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The Classification of Hadeeth

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Mustalah al-Hadeeth (the Classification of Hadeeth)

There are many books about the science of Hadeeth that one can refer to, the best of which is Ikhtisar Ulum al-Hadeeth by ibn Katheer. The best print for this book is the Egyptian print, corrected and reviewed by Ahmed Shaker called “Al-Ba’ith al-Hathith, Sharh Ikhtisar Ulum al-Hadeeth

The books on this subject speak of a number of classes of Hadeeth in accordance with their status. The following broad classifications can be made, each of which is explained in the later sections. This section serves as an introduction to the science of Hadeeth and gives a general prospective to the common reader.

Classification according to the beginning of the Sanad (chain of narrators), they are ....

1. marfu (elevated) i.e. Sanads that go up to the Prophet
2. mauquf (stopped) i.e. a Sanad that goes up to a successor (Tabi’ee)
3. maqtu (severed) i.e. a Sanad that goes up to at-Tabaa at-Tabi’een

1- Marfu’ (elevated)
It is a narration from the Prophet, that is when the narrator (a Sahabee, a Taabiee or other) says, “The Messenger of Allaah said …”

For Example : The very first Hadeeth in Saheeh al-Bukhari is as follows
al-Bukhari --- Al-Humaidi ‘Abdullah bin al-Zubair --- Sufyan --- Yahya b. Sa’id al-Ansari --- Muhammed b. Ibrahim al-Taymi --- Alqamah b. Waqqas al-Laithi, who said: I heard Umer bin al-Khattab saying, while on the pulpit, “I heard Allaah’s Messenger saying, ‘The reward of deeds depends on the intention. …”

 i.e. Sanads that go up to the Prophet

2-Mauquf  (stopped)
A narration from a Companion only, i.e. his own statement; e.g. al-Bukhari reports in his Saheeh in Kitaab al-Fara’id (Book of the Laws of Inheritance), that Aboo Bakr, Ibn Abbas and Ibn al-Zubair said, “The grandfather is (treated like) the father.”

It should be noted that certain expressions used by a Companion generally render a Hadeeth to be considered as being effectively marfu’ although it is mauquf on the face of it, e.g. the following expressions …..

i.e. a Sanad that goes up to a successor (Tabi’ee)

3- Maqtu’  (Severed)
A narration from a Successor, e.g. Imaam Muslim reports in the introduction to his Sahih that Ibn Sirin (d.110) said, “This knowledge (i.e. Hadith) is the Religion, so be careful from whom you take your religion.”

 i.e. a Sanad that goes up to at-Tabaa at-Tabi’een

The authenticity of each of the above three types of Hadeeth depends on other factors such as the reliability of its reporters, the nature of the linkage amongst them, etc. However, the above classification is extremely useful, since through it the sayings of the Prophet  can be distinguished at once from those of Companions or Successors; this is especially helpful in debate about matters of Fiqh.

Imaam Malik’s, al-Muwatta’, one of the early collections of Hadeeth, contains a reletively even ratio of these types of Hadeeth, as well as Mursal Hadeeth   (which are discussed later). According to Aboo Bakr al-Aohari (d.375), al-Muwatta contains the following ...
600 Marfu’ Hadeeth
613 Mauquf Hadeeth
285 Maqtu Hadeeth
228 Mursal Hadeeth ; a total of 1726 Hadeeth

Muhammed Adib Salih, Lamahat fi Usul al-Hadeeth (2nd ed., al-Maktaba al-Islami, Beirut, 1389) p.143.

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