Islamic Voice
Jamadi-Ul-Awwal 1422H
August 2001
Volume 15-08 No:176

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HADITH


Checking on Hadith: Rules for Transmission of Hadith


Checking on Hadith

Rules for Transmission of Hadith

Prof. Mustafa Azami

We have spoken in the last issue on the work of the great scholars of Hadith and how they established a new science, which is unique to Islamic scholarship. We have often referred in the past to the authenticity or otherwise of a certain Hadith. Before we discuss certain works by scholars such as Al-Bukhari, it is appropriate to have an idea of the rules, which such scholars applied when they confirmed the authenticity of a certain Hadith. Professor Mustafa Azami who has done pioneering work in the modern study of Hadith and devoted more than 25 years of his life to such studies summarizes these rules.

I The condition for the acceptance of Hadiths

A Hadith must meet the following five criteria in order to be accepted in Islamic law as a source of legal ordinance:

1. Continuity of the chain of transmitters (ittisal assanad): The chain of transmitters has to be acceptable. That is, none of the transmitters must be missing from the chain of narrators. Furthermore, each transmitter must also have heard the Hadith in question directly from the transmitter before him. Knowledge of this is verified with the help of the biographical sciences of Hadith.

2. The integrity (adalah) of the transmitters: The integrity is established in terms of their outward observance of Islam. In other words, it is ascertained that they practice what is required of them by Islam and that they are not known to engage in doing things which are forbidden. Again this precondition is verified through the biographical sciences of Hadith.

3. Soundness of memory of the transmitters: It must be verified through the biographical sciences of Hadith that each transmitter has a sound memory or that his books were accurate and that he only transmitted directly from his books.

4. Conformity of the Hadith: It is important that the Hadith conforms with similar Hadiths on the same topic which are stronger than it. This conformity should be both in the chain of transmitters and the text. Non-conformity in the chain of transmitters, for example, might be if one of the transmitters in the chain is different from the one mentioned in a stronger version of the same Hadith. Non-conformity in text would imply divergence in the meaning of this Hadith from the one which is stronger.

5. The absence of defects (illah) in the hadith: A defect (illah) in this context is defined as a hidden shortcoming in the Hadith which takes away from its authenticity. At first a Hadith appears to be free from flaws, but an investigation reveals the shortcoming. The defect can be in the chain of transmitters or in the text or both.

B. Classification of Hadith

There are two distinct types of Hadith:

The Recurrent Hadith (Al-Hadith al-Mutawatir):

This type of Hadith is decisive in its certainty (Qat’I thubut). There is no doubt that it actually came down from the Prophet (e). There are four conditions which must be present for a Hadith to be of this category.

1. At least four different persons must have narrated the Hadith.

2. It must have been impossible for these four or more to have concurred on a lie.

3. They must have narrated the Hadith from similar people (the first two conditions being applicable) right from the beginning of the chain of transmitters to the very end of it.

4. Their narration of Hadith must rely on the mind and the senses, not on the mind alone.

The non-recurrent Hadith (Hadith Al-Ahad):

Any Hadith which is not recurrent (mutawatir) is called non-recurrent (‘ahad). This category is divided into three sub-groupings according to the number of narrators.

1. The well-known Hadith (Hadith al-mashhur): This is a Hadith which has been narrated by three or more people in the chain of transmitters but did not achieve the rank of the recurrent Hadith.

2. The strong Hadith (Al-Hadith al-aziz): This is a Hadith in which there are no less than two narrators in each part of the chain of narrators.

3. The Al-Hadith al-Gharib: This is a Hadith which is narrated by a single person at one point in the chain of transmitters.

The non-recurrent Hadith is subdivided into three more classifications regarding the beginning of the chain of transmitters

1. The elevated Hadith (Al-Hadith al-Marfu): This is a Hadith the chain of narrators of which begins with the Prophet Muhammad (e).

2. The suspended Hadith (Al-Hadith al-mawquf): This is a Hadith the chain of narrators of which traces back not to the Prophet but to one of his companions.

3. The Cutoff Hadith (Al-Hadith al-Maqtu) : This is a Hadith the chain of narrators of which traces back only to a successor of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The non-recurrent Hadith is broken down into three classification regarding their acceptance as a source of Islamic law:

1. The authentic Hadith (Al-Hadith as-sahih) : This is a Hadith, which satisfies the five criteria for accepting a Hadith.

2. The good Hadith (Al- Hadith al-hasan): This is the Hadith, which, like the authentic hadith, also satisfies these five criteria except that the third criteria (soundness of the memory of the transmitters) is only slightly satisfied.

3. The weak Hadith (Al-Hadith ad-da’if) : This is a Hadith which does not satisfy all the five criteria for accepting Hadith.

The weak Hadith is classified into different categories depending on which of these five criteria is not met :

(a)Weakness in the Hadith due to lack of continuity in the chain of transmitters.

(i) If the continuity is missing at the end of the chain of transmitters the Hadith is called “hanging” (mu’allaq)

(ii) If the continuity is missing in the middle of the chain of transmitters, the Hadith is known as ‘interrupted’ (mun-qati).

(iii) If two successive transmitters or more are missing in the middle of the chain of transmitters, the Hadith is called ‘problematic’ (mu’dil)

(iv) If the first transmitter, a companion of the Prophet (e), is missing from the chain of transmitters, the Hadith is called ‘incompletely transmitted’ (mursal).

(b)Weakness in the Hadith due to lack of integrity (adalh) in narrators.

(i) A Hadith which has been fabricated is known as mawdu (fabricated).

(ii) If the Matn (text) of a Hadith came down through one channel of transmission only and the transmitter of that Hadith does not satisfy the criteria of integrity, or the transmitter’s memory is not good, then the Hadith is said to be ‘rejected’ (munkar).

(iii) If a Hadith is transmitted by somebody who is charged with lying and that Hadith is known only through this transmission then it is said to be “abandoned” (matruk).

(iv) Three subgroupings of weak Hadith are:

1. “Mudallas” is the chain of “forged” transmitters: This is a Hadith which a person has transmitted from some other transmitter whom he has met, but under whom he did not study. Still he transmitted the Hadith in a way implying that he heard it from him.

2. Forged regarding teachers (Mudallas ash-shuyukh): This is a Hadith in which the transmitter calls his teacher (sheikh) by names other than that by which he is well known.

3. Forged regarding the naming of transmitters (mudallas at-tasiyah): This is the Hadith which is transmitted by a weak transmitter, between two trustworthy transmitters who met each other with the weak transmitter between them having been deleted, so as not to be detected.

(v) If one of the transmitters is not named, then the Hadith is called “obscure”(mubham).

(vi) If something has been added to a Hadith, then it is known as “interpolated” (mudraj). Interpolation might be in the chain of narrators or in the Matn.

(c) Weakness due to the inaccuracy of the memories of the transmitters.

(i) If a Hadith has been transmitted by different weak channels, none of them being stronger than the others, then that Hadith is called “shaky” (mudtarib).

(ii) If there is a change in the wording of the Hadith then that Hadith is called either “distorted” (musahhaf) or “interpolated” (muharaf).

(iii) If there is inversion in the words of the chain of narrators (Sanad) or text (Matn) of the Hadith, then the Hadith is called “inverted” (maqbul).

(d) If the weakness is due to non-confirmity of a Hadith, then it is called “odd” (shadhdh).

(e) Weakness in a Hadith because of a “defect” (‘illah). In this case the Hadith is called “defective” (Mu’all). It has to be stressed that in Islamic law only authentic (sahih) and good (hasan) Hadiths are used in deriving ordinaces.

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