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The Classification of Hadeeth

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The Significance of the Sanad (the chain of narrators of Hadeeth):

Even though the text (Matn) of a Hadeeth may seem to be logical and reasonable, it needs an authentic Sanad with reliable reporters to be acceptable. The Sanad is thus the most important part of the Hadeeth, as it is the bridge leading to the Hadeeth itself. Abdullah bin al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH), one of the illustrious teachers of Imam al-Bukhari, said:
Thr Isnaad is from the Deen (religion), if it wasn’t for the Isnad anyone would say anything he wished
Related by Imaam Muslim in the introduction of his Sahih - see Sahih al-Muslim (ed. M.F. ‘Abdul Baqi. 5 vols., Cairo 1374/1955), [1:15] & Sahih al-Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi (18 vols. in 6, Cairo,1349) [1:87].

During the lifetime of the Prophet  and after his death, his Companions (Sahabah) used to refer to him directly, when quoting his sayings. The Successors (Tabi’un) followed suit, some of them used to quote the Prophet through the Companions, while others would omit the intermediate authority (such a Hadeeth is called Mursal). During the time of the Successors they either one of two narrators between them and the Prophet. But from then on the need for verification of each isnad rose, as Imaam Malik (d. 179) said: “The First one to utilise the isnad was Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri(d.124).”

Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi, Al-Jarh wal-Ta’dil (8 vols., Hyderabad, 1360-1373), 1:20

The need to verify the Hadeeth rose because various sects appeared among the Muslims who fabricated Hadeeth, in order to support their deviant views and heretical philosophies (later such Hadeeth were classified as Maudu or  fabricated)

Ibn Sirin (d.110) a Successor said, “They would not ask about the Isnad. But when the fitnah (turmoil/civil war) happened, they said, ‘Name to us your men. So the narrations of the Ahlus-Sunnah (Adherents to the Sunnah) would be accepted, while those of Ahlul-Bidah (Adherents to Innovations) would not be accepted”
Sahih al-Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi (Introduction) Chapter : The Isnaad is from the Deen, p.257 [Maktaba Nazaar Mustafa al-Baaz - Riyadh  [1st edition]

The Fabrication of Hadeeth

Incidents of fabrication of Hadeeth were almost non-existant at the time of the Prophet  for the Muslims of his time understood well the consequence of lying about the Prophet. The Prophet’s Companions took the sayings of their Prophet very serious, and no hypocrite would dare to ascribe to the Prophet that which he did not say. Even if someone lied about the Prophet, he did not survive long enough, as this following incident suggests:

Ibn ‘Adi transmitted on the authority of Buraida b. Hussaib al-Aslami, that in the pre-Islaamic era a man wanted to marry in the tribe of Bani Laith which had been living a mile away from Madina. But the tribe did not concede to his will. Later he visited them gressed in a fine garment. He told them: ‘The Prophet gave me this garment and authorised me to judge among you in all issues regarding money and soul.’ Then he came to the woman who he wanted to marry. The people of the tribe sent someone to the Prophet who instantly said: ‘The enemy of Allah has lied.’ Then the Prophet deputized a man and instructed him: Kill him if you find him alive and burn him if you find him dead. The man came to the spot and discovered that he had already met his death by the bite of the snake. So he burnt him.
Suyuti, Tahdhib aliKhawas min Akadhib al-Qussas [Beirut-1972] page 32-33

Beware O Muslims ... Beware !!!
If this is the verdict of the Prophet about the one who lies about him in matters of this world, what will be the fate of one who lies about the Prophet in matters of the Religion ???

As previously mentioned under ‘The Significance of the Sanad’, the Fitnah starting from the death of the Caliph Uthman (May Allaah be pleased with him) and leading to the conflict during the Caliphate of Ali (May Allaah be pleased with him), was the period much blamed for the fabrication of Hadeeth. Fabricated Hadeeth in favour Ali  and his family on one side and those those denouncing Muawiya  and his supporters on the other side and vice versa found their place among Muslims.

Needless to say that the traditionalists were much worried about this situation. The Fitnah turned out to be a turning point when questioning about the isnad first started, as implied by Ibn Sirin’s saying.

But what did they mean by asking about Isnad?

The Isnad consists of the names of the reporters. Once the name of the reporter has come to light it was quiet possible to investigate whether he was trustworthy or not and whether he actually heard the person from whom he claimed the report. Criticism of this nature later came to be known as ‘Ilm al-Jarh wal-Ta’dil (Disparaging and authenticating).

Since a number of spurious (fabricated) Hadeeth found their way into the Hadeeth literature, the science of Hadeeth known as Mustalah or Ilm Usul al-Hadeeth devaloped to distinguish between the authentic Hadeeth and the fabricated ones. The Scholars of Hadeeth have dealt with each Hadeeth as an independant case, subjecting both its individual Isnad and Mastn (text) to extensive verification according to the principles laid down in this science. This is how separate collections of authentic Hadeeth and those of fabricated ones came into being.

[ More details on the delibrate fabrication of Hadeeth will be discussed later on under the chapter - “Who Fabricated Hadeeth?” ]

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