On Hadith Authentication

How do hadith scholars grade ahadith? Do they all share the same criteria or are there different views? Have they restricted their efforts to scrutiny of the chain of narration (isnad), or did they take the content (matn) into consideration too? What should I do if I am troubled by the content of a particular hadith?


There is general agreement amongst hadith scholars on the criteria for hadith authentication. Some criteria relate to the transmission (isnad), and others to the content (matn).

Transmission Criteria

There are five principal conditions which must be satisfied for the isnad. Lack of any of these conditions generally implies weakness in the narration. (However, weakness does not necessarily imply uselessness or total rejection of the narration. There are different grades of weak narration. As in a court of law, even a dubious witness’ testimony, though not totally credible, might still cast some light on matters.) Read more

Ibn Hazm on Authority of the Sunnah

The Authority of the Sunnah

selections from

Al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam

vol I, pp. 96-108, Dar al-Afaq al-Jadidah, Beirut, 2nd ed., 1983/1402.

by Imam `Ali Ibn Hazm (d. 456 H)

“Since we have clarified [in the previous section] that the Qur’an is the source of reference for laws, we looked into it, and found therein the obligation of obedience to what the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) has ordered us, and we found [Allah] the Mighty, the Majestic therein describing His messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), [translated], “He does not speak of his own desire. It is only an inspiration with which he is inspired.” Q[53:3-4] Thus, it is proved for us thereby that inspiration from Allah, the Mighty the Majestic, to His Messenger, can be divided into two categories: one of them [being] recited inspiration compiled in a miraculous form, which is the Qur’an, and the second [being] narrated inspiration, neither compiled [into a single book] nor of miraculous composition, and that is the narrations which have come from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), his being the explainer on behalf of Allah, the Mighty the Majestic. Allah, the Exalted, says, [translated], “…in order that you may explain to people what has been sent down to them.” Q[16:44] We found [Allah] the Exalted obligating obedience to this second category as He obliged obedience to the first category, without any difference, for [Allah] the Exalted, has said, [translated], “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger.” Q[5:92 and others] Read more