WEAK HADITH DEFINED
Hadith that are not acceptable with regard to the criteria concerning their reliability have been regarded as rejected, or mardud. Such hadiths have also been referred to with the word saqim (unsound or infirm) used as the opposite of sahih. Weak hadiths are those which do not possess at least one of the five determined preconditions for the soundness of hadith. Some scholars have asserted that there are forty-two different kinds of weak hadith.
The weakness or unsoundness of hadith stems from the inadequacy of the narrator in terms of righteousness and academic competence (zabt). However, there needs to be explicit proof demonstrating the narrator’s shortcoming with regard to piety or scholarly competence. This proof is comprised of defects in the narrations they transmit. On account of this, hadith scholars have preferred assessments putting forth errors in narration to weakness in the narrator, in their hadith critique.
TYPES OF WEAK HADITH
The most well-known of weak (da’if) hadiths have been named in accordance with their various defects in transmission. Hadith with a continuity of transmission, or chain of narration, are referred to as muttasil. The chain of sahih hadiths are muttasil, or continuous. Discontinuity in the chain of narration is a flaw affecting the soundness of hadith; however, as all discontinuities in transmission do not constitute a cause for weakness to the same degree, each of them has been referred to with different names. A chain of transmission with the Companion’s name missing is called mursal, one with two or more consecutive narrators missing is called mu’dal, a suspended chain with the names of one or more mentors omitted by the author is referred to as mu’allaq, and munqati is the general term used to refer to a broken chain where at least one narrator is missing.
Another kind of weak hadith is that which is anomalous or shadhdh. The hadith in which a hadith transmitter who is accepted to be reliable (thiqa) contradicts a more reliable transmitter or other transmitters, is referred to as an anomalous hadith. This contradiction can pertain to both the chain and the actual text of the hadith.
In cases where opposition to a reliable narrator is on the part of a weak narrator, this hadith is called munkar, or singular and suspect. Due to the fact that munkar constitute a weak transmitter’s opposition to a reliable hadith transmitter, they possess two significant defects. Therefore, these have been regarded as being among the weakest types of hadith. There have also been those who have deemed narrations that are unfamiliar to hadith scholars as munkar purely due to their being unknown. However, it has become common to term such hadith as singular or “strange” (gharib) hadith, possessing only one transmitter at some stage of the chain.
Such singular hadiths have not been accepted as one of the types of weak hadith in the absolute sense, but there are many weak hadith among them. This is because there are no subsequent traditions supporting them. Consequently, hadith scholars have attached importance to examining singular hadith and have penned independent works in this regard. For instance, Bazar’s Musnad and Tabarani’s Al-Mujam al-Awsat are compilations of singular hadith and investigations of their soundness.
Narrations where the hadith transmitter has rearranged a word or sentence in the text of the hadith or where the names of some of the transmitters of the chain of transmission are altered, are called inverted or transposed (maqlub) hadith.
RULING PERTAINING TO WEAK HADITH
All weak hadiths are not equal in degree. Narrations have been classified in accordance with the situation of the transmitters and their opposition to or contradiction with other hadith transmitters. Hadiths have been graded by means of comparisons between narrations, from the most reliable to the weakest.
Although sound and fair hadith constitute evidence in every matter, weak hadiths have only been accepted as proof in certain subject areas. Due to the likelihood of their being the Prophet’s words, weak hadiths have been considered in the absence of sound hadith. Weak hadiths have been accepted in such issues as the praise, criticism or encouragement of a matter established in sound hadith. In addition, they have been appropriated as a supporting and buttressing element. However, there are certain types of weak hadith that have been completely abandoned. Such narrations are referred to as disregarded (matruk) narrations and they have not been considered under any circumstances.
The following three conditions are necessary for a weak hadith to be accepted: 1) The transmitted hadith must not be very weak; 2) It must not contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah; and 3) It must be based on a principle established in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. As is evident, a weak hadith has not been accepted as evidence with regard to a non-existent judgment or ruling. However, it has been used for the purposes of encouragement, caution or recommendation, consonant with the essence of the religion, in existing matters that have already been firmly demonstrated.
RELIGIOUS RULING CONCERNING LYING
Just as there were those individuals in the Prophet’s lifetime who claimed to be prophets and claimed to have received revelation, there were also those who tried to ascribe words to the Prophet that he did not utter. In the face of such an event, Allah’s Messenger stated: “Those who intentionally lie against me should prepare their abode in the Fire.” (This hadith is perfectly sound (mutawatir). It has been narrated by more than seventy Companions. ) Again in another hadith, the Prophet declared that one who transmits a lie is also considered to have lied: “It is sufficient lying for a man to repeat that he hears.” (Sahih Muslim, Muqaddima, 3)
In Islam, lying (kidhb) has virtually been equated with unbelief. In the Qur’an, the term ‘denial’ has been used in reference to rejecting Allah and religion. In contrast, sidq denotes believing and affirming the truth of religion. On account of this, the Companions conceived of falsehood and truth as two diametrically opposed concepts. Nowhere can it ever be observed that the believers lied against Allah and His Messenger in the Age of Happiness. Referring to such state of affairs, Abdullah ibn Abbas (d. 687 CE) summarized the situation after the appearance of discord saying that formerly, upon hearing someone say, “The Messenger of Allah said,” they would immediately pay heed. But when falsehood emerged and people competed in narrating the hadith, they would not accept from people except that of which they were assured. (Sahih Muslim, Muqaddima, 4)
On no account were the hypocrites allowed to lie and thus mix anything into the religion. The Messenger of Allah had disclosed the names of the hypocrites to his Companion Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman. After the Prophet’s demise, the Caliphs relied upon Hudhayfa’s testimony and adjusted themselves in accordance with his opinions and even his gestures and behavior. The Rightly Guided Caliphs and succeeding caliphs did not authorize anyone to freely narrate hadith and tightly regulated hadith transmission.
WORKS RELATED TO FABRICATED HADITH
Fabricated (mawdu) hadiths have been compiled into separate books by hadith scholars with a view to serving as a case in point and in order for famed hadith fabricators to be known. If they had not engaged in such an endeavor, we would not have been aware of these words fabricated in the past, for people’s informally spreading words of their own invention carries no weight with respect to scholarly activity. For instance, information pertaining to medicine that is spread colloquially is of no significance, and is even forgotten over time, unless it is accepted and documented by physicians. Similarly, it is not possible for knowledge that is not embraced by its specialists to hold any weight.
1. Define weak hadith.
2. What are the types of weak hadith?
3. What are the ten characteristics disqualifying hadith narrators? (Mata’in al-ashara)?
4. What is the ruling concerning weak hadith?
Tekines, Ayhan. “An Introduction to Hadith” Tughra Books Press. January 2013.
- December 21, 2013
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