their chains of narration for you to claim that you have knowledge of the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?


Above, we have demonstrated the role of the intellect/reason in Sharī‘ah and the role of the intellect/reason in the noble Aḥādīth. We have shown that the scholars did not at all permit rejecting Aḥādīth that herald an element of miracles.

We have also shown that criticising the authenticity of a narration based upon the fact that the text of the narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah such that it cannot be the Prophet word was an incredibly delicate task, which only a select few privileged scholars were able to do. We are required to follow their rulings.

Indeed, the scholars of Ḥadīth emphasized incredible precaution before labeling a narration as a fabrication [See: Jālāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Baḥr al-Ladhī Zakhar’, (Madinah: Maktabah al-Ghurabā al-Athariyyah, 1999), pg.874-876, v.2]. This precaution was burgeoned when the chain of narration contained reliable narrators, in such a case – when the narrators of the narration are all reliable – only the elite scholars of the past could criticize the authenticity of the narration. [See: Ḥātim al-‘Awnī, ‘Sharḥ Mūqiẓah al-Dhahabī’, (Riyad: Dār Ibn al-Jawzī, 1427 AH), pg.62: Fa Innanā La Naḥkum ‘Alayhi Bil Waḍ‘i Illā Bi Qarā’in Qawiyyah Jiddan ] .

We end with a quote from the Yemeni scholar, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Yaḥyā al-Mu‘allimī Raḥimahullah (d.1386 AH), who said:

ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﻜُﻦْ ﻓِﻲ ﻋُﻠَﻤَﺎﺀِ ﺍﻟْﺄُﻣَّﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺿِﻴِّﻴْﻦَ ﻣَﻦْ ﻳَﺮُﺩُّ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺜًﺎ ﺑَﻠَﻐَﻪُ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻟِﻌُﺬْﺭٍ ﻳَﺤْﺘَﻤِﻠُﻪُ ﻟَﻪُ ﺃَﻛْﺜَﺮُ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺄَﻗَﻞِّ


“And indeed, the reality is that there was none from the accepted scholars of the past who labelled a narration that reached him as a fabrication except that he did so due to a reason that, at the very least, the majority of the scholars would accept [as a valid reason]”

[Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Yaḥyā al-Mu‘allimī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Anwār al-Kāshifah’, (Makah: Dār ‘Alam Al-Fawā’id, 1434 AH), pg.17]

Every individual must ask himself; if the illustrious scholars of the past – who were of the calibre that we have demonstrated above (i.e. hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth flowed at their fingertips) and whose days and nights were spent in the sciences of the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth – have authenticated a Ḥadīth, how can a person in this day and age claim that the Ḥadīth is fabricated? Only if an individual has memorised the number of Aḥādīth that they had memorised could one come even close to making such a claim.

These perspicacious and astute scholars, the likes of Imām Al-Bukhari Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH) and Imām Muslim Raḥimahullah (d.261 AH), did not simply dedicate a portion of their life to the field of Ḥadīth; they dedicated their entire lives to the field of Ḥadīth. Indeed, a person’s Ῑmān remains protected by relying on the deductions and rulings of these meticulous and accepted scholars of the past. Following the ramblings and isolated opinions of the iconoclasts of today can only lead to misguidance.

May Allah guide us and protect us.


Difference between Seerah & Hadith

If Seerah  i.e. Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is defined as the life or way the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) lived, then what is the difference between Seerah and Hadith [1] or even the Sunnah [2]?

The Seerah is a collection of narrations about the people and events surrounding the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) arranged in a chronological order. The amount of rigor put into authenticating and analyzing the chains and narrators [3] of an incident or event that is found in the Seerah is far lower than when a narration is used in the Sunnah or Hadith. Only the top of the top narrations, namely Sahih [4] or  Hasan [5] are used in the books of Hadith and Sunnah. As for Seerah this is not the case, the narrations used include all the authentic and acceptable ones, along with ones with weaknesses. The reason for including these weaker narrations is in order to fill in gapes or holes in the story. The reason we do this is because if we were to be just as strict and apply the same rules in accepting narrations in the Seerah as Hadith then, this would mean that we wouldn’t be able to get narrations about the status of the Arabs, and the forefathers of the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) because everyone who narrated them were Non-Muslims. Examples of this are the narrations about the Story of the Feel (Elephant) [6], and the incident of ‘Amr Ibn Luhayy Al-Khuza’i[7], or even the life of Abdul Muttallib[8].So, since we use weaker narrations in Seerah, we can not use the seerah as evidence to support rulings and beliefs found in fiqh [9] (Islamic Juriprudence) or aqeedah [10] (Islamic Belief). We cannot derive rulings of fiqh or aqeedah from the Seerah.

So in conclusion, we cannot derive or use as our proof for our worship, our beliefs or our methodology from the seerah alone, we have to use the authentic Sunnah as our primary reference and not rely upon seerah alone.

From this we can say that scholars of seerah like Ibn Is’haaq [11], specialized in seerah out of all the sciences of Islam, and this is true for most of the scholars. Each and every scholar has a specialty in a certain field of Islam. Just like a person usually doesn’t specialize in engineering and also medicine, this is the case with Islam, some people specialize in hadith and are called muhadditheen [12] (sing. muhaddith) and some people specialize in fiqh and are called fuqahaa [13] (sing. faqeeh).
Ibn Is’haaq’s speciality was seerah therefore he was abandoned by the scholars of hadith when it came to narrating hadith and a reason for this might be because he might include those weaker narrations while he narrated the hadith.

Also Read:- Difference between Ahadith Narrations & Historical Reports


[1]. Literally – something that is a statement, communication, or story, or if used as an adjective it means new. In the Shari’ perspective it is a statement of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam).

[2]. Literally it means a way, in the Islamic Sciences perspective it means the way of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), it is had different definitions based on which type of scholar uses it.

[3]. Chain (Arabic is isnad) and Narrators (Arabic is rijaal) – used in the Sciences of the authentication or rejection of hadith.

[4]. Sahih – a hadith that is authentic based on its chain of narrators. Accepted as a source of Shari’ah in Islam.

[5]. Hasan – a hadith that is good based on its chain of narrators. Accepted as a source of Shareeah in Islam.

[6]. The Story of the Elephant or Feel is mentioned in the Qur’aan
in Chapter (Surah) 105. It happened the year the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was born. It was an event where the king of Yemen tried to destroy the Ka’ba in Makkah by bringing elephants from Ethiopia, but were unsuccessful due to a miracle from Allah.

[7]. This person was a chief of Khuza’ah. He was known for his righteousness, piety, and care for religion, but he went to Syria for a trip and saw them worshipping idols, and adopted this practice and brought it to his lands, and then the Ka’bah, and this being the center of religion of Arabia, this practice spread like wildfire over the years. This was the main reason for the spread of idolatry in the Arabian Peninsula. A more post on this topic will be posted soon, InshaAllah.

[8]. He was the grandfather of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) and took care of him in his early childhood.

[10]. Islamic Jurisprudence – the rules and conditions surrounding the physical acts of worship the Muslim does, and the obligatory, permitted, and forbidden things in Islam.

[11]. Islamic theology, or Islamic beliefs that a person has that makes him a Muslim.

[12]. The greatest scholar of the Seerah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), his work was used as a basis of later works about the Seerah.

[13]. Scholars of hadith and its sciences.

[14]. The scholars that are proficient and specialize in the science of fiqh

Unacceptable Narrator Criticism in the Science of Hadith

By ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Lukhnawi 


Translated by Ali Godil 

[Translator’s note: ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy Lukhnawi wrote this treatise more than one hundred years ago in the context of some ‘ulama, particularly those of the Ahl al-Hadith movement, using the statements of the early hadith scholars, to disparage and declare unreliable certain great imams. This topic is even more poignant in our modern context, because although such discussions were limited to scholars and students of knowledge in the past, now every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a broadband connection, upon reading an article, listening to a lecture, or attending a weekend crash course on ‘ulum al-hadith (hadith sciences) deems himself worthy of declaring an imam like Abu Hanifah (Allah be pleased with him) an unreliable narrator.

As the author so effectively displays, this brashness in passing judgment on great figures in Islamic history stems largely from a lack of precision in understanding the hadith sciences. As in every science, the rules have certain conditions and nuances, and it is not enough to simply read a book on one’s own and take a maxim like “jarh mufassar is given preference over ta’dil” and unleash one’s pen on the imams. Rather, this is a complex field that requires training at the hands of a master.  As the old adage goes, ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’

Due to the above, I felt that the following chapter would be particularly relevant to our context and would perhaps deter certain bold individuals from making their tongues and their pens a means of their own destruction.]

Warning Twenty-Five:

If jarh (narrator criticism) is issued due to partisanship, enmity, loathing, or the likes, then it is rejected, and only he who is rejected relies on it. In light of this, the statement of Imam Malik regarding Muhammad ibn Ishaq, the author of Al-Maghazi, that he is a dajjal from amongst the dajjals, was not accepted, since it is known that it stemmed from clear animosity. Rather, they (the imams of jarh wa ta’dil) affirmed that he was hasan al-hadith (an acceptable narrator), and the imams of hadith used him as a proof. I have dealt with this issue more thoroughly in my treatise, Imam al-Kalam fi ma Yata’allaqu bi ‘l-Qira’ah Khalf ‘l-Imam. Likewise, Al-Nasa’i’s censure of Ahmad ibn Salih al-Misri, Al-Thawri’s censure of Abu Hanifah al-Kufi, Ibn Ma’in’s censure of Al-Shaf’i, Ahmad’s censure of Al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and Ibn Mandah’s censure of Abu Nu’aym al-Asbahani are not accepted, due to the same reason. There are many similar examples in the famous books of this discipline.

Hence, the scholars stated, “One’s criticism of a contemporary is not accepted.” That is, if it is without evidence, because being a contemporary often leads to personal animosity.

We should mention excerpts from the writings of the reviewers (nuqqad) of hadith, so as to quell the attacks of corrupt individuals, for indeed, many of them caused corruption in the religion, brought destruction on others and themselves through criticizing the imams of the religion, were misguided and misguided others through their defamation of the elders of the pious predecessors (salaf) and the greatest of the khalaf, due to their unawareness of the fundamental rules and principles compressed in the books of the religion. A large group of the scholars of our time, although known for great virtues, have been afflicted with this calamity, and the masses, who are like livestock, emulated them in this regard; rather, they added a note to the lute and darkness to the gloom (i.e. they made the situation worse). Since Allah had given them the tawfiq (ability) to study the books of history and rijal, but did not give them the tawfiq to delve deeply into and become acquainted with that with which the hadith critics paved the way, they became bold, hasty, neglectful, antagonistic, and unleashed criticism on the reliable imams and those whose greatness has been established, borrowing from what was published regarding them by their contemporaries and opponents, or their enemies and degraders, or those who opposed them due to obstinacy or bigotry.

So, the intelligent person should be wary of being duped and captivated by this recklessness, and from being amongst the, “Greatest losers in regard to their works; those whose effort goes astray in the life of this world, while they reckon they are doing good work.” [Qur’an 18:103[

Al-Dhahabi states in Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ regarding the great exegete, Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Hatim al-Baghdadi (d. 235 AH), “Ibn ‘Adi and Al-Daraqutni declared him trustworthy, and Abu Hafs al-Fallas mentioned him stating, ‘He is nothing.’  I say that this is from the speech of peers, which is not to be given any heed, for the man is reliable and a proof (hujjah). 

He further states regarding the biography of Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud al-Sijistani (d. 316 AH) in his bookTadhkirah al-Huffaz, after mentioning his being declared trustworthy (thiqah) by a group of reliable hadith scholars and his being weakened by Ibn Sa’id and others: “I say that it is not befitting to accept the statement of Ibn Sa’id regarding him, just as we do not give any consideration to his (Al-Sijistani’s) declaring Ibn Sa’id a liar, and likewise, the speech of Ibn Jarir against him is not given any heed, since there was clear enmity between them, so refrain from the speech of peers against one another.”

He states regarding the biography of ‘Affan al-Saffar in Al-Mizan, “The speech of contemporaries and peers requires deep reflection and careful deliberation.”

He states regarding the biography of Abu al-Zinad ‘Abdullah ibn Dhakwan, “Rabi’ah states regarding him, ‘He is not trustworthy,’ I say that Rabi’ah’s statement concerning him should not be given any regard, since there was clear enmity between them.”

He states regarding the biography of Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yahya, Abu ‘Abdullah, known as Ibn Mandah al-Asbahani, “Hafiz Abu Nu’aym used harsh language when criticizing him, due to some alienation between them, and he hurled accusations against him, so this is not given any consideration, due to major disputes between them, for Ibn Mandah also spoke against and abused Abu Nu’aym.”

He also states regarding the biography of Hafiz Abu Nu’aym Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah al-Asfahani, “The speech of Ibn Mandah regarding Abu Nu’aym is dreadful, and I do not like relating it, nor do I accept the speech of either one of them regarding the other, and they are both agreeable according to me; I do not know them to have any fault greater than narrating fabricated hadiths while remaining silent about them.”

I read in the handwriting of Hafiz Yusuf ibn Ahmad al-Shirazi, “I read in the handwriting of Tahir al-Maqdisi, stating, ‘May Allah distress Abu Nu’aym for speaking against Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Mandah, while the people have reached a consensus regarding his status as an imam.’ I say the speech of peers against one another is not given any attention, especially if it becomes clear that it is a result of personal animosity, partisanship against a particular school of thought, or jealousy.  None is free of this trait except he whom Allah protects, and I do not know of any time in which the people of that time were safe from this trait save the prophets and the siddiqin, and if I wished to, I could fill many books expounding upon this topic.”

It is stated in Fath al-Mughith, “Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr dedicated an entire chapter to discussing the speech of contemporaries against one another in his Jami’, and I view that the criticism of the people of knowledge is not accepted except when it is manifest and clear, and if there is any sort of personal animosity attached to it, then it is preferable not to accept it.”

It is stated in Al-Taj al-Subki’s Tabaqat al-Shaf’iyyah, “It would behoove you, oh seeker, to tread the path of etiquette with the past imams and not to give consideration to the speech of some of them against others, except if they bring clear proof.  Subsequently, if you are able to give an alternate explanation or interpret the criticism in a more favorable way, then do so.  If not, then devote one page to what took place between them and move on, for you were not created for this. Busy yourself with that which concerns you and leave that which does not. A student of knowledge remains noble until he delves into that which occurred between the early scholars. You must be beware of devoting your attention to the disputes that took place between Abu Hanifah and Sufiyan al-Thawri, Malik and Ibn Abi Dhi’b, Ahmad ibn Salih and Al-Nasa’i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and so on, until the time of Al-’Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam and Al-Taqi ibn al-Salah, because if you busied yourself with that, I fear for your destruction, for those men are the eminent imams, and their statements have proper interpretations, some of which we may not have understood, so we should be pleased with them and remain silent about what occurred between them, just as is done regarding the disputes that occurred amongst the Companions (sahabah), may Allah be pleased with them.”

It is also stated in the same book, “One must be wary of understanding the maxim ‘criticism (jarh) is given precedence over accreditation (ta’dil)‘ in the absolute sense.  Rather, the correct opinion is that for the one who’s status as an imam and integrity is established, and his acclaimers are many and his critics are few, and there is an inference (qarinah) indicating that the criticism stemmed from sectarian partisanship or the likes of it, this criticism is not given any heed.”

It also states, “We have informed you that a person’s criticism is not accepted, even if he explained it (i.e. jarh mufassir), if it is against one whose good deeds are far more prevalent than his sins, and those who praise him are far more prevalent than those who dispraise him, and those who vindicate and recommend him are far more prevalent than those who criticize him, if there is an indication that something drove the critic to defame this individual, such as sectarian partisanship, worldly competition, or another reason, as often occurs between peers.  Therefore, one should not entertain the speech of Al-Thawri against Abu Hanifah, Ibn Abi Dhi’b and others against Malik, Ibn Ma’in against Al-Shaf’i, Al-Nasa’i against Ahmad ibn Salih, etc.  If we gave preference to criticism over praise, than no imamwould remain untouched, because there is no imam except that he has been criticized or attacked.”

It is stated in Ibn Hajr al-Makki’s Al-Khayrat al-Hisan fi Manaqib al-Nu’man, in the thirty-ninth chapter, answering what Al-Khatib related in his Tarikh from those who defame Abu Hanifah, “Know that his (Al-Khatib’s) only intention was to gather everything that was said regarding the man, as is the habit of historians, and he did not intend to belittle him (Abu Hanifah) or lower his status, as is evidenced by his first mentioning the speech in favor of him, along with his achievements, copiously, then following up with the speech of his defamers against him.

“Another evidence for this assertion is that the majority of the chains of narration he mentioned regarding the dispraise of Abu Hanifah are not free of criticized or unknown narrators, and by consensus, it is not permissible to impugn the honor of an ordinary Muslim through such narrations, let alone an imam of the Muslims. If one assumes that the dispraise Al-Khatib mentioned is authentically related from those who stated it, it is still not given any consideration, for even if the criticism came from those who were not peers of the imam, they were merely following that which the imam’s enemies said or wrote before them, and likewise, the criticism is not entertained if it came from his peers, because, from what mentioned previously, the speech of peers against one another is not accepted, as was proclaimed by Hafiz al-Dhahabi and Hafiz ibn Hajr [‘Asqalani].”

Additional Benefit:

The scholars have proclaimed that the speech of an individual against his contemporary is not accepted.  However, this rule is restricted to that criticism which is issued without proof or evidence and stems from bigotry or personal enmity.   Otherwise, it is accepted without doubt, and you should remember this rule, for it will benefit you in this world and the Hereafter.

[Al-Lukhnawi, ‘Abd al-Hayy. Al-Raf’ Wa Al-Takmil. 8th ed. Beirut: Maktab Al-Matbu’at Al-Islamiyyah, 2004. Print].