Types of Hadith: Understanding the Difference

Hadiths are categorized in many categories for a number of purposes but here we have categorized them into five main categories.

  1. Grade A – Sahih 
  2. Grade B – Hasan
  3. Grade C –  Da’eef (Weak)
  4. Grade D – Da’eef  Jid’aan (Very Weak)
  5. Grade F – Fail/Fabricated

As far as the Grade F i.e Fabricated Hadith is concerned it is something that our Prophetﷺ  never said, we know it is a lie.

For example, the infamous fabricated Hadith;

Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China, this has fabricated Hadith, Prophetﷺ never uttered it. We know exactly who fabricated it, so this is fabricated Hadith.

The only difference between the Sahih and Hassan Hadith is the quality of narrators.

For example, we have Grade A and Grade B students. They’re both good, they’re both above average, both are passing the class with good.

So from the above example Hassan Hadith is Grade B.

Hassan Hadith  is essentially an authentic Hadith unless it clashes with the Sahih Hadith .

In that case we give precedence to Sahih over Hassan. Otherwise Grade A and B good enough.

Now Grade C and D there’s something called Da’eef and there’s something called Da’eef Jid’aan.
Da’eef is a weak Hadith and there are over 35 reasons for a Hadith to be weak.

The most common one is the person in the chain is unknown or there’s a missing link, a very small missing link.Example of a Da’eef  Hadith is;

When one narrator who was born in 100 Hijra narrates from Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه‎ who died in 57 Hijra .

One may ask
How did the guy born in 100 Hijra or born in 80 Hijra hear from Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه?
There’s a missing link, right?

This is typically an early Islam when the things were not fully quoted.
So this is a Da’eef Hadith, we don’t know.

What does it mean a Hadith is Da’eef ?

It means we are not certain, maybe the Prophet said it may He didn’t, we are uncertain.

In Da’eef  Jid’aan, we are fairly certain that He did not say it, but Da’eef  Jid’aan is not an intentional fabrication. It’s a mistake from one of the narrators. Some narrator made a mistake, somebody messed up something, but it’s not a fabrication. A fabrication means we know somebody intentionally lied. 

So, Da’eef  Jid’aan for our purposes, we throw it out the window, it’s clearly an error, but it’s not a fabrication.

Now the controversy comes over only category C, which is Da’eef and in a nutshell, the vast majority of scholars from early Islam to medieval Islam, to pre-modern Islam. 13th centuries of scholarship.

This is so much so that many Ulama even said there is Ii’jima or there is Iti’faak of the Ulama.

They said, Da’eef Hadith can never be used for theology.

You cannot derive Aqida from a from a Da’eef Hadith and you cannot base a ruling of Halal and Haram from a Da’eef Hadith.

But the vast majority of scholars said, you may use it in what is called Nafl actions or supererogatory, or Fa’dae’il or encouragement.

So to encourage people to do something generically, good, you may use the Da’eef Hadith. This is the explicit, it’s the opinion of hundreds of Ulama, and  the most famous amongst them beginning with him is Imam Ahmad-Ibn Hanbal himself.

He said, when we narrate a Hadith about Halal and Haram, he made a fist, he said; Shad’adna we make it strict. And then when we narrate Hadith about other things, He opened his hand to say; Sahalna, we make it easy.

About Fa’dae’il, He made it easy. This is Imam Ahmad-Ibn Hanbal, and Ibn Abdal Barr and Imam An-Nawawi in his famous commentary on the book of the sciences of Hadith Rawdat Al Talibin, one of the most famous commentaries of the books of Hadith.

Ibn-Salah wrote a book about the Hadith and the science of Hadith. Imam An-Nawawi commented on it.

And in it, he says there is consensus of the Ulema. In other words, he didn’t have any difference of opinion. There is consensus of the Ulema that a weak Hadith maybe used as long as some conditions are met.

  1. Number one, it is used in Fa’dae’il as we said, encouraging good things or talking about generically, something bad, and everybody knows it is bad, but a Hadith comes with a specific reward or a specific punishment. We may use that.
  2. Number two, that it is not Haram and Halal, it is not theology.
  3. Some have added number three, that the one who narrates the Hadith should tell the audience that it is a weak Hadith, number three is that some Ulema didn’t accept.

This had been the famous methodology for outmost of Islam. However many later scholars began to be very lax and they began using Da’eef Jid’aan maybe even fabricated and it became something very common, especially after, medieval time, from from around 900 or 1000 Hijra.

The science of Hadith, there really was no great Mujaddid to come in the sciences of Hadith. So, scholars became very lax, if it’s found in some books somewhere, we can quote it. And this led to a counter reaction.

What was that counter reaction?

As Newton’s law says, For every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction.

So there’s also something in Islamic theology for every extremism, there is always an equal and opposite counter extremism.

Take this as a rule of thumb throughout Islamic history. Every time one group did one thing extreme, another group does another thing to counter it in an extreme manner and we cannot react emotionally we are Ummatan wa’satta but this is human nature.

When this extreme laxity came, one of our great scholars of the previous generation Shaykh Muhammad Nasir-ud-din Al-Albani.

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