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Their Leniency toward Narrations on Virtues and their Detriment

Ibn Mahdi is reported to have said: “Whenever narrating any hadith about halal (lawful) and haram (unlawful) rules, we would be very strict in the asanid (chains of transmission) with scrutinizing the rijal. And when relating anything on virtues, reward and punishment, we would show leniency in the asanid and indulgence in respect of rijal”. (Reported by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal).

Among those permitting leniency in narrating the hadith when being concerned with the good deeds, it can be referred to the names of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak. Al-Hakim said: I heard Abu Zakariyya al-Anbari say: When the report (khabar) is neither forbidding what is lawful nor legalizing what is unlawful, nor obligating a rule related to temptation or intimidation, it should be overlooked with being negligent regarding its narration. And Ahmad has another opinion in this regard, that will be exposed later on.

Ibn Abd al-Barr says: The traditions on virtues need not any argument or proof ... and the scholars in the past never showed that strictness in respect of reporting them from whomsoever of the narrators, without investigating deeply as they used to do with traditions on ahkam (rules).173

In his commentary on the statement of the author of al-Adab al-Shar’iyyah (Ibn Muflih174), that it is reported on the authority of al-Imam Ahmad what is indicating that it is unnecessary to adhere to the weak hadith on virtues and recommendable acts (mustahabbat), al-Sayyid Rashid Rida says: “May God be pleased with Ahmad, what vast knowledge and accurate comprehension has he!!... Verily to believe in acting in accordance with the weak hadith in the cases he referred to and calling to showing leniency in narrating it, opened for the Ummah a door for ghuluww (extravagance) in religion and multiplying the trouble-seeking rituals (‘ibadat), that are incongruous with the easy teachings of Islam, beside even making some of them among the rites of the Din. All this, beside incompetence of many people in establishing the obligatory prayers and abiding by and fulfilling the duties, the fact leading consequently to accept and believe in the Israeliyyat, superstitions and dreams, as reported by a latter compiler on the authority of Ibn Taymiyyah who said: The ‘ibadat (rituals) and virtues decisively confirmed in the Book (Qur’an) and Sunnah are quite sufficient for the Ummah. And I wish there were a large number of people falling not short of fulfilling them.”

Really true is the utterance of these religious leaders and what they manifested regarding the disadvantages caused by narration of the weak and unauthentic traditions to the Ummah, due to the practice followed by some of these leaders (imams) in respect of virtues.

Therefore, al-Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi al-Maliki said: “It is absolutely impermissible to act according to the weak traditions.”175


173. Jami' bayan al-'ilm, vol.I, p.45.

174. Al-Adab al-Shar'iyyah, vol.II, pp.313, 314. Another narration is ascribed to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, in which he held that it can be acted according to the weak hadith in virtuous deeds.

175. Al-Manar, vol.XXXI, p.129.

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

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