Published in  
October 20, 2023

An Explanation of Ilham al-Mughith | 1-12 | Mustalah al-Hadith

Ilham al-Mughith is a 24-line short poem that was authored by Sheikh Abdur Rahman ibn Abi Bakr al-Mullah in response to a question that was presented to him. There is no science of Islam except that it requires and relies on ahadith and the methodologies created by the scholars of hadith. The sciences of hadith also show the emphasis Islam places on truth and knowing the truth. The scholars worked hard for centuries to determine what the Prophet ﷺ actually said. This poem is one of the first steps a student takes in their journey of learning Usul al-Hadith.
إلهام المغيث في مصطلح الحديث

Sheikh Abdur Rahman ibn Abi Bakr ibn Abdullah al-Mullah hailed from a family of scholars in Al-Ahsa. Scholars from his family had authored some works in the fields of hadith. His family traces their lineage back to Abdur Rahman ibn Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and from the tribe of Quraysh. The Sheikh's father was known to host the scholars, the poor, and the travellers and take care of them. He placed a heavy emphasis on the education of his children, especially in the Quran, fiqh, hadith, and other Shariah sciences. Sheikh Abdur Rahman was also proficient in the art of poetry. After al-Ahsa, Sheikh Abdur Rahman went on to study with the scholars in Makkah and Madinah. He also studied under Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Hayy al-Kettani among other leading scholars of the time. The Sheikh held some of the highest chains of narration of his time and he was often visited by students to benefit from him. We are going through this text in the month of Shawwal 1445 and it was in this same month on the 26th Shawwal 1429 AH that the Sheikh at the age of 98 years returned to Allah.

يَا سَائِلي عَنِ الحَدِيثِ مُرْتَقِبْ … أَقْسَامَهُ خُذْها بِنَظْمٍ مُقْتَرِبْ

1. O Questioner about hadith in anticipation,
Receive its
categories in an accessible versification

This 24 line short poem was authored by Sheikh Abdur Rahman ibn Abi Bakr al-Mullah in response to a question that was presented to him. Ahl al-Hadith were keen on also discussing the importance of the question just as they did of the answer that followed. By asking a question, the questioner is admitting their level of ignorance, they are showing their humbleness and eagerness to learn. It is spiritually beneficial for a person to have this humility and actually knowing their level of knowledge and working to slowly build their foundations and build upon it. A questioner should be aware of the importance of learning the science and as a result be excited in learning more and engaging with it.

The person who asked this question gets rewarded every time someone benefits from the answer. The Sheikh hundreds of years later will continue to get rewarded for answering the question put forth by this person. We might not even know the questioner by name but he still gets rewarded. It is these kind of people about whom it is famously said - He is unknown on earth but well known in the heavens.

A good example is Kitab Al-'Ilal by Imam Abdur Rahman Ibn Abi Hatim Al-Razi رحمه الله which is one of the most famous works in the field of 'Ilal. It is based on questions that he had asked his father (Abu Hatim) and Abu Zur'ah. It was because of the structure of his questions that he was able to derive the benefits from his teachers.

There is no science of Islam except that it requires and relies on ahadith and the methodologies created by the scholars of hadith. The sciences of hadith also show the emphasis Islam places on truth and knowing the truth. The scholars worked hard for centuries to determine what the Prophet ﷺ actually said. The scholars mention that when a person involves himself in studying or engaging in service of the hadith, without a doubt, there will be some khayr and benefit that they will get in one form or the other. The famous Indian muhaddith, Sheikh Younus Jaunpuri رحمه الله used to say before he passed away, how he was the son of a poor farmer in India, but now he was sitting in a ranch in Madinah in a good environment with good food and good company while the ahadith of the Prophet ﷺ are being read to him. His janazah was attended by thousands of people. All this was from the barakah that came from his service of the hadith.

A hadith refers to anything from or about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This includes direct words that were said by him, people making observations about him, information related about his actions, his tacit approvals, things that were done in his presence that he did not disapprove of, and people's description of him. No one book compiles all of them in one place. Different sahaba spent time with the Prophet ﷺ at different stages of his life and in different locations. They transmitted what they learnt and observed of him (ﷺ) to their students and this chain of narration continued further.

A hadith can be broken down into two parts. The first is the information that is being relayed and this is known as the matn of the hadith. The chain of narrators going back to the Prophet ﷺ form the source of the hadith and this is known as the sanad of the hadith.

Ex: Imam al-Bukhari رحمه الله narrated from Makki ibn Ibrahim who narrated from Yazid ibn Abi Ubaid who narrated that Salama رضي الله عنه said, "I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, 'Whoever (intentionally) ascribes to me what I have not said then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.'"

Based on the sanad and matn, different sciences developed to work on, evaluate, verify, authenticate, explain, and codify them etc.

إنَّ الصَّحيحَ مَا سَنَدُهُ اتَّصَلْ … بِلَا شُذُوذٍ وَ بضَابِطَيْنَ دَلّْ

2. The authentic (Sahih) is whose chain is connected (Ittasal)
Without anomalies (Shudhudh), through confidants (Dhabitin) directed

We have many people in the chain the narrate to us the hadith of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. With so many people across time in the middle, the narration can be susceptible to corruption. It could be susceptible to malicious tampering as well as human error. The scholars of hadith wanted to verify that there was no tampering as well as error in the transmission. For this, they set many conditions, criteria, and prerequisites for the narrators to be acceptable. The first level of sifting happens when the origin, teachers, character, honesty etc of the narrator where judged and documented. The second level of sifting happens on the basis of the narrators memory, proneness to error, precision to narrate etc.

There could be a case where all the narrators mentioned in the chain are reliable and trustworthy but there is still an issue with the narration. This could happen when not all the narrators that participated in the transmission of the hadith are listed in the chain. There should be no unexplained gaps in the timeline. If all these dots are not connected and there are gaps, then there is an issue in the transmission.

  1. Honesty and Integrity of Narrators (Adalah)
  2. Precision of Narrators (Dhabt)
  3. Unbroken Timeline of Narrators Transmitting a Narration (Ittisal al-Sanad)

Scholars when mentioning narrators won't usually say that a narrator is Adil and Dhabit. They would join them together and say that the narrator is Thiqah. After this stage, the scholars of hadith wanted to tighten the noose even further. Just like a seasoned Imam in the masjid can make errors during their recitation, a prolific scholar or narrator can also make errors. They added two more conditions for the acceptance of a hadith.

  1. No Anomalies in the Narration (Shadh)
  2. No Inconstancies and Hidden Defects (Illah)

Shududh and Ilal usually overlap. Instead of mentioning Ilal specifically, the Imam mentions the type of Ilal later in the poem.  

To conclude, we can say that for a hadith to be authentic, there are 3 elements that have to be met and 2 elements that have to be absent.

Example: Imam al-Bukhari reports from Abu ‘Asim al-Dahhak b. Makhlad al-Shaybani al-Nabil from Yazid b. Abi ‘Ubayd from Salamah b. Al-Akwa’ that the Prophet ﷺ sent a man to announce among the people on the day of ‘Ashura’, “Whoever has already eaten, they should complete the rest of the day (or fast) and whoever has not eaten, then do not eat.”

- Imam Bukhari was born in 194 AH and arrived in Iraq by the end of 210 AH.
- Abu Asim was in Basrah (Iraq) and died in 211 AH. This makes Imam Bukhari to be from the last batch of people to narrate from Abu Asim. Abu Asim was one of the senior teachers of Imam Bukhari.
- Yazid b Abu Asim died in 146 AH in Madinah giving Abu Asim ample time to meet and narrate from him.
- Salamah b al-Akwa, the sahabi, died in 74 AH in Madinah. We don't know when Yazid was born but we do know that he was the freed slave of Salamah and narrates from both Salamah as well as his son (Ilyas b Salamah).

With this, we can establish a connected chain without any gaps in the transmission and also that all the narrators in this chain are thiqah. With this 3 conditions are met.

Is this hadith Shadh? No. To justify this, we look for anomalies in the sanad and matn both.

- Other than Imam Bukhari, Imam al-Darimi and Imam al-Dawraqi have also transmitted this narration from Abu Asim.
- Abu Asim has not been contradicted in his transmission by others at his level. Imams Hatim b Ismail and Yahya al-Qattan among others also transmit this hadith from Yazid.
- Besides Yazid, no one else transmits this hadith from Salamah. This is an established and accepted norm at the time where only one tabi'i acquired a particular narration from a sahabi. In this case, it is even clear why there is singular transmission, as after the assassination of Uthman, Salamah left Madinah and moved to a rural area.

At this stage, we can conclude that the sanad is authentic. Now we evaluate the matn and see if it is supported or debased by other information that we have. In assessing the sanad, we checked for multiple people sharing the hadith from the same source. In assessing the matn, we check the content of the hadith as compared to other ahadith.

- The Prophet ﷺ fasted Ashura. This has been firmly established and transmitted in multiple ahadith by multiple sahaba like Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar, Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنهم etc.
- Ahadith from Aishah رضي الله عنها show that fasting Ashura was an obligation before the advent of the fasting of Ramadan.

With all these points and with all the conditions being met, we can conclude that this hadith is authentic. This is why it was included in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari.

وَالحَسَنُ المَعْرُوفُ دُونَ الأَوَّلِ … رجالُه لَا كَالصَّحِيحِ المُعْتَلِي

3. And the adequate (Hasan) is less known than the initial,
To the Sahih’s towering, its men are unequal.

Hasan is a level lower than the Sahih. It is a hadith that is acceptable, can be practiced upon, and also attributed to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.

We accept this type of narration because it meets nearly all the conditions of sahih albeit with a minor difference of weakness. All the 5 conditions of a sahih hadith are present in hasan. The only difference is that the level of dhabt of a narrator in the chain is of a slightly lower degree that is still acceptable.

Example: Imam al-Nasai in Al-Majlis al-Awwal min Amalih: ‘Ubayd Allah b. Sa’eed (d. 241) informed us: Abdur-Rahman b Mahdi (135-198) told us: Sufyan (97-161) told us: from ‘Asim (60~127) from Zirr (d. 80) from Ali (d. 40) who said, “Among the most beloved words to Allah is for the slave to say while in prostration, ‘My Lord! I have transgressed against myself; forgive me!’”

From the very get go, we can see that the hadith does not end at the Prophet ﷺ. This is a statement of Ali رضي الله عنه. This teaches us that even the statements of the sahaba are evaluated by the sciences of hadith.

Secondly, there is no disconnect in the chain. Thirdly, we have multiple other athar that relate a similar narration in meaning from the Prophet ﷺ and other sahaba. Add to that, Ali رضي الله عنه is known to have used the phrasing style, "The most beloved thing to Allah is...."

Next, we see that Imam al-Nasai reported that, "Asim is not a Hafiz of Hadith." This is not saying that he is not a reliable narrator.  It is to show that he is not at the highest level as that of others in the chain like Imam Sufyan al-Thawri etc. As compared to others in the chain, it is the dhabt of Asim because of which the status of the hadith has changed from sahih to hasan. It is not fair to Asim or to us to reject this hadith just because he is not a master of hadith and that is not a requirement anyways to transmit hadith. This level of scrutiny shows our transparency in grading narrations. There are no shudoodh or ilal in the hadith.

أمَّا الضَّعيفُ فَهْوَ دُونَ الحَسَنِ … لِفَقْدِهِ شُرُوطَهُ فَاسْتَبِنِ

4. As for the weak (Dhaeef) it falls short of adequate (Hasan)
Missing its conditions, so be obliged to investigate

Dhaeef are those narrations that have elements of weaknesses in them such that we cannot attribute the narration to the Prophet ﷺ. That being said, just because a hadith is termed dhaeef, we shouldn't automatically assume that the content of the hadith is wrong. This is a very important distinction that we need to understand so that we don't unknowingly fall into rejecting something that is good in meaning.

There are many different levels of weaknesses that makes a narration Dhaeef. The causes for a hadith to be weak can be roughly summarised into two: either there is an issue in the continuity of the chain or there is an issue or certain criticism for a narrator in the chain.

Example: Imam al-Bazzar: Ibrahim b. Sa’eed al-Jawhari told us: Ghassan b. ‘Ubayd told us from Abu ‘Imran al-Jawni from Anas who said: The Messenger of Allah said, “If you lay your side on the bed and read Fatihah al-Kitab and Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad, you will be safe from everything but death.”

This hadith is dhaeef. In this hadith, the weakness is due to a criticism with regard to one of the narrators in the chain. Ghassan b. ‘Ubayd was an alchemist who was unfamiliar with hadith despite pursuing it as an amateur for a short while.

Dhabt is more than just a narrator's precision and memory. When a person is not familiar with terms and the sciences of the Shariah, it can lead to them having serious comprehension issues. They could relate something that was never said or intended in the first place because that is how they thought it was meant to be said. This is not talking about a weak memory or similar. Both are two separate things that need to be assessed about a narrator.

Looking at the content of this hadith, we can conclude that it is seemingly innocent. The issue with weak ahadith is that we are attributing to the Prophet ﷺ things that he might have never said and opening doors to innovations in the religion. In this example, we know for a fact from authentic ahadith that the Prophet ﷺ has spoken in great detail about adhkar and especially those that are to be recited before going to bed and did not say this. Mixing the inauthentic with the authentic has an affect on the implementation and perception of that which is authentic. It does not make sense to act on things that are doubtful if the Prophet even said, and not on those that are firmly established from him. Our Sheikh Dr Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله while explaining this concept said, "Imagine a glass full of water. More water cannot enter it until that which is already inside spills out. Likewise, innovation cannot enter unless something from the Sunnah is removed. There is only one seat in the gathering; if bida'h occupies it, then the Sunnah vacates it."

وَمَا عُزِيْ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ أَو نُسِبْ … فَذَا هُوَ المَرْفُوعُ فَاحْفَظْهُ تُصِبْ

5. What is quoted from the Prophet or attributed,
Is elevated (Marfu’), memorize this and be credited

There are different terms that are used by scholars of hadith to refer to narrations like - athar, hadith, khabar and this could include Prophetic sayings, words of the sahaba and more. Because of their varied usage, scholars of hadith came up with different terms to denote where a chain ends. The chain could end at the Prophet ﷺ, a sahabi, or the one after him and each would have a different term for it.

A narration that is attributed (for or about) to the Prophet ﷺ is known as Marfu'. At this stage, we are talking about attribution alone. The next step is checking the authenticity where a marfu' narration can be sahih, hasan, or dhaeef.

Example: Narrated Umar bin Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه: I heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) saying, "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for." [Bukhari]

The Marfu' narrations are primarily found in the Kutub al-Sittah.

وَمَا عَلَى قَولِ الصَّحابيِّ قُصِرْ … فَذَا هُوَ المَوقُوفُ يَا ذَا المُبْتَصِرْ

6. A quote which is limited to the companion,
That is halted (Mawquf), use your intuition

A narration that is attributed (for or about) to a sahabi is known as Mawquf. A mawquf narration is also known as an athar or a khabar.

Example: Malik from Nafi’ that Abdullah b. Umar used to say, “If you missed the ruku’, you have missed the sujud.”

Example: Malik from Nafi’ that Ibn Umar used to sleep sitting, then would pray without making wudhu.

Who is a sahabi? A sahabi is defined as a person who has met the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, believed in him, and died upon Islam.

At this stage, we need to understand the concept of Adalah al-Sahabah. This refers to understanding the reliability of the sahaba as narrators. The default ruling on the sahaba as narrators is that they are reliable, they have integrity, and that they cannot knowingly lie upon the Prophet ﷺ. The sahaba were the most sincere believers and followers of Islam - this is documented in the Quran and upon the tongue of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Even if we didn't have the Quranic ayat mentioning their merit, just their lives and what they did for the sake of Islam would merit for us to place them all in this highest of position.

The sahaba were the most careful and the most cautious when it came to the transmission of ahadith. They would clearly distinguish between what the Prophet ﷺ had said and what they might have heard from another senior sahabi, or what was their personal opinion. Add to this, one of the most mass transmitted narrations that we have is where the Prophet ﷺ said, "Whoever (intentionally) ascribes to me what I have not said then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire" [Bukhari]. There is no other hadith that the 10 promised Jannah have agreed upon or reported by over 60+ sahaba except this one.

Mawquf translated as "halted” gives the implication of an abrupt stop. This is important because we need to distinguish between what the Prophet ﷺ actually said and what was narrated by a sahabi which could just be their understanding of a certain concept. A category of a mistake in this vein of transmission is known as Jaaddah (جادة) which refers to defaulting to an assumption that a narration naturally ends at the Prophet ﷺ.

The Mawquf narrations are found in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah, the Musannaf of Abdur Razzaq, the Muwatta of Imam Malik, the Sunan of Syed Ibn Mansur, and others. You find a sizeable mention in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari as well but that is not the primary source to look for mawqufat.

An important principle to keep in mind is, "Why people were transmitting dictated how they transmitted". Ex: A sahabi is teaching people how to pray. The default understanding without a doubt is that he learned it from the Prophet ﷺ. But when teaching, they would not necessarily for every point say that the Prophet said so and so. They would just summarise and teach how to pray. This teaches us that a sahabi could be transmitting something they learned from the Prophet ﷺ without attributing it to him. How then do we differentiate what is from the Prophet ﷺ and what is just the opinion of a sahabi? This is where we find a category known as al-Marfu’ Hukman. These are narrations that end at a sahabi but they take the ruling or authority of a marfu' hadith because of its content. These are matters being relayed that a sahabi could not have spoken about except by the information and guidance provided to him by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.

وَمَا بِإسْنَادٍ لَهُ قَدِ اتَّصَلْ … فَذَا هُوَ المَوصُولُ حَيْثُما حَصَلْ

7. And when the chain is connected (ittasal)
It reaches (mawsul) whenever selected

One of the conditions for a hadith to be authentic was mentioned to be a connected chain of narrators. The author explains that further here. This is also known as muttasil or mawsul. Ittasal can be defined as a narrator (student) attaining the hadith from a narrator (teacher) above him in the chain of narration by way of any of the accepted modes of hadith acquisition. In the chain of a hadith, the narrators could have attained the hadith in various different formats. They could have read the hadith to their teacher and the teacher approved of it, or the teacher read it upon the students, or the student took it from the records of their teacher and got his approval on that, and so on.

What are the accepted modes of Hadith acquisition? They are 5:

a. Sama (سماع): This is when the teacher verbally transmits the hadith to his student. The student heard the hadith directly from the teacher. This mode is also known as Imla or dictation. A student narrating this hadith forward says: Haddhathana / Haddahthani, (X narrated to us/me) or Sami'tu (I heard) from my Sheikh the hadith.

Example: Imam Muslim when narrating in his Sahih says:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، وَزُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، جَمِيعًا عَنِ ابْنِ عُلَيَّةَ، قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ ابْنُ عُلَيَّةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ بْنِ صُهَيْبٍ، عَنْ أَنَسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ إِذَا دَعَا أَحَدُكُمْ فَلْيَعْزِمْ فِي الدُّعَاءِ وَلاَ يَقُلِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ شِئْتَ فَأَعْطِنِي فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ مُسْتَكْرِهَ لَهُ ‏"‏ ‏

From this, we learn that Imam Muslim heard this hadith from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah.

b. Qira’ah / ‘Ard (سماع): This is when the student reads a hadith to his teacher and the teacher approves or corrects and then gives the permission to narrate it further on his authority. A student narrating this hadith forward says: Akhbarana or Akhbarani (I read upon) or Qur’ia alayhi wa ana asma’ (It was read upon the Sheikh and I was present) or Anba’ana / Anba’ani (X informed us/me) the hadith.

Example: Imam Muslim when narrating in his Sahih says:

حَدَّثَنَاهُ إِسْحَاقُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، أَخْبَرَنَا عِيسَى بْنُ يُونُسَ، حَدَّثَنَا زَكَرِيَّاءُ، عَنْ عَامِرٍ، حَدَّثَنِي شُرَيْحُ بْنُ هَانِئٍ، أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ، أَخْبَرَتْهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ بِمِثْلِهِ ‏.

From this, we learn that Imam Muslim heard this hadith from Ishaq ibn Ibrahim who read it upon Isa ibn Yunus.

These both are the most preferred modes of transmission as the teacher, the student, or the group of students recording the hadith can all cross-check and correct each other.

c. Mukatabah (مكاتبة): This is where the student receives the hadith from his teacher via written correspondence. A student narrating this hadith forward says: Kataba Ilayya (he wrote to me) the hadith.

d. Munawalah Maqrunah bil Ijazah (مناولة مقرونة بالإجازة): This is where the teacher reads to the student a hadith or a collection of ahadith physically and grants him ijazah (permission) to narrate it forward on his authority. A student narrating this hadith forward says: Nawalani (he gave me) or ‘An (from) or Anba’ana or Anba’ani the hadith.

e. Ijazah (إجازة): This is where the teacher gives a document of ahaith to the student and grants him ijazah (permission) to narrate it forward on his authority. A student narrating this hadith forward says: ‘An (from: a filler that denotes transmission) the hadith.

The usage of the term ‘An by the narrator doesn't give us specific information on how they attained the hadith. In reality, it can be used for any of the above modes of transmission as well. Because of the ambiguity, it is the least preferred mode of transmission, even though it is acceptable and fulfills the conditions of ittasal. 

Some of the forms of conveyance are:

  • Sami’tu: I heard
  • Haddathani: He narrated to me
  • Akhbarani: He reported to me
  • Qara’tu Alayhi: I read to him 
  • Qur’ia Alayhi wa ana Asma’u: It was read upon the Sheikh and I was present
  • Amba’ani: He informed me 
  • Naawalani: He put into my hands
  • Shaafahani: He told me verbally
  • Kataba Ilayya: He wrote to me

وَمُرْسَلٌ مَا التَّابِعِيُّ قَدْ رَفَعْ … كَقَوْلِهِ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ المُتَّبَعْ

8. Loose (mursal) is what a Tabi’i elevated
saying, “From the Prophet, the celebrated”

A tabi’i is anyone who witnessed the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. They are the second generation after the generation of the sahaba. When a tabi’i narrates directly from the Prophet ﷺ without mentioning the sahabi whom he took it from, the narration is termed as mursal. The plural of which is known as marasil. This is so because it is impossible that a tabi’i can narrate directly from the Prophet ﷺ since they are from completely different generations.

This is a form of weakness as the chain is muttasil (connected). These kinds of narrations are usually found in collections like Al-Marasil of Imam Abu Dawud and in other works like the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah or the Muwatta of Imam Malik and similar. 

Example: Imam Abu Dawud records in his collection Al-Marasil: 

حَدَّثَنَا هَنَّادُ بن السري عن ابن المبارك عن الأوزاعي عن غزوة بن رويج، قَالَ: قَالَ النَّبِيُّ: أول ما لهاني عَنْهُ رَبِّي بَعْدَ عِبادة الأوثان شرب الخمر، ومُلاحَاةُ الرجال.

Hannad ibn al-Sariy from Ibn al-Mubarak from al-Awza’i from ‘Urwah ibn Ruwaym that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The first thing my lord prohibited me from, after worshiping idols, is drinking alcohol and quarreling with people.”

In this narration, there is a disconnect between Urwah (tabi’i) and the Prophet ﷺ. He could have heard it from a sahabi or even another senior tabi’i. It is difficult to ascertain the weakness of this narration because of a disconnected chain. 

We look at the components of this mursal hadith: Who is the Mursil - the one who initiates the hadith? Urwah ibn Ruwaym. Had he mentioned his source, it would have been easier to grade the hadith and would have made the chain as muttasil. We don’t know the unknown sahabi that the Mursil has dropped. 

The weakness of this narration lies with the unknown sahabi that we are unaware of and not Urwah ibn Ruwaym. 

The Mursal ahadith are a debate among the scholars. Why? The tabi’i are from a wide time range and lived across a wide range of regions. The marasil of a senior tabi’i who had favourable conditions like: having met tens of sahaba, lived in Madinah etc would be looked at as more favourable when compared to the marasil of a tabi’i that met just one sahabi or lived in Kufah etc. 

The marasil of senior tabi’in like Saeed ibn al-Musayyib or Urwah ibn al-Zubair cannot be compared to the marasil of the much younger and junior tabi’in. To put things into perspective, Saeed ibn al-Musayyib was a young boy during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab, his father and father-in-law (Abu Hurairah) were both sahaba, and he is considered as one of the seven premier Imams of Madinah. When he drops a sahabi to narrate directly from the Prophet (ﷺ), his marasil can be much more easily accepted. Some junior tabi’i could not only be dropping a sahabi, but might even have an added tabi’i above him who could be a weak narrator. 

The hadith being Mursal is just a description. We also need to look at the content of the hadith being transmitted. The prohibition against alcohol came way down the line in Madinah and it is historically incorrect to say that the second thing that Allah Prohibited was the drinking of alcohol. On the other hand, if we switch perspectives and look at this from another angle, these prohibitions could very well be the first things prohibited to a sahabi who entered into Islam way later down the line. 

We see this in the narration where it is narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه that a delegation of Abdul Qais came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said, “Messenger of Allah, verily ours is a tribe of Rabi'a and there stand between you and us the unbelievers of Mudar and we find no freedom to come to you except in the sacred month. Direct us to an act which we should ourselves perform and invite those who live beside us.” Upon this, the Prophet remarked, “I command you to do four things and prohibit you against four acts. (The four deeds which you are commanded to do are): Faith in Allah, and then he explained it to them and said: Testifying the fact. that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, performance of prayer, payment of Zakat, that you pay Khums (one-fifth) of the booty fallen to your lot, and I prohibit you to use round gourd, wine jars, wooden pots or skins for wine.” [Muslim]

Mursal ahadith by virtue of themselves alone are not accepted by scholars. Usually, there are certain added stipulations by the scholars to accept these marasil like: 

  • The Mursil only uses reliable sources in his narrations.
  • Supported by ijma’ 
  • Supported by another hadith etc. 

وَمَا أَتَى عَنْ تَابِعِ مَوْقُوفَا … فَذَاكَ مَقْطُوعٌ أَتَى مَعْرُوفَا

9. What reached us from a Tabi’i and concluded,
It is detached (maqtu’), as famously alluded

Maqtu’ is a narration that originates from or about a tabi’i and it is not attributed to the Prophet ﷺ.

These kinds of narrations are usually found in collections like the Muwatta of Imam Malik in other works like the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah or Musannaf of Abdur Razzaq and similar. 

Example: Imam Malik records in his al-Muwatta: 

وَحَدَّثَنِي مَالِكٌ، عَنْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ بْنِ أَبِي حَكِيمٍ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ عُمَرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، يَقُولُ كَانَ يُقَالُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وتعالى لا يعذب العامة بكلب الخاصة ولكن إذا عمل المنكر جهازا استحقوا العقوبة كلهم

Malik related to me that Ismail ibn Abi Hakim heard Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz say, "Some say that Allah the Blessed, the Exalted, will not punish the many for the wrong action of the few. However, when the objectionable action is committed openly, then they all deserve to be punished."

The statement being reported is from Umar ibn Abdul Aziz who is the tabi’i in this chain. This is not a statement of the Prophet ﷺ or one of his sahaba. As for the text of the report, what is being said has its essence in the narrations of the Prophet ﷺ. This may not always be the case and each narration has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

وَمَا لِآحَادِ رُوَاتِهِ سَقَطْ … مُنْقَطِعٌ عَنِ الصَّحِيحِ قَدْ هَبَطْ

10. If an individual of the transmitters was downed,
It is sundered (munqati’) falling short of the Sound

From the conditions of a hadith to be sahih or sound is that the chain of narrators is connected. Munqati’ is used as an umbrella term to show a disconnect or unexplained gaps and it is the exact opposite of Muttasil. 

The term Munqati’ can also be used in a more specific manner. It can be defined as an unexplained absence of one transmitter at a time provided it is not the sheikh of the compiler or above the tabi’i in the chain. If it is above the tabi’i then that narration is termed as Mursal. 

Example: Imam al-Bayhaqi records that:

أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو سَعِيدٍ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْعَبَّاسِ قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنَا الرَّبِيعُ قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنَا الشَّافِعِيُّ قَالَ: بَلَغْنَا أَنَّ الزُّهْرِيِّ قَالَ: «مَا رَكِبَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي عِيدٍ وَلَا جِنَازَةٍ قَطُّ

Abu Saeed informed us: Abu al-Abbas told us: Al-Rab’i informed us: Al-Shafi’i informed us: It reached me that Al-Zuhri (Tabi’i) said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) never rode in Eid or a funeral.”

In this narration, we see that there is no disconnect between the teacher of Imam al-Bayhaqi and above the tabi’i. The issue lies lower in the chain. This narration is also a Mursal narration.

Imam al-Shafi’i was born in 150 AH whereas Imam al-Zuhri died in 125 AH. There is a clear issue here since Imam al-Shafi’i couldn’t have met and taken the narration from Imam al-Zuhri. There is at least one person missing here and that is evident from the wording used by Imam al-Shafi’i. It is important to note here that many of the students of Imam Zuhri were teachers of Imam al-Shafi’i. Imam al-Zuhri was one of the teachers of Imam Malik, Imam Sufyan ibn Uyaynah, Imam Shuaib ibn Hamza etc who were in turn the teachers of Imam al-Shafi’i. It could be that the missing person in the chain was one of these teachers. 

والمُعْضَلُ السَّاقِطُ مِنْهُ اثْنَانِ … عَلَى التَّوَالي فَاتَّبِعْ بَيَاني

11. A conundrum/dilemma (al-Mu’dal) where, dropped are two
Consecutively, follow my explanation through

A Mu’dal narration is that where two narrators are dropped consecutively in the chain of narrators. This naturally increases the chances for weaknesses, mistakes, and errors. 

Example: Imam Malik records in his al-Muwatta:

مَالِكٌ ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ ؛ أَنَّهُ قَالَ: بَلَغَنِي أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: لِرَجُلٍ مِنْ ثقيف أَسْلَمَ، وَعِنْدَهُ عَشْرُ نِسْوَةٍ، حِينَ أَسْلَمَ الثَّقَفِيُّ: أَمْسِكْ مِنْهُنَّ أَرْبَعاً. وَفَارِقْ سَائِرَهُنَّ

Malik: From Ibn Shihab, who said: It reached me that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) told a man from the tribe of Thaqif who accepted Islam while being married to ten women, “Keep four among them and divorce the rest.”

Imam Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri is established as a tabi’i - who is quoting the Prophet (ﷺ) directly here. It is clearly evident that he did not hear the Prophet (ﷺ) himself. We explained previously how the Marasil of Saeed ibn al-Musaayib could be accepted because of his closeness to the time of the sahaba and his relationships with them. Most if not all the time when he drops a narrator, we can say that there is just one sahabi that has been dropped by him. But when it comes to the likes of Imam al-Zuhri, the same cannot be said as he was from the junior tabi’in. Most of his teachers were non-Sahabi. His marasil are problematic because we don’t know if he dropped one sahabi, or multiple tabi’in in addition to a sahabi for the narration that he is narrating. His lack of mention of a sahabi (which is recorded as a badge of honour by narrators), hints that there are more narrators dropped instead of just a single sahabi. 

This narration is an example of Mursal, Munqati’, and Mu’dal.

وَمَا مِنَ الإِسْنَادِ أَوَّلاً حُذِفْ … مُعَلَّقٌ لَا وَسَطٌ بِذَا عُرِفْ

12. What's been dropped from the beginning of the chain
Suspended (mu’allaq) it is, not from the middle, we maintain

A Mu’allaq narration is that where the narrator has been dropped at the very beginning of the chain. It can be defined as when the compiler of a book drops part of the chain, the least of which must be his direct source, even if the entire chain is dropped.

This simply means that the Sheikh from whom the hadith is being taken is dropped. The most famous example that we see of this is in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari. 

Imam al-Bukhari narrates saying, “Abu Musa said, ‘The Prophet ﷺ covered his knees when Uthman entered.’” This narration muʿallaq because Imam al-Bukhari omitted all of the narrators and directly mentioned the sahabi, Abu Musa al-Ash’ari.

Most of the Mu‘allaq ahadith narrated in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari were also narrated by him with their asanid (chains of narrators) mentioned in full in other places in the same book. This was also done for the sake of brevity and to avoid repetition. 

Imam al-Bukhari intentionally “hung” these narrations so that they would not be confused with the authentic marfu’ collection that was the primary aim of his book. He would cite these ahadith only to make points or add some strength to an opinion. The majority of these mu’allaq ahadith are authentic. Imam Ibn Hajr proved that all of these hanging narrations are in reality Mawsul ahadith in his book Taghleeq Al-Ta‘leeq. He also touched upon this in the introduction of his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. Yet, there are some that have slight weakness, or don’t meet his conditions, and these are made known. It is best to be careful when narrating the Mu’allaqat of Imam al-Bukhari and not to make it look as though it is Sahih by default. 

A similar case is seen in the Muwatta of Imam Malik which was considered the most authentic book of narrations of its time before the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari was compiled. Whenever Imam Malik narrates something with a connected chain, it is authentic, because he only mentions narrators whom he considers to be trustworthy in his Muwatta. Any ahadith that may be weak are those for which he has not mentioned a chain, known as “balaghat”, or for which he has given a broken or disconnected chain. Even many of those are in fact authentic as they can often be found outside of al-Muwatta with connected chains that have been rigorously authenticated.

مَالِكَ ، قَالَ: بَلَغْنِي أَنْ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ كَانَ يَرَى ابْنَهُ عُبَيْدَ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ يَتَنَفَّلُ فِي السَّفَرِ، فَلَا يُنْكِرُ عَلَيْهِ

Imam Malik recorded: It reached me that Abdullah ibn Umar used to see his son Ubaydullah offering voluntary prayers while traveling and would not object to him.

In general cases, the element of ta’liq (suspension/hanging) is a defect in a narration. If the mu’allaq hadith is not supported by the other reliable ahadith, then the mu’allaq hadith would be classified as weak.

Based on the translation and explanation of Sheikh Abdullah Moataz

Disclaimer: All material found on is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of

No items found.
  • Our Latest
  • Instagram Posts