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The Classification of Hadeeth

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Classification according to a hidden defect found in the isnad or text of a Hadeeth
 Although this could be included in the previous catagories, a Hadeeth mu’allal (defective Hadeeth) is worthy to be explained seperately.

Sheikh ul-Islaam, Ibn Taimeeyah, “They (the scholars of Hadeeth) have even considered some ahaadeeth reported by reliable (thiqah), true (sideeq) and correct narrators (al-dhabt) to be weak in which they are able to find out some defects. The science that discusses these reasons is called ‘ilm ilal al-hadeeth, the science of the hidden defects of hadeeth, which is one of their noblest disciplines. A hadeeth which is reported by a reliable and correct narrator sometimes has errors which can be easily detected. It is for instance, known that the Prophet  married Maymoonah (radiyallaahu ‘anha) when he was putting on ihraam, and prayed two rak’ahs in the Haram. Hence the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas  would be regarded as incorrect which says that the Prophet   married Maymoonah (radiyallaahu ‘anha) when he had put off the ihraam, and did not pray two rak’ahs’
For the ahadeeth on the subject see Sunan at-Tirmidhi , Hajj, 23, 24; Sunan Abu Dawood, Manaasik, 21, 38; Ahmad, Musnad, vol 6:393; , Sunan al-Daarimee, 21; Sunan an-Nass'ai  Manaasik, 90; Saheeh al-Bukhari , Sayd, 12, Nikah, 30, Maghaazee, 43; Saheeh al-Muslim, Nikah: 46,47,48.” Sheikh ul-Islaam, Ibn Taimeeyah in Muqadamah fee Usool at-Tafseer, p.38

Before discussing ma’lul (defective) Hadeeth, a brief note on mudtarib (shaky) and maqlub (reversed) Hadeeth would help in understanding ma’lul.

According to Ibn Kathir, if reporters disagree about a particular shaikh, or about some other points in the isnad or the text, in such a way that none of the opinions can be preferred over the others, and thus there is uncertainty about the isnad or text, such a hadith is called mudtarib (shaky). Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, p. 72

For example with regard to idtirab in the isnad, it is reported on the authority of Abu Bakr  that he said, “O Messenger of Allah! I see you getting  older” He  replied, “What made me old are Surah Hud and its sister surahs.”

Al-Daraqutni says, “This is an example of a mudtarib hadith. It is reported through Abu Ishaq, but as many as ten different opinions are held about this isnad: some report it as mursal, others as muttasil; some take it as musnad of Abu Bakr, others as musnad of Said or ‘A’ishah. Since all these reports are comparable in weight, it is difficult to prefer one above another. Hence, the hadith is termed as mudtarib.”

As an example of idtirab in the text, Rafl’ b. Khadij said that the Messenger of Allah  forbade the renting of land. The reporters narrating from Rafi’ give different statements, as follows:

1. Hanzalah asked Rafi’, “What about renting for gold and silver?” He replied, “It does not matter if it is rent for gold and silver.”

2. Rifa’ah --- Rafi’ --- the Prophet , who said, “Whoever owns a piece of land should cultivate it, give it to his brother to cultivate, or abandon it.”

3. Salim --- Rafi’ --- his two uncles --- the Prophet , who forbade the renting of farming land.

4. The son of Rafi’ --- Rafi’--- the Prophet  who forbade the renting of land.

5. A different narration by Rafi’ from the Prophet, who said, “Whoever owns a piece of land should either cultivate it or give it to his brother to cultivate. He must not rent it for a third or a quarter of the produce, nor for a given quantity of the produce.”

6. Zaid b. Thabit said, “May Allah forgive Rafi’! I am more aware of the Hadeeth than he, what happened was that two of the Ansar (Helpers) had a dispute, so they came to the Prophet , who said after listening to their cases, ‘If this is your position, then do not rent the farms.’ Rafi’ has only heard the last phrase, i.e., ‘Do not rent the farms’.”

Because of these various versions, Ahmad b. Hanbal - rahimahullah - said,
“The ahadith reported by Rafi’ about the renting of land are mudtarib. They are not to be accepted, especially when they go against the well-established Hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah  gave the land of Khaibar to the Jews on condition that they work on it and take half of the produce.”
Ibn ‘Abdul Barr, Al-Tamhid, 3:32, as quoteo by Luqman al-Salafi, Ihtirnam al-Muhaddithin bi Naqd al-Hadith, p. 381f.

A hadith is known as maqlub (changed, reversed) when its isnad is grafted to a different text or vice versa, or if a reporter happens to reverse the order of a sentence in the text.
As an example relating to the text, in his transmission of the famous hadith describing the seven who will be under the shelter of Allah on the Day of Judgment, Muslim reports one of the categories as, “a man who conceals his act of charity to such an extent that his right hand does not know what his left hand gives in charity.” This sentence has clearly been reversed by a reporter, because the correct wording is recorded in other narrations of both al-Bukhari and Muslim as follows: “... that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives ...”

Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, p. 88

The famous trial of al-Bukhari by the scholars of Baghdad provides a good example of a maqlub isnad. The traditionists, in order to test their visitor, al-Bukhari, appointed ten men, each with ten Hadeeth. Now, each hadith (text) of these ten people was prefixed with the isnad of another. Imam al-Bukhari listened to each of the ten men as they narrated their Hadeeth and denied the correctness of every hadith. When they had finished narrating these ahadith, he addressed each person in turn and recounted to him each of his ahadith with its correct isnad. This trial earned him great honour among the scholars of Baghdad

Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, p. 87

Other ways in which Hadeeth have been rendered maqlub are by replacement of the name of a reporter with another, e.g. quoting Abu Hurairah  as the reporter from the Prophet  although the actual reporter was someone else, or by reversal of the name of the reporter, e.g. mentioning Walid b. Muslim instead of Muslim b. Walid, or Ka’b b. Murrah instead of Murrah b. Ka’b
Shams al-Din Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi, Fath al-Maghith Sharh Alfiyyah al-Hadith li l-lraqi (Lucknow, N.D.), 1:278..

Ma’lul orMu’allal
Ibn al-Salah says, “A ma’lul (defective) hadith is one which appears to be sound, but thorough research reveals a disparaging factor.” Such factors can be:
1. declaring a Hadeeth musnad when it is in fact mursal, or marfu’ when it is in fact mauquf;
2. showing a reporter to narrate from his shaikh when in fact he did not meet the latter; or attributing a Hadeeth to one Companion when it in fact comes through another.
‘Uthman b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Dimashqi Ibn al-Salah, ‘Ulum al-Hadith (commonly known as Maqaddimah ed. Al-Tabbakh. Halab, 1350), p. 116

Ibn al-Madini (d. 324) says that such a defect can only be revealed if all the isnads of  a particular Hadeeth are collated. In his book al-’llal, he gives thirty-four Successors and the names of those Companions from whom each of them heard Hadeeth directly. For example, he says that al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110, aged 88) did not see ‘Ali  (d. 40), although he adds that there is a slight possibility that he may have seen him during his childhood in Madinah

Ali b. ‘Abdullah b. Ja’far Ibn al-Madini, Kirab al- llal p.58.
Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani mentions that the Imams of Hadith have agreed that al-Hasan al-Basri did not hear a single word from ‘Ali.

Such information is very important, since for example, many Sufi traditions go back to al-Hasan al-Basri, who is claimed to report directly from ‘Ali .

Being a very delicate branch of Mustalah al-Hadith, only a few well-known traditionists such as Ibn al-Madini (d. 234), Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (d. 327), al-Khallal (d. 311) and al-Daraqutni (d. 385), have compiled books about it. Ibn Abi Hatim, in his Kitab al-‘llal, has given 2840 examples of ma’lul Hadeeth about a range of topics.

An example of a ma’lul hadith is one transmitted by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah , who reports the Prophet  as saying, “Allah created the land on Saturday; He created the mountains on Sunday; He created the trees on Monday; He created the things entailing labour on Tuesday; He created the light (or fish) on Wednesday; He scattered the beasts in it (the earth) on Thursday; and He created Adam after the afternoon of Friday, the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, between the afternoon and night.”

Sahih Muslim, (english trans.) vol.4, no.1462, Sharh Nawawi, 17:133

Regarding it, Ibn Taimiyyah says, “Men more knowledgeable than Muslim, such as al-Bukhari and Yahya b.Ma’in, have criticised it. Al-Bukhari said, ‘This saying is not that of the Prophet , but one of Ka’b al-Ahbar’

Sheikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah, Majmu’ Fatawa (37 vols., ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Qasim & his son Muhammad Riyad, 1398), 18:18f.

Ibn Taimiyyah mentions that Imam Muslim’s authentication of this hadith is supported by Abu Bakr al-Anbari & Ibn al-Jauzi, whereas al-Baihaqi supports those who disparaged it.
Al-Albani says that it was Ibn al-Madini who criticised it, whereas Ibn Ma’in did not (the latter was known to be very strict, both of them were shaikhs of al-Bukhari). He further says that the Hadeeth is sahih, and does not contradict the Qur’an, contrary to the probable view of the scholars who criticised the hadith, single what is mentioned in the Qur’an is the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, each of which may be like a thousand years, whereas the hadith refers to the creation of the earth only, in days which are shorter than those referred to in the Qurtan (Silsilah al-Ahadith as-Sahihah, no. 1833)

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