Refuting allegations against credibility of Hadeeth
Fatwa No: 347638

  • Fatwa Date:13-9-2017 - Thul-Hijjah 22, 1438
  • Rating:

Question

Assalaam alaykom. Thank you for the previous replies. Recently, I started a conversation with a Quranist in order to convince him that one cannot reject the Hadith. Basically, I have been able to deal with most of his arguments except for the following one, in which he uses the science of Hadith itself to refute its authenticity, especially that of the Sahih books. One of his arguments is that according to the science of Hadith, in order for a narration to be regarded as Sahih, or authentic, the narration must meet the following five conditions: · Have a connected Isnaad (chain) of narrators · All narrators must be known, trustworthy, and righteous · Precision and accuracy of narrators · Not conflict with any known hadith · Contain no hidden defects. His question is: since most of the previous conditions are related to the credibility of the narrators, and since ‘Ilm Ar-Rijal, or the study of men, was completed long years after the death of both Al-Bukhaari and Muslim, how did Al-Bukhaari and Muslim decide that the narrators in the Isnaad are trustworthy? One of the examples that he gave me consists of the narrations of Hisham relating to the age of ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, when she got married. He showed me that although Hisham was considered to be reliable, according to the ‘study of men’, his later narrations (after he moved to Iraq) could not be considered as reliable as his memory was suffering, and these facts, he continues, were not yet known to Al-Bukhaari or Muslim. To be honest, I am starting to feel uncomfortable regarding my discussion with him. He seems well equipped. Is there a strong answer to his argument? And also, if this was true about Hisham, then why would today's scholars not consider the re-examination of his narrations regarding ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her? May Allaah bless you.

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, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

The statements of that man are based on two fallacies; one of them total and the other partial.

The total fallacy is his statement that ‘Ilm Ar-rijaal (Science of Narrators) was completed long years after the death of both Al-Bukhaari and Muslim! This statement cannot be made by an educated person, let alone someone who is knowledgeable of the science of Hadeeth or a specialized scholar in this field. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim were among the senior and leading scholars of the Muslim nation in the fields of Ilal (plural of Illah, i.e. hidden defect in the Hadeeth), Al-Jarh wa-t-Ta‘deel (discrediting and accrediting of Hadeeth reporters), and Naqd (all related to the evaluation of Hadeeth reporters and degree). They penned many famous books in these fields. For example, Imaam Al-Bukhaari wrote At-Tareekh Al-Kabeer, At-Tareekh Al-Awsat, and At-Tareekh As-Sagheer. He also composed a book about weak reporters entitled Adh-Dhu‘afaa' As-Sagheer. Imaam Muslim wrote Al-Kuna wal-Asmaa', Al-Munfaridaat wal-Wuhdaan, and At-Tamyeez. They also wrote other manuscripts that were not printed and published. Believing that the character and quality of the reports of Hishaam ibn 'Urwah, who was a minor Taabi'i (of the generation following that of the Companions), was unknown to the likes of Al-Bukhaari and Muslim, who were leading Hadeeth scholars of the third Hijri century, is a false belief and a defective conceptualization. The time of Al-Bukhaari and Muslim was the golden age for the Hadeeth sciences and the criticism of Asaaneed (Hadeeth chains of narration).

Dr. Mahmood Abu Zahw said in his book Al-Hadeeth wal-Muhaddithoon:

The third Hijri century was the most prosperous time for the sciences of the Sunnah and the busiest for serving the Hadeeth sciences. It witnessed the emergence of many great Hadeeth Haafiths (memorizers) and master narrators. During that century, the six authentic Hadeeth books that contained almost all the authentic ahaadeeth except very few were compiled. Hadeeth scholars in that century assigned great care to discussing the evaluation and criticism of the chains of narration, the biographies of the Hadeeth reporters, and their level on the scale of criticism (Al-Jarh wat-Ta‘deel). The scholars of that century did not document the ahaadeeth by merely copying them from other books; rather, they relied on the ahaadeeth that they had memorized at the hands of senior scholars of Hadeeth. They differentiated between the authentic and inauthentic and between the sound and the weak. By the end of that century, the Hadeeth encyclopedias were brimming with ahaadeeth and Hadeeth sciences. The scholars of the fourth century and the following centuries collected the ahaadeeth from the books and writings of those early scholars of Hadeeth or summarized them by omitting the chains of narration or classifying them and the like. If they criticized any chains of narration, they relied on the opinions of the scholars of the earlier centuries.” [Al-Hadeeth wal-Muhadithoon]

The partial fallacy is related to the description of Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah, which is that man's statement about him: “but his later narrations (after he moved to Iraq) could not be considered reliable as his memory was suffering..."

This is a false claim. It is refuted by the leading scholars of Hadeeth. Scholars underlined that the weakness in the reporter's memory is of different degrees, some of which entail rejecting the reporter's narrations, while some do not and only cause him to be classified in a lower degree of strength and authenticity. However, his narration would still be accepted and used as evidence. This applies to Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah. Imaam Ath-Thahabi addressed this point while citing the biography of Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah, and he then said:

His narration is absolutely reliable, and the opinion of Al-Haafith Abul-Hasan ibn Al-Qattaan, that the memory of both ‘Urwah and Suhayl ibn Abi Saalih was failing (in old age) and that their narratives changed and became confused, is of no significance. The memory of the reporter who reaches the level of Al-Haafith in the narration of the Hadeeth may be slightly diminished in his old age and might not be as strong and rigorous as it was in his youth. No one is safe from forgetfulness. This change is harmless; what harms is being Mukhtalit (being mistaken because of senility, impaired vision or loss of references). Hishaam was never Mukhtalit, and his narrations are used as evidence in Al-Muwatta', the Sihaah (Books of authentic narrations), and the Sunan (Abu Daawood, An-Nasaa'i, At-Tirmithi and Ibn Maajah). Ibn Al-Qattaan's statement that Hishaam became Mukhtalit is false and rejected. Show me one single senior Hadeeth scholar who was safe from such insignificant error. When Shu‘bah, for instance, was at his best state, he made some mistakes, and so did Ma‘amar, Al-Awzaa‘i, and Maalik  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them.” [Siyar A‘laam An-Nubalaa']

Al-‘Alaa'i  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah was one of the senior Hadeeth reporters upon whose trustworthiness scholars of Hadeeth agreed. Ibn Al-Qattaan said that Hishaam's memory diminished and he became Mukhtalit. This statement is insignificant because it was not backed by any other scholar. Rather, Hishaam is an absolutely trustworthy reporter, and if he made any mistakes, they were of the insignificant type that does not affect the authenticity of his narrations.” [Al-Mukhtalateen]

Al-Mu‘aallimi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him addressed this false claim, saying:

As for the reporter's forgetfulness, it does not necessarily entail declaring the reporter's memory weak and unreliable because it ultimately means that he used to memorize ahaadeeth but forgot some of them and stopped narrating them. As for the reporter's errors, if they are insignificant, like the mistakes that Maalik, Shu‘bah, and the senior reporters may have made, this is not labeled as a deficiency in the reporter's memory. Rather, it means that the reporter's performance has become below the perfection level known to Maalik, Shu‘bah, and the senior reporters. Hadeeth scholars did not make mention of such a deficiency and error in the biography of Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah except once in the hadeeth about Umm Zar’. This hadeeth was cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim. Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah narrated on the authority of his father that ‘Aa’ishah said, ‘One day, there sat together eleven women making an explicit promise amongst themselves that they would conceal nothing about their spouses ...’ Then she recounted the whole story and at the end, she said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'I was to you as Abu Zar’ was to Umm Zar’.'’ This narration was authentically reported by both Al-Bukhaari and Muslim. However, Hishaam reported this hadeeth again as a Marfoo’ report (i.e. that the whole story was related by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, directly) ... In any case, this is an insignificant mistake, and Hishaam retracted it.” [At-Tankeel]

The narration of Hishaam ibn Urwah about the age of ‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her when she got married to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim and was accepted by the reliable scholars of the Muslim community. None of them suggested that Hishaam might have made a mistake in this narration. Therefore, this claim is false and groundless.

Lastly, although we commend the dear brother for his keenness on clarifying the truth and debating with the people of falsehood, we stress that this is allowed only for the person who is equipped with firm religious knowledge on the subject matter, first of all to protect himself against the misconceptions, and then to be able to help those who have misunderstood or strayed from the truth. If a person does not possess such profound knowledge, he must not engage in such discussions. He can take this person to some scholars to clarify the evidence to him and remove his misconception.

Allah knows best.

Related Fatwa