1. SCRUTINY OF THE NARRATORS


Chapter 3, Hadith & Seerah, The Authority of Sunnah / Saturday, August 30th, 2008

The first and foremost test of the correctness of a hadith relates to the credibility of its narrators. This scrutiny is carried out on two scores: firstly, examination of the integrity and honesty of a narrator, and secondly, examination of his memory power.

To carry out this scrutiny, a separate complete Science has been introduced which is called ‘Ilm-ur-Rijal’ (The knowledge of men). The scholars of this science devoted their lives for the thorough enquiry about each person who has reported a hadith. For this, they used to go to his place and enquire about him from his neighbors, pupils and friends so that no scholar would be impressed by his personal relations with a narrator. ‘Ali ibn al Madini, the famous scholar of Rijal when asked about his father, first tried to avoid the question and replied “Ask some other scholar about him”. But when the question was repeated with a request for his opinion, he said,

It is the matter of Faith, (I, therefore, reply). He is a weak narrator.

Waki’ ibn Jarrah, the well-known Imam of hadith held his father as “weak” in hadith, and did not rely on his reports unless they are confirmed by some reliable narrator.

Imam Abu Dawood, the author of one of the Six Books, has opined about his son ‘Abdullah, that he was “a great liar”. (This is the same Abdullah whose work ‘Kitab-ul-Masalif’ has been published by some Orientalists)

Zaid ibn Abi Unaisah has said about his brother Yahyah, “Do not accept the traditions of my brother Yahyah, because he is reputed in lying”. (Sakhawi)

Similar opinions are recorded in the books of ‘ilm-ur-rijal’. Hundreds of books have been written on this subject. Here are only a few examples:

1. TAHZIB-UT-TAHZIB BY HAFIZ IBN HAJAR:

Printed in twelve volumes, this book has been designed to give a brief account of all the narrators whose narration is found in the famous Six Books of hadith only. It contains the life accounts of 12455 narrators, arranged in alphabetical order.

You can pick up any name from any chain of any hadith in any book from the Six Books. This name will certainly be found in the Tahzib-ut-tahzib recorded in its place in alphabetical scheme. There you can find his dates of birth and death, the list of his teachers, the list of his pupils, important events of his life and the opinions of the scholars about his credibility.

There are several other books meant for the narrators of the Six Books exclusively, and after consulting them one can easily reach a definite conclusion about the veracity of a narrator.

2. LISAN-UL-MEEZAN BY HAFIZ IBN HAJAR

This book is meant exclusively for those narrators whose names do not appear in any chain contained in any of the Six Books. It means that the traditions reported by them are found only in some books other than the Six Books.

This book consists of seven volumes and embodies the introduction of 5991 narrators.

3. TA’JIL-UL-MANFA’AH BY HAFIZ IBN HAJAR.

This book is confined to the introductions of the narrators whose traditions are found in the books of the four Imams: Malik, Abu Hanifah, Shafi’i and Ahmed ibn Hanbal, and are not among the narrators of the Six Books. Thus, it contains the introduction of 1732 narrators.

All these three books are written and compiled by the same person, namely, Hafiz Ibn Hajar. It means that he has compiled the introduction of more than Seventeen thousand narrators of the hadith.

This is the effort of only a single scholar. Many other books are available on the same subject. The following table will show the large number of narrators introduced in few famous books of rijal which are frequently referred to.

S.No

Name of the book

Author

Volumes

Number of Narrators

1.

Al-Tarikh al-Kabir

Imam Bukhari

9

13,781

2.

Al-Jarh wat-ta’dil

Ibn Abi Hatim

9

18,050

3.

Tahzib ut-Tahzib

Hafiz Ibn Hajar

12

12,455

4.

Mizanul I’tidal

Zahabi

4

11,053

5.

Lisanul Mizan

Hafiz Ibn Hajar

7

6.

As-Siqat

‘Ijli

1

2,116

7.

Al-mughni fid duafa

Zahabi

2

7,854

The last book of this table has introduced only those narrators who have been held as “weak” narrators. Similar books are written by Ibn Abi Hatim, Darqutni etc. On the contrary, there are books which deal with the reliable narrators only like “Thiqat of Ibn Hibban” in eleven volumes.

Anyhow, if a narrator is found to be dishonest, has very weak memory or he is unknown, no trust is placed on his narrations. A large number of traditions have been repudiated on this score alone.

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