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The Classification of Hadeeth

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Classification according to the Reliability and Memory of the Reporters
The finally classification is according to the reliability and memory of the reporters; the judgement on a Hadeeth depends crucially on this factor. Verdicts such as Saheeh (sound), Hasan (good), Da’if (week) and maudu’ (fabricated) rest mainly upon the nature of the reporters in the isnad.

Among the early traditionists, mostly of the first two centuries, Hadeeth were classified into two categories only: Saheeh and da‘if; al-Tirmidhi was to be the first to distinguish Hasan from da ‘if. This is why traditionists and jurists such as Ahmad, who seemed to argue on the basis of da’if Hadeeth sometimes, were in fact basing their argument on the Hadeeth which were later to be known as Hasan.

Ad-Dhahabi, p. 27
 
We now examine in more detail these four important classes of Hadeeth.

Saheeh

Imaam Al-Shafi’i - rahimahullah - states the following requirement in order for a Hadeeth which is not mutawatir to be acceptable, he says .....:
“Someone has asked me: Will you state what the minimum proof for a narrative related by a few [transmitters] (i.e. a Ahad Hadeeth) should be in order to be binding upon scholars?
[Shafi’i] replied: [The minimum proof] is that the narrative must be related by one person from another [before him] back to the Prophet , or to one next to the Prophet. Such a person might be one of the Prophet's companions

The proof for such a tradition is not established unless certain conditions are fulfilled:
He who relates a tradition must merit confidence in his religion, and be known as reliable in his transmitting, comprehending what he transmits, aware of any pronunciation that might change the meaning of the tradition, capable of transmitting the tradition word for word as he heard it, not merely transmitting [in his own words] its meaning; for if he transmits only the meaning and is unaware of what might alter its sense, he might unknowingly transmute the lawful into the unlawful and vice-versa so if he transmits word for word there remains no ground for fearing a change of the meaning. [Furthermore], he should have learned the tradition by heart, if he relates it from memory, and shots have memorized the written text [of traditions] if he relates it in its written form; when he participates with others in relating a tradition from memory, that which they relate must agree. He must not be an interpolator* attributing to someone whom he has not met that which he has not heard from him, or attributing to the Prophet  something different from that which reliable authorities relate from him. The same [qualifications] must be possessed by transmitters preceding him until the transmitter relates back to the Prophet or to him who carries it back closest to him, for each of them vouches for the tradition as he received it and verifies it for him to whom he passes it. So none of them should lack [the qualifications] I have just described.”

Ar-Risaalah, by Imaam Shafi’i (english trans.) p.239-240 (374f)
*Tadlis literally means "deceit," which consist either of interpolating the name of a trustworthy authority or eliminating the name or names of discreditable transmitters from the isnad or the chain of authorities. See Ibn Hajar, Maratib al-Mudallisin (Cairo, 1322/1904), pp. 2-4; 1

Ibn al-Salah, however, defines a Saheeh Hadeeth more precisely by saying:
“A Saheeh Hadeeth is the one which has a continuous isnad, made up of reporters of trustworthy memory from similar authorities, and which is found to be free from any irregularities (i.e. in the text) or defects (i.e. in the isnad).“

By the above definition, no room is left for any weak Hadeeth, whether, for example, it is munqati’, mu’dal, mudtarib, maqlub, shadhdh, munkar, ma’lul, or contains a mudallis. The definition also excludes Hasan Hadeeth, as will be discussed under that heading.

Of all the collectors of Hadeeth, al-Bukhari and Muslim were greatly admired because of their tireless attempts to collect Saheeh Hadeeth only. It is generally understood that the more trustworthy and of good memory the reporters, the more authentic the Hadeeth.

The isnad:

al-Shafi’i --- Malik --- Nafi’ --- ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar --- The Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam)
is called a “golden isnad” because of its renowned reporters
al Dhahabi, p.24


Some traditionists prefer Saheeh al-Bukhari to Saheeh Muslim because al-Bukhari always looked for those reporters who had either accompanied or met each other, even if only once in their lifetime. On the other hand, Muslim would accept a reporter who is simply found to be contemporary to his immediate authority in reporting.

al-Nawawi, Muqaddimah, p.14
The following grading is given for Saheeh Hadeeth only:

1. those which are transmitted by both al-Bukhari and Muslim;
2. those which are transmitted by al-Bukhari only;
3. those which are transmitted by Muslim only;
4. those which are not found in the above two collections, but which agree with the requirements of both al-Bukhari and Muslim;
5. which agree with the requirements of al-Bukhari only;
6. which agree with the requirements of Muslim only; and
7. those declared Saheeh by other traditionists.

al-Tibi, al-Husain b. ‘Abdullah, al-Khulasah fl usul al-Hadith (ed. Subhi al-Samaira’i, Baghdad, 1391), p. 36

Hasan

Al-Tirmidhi means by Hadeeth Hasan: a Hadeeth which is not shadhdh, nor contains a disparaged reporter in its isnad, and which is reported through more than one route of narrations

ibid, p.38
Al-Khattabi (d. 388) states a very concise definition, “It is the one where its source is known and its reporters are unambiguous. “
By this he means that the reporters of the Hadeeth should not be of a doubtful nature, such as with the mursal or munqati’ Hadeeth, or one containing a mudallis.

Ibn al-Salah classifies Hasan into two categories:

1. one with an isnad containing a reporter who is mastur (“screened”, i.e. no prominent person reported from him) but is not totally careless in his reporting, provided that a similar text is reported through another isnad as well;

2. one with an isnad containing a reporter who is known to be truthful and reliable, but is a degree less in his preservation/memory of Hadeeth in comparison to the reporters of Saheeh Hadeeth.

In both categories, Ibn al-Salah requires that the Hadeeth be free of any shudhudh (irregularities)
al-Nawawi, Muqadditnah, p. 43.
Al-Dhahabi, after giving the various definitions, says, “A Hasan Hadeeth is one which excels the da’if but nevertheless does not reach the standard of a Saheeh Hadeeth.”
al-Dhahabi, p. 26
 In the light of this definition, the following isnads are Hasan according to al-Dhahabi:
 1. Bahz b. Hakam --- his father --- his grandfather;
 2. ‘Amr b. Shu’aib --- his father --- his grandfather;
 3. Muhammad b. ‘Amr --- Abu Salamah --- Abu Hurairah
Reporters such as al-Harith b. ‘Abdullah, ‘Asim b. Damurah, Hajjaj b. Artat, Khusaif b. ‘Abd al-Rahman and Darraj Abu al-Samh attract different verdicts: some traditionists declare their Hadeeth Hasan, others declare them da’if.
Ibid., pp. 32-33
Example of a Hasan Hadeeth
Malik, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim reported through their isnads from ‘Amr b. Shu’aib --- his father --- his grandfather, that the Messenger of Allaah  said,
 “A single rider is a devil (i.e. disobedient), two riders are two devils, but three makes a travelling party.”

Al-Tirmidhi declares this Hadeeth to be Hasan because of the above isnad, which falls short of the requirements for a Saheeh Hadeeth. al-Albani, Silsilah al-Hadeeth as-Saheehah, no. 62.

Several weak Hadeeth may mutually support each other to the level of Hasan

According to the definitions of al-Tirmidhi and Ibn al-Salah, a number of similar weak Hadeeth on a particular issue can be raised to the degree of Hasan if the weakness found in their reporters is of a mild nature. Such a Hadeeth is known as Hasan li ghairihi (Hasan due to others), to distinguish it from the type previously discussed, which is Hasan li-dhatihi (Hasan in itself). Similarly, several Hasan Hadeeth on the same subject may make the Hadeeth Saheeh li ghairihi, to be distinguished from the previously-discussed Saheeh li dhatihi.

However, in case the weakness is severe (e.g., the reporter is accused of lying or the Hadeeth is itself shadhdh), such very weak Hadeeth will not support each other and will remain weak. For example, the well-known Hadeeth,
 “He who preserves forty Hadeeth for my Ummah will be raised by Ahah on the Day of Resurrection among the men of understanding”, has been declared to be da‘if by most of the traditionists, although it is reported through several routes.”

al-Jaza’iri, p.149

Da‘if

A Hadeeth which fails to reach the status of Hasan is Da‘if


The scholars of Hadith agree that a da’if or maudu’ Hadeeth must not be attributed to the Prophet ? , e.g. by saying, “The Prophet said: ...”, even if the meaning is considered to be correct or if it is actually the saying of a Muslim scholar, for that would be a way of lying about the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam)

Usually, the weakness is one of discontinuity in the isnad, in which case the Hadeeth could be mursal, mu’allaq, mudallas, munqati’ or mu’dal, according to the precise nature of the discontinuity, or one of a reporter having a disparaged character, such as due to his telling lies, excessive mistakes, opposition to the narration of more reliable sources, involvement in innovation, or ambiguity surrounding his person.

The smaller the number and importance of defects, the less severe the weakness. The more the defects in number and severity, the closer the Hadeeth will be to being maudu’ (fabricated)   al-Sakhawi 1:99.

Some Hadeeth, according to the variation in the nature of the weakness associated with its reporters, rank at the bottom of the Hasan grade or at the top of the da’if grade. Reporters such as ‘Abdullah b. Lahi’ah (a famous judge from Egypt), ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Zaid b. Aslam, Abu Bakr b. Abi Maryam al-Himsi, Faraj b. Fadalah, and Rishdin b. Sa’d attract such types of varying ranks as they are neither extremely good preservers nor totally abandoned by the traditionists.al-Dhahabi, pp. 33-34

 


Maudu’

Al-Dhahabi defines maudu’ (fabricated, forged) as the term applied to a Hadeeth, the text of which goes against the established norms of the Prophet’s sayings, or its reporters include a liar, e.g. the forty Hadeeth known as Wad’aniyyah or the small collection of Hadeeth which was fabricated and claimed to have been reported by ‘Ali al-Rida, the eighth Imam of the Ithna ‘Ashari Shi’ah.  ibid., p. 36.

A number of traditionists have collected fabricated Hadeeth separately in order to distinguish them from other Hadeeth; among them are Ibn al-Jauzi in al-Maudu’at, al-Jauzaqani in Kitab al-Abatil, al-Suyuti in al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah fi ‘l-Hadeeth al-Maudu’ah, and ‘Ali al-Qari in al-Maudu’at.

Some of these Hadeeth were known to be spurious by the confession of their inventors. For example, Muhammad b. Sa’id al-Maslub used to say, “It is not wrong to fabricate an isnad for a sound statement.” al-Sakhawi 1:264

Another notorious inventor, ‘Abd al-Karim Abu ‘1-Auja, who was killed and crucified by Muhammad b. Sulaiman b. ‘Ali, governor of Basrah, admitted that he had fabricated four thousand Hadeeth declaring lawful the prohibited and vice-versa ibid., 1:275.

Maudu’ Hadeeth are also recognised by external evidence related to a discrepancy found in the dates or times of a particular incident an-Nawawi, Taqrib, 1:275

For example, when the second caliph, ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab  decided to expel the Jews from Khaibar, some Jewish dignitaries brought a document to ‘Umar apparently proving that the Prophet  had intended that they stay there by exempting them from the jizyah (tax on non-Muslims under the rule of Muslims); the document carried the witness of two Companions, Sa’d b. Mu’adh  and Mu’awiyah b. Abi Sufyan . ‘Umar rejected the document outright, knowing that it was fabricated because the conquest of Khaibar took place in 6 AH, whereas Sa’d b. Mu’adh  died in 3 AH just after the Battle of the Trench, and Mu’awiyah  embraced Islam in 8 AH, after the conquest of Makkah!.”

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