Correct methodology in classifying Hadeeth
Fatwa No: 332473

Question

One of the Hadith verifiers mentioned their methodology in checking, saying (in summary): “The hadiths of the Sunan are either (a) in Bukhari or Muslim or (b) they are not, and are thus in need of checking. If I declared a hadith to be weak, I provided the weakness, and if I declared it to be good or authentic, then I mentioned another Hadith scholar who preceded me. In case there is a difference of opinion about a narrator regarding his trustworthiness or weakness, finding it impossible to apply a single, consistent rule or reconcile between divergent opinions, I have always preferred the opinion of the majority. If a narrator is considered trustworthy by the lenient experts in the science like At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibbaan or Haakim, then I classified him as unknown, but if he is endorsed as trustworthy by two of them, then I classified him as good and truthful. While grading a hadith, I have taken into account other hadiths as corroborating reports or follow-ups.” Some of the people objected to this, calling it an 'innovated methodology', so we would like to know whether or not this methodology is correct.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

We wish that you had asked about a specific topic so that we could have been able to answer you aptly. Citing a long statement touching upon diverse and different topics as such and asking for our commentary on all of them is not reasonable. In addition, this is the nature of the Fatwa Center's work in essence. We do not know on which topic in that quote you seek our opinion in particular.

That being said, it should be noted that the classification of Hadeeth and judging the narrated ahaadeeth and reports as authentic or inauthentic and the other related matters actually form a separate discipline known as the Sciences of Hadeeth or Mustalah Al-Hadeeth (Hadeeth Terminology). Many books have been written in that discipline detailing its different and diverse topics. It is inconceivable that we can possibly sum up a whole discipline in a few lines in one single fatwa.

You should know that it is not an easy task to verify the authenticity of the ahaadeeth and declare them authentic or weak; not all people can claim possessing the adequate knowledge in this field that qualifies them to carry out such a heavy task. It is not even enough to study Mustalah Al-Hadeeth, hidden defects of ahaadeeth, Rijaal Al-Hadeeth (the study of the reporters of ahaadeeth), the fundamental rules of Hadeeth classification, and the like of relevant fields of knowledge. The scholar of Hadeeth must also gain extensive and long experience in the classification of Hadeeth, following the methods developed by the early well-versed and skilled Hadeeth scholars who delved into the discipline of Hadeeth classification. Taking this matter lightly incurs grave evils. This is why some scholars set restrictions in this regard. Ibn As-Salah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him even underlined that there was no longer room for Ijtihaad (individual reasoning) in this field of knowledge.

Shaykh Al-Mu‘allimi Al-Yamaani,  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Some of the contemporary scholars relate on the authority of late Hadeeth scholars such as As-Subki, Ibn Hajar, Ibn Al-Humaam, As-Suyooti and others that they declared certain ahaadeeth and reports authentic or good although the early well-versed scholars of Hadeeth among the righteous predecessors declared them weak. Although some of the late scholars are endowed with great knowledge, refined status in their field of knowledge, and experience, they were less strict pertaining to judging the authenticity of ahaadeeth and reports. They observe some of the fundamental rules governing the process and ignore the others. Moreover, the righteous predecessors were farther from following personal inclinations. This is why Ibn As-Salah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “There is no longer room for Ijtihaad in declaring ahaadeeth saheeh (sound) or hasan (good), and the only thing left is to follow the opinions of the early righteous predecessors.” This statement is wrong; however, it supports what we intend, which is the necessity to be cautious regarding what the late scholars of Hadeeth classified as saheeh or hasan.” [Kitaab Al-‘Ibaadah]

Allah knows best.

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