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View Full Version : Classification of Hadith According to a Hidden Defect*

05-07-2006, 04:59 PM
Classification of Hadith According to a Hidden Defect*

By Sheikh Suhaib Hassan**
Feb 14, 2006

Note: While citing the isnads below, the terms haddathana (he narrated to us), akhbarana (he informed us) or sami`tu (I heard) will be represented by a double line thus (===), while a single broken line (---) will replace the term `an (on the authority of).

Before discussing ma`lul (defective) hadiths, a brief note on mudtarib (shaky) and maqlub (reversed) hadiths would help in understanding ma`lul.

Mudtarib (Shaky Hadiths)

According to Ibn Kathir, if reporters disagree about a particular sheikh or about some other points in the isnad or the text in such a way that none of the opinions can be preferred over the others, and thus there is uncertainty about the isnad or text, such a hadith is called mudtarib (shaky) (Ibn Kathir 72).

For example, with regard to idtirab (shakiness) in the isnad, it is reported on the authority of Abu Bakr that he said, "O Messenger of Allah! I see you getting gray-headed?" He (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, "What made me gray-headed are Surat Hud and its sister surahs." Ad-Daraqutni commented:

This is an example of a mudtarib hadith. It is reported through Abu Ishaq, but as many as ten different opinions are held about this isnad. Some report it as mursal, others as muttasil (a hadith with uninterrupted chain of narrators); some take it as musnad of Abu Bakr, others as musnad of Sa`d or `A'ishah. Since all these reports are comparable in weight, it is difficult to prefer one above another. Hence, the hadith is termed as mudtarib. (Ibn Kathir 72)

As an example of idtirab in the text, Rafi` ibn Khadij said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade the renting of land. The reporters narrating from Rafi` give different statements as follows:

1. Hanzalah asked Rafi`, "What about renting for gold and silver?" He replied, "It does not matter if it is rent for gold and silver."

2. Rifa`ah --- Rafi` --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), whosaid, "Whoever owns a piece of land should cultivate it, give it to his brother to cultivate, or abandon it."

3. Salim --- Rafi` --- his two uncles --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who forbade the renting of farming land.

4. The son of Rafi` --- Rafi` --- the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who forbade the renting of land.

5. A different narration by Rafi` from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who said, "Whoever owns a piece of land should either cultivate it or give it to his brother to cultivate. He must not rent it for a third or a quarter of the produce, nor for a given quantity of the produce."

6. Zaid ibn Thabit said, "May Allah forgive Rafi`! I am more aware of the hadith than he; what happened was that two of the Ansar had a dispute, so they came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who said after listening to their cases, 'If this is your position, then do not rent the farms.' Rafi` has only heard the last phrase, that is, 'Do not rent the farms'."

Because of these various versions, Ahmad ibn Hanbal said,

The hadiths reported by Rafi` about the renting of land are mudtarib. They are not to be accepted, especially when they go against the well-established hadith of Ibn `Umar that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) gave the land of Khaibar to the Jews on condition that they work on it and take half of the produce. (Luqman As-Salafi 381f)

Maqlub (Changed or Reversed)

A hadith is known as maqlub (changed, reversed) when its isnad is grafted to a different text or vice versa, or if a reporter happens to reverse the order of a sentence in the text.

As an example relating to the text, in his transmission of the famous hadith describing the seven types of people who will be under the shelter of Allah on the Day of Judgment, Muslim reports one of the categories as "a man who conceals his act of charity to such an extent that his right hand does not know what his left hand gives in charity." This sentence has clearly been reversed by a reporter because the correct wording is recorded in other narrations of both Al-Bukhari and Muslim as "... that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives ..." (Ibn Kathir 88).

The famous trial of Al-Bukhari by the scholars of Baghdad provides a good example of a maqlub isnad. The traditionists, in order to test their visitor, Al-Bukhari, appointed 10 men, each with 10 hadiths. Each hadith (text) of these 10 people was prefixed with the isnad of another. Imam Al-Bukhari listened to each of the 10 men as they narrated their hadiths and denied the correctness of every hadith. When they had finished narrating these hadiths, he addressed each person in turn and recounted to him each of his hadiths with its correct isnad. This trial earned him great honor among the scholars of Baghdad (Ibn Kathir 87).

Other ways in which hadiths have been rendered maqlub are by replacement of the name of a reporter with another, for example, by quoting Abu Hurairah as the reporter from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) although the actual reporter was someone else, or by reversal of the name of the reporter, for example, by mentioning Walid ibn Muslim instead of Muslim ibn Walid, or Ka`b ibn Murrah instead of Murrah ibn Ka`b (As-Sakhawi 1:278).

Ma`lul or Mu`allal (Defective)

Ibn As-Salah says, "A ma`lul (defective) hadith is one which appears to be sound, but thorough research reveals a disparaging factor." Such factors can be

1. Declaring a hadith musnad when it is in fact mursal, or marfu` when it is in fact mawquf.

2. Showing a reporter to narrate from his sheikh when in fact he did not meet the latter; or by attributing a hadith to one Companion when it in fact came through a different Companion (Ibn As-Salah 116).

Ibn Al-Madini (d. AH 324) says that such a defect can only be revealed if all the isnads of a particular hadith are collated. In his book Al-`Ilal, he gives 34 successors and the names of those Companions from whom each of the successors did not hear hadithsdirectly. For example, he says that Al-Hasan Al-Basri (d. AH 110, aged 88) did not see `Ali (d. AH 40), although he adds that there is a slight possibility that he may have seen him during his childhood in Madinah (Ibn Al-Madini 58).(1) Such information is very important, since for example, many Sufi traditions go back to Al-Hasan Al-Basri, who is claimed to report directly from `Ali.

Being a very delicate branch of the Hadith methodology, only a few well-known traditionists, such as Ibn Al-Madini (d. AH 234), Ibn Abi Hatim Ar-Razi (d. AH 327), Al-Khallal (d. AH 311) and Ad-Daraqutni (d. AH 385), have compiled books about it. Ibn Abi Hatim, in his Kitab Al-Ilal, has given 2,840 examples of ma`lul hadiths on a range of topics.

An example of a ma`lul hadith is one transmitted by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, who reports the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as having said:

Allah created the land on Saturday; He created the mountains on Sunday; He created the trees on Monday; He created natural resources on Tuesday; He created the light on Wednesday; He scattered the beasts in it (the earth) on Thursday; and He created Adam after the afternoon (`Asr) of Friday, the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, between the afternoon and night. (Muslim 4: 2149, English translation IV:1462)

Regarding it, Ibn Taimiyah says

Men more knowledgeable than Muslim, such as Al-Bukhari and Yahya ibn Ma`in, have criticized it. Al-Bukhari said, "This saying is not that of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), but one of Ka`b Al-Ahbar." (Ibn Taymiyah 18:18f)(2)

Related Links:

Classifications of Hadith

Classification of Hadith According to the Nature of the Text and Isnad

Classification of Hadith According to Manner of Reporting

The Classification of Hadith by the Number of Reporters

Classification of Hadith by Links in the Isnad


Ibn Kathir, Abul-Fida' `Imad Ad-Din. Ikhtisar `Ulum Al-Hadith. Ed. Ahmad Shakir. 2nd imp., Cairo, 1951.

Ibn Al-Madini, `Ali ibn `Abdullah ibn Ja`far. Kitab Al-`Ilal.

Ibn As-Salah, `Uthman ibn `Abd Ar-Rahman Ad-Dimshqi. `Ulum Al-Hadith, commonly known as Muqaddimat Ibn As-Salah. Ed. At-Tabbakh. Aleppo: AH 1350.

Ibn Taimiyah, Taqi Ad-Din Ahmad ibn `Abd Al-Halim. Majmu` Al-Fatawa, 37 vols., Ed. `Abd Al-Rahman ibn Qasim and Muhammad. Riyadh, 1398 A.H.

Luqman As-Salafi. Ihtimam Al-Muhaddithin bi Naqd Al-Hadith.

As-Sakhawi, Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn `Abd Ar-Rahman. Fath Al-Mughith Sharh Alfiyat Al-Hadith. Lucknow, n.d.

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