Authenticity of the Hadith
Hadith & Sunnah
Question asked by .
Answered by Tariq Haashmi

1) Can you tell me about Javed Ahmed Ghamidi’s views about the authority and status of Hadīth of the Messenger (sws) in religion?

2) How can a person after 1430 years reject a Hadīth which was earlier accepted by Islamic scholars?

3) Is it possible that after 1430 years some one came with new explanation and new version of Qur’ānic interpretations? I am looking for kind clarification.


Answer: Muslims believe that the Prophet (sws) communicated the religion to the world in two forms, the Holy Qur’ān and the Sunnah. The contents of the religion are, therefore, contained in these two sources. The Holy Qur’ān is the Book of God which the Prophet (sws) taught to the entire generation of the Companions (rta) who communicated it to the next generation with their consensus and it has reached us passing from generality to generality in each layer. This makes the Book absolutely authentic without a shadow of doubt. The Sunnah is the set of religious practices including the worship rituals, social customs and etiquette etc. Just like the Holy Qur’ān, the Sunnah too was taught by the Prophet (sws) to the entire generation of the Companions (sws) who transmitted it to the next generation through their adherence to it and it has reached us with the consensus of all the people in each generation of the believers. This generality to generality transmission makes it absolutely authentic like the Holy Qur’ān. No individual or scholar can add to the contents of the religion contained in these two sources. No doubt is entertained regarding their historical authenticity and no one questions their origin.

The status of the Hadīth of the Prophet (sws) is different. It has not been transmitted through generality to generality. On the contrary, it has been transmitted by individual to individual (khabar-e wāḥid). Therefore, it does not yield absolutely certain knowledge. Muslims scholars and the doctors of the science of Hadīth have always considered them a ẓannī (probable) source and it has always been considered an explanatory source.

The obvious lack of certitude of knowledge obtained through Hadīth required that the believers not accept everything that is reported to them through a khabar-e wāḥid (individual to individual report). This is precisely the reason that the scholars of the science of Hadīth decided to gauge such reports on various scales before accepting it as the word or deed of the Prophet (sws). We must appreciate that even after great care and thorough checking a Hadīth remains short of yielding conclusive truth and certitude.

The Muslim scholars checked the isnād (chain of transmitters) thoroughly to make sure that a saying attributed to the Prophet (sws) reached them through a chain of reliable transmitters without a break. They also analyzed the text of the reports as well. For example they did not accept a report that contradicted the Qur’ān, the Sunnah, the conclusive arguments, human reason and common sense. A Hadīth accepted by one scholar was never always taken as authentic by the rest. We know that a particular Hadīth was acceptable to Imām Malik while it was not that authentic for Imām Bukhārī. Similarly, Imām Muslim, who was also a student of Imām Bukhārī did not accept all the narratives included by the latter in his Ṣaḥīḥ. This is because the process of Hadīth investigation involved much subjectivity. That is why a particular narrator and his reports are reliable for one scholar and less or unreliable for another.

The process of Hadīth criticism goes on and the scholars continue judging the narratives on the scales established by the muḥaddithūn themselves. However, it does not mean that the Aḥādīth are of no use. Muslims have always given the Ḥadīth due importance. After thorough research and careful analysis they use it as an explanatory source. Muslim scholars have always believed that they must turn to the Prophetic knowledge transmitted through akhbār-i āḥād for a variety of purposes and in a number of cases. For the Ḥadīth is one of the many sources that document the life history of the Holy Prophet (sws), the best example he set in carrying out the religious obligations and his interpretations of the religious sources. This entails that no serious student of Islam can do without studying them at length.

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