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True hadiths and the fabricated ones Essay

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Updated: Dec 6th, 2019


Muslims derive the laws that govern them from many sources. The Qur’an is the most important source of law for the Muslims, followed by the Hadith. Hadith is the compilation of the words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

The companions were the students of Prophet Muhammad. These compilations have been passing down many generations up to the present. Many scholars have tried to expound on the hadith throughout history. Their writings have also been included in the hadith.

However, some hadiths are not authentic because their writers either altered their original meanings or falsified some facts. This discussion therefore looks into the efforts of scholars in trying to distinguish between the true hadiths from the fabricated ones in order to prevent the Muslims from being misled.

The Science of Hadith

The hadith is divided into two parts. The first part includes the words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad and his companions (matn) while the other part contains the chain of transmitters of the information from Prophet Muhammad through many generations (isnad).

Muslims look at the chain of transmitters in determining what text are authentic. Each hadith has the text, the chain of reporters and the first sentence of the text (taraf). The hadith is classified by Muslims into four sections.

The first consists of the statements of the Prophet Muhammad, the second includes his deeds, the third includes the deeds of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions, and the fourth contains Allah’s inspired words through Prophet Muhammad, which are not written in the Qur’an (Kamali 7).

The science of the hadith involves the quest of hadith scholars to assess the narrations contained in the hadith in order to separate the true accounts from the ones that have been fabricated. The science of hadith enhances the understanding of the Qur’an by the Muslims.

There is a raging controversy on whether the hadith should continue being used as a source of religious instruction. Opponents of the hadith cite reasons like its inaccuracy and irrelevance in the modern setting.

Authentication of the hadith was necessary as some hadiths contain misleading facts due to inaccuracy of the text, forgetfulness of some facts by the reporters and deceitfulness and fabrication of other texts. Since the days of Prophet Muhammad, authenticity of the hadith was a matter of great concern.

For instance, Prophet Muhammad told the companions not to write down his teachings because he did not want people to confuse his words with those of Allah. Later the Prophet asked the companions to write down his teachings but emphasized on truthfulness and accuracy in their recordings (Hasan 23).

When assessing the authenticity of the narrations of the hadith, the scholars examine various aspects. They examine the reference to a certain authority, the number of reporters involved in the narration, the memory strength and reliability of reporters, whether the links of isnad are interrupted or not, and the nature of the content and the isnad (Khan 40).

Four categories of hadith can be derived when examining them according to the reference to a certain authority. The hadith that is a revelation from God is classified as divine or Qudsi while that which is a narration from Prophet Muhammad is termed as elevated or Marfu. A hadith that is a companion’s narration only is classified as stopped (or Mauquf) while that which is from a successor is referred to as severed or Maqtu. The successors were the students of the companions (Khan 43).

When assessing the authenticity of the hadith according to the links of isnad, several categories are obtained. The first category is the Supported or Musnad, which refers to a hadith narrated by someone on the basis of the knowledge he gained from his teacher at a suitable learning time, and the chain of reporters proceed to a well known companion and finally to Prophet Muhammad.

Another category is Continuous or Muttasil, which describes a hadith with an uninterrupted chain of reporters going back only to a companion or a successor. The hurried or Mursal hadith is one in which there is no link between the successor and the Prophet. The successor directly quotes the Prophet without the link of a companion.

A broken hadith or Munqati is one with a missing link before the successor. In a perplexing hadith or Muadal, the reporter does not include two or more successive reporters in the isnad. Another category is Muallaq or hanging hadith in which the reporter omits the whole chain of reporters and directly quotes the Prophet. He does not quote anyone else in the chain of reporters (Hasan 32).

Another approach that the scholars use in determining the authenticity of the hadith is through examining the number of reporters at each stage of the isnad. From this assessment, the scholars have come up with five categories. The scholars classify a hadith as consecutive or Mutawatir if a very large number of people were involved in its reporting.

The scholars assume that a large number of people is not capable of coming up with as consistent fabrication, and therefore that hadith is declared authentic. A hadith that is narrated by fewer reporters than the Mutawir is referred to as an isolated hadith or Ahad. Isolated hadiths can fall in three classes.

The first one is Mash’hur or famous hadith, which is narrated by more than two reporters. A rare or strong hadith (Aziz) is narrated by only two reporters at any stage of the chain of reporters. A hadith that is narrated by only one reporter at any stage of the isnad is referred to as a strange hadith or Gharib. The fewer the reporters of a hadith, the less authentic it becomes (Hasan 37).

In assessing the authenticity of the hadith according to the nature of the isnad and the text, two categories are derived. A denounced hadith or Munkar is used to refer to a hadith whose narrator is weak and the narration contradicts another hadith, which is considered authentic. An interpolated hadith or Mudraj is a narration that is an addition to the hadith being narrated (A’zami 49).

The scholars also gauge the authenticity of a hadith based on the memory strength and reliability of the reporters. This procedure is used as the final test of whether a hadith should be declared authentic or not. From this assessment, four categories of hadiths are obtained.

A hadith is termed to be sound or Sahih if its narrator upholds his religion, has a reputation of reporting true narrations, fully understands what he is reporting without changing anything, and reports the exact words of the hadith. Moreover, the isnad of a sound hadith should be continuous, and the reporters at each stage of the chain should have a good reputation and strong memory. The text should also not have any inconsistencies or mistakes.

Another category is a good hadith or Hasan. This is one whose reporters are clear and the source is known. A weak or Da’if hadith is one that does not meet the requirements of Hasan or good hadith. The reasons for the weakness of a hadith could be due to discontinuity or if one of the reporters has a negative reputation of either fabrication of ideas, differing with authentic sources or lacking clarity in his reporting. Another category is the Maudu or fabricated hadith.

A hadith is termed as fabricated if the text is inconsistent with the known Prophet’s words or some of the reporters have a reputation of lying. A fabricated hadith will also have inconsistencies in the dates that certain well-known events took place. Such fabricated hadiths can mislead the Muslims and therefore should be identified and abandoned (Azizullah 37).


The science of hadith is concerned with examining the hadith and determining which ones are authentic and which are fabricated. The hadiths were passed down from Prophet Muhammad, to the companions, then the successors and other reporters through many generations and therefore, there is a possibility of distortion of the message.

Therefore, scholars have used several methodologies to find out which hadiths are truly authentic and to discard the fabricated ones. Authentication of the hadiths is important because it prevents the Muslims from being misled by forged hadiths that give falsehoods and contradict the truth.

Works Cited

A’ẓami, Muḥammad, Muṣṭafa. Studies In Hadith Methodology And Literature. USA: American Trust Publications, 1977. Print

Azizullah, Muhammad. Glimpses of the Hadith. UK: Crescent Publications, 1973. Print

Hasan, Suhaib. An introduction to the science of Hadith. Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996. Print

Kamali, Mohammad, Hashim. A Textbook of Ḥadith Studies: Authenticity, Compilation, Classification, And Criticism Of Ḥadith. Great Britain: Islamic Foundation, 2009. Print

Khan, Israr, Ahmad. Authentication of Hadith: Redefining the Criteria. London: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2011. Print

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