Knowledge of Criticism of Narrations & Narrators

• Al-Jarh wa At-Tadil: A Sign of Islam: Its Legality and Benefits (First issue)

By: Professor `Abd al-Malik bin Dhafir al-Majuni (Kos - 2012-09-11




  • It’s Legality: The knowledge of Jarh wa at-Ta`dil (critiquing the narrators of hadeeth) has proofs from the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Ijma` (consensus):
  • First: Proofs from the Qur’an:
  1. Allah I said, “Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good.” (3:179)

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said in, Bada’i`u at-Tafsir, 1/536-537, “This verse is one of the treasures of the Qur’an which points to the wisdom of Allah I, which necessitates that he distinguishes the wicked from the good, and that differentiation only happens through His messengers.  Allah chooses among them whom He Wills, and sends them to His slaves; through their messages, the good is differentiated [from the wicked], the helper from the enemy, and who is fit to be a companion [of that messenger] and who is only fit to be fuel [for hellfire is differentiated]. 


This contains a notice of Allah’s wisdom in sending the messengers, which must happen.  It also shows that it is not befitting for Allah I to leave creation in a state of disorder, and that whoever denies his prophets has not given Allah a just estimate, known Him truly, or ascribed to Him what befits Him… so ponder this instance correctly, and give it its due right of thinking, because had there not been in this Book (the Qur’an) anything besides this verse, it would be one of the best lessons to be learnt, and Allah is the One who guides to the right way of conduct.”

  1. Allah I said, “O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.” (49:6)

This verse is a fundamental when it pertains to taking into account the `adala (uprightness; someone who possesses `adala [an `adl] is not a sinner or liar) and dhabt (trustworthiness; someone who possesses dhabt [a dhabit] does not have a weak memory or is quick to forget) of someone narrating, just as it is proof that it is obligatory to double check and ascertain as to the authenticity of the news brought by a sinner.  (1)

Ibn Taimiyyah said, “This also proves clearly that believing a single upright person is not forbidden always, and this proves that we can accept the testimony of one upright person…”  (2)

He also said, “This is a proof which shows that the report of one sinner should be ascertained, as for two or more sinners, then its indication needs to be established by it being introduced separately in the verse… ascertaining was only ordered for the report of one sinner, and not for two.  The report of two sinners necessitates more belief than the report of only one.”   (3)

  1. Allah I said, “And thus do We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, that the way of the Mujrimoon(criminals, polytheists, sinners), may become manifest.” (6:55)

Meaning, we explain and clarify it; we differentiate between the path of guidance and the path of misguidance; between the path of sin, and the path of good conduct.  Allah does this so that guidance may be granted to those who are guided, and so that the truth which must be treaded is clarified. “That the way of the Mujrimoon(criminals, polytheists, sinners), may become manifest.” This path leads to the anger and punishment of Allah.  If the way of the Mujrimun becomes manifest and clear, it makes avoiding it and distancing oneself from it possible, contrary to if it is doubtful and unclear, this lofty goal would not be achieved.   (4)

What is obligatory on the people of knowledge is to differentiate and embolden the truth, so that the guided may be guided by it, the misguided return to the truth, and the proof is established on the obstinate.  Allah has explained his verses and has clarified his proofs, so that truth is differentiated from falsehood, and so that the way of the guided becomes differentiated from the way of the wrong-doers.

Whoever from the people of knowledge acts on this is from the successors of the messengers and those who guided the nations, and whoever dresses the falsehood with the adornment of the truth has not differentiated between this (the truth) and that (the falsehood), although he knows of it and hides the truth that he knows and was ordered to embolden, then he is from the callers to hellfire.  This is because the people only emulate their scholars in the matters of their religion.   (5)

  1. Allah I said, “And take for witness two just persons from among you (Muslims). And establish the witness for Allah.” (65:2); and, “As adjudged by two just men among you.” (5:95)

In the first verse, Allah I orders that we ascertain reports, and in the other verse, Allah I requests that there be justice and pleasure with the testimony.

It is known that the order to ascertain reports in the first ayah is general, so that means that the reports from Allah and His Messenger are in this generality with all the more reason.

The request of contentment and justice in the hadeeth of the Prophet r – which is the religion of the Ummah and its legislation – is more deserving of requesting witness for it.   (6)

  • Second: Proofs from the Sunnah:
  1. `Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that a man asked permission to enter on the Prophet.  When the Prophet saw him, he said, “What an evil brother of his tribe!” When that man sat down, the Prophet r behaved with him in a nice and polite manner and engaged in a conversation with him.  When that person had left, `Aisha said [to the Prophet], “O Allah’s Messenger! When you saw that man, you said, “What an evil brother of his tribe” about him, then you showed him a kind and polite behavior, and you enjoyed his company?” Allah’s Messenger said, “O `Aisha! Have you ever seen me speaking a bad and dirty language? [Remember that] the worst people in Allah’s sight on the Day of Resurrection will be those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to be away from their evil (deeds).”    (7)

The proof in this hadeeth:

The proof is that the Prophet v spoke about that man in a censuring way when there was a religious benefit, to make note of the evil character of that man, and to warn the hearer from that.  (8)

  1. Fatimah bint Qais reported that Abu `Amr bin Hafs divorced her absolutely... the Prophet r said to her, “When your `Idda is over, inform me.” She said, “When my period of `Idda was over, I mentioned to him that Mu`awiyah bin Abi Sufyan and Abu Jahm had sent proposal of marriage to me, whereon Allah’s Messenger r said, “As for Abu Jahm, he does not put down his staff from his shoulder (he is abusive), and as for Mu`awiyah, he is a poor man having no property; marry Usamah bin Zaid… “  (9)

The proof in this hadeeth:

The proof is that the Prophet r mentioned Mu`awiyah and Abu Jahm y and defined the [characteristics] they possess, so that a point of benefit may be reached.  [The benefit in this is that one should] direct someone seeking advice to what is best for him or her.  That is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said to her, “Marry Usamah.”  (10)

  • Third: The Consensus of the Scholars of Hadeeth:

The scholars of hadeeth have all agreed that criticizing narrations, as well as the people of desires, innovations, and sin is not counted from the prohibited types of backbiting, but rather it Fardh Kifayah (meaning that if some of the Muslims do it, then it is not obligatory on all others).

From among the scholars who clearly stated that and took their role to implement this obligation are:

  1. Shu`bah bin al-Hajjaj (D. 160 Hijri)   (11)
  2. Sufyan ath-Thawri (D. 161 Hijri)    (12) 
  3. Malik bin Anas (D. 179 Hijri)   (13)
  4. `Abdullah bin al-Mubarak (D. 181 Hijri(14)
  5. Yahya bin Sa`id al-Qattan (D. 198 Hijri) (15)
  6. `Abd ar-Rahman bin Mahdi (D. 189 Hijri)
  7. Yahya bin Ma`in (D. 233 Hijri)
  8. `Ali bin al-Madini (D. 234 Hijri(16)
  9. Ahmad bin Hanbal (D. 241 Hijri(17)
  10. Muhammad bin Isma`il al-Bukhari (D. 256 Hijri)   (18)
  11. Muslim bin al-Hajjaj an-Naisaburi (D. 261 Hijri (19) 
  12. Abu Zur`ah ar-Razi (D. 264 Hijri)
  13. Abu Dawud as-Sijistani (D. 275 Hijri)
  14. Abu Hatim ar-Razi (D. 277 Hijri)
  15. An-Nasa’i (D. 303 Hijri)    (20) 
  16. Ibn Abi Hatim (D. 327 Hijri (21)
  17. Ibn Hibban (D. 354 Hijri(22)
  18. Ad-Daraqutni (D. 385 Hijri) (23)
  19. Abu `Abdullah al-Hakim (D. 405 Hijri(24)
  20. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (D. 463 Hijri(25)
  21. An-Nawawi (D. 676 Hijri)   (26)
  22. Ath-Thahabi (D. 748 Hijri)    (27) 
  23. Al-`Iraqi (D. 806 Hijri)   (28)
  24. Ibn Hajar (D. 852 Hijri) (29)
  25. As-Sakhawi (D. 901 Hijri(30)

Among others from the scholars until we reach al-Imam al-Albani, may Allah have mercy on him, and whoever treaded on his path, such as Shaikh Muqbil bin Hadi al-Wadi`i, may Allah have mercy on him.

The products of it are still widespread, its market is still open, and its people are many, by the Grace and Blessings of Allah.

  • Its Benefits: The knowledge of Jarh wa at-Ta`dil has many benefits and fruits, such as:
  1. Knowing what is accepted from a particular narrator, what is rejected, and what we hold back in accepting or rejecting.
  2. Knowing what is authentic in history, due to the great laxness in transmitting it.
  3. The urge to ask for the witness, proof and evidence, and then using the methods of investigation and verification.
  4. Rejecting the reports of the sinners, liars, and with all the more reason, the disbelievers.
  5. The urge to care for transmitting the matters of the religion with authentic connecting chains of narration.
  6. Freeing the intellect from the supremacy of customs, blind-following, mistakes, and then calling it to think, ponder, reflect and research.
  7. Getting experience by returning to the people of narrations and knowledge in solving issues, for the people of knowledge are to be asked about what they know wherever they are, and wherever they border.
  8. The Sahabahy are the first to start the knowledge of Jarh wa at-Ta`dil.
  9. Knowing some of the incidents that involve some of the Sahabah, which would cause us to not judge them in an inappropriate manner, as the people of innovation, such as the Rafidhah (Shiites), Zanadiqah (those who enter Islam trying to destroy it from within) and the Shu`ubiyyah (those who hate the Arabs).
  10. The methodology of the Sahabah is to not be lenient in accepting reports, to the point that they would ask for a vow and proof from the narrator, as such, they established the tradition of verification and clarification.
  11. Criticizing the narrators of hadeeth, the people of desires, innovation, and sin is not from the prohibited types of backbiting, but rather is a form of advice, and there is a difference.





(1) Dhawabit al-Jarh wa at-Ta`dil, pg. 27

(2)  Majmu` al-Fatawa, 3/463

(3) Majmu` al-Fatawa, 4/7

(4) Tafsir as-Si`di, pg. 258

(5) Tafsir as-Si`di, pg. 50, with slight changes.

(6 )Al-Khulasah fi `Ilm al-Jarh wa at-Ta`dil, by `Ali bin Nayif al-Shuhud, pg. 18, with slight changes.

(7) Collected by al-Bukhari, 5707, and 5780, and Muslim, 2591

(8) Dhawabit al-Jarh wa at-Ta`dil, pg. 30

(9) Sahih Muslim, 3770

(10) Dhawabit al-Jarh wa at-Ta`dil, pg. 30

(11) Al-Kifayah, by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, pg. 91

(12)  At-Ta`dil wa at-Tajrih li-man Kharraja Lahu al-Bukhari fi as-Sahih, by Abu al-Walid al-Baji, 1/282, with the verification of Abu Lubabah.

(13) Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik bi Riwayat Muhammad bin al-Hasan, 3/462, with the verification of Dr. Muhammad Taqi ad-Din an-Nadwi, as well as, At-Ta`dil wa at-Tajrih, 1/282.

(14)  Muqaddimat Bahr ad-Dam fi-man Takallama al-Imam Ahmad bi Mad-h aw Tham, pg. 8

(15)  At-Ta`dil wa at-Tajrih, 1/282

(16)  `Ilm ar-Rijal wa Ahammiyyatuhu li `Abd ar-Rahman bin Yahya al-Mu`allami, pgs. 29-30, with the comments of `Amr `Abd al-Mun`im.

(17) Muqaddimat Bahr ad-Dam fi-man Takallama al-Imam Ahmad bi Mad-h aw Tham, by Ibn al-Mubrid, pg. 7

(18) Mentioned by al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar, 10/469

(19) Refer to, Muqaddimat Sahih Muslim

(20) Refer to ath-Thahabi’s introduction to, Mizan al-I`tidal, 1/1-2

(21) Muqaddimat al-Jarh wa at-Ta`dil, by Ibn Abi Hatim, pg. 5

(22) Al-Majruhin, 1/15-17

(23) Adh-Dhu`afa wa al-Matrukin, by ad-Daraqutni, pg. 11-13, with the verification of as-Sabbagh

(24) Al-Madkhal, by al-Hakim, pg. 63, with verification of Abu `Asim al-Jaza’iri

(25) Al-Kifayah, pg. 83

(26) Riyadh as-Salihin, pg. 525, with the verification and criticism of the ahadeeth of al-Albani, may Allah have mercy on him

(27) Ath-Thahabi’s introduction in, Mizan al-I`tidal, 1/1-3, and, As-Siyar, 12/204

(28)  At-Taqyid wa al-Iydhah (Bab: Sifatu man Tuqbal Riwayatuh), pg. 120

(29)  Fat-h al-Bari, 10/471

(30)  Fat-h al-Mughith, 3/350

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