Can A Hadith Be Rejected On The Excuse That “it Contradicts ‘intellect’/‘reason’ Or The Principles Of Sharī‘ah”??
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Can I Reject a Ḥadīth because I feel that it contradicts ‘Intellect’/‘Reason’ or the Principles of Sharī‘ah?
By Mufti Muadh Chati
Bismillāhir Raḥmānir Raḥīm,
Indeed, the Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam hold a sacred place in the hearts of Muslims. The Aḥādīth are considered a primary source of Sharī‘ah and contain essential commands and advices that construct the edifice of Sharī‘ah.
Allah the Almighty says:
ﻟَﻘَﺪْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻟَﻜُﻢْ ﻓِﻲْ ﺭَﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺃُﺳْﻮَﺓٌ ﺣَﺴَﻨَﺔٌ ﻟِﻤَﻦْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻳَﺮْﺟُﻮﺍ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻴَﻮْﻡَ ﺍﻵﺧِﺮَ ﻭَﺫَﻛَﺮَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﻛَﺜِﻴْﺮًﺍ
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah the most excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often”
[Surah Al-Aḥzāb, verse 21]]
Allah the Almighty says:
ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﻳَﻨْﻄِﻖُ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﺇِﻥْ ﻫُﻮَ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻭَﺣْﻲٌ ﻳُﻮْﺣَﻰ
“He (the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) does not speak through his own inclination; it is but a [divinely] revealed revelation”
[Surah Al-Najm, verse 3-4]
Recently, claims have been made by reformists that it is permissible to reject a noble Ḥadīth if one feels that it contradicts one’s intellect or one feels that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah.
For example, these reformists have claimed that a narration found in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that one wing of a fly contains an illness while the other contains a cure contradicts the intellect. This is despite the fact that it does not contradict the intellect at all, in fact, many modern-day cures contain remnants of the disease itself, as is the case with anti-venom; it is made using venom.
Some reformists have claimed that the narration narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that Mūsā ‘Alayh al-Salām placed his clothes on a stone that ran away, contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah as it involves an unclothed Prophet running after his clothes.
This is despite the fact that this does not contradict the principles of Sharī‘ah at all, in fact, the Qur’ān informs us of the story of Ādam ‘Alayh al-Salām and Hawā ‘Alayhā al-Salām, which contains similar elements to this narration.
Other reformists have claimed that a narration narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that purports that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam was temporarily affected by black magic that had been casted by his enemies contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah as it involves a Prophet being affected by black magic.
This is despite the fact that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam was a human being, and thus, he experienced many of the difficulties that a human being goes through, such as illnesses and the pangs of death.
These claims of rejecting Aḥādīth on the assumption that they contradict the intellect or the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah are claimed to be validated by statements of the scholars of the past such as Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH).
In the coming article, we intend to discuss two issues:
1) Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it is contradictory to intellect/reason?
2) Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?
Note: In order to gain a better grasp of this article, readers are advised to read the entire article.
Can a narration be labelled as a fabrication if I feel that it is contradictory to ‘intellect’/‘reason’?
The Role of the Intellect/Reason in Sharī‘ah
An intellectual person is able to comprehend that his eyes, ears, nose, and other limbs have limitations. Human beings do not have the ability to see in the dark, nor do they have the ability to hear certain sound frequencies, and nor are they are able to smell certain odors. It then makes sense to state that if all the faculties of our body are confined by boundaries, then our intellect must also have a limit.
If this is coupled with the fact that we have been obliged to follow the commandments of the noble Sharī‘ah, whatever they may be, we are able to deduce that we are required to follow the commandments of Sharī‘ah regardless of whether they fall within the limitations of our intellect or outside of the limitations of our intellect.
If the Sharī‘ah were to be based exactly in accordance to our intellect, there would be no aspect of faith/belief (Ῑmān ) and the Sharī‘ah would inevitably serve the dictates of our innate self (nafs). The Sharī‘ah was sent in order to free each individual from the grasps of his innate self (nafs), it was not sent to become subservient to the innate self (nafs).
Imām Al-Bazdawī Raḥimahullah (d.482 AH) writes:
ﻭَﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻌَﻘْﻞَ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻨْﻔَﻚُّ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﻓَﻠَﺎ ﻳَﺼْﻠُﺢُ ﺣُﺠَّﺔً ﺑِﻨَﻔْﺴِﻪِ ﺑِﺤَﺎﻝٍ
“And the intellect/reason is not free from desires (hawā ), thus it alone can never serve as evidence”
[Imām Al-Bazdawī Raḥimahullah, ‘Uṣūl al-Bazdawī’, (Karachi: Mīr Muḥammad Kutub Khānāh, n.a), pg.323]
We are required to follow the commandments and dictates of Allah and His Messenger Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam; this is regardless of whether their commandments gain the support of our feeble intellect or the support of capricious scientific research.
As ‘Allāmah al-Qurṭubī Raḥimahullah (d.671 AH) explains:
ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟﻠﻪَ ﺳُﺒْﺤَﺎﻧَﻪُ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺒْﻦِ ﺃُﻣُﻮْﺭَ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳْﻦِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟْﻌِﺒَﺎﺩِ ﻭَﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﻌِﺪْ ﻭَﻟَﻢْ ﻳُﻮْﻋِﺪْ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻣَﺎ ﺗَﺤْﺘَﻤِﻠُﻪُ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻟُﻬُﻢْ ﻭَﻳُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻮْﻧَﻬَﺎ ﺑِﺄَﻓْﻬَﺎﻣِﻬِﻢْ ﺑَﻞْ ﻭَﻋَﺪَ ﻭَﺃَﻭْﻋَﺪَ ﺑِﻤَﺸِﻴْﺌَﺘِﻪِ ﻭَﺇِﺭَﺍﺩَﺗِﻪِ ﻭَﺃَﻣَﺮَ ﻭَﻧَﻬَﻰ ﺑِﺤِﻜْﻤَﺘِﻪِ ﻭَﻟَﻮْ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻛُﻠَّﻤَﺎ ﻟَﺎ ﺗُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻪُ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻣَﺮْﺩُﻭْﺩًﺍ ﻟَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﺃَﻛْﺜَﺮَ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮَﺍﺋِﻊِ ﻣُﺴْﺘَﺤِﻴْﻠًﺎ
“Indeed, Allah, The Exalted, did not base the matters of Dīn upon the intellect of the servants, and He did not promise or warn in accordance to what their intellects expect and understand, rather, he promised and warned according to His liking, and He commanded and prohibited with His wisdom.
And if everything that the intellect does not comprehend were to be rejected, then the majority of the Sharī‘ah would be made redundant”
[‘Allāmah al-Qurṭubī, ‘Kitāb al-Tadhkirah bi-Aḥwāl al-Mawtā wa-Umūr al-Ākhirah’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1431 AH), pg.644, v.2]
The same applies to scientific discoveries; they are dependent upon research and investigations, the findings of which may change from time to time. Our Sharī‘ah is neither dependent nor confined by the discoveries of the modern-age.
As ‘Allāmah Khaṭtābī Raḥimahullah (d.388 AH) explains:
ﻭَﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﺑِﻨَﺎ ﺣَﺎﺟَﺔٌ ﻣَﻊَ ﻗَﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺩِﻕُ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺼْﺪُﻭْﻕُ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻱْ ﻳَﺄْﺗِﻴْﻪِ ﺍﻟْﻮَﺣْﻲُ ﺑِﺄَﺳْﺮَﺍﺭِ ﺍﻟْﻐَﻴْﺐِ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺈِﺳْﺘِﺸْﻬَﺎﺩِ ﺑِﺄَﻗَﺎﻭِﻳْﻞِ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟﻄِّﺐِّ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﻭَﺻَﻠُﻮْﺍ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣَﺎ ﻭَﺻَﻠُﻮْﺍ ﺇِﻟَﻴْﻪِ ﻣِﻦْ ﻋِﻠْﻤِﻪِ ﺑِﻤُﻘَﺪَّﻣَﺎﺕِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺠَﺎﺭِﺏِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻣْﺘِﺤَﺎﻥِ ﻭَﻣِﻦْ ﻗَﻮْﻝِ ﺃُﺳْﺘَﺎﺫِﻫِﻢْ ﺑِﻘُﺮَﺍﻁَ ﻓِﻲْ ﺃَﻭَّﻝِ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻪِ : ﺍﻟﺘَّﺠْﺮِﺑَﺔُ ﺧَﻄَﺮٌ
“We have no need to present with the statement of the Prophet Sallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam – the truthful, the accepted, the one to whom the revelation brought secrets of the unseen – as support, the statements of doctors, who have only acquired what they have acquired from their knowledge through experimentation and investigation, and in the words of one of their peers, Hippocrates, at the start of his book (titled Aphorisms): ‘experimentum periculosum’ (experiments are deceitful)”
[‘Allāmah Khaṭtābī, ‘A‘lām al-Ḥadīth’, (Makah: Jami‘ah Ummul Qurā, 1406 AH), pg.1126 v.3]
It is our belief that because our intellect is limited, that which benefits us can only be determined by our Creator – Whose knowledge is limitless.
Imām al-Shāṭibī Raḥimahullah (d.790 AH) writes:
ﻗَﺪْ ﻋُﻠِﻢَ ﺑِﺎﻟﺘِّﺠَﺎﺭِﺏِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺨِﺒْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺴَّﺎﺭِﻳَﺔِ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﻟَﻢِ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻭَّﻝِ ﺍﻟﺪُّﻧْﻴَﺎ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﻴَﻮْﻡِ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝَ ﻏَﻴْﺮُ ﻣُﺴْﺘَﻘِﻠَّﺔٍ ﺑِﻤَﺼَﺎﻟِﺤِﻬَﺎ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺠْﻠَﺎﺑًﺎ ﻟَﻬَﺎ ﺃَﻭْ ﻣَﻔَﺎﺳِﺪِﻫَﺎ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺪْﻓَﺎﻋًﺎ ﻟَﻬَﺎ
“Indeed, it has been known through experience and normative understanding in the universe, from the beginning of the world until today, that the intellect is not independent in knowing that which is beneficial for it; so that it may acquire it, or [in knowing] that which is harmful for it; so that it may refrain from it”
[Imām al-Shāṭibī, ‘Al ‘Itiṣām Bi al-Kitāb wa’l- Sunnah’, (n.a: Maktabah al-Tawḥīd, n.a), pg.57, v.1]
Shāh Waliullah al-Muḥaddith al-Dehlawī Raḥimahullah (d.1176 AH) writes:
ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲُّ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺃَﻭْﺛَﻖُ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻧَﺎ ﻣِﻦْ ﻋُﻘُﻮْﻟِﻨَﺎ
“The Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam is more reliable to us than our intellect”
[Shāh Waliullah al-Muḥaddith al-Dehlawī, ‘Hujjatullah al-Bāligah’, (Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 2005), pg.30, v.1]
Of course, this is not to say that the human intellect and reason have no place in Sharī‘ah. It is possible for a person to recognise the existence and greatness of Allah the Almighty through his intellect and reason.
Scholars including the likes of Ibn Abī al-Dunyā Raḥimahullah (d.281 AH), Ibn Ḥibbān Raḥimahullah (d.354 AH), al-Ghazālī Raḥimahullah (d.505 AH), Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH), Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah (d.606 AH), and Imām al-Shāṭibī Raḥimahullah (d.790 AH) have written on the incredible gift from Allah, that is, the human intellect and reason.
However, the human intellect has its limits, it cannot be used to supersede and override the indisputable commands of Allah and the authentic commands of His Messenger Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam. Accordingly, our approach to the human intellect and reason should be balanced.
The Malikī scholar, Zayn al-Dīn Ibn al-Munayyir Raḥimahullah (d.695 AH) said:
ﻣَﻦْ ﺯَﻋَﻢَ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣْﻜَﺎﻡَ ﻛُﻠَّﻬَﺎ ﺗَﻌَﺒُّﺪِﻳَّﺔٌ ﻟَﺎ ﻣَﺠَﺎﻝَ ﻟِﻠْﻘِﻴَﺎﺱِ ﻓِﻴْﻬَﺎ ﺃَﻟْﺤَﻘَﻪُ ﺑِﺠُﺤُﻮْﺩِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﺒْﺮِﻳَّﺔِ ﻭَﻣَﻦْ ﺯَﻋَﻢَ ﺃَﻧَّﻬَﺎ ﻗِﻴَﺎﺳِﻴَّﺔٌ ﻣَﺤْﻀَﺔٌ ﺃَﻟْﺤَﻘَﻪُ ﺑِﺘَﻬَﻮُّﺭِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻌْﺘَﺰِﻟَﺔِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻮَﺳُّﻂِ ” ﻭَﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻗَﻮَﺍﻣًﺎ”
“If one considers the rulings [of Sharī‘ah] to be entirely literal in which there is no scope for intellectual reasoning, then this shall lead him to the denial perpetrated by the al-Jabariyyah sect (a deviant sect), and if one considers them (the rulings of Sharī‘ah) to be completely [based upon] intellectual reason, then this shall lead him to the mistakes perpetrated by the al-Mu‘tazilah sect (a deviant sect), and the correct [approach] is a middle-path/moderation; [Allah the Almighty says], ‘And they are steadfast in the middle [path]’”
[‘Allāmah al-Zarkashī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ’, (Cairo: Wuzārah al-Awqāf, 1992), pg.27, v.5]
A balanced approach towards human intellect and reason in Sharī‘ah may be understood with a parable presented by a renowned scholar. Consider three individuals leaving their homes with the intention of climbing a steep mountain.
Each of the three individuals possesses a horse. The first individual considers a horse a critical asset, thus he rides his horse from his home until he reaches the mountain, after reaching the mountain; he begins to climb the steep mountain while riding his horse, almost immediately, both the horse and the rider fall of the mountain.
The second individual considers a horse a useless asset, accordingly, instead of riding the horse, he begins to walk from his home towards the mountain, however, when he reaches the mountain, he is too exhausted to climb the mountain.
The third individual has a balanced approach towards the horse, he knows that while the horse has its capabilities, it also has its limitations, thus he rides the horse until he reaches the mountain, he then dismounts from the horse and begins to climb the mountain on foot. He succeeds in climbing the mountain.
The third individual succeeds in climbing the mountain because he used his horse at the correct juncture and left his horse at the correct juncture, while the first individual relied entirely upon his horse, such that he used his horse at an incorrect juncture, and the second individual did not valorize his horse at all.
We cannot reject the tenets of our religion and the authentic Aḥādīth if we ‘feel’ that they contradict our reasoning or intellect.
The irresolute/fickle morals, ethics, opinions, and beliefs of the modern society cannot be made a standard for the resolute and firm principles of Islām. The modern society considers correct today what it considered incorrect yesterday and it will consider correct tomorrow what it considers incorrect today.
Similarly, the modern society considers absurd today what it considered comprehensible yesterday and it will consider comprehensible tomorrow what is considers absurd today.
Can I use my Intellect/Reason to reject Aḥādīth?
Recently, we have seen a wave of attacks hurled at the noble Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam. Individuals claiming to be championing a supposed ‘voice of reason’ have forced their intellect and reasoning onto the noble Prophetic narrations, thus rejecting narrations that supposedly contradict their intellect and reasoning.
Using the statements of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) and others, these individuals are claiming that it is possible for every individual to reject Aḥādīth.
In explaining what is meant by the notion of when a text of Ḥadīth contradicts intellect, modernists and Islamic reformists take great pleasure in quoting the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH):
ﻭَﻛُﻞُّ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺭَﺃَﻳْﺘَﻪُ ﻳُﺨَﺎﻟِﻒُ ﺍﻟْﻌُﻘُﻮْﻝَ ﺃَﻭْ ﻳُﻨَﺎﻗِﺾُ ﺍﻟْﺄُﺻُﻮْﻝَ ﻓَﺎﻋْﻠَﻢْ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﻣَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻉٌ ﻓَﻠَﺎ ﺗَﺘَﻜَﻠَّﻒْ ﺍﻋْﺘِﺒَﺎﺭَﻩُ
“And every Ḥadīth that you see contradicting the intellect or breaking the principles [of Sharī‘ah], then know that it is fabricated, so do not exert yourself in considering it”
[Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al Mawḍū’āt Minal Aḥādīth Al Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.151, v.1]
‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah (d.904 AH) explains:
ﺍﻟﺮِّﻛَّﺔُ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻌْﻨَﻰ ﻛَﺄَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣُﺨَﺎﻟِﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻠْﻌَﻘْﻞِ ﺿَﺮُﻭْﺭَﺓً ﺃَﻭْ ﺍﺳْﺘِﺪْﻟَﺎﻟًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘْﺒَﻞُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺄْﻭِﻳْﻞَ ﺑِﺤَﺎﻝٍ ﻧَﺤْﻮَ ﺍﻟْﺈِﺧْﺒَﺎﺭِ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﻤْﻊِ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟﻀِّﺪَّﻳْﻦِ ﻭَﻋَﻦْ ﻧَﻔْﻲِ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﻧِﻊِ ﻭَﻗِﺪَﻡِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺟْﺴَﺎﻡِ
“Feebleness in the meaning, such as it being contradictory to the intellect logically or calculatedly, and it does not accept reconciliation in any way, such as a narration that informs of two opposites coming together or it rejects a creator or it informs that the bodies are pre-eternal (all of which contradict the intellect)”
[‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]
‘Allāmah Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah explains:
ﺃَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣُﺨَﺎﻟِﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻠْﻌَﻘْﻞِ ﺑِﺤَﻴْﺚُ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘْﺒَﻞُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺄْﻭِﻳْﻞَ
“…that it contradicts the intellect in a manner that it cannot be reconciled”
[‘Allāmah Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyāḍ: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.434, v.3] [Also see: al-Biqa‘ī Raḥimahullah, ‘al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah’, (Riyad: Maktabah al-Rushd), pg.578, v.1] [Also see: Ibn al-Mulaqqin, ‘Al-Muqni‘’, (Makah: Jami‘ah Ummul Qurā, 1403 AH), pg.114]
It is clear from the quotes above that when Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) mentioned that a Ḥadīth may be labeled as fabricated if it contradicts the intellect, he was not referring to Aḥādīth that contradict the understandings and morals of the fickle modern-day society, rather, he was referring to Aḥādīth that contradict basic logic. For example, if the words of a supposed Ḥadīth were to claim that Allah does not exist, or that 1 + 1 = 3, then this supposed Ḥadīth would be rejected.
[See: Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah (may Allah preserve him), ‘Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyāḍ: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.434, v.3] [Khalīl Mullā Khāṭir, ‘Al-Isabah Fī Ṣiḥhati Ḥadīth al-Dhubābah’, (Jeddah: Dār al-Qiblah, 1405 AH), pg.99]
This is supported by the fact that Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) mentions this statement after quoting a fabricated narration that claims that Allah the Almighty created Himself (this is logically impossible as the created cannot be a creator). Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) also precedes the above-mentioned statement with the words:
ﻟِﺄَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﺘَﺤِﻴْﻞَ ﻟَﻮْ ﺻَﺪَﺭَ ﻋَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺜِّﻘَﺎﺕِ ﺭُﺩَّ
“…because if a logically impossible (Mustahil – such as a supposed narration claiming that Allah does not exist) statement were to be made by reliable narrators, it would be rejected”
[Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al Mawḍū’āt Minal Aḥādīth Al Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.150, v.1]
As for when a Ḥadīth heralds a meaning of miracles or other concepts that the intellect cannot comprehend or fathom, then such a Ḥadīth cannot be impetuously rejected.
It is for this reason that a leading scholar of Ḥadīth of our time, Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah, may Allah preserve him, explains:
ﺍﻟْﻌَﻘْﻞُ ﺍﻟﺴَّﻠِﻴْﻢُ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻋِﻲُ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺎﻟِﻲْ ﻣِﻦْ ﺷَﻮَﺍﺋِﺐِ ﺍﻟْﻬَﻮَﻯ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻧْﺤِﺮَﺍﻑِ ﻭﻟﻮﺛﺎﺕ ﺍﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﺔ ﺍﻟﻤﻌﺎﺻﺮﺓ ﻭﺍﻟﻤﺎﺩﻳﺔ ﺍﻟﻤﻠﺤﺪﺓ ﻭَﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳْﻦُ ﺃُﻟْﻌُﻮْﺑَﺔً ﻟِﻜُﻞِّ ﺫِﻱْ ﻫَﻮًﻯ ﻭَﺿَﻠَﺎﻟَﺔٍ ﺗَﺤْﺖَ ﺷِﻌَﺎﺭِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻤَﺴُّﻚِ ﺑِﻤِﺜْﻞِ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﺼُﻮْﺹِ ﻭَﻧَﺤْﻦُ ﻧَﻌِﻴْﺶُ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻔَﺎﻫِﻴْﻢَ ﺍﻟْﺂﻥَ !!
“The type of intellect (that is considered in assessing a Ḥadīth) is one that is sound, bound by Sharī‘ah, and free from the clamours of desire and heresy and the contamination of the modern society and the atheistic environment.
Otherwise, the Dīn would become a play for every deviant and misguided person under [the pretense] of holding firm to such statements (that mention that intellect plays a role in Ḥadīth), and we are now living in the time of such thoughts!”
[Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Awwāmah (may Allah preserve him), ‘Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.559, v.2]
To reiterate, the irresolute/fickle morals, ethics, opinions, and beliefs of the modern society cannot be made a standard for the resolute and firm principles of Islām. The modern society considers correct today what it considered incorrect yesterday and it will consider correct tomorrow what it considers incorrect today.
Similarly, the modern society considers absurd today what it considered comprehensible yesterday and it will consider comprehensible tomorrow what is considers absurd today.
Can a narration be labeled as a fabrication if I feel that it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?
We have acquired our Aḥādīth through chains of narrations. These chains of narrations were rigorously scrutinized by the Ḥadīth scholars of the past who analysed the intricate details of a chain of narration in order to deduce whether a narration is sound, apocryphal, or fabricated.
At times, masterful Ḥadīth scholars of the past scrutinised a narration based upon the fact that the text of the narration contradicts a fundamental and bonafide principle of Sharī‘ah. However, this was a delicate task, undertaken by a privileged few, as performing this daunting task required one to have profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth. It was in no way permitted for the laity.
Islamic reformists have made an attempt to allow the layman to also engage in criticism of a narration based upon whether its text is in conformity with the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah or not. This is despite the fact that a layman does not even have basic knowledge of Sharī‘ah, never mind the delicate and complex knowledge required to make such precarious decisions.
Modernists and Islāmic reformists take great pleasure in quoting statements of scholars such as Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH), Al-Ḥāfiẓ Al Ya‘murī Raḥimahullah (d.734 AH); et al. who have mentioned that if a narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Islām, then it may be rejected even if the chain of narration is sound.
However, what they fail to realize is that the early scholars who ruled certain Aḥādīth to be fabricated based upon the text of the Ḥadīth contradicting the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah did so through
profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth.
If an individual wishes to assess whether a coin is genuine or counterfeit, he ensures to take it to a specialist, within seconds the specialist would be able to determine whether or not the coin is genuine due to his profound knowledge of coins. In the same manner, beyond their meticulous examination of the chains of narration, some of the early scholars of Ḥadīth were
gifted with an ability to deduce whether a narration is authentic by looking at the text of the narration due to their profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth .
Profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah in this context means that the knowledge of Sharī‘ah and the sciences of Ḥadīth were embedded and ingrained within them such that they could at will recite hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth with their chains of narration from memory.
We shall soon demonstrate this with examples from the lives of some of these scholars of Ḥadīth.
When Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) said:
ﻭَﺍﻋْﻠَﻢْ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻨَﻜَﺮَ ﻳَﻘْﺸَﻌِﺮُّ ﻟَﻪُ ﺟِﻠْﺪُ ﺍﻟﻄَّﺎﻟِﺐِ ﻟِﻠْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﻭَﻳَﻨْﻔَﺮُّ ﻣِﻨْﻪُ ﻗَﻠْﺒُﻪُ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻐَﺎﻟِﺐِ
“And know! That a rejected Ḥadīth, the skin of a seeker of noble knowledge trembles from it, and, in most cases, his heart turns away from it”
[Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Mawḍū’āt Min al-Aḥādīth al-Marfū’āt’, (Riyāḍ: Aḍwā Al Salaf, 1997), pg.146, v.1]
The scholars of the sciences of Ḥadīth stepped in to explain that this is definitely not for everyone. Thus, Imām Al-Biqā’ī Raḥimahullah (d.885 AH) relates in his Al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah , the majority of which is taken from Ḥafiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH)’s lectures delivered on Al-Tabṣirah wa’l-Tadhkirah , with regards to the statement of Ibn Al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) recorded above:
ﺍﻟﻄَّﺎﻟِﺐُ ﻟِﻠْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﺃَﻱْ ﺍﻟْﻜَﺜِﻴْﺮُ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺨَﺎﻟَﻄَﺔِ ﻟِﺄﻧْﻔَﺎﺱِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﻤَﻜِّﻦُ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟﺴَّﻨَﺪِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺪِﻳْﺪُ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭَﺳَﺔِ ﻟِﻠﺸَّﺮِﻳْﻌَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﺭِﻑُ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻤَﻘْﺒُﻮْﻝِ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺩُﻭْﺩِ ﻟَﺎ ﻛُﻞُّ ﻃَﺎﻟِﺐٍ
“‘Seeker of noble knowledge’ – i.e. [Ibn Al-Jawzi is referring to] one who has perpetually engrossed himself with the breaths (Aḥādīth) of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and he is an expert in the chains of narration, and he has extraordinary mastery with the principles of Sharī‘ah, and he is able to distinguish accepted from unaccepted, not every seeker [of noble knowledge]”
[Al-Biqā’ī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat al-Wafiyyah’, (Riyad: Maktabah al-Rushd, 2007), pg.578 v.1] [Shaykh Aḥmad Ma‘bad ‘Abd al-Karīm, ‘Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī wa-Atharuhu Fil Sunnah’, (Riyad: Aḍwā al-Salaf, 2004), pg.1999 v.5]
Effectively, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH) ruled out the possibility for those who do not have profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah to use Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH)’s statement as a conduit to reject Aḥādīth. We shall soon explain what we mean by profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah in this context.
‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah (d.904 AH) explains the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH) as follows:
ﻭَﻋَﻨَﻰ ﺑِﺬَﻟِﻚَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱَ ﻟِﺄَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻉِ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺒِﻴْﺮَ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺑِﺮَﻭْﻧَﻘِﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺑَﻬْﺠَﺘِﻬَﺎ
“And he (Ibn al-Jawzī) intends by this (a seeker of sacred knowledge): one who is perpetually engrossed in the texts of Sharī‘ah, and he has profound knowledge of them (the texts of Sharī‘ah) and their essence and objectives”
[‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]
Ibn al-‘Ajamī Raḥimahullah (d.1086 AH) comments under the statement of Ibn al-Jawzī Raḥimahullah (d.597 AH):
ﻃَﺎﻟِﺐُ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ : ﺍﻟْﻤُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱُ ﻟِﺄَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻉِ ﺣَﺘَّﻰ ﻳَﺤْﺼُﻞَ ﻣَﻠَﻜَﺔً ﻗَﻮِﻳَّﺔً ﻭَﻫِﻤَّﺔً ﺭَﺍﺳِﺨَﺔً ﻳُﻔَﺮِّﻕُ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﺑَﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻉِ ﻭَﻏَﻴْﺮِﻩِ
“Seeker of knowledge: i.e. one who is perpetually engrossed in the texts of Sharī‘ah such that he has achieved an incredible ability and firm prowess such that he may distinguish with it between fabricated and non-fabricated”
[Ibn al-‘Ajamī, Footnotes upon Tadrīb al-Rāwī, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 2016), pg.432, v.3]
After establishing that criticism of a narration based upon the text of the narration was reserved for those who had deeply profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth, let us demonstrate what denotes profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp of Ḥadīth through the lives of the scholars who heralded this quality.
The Benchmark for Profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and an incredible grasp on Ḥadīth through the lives of the scholars of the past
Imām Al-Layth Ibn Sa’d Raḥimahullah (d.175 AH)
ﻗِﻴْﻞَ ﻟِﻠَّﻠﻴْﺚِ ﺃَﻣْﺘَﻊَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺑِﻚَ ﺇِﻧَّﺎ ﻧَﺴْﻤَﻊُ ﻣِﻨْﻚَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚَ ﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻚَ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﺃَﻭَﻛُﻞُّ ﻣَﺎ ﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻲْ؟ ﻟَﻮْ ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﻣَﺎ ﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﻣَﺎ ﻭَﺳِﻌَﻪُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﻛَﺐُ
“It was said to Layth ibn Sa’d, ‘May Allah reward you, indeed we hear from you Aḥādīth that are not in your books’, so he responded, ‘Is everything that is in my heart in my books? If I were to write everything that is in my memory, then it would not fit inside this ship’”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah Al Risālah, 1985), pg.153 v.8]
Imām Yaḥyā ibn Ma‘īn Raḥimahullah (233 AH)
Muḥammad ibn Naṣr al-Ṭabarī Raḥimahullah said:
ﺩَﺧَﻠْﺖُ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻌِﻴْﻦ ﻓَﻮَﺟَﺪْﺕُ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻩُ ﻛَﺬَﺍ ﻭَﻛَﺬَﺍ ﺳِﻔْﻄًﺎ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﺩَﻓَﺎﺗِﺮًﺍ ﻭَﺳَﻤِﻌْﺘُﻪُ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻗَﺪْ ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﺑِﻴَﺪَﻱَّ ﺃَﻟْﻒَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ
“I visited Yaḥyā ibn Ma’īn and found by him such and such amounts of parchments, i.e. books, and I heard him say, ‘Indeed, I have written with these two hands of mine, a million narrations”
[Ḥāfiẓ al-Mizzī Raḥimahullah, ‘Taḥdhīb al-Kamāl’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1992), pg.548, v.31]
Imām Isḥāq Ibn Rāhwayh Raḥimahullah (d.238 AH)
Abū Dāwūd al-Khaffāf Raḥimahullah said:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻟَﻜَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣِﺌَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻓِﻲْ ﻛُﺘُﺒِﻲْ ﻭَﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻔًﺎ ﺃَﺳْﺮُﺩُﻫَﺎ
“I heard Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh say, ‘Indeed, it is as though I am looking at 100,000 narrations in my books and 30,000 [narrations] I am able to recite”
Al-Khaffāf then states:
ﻭَﺃَﻣْﻠَﻰ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺃَﺣَﺪَ ﻋَﺸَﺮَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺮَﺃَﻫَﺎ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﻓَﻤَﺎ ﺯَﺍﺩَ ﺣَﺮْﻓًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻧَﻘْﺺَ ﺣَﺮْﻓًﺎ
“Isḥāq dictated 11,000 narrations to us from his memory, he then read them out to us [again] without adding or removing a single letter”
Abū Yazīd Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā ibn Khālid Raḥimahullah said:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺇِﺑْﺮَﺍﻫِﻴْﻢَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻨْﻈَﻠِﻲَّ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻓِﻲْ ﺳَﻨَﺔِ ﺛَﻤَﺎﻥِ ﻭَّﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﻭَﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻴْﻦِ ” ﺃَﻋْﺮِﻑُ ﻣَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻛَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻴْﻬَﺎ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺳَﺒْﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻇَﻬْﺮِ ﻗَﻠْﺒِﻲْ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺤَﺔٍ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﺃَﺭْﺑَﻌَﺔَ ﺁﻟَﺎﻑِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣُﺰَﻭَّﺭَﺓٍ ﻓَﻘِﻴْﻞَ ﻣَﺎ ﻣَﻌْﻨَﻰ ﺣِﻔْﻆِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺰَﻭَّﺭَﺓِ؟ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺇِﺫَﺍ ﻣَﺮَّ ﺑِﻲْ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٌ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣَﺎﺩِﻳْﺚِ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺤِﻴْﺤَﺔِ ﻓَﻠَﻴْﺘُﻪُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﻓَﻠْﻴًﺎ
“I heard Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Hanẓalī (Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh) say in the year 238 AH, ‘I know the locations of 100,000 narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration as well as the statements of the Ṣaḥābah) as though I am looking at them.
And I have memorized 70,000 narrations from them that are authentic and they are in the crevices of my heart, and I know 4000 fabricated narrations’, it was asked of him, ‘What do you mean by memorising fabricated narrations?’ He replied, ‘When I come across a [fabricated] narration from [my tomes of] authentic narrations, then I swiftly remove it”
[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Jāmi‘ Li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa-Ādāb al-Sāmi‘’, (Beirut: Dār al-Garb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.381, v.2]
Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.242 AH)
A contemporary of Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d.242 AH), Abū Zur’ah al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah:
ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﺑْﻦُ ﺣَﻨْﺒَﻞَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﺃَﻟْﻒَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ
“[Aḥmad] ibn Ḥanbal had memorized a million narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah)”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.187 v.11] [Ibn al-Jawzī, Manāqib al-Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal’, (Giza: Dār Hijr, n.a), pg.73]
Imām al-Bukhārī Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH)
Muḥammad ibn Khamīrwayh Raḥimahullah said:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ” ﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺢٍ ﻭَﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻏَﻴْﺮِ ﺻَﺤِﻴْﺢٍ
I heard Muḥammad ibn Ismā’īl say, ‘I have memorized 100,000 authentic narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah), and I have memorized 200,000 inauthentic narrations’”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.415 v.12]
‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Asim al-Baykandī Raḥimahullah states:
ﻗَﺪِﻡَ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﻓَﺎﺟْﺘَﻤَﻌْﻨَﺎ ﻋِﻨْﺪَﻩُ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﺑَﻌْﻀُﻨَﺎ ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕَ ﺑْﻦَ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻛَﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﺃَﻧْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺳَﺒْﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻲْ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺇِﺳْﻤَﺎﻋِﻴْﻞَ ﺃَﻭْ ﺗَﻌْﺠَﺐُ ﻣِﻦْ ﻫَﺬَﺍ؟ ! ﻟَﻌَﻞَّ ﻓِﻲْ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟﺰَّﻣَﺎﻥِ ﻣَﻦْ ﻳَﻨْﻈُﺮُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣِﻦْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺑِﻪِ ﻭَﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﻋَﻨَﻰ ﺑِﻪِ ﻧَﻔْﺴَﻪُ
“Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl came to us, so we gathered by him, then some of us said, ‘I heard Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh say, “It is as though I am looking at 70,000 narrations from my books”’, so Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl said, ‘Are you amazed by this?! It is possible that there is someone in this age who is looking at 200,000 narrations in his book’ – referring to himself”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.416 v.12]
Imām Muslim ibn Ḥajjāj Raḥimahullah (d.261 AH)
Al-Husayn ibn Muḥammad al-Māsarjisī states:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﻣُﺴْﻠِﻤًﺎ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺻَﻨَّﻔْﺖُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ” ﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﻨَﺪَ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺤِﻴْﺢَ ” ﻣِﻦْ ﺛَﻠَﺎﺙِ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻣَﺴْﻤُﻮْﻋَﺔٍ
“I heard Muslim [ibn al-Ḥajjāj] say, ‘I wrote this ‘al-Musnad al-Ṣaḥīḥ’ from 300,000 narrations [that I have] heard’”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.565 v.12]
Imām Abū Zur‘ah al-Rāzī Raḥimahullah (d.264 AH)
Abū ‘Abdillah ibn Mandah relates from Abul ‘Abbas Muḥammad ibn Ja‘far ibn Ḥamkawayh that he said:
ﺳُﺌِﻞَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻋَﻦْ ﺭَﺟُﻞٍ ﺣَﻠَﻒَ ﺑِﺎﻟﻄَّﻠَﺎﻕِ ﺃَﻥَّ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻫَﻞْ ﺣَﻨَﺚَ؟ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ﻟَﺎ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﺃَﺣْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺘَﻲْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﺍﻟْﺈِﻧْﺴَﺎﻥُ ” ﻗُﻞْ ﻫُﻮَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺃَﺣَﺪٌ ”
“Abū Zur‘ah was asked about a man who has taken an oath that his wife shall be divorced if it is untrue that Abū Zur‘ah has memorized 200,000 narrations, that will his divorce take place? So he replied, ‘I have memorized 200,000 narrations like how a person has memorized Qul Huwallahu Aḥad (Surah Ikhlās)”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.68 v.13] [See: ‘Allamah Tāj al-Subkī, ‘Ṭabqāt al-Shāf‘iyyah’, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.a), pg.65, v.1]
Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.241 AH) said:
ﺻَﺢَّ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺳَﺒْﻊُ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻭَﻛَﺴْﺮٌ ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻔَﺘَﻰ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺯُﺭْﻋَﺔَ ﻗَﺪْ ﺣَﻔِﻆَ ﺳِﺖَّ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒٍ
“700,000 Aḥādīth (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration as well as the statements of the Ṣaḥābah) and a little more from the Aḥādīth are authentic, and this youngster (Abū Zur‘ah) has memorized 600,000 Aḥādīth”
[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārīkh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Garb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.41, v.12]
Imām Abū Dāwūd Raḥimahullah (d.275 AH)
Al-Fallās Raḥimahullah states:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﺩَﺍﻭُﺩَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺃَﺳْﺮُﺩُ ﺛَﻠَﺎﺛِﻴْﻦَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻓَﺨْﺮَ ﻭَﻓِﻲْ ﺻَﺪْﺭِﻱْ ﺍﺛْﻨَﺎ ﻋَﺸَﺮَ ﺃَﻟْﻔًﺎ ﻟِﻌُﺜْﻤَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺮِّﻱْ ﻣَﺎ ﺳَﺄَﻟَﻨِﻲْ ﻋَﻨْﻬَﺎ ﺃَﺣَﺪٌ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺼْﺮَﺓِ ﻓَﺨَﺮَﺟْﺖُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﺻْﺒَﻬَﺎﻥَ ﻓَﺒَﺜَﺜْﺘُﻬَﺎ ﻓِﻴْﻬِﻢْ
“I heard Abū Dāwūd say, ‘I [can] recite 30,000 narrations and there is no arrogance [in this] and in my heart there are 12,000 narrations of ‘Uthmān Al Birrī that none from the people of Baṣrah have asked me about, so I went to Aṣbahān and I narrated these narrations to them”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.383 v.9]
Abū Bakr ibn Dāsah Raḥimahullah states that he heard Abū Dāwūd Raḥimahullah (d.275 AH) say:
ﻛَﺘَﺒْﺖُ ﻋَﻦْ ﺭَﺳُﻮْﻝِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﺧَﻤْﺲَ ﻣِﺎﺋَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ ﺍﻧْﺘَﺨَﺒْﺖُ ﻣِﻨْﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺎ ﺿَﻤَﻨْﺘُﻪُ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻜِﺘَﺎﺏِ ﻳَﻌْﻨِﻲْ ﻛِﺘَﺎﺏَ ” ﺍﻟﺴُّﻨَﻦِ”
“I have written 500,000 narrations of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and I extracted from them that which I have placed in this book, i.e. the Sunan”
[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārikh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.78, v.10]
Abū ‘Imrān Aḥmad ibn Naṣr al-Khaffāf (d.299 AH)
Al-Ḥākim Raḥimahullah said:
ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺒْﻐِﻲُّ ﻏَﻴْﺮَ ﻣَﺮَّﺓٍ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻛُﻨَّﺎ ﻧَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﺇِﻥَّ ﺃَﺑَﺎ ﻋِﻤْﺮَﺍﻥَ ﻳَﻔِﻲْ ﺑِﻤُﺬَﺍﻛَﺮَﺓِ ﻣِﺌَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ
“I heard Al-Ṣabghī say more than once, ‘We used to say that Abū ‘Imrān can recite 100,000 narrations’”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.561 v.13]
Abū Muḥammad ‘Abdān (d.306 AH)
Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥāfiẓ Raḥimahullah said:
ﻓَﺄَﻣَّﺎ ﻋَﺒْﺪَﺍﻥُ ﻓَﻜَﺎﻥَ ﻳَﺤْﻔَﻆُ ﻣِﺌَﺔَ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺚٍ
“As for ‘Abdan, he had memorized 100,000 narrations (this number includes Aḥādīth with different chains of narration and the statements of the Ṣaḥābah)”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.169 v.14]
Imām Ali ibn Umar al-Daruqutnī Raḥimahullah (d.385 AH)
Abū Bakr al-Birqānī Raḥimahullah states:
ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟﺪَّﺍﺭِﻗُﻄْﻨِﻲُّ ﻳُﻤْﻠِﻲْ ﻋَﻠَﻲَّ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠَﻞَ ﻣِﻦْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ
“Al Daruqutnī dictated ‘Al ‘Ilal’ to me from his memory”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1985), pg.454 v.16]
The book ‘Al ‘Ilal’ contains well over 15,000 narrations.
A corollary principle understood from the above examples is that it is not possible to issue a ruling upon a narration simply based upon the basis that its text contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah until one has memorized equivalent to that which the scholars mentioned above had memorized; this would be a minimum of 100,000 Aḥādīth with their chains of narration. Only then could one claim that he has the right to deduce whether a narration is fabricated simply by looking at the text of the narration.
Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Daqīq al-‘Ῑd Raḥimahullah (d.702 AH) writes:
ﻭَﻛَﺜِﻴْﺮًﺍ ﻣَّﺎ ﻳَﺤْﻜُﻤُﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﺬَﻟِﻚَ – ﺃَﻱْ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻮَﺿْﻊِ – ﺑِﺎِﻋْﺘِﺒَﺎﺭِ ﺃُﻣُﻮْﺭٍ ﺗَﺮْﺟِﻊُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﻭِﻱِّ ﻭَﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺣَﺎﺻِﻠُﻪُ ﻳَﺮْﺟِﻊُ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﺣَﺼَﻠَﺖْ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﻟِﻜَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﻣُﺤَﺎﻭَﻟَﺔِ ﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲِّ ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﻫَﻴْﺌَﺔٌ ﻧَﻔْﺴَﺎﻧِﻴَّﺔٌ ﻭَﻣَﻠَﻜَﺔٌ ﻗَﻮِﻳَّﺔٌ ﻳَﻌْﺮِﻓُﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺎ ﻳَﺠُﻮْﺯُ ﺃَﻥْ ﻳَﻜُﻮْﻥَ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻟْﻔَﺎﻅِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﺒُﻮَّﺓِ ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﺠُﻮْﺯُ
“And many times, they (the early scholars of Ḥadīth) issue this ruling, i.e. of fabrication, in consideration of matters related to the texts of the narration and the words of the narration, and the conclusion of this returns to the fact that due to perpetual engrossment with the words of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, they have acquired an innate nature and extraordinary ability through which they are able to recognise that which could be the Prophetic word and that which cannot”
[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Daqīq al-‘Ῑd, ‘Al-Iqtirāḥ’, (Jordan: Dār al-‘Ulūm Lin Nashr wal-Tawzī’, 2007), pg.311-312] [‘Allāmah Sakhāwī Raḥimahullah, ‘Fatḥ al-Mugīth’, (Riyad: Dār al-Minhāj, 1436 AH), pg.128, v.2]
Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah (d.748 AH) has also echoed these sentiments in his abridgement of Al-Iqtirah, Al-Mūqiẓah ; he explains that recognizing whether a Ḥadīth contradicts the principles of Sharī‘ah (Al Qawā’id) is reserved for those who have rigorously acquainted themselves with the Aḥādīth of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam such that their expertise in Ḥadīth is like the expertise of a certified gemologist in gemstones.
[Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Mūqiẓah’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah, 1405 AH), pg.37] [Also see the parable presented by: Ḥāfiẓ al-Mughlaṭāy, ‘Iṣlāḥ Kitāb Ibn Ṣalāḥ’, (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Islāmiyyah, 2007), pg.143]
Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Raḥimahullah (d.795 AH) writes while commentating upon a narration:
ﻭَﺇِﻧَّﻤَﺎ ﺗُﺤْﻤَﻞُ ﻣِﺜْﻞُ ﻫَﺬِﻩِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺣَﺎﺩِﻳْﺚِ – ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺗَﻘْﺪِﻳْﺮِ ﺻِﺤَّﺘِﻪِ – ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺃَﺋِﻤَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺍﻟْﺠَﻬَﺎﺑِﺬَﺓِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﻘَّﺎﺩِ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﻛَﺜُﺮَﺕْ ﻣُﻤَﺎﺭَﺳَﺘَﻬُﻢْ ﻟِﻜَﻠَﺎﻡِ ﺍﻟﻨَّﺒِﻲِّ ﺻَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ ﻭَﻛَﻠَﺎﻡِ ﻏَﻴْﺮِﻩِ ﻭَﻟِﺤَﺎﻝِ ﺭُﻭَﺍﺓِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﻧَﻘْﻠَﺔِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺧْﺒَﺎﺭِ ﻭَﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺘِﻬِﻢْ ﺑِﺼِﺪْﻗِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﻛَﺬِﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺣِﻔْﻈِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺿَﺒْﻄِﻬِﻢْ ﻓَﺈِﻥَّ ﻫَﺆُﻟَﺎﺀِ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﻧَﻘْﺪٌ ﺧَﺎﺹٌّ ﻳَﺨْﺘَﺼُّﻮْﻥَ ﺑِﻤَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺘِﻪِ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﻳَﺨْﺘَﺺُّ ﺍﻟﺼَّﻴْﺮَﻓِﻲُّ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺎﺫِﻕُ ﺑِﻤَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺍﻟﻨُّﻘُﻮْﺩِ ﺟَﻴِّﺪِﻫَﺎ ﻭَﺭَﺩِﻳْﺌِﻬَﺎ
“And indeed, narrations such as this – if authentic – are based upon the knowledge of the meticulous and assiduous Imāms of the Prophetic narration, whose engagement with the narrations of the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam and the narrations of others (such as the Ṣaḥābah and Tābi‘ūn) is intense, as well as their engagement with the status of the narrators of Ḥadīth and the recorders of the narrations, as well as their knowledge of the truthfulness and untruthfulness [of the narrators of Ḥadīth], and the memory and recollection [of the narrators of Ḥadīth], for indeed, these [Imāms] have a specialised method of criticism that only they are capable of, just as a certified money-exchanger specialises in the knowledge of coins; in recognizing the reliable [coins] from the counterfeit [coins]”
[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Raḥimahullah, ‘Jāmi‘al-‘Ulūm wal-Ḥikam’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1999), pg.105, v.2] [Also see: Shaykh Aḥmad Shākir, ‘Footnotes on Ṣaḥiḥ Ibn Ḥibbān’, (Egypt: Dār al-Ma‘ārif), pg.221, v.1]
It was for this reason that Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī Raḥimahullah (d.761 AH) said:
ﺍﻟْﺤُﻜْﻢُ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﺑِﻜَﻮْﻧِﻪِ ﻣَﻮْﺿُﻮْﻋًﺎ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﺄَﺧِّﺮِﻳْﻦَ ﻋَﺴِﺮٌ ﺟِﺪًّﺍ ﻟِﺄَﻥَّ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻟَﺎ ﻳَﺘَﺄَﺗَّﻰ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﺑَﻌْﺪَ ﺟَﻤْﻊِ ﺍﻟﻄُّﺮُﻕِ ﻭَﻛَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺘَّﻔْﺘِﻴْﺶِ … ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺑِﺨِﻠَﺎﻑِ ﺍﻟْﺄَﺋِﻤَّﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﻘَﺪِّﻣِﻴْﻦَ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳْﻦَ ﻣَﻨَﺤَﻬُﻢُ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺍﻟﺘَّﺒَﺤُّﺮَ ﻓِﻲْ ﻋِﻠْﻢِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺘَّﻮَﺳُّﻊِ ﻓِﻲْ ﺣِﻔْﻈِﻪِ ﻛَﺸُﻌْﺒَﺔَ ﻭَﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﺳَﻌِﻴْﺪِ ﺍﻟْﻘَﻄَّﺎﻥِ ﻭَﻋَﺒْﺪِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣْﻤَﻦِ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻬْﺪِﻱْ ﻭَﻧَﺤْﻮِﻫِﻢْ ﺛُﻢَّ ﺃَﺻْﺤَﺎﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﺜْﻞِ ﺃَﺣْﻤَﺪَ ﺑِﻦْ ﺣَﻨْﺒَﻞَ ﻭَﻋَﻠِﻲِّ ﺑْﻦِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺪِﻳْﻨِﻲِّ ﻭَﻳَﺤْﻴَﻰ ﺑْﻦِ ﻣَﻌِﻴْﻦَ ﻭَﺇِﺳْﺤَﺎﻕِ ﺑْﻦِ ﺭَﺍﻫْﻮِﻳْﻪ ﻭَﻃَﺎﺋِﻔَﺘِﻬِﻢْ ﺛُﻢَّ ﺃَﺻْﺤَﺎﺑِﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﺜْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﺒُﺨَﺎﺭِﻱِّ ﻭَﻣُﺴْﻠِﻢٍ ﻭَﺃَﺑِﻲْ ﺩَﺍﻭُﺩَ ﻭَﺍﻟﺘَّﺮْﻣِﺬِﻱِّ ﻭَﺍﻟﻨَّﺴَﺎﺋِﻲِّ ﻭَﻛَﺬَﻟِﻚَ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺯَﻣَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺪَّﺍﺭِﻗُﻄْﻨِﻲِّ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺒَﻴْﻬَﻘِﻲِّ ﻣِﻤَّﻦْ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺠِﻴْﺊ ﺑَﻌْﺪَﻫُﻢْ ﻣُﺴَﺎﻭٍ ﻟَﻬُﻢْ ﺑَﻞْ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻣُﻘَﺎﺭِﺏٍ
“To rule a narration as fabricated is extremely difficult for the later scholars, as such a ruling cannot be placed except after gathering all of the chains of narration and after extensive investigation…and this is in contrast to the earlier scholars, those whom Allah blessed with profound knowledge of the field of Ḥadīth and vastness in memorising [the narrations], such as Shu‘bah, Yaḥyā ibn Sa‘īd Al Qaṭtān, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Mahdī, and others like them, then their companions, such as Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī, Yaḥyā ibn Ma‘īn, Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh, and their group, then their companions, such as Al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd, Tirmidhī, like this until the age of Al-Daruquṭnī and Al-Bayhaqī, who were from amongst those whom none came after them that were capable of equaling them or coming close to them”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī, ‘Al-Naqd al-Ṣarīḥ Limā U’turiḍa ‘Alayh Min Aḥādīth al-Maṣābīḥ – Majmū’ Rasā’il Ḥāfiẓ Al-‘Alā’ī’, (Cairo: Al-Fārūq al-Ḥadīthiyyah, 2013), pg.72, v.4] [See: ‘Allāmah Badr al-Dīn al-Zarkashī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Alā Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’, (Riyad: Aḍwā al-Salaf, 1998), pg.267, v.2]
The early scholars – who were afforded this privilege of being able to deduce whether a narration is fabricated or not by looking at its text due to their
profound knowledge of Sharī’ah – had not only memorised hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth, they had even memorized the wordings of the chain of narration.
Consider the following example:
ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺧَﻠْﻒُ ( ﺑْﻦُ ﺳَﺎﻟِﻢٍ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺨْﺮَﻣِﻲُّ ) ﺳَﻤِﻌْﺖُ ﺳُﻔْﻴَﺎﻥَ ﺑْﻦَ ﻋُﻴَﻴْﻨَﺔَ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻝُ ﻧَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮُﻭ ﺑْﻦُ ﺩِﻳْﻨَﺎﺭٍ ﻳُﺮِﻳْﺪُ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮٌﻭ ﺑْﻦُ ﺩِﻳْﻨَﺎﺭٍ ﻓَﺈِﺫَﺍ ﻗِﻴْﻞَ ﻟﺨَﻠَﻒ ﻗُﻞْ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻋَﻤْﺮٌﻭ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﻟَﺎ ﺃَﻗُﻮْﻝُ ﻟِﺄَﻧِّﻲْ ﻟَﻢْ ﺃَﺳْﻤَﻊْ ﻣِﻦْ ﻗَﻮْﻟِﻪِ ” ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ” ﺛَﻠَﺎﺛَﺔَ ﺃَﺣْﺮُﻑٍ ﻟِﻜَﺜْﺮَﺓِ ﺍﻟﺰِّﺣَﺎﻡِ ﻭَﻫِﻲَ ﺡَ ﺩَّ ﺙَ
“Khalaf (Sālim al-Mukharrimī) said, ‘I heard Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah say, ‘To us ‘Amr ibn Dīnār’, intending by this ‘Narrated to us ‘Amr ibn Dīnār’, thus when it was asked of him (i.e of Khalaf), ‘[Why don’t you] say, “Narrated to us ‘Amr”’, he replied, ‘I will not say [that] for indeed I did not hear from his (Sufyān ibn ‘Uyanah’s) statement ‘Narrated to us’ three letters; ﺡ ﺩ ﺙ (which translates to: Narrated) due to a loud noise”
[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Kifāyah Fī ‘Ilm al-Riwāyah’, (n.a: Dār al-Hudā, 2003), v.1, pg.242]
The dedication and engrossment of the scholars of the past in memorizing and narrating Aḥādīth may be understood from the story of Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān al-Bāgandī Raḥimahullah (d.312 AH).
‘Umar ibn Aḥmad al-Wā‘iẓ Raḥimahullah states:
ﻗَﺎﻡَ ﺃَﺑُﻮْ ﺑَﻜْﺮٍ ﺍﻟْﺒَﺎﻏَﻨْﺪِﻱُّ ﻟِﻴُﺼَﻠِّﻲَ ﻓَﻜَﺒَّﺮَ ﺛُﻢَّ ﻗَﺎﻝَ ﺣَﺪَّﺛَﻨَﺎ ﻣُﺤَﻤَّﺪُ ﺑْﻦُ ﺳُﻠَﻴْﻤَﺎﻥَ ﻟُﻮَﻳْﻦُ ﻓَﺴَﺒَّﺤْﻨَﺎ ﺑِﻪِ ﻓَﻘَﺎﻝَ ” ﺑِﺴْﻢِ ﺍﻟﻠﻪِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣْﻤَﻦِ ﺍﻟﺮَّﺣِﻴْﻢِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻤْﺪُ ﻟِﻠﻪِ ﺭَﺏِّ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺎﻟَﻤِﻴْﻦَ ”
“Abū Bakr al-Bāgandī stood up to perform Salah, he read aloud the Takbīr, then said, ‘Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān Luwayn has narrated to us’, so we began to recite the Tasbīḥ (in order to alert him of the mistake), and so he began to read, ‘Bismillāhir Raḥmānir Raḥīm Alḥamdulillāhi Rabbil ‘Ālamīn’”
[Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī Raḥimahullah, ‘Tārikh Baghdād’, (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001), pg.345, v.4]
It was through this incredible engrossment with Ḥadīth that these few eminent scholars of the past developed profound knowledge of Sharī‘ah and its principles. Their entire days and nights were dedicated to Aḥādīth.
In conclusion, the notion of issuing a ruling on a narration based upon when the text of the narration is contradicting a principle of Sharī‘ah was a privilege reserved only for a few selected scholars of Islām, whose knowledge of Sharī‘ah was of the caliber that we have demonstrated above.
Was it easy for the scholars of the past to deduce whether a narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?
Even during the age of these privileged scholars of Islām , to issue a ruling of fabrication upon the authenticity of a narration because it contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah was not an easy task.
The authoritative scholar, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajr al-‘Asqalānī Raḥimahullah (d.882 AH), writes:
ﻭَﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟْﻔَﻦُّ ﺃَﻏْﻤَﺾُ ﺃَﻧْﻮَﺍﻉِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻭَﺃَﺩَﻗِّﻬَﺎ ﻣَﺴْﻠَﻜًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﺎ ﻳَﻘُﻮْﻡُ ﺑِﻪِ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻣَﻦْ ﻣَﻨَﺤَﻪُ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﺗَﻌَﺎﻟَﻰ ﻓَﻬْﻤًﺎ ﻏَﺎﻳِﺼًﺎ ﻭَﺍﻃِّﻠَﺎﻋًﺎ ﺣَﺎﻭِﻳًﺎ ﻭَﺇِﺩْﺭَﺍﻛًﺎ ﻟِﻤَﺮَﺍﺗِﺐِ ﺍﻟﺮُّﻭَﺍﺓِ ﻭَﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔٍ ﺛَﺎﻗِﺒَﺔٍ ﻭَﻟِﻬَﺬَﺍ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﺘَﻜَﻠَّﻢْ ﻓِﻴْﻪِ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﺃَﻓْﺮَﺍﺩُ ﺃَﺋِﻤَّﺔِ ﻫَﺬَﺍ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺄْﻥِ ﻭَﺣُﺬَّﺍﻗِﻬِﻢْ ﻭَﺇِﻟَﻴْﻬِﻢُ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺟَﻊُ ﻓِﻲْ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻟِﻤَﺎ ﺟَﻌَﻞَ ﺍﻟﻠﻪُ ﻓِﻴْﻬِﻢْ ﻣِﻦْ ﻣَﻌْﺮِﻓَﺔِ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺈِﻃِّﻠَﺎﻉِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﻏَﻮَﺍﻣِﻀِﻪِ ﺩُﻭْﻥَ ﻏَﻴْﺮِﻫِﻢْ ﻣِﻤَّﻦْ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳُﻤَﺎﺭِﺱْ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ
“And this field (the field of Al ‘Ilal) is the most complex of the fields of Ḥadīth, and the most delicate to approach, and none have stood up to it except those whom Allah the Almighty blessed with a deep understanding, encompassing research, knowledge of the categories of narrations, and a sagacious intellect.
It is for this reason that none spoke in this [field] except a few of the scholars of Ḥadīth and its most intelligent personalities, and reliance is upon them in this field, due to that which Allah had given to them from the knowledge of this [field] and research upon its intricacies, none besides them from amongst those who have not acquired this”
[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajr Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Alā Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ’, (Ajman: Maktabah al-Furqān, 2003), pg.187, v.2]
There are examples of early scholars who criticized the text of a narration based upon their understanding of the narration (as they felt that it contradicted the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah) but were then refuted by other early scholars of their caliber who understood the correct meaning of the Ḥadīth and found no qualms in its connotations.
[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Lisān al-Mīzān ’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāir al-Islāmiyyah, 2002), pg.180, v.4 – entry: Sulayman ibn Harim]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Naṣb al-Rāyah ’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Rayyān, 1997), pg.174, v.4]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā ’, (Beirut: Mu’assash al-Risalah, 1984), pg.98, v.16]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Mīzān Al I’tidāl ’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah,), pg.101, v.2 – entry: Zayd ibn Wahab]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Lisān al-Mīzān ’, (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāir al-Islāmiyyah, 2002), pg.222, v.1 – entry: Abān ibn Sufyān]
[See: Al-Jawraqānī Raḥimahullah, ‘ Al-Abāṭīl wal-Manākīr wal-Ṣiḥāḥ wal-Mashāhīr ’, (India: Idarah al-Buhuth, 1983), pg.80, v.1]
[See: ‘Allamah Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi Rahimahullah, ‘Al-Nukat ‘Ala Ibn al-Salah ’, (Riyad: Adwa al-Salaf, 1998), pg.270, v.2]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Fatḥ al-Bārī ’, (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Ṣalafiyyah), pg.16, v.7]
[See: Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar Raḥimahullah, ‘ Fatḥ al-Bārī ’, (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Ṣalafiyyah), pg.401, v.13]
Accordingly, memorization of Aḥādīth alone is not enough; rather, one is also required to have an expert understanding of the teachings of Sharī‘ah and the Aḥādīth that he has memorised.
‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī Raḥimahullah (d.234 AH) said:
ﺍﻟﺘَّﻔًﻘُّﻪُ ﻓِﻲْ ﻣَﻌَﺎﻧِﻲ ﺍﻟْﺤَﺪِﻳْﺚِ ﻧِﺼْﻒُ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ
“Understanding of the meanings of Ḥadīth is half of knowledge”
[Ḥāfiẓ Al Dhahabī Raḥimahullah, ‘Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’, (Beirut: Mu’assasah Al Risālah, 1985), v.11, pg.48]
In conclusion, determining whether a Ḥadīth contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah was solely reserved for those illustrious scholars of the past whose knowledge of Sharī‘ah was so profound, that they could at will recite hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth with their chain of narration; the likes of Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal Raḥimahullah (d.241 AH), Imām Al-Bukhārī Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH), et al. These scholars were also blessed with an incredible understanding of the Aḥādīth that they had memorized.
As for the guidelines presented by the likes of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah Raḥimahullah (d.751 AH) in his Al-Manār al-Munīf and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi Raḥimahullah (d.606 AH) in his Al-Maḥṣūl for recognizing a fabricated narration, then these guidelines are no different to Fiqh Maxims ( Al-Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah ), in the sense that a narration cannot be labeled a fabrication simply based upon these guidelines just as a Fatwa cannot be issued based upon Fiqh Maxims ( Al-Qawāid al-Fiqhiyyah ), rather, the rulings of the expert scholars of the past must be followed.
Thus, a claim that a certain Ḥadīth should be rejected because it contradicts the principles and objectives of Islām may be refuted with the question; exactly how many Aḥādīth have you memorized with their chains of narration for you to claim that you have knowledge of the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah?
Above, we have demonstrated the role of the intellect/reason in Sharī‘ah and the role of the intellect/reason in the noble Aḥādīth. We have shown that the scholars did not at all permit rejecting Aḥādīth that herald an element of miracles.
We have also shown that criticising the authenticity of a narration based upon the fact that the text of the narration contradicts the principles and objectives of Sharī‘ah such that it cannot be the Prophet word was an incredibly delicate task, which only a select few privileged scholars were able to do. We are required to follow their rulings.
Indeed, the scholars of Ḥadīth emphasized incredible precaution before labeling a narration as a fabrication [See: Jālāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Baḥr al-Ladhī Zakhar’, (Madinah: Maktabah al-Ghurabā al-Athariyyah, 1999), pg.874-876, v.2].
This precaution was burgeoned when the chain of narration contained reliable narrators, in such a case – when the narrators of the narration are all reliable – only the elite scholars of the past could criticize the authenticity of the narration. [See: Ḥātim al-‘Awnī, ‘Sharḥ Mūqiẓah al-Dhahabī’, (Riyad: Dār Ibn al-Jawzī, 1427 AH), pg.62: Fa Innanā La Naḥkum ‘Alayhi Bil Waḍ‘i Illā Bi Qarā’in Qawiyyah Jiddan ] .
We end with a quote from the Yemeni scholar, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Yaḥyā al-Mu‘allimī Raḥimahullah (d.1386 AH), who said:
ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﺃَﻧَّﻪُ ﻟَﻢْ ﻳَﻜُﻦْ ﻓِﻲ ﻋُﻠَﻤَﺎﺀِ ﺍﻟْﺄُﻣَّﺔِ ﺍﻟْﻤَﺮْﺿِﻴِّﻴْﻦَ ﻣَﻦْ ﻳَﺮُﺩُّ ﺣَﺪِﻳْﺜًﺎ ﺑَﻠَﻐَﻪُ ﺇِﻟَّﺎ ﻟِﻌُﺬْﺭٍ ﻳَﺤْﺘَﻤِﻠُﻪُ ﻟَﻪُ ﺃَﻛْﺜَﺮُ ﺃَﻫْﻞِ ﺍﻟْﻌِﻠْﻢِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟْﺄَﻗَﻞِّ
“And indeed, the reality is that there was none from the accepted scholars of the past who labelled a narration that reached him as a fabrication except that he did so due to a reason that, at the very least, the majority of the scholars would accept [as a valid reason]”
[Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Yaḥyā al-Mu‘allimī Raḥimahullah, ‘Al-Anwār al-Kāshifah’, (Makah: Dār ‘Alam Al-Fawā’id, 1434 AH), pg.17]
Every individual must ask himself; if the illustrious scholars of the past – who were of the calibre that we have demonstrated above (i.e. hundreds of thousands of Aḥādīth flowed at their fingertips) and whose days and nights were spent in the sciences of the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth – have authenticated a Ḥadīth, how can a person in this day and age claim that the Ḥadīth is fabricated? Only if an individual has memorised the number of Aḥādīth that they had memorised could one come even close to making such a claim.
These perspicacious and astute scholars, the likes of Imām Al-Bukhari Raḥimahullah (d.256 AH) and Imām Muslim Raḥimahullah (d.261 AH), did not simply dedicate a portion of their life to the field of Ḥadīth; they dedicated their entire lives to the field of Ḥadīth.
Indeed, a person’s Ῑmān remains protected by relying on the deductions and rulings of these meticulous and accepted scholars of the past. Following the ramblings and isolated opinions of the iconoclasts of today can only lead to misguidance.
May Allah guide us and protect us.