Rafed English

Jarh and Ta’dil

After finishing discussion on hadith books, I an going to talk about jarh (sarcasm) and ta’dil, saying: When riwayah was inflicted with that corruption, and sahih traditions were mixed with incorrect ones, with capricious and irreligious people allowing themselves to falsify and fabricate traditions, ascribing them to the Messenger of Allah, for satisfying their desires and due to differences in conditions of narrators, among whom there being those lacking accuracy and reliability – the two provisions necessary for veracity of narration—some notable ulama’ undertook the task of criticizing the narrators so as to make people – through studying their biography – acquainted with the level of the narrations reported by them. This criticism was called ‘jarh and ta’dil’.

Muslim reported from Muhammad ibn Sirin as saying: This knowledge is verily a religion, so you should know well from whom you take your Din. He said too: They were not inquiring about isnad (chain of transmitters), but when fitnah (sedition) occurred they started to say: Bring in the names of your rijal.

Al-Nawawi said: Criticizing (jarh) the narrators is permissible, and rather is obligatory as agreed by ulama’ in cases of necessitating exigency, for the purpose of safeguarding the holy Shari’ah, and it can’t be considered of forbidden backbiting, but rather it is a counsel sincerely for sake of God and His Messenger (S) and the Muslims.

Scrutiny is something prescribed and called to by the Qur’an, when the Most High said: “O ye who believe! If an evil-liver bring you tidings, verify it, …” (49:6), and said: “… and call to witness two just men among you…”, and also said:”… of such as ye approve as witnesses…”. In another place He praised saying: How excellent a slave! Lo! He was ever turning in repentance (toward Allah)”.And He censured saying: “Detracter, spreader abroad of slander. Hinderer of the good, transgressor, malefactor. Greedy therewithal, intrusive”.

It is known that criticizing the rijal was an ordinary practice from the lifetime of the Messenger (S). Ibn Adiyy (d.365H.), in the introduction to the book al-Kamil, has cited number of rijal belonging to his time, among whom we can refer to the Companions: Ibn Abbas (68) and Ubadah ibn al-Samit (34). And among the Tabi’un, we can refer to al-Shi’bi whose age exceeded one hundred years, and Ibn Sirin (110) and Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab (190).

It is said that Shu’bah, who used to call al-Shi’bi with the title Amir al-Mu’minin in hadith, was the first to comment on rijal, and he was born in 82 H. and dead in 160H.

He mentioned many critics of the 2nd century. What he said about this century: In its beginnings there were some unreliable narrators among the Tabi’un, the weakness of most of whom often originated before their being able to control the exactitude and correctness of hadith, as they used to narrate many mursal traditions and make the mawquf as marfu’, with committing several mistakes.
The most eminent critics in the end of the 2nd century were the authority Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan (198) and Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi (198). Since they were both trusted by people, whoever was deemed trustworthy by them would attain approval among people, and that deemed untrustworthy by them would be of no worth among people. And in regard of one concerning whom difference of opinion was there, people would refer to what they preponderated. The first one undertaking the task of collecting his utterance on jarh and ta’dil was Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan. After him, another one of his disciples, Yahya ibn Mu’in (d.233), had a commentary too, in which his opinions and expressions differed regarding some of the rijal. Among the disciples of Yahya ibn Mu’in we can refer to Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241) and Ali ibn al-Midyani (d.224) and others.

About this subject a commend is ascribed to Muhammad ibn Sa’d (d.230), the scribe of al-Waqidi in his Tabaqat, whose statement was good and reasonable.

I am not to cite the names of all those who discussed the subject of jarh and ta’dil as this being out of scope here.

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

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