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Why Do Scholars Relate Weak Hadith?

Prepared by Jubril Oyeyemi

Imam An Nawawi, in the introduction of his 40 hadith stated, "Scholars agree that weak hadith which speak merely about virtues and deeds may be cited.” The preponderant opinion has allowed the embellishment of the Virtues of good deeds by way of Da’eef hadiths. In essence, these categories of hadith are not to establish laws or prohibition but merely to encourage religious practices already agreed upon.

Ibn Taymiyyah said, "... and it is not permissible to rely in the Shari'ah upon da'if ahadith which are not sahih or hasan. But Ahmad bin Hanbal and other scholars considered it permissible to report with regards to fada'il al-a'mal that which they did not know to be affirmed, when it is known that it is not a lie. And that is because when the action is known to be legislated with a Shari'ah evidence, it is possible that the reward be a fact. And not one of the Imams said that he considered it to be permissible to make something obligatory or recommended based upon a da'if hadith." (Al-Qa'idah al-Jalilah fi al-tawassul wa-al-wasilah pg. 82)

Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani enumerates the following etiquette for the use of a Da’eef Hadith in encouraging Virtuous deeds.

1. The hadith should not be seriously weak. It should not be the narration of someone known to make many or very serious mistakes or of someone who is accused of making deliberate falsifications.

2. The hadith must be addressing something that is already firmly and generally established in Islamic law. It cannot establish something new.

3. Those who act upon the hadith should not cultivate a firm belief in their hearts that what the hadith says is true.

Ibn Taymiyah also stated, "If the weak hadith speaking about the virtues of a good deed introduces any quantitative statement or any specification, then it is impermissible to use it. For example, this would be the case if the hadith specifies a particular time for reciting the Qur'an or a specific chapter or verse, or if it gives a particular way of performing an act." (Majmu` al-Fatawa, 18/67)

It is also interesting to note that many a great work of Hadith contain weak Hadith. These include but are not limited to Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja, al-Bayhaqi, al-Mustadrak of Imam Hakim. These works have been accepted by majority of our scholars of Ahl-Sunnah. Perhaps the most notable mention is that other works of Imam Bikhari himself such as al-Adab al-Mufrad and Juz’ al-qira’a khalf al-imam contains many weak narrations.

… And to Allah belongs all knowledge…

By profession Jubril Oyeyemi is a doctor of internal medicine and practices in South Jersey.  He is actively involved in his community as a board member of GCLEA, the chair of the Men's Enrichment Committee, and is enrolled in Al-Hikmah Institute's Diploma Program in Islamic Sciences and Arabic & Quranic Studies.

This article was presented as the Tafsir 101 course essay assignment.