This shows us the preservation of the Sunnah that Allah (swt) really has preserved the Sunnah by having these classifications so we know what ahadeeth are authentic and unauthentic. It also shows us the great care and efforts that the scholars of the past have done in preserving the Sunnah, this science of ahadeeth is unique in the history of mankind.
*Note: General Rule of Thumb – When a person attacks the Sunnah they will be the most ignorant with regards to the Sunnah. That person would have never even opened up Bukhari to read it or never even studied the basic sciences of ahadeeth.
Ibn ul-Qayyim and other ulema mention that those that deny the Sunnah have never read Bukhari and Muslim so they don’t even know what they’re denying. The more we study the Sunnah and the sciences of the Sunnah the more our eman goes up that this science has been preserved. The person who denies the preservation of the Sunnah is the one who is ignorant of the history of the Sunnah.
The first person to ever write and compile a book about the science of ahadeeth was Ar-Raama ur-Muzee (died 360 Hijri). The scholars before this still had the rudimentary sciences of ahadeeth established. Ibn Sireen (died 110 Hijri) narrates, “When the fitnah broke out we started asking the people; narrate to us where you heard it from, before the fitnah we wouldn’t ask them. The fitnah he’s talking about is the big political fight during the Umayyad period between the Muslims. Before this fitnah they would accept hadeeth from anyone because the people were innocent and weren’t capable of lying about the Prophet (saws) but when the fitnah broke out, after this we started asking people where they heard the hadeeth from. So this is the beginning of the science of isnaad (the list of names of narrators) and Ibn Sireen said this statement concerning the fitnah around 40s, 50s, or 60s of the hijrah, theres an ikhtilaaf of which fitnah he’s referring to but within his lifespan. Not only that but Ibn Sireen went on to say, we would look at the person of Ahlus-Sunnah and take his hadeeth and reject the hadeeth of Ahlul-Biddah (Khawarij, Shia, Mutazilae). Only the person who was from Ahlus-Sunnah and was trustworthy was accepted.
In the year 643 Hijrah a famous alim named Ibn-as-Salah of Damascus wrote a book that was so comprehensive and unique book about the sciences of ahadeeth that later on every single book would reference his book, Al-Muqaddama (The Introduction). All other books after this basically was an explanation, condensation, summarization, correcting mistakes, etc. Ibn Katheer, An-Nawawi, and As-Suyooti have explanations of this work.
The question arises that why is hadeeth preservation so different from that of the Quran. We have to look at this from a different prespective, with the Quran, the Prophet (saw) ordered that every single verse be written down and he personally placed in its proper place. As for the Sunnah this was not the case, no one ever supervised writing the Sunnah, the Prophet’s life was the Sunnah. When all the fitn and trials and tribulations arose in the Ummah devious people then started fabricating ahadeeth to gain acceptance amongst the people. People who were not qualified to narrate were narrating ahadeeth (people with forgetful and weak memories), once this started the scholars of ahadeeth had to come forth with a set a rules and principles to differentiate what is correct and incorrect. Nowadays the science of hadeeth is a well defined science that needs to be studied.
*Example to understand the matan and isnaad:
Hadeeth: Actions are by intentions. – narrated by Umar ibn Al-Khattab – narrated from Alqama and so on and so forth to Bukhari.
The section of the hadeeth that has the names is called the isnaad. The actual text of hadeeth is called the matan. The scholars of the hadeeth were interested in both parts of the hadeeth. But in the general the isnaad is what primarily decides the authenticity of the hadeeth. The isnaad tells us who the people narrating (their memory, their trustworthiness, etc.)
Categorization of Ahadeeth
For any hadeeth to be considered sahih or authentic it must meet five basic conditions.
1. The hadeeth
must have a continuous isnaad. This means there can be no breaks or missing
links in the isnaad.
Terms related to daeef (weak) hadeeth due to #1 (continuous isnaad)
Munqate – This is a general term used to refer to a hadeeth that doesn’t have a continuous hadeeth. Somewhere in the chain there is a missing link.
Mursal – This means that the Sahabi was missing from the chain. For example, Abu Hurayrah’s student, Wahib ibn Munabbih narrated directly from the Prophet (saw) without a Sahabi in between. This is the strongest type of daeef hadeeth.
Mualaq – This means suspended. The person that was missing was at the bottom of the chain, for example Bukhari’s teacher. Its as if the hadeeth is suspended meaning its suspended above the person, b/c the narrator above him wasn’t mentioned.
Mudaal – This mean confused, it is when there are two or more consecutive missing links. For example, Imam Malik who didn’t meet any of the Sahabah, if he were to narrate directly from the Prophet (saw) then this is hadeeth is confused b/c we don’t know who two of the narrators are. This type of hadeeth is of the weakest hadeeth b/c there are generations missing maybe an 80 year gap.
Mudallus – This means that we’re not sure that the narrator actually heard it from his teacher. Certain people were known to practice this act called tadlees. Tadlees means narrating on behalf of someone whom you never met, pretending as if you met them. Some of the scholars of the past fell into this mistake of tadlees that people presumed they had met but they never met.
Terms related to #2 (adaala – honesty)
Mawduu or Batil - If the person did not have honesty and integrity it depends on what he was. If he was a liar and fabricator of ahadeeth this means that the hadeeth is fabricated and it is not authenticated. The Prophet (saw) never said this b/c of the narrators did not have adaala.
Daeef Jiddan – This means very weak. Meaning one of the narrators was a major sinner (drinking, womanizing, etc). We cannot accept it and this means it is very weak. He is not a liar but he is not a good Muslim, this is one up from mawduu.
Daeef, majhool - The narrator is unknown. For example, Amr narrated to me that his father said the Prophet (saw) said so and so, we don’t know Amr or his father. There is no biographical information about the person. Amazingly most of the narrators of the ahadeeth have detailed biographies about them.
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