Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Conditions of a saheeh (sound) hadeeth


What are the conditions of a saheeh hadeeth?.

Praise be to Allaah.

The phrase
“saheeh hadeeth” may refer to one of two things: 

In general
terms it includes those which are mutawaatir (narrated from so many
by so many in each stage of transmission that it is inconceivable that they
could all have agreed upon a lie), saheeh li dhaatihi (sound in and
of itself), saheeh li ghayrihi (sound because of corroborating
evidence) and hasan (good). 

ibn Hajar said: 

Most of the
scholars of hadeeth do not differentiate between hasan and saheeh. End quote
from al-Nukat (1/480), 

In specific
terms it includes saheeh li dhaatihi (sound in and of itself) and
saheeh li ghayrihi (sound because of corroborating evidence) only.  

Based on
this definition, a saheeh hadeeth is one which is narrated by men of good
character, who are known for their good memories and precision, with a
continuous isnaad, and is not odd or faulty. 

If the
precision is lacking and is not complete, then it is hasan li dhaatihi
(hasan in and of itself). If it has a number of isnaads, then it is
saheeh li ghayrihi (saheeh because of corroborating evidence). 

Nakhbat al-Fikr by al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him). 

From this
definition we may sum up the conditions of a saheeh hadeeth as follows: 

1 – Good
character of all its narrators 

2 – Good
memory and precision on the part of narrators with regard to what they are

3 –
Continuous isnaad from beginning to end, meaning that each narrator heard
the hadeeth from the one before him. 

4 – The
hadeeth is free from any oddness in its isnaad or text. What is meant by
“odd” is anything in which the narrator narrates something that contradicts
the narration of a sounder narrator. 

5 – The
hadeeth is free from faults in its isnaad and text. A “fault” is a subtle
problem that undermines the soundness of the hadeeth, which can be detected
only by the well versed scholars of hadeeth. 

definition of these conditions came about as the result of the later imams
studying the words of the scholars of hadeeth and their applications. Hence
you may find things in the words of the earlier scholars which point to
these conditions. 

For example:
Imam al-Shaafa’i (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Risaalah

cannot be established on the basis of a report narrated by a few unless
several factors are present, such as: 

The one who
narrated it is trustworthy in his religious commitment, known to be truthful
in his speech, understanding what he narrates, and knowledgeable about the
wording and possible interpretation of the hadeeth; and he should be one of
those who can narrate the hadeeth exactly as he heard it, not based on the
meaning but with the exact wording, because if he if narrated on the basis
of meaning and not with the exact wording, and he does not have knowledge of
possible interpretations, he may inadvertently change what is halaal into
haraam. But if he narrates it exactly, there is no fear that it may be

And he
should know the hadeeth very well, if he is narrating from memory or he
should take get care of his book if he is narrating from his book. If he
checks what he knows with the scholars of hadeeth, he should be in agreement
with them, and he should not be mudallis, i.e., one who narrates from one
who met (a narrator) but did not hear it from him, or who narrates from the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) something that
contradicts the narration of authentic scholars from the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The same must be true for the
narrators who came before him (in the isnaad), who narrated it to him, until
the hadeeth ends with an uninterrupted chain all the way back to the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or to the one who narrated
it from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). End

If all these
conditions are met then a hadeeth is saheeh according to scholarly
consensus, as was narrated by Ibn al-Salaah (may Allaah have mercy on him). 

al-Muqaddimah fi ‘Uloom il-Hadeeth (8) and al-Dhahabi in al-Mooqidah,

 Some of the
scholars did not list all these conditions: 

Imam Maalik
and Abu Haneefah accepted mursal hadeeth, which is compromising the
condition of having a continuous isnaad all the way to the source of the

scholars accepted mudallas hadeeth even if the narrators did not state that
they heard it. 

said in al-Mooqidah (24): The scholars of hadeeth added a condition
that the hadeeth should be free from any oddness or fault. This is subject
to further discussion according to the principles of the fuqaha’, because
many of what may be considered as faults are not accepted as such by them. 

Tadreeb al-Raawi (1/68-75, 155). 

What is
meant is that the scholars’ differences with regard to classing ahaadeeth as
saheeh are due to two reasons: 

1 – Their
differences regarding some of the conditions of soundness. That is because
those who compromised on some of these conditions were bound to class as
saheeh reports that others did not class as saheeh. 

2 – Their
differences in applying these conditions to a specific hadeeth. They may
differ as to the good character of some narrators or whether the isnaad is
uninterrupted and so on. 

It should be
noted that these conditions are based on evidence from sharee’ah and
evidence based on reason. These conditions are not just a ritualistic
procedure, rather they are rational and serve a clear purpose. They are no
less than the result of the efforts of thousands of scholars and the result
of the tremendous efforts of the earlier scholars of hadeeth during the long
years when the books of hadeeth were being compiled in the first three
centuries and those who came after them. 

Anyone who
wishes to know more may read the book by al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi entitled
al-Kifaayah fi ‘Ilm al-Riwaayah 

And Allaah knows best.

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