Published in  
October 20, 2023

An Explanation of Ilham al-Mughith | 13-24 | 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. This is Part 2 of the series.

This is Part 2 of the explanation of Ilham al-Mughith. Read Part 1 here.

وَمَنْ يَكُنْ لِشَيْخِهِ قَدْ أسْقَطَا … ذاَكَ مُدَلَّسٌ كَمَا قَدْ ضُبِطَا

13. And when its his teacher he eliminated
That’s deceptive (Mudallas), as is regulated

Tadlees is the act done by the Mudallis. The hadith on which tadlees was done is known as Mudallas. It refers to hiding a defect in the isnad and making it to appear to be sound. Tadlees is a form of inqita' or a disconnect in the chain making the narration Munqati’.

Mudallas is someone who drops someone in the chain to shorten it but not necessarily lying. Mudallas literally means deceptive, where a defect is concealed. Linguistically “tadlees” is hiding the defects of an article being sold.

This can happen when a student might have missed a class from a teacher. He takes the information from another student. When narrating, instead of saying he got it from the student, he says that he got it from the teacher. The mode of transmission that he mentions how he got the information from the teacher is usually ambiguous. 

Example: In the Kitab al-Illal of Imam Ibn Abi Hatim we see:

وسألت أبي عن حديث رواه بقية، عن الأوزاعي، عَنِ الزُّهْرِي، عَنْ عروة، عن عائشة عن النبي قال: إن الله عز وجل يُحِبُّ المُلِحينَ فِي الدُّعَاءِ؟
 قَالَ أَبِي هَذَا حديث منكرٌ؛ نَرَى أَنَّ بَقِيَّة دَلَّسَهُ عَنْ ضعيف، عَنِ الأَوزاعي

Baqiyyah is a student of Imam al-Awzai. Despite that, Baqiyyah narrates using ‘An that he heard from Imam al-Awza’i who heard from Imam al-Zuhri who heard from Urwah who heard from Aishah.

In reality, Baqiyyah heard from Yusuf who heard from Imam al-Awza’i who heard from Imam al-Zuhri who heard from Urwah who heard from Aishah.

Baqiyyah knowingly dropped a weak narrator between himself and his teacher Imam al-Awzai to narrate. 

There are certain exceptions to this rule where narrators who engage in tadlees are exempted. These are giants and Imams of hadith who drop narrators to maintain the briefness of the works. The ones being dropped are only those who are verified and trusted narrators. An example of this is Imam Sufyan ibn Uyaynah. 

أمَّا الغَرِيبُ فَهْوَ مَا رَوَاهُ … فَرْدٌ مِنَ الرُّوَاةِ لَا سِوَاهُ

14. As for the obscure (gharib), it is transmitted itself
By one, among the transmitters, none else

A Gharib hadith is where at some level of the chain of transmission, there is just a single narrator. This is descriptive and not inherently a value judgment on the authenticity of the hadith. 

Types of Gharabah (Obscurity) are:

  • Gharabah Mutlaqah (Absolute Obscurity): This is where only one sahabi narrates a hadith and by no one else. 
  • Gharabah Nisbiyyah (Relative Obscurity): This is where the gharabah occurs at a unique place in the chain.
    - It could be relative to a portion of the hadith: Ex: It has an addition (Ziyadah)
    - It could be relative to the Sahabah who supposedly transmits a given hadith.

Example: Imam al-Tirmidhi says in his Kitab al-Illal:

How many imams have narrated a hadith, and that hadith is known only from them, and then it becomes well-known due to the great number of people who narrate from him. 

Like what Abdullah ibn Dinar narrated from Ibn Umar, that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade selling the right to a slave estate portion (wald') or granting it for free, and we only know that hadith from Abdullah ibn Dinar. 

It was narrated from him by Ubaydallah ibn Umar, Shu'ba, Sufyan al-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, Ibn Uyaynah and other imams. 

And Yahya ibn Sulaym narrated that hadith from Ubaydullah ibn Umar, from Nafi', from Ibn Umar, but Yahya ibn Sulaym erred in that hadith. 

The correct version is Ubaydallah ibn Umar, from Abdullah ibn Dinar, from Ibn Umar. That is how Abd al-Wahhab al-Thaqafi and Abdallah ibn Numayr narrated it from Ubaydallah ibn Umar, from Abdullah ibn Dinar, from Ibn Umar. And al-Mu'ammal narrated that hadith from Shu'ba, and Shu'ba said, "Indeed I wished that Abdullah ibn Dinar gave me permission to stand and kiss his head." 

The gharabah in the narration is at Abdullah ibn Dinar who was the only one to narrate it at his level in the chain of transmission. 

Example: Imam al-Tirmidhi gives another example in his Kitab al-Illal and says:

And how many ahadith there are that are considered Gharib because of an addition in the hadith, but this is correct as long as the addition is from someone whose memory/mastery (hifdh) can be relied upon. 

Like what Malik ibn Anas narrated from Nafi', from Ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) made the tithe of the end of Ramadan (Zakat al-Fitr) obligatory for every free person and slave, man or woman from among the Muslims, one Sa’a (about 3 liters) of dates or barley. 

And Malik's narration of this hadith added the phrase 'from among the Muslims.' 

But Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani, Ubaydullah ibn Umar, and more than one other from among the imams have narrated this hadith from Nafi’, from Ibn Umar without mentioning 'from among the Muslims.' 

And some of those who have narrated from Nafi' like what Malik narrated, their memories/master cannot be relied upon. And more than one of the imams have taken Malik's hadith and used it as proof, like al-Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. They said, ‘If a man has non-Muslim slaves then he does not render the end of Ramadan tithe on their behalf,’ and used the hadith of Malik as proof. So if a hadith master (hafidh) whose memory/mastery can be relied upon, what he adds (in his narrations of a hadith) is accepted.”

The number of narrators at every level of the chain should ideally increase the farther we move away from the level of the Prophet ﷺ. The lack of this popularity indicates at some issues in the narration. Gharabah by itself is not an issue as obscurity in the time of the tabi’in is considered completely normal and acceptable. 

If obscurity remains at the same level or increases, it may be a sign of an error. 

Example: Imam Muslim in the first few ahadith in his Kitab al-Iman records:

حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو خَيْثَمَةَ، زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ حَدَّثَنَا وَكِيعٌ، عَنْ كَهْمَسٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بُرَيْدَةَ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ يَعْمَرَ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُعَاذٍ الْعَنْبَرِيُّ، - وَهَذَا حَدِيثُهُ - حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا كَهْمَسٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ بُرَيْدَةَ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ يَعْمَرَ،
حَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عُبَيْدٍ الْغُبَرِيُّ، وَأَبُو كَامِلٍ الْجَحْدَرِيُّ وَأَحْمَدُ بْنُ عَبْدَةَ قَالُوا حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ مَطَرٍ الْوَرَّاقِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بُرَيْدَةَ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ يَعْمَرَ،

Let’s look at the different levels of this hadith’s transmission

Level 1: Umar ibn al-Khattab

Level 2: Abdullah Ibn Umar

Level 3: Yahya ibn Ya’mar

Level 4: Abdullah ibn Buraydah

Level 5: Kahmas (Common link or Madar) 

Level 6: Wak’i
- Wak’i to Abu Khaythamah (Level 7) to Imam Muslim (Level 8)
- Wak’i to Mu’adh Al-’Anbari to Ubaydullah ibn Mua’dh (Level 7) to Imam Muslim (Level 8)

Looking at the second chain:

Level 1: Umar ibn al-Khattab

Level 2: Abdullah Ibn Umar

Level 3: Yahya ibn Ya’mar

Level 4: Abdullah ibn Buraydah

Level 5: Matar al-Warraq 

Level 6: Hammad ibn Zayd to Abu Kamil (Level 7) to Imam Muslim (Level 8)

Comparing the two, Matar al-Warraq now collaborates with Kahmas at Level 5. So now, the primary common link or madar becomes Abdullah ibn Buraydah at Level 4. In the first chain, Kahmas is the secondary common link for Wak’i and Mu’adh. The gharabah in the hadith starts at Abdullah ibn Buraydah.  

It is very important to understand the importance of identifying the common link. Once that is done, verifying the authenticity of the hadith, looking for defects and issues etc. becomes much easier.

وَمَنْ يَكُنْ قَدْ خَالَفَ الثَّقاتِ … حَديْثُهُ شَذَّ لَدَى الرُّوَاةِ

15. He who contradicts the viable (thiqat),
His hadith diverges (Shadha) among the liable

Shaadh refers to a form of contradiction or opposition. It can happen in 2 ways:

  • The one who is opposing is a reliable narrator. Ex: Imam Malik or Imam Shafi’i.
  • The one opposing is individually stronger than the others involved, but when they concur together as a group, they are stronger. In this scenario, we have a thiqah opposing a group of thiqahs, hence outweighed.

For Shaadh, the one who is opposing is more higher, qualified, and more knowledgeable than the one being opposed.

Example: Imam al-Tirmidhi records in his Shamail al-Muhammadiyah:

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، قَالَ‏:‏ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ مَهْدِيٍّ، عَنْ سُفْيَانَ، عَنْ سَعْدِ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنِ ابْنٍ لِكَعْبِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يَلْعَقُ أَصَابِعَهُ ثَلاثًا‏.‏

Reported on the authority of Ibn al-Ka'b ibn Malik, that his father said, "The Prophet ﷺ used to lick his fingers three times.”

Commenting on this, Imam al-Tirmidhi said, “Other than Muhammad ibn Bashar transmitted this hadith saying, ‘He used to lick his three fingers.’”

The issue here is now licking the fingers three times versus licking three fingers. Let’s look at the different chains of narrations for this hadith and where the change happens:

Level 1: Ka’b b. Malik 

Level 2: Ibn Ka’b

Level 3: Sa’d ibn Ibrahim 

Level 4: Sufyan (al-Thawri)

Level 5: Abd Al-Rahman ibn Mahdi (Common Link or Madar)

Level 6:
- Abd al-Rahman to Ishaq ibn Mansur (reported three fingers) to Imam al-Nasa’i (Level 7)

- Abd al-Rahman to Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah (reported three fingers) to Imam Muslim (Level 7)

- Abd al-Rahman to Zuhayr ibn Harb (reported three fingers) to Imam Muslim (Level 7)

- Abd al-Rahman to Muhammad ibn Bashar (reported three times) to Imam al-Tirmidhi (Level 7)

Based on this, we can conclude that despite being reliable, Muhammad ibn Bashar made an error in transmission and the correct narration is licking the three fingers. This can also be considered a type of Illah in this narration. 

وَالمُنْكَرُ الَّذِي لِمَتْنِهِ جُهِلْ … مِنْ غَيْرِ رَاوِيْهِ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ قُبِلْ

16. The discredited (al-munkar) its text is unfounded,
From other than its specific transmitters, not counted /grounded

Munkar is an umbrella term that can be used to describe: Sanad, Matn, Tafarrud or Ikhtilaf (Contradiction). A strong narrator opposing the narration of a weaker narrator is shaadh. Munkar is a narration where a narrator who is weak opposes the reliable narrators.

The author defines munkar where the hadith being transmitted is only from one chain or person. This unique transmission raises a red flag. 

Example: Imam Abu Isa al-Tirmidhi in his Jami’ records:

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مُوسَى، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عُمَرَ بْنِ الرُّومِيِّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شَرِيكٌ، عَنْ سَلَمَةَ بْنِ كُهَيْلٍ، عَنْ سُوَيْدِ بْنِ غَفَلَةَ، عَنِ الصُّنَابِحِيِّ، عَنْ عَلِيٍّ، رضى الله عنه قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم "أَنَا دَارُ الْحِكْمَةِ وَعَلِيٌّ بَابُهَا‏"

Ismail ibn Musa informed us (saying) that Muhammad ibn Umar ibn ar-Rumi informed us (saying) that Shareek informed us from Salamah ibn Kuhayl from Suwayd ibn Ghaflah from as-Sunabihi from Ali that he quoted the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying, "I am the abode of wisdom and Ali is its door."

Commenting on this, Imam al-Tirmidhi said, “This hadith is ghareeb munkar. Some of them narrate it from Shareek and do not mention "from as-Sunabihi" and we do not know of this hadith being narrated by any reliable narrator from Shareek.”

There are instances where the Munkar aspect can be: 

  • Totally Unfounded: There is no parallel or basis at all in the Shariah or even anything similar to what is being narrated. There is no corroboration for it. 
  • Partially Unfounded: A word in the hadith that is not found in other ahadith being transmitted. The concept by itself is found in the Shariah.

وَمَا رُوِيْ مِنْ أَوْجُهٍ مُخْتَلِفَهْ … عَنْ وَاحِدٍ مُضْطَرِبٌ فَلْتَعْرِفَهْ

17. What’s been communicated in different ways,
By one, realize inconsistency/volatility (mudtarib) it betrays

A Mudtarib narration is that which contradicts. 

Imam al-Tirmidhi writes in Al-Illal al-Saghir, “It was reported that Yahya ibn Sa’eed - If he saw a person transmitting from his memory, once like this and once like that, not consistently transmitting it in the same fashion, he would abandon him.”

Yahya inherited this from Shu’bah ibn al-Hajjaj (known as the father of hadith methodology) who used to test transmitters in this way. He would repeatedly ask a transmitter about the same hadith on different occasions to see how consistent they were on it. Sometimes he would send others to ask on his behalf and would listen in, while the transmitter was unaware.

How would a later Muhaddith apply this consistency test since many of the transmitters would have died? He can collect the chains of a hadith, identify the madar, and compare the different variations. If there are too many variations, then there is a lack of consistency.

Example: We see the narration: 

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مُوسَى، حَدَّثَنَا هُشَيْمٌ، عَنْ مَنْصُورٍ، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ، عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ "‏ الْحَيَاءُ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ وَالإِيمَانُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَالْبَذَاءُ مِنَ الْجَفَاءِ وَالْجَفَاءُ فِي النَّارِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏

It was narrated from Abu Bakrah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Modesty is part of faith, and faith will be in Paradise. Obscenity in speech is part of harshness and harshness will be in Hell.’”

Commenting on this, Imam Ahmad said that this narration has come from Hushaim who has inconsistencies in his transmission. At one time he transmitted it from al-Hasan from Abu Bakrah. Another time, he transmitted it from al-Hasan from Imran. Imam Ahmad himself transmitted that he reported from Hushaim from Awf from Hasan in a Mursal fashion. Once the people of Wasit asked Imam Ahmad which narration is correct since it is reported on the authority of Imran ibn Hussain as well as Abu Bakrah. Imam Ahmad said he did not know. 

Here we see that Hasan did not have proper dhabt of the narration. This teaches us that this occurs from reliable transmitters and unreliable ones. The end result is that the narration is graded as weak, as we are unable to decipher which of the narrations is correct.

A Mudtarib hadith is a hadith that has been transmitted in different, irreconcilable ways, regardless of the reliability of the common link or Madar.

Example: In the hadith of Abu Bakr as recorded by Imam at-Tirmidhi, it is said the Prophet ﷺ said, “Hud and its sisters have turned my hair white.”

Imam ad-Daraqutni commenting on this says, “It is mudtarib, since it is not reported except by way of Abu Ishaq, and the reporters from him report it in about 10 different ways, some reporting it as being mursal, others as being mawsul; some declaring it to be from Abu Bakr, some from Sa’d and some from Aishah and in other ways. And its narrators are reliable and it is not possible to prefer some over others or to harmonize.” If it is possible to reconcile them, then it cannot be called mudtarib.

In the hadith of Fatimah bint Qays as recorded by Imam at-Tirmidhi, it is said the Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily there is a right due upon wealth other than the Zakaat.” However, Imam Ibn Majah’s narration from her is, “There is no right due upon wealth other than Zakat.”

Commenting on this Imam al-’Iraqi says, “So this is an idtirab which cannot be explained away.” There is uncertainty on the part of a particular narrator with regard to the isnad (chain of narration) or matn (text) of the report. Hence it may be said that xx narrator was confused concerning it, so sometimes he said one thing, and sometimes he said something else.

وَآخِرُ الأقسَامِ مَا كَانَ وُضِعْ … وَعَزْوُهُ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ قَدْ مُنِعْ

18. The last category is the forged and made (wudi’)
Quoting it from the Prophet has been forbade

A Mawdu’ narration is the weakest of narrations. These are fabricated ahadith which are created or invented and then attributed to be the words of the Prophet ﷺ. 

Imam al-Nawawi said, “A Mawdu’ hadith is hadith which is made or created and it is the worst dhaeef hadith.” [Tadrib al-Rawi]

There are many ways forgery can happen. Some include:

  • Forging a text because you have come up with it or come across a good quote that you want to be attributed to the Prophet ﷺ.
  • Take a hadith and corrupt it to suit your desires.
  • Invent chains to a certain hadith for an ulterior motive with regard to certain narrators. 

It was narrated that Ali said: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Do not tell a lie against me for whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally) then he will surely enter the Hell-fire." [Bukhari] We see that this was a form of a prophecy that the Prophet gave us about the liars and forgers who would come in the Ummah later. 

Example: In the Mu’jam of Imam al-Tabarani we see: 

حدثنا محمد بن أحمد أبو النعمان بن شبل البصري، حدثنا أبي حدثنا عن أبي مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ النُّعْمَانِ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ الْعَلَاءِ الْبَجَلِي، عَنْ عَبْدِ الكريم أبي أُمَيَّةَ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلى الله عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ: " مَنْ زَارَ قَبْرَ أَبَوَيْهِ أَوْ أَحَدِهِمَا فِي كُلِّ جُمْعَةٍ غفِرَ لَهُ وَكُتِبَ بَرًّا "، لا يُرْوَى عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، إِلَّا بِهَذَا الْإِسْنَادِ

Muhammad ibn al-Nu’man - Yahya ibn al-’Ala al-Bajali - Abd al-Karim Abi Umayyah - Mujahid - Abu Hurairah from the Prophet ﷺ who said, “Whoever visits the graves of his parents or one of them every Friday, he will be forgiven and (also) considered as dutiful. 

Imam Abu Hatim ar-Razi commenting on this said, “The isnad of this narration is inconsistent. The matn of the hadith is of a very high degree of munkar and highly objectionable. It is as though it has probably been forged.”

  • This hadith is not transmitted to us in any other form except for this single unique chain. There is no proof that this hadith was in existence before Muhammad ibn al-Nu’man started to transmit it. 
  • This is even strange in the case of Abu Hurairah. He was a sahabi who was blessed to have hundreds of students. So for this narration to be reported by just one narrator, raises a major red flag. 
  • This narration is being transmitted by discredited narrators in its chain.
  • The content being transmitted itself is problematic and goes against some established and authentic narrations present in the Shariah.  
  • Abu Hurairah was known to be extremely dutiful to his mother. Allegedly being the narrator of this narration, we should have had multiple reports of at least him practicing this narration.

وَنَاظِمُ الأَقْسَامِ لِلْبَيَانِ … هُوَ الفَقِيْرُ عَابِدُ الرَّحْمَنِ

19. In verses measured, let me proclaim,
The destitute servant of Rahman's name,

نَجْلُ أبي بِكْرِ الشَّهِيرِ ذِي الحَسَبْ مَنِ ارْتَقَى بِعِلْمِهِ أَعْلَى الرُّتَبْ

20. The son of Abu Bakr, renowned and famed,
In knowledge, he soared, his rank unblamed.

عَلَيْهِ رَحْمَةُ الإلَهِ الخَالِقِ … الوَاسِعِ الرَّحْمَةِ لِلْخَلَائِقِ

21. May Allah's Mercy on him descend,
The Creator's compassion knows no end.

ثُمَّ صَلَاةُ اللهِ وَ السَّلَامُ … عَلَى الَّذِي ظلَّلَهُ الغَمَامُ

22. Then, blessings and peace on the clouded one,
Muhammad, the moon, the chosen one.

مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِهِ الأَطْهَارِ … وَصَحْبِهِ مَشَارِقِ الأَنْوَارِ

23. His family pure, a radiant light,
And his companions, gleaming bright.

مَا نَزلَ الوَدْقُ مِنَ السَّحَابِ … وَمَا بَدَى البَدْرُ مِنَ الغِيَابِ

24. So long dew falls from the shrouded skies,
So long does the moon from absence arise

This is Part 2 of the explanation of Ilham al-Mughith. Read Part 1 here.

Based on the translation and explanation of Sheikh Abdullah Moataz.

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