Importance of scrutinizing the chain of transmission(Isnad) for ahadeeth – A hearty advice to Sunnis.


Importance of scrutinizing the chain of transmission(Isnad) for ahadeeth – A hearty advice to Sunnis.

Bismillaahi Walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi.

In today’s day and age many Sunnis have a misconception that, any hadeeth(narration) present in a Sunni book of hadeeth or a book of history(tareekh), is acceptable and reliable. They take for granted any report or narration that is quoted from a Sunni reference. Therefore, the Rafidah and other innovators have taken an undue advantage of this misconception present among many lay Sunnis, by using unreliable and weak narrations present in the Sunni books, in order to justify their innovated and corrupt beliefs. But the fact is that, ahadeeth(narrations) present in Sunni books of hadeeth collection[Except Sahihayn] or history are to be scrutinized and verified,  as per the standard rules of hadeeth science, in order to find out which of the narration or report is Sahih/Hasan (authentic/good) and which is Dhaeef (weak) or even Mawdoo (fabricated). Therefore, once those ahadeeth are scrutinized, we will find in those collections that; some of the narrations are correct, whereas others are incorrect and unreliable.

One of the most important conditions for the authenticity of each narration depends on the Isnad (chain of transmitters): if the narration was transmitted by reliable narrators, then it would be accepted as valid, but if it was transmitted by unreliable people, then the narration is to be disregarded. The Isnad(chain of transmission) system was developed uniquely by the Muslim nation.  The Isnad system is where one states his sources of information, in turn tracing that narrative all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad(saw) or the main narrator like the companion of Prophet Muhammad(saw) or the Taba’ee. Early Muslims were adamant on ensuring that the true Islamic teachings were correctly transmitted to the coming generations. The system of Isnad was introduced by them to carefully scrutinize who is transmitting the truth and who falsehood. Each and every aspect of the people in the chain were carefully scrutinized to identify the authenticity of that knowledge conveyed.

Therefore, the readers must know that it is obligatory upon every Muslim to accept and rely only on those narrations and reports, whose source of transmission is authentic and reliable. They should avoid those narrations which are related from incriminated and criticized narrators or unknown and anonymous narrators and from obstinate people of innovation. Since the Sunnah forms an essential part of Islam, accepting a hadeeth from a certain person is similar to taking one’s religion from him.  Hence, one must be careful only to take his religion from people who are trustworthy and who can trace what they have said back to the Prophet(saw) and this can only be done through the use of the Isnad.

 

What is the importance of Isnad?

The importance of the Isnad has been eloquently stated by Ameer al-Momineen fi’l-hadeeth Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak who said, {“The Isnad is part of the religion. If it were not for the Isnad anyone would say whatever he wishes to say”}. Indeed, the Isnad has been essential in separating the authentic from the weak hadeeth and in identifying the fabricated hadeeth.  Even today, no one can dare narrate a hadeeth without possibly being asked to provide the source of that hadeeth.  Ibn al-Mubaarak continued and said, {“If you ask the person where he got the hadeeth from he will [be forced to] become silent.”}  The Isnad acted and acts as a type of guarantee or safeguard for the authenticity of the hadeeth.  The early scholars of hadeeth would not even consider a hadeeth if it had no known Isnad to it. Concerning the importance of the Isnad, Sufyaan al-Thauri (d. 161) said, “The Isnad is the sword of the believer.  Without his sword with him with what will he fight?”  By the use of the Isnad, the Muslim scholars were able to eradicate (or “fight”) the innovations that some people tried to bring into Islam.

In conclusion, one may state that the Isnad is an essential component of every hadeeth as without it there is no way for anyone to verify the authenticity of the narration.  Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak certainly spoke the truth when he said that without the Isnad anyone is free to say whatever he wishes to say and claim that it is part of the religion of Islam; Because we know of the case of Paul and the origins of many Christian beliefs.  Paul, of course, never met Jesus(as).  He could not trace his teachings back to Jesus(as) and, in fact, he met opposition from many of Jesus’ own companions.  Unfortunately, the historical authenticity and tracing of claims back to the original teacher, Jesus, is something that did not truly develop in Christian thought.  Hence, their religion became very distorted and distant from the true teachings of Jesus(as).

Therefore, the importance of the Isnad and its scrutinization is, in fact, very obvious and very few have ever questioned its importance.

 

Views of some esteemed classical Sunni scholars, concerning the importance of the Isnad and its scrutinization.

The concept of verifying the Isnad(chain of transmission) of a report is found in the command of Allah(swt) in Quran, where we read: You who have iman! if a deviator brings you a report, scrutinize it carefully in case you attack people in ignorance and so come to greatly regret what you have done. (Quran 49:6)

(i). al-Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin states:“ The science of chain of authority and narration of hadith is deen(religion) itself. You should check whom you are receiving your deen from.” [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 14.]

(ii). Sa‘d ibn Ibrahim narrated:“Nobody should narrate the knowledge of Allah’s Messenger(saw) except the reliable authorities.”[Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15.]

(iii). Ameer al-Momineen fi’l-hadeeth Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, states:“Al-Isnad (the chain of transmission) is a necessary part of deen(religion). If it were not for the Isnad anyone would say whatever he wishes to say.” [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15.]

(iv). Al-Imam Malik said:“Be God fearing and scrutinize the credibility of the person whom you are receiving this knowledge from.” [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 124.]

(v). Al-Imam ash-Shafi‘i said: “The one who accepts the knowledge from somebody without the sanad(chain of transmission) is like a person carrying a bundle of wood with a snake in it and he does not know. It may bite him (anytime).”[al-Bayhaqi, al-Madkhal ila as-Sunan al-Kubra, p. 211.]

(vi). Ibn ‘Uyayna said:“A hadith without any chain of transmission is nothing. Certainly the chains of transmission are a ladder of the texts by which one reaches the texts.” [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 393.]

(vii). Hammad ibn Zayd said: We visited Anas ibn Sirin in his disease. So he said, ‘Be God-fearing, O group of the youths, and scrutinize the credibility of the person whom you are receiving these ahadith from, because this is your deen(religion).” [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 122.]

(viii). Al-Imam Ibn Sirin stated: “Before the fitna, they never felt any necessity to ask about the chain (because all authorities before the period of fitna were undoubtedly honest, truthful, trustworthy and reliable). After this fitna had occurred they started asking the narrator to mention their chain of authority before them; and if the knowledge of deen(religion) was narrated from an authority belonging to Ahl as-Sunna they used to accept his transmission; and if he belonged to Ahl al-Bid‘a they rejected it.” [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15; and Tirmidhi in al-‘Ilal, p. 739.]

(ix). Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reports in al-Kifaya (p. 121) through ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar(ra) that the Prophet(saw) said: “O Ibn ‘Umar! Your deen is your faith. Indeed it is but your flesh and blood (it is your life). Therefore, you should be very careful about whom you are receiving it from. Receive it from the pious and the steadfast and do not take it from those who are leaning astray.”

(x). Allamah Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah states: “The isnad(chain of transmission) is one of the exclusive virtuous characteristics and Allah’s great blessings on this Ummah. It is also a great peculiarity of the deen(religion) of Islam and it is a salient identity of Ahl as-Sunna. The Rafidah did not pay great attention to isnad, because they confirmed only such as accorded to their desires and the sign of a false isnad (in their eyes) was opposing their desires.”So, Allah created for us trusty reporters for chains of transmission and promulgation of deen because both chains of transmission and promulgation are of the characteristics of Ummah. (Minhaj as-Sunna an-Nabawiyya, vol. 7, p. 37)

You who have iman! if a deviator brings you a report, scrutinize it carefully in case you attack people in ignorance and so come to greatly regret what you have done. .(Quran 49:6)

2 thoughts on “Importance of scrutinizing the chain of transmission(Isnad) for ahadeeth – A hearty advice to Sunnis.

  1. Assalamualaikum…

    Thanks for another beautiful article, brother.
    Just as a suggestion. Under heading “What is the important of Isnad”, you might want to include verse 6 of surah Al-Hujuraat just to show that isnad also has its root from Al-Quran itself.

    Jazakallah…

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