Hadith Categories Based on Authenticity

By Moulana Muhammad ibn Moulana Haroon Abbassommar
Posted: 6 Sha'ban 1423, 13 October 2002


Q.) I have learnt that some hadith are weak and some are more reliable. Does this mean that some hadith are not to be followed/complied with? If you follow a hadith that is "weak" will you obtain the rewards as stated in the Hadith? Why is it that some hadith are weak and some strong? How does a layperson distinguish between them? If the distinction is made merely on chain of narrators, are we entitled to judge the narrators? What are the authentic books of hadith?

A.) A Hadith can be categorized with regards to its authenticity into 5 types, 1) Sahih (authentic), 2) Hasan (sound), 3) Dha'eef (weak), 4) Dha'eef Jiddan (very weak), and 5) Mawdhoo (fabricated).

The first 2 types can be used as proofs for the different laws in Shari'ah. The third can be used (with a few conditions attached) to establish virtues for any specific deed or person. (This is accepted by the vast majority of the Muhadditheen).

There are three conditions for the permissibility of practicing upon a weak Hadith; a) It must not be very weak, b) It must be regarding something that has already been established to be a part of Deen, c) One should not have total conviction in its authenticity. The Ulama have stated that Istihbaab (preference) can be established from a weak Hadith. (al-Ajwibatul Fadhilah), and if one practices upon it, it is hoped that he will receive the reward mentioned therein.

No. 5 (fabrications) cannot be used for anything besides for the purpose of explaining to somebody it's classification. It cannot be quoted in any lecture, book, etc. with the intention of inspiring people through its contents. Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, 'He who lies (about a speech) of mine should prepare his abode in the fire.' (Bukhari)

Hence, the Ulama have deduced that it is haram (forbidden) for one to quote any fabricated Hadith without explicitly mentioning its fabrication. As for number 4 (very weak, which is also referred to by the words, 'very unreliable'), because of it being so weak, the Ulama have joined it to Mawdhoo (fabricated) Ahaadith. So, they share the same law as mentioned above. (For further reference, see Sharh Nukhbatul Firk of Hafiz ibn Hajar; Tadreeburraawiy of Hafiz Suyyooti and; Al-Ajwibatul Fadhilah of Maulana Abdul Hai Lucknawi)

The reason for some Ahadith being weak, some strong and some being classified as fabrications is due to the variation in the credibility of the narrators in each chain. The task of checking and verifying the status of each narrator of every Hadith one quotes is quite difficult. Only those that are equipped with the intricacies of the science of 'Jarh wal Ta'deel' are eligible to do so. Others that know the Arabic language and have a brief understanding of Usool-ul-Hadith (principles of Hadith) are able to read and check how the Ulama of classical times have graded any particular Hadith, thereby relying on their classification of the status of a Hadith.

This is practically impossible for anyone who does not posses any of the above knowledge of science of 'Jarh wal Ta'deel' or the Arabic language together with a brief understanding of Usool-ul-Hadith (sciences of Hadith). Hence, the layman as well as others, should first be cautious in whatever they attribute to Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam as was the practice of many of the Sahaba, Radi-Allahu anhum, namely, Abdullah ibn Mas'ood, Radi-Allahu anhu, Anas ibn Maalik, Radi-Allahu anhu, and others. The Sahaba, Radi-Allahu anhum, used to turn pale when narrating Ahadith from Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam for the fear of erring and effectively attributing something to Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam which he did not mention. But, alas! Nowadays, we quote Hadith upon Hadith without this thought ever crossing our minds that possibly we have attributed one word to Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam which he did not say!

As for the authentic books of ahadith, the list will never stop. However, some of these authentic books may contain ahadith whose reliability may vary from authentic to weak and so on. Hence, we will enlist those books regarding which the Ulama have stated that all or majority of their Ahadith are reliable and authentic and not undermined the other numerous authentic books of Ahadith.

Those books whose Ahaadith are all authentic: Sahih Bukhari, Adabul Mufrad (by Imaam Bukhari), Sahih Muslim, Muwatta Imaam Maalik, Sahih ibn Khuzaymah, Sahih ibn Hibbaan, al-Muntaqa by Imaam Jaaruwd, al-Mukhtaarah by Imaam Dhiyaa-ud-Deen Maqdisiy, Riyaadhul-saaliheen by Imaam Nawawiy, Fourty Ahaadith by Imaam Nawawiy, Hisn Haseen by Imaam Jazary, Part1 of Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh. Allah Ta'ala Knows Best