Friday, July 04, 2008

Weak Hadiths - by Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller - part 2

(A:) Thus, when the person who has related a hadith is an Islamic scholar of the first rank, it is not enough for a student or popular writer to find one chain of transmission for the hadith that is weak. There are a great many hadiths with several chains of transmission and adequate scholarly treatment of how these affect a hadith’s authenticity has been traditionally held to require a master (hafiz), those like Bukhari, Muslim, Dhahabi, Ibn Kathir, or Suyuti who have memorizes at least 100, 000 hadiths- their texts, chains of transmission, and significance- to undertake the comparative study of he hadith’s various chains of transmission that cannot be accurately assessed without such knowledge. Today, when not one hadith master (hafiz) remains in the Muslim Community, we do not accept the judgement of any would-be reclassifiers of hadith, no matter how large their popular following, unless it is corroborated by the work of previous hadith masters.

Another reason why weak cannot simply be equated with false is the fact that weak is an attribute of the hadith’s chain of transmission, while false is an attribute of hadith’s text. These are two different things, and the relationship between their reliabilities is a probabilistic expectation (istinbat) that is neither strictly causal, nor yet a necessary logical implication (lazim), there being four logical possibilities for any hadith:

(1) a sound text and sound chain transmission, as with well-authenticated (hasan) or rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadiths;

(2) a sound text and an unsound chain of transmitters, reflecting the possibility that a transmitter with a poor memory, or unknown to the person who recorded the hadith , or one not trustworthy, is in principle capable of relating the hadith correctly;

(3) an unsound text and unsound chain of transmitters, as with hadiths that are forged (mawdu’);

(4) or an unsound text and a sound chain of transmitters, reflecting the possibility that one of those who classify the personalities and reliability of various hadith transmitters could in principle make an error in their ijthad regarding a particular person.

Because of the distinction between text and transmission, forms of evidence other tan the authenticity rating of the chain of narrators are sometimes admissible, as when there is a consensus of legal scholars who have received the hadith with acceptance, which is an acknowledge form of corroboration for hadiths of the second type mentioned above.

(Isma’il Ansari:) Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani says: “Among the characteristics that necessitate acceptance is for scholars of Sacred Law to have concurred on applying the implications of a hadith. Such a hadith is acceptable, even obligatory to apply, as a number of the Imams of fundamentals of Islam (usul) have explicitly stated. Shafi’i, for example, says, ‘What I have said about water when its taste, odor, and colour change, has been related from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) through a channel of transmission that hadith scholars do not confirm the like of, but it is the position of all scholars without a singe dissenting voice I know of. ‘And he said of the hadith ‘There is no bequest to an estate division heir’-‘Scholars of hadith do not corroborate it, but all scholars receive it with acceptance and apply it.’ “

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