There is no doubt that efforts made by the scholars of Islâm, from the period of the Companions down to the completion of Sunnah, are tremendous and no further contribution is possible. The method they have adopted is the best scientific method essential for critical examination; so much so that we can assert authoritatively that these scholars were the first to lay down principles of intensive scientific investigation of reports and narratives of all the people of the globe.
The hadîth is also considered as one of the most important sources of Islâmic history. The study of hadîth and its method of collection gave a great impetus to the growth and development of Muslim historiography. In face, the study of hadîth was the main foundation of the growth and development of Islâmic history. The writing of Islâmic history began with the study of hadîth. The Muhaddithûn devised various methods to ensure accuracy in their works and these methods were followed by historians, even European ones.
Scholars of hadîth have adopted a critical examination of narrators and a description of their lies or truthfulness. They have sifted the authentic reporter from the liar and the valid from the weak reporter. In this monumental work they stood the test. They traced the reporters, probed their lives, histories, conduct and their public and private affairs. Analysis focused in the transmitter’s date and place of birth, familial connections, teachers, students, journeys, moral behaviour, religious beliefs, literary output, and date of death. This allowed compilers to determine not only reliability, but also the contemporaneity and geographical proximity of transmitters juxtaposed within the isnâd, in an attempt to ascertain whether they could have come in contact. In addition to this biographical analysis [‘ilm ar-rijâl], the cohesion [ittisal] of the isnâd was examined. The continuity of the isnâd was evaluated for missing or unknown muhaddiths or for not reaching back to Muhammad [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam] and stopping at a Companion or Successor.
Neither any public reproach not their reputation for piety and moral weakness proved a hindrance for them in the cause of Allâh and prevented them from investigation into the reporters. Yahyâ bin Sa’îd al-Qattân was asked: “Do you not fear that these people, whose hadîth you have rejected, will plead against you before Allâh on the Day of Resurrection?” He observed: “That they are my opponents is more liked by me than the Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam] should plead against me in the words: ‘why did you not purge lie from my ahâdîth?”
For this purpose they laid down principles; whether they accepted hadîth from those reporters or not, recorded hadîth from them or not, they acted upon these principles. Some of the most important categories of the reporters whose hadîth is not accepted are as follows:
Those who attribute a lie to the Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam]; all the scholars are unanimous that no hadîth will be accepted from a reporter who attributes lies to the Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam], just as the scholars have a consensus not to accept hadîth from a reporter who commits major sins.
Imâm Mâlik [rahimahullâh] said: “No hadîth will be accepted from four people: a man reputed for impudence even if he had surpassed all the people in reporting traditions, a person who tells a lie in reporting people even if you do not accuse him of attributing a lie to the Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam] and is subservient to his caprice, who invites the people towards his caprice and his Shaikh who is endowed with Divine grace and occupied in worship while he does not know what he is talking about.”
Similarly, scholars of hadîth are unanimous that no hadîth will be accepted from people of innovations and caprice, atheists, the wicked and neglectful.
Likewise, the reporters whose ahâdîth are not accepted fall into categories, which can summarised as follows:
1. A reporter whose reputation and integrity is disputed;
2. A reporter who commits many errors and from whose ahâdîth the authentic scholars differ;
3. A reporter who frequently forgets;
4. A reporter who suffers from mental confusion in his old age;
5. A reporter who has a bad retention and whose memory is weak;
6. A reporter who accepts hadîth from the authentic as well as from the weak reporters and does not discriminate between them.
By Omar Ahmed Kasir
Studies in Hadîth Literature with a Complete Hadîth Terminology, Pgs. 53-55