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

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Imam Muslim on The Importance of Hadith Verification


The Importance of Hadith Verification
From Muslim’s Introduction to his Sahih

NOTE: This text is copyright.

Know – may Allah have mercy upon you – that what is obligatory upon every individual who is familiar with discrimination between the authentic among narrations and the inferior [thereof], [as well as between] the reliable reporters thereof from the incriminated ones, is that he narrate from [the body of hadith] only that [material] for which he knows that the source is authentic and its reporters are [of] blameless [character]. He should avoid those [narrations] which are [related] from incriminated people, and [from] obstinate people of innovation.

The evidence that what we have stated is binding rather than anything different is the words of Allah – may His mention be glorified – (translated), “O you who believe! If a transgressor comes to you with information then verify [its truth], in case you smite a people out of ignorance, and then [later] become full of regret over what you have done.” And He said – glorified be his praise – (translated), “. . . from among those whom you approve as witnesses.” And He, the Mighty, the Majestic, said, (translated), “And establish in testimony two upright [men] from among you.” So, He has indicated, through these verses which we have mentioned, that the report of a transgressor is disreputable and unacceptable, and that the testimony of a non-upright individual is inadmissible. Although the import of a report differs from that of a testimony in some respects, they correspond in most of their features, for the report of a transgressor is not acceptable before the people of knowledge, just as his testimony is inadmissible according to all of them. Read more

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Mutawatir and Ahad Hadiths

Authority of Ahad and Mutawatir Hadith

A mutawatir narration is one which is:

narrated by a multitude of narrators
their numbers being such that experience / common sense rules out the possibility of their all having colluded to lie, or of their all having made the same mistake or fabrication by coincidence
with such numbers being present in each generation (level) of the chain of narration
the chain ending with something which was directly sensed (e.g. seen, heard) by the initial narrator (as opposed to something s/he concluded or hypothesized).
[see: Sharh Sharh Nukhbat al-Fikr, by `Ali al-Qari, (being a commentary on Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s summary text and commentary), pp. 161 ff.]

We encounter this type of narration often in the mundane aspects of our lives. It is by such narrations that we have come to know about distant lands which we have never visited, and similarly about events and people in the past, yet because of the certainty conveyed by these narrations, we do not doubt the existence of these entities. For example, we know about the tyranny of certain world leaders of our day, the poverty of Haiti, and the fact that there is a US-led war going on in `Iraq, because the numerous, abundant reports we have heard about these things have served to corroborate one another to the extent that we have become convinced without doubt that these are incontrovertible facts. Read more

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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

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