Hereunder, there will be three sections:
Section One: Tashih and Tad’if according to the Ahlus Sunnah
Section Two: Tashih and Tad’if according to the Rawafid
Section Three: A brief comparison between the books of the Ahlus Sunnah and those of the Rawafid regarding Jarh (impugning) and Ta’dil (approbation), and Tashih and Tad’if.
This will become clear from two points:
The science of Jarh and Ta’dil was not something picked up by the way without any guidance. Instead it has roots that reach far into the meritorious eras. Hence, the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah—the giants of hadith and the greats of Jarh and Ta’dil—ventured on laying down its extremely intricate foundations and laws in light of which they collated narrations and authenticated them. Thereafter, they went on to base their beliefs and their dogma upon only the authentic narrations from them.
The very crux of Jarh and Ta’dil is verification, which is an Islamic trait the Din has encouraged the believers to acquire. Hence, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says in the Qur’an:
يٰأَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ أٰمَنُوْا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوْا أَنْ تُصِيْبُوْا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوْا عَلٰى مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِيْنَ
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.
It would be possible to learn of the development of this science by the Ahlus Sunnah from its inception right up till it became an independent discipline with its distinct laws and dedicated works by dividing the history of its developments into various phases. They are as follows:
Ibn al Salah mentions:
والكلام في ذلك متقدم ثابت عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ثم عن كثير من الصحابة والتابعين فمن بعدهم
Commenting upon it in terms of Jarh and Ta’dil is established from a very early period, from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam firstly, and then from many of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and the Tabi’in after them.
For example: Fatimah bint Qais radiya Llahu ‘anha came to Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and mentioned to him that Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and Abu Jahm have proposed to her. He, thus, said:
أما أبو جهم فلا يضع العصا عن عاتقه وأما معاوية فصعلوك لا مال له انكحي أسامة بن زيد
In this phase the initial signs of investigation and exercising of caution in accepting a narration came to the fore.
Hence, ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu sought a witness from Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu regarding the issue of seeking permission subsequent to which Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu testified with him. Al Dhahabi mentions the following in the biography of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
وهو الذي سن للمحدثين التثبت في النقل وربما كان يتوقف في خبر الواحد إذا ارتاب
He institutionalized for the scholars of hadith the verification of a report, and at times he would be hesitant in accepting the narration of a lone narrator if he doubted.
The narration goes as follows:
كنت جالسا بالمدينة في مجلس الأنصار فأتانا أبو موسى فزعا أو مذعورا قلنا ما شأنك قال إن عمر أرسل إلي أن آتيه فأتيت بابه فسلمت ثلاثا فلم يرد علي فرجعت فقال ما منعك أن تأتينا فقلت إني أتيتك فسلمت على بابك ثلاثا فلم يردوا علي فرجعت وقد قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا استأذن أحدكم ثلاثا فلم يؤذن له فليرجع فقال عمر أقم عليه البينة وإلا أوجعتك فقال أبي بن كعب لا يقوم معه إلا أصغر القوم قال أبو سعيد قلت أنا أصغر القوم قال فاذهب به
I was sitting in Madinah in the gathering of the Ansar when Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu came to us in a panic.
We asked him, “What is your matter?”
He replied, “‘Umar sent a message to me asking me to come to him. So I went to his door, greeted three times, and when he did not reply, I returned. He later asked me, ‘What held you back from visiting us?’ I replied, ‘I came, and greeted three times at your door, and you did not respond so I returned. For Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has said, “If any of you seek permission three times and is not granted permission he should return.”’ ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, ‘Furnish evidence upon that or I will punish you.’”
Ubay ibn Ka’b radiya Llahu ‘anhu, thus, said, “None should stand with him besides the youngest of the people.”
Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, “I am the youngest.”
Whereupon he replied, “Go with him.”
‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu then said to him:
أما إني لم أتهمك ولكن خشيت أن يتقول الناس علي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم
Behold, I did not doubt you, but I feared that people will say against Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam what he did not say.
And Ibn Hibban says:
قد أخبر عمر بن الخطاب أنه لم يتهم أبا موسى في روايته وطلب البينة منه على ما أراد تكذيبا له، وإنما كان يشدد فيه لأن يعلم الناس أن الحديث عن رسول الله ? شديد. فلا يجيء من بعدهم من يجترئ فيكذب عليه ويتقول عليه ما لم يقل، حتى يدخل بذلك في سخط الله عز وجل
‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu informed that he did not doubt Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu in his narration, nor did he seek evidence from him in order to belie him. Yes, he was strict in the matter of hadith so that people learn that narrating hadith from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is grave. As a result no person after them will come about and intentionally lie against him salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and say what he did not say, thereby enter into the wrath of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
The trials and bickering had started in this phase. Hence, Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma said to Bashir al ‘Adawi when the latter started narrating to him and saying, “Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,” but Ibn ‘Abbas was not paying attention to him and was not looking at him. So he said, “O Ibn ‘Abbas, why do I see that you are not listening to my hadith, I am narrating to you from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and you are not listening?” Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma responded:
إنا كنا مرة إذا سمعنا رجلا يقول : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ابتدرته أبصارنا وأصغينا إليه بآذاننا فلما ركب الناس الصعب والذلول لم نأخذ من الناس إلا ما نعرف
Previously when we heard a person saying, “Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, our eyes would rush to him and we would be attentive to him with our ears. But now when the people mounted upon every difficult and easy conveyance, we only take from the people what we know.”
Hence, in this phase enquiring about the Asanid and investigating the narrators started.
Ibn Sirin says:
لم يكونوا يسألون عن الإسناد فلما وقعت الفتنة قالوا سموا لنا رجالكم إلى فيُنظر إلى أهل السنة فيؤخذ حديثهم وينظر إلى أهل البدع فلا يؤخذ حديثهم
They would not ask about the Isnad, but when the Fitnah (trial) transpired, they said, “Name for us your men.” Consequently the Ahlus Sunnah would be observed and their narrations would be accepted, and the innovators would be seen and their narrations would be left.
This enquiring, to be more precise, took place in the era of al Mukhtar ibn ‘Ubaid al Thaqafi, the liar, who died in 67 A.H. For he would pay handsome amounts to forgers so that they could forge anything that bolstered his position. Khaythamah ibn ‘Abdur Rahman mentions:
لم يكن الناس يسألون عن الإسناد حتى كان زمن المختار فاتهموا الناس
They would not ask about the Isnad till the era of Mukhtar came. Then they started doubting people.
As a result, some of the Tabi’in who commented upon narrators in this phase were: Sa’id ibn al Musayyab, al Hassan al Basri, Tawus ibn Kaysan, Ibrahim al Nakha’i, al Sha’bi, and Ibn Sirin.
And al Dhahabi has said regarding the two of them, i.e., al Sha’bi and Ibn Sirin:
فأول من زكى وجرح عند انقراض عصر الصحابة الشعبي وابن سيرين ونحوهما حفظ عنهم توثيق أناس وتضعيف آخرين
The first to approbate and impugn at the end of the era of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were al Sha’bi, Ibn Sirin, and their like. The approbation of certain individuals and the impugning of others has been recorded from them.
Likewise, Ibn Rajab al Hanbali has stated that Ibn Sirin was the first person to critique transmitters and distinguish reliable narrators from others.
And al Ramahurmuzi has cited from Yahya ibn Sa’id al Qattan that al Sha’bi was the first person to investigate the Isnad.
In this era the attention paid to narrations extended and so did commenting upon men in terms of Jarh and Ta’dil. This was as a result of the widespread forging of hadith, the emergence of theological debates, political trials, and heretical movements, etc. which lead to the proliferation of lies in the narrations.
Al Dhahabi states:
فلما كان عند انقراض عامة التابعين في حدود الخمسين تكلم طائفة من الجهابذة في التوثيق والتضعيف فقال ابو حنيفة ما رايت اكذب من جابر الجعفي وضعف الاعمش جماعة ووثق اخرين وانتقد الرجال شعبة ومالك
When the end of the era of the Tabi’in approached at around 150 A.H, a group of giants spoke regarding matters of approbation and impugning. Hence, Abu Hanifah said, “I have not seen a bigger liar than Jabir al Ju’fi.” Al A’mash also impugned a group of narrators and approbated others, and Shu’bah and Malik also critiqued a few men.
And Salih Jazarah says:
أول من تكلم في الرجال شعبة بن الحجاج ثم تبعه يحيى بن سعيد القطان ثم بعده أحمد بن حنبل ويحيى بن معين
The first person to comment on the transmitters was Shu’bah ibn al Hajjaj. He was followed by Yahya ibn Sa’id al Qattan and thereafter Ahmed ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Ma’in.
What he means thereby is that he was the first to undertake that and pay attention to it, for commenting started very early and was established by Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and many Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the Tabi’in thereafter. In a like manner should the following statement of al Dhahabi also be interpreted:
وكان أبو بسطام إماما ثبتا حجة ناقدا جهبذا صالحا زاهدا قانعا بالقوت رأسا في العلم والعمل منقطع القرين وهو أول من جرح وعدل
Abu Bistam (Shu’bah) was a leader, meticulous retainer, critiquer, authority, a pious person, an ascetic, one who was satisfied with the bare minimum, a head in knowledge and practice, one who had no match, and was the first to impugn and approbate.
And Ibn Rajab says:
وهو أول من وسع الكلام في الجرح والتعديل واتصال الأسانيد وانقطاعها ونقب عن دقائق علم العلل وأئمة هذا الشأن بعده تبع له في هذا العلم
He is the first person to expansively comment in Jarh and Ta’dil and the Ittisal (consistency) and Inqita’ (inconsistency) of the chains. He delved deep into the intricacies of the science of ‘Ilal (hidden defects of hadith). And all the leading scholars of this science are his followers in it.
Likewise, among those who had excelled in the critiquing of narrators in this phase was the Imam of the abode of migration Malik ibn Anas. Al Dhahabi says about him:
هو أمة في نقد الرجال
He is a nation on his own in critiquing men.
Also, among those who commented about narrators were al Thawri, al Awza’i, Hammad ibn Salamah, al Layth ibn Sa’d, Hammad ibn Zaid, and Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah.
This phase starts from the latter part of the era of the followers of the successors and extends until the end of the third century. In this era, the first scholar whose statements regarding Jarh and Ta’dil were compiled was Yahya ibn Sa’id al Qattan. He, together with Ibn Mahdi, were from the spearheading scholars in this regard and they both were from the outstanding students of Shu’bah in the critiquing of narrators.
Al Dhahabi says:
عبد الرحمن المهدي كان هو ويحيى القطان قد انتدبا لنقد الرجال وناهيك بهما جلالة ونبلا وعلما وفضلا فمن جرحاه لايكاد والله يندمل جرحه ومن وثقاه فهو الحجة المقبول ومن اختلفا فيه اجتهد في أمره ونزل عن درجة الصحيح إلى الحسن
‘Abdur Rahman ibn Mahdi and Yahya al Qattan had risen to the task of critiquing men. And what can you say about their greatness and nobility, and knowledge and merit. Hence, whoever they impugn, his wound, by Allah, almost never seems to heal, and whoever they approbate is an accepted authority, and whoever they differ about, his situation will be analyzed and he will drop from the level of Sahih to the level of Hassan. They both have approbated many people and have impugned others as well.
And Ibn Hibban says:
ممن جعلوا هذا الشأن صناعة لهم لم يتعدوها إلى غيرها مع لزوم الدين والورع الشديد والتفقه في السنن رجلان يحيى بن سعيد القطان وعبد الرحمن بن مهدي
From those who took this science as a field for themselves which they did not exceed to something else, together with consistently practicing the Din, having immense piety, and a deep understanding of the laws were two men: Yahya ibn Sa’id al Qattan, and ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Mahdi.
Subsequently, from these giants the methodology of hadith and its examining, and the selection of transmitters in hadith were assimilated by a group that travelled to various cities for the compilation of Sunan (traditions), searched for places and regions, and impugned the discarded, till they eventually became leaders who were followed in hadith, and spear headers whose path was treaded in narration. Amongst them were: Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Ma’in, ‘Ali ibn al Madini, Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah, Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al Hanzali, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar al Qawariri, Zuhayr ibn Harb Abu Khaythamah, and others. However, the most pious of them in Din and those who searched most for discarded narrators and latched on consistently to this field at all times were: Ahmed ibn Hambal, Yahya ibn Ma’in, and ‘Ali ibn al Madini, may Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala have mercy on them.
Abu Zur’ah was asked regarding ‘Ali ibn al Madini and Yahya ibn Ma’in, about which of the two memorized more. He replied:
كان علي أسرد وأتقن يحيى أفهم بصحيح الحديث وسقيمه وأجمعهم أبو عبد الله أحمد بن حنبل كان صاحب حفظ وصاحب فقه وصاحب معرفة
‘Ali would cite more and was more meticulous, and Yahya understood better the authentic narrations from the lackluster ones. But the most encompassing of them was Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmed ibn Hambal who was a man of great retention, of jurisprudence, and a good understanding of hadith.
And Abu Hatim says:
وكان أحمد بارع الفهم بمعرفة الحديث بصحيحه وسقيمه
Ahmed had a splendid understanding of hadith, i.e., the understanding of distinguishing its authentic from its inauthentic.
Added to this, other scholars who commented in this phase were: al Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al Tirmidhi, Abu Zur’ah, Abu Hatim, al Nasa’i, and al Juzajani, amongst others.
Likewise many books came to the fore which were authored by a number of great scholars like: Ahmed ibn Hambal, ‘Ali ibn al Madini, Ibn Abi Khaythamah, Abu Zur’ah al Razi, Abu Hatim al Razi, al Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al Nasa’i, and others. And the third century had barely ended when the science of Jarh and Ta’dil became an independent science with its distinct features, exclusive personalities, and dedicated books. Since then, it has played a pivotal role in serving the Noble Sunnah of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam specifically, and all the other sciences of Islam in general.
The methodology of the Ahlus Sunnah regarding Tashih and Tad’if will become clear from the following points:
From the resplendent factors which the Ahlus Sunnah are proud of is the fact that they have laid out a methodology comprising of laws and rules which are very intricate in nature so that the Sahih hadith can be distinguished from all else.
Hence, the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah have categorized the Ahadith (narrations), in order to determine which of them are acceptable and which not, into three categories:
I. Sahih (authentic) hadith: A Musnad and Muttasil hadith that reaches Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with the narrating of an upright retainer who narrates from his like till the end, and is free from anomaly and defecting flaw.
Once the integrity of a narrator and his meticulous retention are ascertained he will be dubbed Thiqah (reliable). And for the narration to be Sahih both integrity and meticulous retention should be found in every transmitter of the Isnad from beginning to end.
These defects are mostly picked up by collating the Asanid through which a particular hadith is narrated and comparing them to identify the mistakes some of the narrators might have made despite being reliable.
So, it should be noted that there are three characteristics of a Sahih hadith:
Hence, if a narration is narrated with a consistent Isnad and all its narrators are reliable, together with it not disagreeing with stronger narrations, the scholars will grade it as Sahih, and some dub it: Sahih li Dhatihi (authentic in itself, not due to an external consideration).
Then, Sahih narrations vary in strength due to the strength of their narrators. Thus, the narrations with the strongest Asanid are known as Salasil al Dhahab (chains of gold).
In terms of its status, a Sahih hadith is used as evidence and is relied upon for the establishing of rulings, beliefs, and all the other matters of Shari’ah.
II. Hassan (satisfactory) Hadith: A hadith no different than a Sahih hadith in terms of its requisites other than retention. For the scholars of hadith consider the retention of the narrators of a Hassan hadith to be lower than the retention of the narrators of a Sahih Hence, the narrator of a Sahih hadith has complete retention, whereas a narrator of Hassan hadith has slightly lesser retention. In that case, the hadith is dubbed: Hassan li Dhatihi (Hassan in itself, not due to an external consideration).
III. Da’if (weak) Hadith: A hadith in which at least one of the many requisites of a Sahih hadith or a Hassan hadith is absent. Necessarily, it will be of many types owing to the absence of either of the aforementioned requisites.
For, at times it will be Da’if due to inconsistency of the Sanad, as in the case of a Mursal, Mu’allaq, Munqati’, Mu’dal, and Mudallas narration, etc. At times it will be Da’if due to it disagreeing with the narration of other reliable narrators, as in the case of a Shadh, Munkar, Mudtarib, Mudraj, Maqlub, Mu’al narration, etc. And at times it will be Da’if due to the absence of integrity and retention in one or more narrators of a hadith, as in the case of a Matruk or Muwdu’ narration.
Each of the aforementioned types has a distinct definition and ruling which can be accessed from the books of the sciences of hadith. We have not mentioned them for fear of elongating the discussion.
And just as the scholars have stated that Sahih Ahadith are disparate in strength due to the strength of the retention of their narrators and how long they accompanied their teachers, likewise they state that Da’if Ahadith are also disparate. So, some will be very weak and others will be slightly weak.
Hence, the hadith scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah have put laws in place to differentiate between slight weakness and severe weakness which cannot be discussed here. However, it is worth noting that if a narration has slight weakness and is also narrated with another Isnad, one or more, which is similar to it in weakness, then the weakness dissipates due to multiple transmissions (corroboration). It, thus, progresses to become a Hassan hadith and is dubbed Hassan li Ghayrihi (Hassan due to an external consideration, i.e. corroboration) to maintain a difference between it and Hassan li Dhatihi which has passed already.
Likewise, if a Hassan li Dhatihi narration is narrated with another Isnad like itself, it gains strength and progresses to the level of Sahih. However, it will be dubbed Sahih li Ghayrihi (Sahih due to an external consideration, i.e. corroboration) to maintain a difference between it and Sahih li Dhatihi which has passed already.
We will suffice upon these indications. And whoever wants more details should refer to the books of the Ahlus Sunnah, the giants of this field.
Because the hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam reaches us through the transmission of the narrators, they are the first focal point to identify the authenticity of a hadith or its inauthenticity. Therefore, the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah have lent special importance to the narrators and have put complex and firm requisites in place for the acceptance of their narrations. This is an indentation of their foresight, the soundness of their thinking, and the excellence of their path. This is attested to by friends and foe, to the extent that one of the orientalists has said, “Let the Muslims be proud of the science of their hadith.”
These requisites that they put in place for the narrator, and many others for the acceptance of the hadith and narrations, have not been reached by any religion, not even by the Rawafid themselves who have no laws and no objective methodology, due to them being dependent on the Ahlus Sunnah in hadith and its compiling, as has passed already. And even in the current era whose academics are described as people of methodicalness and precision, they have not placed as requirements those conditions which the scholars of sciences of hadith have placed for a narrator, in fact not even less than them. So, we find that many of the narrations which are shared by the official news agencies are unreliable and cannot be treated as truth due to their reporters being unknown. And the tragedy of reports are their narrators. As a result, after a while we find that those narrations happened to be false.
Nonetheless, the qualities and requisites which the hadith experts of the Ahlus Sunnah have placed for a narration to be Sahih primarily return to two basic requirements, viz. ‘Adalah (integrity), and Dabt (precise retention). The ancient scholars have indicated to these two requirements in the statements they made about the qualities of a person whose narration is accepted and have implemented them very precisely even though they did not delineate them in clear terms. For they would not accept the narrations of anyone besides a person who was reliable, and they would reject the hadith of negligent people, even if they happened to be the most pious.
Shu’bah ibn al Hajjaj was asked, “Whose hadith should be discarded,” to which he replied:
إذا روى عن المعروفين ما لا يعرفه المعروفون فأكثر ترك حديثه فإذا اتهم بالحديث ترك حديثه فإذا أكثر الغلط ترك حديثه وإذا روى حديثا اجتمع عليه أنه غلط ترك حديثه وما كان غير هذا فأرو عنه
When a person narrates from known people what known people do not know, and does so excessively, his narration will be discarded. Likewise, when a person is suspected in hadith (of lying or forging) his hadith will be discarded, and when he errs excessively his hadith will be discarded, and when he narrates a hadith which is unanimously deemed an error his hadith will be discarded. As for those besides them, then narrate from them.
Ibn al Mubarak was asked regarding an upright person. He replied:
من كان فيه خمس خصال: يشهد الجماعة ولا يشرب هذا الشراب ولا تكون في دينه خربة ولا يكذب ولا يكون في عقله شيء
A person who has five qualities: He attends the congregational prayer, does not drink wine, has no deficiency in his Din, does not lie, and whose memory is not affected.
Malik ibn Anas would say:
لا يؤخذ العلم عن أربعة رجل معلن بالسفه وإن كان أروى الناس ورجل يكذب في أحاديث الناس إذا حدث بذلك وإن كنت لا تتهمه أن يكذب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وصاحب هوى يدعوا الناس إلى هواه وشيخ له فضل وعبادة إذا كان لا يعرف ما يحدث به
Knowledge will not be taken from four people: From a person who openly displays foolishness even if he be the one who narrates the most, a person who lies in the talks of people when he relates from them even though you do not suspect him of lying against Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, a person of heresy who calls people toward his heresy, and a pious person who enjoys stature and does excessive worship if he does not know what he is narrating.
‘Abdullah ibn al Mubarak would say:
يكتب الحديث الا عن أربعةغلاط لا يرجع وكذاب وصاحب هوى يدعوا إلى بدعته ورجل لا يحفظ فيحدث من حفظه
Hadith will be written but from four people: A person who errs excessively and does not accept his error, an inveterate liar, an innovator who calls toward his innovation, and a person who does not memorize and then goes on to narrate from his memory.
And Ahmed ibn Hambal was asked regarding those from who knowledge should be written. He replied:
سئل أحمد بن حنبل عمن يكتب العلم فقال عن الناس كلهم الا عن ثلاثة صاحب هوى يدعو إليه أو كذاب فإنه لا يكتب عنه قليل ولا كثير أو عن رجل يغلط فيرد عليه فلا يقبل
From all the people besides three: A person of heresy who calls to his heresy, a liar, from him not a little nor a lot will be written, and a person who errs and when is corrected does not accept.
However, the hadith scholars did not give these requisites and attributes specific names and systematic numbers till the later scholars came. These later scholars had at their disposal the opinions of the early scholars which they were able to discuss. Subsequent to that they chose suitable terms for the attributes which combine within them all the features necessary for reliable narrator whose narrations are worthy of acceptance. Hence, they concluded that requisites which should be primarily found in an acceptable narrator are ‘Adalah (integrity) and Dabt (precise retention).
To put it another way, the primary most ruling for the acceptance of the narration of a narrator and for it being evidence material is: He should be reliable in his Din, and he should be reliable in his transmission, be he a slave or a free person, a male or a female. Thus, all the scholars of hadith and jurisprudence of the Ahlus Sunnah unanimously concur that the narration of a narrator will be accepted provided two requisites are found:
Abu ‘Amr ibn al Salah says:
أجمع جماهير أئمة الحديث والفقه على أنه يشترط فيمن يحتج بروايته أن يكون عدلا ضابطا لما يرويه وتفصيله أن يكون مسلما بالغا عاقلا سالما من أسباب الفسق وخوارم المروءة متيقظا غير مغفل حافظا إن حدث من حفظه ضابطا لكتابه إن حدث من كتابه وإن كان يحدث بالمعنى اشترط فيه مع ذلك أن يكون عالما بما يحيل المعاني ، والله أعلم
All the authorities of hadith and jurisprudence concur that it is a requirement in one whose narration will be used for substantiation that he be a person of upstanding character and a precise retainer of what he narrates. The details of this are that he should be Muslim, mature, sane, free from the causes of Fisq (sinning) and factors which violate dignity, shrewd and not negligent, a person of good memory if he narrates from memory, and a person of meticulous documentation if he narrates from his book. Likewise, if he narrates the approximate purport of a narration (without narrating its wording particularly), he should have knowledge of the implications of various meanings.
The requisite for accepting the narration of a narrator is that he be upright, and what is intended thereby is that he be: Muslim, mature, sane, and free from the causes of Fisq and the violating factors of dignity.
Once you have learnt who a person of integrity is, know that those about accepting whose narrations the scholars have differed, due to them differing as to whether integrity is found in them or not, are the following:
These preclusions denotate the complex methodology of the Ahlus Sunnah and that they do not accept the narration of any individual due to the matter pertaining to the hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
The narration of a disbeliever is not accepted, irrespective of whether he is known to refrain from lying or not due to the consensus of the Ummah. And because narrating is a noble position and he should be deprived from it due to his lowliness. And also, because he is a disputant of the Muslims and is their enemy in the Din; that would propel him to plot against them and be zealous to confuse matters to them and insert into the Din what is not from it. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
لَا يَأْلُونَكُمْ خَبَالًا
They will not spare you any ruin. (i.e. they will not fall short of ruining you)
They concealed the description of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the mention of his Nubuwwah which appear in their books; hence, there is no assurance regarding them not adding to the narration what is not actually from it by way of lying.
Al Khatib al Baghdadi mentions:
ويجب أن يكون وقت الأداء مسلما لأن الله تعالى قال إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا وإن أعظم الفسق الكفر فإذا كان خبر المسلم الفاسق مردودا مع صحة اعتقاده فخبر الكافر بذلك أولى
It is compulsory that at the time of dispensation he be a Muslim because Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says, “If a disobedient comes to you with news, then verify,” and the greatest disobedience is disbelief. Hence, if the narration of a disobedient Muslim is rejected despite his correct faith, then more so should the narration of disbeliever be rejected.
Nonetheless, this is a precluding clause to explicate the meaning of integrity and its definition in the terminology of the Shari’ah, but has no existence in reality. For a person who studies the biographies of the narrators who played a role in the preservation of the Sunnah from the Ahlus Sunnah and its transmission to the Muslims will not find in the depths of those transmitter-biography dictionaries a single disbeliever who narrated the Sunnah to the Muslims.
Majority of the hadith experts from the Ahlus Sunnah have drawn evidence for accepting the narration of a child with discretion from considering it to be like testimony by way of analytical reasoning. This means that if a child with discretion witnesses or assimilates something and testifies regarding it after reaching puberty his testimony will be accepted; so in a like manner his narration will also be accepted. Because the effective cause in both instances is one, i.e. each one of them entailing a binding report.
Likewise, the predecessors accepted the narrations of Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn al Zubair, al No’man ibn Bashir, and Anas ibn Malik without investigation and enquiring as to whether they assimilated them before puberty or thereafter, despite the fact that they absorbed quite a bit before that. Ibn ‘Abbas was born three years before the Hijrah (migration) and as per the narration of al Bukhari he was close to puberty in the farewell Hajj. Likewise, Ibn al Zubair was the first child to be born in Islam after the Hijrah, and No’man ibn Bashir was the first Ansari child to be born after the Hijrah and Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away when he was only eight years old. And Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu was ten years of age when Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to Madinah.
The narration of a sinner is not accepted, i.e. any person who does not punctually do good deeds, does not refrain from major sins, or insists upon minor sins and permissible actions which violate dignity. This is because he has no integrity. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
يٰأَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ أٰمَنُوْا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوْا أَنْ تُصِيْبُوْا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوْا عَلٰى مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِيْنَ
O you have believed, if a disobedient comes to you with information, then investigate, lest you harm a people without knowing, and you become over what you did regretful.
Hence, Allah has ordered that investigation be done of the news of a sinner, and the verse is general regarding every sinner.
Ibrahim al Nakha’i says:
كانوا إذا أتوا الرجل ليأخذوا عنه نظروا إلى سمته وإلى صلاته وإلى حاله ثم يأخذون عنه
When they would come to a person to take from him, they would analyse his ways, his performance of Salah, and his overall condition, and then they would narrate from him.
Ibn Sirin says:
إن هذا العلم دين فانظروا عمن تأخذون دينكم
This knowledge is Din, so see from who you take your Din.
And al Sarakhsi has substantiated the non-acceptance of the narration of a sinner saying the following:
إذا لم يكن عدلا في تعاطيه فاعتبار جانب تعاطيه يرجح معنى الكذب في خبره لأنه لما لم يبال من ارتكاب سائر المحظورات مع اعتقاده حرمته فالظاهر أنه لا يبالي من الكذب مع اعتقاده حرمته
If he is not upright in his doings, then considering his doings give weight to the possibility of lying in narration. Because when he is unbothered in committing all the prohibitions, despite knowing that they are impermissible, then ostensibly, he will not bother to lie (in his narration) despite knowing it to be impermissible as well.
Muslim has cited in his Sahih consensus regarding the rejection of the narration of a sinner saying:
أنه غير مقبول عند أهل العلم
He is not acceptable according to the people of knowledge.
The prohibition of sitting in the company of people of heresy and innovation, listening to them, and receiving knowledge from them which has reached us from the pious predecessors, its objective is to quell these innovations.
Having said that, the discussion regarding accepting the narration of an innovator is multifaceted:
Firstly: His narration will not be accepted if his innovation is of a nature that engenders excommunication because it. Al Nawawi mentions in al Irshad:
المبتدع الذي يكفر ببدعته لا تقبل روايته بالاتفاق
The narration of an innovator whose innovation leads to his excommunication will not be accepted according to consensus.
Secondly: It will be accepted from him, if he is known for truthfulness and if the content of his narration does not support or bolster his innovation. Ibn Hajar says:
اختلف أهل السنة في قبول حديث من هذا سبيله إذا كان معروفا بالتحرز من الكذب مشهورا بالسلامه من خوارم المروأة موصوفا بالديانة والعبادة فقيل يقبل مطلقا وقيل يرد مطلقا والثالث التفصيل بين أن يكون داعية أو غير داعية فيقبل غير الداعية ويرد حديث الداعية وهذا المذهب هو الأعدل وصارت إليه طوائف من الأئمة وادعى بن حبان إجماع أهل النقل عليه لكن في دعوى ذلك نظر ثم اختلف القائلين بهذا التفصيل فبعضهم أطلق ذلك وبعضهم زاده تفصيلا فقال ان اشتملت رواية غير الداعية على ما يشيد بدعته ويزينه ويحسنه ظاهرا فلا تقبل وأن لم تشتمل فتقبل
The Ahlus Sunnah have differed about accepting the narration of some of this sort if he is known to refrain from lying, is famous for being clean from dignity-violating traits, and is described with faith and worship. Hence, it is opined that his narration will be accepted unconditionally. An alternate opinion is that it should be rejected unconditionally. And the third view is that a distinction should be made between a proselytizer and a non-proselytizer. Hence, the narration of a non-proselytizer will be accepted and the narration of a proselytizer will be rejected. This is the balanced view which has been adopted by scores of leading scholars. In fact, Ibn Hibban has cited consensus upon this. However, claiming that is objectionable. Thereafter, those who uphold this view have further differed; some have left it unqualified, whereas others have added a qualification saying, “If the narration of a non-proselytizer includes content which support his innovation, beautifies it, or makes it seem outwardly good, it will not be accepted, otherwise it will be accepted.”
Thirdly: It will be rejected if its content supports his innovation.
Fourthly: There is difference of opinion with regard to accepting the narrations of the Rawafid. The scholars have three views in this regard which are detailed in the following statement of al Dhahabi in the biography of al Hakam ibn Zuhayr:
اختلف الناس في الاحتجاج برواية الرافضة على ثلاثة أقوال: أحدها – المنع مطلقا. الثاني – الترخص مطلقا إلا فيمن يكذب ويضع. الثالث – التفصيل، فتقبل رواية الرافضي الصدوق العارف بما يحدث، وترد رواية الرافضي الداعية ولو كان صدوقا.
قال أشهب: سئل مالك عن الرافضة. فقال: لا تكلمهم ولا تروعنهم، فإنهم يكذبون. وقال حرملة: سمعت الشافعي يقول: لم أر أشهد بالزور من الرافضة. وقال مؤمل بن إهاب: سمعت يزيد بن هارون يقول: يكتب عن كل صاحب بدعة إذا لم يكن داعية إلا الرافضة فإنهم يكذبون. وقال محمد بن سعيد بن الأصبهاني: سمعت شريكا يقول: احمل العلم عن كل من لقيت إلا الرافضة يضعون الحديث ويتخذونه دينا.
The people have differed regarding using the narration of the Rafidah as evidence and hold three views:
1) Absolute prohibition,
2) Absolute permission with the exception of the one who lies and forges, and
3) A nuanced position, i.e. the narration of a truthful Rafidi who grasps well what he is narrating will be accepted, and the narration of a proselytizing Rafidi will be rejected even if he is truthful.
And Ashhab says, “Malik was asked about the Rafidah and he said, ‘Do not speak to them and do not narrate from them, for they lie.’”
And Harmalah says, “I heard al Shafi’i saying, ‘I have not seen anyone lie more than the Rafidah.’”
And Mu’ammal ibn Ihab says, “I heard Yazid in Harun saying, ‘Hadith will be written from every non-proselytizing innovator besides the Rafidah, for they lie.’”
And Muhammad ibn Sa’id ibn al Asbahani says, “I heard Sharik saying, ‘Take knowledge from every person you meet, besides the Rafidah, for they forge hadith and consider it to be Din.’”
ولا تأخذ من كذاب يكذب في أحاديث الناس إذا جرب ذلك عليه وإن كان لا يتهم أن يكذب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم
Do not take knowledge from a liar who lies in the talks of people if that is experience from him, even though he is not suspected of lying against Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
An alternate view is that his narration will be accepted if he completely gives up the sin and sincerely repents. For then his condition will change to the condition of piety and his narration will be accepted and his integrity will return to him.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَنْ تَابَ وَأٰمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَىٰ
But indeed, I am the perpetual forgiver of the one who repents and believes and does righteous deeds and then continues in guidance.
And He says:
إلَّا الَّذِيْنَ تَابُوْا مِنْۢ بَعْدِ ذٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوْا فَإِنَّ اللّٰهَ غَفُوْرٌ رَّحِيْمٌ
Except for those who repent after that and correct themselves. For indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Ibn al Salah says:
التائب من الكذب في حديث الناس وغيره من أسباب الفسق تقبل روايته إلا التائب من الكذب متعمدا في حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، فأنه لا تقبل روايته أبدا وإن حسنت توبته على ما ذكر غير واحد من أهل العلم منهم أحمد بن حنبل وأبو بكر الحميدي شيخ البخاري
A person who repents from lying in the conversations of people and from other causes of sinning, his narration will be accepted. Yes, a person who repents from lying intentionally in the hadith of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, his narration will never be accepted, even if his repentance happens to be sincere. This is according to what several scholars have mentioned, some being, Ahmed ibn Hambal and Abu Bakr al Humaidi, the teacher of al Bukhari.”
Al Khatib says:
أما الكذب على رسول الله بوضع الحديث وادعاء السماع فقد ذكر غير واحد من أهل العلم أنه يوجب رد الحديث أبدا وإن تاب فاعله ثم ساق بإسناده إلى أبي عبد الرحمن عبيد الله بن أحمد الحلبي قال سألت أحمد بن حنبل عن محدث كذب في حديث واحد ثم تاب ورجع قال توبته فيما بينه وبين الله تعالى ولا يكتب حديثه أبدا
As for lying against Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam by forging narrations and claiming to have heard it, then more than one scholar has stated that that would necessitate rejecting his hadith completely, even if he repents. Thereafter he cites with his Sanad from Abu ‘Abdur Rahman ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ahmed al Halabi the following, “I asked Ahmed ibn Hambal about a narrator of hadith who lies in one hadith and thereafter repents. He said, “His repentance is between him and Allah, but his hadith will never be written.”
And al Sam’ani narrates:
من كذب في خبر واحد وجب إسقاطه ما تقدم من حديثه
Whoever lies in one narration it become obligatory to discard all his previous narrations.
Al Nawawi opines differently:
المختار القطع بصحة توبته وقبول رواياته
The preferred view is to be sure of his repentance being accepted and accepting his narrations.
However, the preferred opinion is the opinion of Ahmed and those who concur with him, to show the severity of and to prevent from lying against Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This is because of the many ills which come about due to lying against him, as opposed to lying against anyone besides him.
The wont of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the successors was that they narrated hadith for people purely with the intention of attaining reward from Allah. To the extent that the following proverb became popular, Teach for free just as you have come to learn for free. Thereafter, some narrators came about and defied this practice and started demanding a payment for narrating hadith.
This enterprise drew the criticism of the scholars of hadith and its critiques who condemned it. They warned against listening to hadith from people who traded with their narrations due to that violating dignity, and because it was feared that greed for wealth will propel its seeker an inkling of lying, or to an explicit lie so that people are drawn toward him.
However, some retainers of hadith were compelled by hunger to take payments, for they were frequently visited by students and had big families, owing to which the scholars excused them. These are the likes of Abu Nuaim al Fadl ibn Dukayn, and ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al Makki, two of the teachers of al Bukhari. Abu Nuaim says:
يلومونني على الأجر وفي بيتي ثلاثة عشر وما في بيتي رغيف
They reproach me for taking payment, whereas in my house there are thirteen people, and in my house, there is no bread.
Besides this minority which demanded payment upon the narrating of hadith, most scholars of hadith remained upon the ideal or refusing payment and set in that regard the highest standards. Jafar ibn Yahya al Barmaki says:
ما رأينا في القراء مثل عيسى بن يونس عرضت عليه مائة ألف فقال لا والله لا يتحدث أهل العلم أني أكلت للسنة ثمنا
I have not seen in the scholars anyone like ‘Isa ibn Yunus. I offered him a hundred thousand but he said, “No, by Allah, the people of knowledge should not say that I took money in lieu of the Sunnah.”
Al Amir al San’ani has condensed for us the ruling of the narration of an unknown person. He says:
قال المحدثون في قبول رواية المجهول خلاف وهو أي المجهول على ثلاثة أقسام مجهول العين ومجهول الحال ظاهرا وباطنا ومجهول الحال باطنا فمجهول العين وهو من يرو عنه إلا راو واحد ومجهول الحال ظاهرا وباطنا مع كونه معروف العين برواية عدلين عنه وفي قبول روايته ثلاثة أقوال أنه لا يقبل حكاه ابن الصلاح وزين الدين العراقي عن الجماهير وذلك لأن تحقق العدالة في الراوي شرط ومن جهلت عدالته لا تقبل روايته يقبل مجهول العدالة ظاهرا وباطنا لأن معرفة عينه برواية اثنين عنه أغنت عن معرفة عدالته والتفصيل وهو أنه إن كان الراويان عنه اللذان بهما عرفت عينه لا يرويان إلا عن عدل قبل وإلا فلا وأما مجهول العدالة الباطنة فالعدالة الباطنة هي ما يرجع إلى تزكية المزكين فهذا يحتج به من رد القسمين الأولين وبه قطع الإمام سليم بن أيوب الرازي لأن الأخبار مبنية على حسن الظن بالراوي قال ابن الصلاح يشبه أن يكون العمل على هذا الرأي في كثير من كتب الحديث المشهورة عن غير واحد من الرواة الذين تقادم العهد بهم، وتعذرت الخبرة الباطنة بهم
The hadith scholars have stated that there is difference of opinion regarding accepting the narration of an unknown person. And he is of three types:
As for the one whose person is unknown, that is a narrator from who only one person narrates.
As for the one whose condition is unknown, internally and externally, coupled with his person being known due to two reliable people narrating from him, regarding the acceptance of his narration there are three views:
As for a person whose internal condition is not known, the it should be known that internal integrity depends on the approbation of the approbators. And this type of a narrator has been accepted by some who reject the first two. This is the view of Sulaim ibn Ayub al Razi. The rationale for this is that narrations are based upon entertaining good assumption regarding a narrator. Hence Ibn al Salah says, “It seems as though practice is upon this view in many of the popular books of hadith regarding many narrators after who a long time has passed making it difficult to ascertain their internal condition.”
Integrity is established by way of popular opinion and a person earning acclaim for piety, goodness, and good mention in a way that he is identified as reliable. Also by way of the people of knowledge using him as evidence due to knowing him to be reliable and trustworthy. Hence, because of that he becomes independent of evidence to prove his integrity.
Ibn al Salah mentions:
تارة تثبت بتنصيص معدِّلين على عدالته وتارة تثبت بالاستفاضة فمن اشتهرت عدالته بين أهل النقل أو نحوهم من أهل العلم وشاع الثناء عليه بالثقة والأمانة استغني فيه بذلك عن بينة شاهدة بعدالته تنصيصاً وهذا هو الصحيح في مذهب الشافعي رضي الله عنه وعليه الاعتماد في فن أصول الفقه
وممن ذكر ذلك من أهل الحديث أبو بكر الخطيب الحافظ ومثل ذلك بمالك وشعبة والسفيانين والأوزاعي والليث وابن المبارك ووكيع وأحمد بن حنبل ويحيى بن معين وعلي بن المديني ومن جري مجراهم في نباهة الذكر و استقامة الأمر فلا يسأل عن عدالة هؤلاء وأمثالهم وإنما يسأل عن عدالة من خفي أمره على الطالبين
The integrity of a narrator is at times established by the explicit approbation of at least two approbators and at times it is established by way of popular opinion. Hence, whoever’s integrity is popular between the people of transmission from the scholars, and praise for his reliability and trustworthiness is widespread, he does not require evidence that will unequivocally attest to his integrity. This is the correct opinion of the school of al Shafi’i, may Allah be pleased with him, and it is relied upon in the science of the principles of jurisprudence. And among those who have mentioned this from the hadith scholars is Abu Bakr al Khatib who has cited as examples: Malik, Shu’bah, the twos Sufyans, al Awza’i, al Layth, Ibn al Mubarak, Waki’, Ahmed ibn Hambal, Yahya ibn Ma’in, ‘Ali ibn al Madini, and those who are similar to them in enjoying acclaim and popularity. Hence, no investigation will be made regarding the integrity of these people and their like. For investigation is only done regarding one whose matter is unclear to the seekers.
Yes, in reality, a person who is famously known for his uprightness, reliability, piety, and trustworthiness, his integrity will be established without investigation. As for a person who is not so popularly known for integrity, in order to establish his integrity, the approbation of the scholars of hadith will be required, two of them, or at least one of them, as per the correct opinion.
Al Khatib says:
والذي نستحبه أن يكون من يزكي المحدث اثنين للاحتياط فإن اقتصر على تزكية واحد أجزأ
What we prefer is that there should be two people who approbate a hadith scholar, this is by way of precaution. But if a person suffices on the approbation of one that will also be enough.
Qadi Abu Bakr al Baqillani mentions:
الشاهد والمخبر إنما يحتاجان إلى التزكية متى لم يكونا مشهورين بالعدالة والرضى وكان أمرهما مشكلا ملتبسا ومجوزا فيه العدالة وغيره قال والدليل على ذلك أن العلم بظهور سترهما أي المستور من أمرهما واشتهار عدالتهما أقوى في النفوس من تعديل واحد أو اثنين يجوز عليهما الكذب والمحاباة
A witness and a reporter only require approbation when they are not popularly known for integrity and praise and their matter is unclear and confusing, i.e. in a way that it allows for the possibility of integrity and otherwise. The evidence for this is that knowledge of their internals, and the popularity of their integrity is stronger in the hearts than the approbation of one or two people whose lying and favouring is very possible.
To conclude this discussion, from the aforementioned it is clear that the methodology of scrutinizing the narrator of hadith scholars is clearer and stronger. For the books of Jarh and Ta’dil have covered in detail the mention of the integrity and retention of any narrator who narrates an incident. In fact, they also discuss many more nuanced details which are inconceivable, like his manner of narrating the incident, the level of retention in the sum-total of what he narrates, and many more matters which are beyond enumeration.
In the instance where there is no information about him, then the methodology considers him to be an unknown whose narration will not be accepted, even if his name and his person is known (but his integrity and retention are not), for they are very wary of accepting his narration.
If this proves anything, it proves the extent of the greatness of the Ahlus Sunnah in investigation and circumspection.
It has passed already, that according to the Ahlus Sunnah, all the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are people of integrity. They have been approbated by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Hence, based on this, the narrations which have come to us from these Noble Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are accepted by the Ahlus Sunnah. This is of course, together with taking into consideration the requisites which were previously mentioned, through which a Sahih hadith can be distinguished from other types besides it, as per the assertions of the hadith scholars.
The second requirement for accepting a narration is that the narrator be a precise retainer, which means the following according to the hadith scholars:
Being vigilant means that he should be perceptive; he should understand what he absorbs, and he should grasp what he is saying. As for retaining the hadith, he should do that in a way that it does not become a victim of distortion or loss. This will become more evident from the categorization of the hadith scholars of Dabt:
Retention is of two types:
1. Retention of the heart: This means that a person memorises what he hears so meticulously that it is far-fetched for it to leave his memory, and he is able to elicit it whenever he wants.
Furthermore, he will either narrate the approximate purport, or he will relay the exact wording. If he is narrating the approximate purport then the following requisites should be found in him:
These are necessary requisites which would guard against him making such a change in the wording which will make the permissible impermissible, and the impermissible permissible.
And the following requisites should be found in the narration:
And if a person does not have knowledge of the aforementioned, then the hadith scholars concur that for such a person narrating the approximate meaning is impermissible.
2. Retention of the Book: This is to preserve the book and safeguard it from change and distortion from the time of assimilation till the time of narration.
Based on the aforementioned, the narrations of the following individuals will not be accepted:
لا يجيئك الحديث الشاذ إلا من الرجل الشاذ
An anomalous narration will only come to you from a strange person.
And the reason for this is that this smacks off his lack of retention.
The retention of a narrator is gauged by his agreement with the reliable retainers in meaning and wording. So, if all his narrations are harmonious with the narrations of the reliable and meticulous narrators, even if it be in the approximate meaning, or even most of them, with the disagreement being very rare, he will be considered a meticulous retainer. However, when the disagreement is more, he will be deemed one of compromised retention and his narration will not be advanced as evidence.
Ibn al Salah says:
يعرف كون الراوي ضابطاً بأن نعتبر رواياته بروايات الثقات المعروفين بالضبط والإتقان، فإن وجدنا رواياته موافقة ولو من حيث المعنى لرواياتهم أو موافقة لها على الأغلب والمخالفة نادرة عرفنا حينئذ كونه ضابطاً ثبتا وإن وجدناه كثيراً المخالفة لهم عرفنا اختلال ضبطه ولم نحتج بحديثه
A narrator being a meticulous narrator is ascertained when we compare his narrations to the narrations of reliable narrators who are known for retention and perfection. So, if we find his narrations to be agreeing, we will know that he is a precise retainer. And if we find him conflicting with them excessively, we will know that his retention is compromised and we will not use his hadith as evidence.
From the many factors that indicate to the precision of the Ahlus Sunnah in authentication is the founding of extremely complex laws pertaining to the narrator through which the Sahih can be identified from the rest. This is known as the science of Jarh and Ta’dil. This science is considered to be a very great, crucial, and important discipline. For the scholars encompassed therein the biographies of all the narrators, the approbation or impugning which they have been described with, who they narrated from and who narrated from them, the places they travelled to, when did they meet certain scholars, the eras they lived in, and many more details to which they have not been preceded. In fact, even the many civilized nations of this time have not reached what the scholars of hadith have accomplished in preparing voluminous encyclopaedias regarding the biographies of men and the transmitters of the hadith. Thereby, they have preserved across the centuries the complete biographies of the narrators of hadith and its transmitters. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reward them on behalf of the Ahlus Sunnah with the best of rewards.
They have even gone on to found various degrees of Jarh and Ta’dil in light of which the grading of the hadith is determined. They are as follows:
1. Wording which denotates exaggeration in approbation or is on the scale of the superlative Af’al. This is the highest of them. For example:
فلان إليه المنتهى في التثبت أو فلان أثبت الناس
‘So and so is the epitome of circumspection’, or ‘so and so is the most precise person’.
2. Thereafter, wording which is emphasised with one or two attributes of approbation:
كثقة ثقة أو ثقة ثبت
‘Reliable reliable’ (very reliable), ‘reliable precise’.
3. Thereafter, wording that denotates reliability without emphasis, like:
ثقة أو حجة
‘Reliable’ or ‘authority’.
4. Thereafter, wording that denotates integrity without denotating precise retention, like:
صدوق، محله الصدق، لا بأس به
‘Truthful’, ‘locus of truth’, ‘there is no problem with him’ (this last wording is according to all besides Ibn Ma’in, for when he says it, it means reliable.)
5. Thereafter, wording which have no implication of approbation or impugning, like:
فلان شيخ، روى عنه الناس
‘So and so is a (satisfactory) Sheikh’, or ‘the people have narrated from him’.
6. Thereafter, wording which smack off closeness to impugning, like:
فلان صالح الحديث، يكتب الحديث
‘So and so is of decent hadith’, or ‘his hadith will be written’.
1. Wordings that denotate weakness, this is the lightest degree, like:
فلان لين الحديث، فيه مقال
‘So and so is weak in hadith’, or ‘there is some criticism about him’.
2. Thereafter, wording that explicitly state that a narrator cannot be acceptable as evidence, like:
فلان لا يحتج به، ضعيف، له مناكير
‘So and so cannot be used as evidence’, or ‘weak’, or ‘he has some reprehensible narrations’.
3. Thereafter, wording that explicitly state that the narrations of a person will not be recorded, etc., like:
فلان يكتب حديثه، لا تحل الرواية عنه، ضعيف جدا، واه بمرة
‘The hadith of so and so will not be written’, ‘it is not permissible to narrate from him’, ‘very weak’, or ‘completely weak’.
4. Thereafter, wording which entail an accusation of lying, etc., like:
فلان متهم بالكذب، متهم بالوضع، يسرق الحديث، ساقط، متروك، أو ليس بثقة
‘So and so is accused of lying’, ‘he is accused of forging’, ‘he approbates hadith’, ‘he is not worth consideration’, ‘he is discarded’, or he is not reliable’.
5. Thereafter, wording that describe a person as a liar, like:
كذاب، دجال، وضاع، يكذب، يضع
‘Liar’, ‘Dajjal’, ‘forger’, ‘he lies’, or ‘he Fabricates’.
6. Thereafter, wording which denotate exaggeration in lying, this is the worst of them, like:
فلان أكذب الناس، إليه المنتهى في الكذب، هو ركن الكذب
‘So and so is the biggest liar’, ‘he is the pinnacle of lying’, ‘he is a pillar of lying’.
This science is not found by the Rawafid and it, thus, distinguishes the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah and their giants from them.
This science is considered to be the greatest, most complex, and noblest facet of the various sciences of hadith. Only people of retention, experience, sharp understanding, vast memorization, all-encompassing knowledge of the degrees of narrators, and a strong grasp over Asanid and the wordings of hadith can adequately venture into it. This is why only a very few people of this science have commented in this regard, people like: ‘Ali ibn al Madini, Ahmed ibn Hambal, al Bukhari, Yaqub ibn Shaybah, Abu Hatim, Abu Zur’ah, Muslim, al Nasa’i, al Daraqutni, and others, may Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala have mercy on them.
They possessed knowledge regarding transmission and tasted beauty of the speech of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with sound intellect. This knowledge is agreed to be their forte, for in it they had exclusive knowledge and specific ways which were only for them. As a result, they scrutinized many narrators and pointed the hidden flaws of some of their narrations and authored many beneficial books in this regard.
They were truly the people who knew the Sunnah of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and they were indeed the authoritative scrutinizers who critiqued narrations like an expert goldsmith who can differentiate between the counterfeit and the pure, and an expert gemmologist who can examine the fake from the genuine.
Ibn Hajar says:
هذا الفن أغمض أنواع علوم الحديث وأدقها مسلكا ولا يقوم به إلا من منحه الله تعالى فهما عايضا واطلاعا حاويا وإدراكا لمراتب الرواة ومعرفة ثاقبة ولهذا لم يتكلم فيه إلا أفراد أئمة هذا الشأن وحذاقهم وإليهم المرجع في ذلك لما جعل الله فيهم من معرفة ذلك والإطلاع على غوامضه دون غيرهم ممن لم يمارس ذلك
This science is from the most complex sciences of hadith, and the most intricate of them. Only a person whom Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has granted deep understanding, comprehensive knowledge, good grasp over the degrees of the narrators, and a sharp understanding can uphold it. This is why only the unique scholars and experts of this science have commented in it. They are the authorities referred to due to the knowledge thereof and of its complex details which Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has placed in them, as opposed to others who have not engaged in that.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala reward the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah with the best of rewards.
From the aforementioned in these brief discussions the methodology of the Ahlus Sunnah in Tashih and Tad’if has become evident. This methodology can be summarized in the following words: Once it is determined that a narrator is upright and of precise retention it is compulsory to trust him and to accept his narrations. For with uprightness and precise retention a narrator becomes acceptable. Thereafter the wording will be examined, if in it all the requisites of acceptance are found, i.e. due to it being free from anomaly, because no narrator opposes anyone more reliable than him, and from a hidden defect, the narration becomes acceptable. Subsequent to that, the chain will be examined, if it happens to be consistent and free from any discrepancies and flaws, the authenticity of the hadith will take precedence and it will accepted.
From this we learn how the laws of this science and its principles of scrutinizing and authentication emerged. These laws engender complete reliance upon the Noble Prophetic Sunnah, may the choicest of salutations be upon its originator. This is what distinguishes the Ahlus Sunnah—the giants of this field—from the rest. As for the Rawafid, they do not possess anything of Islam other than its name, nor do they have anything of this science other than its outline, as will come ahead in the discussion pertaining to their authentication.
 Surah al Hujurat: 6.
 Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah, p. 236.
 Sahih Muslim: Chapter of Divorce: sub-chapter regarding a divorcee not deserving maintenance: hadith no. 1480.
 Tadhkirah al Huffaz, 1/6.
 Sahih al Bukhari: Chapter of seeking permission: sub-chapter regarding greeting and seeking permission three times: hadith no. 5891; Sahih Muslim, Chapter of etiquettes: sub chapter regarding seeking permission: hadith no. 2153.
 Sunan Abi Dawood: Chapter of etiquettes: sub-chapter regarding how many times a person should seek permission: hadith no. 5184. And al Albani has said, “Its chain is Sahih.”
 Al Majruhin, 1/39.
 Muqaddimah Sahih Muslim, 1/12.
 Ibid., 1/12.
 Al Jami’ li Akhlaq al Rawi, 2/130.
 See their statements in the introduction of al Kamil, 1/64; ‘Ilal al Tirmidhi (with his Sunan), p. 2056; Muqaddimah Sahih Muslim, 1/12.
 Dhikr man Yu’tamad Qawluhu fi al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, p. 172-173.
 Sharh ‘Ilal al Tirmidhi, 1/355.
 Al Muhaddith al Fasil, 1/208.
 Al Imam Shu’bah wa Makanatuhu bayn ‘Ulama’ al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, p. 192.
 Dhikr man Yu’tamad Qawluhu fi al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, p. 175.
 Al Jami’ li Akhlaq al Rawi, 2/201.
 Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah, p. 236.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, 7/206.
 Sharh ‘Ilal al Tirmidhi, 1/448.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, 8/72.
 Al Majruhin of Ibn Hibban, 1/41.
 Mizan al I’tidal, 1/1.
 Dhikr man Yu’tamad Qawluhu fi al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, p. 180.
 Al Majruhin: 1/49.
 i.e., the generation of al Qattan and Ibn Mahdi.
 Al Majruhin, 1/51.
 Taqdimah al Ma’rifah, 1/294.
 Ibid., 1/302
 For the details of these three types refer to: Tadrib al Rawi, Tawdih al Afkar, al Tawdih al Abhar, al Manhal al Rawi, Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah.
 Ahead a dedicated discussion will come regarding these two requisites.
 Ma’rifah ‘Ulum al Hadith, p. 106.
 Al Kifayah fi ‘Ilm al Riwayah, p. 79.
 Al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, 2/32.
 Al Kifayah, p. 143.
 Ibid., p. 144.
 Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah, p. 61.
 In this discussion we have sufficed on just a mere rudimentary indication in order to explain the greatness of the Ahlus Sunnah and how they determine the authenticity of a hadith.
 Consider carefully these preclusions so that you realize the greatness of the Ahlus Sunnah, especially when you learn that the Rawafid narrate from disbelievers, liars, imposters, unknown people, and their like. And the narrations of these people are reliable according to them, as will come under their methodology of Tashih and Tad’if, and when we discuss the statuses of the Rafidi narrators.
 Surah Al ‘Imran: 118.
 Surah al Hujurat: 6.
 Al Kifayah fi ‘Ilm al Riwayah, p. 77.
 Sahih al Bukhari: chapter of knowledge: sub-chapter regarding when is it valid for a minor to hear hadith: hadith no. 76.
 Al Kifayah fi ‘Ilm al Riwayah, p. 157; Tadrib al Rawi, 1/301.
 Muqaddimah Sahih Muslim, 1/12.
 Usul al Sarakhsi, 1/346.
 Sahih Muslim, 1/7.
 Al Irshad, p. 114. This is also the stance of al Mu’allimi who says:
There is no doubt that an innovator who leaves Islam because of his innovation, his narration will not be accepted. Because one of the requisites of accepting a narration is Islam. (Al Tankil, 1/42).
 Fath al Bari, 1/385.
 Mizan al I’tidal, 1/97.
 Al Kifayah fi ‘Ilm al Riwayah, p. 116.
 Surah Taha: 82.
 Surah Al ‘Imran: 89.
 Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah, p. 61.
 Al Kifayah, p. 117.
 Tadrib al Rawi, 1/330.
 Sharh al Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 1/70.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, 8/247.
 Ibid., 8/214.
 Tawdih al Afkar, 2/191, with slight change.
 Muqaddimah Ibn al Salah, 1/61.
 Al Kifayah, 1/96.
 Ibid., 1/87.
 Al Kifayah, 1/198.
 Ibid., 1/141.
 A discussion regarding these encyclopaedias will come ahead when a comparison will be presented between the books of the Ahlus Sunnah and those of the Rawafid regarding Jarh and Ta’dil and Tashih and Tad’if.
 For a more detailed lay out of these words refer to: al Taqyid wa al Idah, 1/157; al Raf’ wa al Takmil, p. 132; Tadrib al Rawi, 2/342; Tawdih al Afkar, 2/262; Nukhbah al Fikar, p. 28.
 Al Nukat ‘ala Ibn al Salah, 2/711.