Rules Governing the Criticism of Hadeeth
A hadith (pl. ahadith) is composed of two parts: the matn (text) and the isnad (chain of reporters). Atext may seem to be logical and reasonable but it needs an authentic isnad with reliable reporters to beacceptable; 'Abdullah b. al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH) is reported to have said,"The isnad is part of the religion: had it not been for the isnad, whoever wished to would have saidwhatever he liked."During the lifetime of the Prophet (SAS) and after his death, his Companions (Sahabah) used to referto him when quoting his sayings. The Successors (Tabi'un) followed suit; some of them used to quotethe Prophet (SAS) through the Companions while others would omit the intermediate authority - sucha hadith was known as mursal (loose). It was found that the missing link between the Successor andthe Prophet (SAS) might be one person, i.e. a Companion, or two persons, the extra person being anolder Successor who heard the hadith from the Companion. This is an example of how the need forthe verification of each isnad arose. Malik (d. 179) said,"The first one to utilise the isnad was Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri" (d. 124 AH).
Mustalah al-Hadith and Rijal
As time passed, more reporters were involved in each isnad, and so the situation demanded strictdiscipline in the acceptance of ahadith; the rules regulating this discipline are known as Mustalahal-Hadith (the Science of Hadith).Mustalah books speak of a number of classes of hadith in accordance with their status. The followingclassifications can be made, each of which is explained later:1. According to the reference to a particular authority, e.g. the Prophet (SAS), a Companion, or aSuccessor; such ahadith are called marfu' (elevated), mauquf (delayed) and maqtu' (severed)respectively .2. According to the nature of the chain of reporters, i.e. whether interrupted or uninterrupted, e.g.musnad (supported), muttasil (continuous), munqati'' (broken), mu'allaq (suspended), mu'dal(perplexing) and mursal (loose).3. According to the number of reporters involved in each isnad, e.g. mutawatir (consecutive) and ahad(isolated), the latter being divided into gharib (rare), 'aziz (scarce), and mash-hur (widespread) .4. According to the way in which a saying has been reported such as using the words 'an ( - "on theauthority of"), haddathana ( - "he narrated to us"), akhbarana ( - "he informed us") or sami'tu ( - "I