How do hadith scholars evaluate or rule the status of a narrator who narrates the hadith of the Prophet PBUH?
Waalaikumussalam wrm. wbt.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
In science of hadith, not all narrators who narrate the hadiths of the Prophet PBUH are considered at the same level. In fact, they are different from one another in various angles. The reason is, the knowledge or science of hadith can be divided into several parts and among them is the knowledge of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil where it discusses the evaluations of scholars of a narrator for it is closely related in the determination of the ruling or status of a certain hadith.
Hence, al-Jarh lexically means criticisms. As for the term, it means stating the flaws or faults of a narrator by which it would reject the narrations from him in terms of his trustworthiness or memorization. Whereas, al-Ta’dil literally means the acceptance of his speech. While the term means purification of narrator where his narrations are accepted. (See Taysir Dirasah al-Asanid li al-Mubtadi’in, 83)
According to Syeikh Muhammad ‘Ajaj al-Khathib, he defines the knowledge of al-jarh wa al-Ta’dil as the following:
العِلْمُ الَّذِي يَبْحَثُ فِي أَحْوَالِ الرُّوَاةِ مِنْ حَيْثُ قَبُولِ رِوَايَتِهِم أَوْ رَدِّهَا
“A science that discusses the relations of the situation of narrators, whether his narrations are accepted or rejected.” (See Usul al-Hadith, 168)
Thus, this series of Irsyad al-Hadith will discuss the levels of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil. According to Syeikh Mustafa al-Bugha in his book “Buhuth fi Ulum al-Hadith wa Nususuhu”, the summary for the explanation on the levels of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil is divided into six levels which are:
The level for al-Ta’dil (which shows the trustworthiness and piety of a narrator) is divided into six:
- First: Evaluation that comes with the phrases of ta’dil (attributes which show fairness and righteousness), but using the sighah “أَفْعَلَ” that shows mubalaghah (excessiveness) like “أَضْبَطُ النَّاسِ” (a person with great memory) and others.
- Second: Evaluation that comes with the attributes which show that there is no dispute on the fairness of a narrator such as “فلان لا يسأل عنه” (narrator of whom need not to be asked about) and others.
- Third: Evaluation with the phrases of ta’dil repeatedly, whether the repetition in terms of its meaning of through lafzi such as “ثقة ثقة” (greatly trusted) or “ثقة حافظ” (trustworthy and with great memorization) and others.
- Fourth: Evaluation with the phrases of singular ta’dil such as “ثقة” trustworthy, “الحافظ” (great memorization) and others.
- Fifth: Evaluation with the phrase which shows the goodness in the situation of the narrator or without the emphasize in terms of his memorization such as “صدوق” (a truthful person) or “لا بأس به” (there is no issue for his hadith) and others.
- Sixth: Evaluation with phrases which show that it is closer with the phrases of al-Jarh such as “ليس ببعيد من الصواب” (not far from the truth) or “صدوق إن شاء الله” (it can be trusted insya-Allah) and others.
The levels of al-Jarh (phrases which show defects on the narrator in terms of his trustworthiness or memorization), it is also divided into six:
First: Evaluation which comes with the al-Jarh phrases with sighah of “أَفْعَلَ” which shows mubalaghah (excessiveness) such as “أَكْذَبُ النَّاس” (great liar) or “ركن الكذب” (requisite of a liar) and others.
Second: Evaluation which comes with the phrases of al-Jarh on the narrator which is stated with sighah mubalaghah but of a lesser level compared to the first level such as “كذّاب” (liar) or “وضَاع” (hadith fabricator) and others.
Third: Evaluation with the phrases of al-Jarh which shows the accusation given towards the narrator as a liar or fabricator of hadith such as “متهم بالكذب” (accused as a liar), “يسرق الحديث” (stealing a hadith) or “متهم بالوضع ” (accused as a hadith fabricator) and others.
Fourth: Evaluation with the phrases of al-Jarh which portray the narrator as very weak or dhaif such as “رد حديثه” (his hadiths are abandoned), “لا يكتب حديثه” (his hadiths are not written) and others.
Fifth: Evaluation with al-Jarh phrases which only shows the weakness of the narrator or weakness on his memorization such as “ضعيف” or “لا يحتج به” (his narrations cannot be used as an argument) and others.
Sixth: Evaluations with al-Jarh phrases which shows the weakness of the narrator but it is closer to the level of fairness such as “غيره أوثق منه” (other narrators are more trustworthy than he is) or “ليس بذاك القوي” (not very strong) and others.
Books of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil
Among the books which discuss the related knowledge of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil or explain the status or about the narrators are:
- Kitab Tahzib al-Kamal by Imam al-Mizzi
- Kitab Tahzib al-Tahzib dan Taqrib al-Tahzib by Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani
- Kitab al-Thiqat by Imam Ibn Hibban
- Kitab al-Dhu’afa’ wa al-Matrukin by Imam al-Nasa’ie
- Kitab al-Dhu’afa’ wa al-Matrukin by Imam al-Daraquthni
- Kitab al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil by Imam Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi
- Kitab al-Dhu’afa’ al-Kabir by Imam al-‘Uqailiy
- Kitab al-Mughni fi al-Dhu’afa’ by Imam al-Zahabi
- Kitab Tarikh Asma’ al-Dhu’afa’ wa al-Kazzabin by Imam Ibn Syahin
- Kitab al-Dhu’afa’ by Imam Abi Nu’aim al-Ashbahani
According to the above brief explanation related to the levels of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil, it can be concluded that the knowledge of al-Jarh wa al’Ta’dil is one of the branches of the science of hadith which is crucial in determining the status of a certain hadith whether it is sahih or toehrwise. Furthermore, not everyone is capable to determine the status of a narrator except if he is an expert in the science of hadith and has mastered all of its branches. Lastly, may Allah SWT make us from among His slaves who love the hadith of the Prophet OBUH and practise it in our lives. Amin.