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Disagreement Regarding Jarh and Ta’dil

There was disagreement among ulama’ of jarh in regard of jarh and ta’dil proportionate to difference of their schools (madhahib) and conditions.

Al-Hazimi, in Shurut al-A’immah al-Khamsah, says: The leaders (imams) of naql (reporting), with their multifarious madhahib and inconsistent states in usage of items, differ in most of them. There may be a narrator regarded trustworthy by Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi but deemed defamed by Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan, and vice verse. And it is known that these two were notable imams, being axis of criticism in naql, and from whom most of traditions were taken.

Abu ‘Isa al-Tirmidhi said: Some of men of hadith have commented against a group of venerable ulama’, charging them with weakness, before their being memorizers, while others deemed them reliable due to their venerated status and truthfulness, though they might have misconceived in some narrations. Then Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan spoke against Muhammad ibn ‘Amr, reporting from him afterwards. Further, Ibn Abi Layla used to narrate something in one way, narrating it in another way another time without any isnad, as this was done out of his memory, due to the fact that most of the earlier men of knowledge were never writing down the traditions, and those who wrote down had done this only after hearing.637

Following are some samples of their disagreement,638 I cite just as examples not for the sake of restriction, since this task requires a separate full book.

1- Ahmad ibn Salih al-Misri, Abu Ja’far ibn al-Tabari, one of the learned pious leaders of hadith, having both knowledge of fiqh and of hadith. From him many traditions were reported by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud, and he was deemed reliable by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Mu’in and Ali ibn al-Midyani and others. But al-Nasa’i had a had opinion of him, as once he mentioned him saying: He is neither a thiqah (trustworthy) nor reliable!

2- Ahmad ibn al-Miqdam ibn Sulayman al-‘Ijli, who was deemed trustworthy by Abu Hatam and al-Nasa’i. About him Abu Dawud said: I never report hadith from him since he used to teach the impudent how to jest.

3- Khalid ibn Mukhallad al-Qutwani al-Kufi, who was one of the eminent shaykhs of al-Bukhari, from whom he reported and from another narrator from him. Al-Ijli says: He is a thiqah in whom there is tashayyu’. About him Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: He had (reported) some munkar (disapproved) traditions.

From him al-Bukhari singly reported the hadith: “Whoever contracts the enmity of a friend of mine…etc.”,639 which was considered by the traditionists as one of the odd traditions reported by al-Bukhari. Some of the leaders of hadith deemed some of his rijal to be unreliable, with being charged with reporting from those known of narrating weak and disapproved traditions, by Ibn Abi al-Dunya and al-Tabarrani through asanid about each of which there is lengthy discussion.

4- Ikrimah, mawla of Ibn Abbas, who was counted as authority (in argument) by al-Bukhari and authors of Sunan, but ignored by Muslim. Also Ibn Sirin said to his mawla Burd: Don’t tell me lies as done by Ikrimah against Ibn Abbas.

5- Al-Waqidi: He was deemed as a liar by al-Shafi’i and trustworthy by others. In Tahdhib al-Tahdhib it is said about him: There is concurrence that he being the most knowledgeable among ulama’ of the cult (millah)! Al-Thawri had a commentary on Abu Hanifah, Ibn Mu’in on al-Shafi’i, and al-Dhuhali on al-Bukhari.

The author of al-‘Ilm al-shamikh said: Opinions and judgements of people regarding jarh and ta’dil differed, as we find views differing in regard of one narrator , in a way once he would be labelled as Amir al-Mu’minin, and another time as the biggest liar, or something similar to these expressions.
Herewith is an all-inclusive statement about this subject, uttered by al-Sayyid Rashid Rida (may God’s mercy be upon him):

“Authenticating everyone deemed trustworthy by the earliers, though the opposite is proved , opens the door for defamation against ourselves, by discarding the proof (dalil), adopting its preliminaries in respect of taqlid (imitation), and contradicting the guidance of the holy Qur’an”.640
Al-Allamah never adopted their rule of jarh and ta’dil of rijal in its absoluteness, saying:

“Everyone deemed as reliable unanimously by all earlier men of jarh and ta’dil, is verily reliable though proving to have for the latters some causes of jarh that were never found by the earliers. Those free-thinking men never approve of such utterance”. In the end of this book the reader will come across the complement to this discussion.

This saying and others, which were disclosed by this Allamah, had no alike by other Sunni ulama’, and no one could be found to have deeply studied the hadith, reaching the depth of its kernel and real knowledge, in the present time, or rather in many ages. No wonder for this since he being the most eminent among the disciples of al-Ustadh Muhammad Abduh, and his companion who undertook the task of propagating his knowledge and interpreting his madhhab, with complementing, preserving and writing it down. His position to him was like that of the companions of Abu Hanifah and al-Shafi’i to both of them, as stated before.641

Al-Wazir al-Yamani, in al-Rawd al-basim, writes: Many of leaders of jarh and ta’dil hesitate in regard of the narrator, authenticating him once and raising doubt about his reliability, another time, since taking his misconception into fold of multiplicity can never be measured with known balance, but it depends on surmise only and it necessitates investigation and strival (ijtihad) to be sure. His judging him turned to be like judgement of fuqaha’ regarding the surmise events, consequently Ibn Mu’in would have two views about the narrator: authentication and deeming with weakness, and alike.
To guard against wahm (misconception) is something infeasible, and infallibility (‘ismah) can never be trait of reliable narrators, but rather ismah never protects against wahm but only in propagation (tabligh).642 The Messenger of Allah (S) has imagined that he performed some obligatory prayers in complete forms, when Dhu al-Yadayn said to him: O Messenger of Allah, have you broken the prayer or forgotten that? In the Sahih the hadith was thus: And he (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny) said: May God’s mercy be on so and so, he reminded me of a verse I have forgotten. (This hadith was reported by Muslim).

Also in the two Sahihs, it is reported from ‘A’ishah as saying about Ibn Umar: he has never lied but misconceived.643

Here is an example on this: Abu Ja’far al-Razi ‘Isa ibn Mahan, and it is said: Abd Allah ibn Mahan, about whom al-Dhahabi said: ‘He was of good hadith’, narrating about him difference of opinion afterwards. Al-Hafiz Abd al-Azim said: There was disagreement in the views of Ibn al-Midyani and Ibn Mu’in and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Al-Midyani once said: He is thiqah, and another time said about him: He was commingling and confusing! Ahmad said once: He was not so strong (authentic), and another time he said: He is thiqah…he writes his hadith but commits mistakes. Abu Zar’ah al-Razi said: He is accused most of the time Al-Fallas said: He was of bad memory.

So there was uncertainty regarding his reliability, as knowing the limit of misconception with which the truthful should be forsaken, is something minute and assiduous about which there being two views for the memorizer, as there being two views by the faqih regarding the minute fiqhi issues.644 Al-Imam al-Shafi’i has abundantly narrated from Ibrahim ibn Abi Yahya al-Aslami, and authenticated him while being opposed by most of the traditionists in this regard. Ibn Abd al-Barr, in his Tamhid, said: All the traditionists unanimously concurred – except al-Shafi’i – concerning vilification (tajrih) of Ibn Yahya.645

I give here another example: Muhammad ibn Ishaq, the greatest historian in the field of first episodes of Islam. Qatadah said: People are still in knowledge as long as Muhammad ibn Ishaq is living among them. About him al-Nasa’i said: He was not so strong. Sufyan said: I have never heard anyone accusing Muhammad ibn Ishaq (with weakness). But al-Daraqutni said: Neither him nor his father can be taken as (reliable) authority. Malik said about him: I give witness that he is a liar.646


637. Tawjih al-nazar, pp.75, 76.

638. Ibid., p.101 and following pages.

639. When al-Dhahabi cited this hadith in biography of Khalid ibn Mukhallad al-Qatwani in al-Mizan he said: This is a very odd hadith, and if not be for the status of the Sahih I would have considered it one of Ibn Mukhallad's oddities. See the full text of the hadith in my book Shaykh al-mudirah, and it was reported by Abu Hurayrah.

640. Al-Manar Journal, vol.XXVII, p.615.

641. See p.34.

642. That is the Prophet's propagation from Allah.

643. Al-Rawd al-basim, vol.I, pp.80, 81.

644. Ibid., pp.135, 136.

645. Ibid., p.163.

646. Fajr al-Islam, p.366.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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