Monday, December 06, 2004

Strictness and Laxity in Hadith Criticism

Strictness and Laxity in ¤adÏth Criticism
by GF Haddad – Shaww¥l 1425
Mull¥ ¢AlÏ al-Q¥rÏ – All¥h have mercy on him! – showed in his "Major Dictionary of
¤adÏth Forgeries" known under the two titles of al-Maw\‰‘¥t al-Kubr¥ and al-Asr¥r
al-Marf‰¢a fÏl-Akhb¥r al-Maw\‰¢a that many of the reports supposed by some of the
authorities to be false are not forgeries at all. This is an important corrective for today’s
semi-educated censors that condemn many true reports as false on the false assumption
that "stricter is better." They forgot that as long as the proof of forgery is unestablished
beyond reasonable doubt and short of compelling assumption regarding a weak report,
it becomes a lie to cry forgery and bar people from the benefit of belief in it! This
holds true even if its chain of transmission falls short of the rank of "sound" (a^Ï^).
Godfearing precaution toward the Prophet œ goes both ways: not only with respect
to steering clear from attributing to him what he never said or did, but also with respect
to steering clear from belying what he might have said or done.

All¥h Most High said,

.For the best provision is godfearing. So fear you Me, men possessed of
minds!. (2:197);

and the Messenger of All¥h œ said in one of the wordings of the most famous masstransmitted
(mutaw¥tir) ^adÏth,

"Whoever attributes a lie to me or rejects something I have ordered, let him
take possession of a house in Gehenna."

When the Mu^addith of Ir¥q Sir¥j al-DÏn ¢Umar ibn ¢AlÏ al-QazwÏnÏ (d. 750) declared
eighteen of the ^adÏths of al-TibrÏzÏ’s Mishk¥t al-Ma¥bÏ^ forged, the peerless ¤¥fi·
Ibn ¤ajar al-¢Asqal¥nÏ replied with his Ajwiba ¢al¥ Ris¥lat al-QazwÏnÏ, in which he
graded five to seven of the eighteen supposed forgeries "weak" (\a¢Ïf), nine to eleven
of them "fair" (^asan), two "sound" (a^Ï^), and none of them forged! This anecdote is
a shining illustration of the difference between half-baked ^adÏth science and the real

Yet, al-QazwÏnÏ was a Mu^addith in the best sense of the word. What excuse can
pseudo-scholars give? The reader may have seen them at work. They make speeches
and publish censorious articles, webpages, and books on "^adÏth forgeries" and "innovations"
that resemble fiction more than ¢ilm. Nor do their manners and ethics resemble
those of Muslims, let alone the small pupils of the Ulema. Rather, they are unscrupulous,
unwelcome proselytes working under the glossy cover of moneyed propaganda.
They clang ever so loud in ostentatious defense of the Sunna from deviation when
they themselves are of dubious doctrine and unqualified even to be students of this noble
art. Worst of all, they have no qualms about trying to alter the Prophetic legacy of
^adÏth and persuade the Umma that the Prophet œ said and did other than what
1,400 years of Scholarship of the Sunna has led you to believe.

As incompetent strictness is rejected, so is ignorant laxity which consists in attributing
anything and everything to the Prophet œ, his Companions, the Im¥ms of the Law,
those of the Prophetic Household, or the rest of the Awliy¥’ without any standard of
honesty and accuracy in reporting.

Among the worst offenders are those that sit to preach without having paid their
learning dues at the feet of the Ulema because they cannot wait for others to sit at
their own feet. What matters for them is to appear to quote from authority so as to assume
authority and reap its benefits. Unscrupulosity or misconceived piety among the
followers of such admonishers has them drink up what they hear unconditionally as
spiritual directives (irsh¥d) even if it should be baseless, foolish, incoherent, even irreligious.
Ignorance has reached the point where one that rightly sues for authenticity
is branded as a fastidious ignoramus by the ignoramus who has no idea whether a report
is in the ßa^Ï^ or in KalÏla wa-Dimna nor cares to check!

The above-mentioned types stand at odds with the Sunna from two opposite extremes
and can be called the Laxists and the Strictists:

1- The Laxists have no idea who spoke what but insist on attributing it without the
least scruple of authenticity, in the manner of story-tellers, even after it is made clear
to them that they perpetuate untruths or have no proof for their discourse other than
self-perpetuating tradition or unverified hearsay. As Ibn al-Mub¥rak æ said, "The
chain of transmission is part and parcel of the Religion, and were it not for the chain of
transmission, anyone could say anything." Examples of this type are the anthropomorphists,
modernists, the ShÏ¢Ïs, some of the Sufis, and many of the general public known
as the ¢aw¥mm including preachers that are neither full-fledged ¢aw¥mm nor Ulema.

2- The Strictists think it a light matter to cry lies at some of what the Messenger of
All¥h œ might have said, pretexting forgery in blind mimicry of what they think is
strictness even after they have been shown that their proofs of forgery are themselves
sickly and controverted to begin with. Examples of this type are the Wahh¥bÏs and
"SalafÏs" in all their varieties.

Among the latter type are those that cling to blind imitation and continue to cry forgery
at the ^adÏth "My Companions are like the stars," claiming that it is " \a¢Ïf or
maw\‰¢ as stated by A^mad ibn ¤anbal, Ibn ¢Abd al-Barr, al-Bazz¥r and many others"1
– as if \a¢Ïf and maw\‰¢ were synonyms, if only those references were not a half-lie in
the first place! In reality, this ^adÏth is not forged but admissible as shown in a separate
article, and from All¥h comes all success.

1- (§ 15), – an incoherent"Salafi" website – (both as of April, 2004) and the thoroughly irresponsible booklet titled 100 Fabricated Hadith by an Abdullah Faisal.