The early scholars of hadeeth from the first two centuries generally classified hadeeths into two broad categories: as-Saheeh (authentic) and ad-Da'eef (inauthentic). Imam at-Tirmidhi was the first to distinguish the category of Hasan (reliable) from that of da'eef.
A hadith must meet the five criteria in order to be accepted according to Islamic law as a source of legal ordinance. Ibn as-Salah defined the hadeeth as-Saheeh as follows: "A .Hadeeth as-Saheeh is one which has a continuous isnad, made up of trustworthy narrators narrating from trustworthy narrators, which is found to be free from any irregularities or defects.
Ittisal as-Sanad (Continuity of the chain of transmitters)
The chain of narrators or transmitters who are relating the Matn (text), has to be unbroken for the hadeeth to be considered. That is none of the transmitters must be missing from the chain and each narrator, Raawee, has to have met the transmitter directly preceding him as well as the one directly following him. Each Raawee has to be a known individual, otherwise he is classified as majhool (unknown) and the sanad is classified as broken.
The integrity of the narrators is the second key condition for a hadeeth to be considered valid. By integrity we mean that the narrator was a practicing Muslim and was not known to have done any of the major (forbidden things). If he was a known liar he is classified as kadhdhaab and the hadeeth that he has transmitted is classified as da'eef.
These are the conditions verified through the references of the biographical science of hadeeth known as Kutub ar-Rijaal. The accuracy of the text is determined by two factors either of which is sufficient by itself.
(Soundness of memory)
Each narrator must be known for his ability to memorize and repeat with a high degree of accuracy. If a narrator had a tendency to repeat hadeeth in a number of different ways such a hadeeth is classified as Mudtarib (confused) and any other hadeeth that he narrates will be classified as da'eef. When the narrator's level of accuracy is mediocre but the other conditions for authenticity are fulfilled, the hadith is classified as Hasan.
Each narrator who does not fulfill the previous precondition above must be known for recording his hadith in books accurately and his narrations only be from his books. The above two preconditions are also verified by Kutub ar-Rijaal (books on Biographies of narrators).
It is critical that the hadeeth conform to similar hadeeths narrated on the same topic whose chains are stronger. If the text of a hadeeth contradicts that of another well known text whose chain of narration is stronger; or it is in conflict with a group of other narrators of a similar status, it is classified as shadh (errant), which is one of the categories of hadeeth da'eef
The hidden defect is one that causes the hadeeth to appear to be sound and only become evident after deep investigation. For a hadeeth to be considered sound (saheeh) it has to be free of hidden defects. A hadeeth with hidden defects is called ma'lool or mu'allal.
Ibn al-Madeeni said that a defect can only be revealed if all the isnads of the hadeeth are collated.
Narrated 'Umar bin AI-Khattab (RA):"During the lifetime of the Prophet there was a man called 'Abdullah whose nickname was Donkey, and he used to make Allaah's Messenger laugh. The Prophet lashed him because of drinking (alcohol). And one-day he was brought to the Prophet on the same charge and was lashed. On that, a man among the people said, "0 Allaah, curse him! How frequently he has been brought (to the Prophet on such a charge)!" The Prophet said, "Do not curse him, for by Allaah, I know he loves Allaahand His Messenger." (Bukhari)
This hadeeth is about a man named Abdullaah. He loved Allaah and His Messenger so much that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) had to declare about him: "by Allah, I know he loves Allaah and His Messenger." Abdullaah loved the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) so much that he used to delight in presenting the Prophet with any delicacy that came to Madeenah.
When any merchant caravan arrived with something like butter or honey, he would take it for him as a gift. Later, when the seller demanded payment, Abdullaah would bring the seller to the Prophet and say: "Give this man its price." The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) would then say: "Didn't you give it to me as a gift?" Abdullaah would say: ''Yes, 0 Messenger of Allaah; however I cannot afford to pay."The two of them would laugh together and then the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) would have the merchant paid.
A Close Relationship-
This was the type of close and jovial relationship that Abdullaah and the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) had with each other. However, Abdullaah was an alcoholic. He would often become so drunk that he had to be brought staggering through the streets before the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to be sentenced for public drunkenness, and each time, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) would rule that the prescribed punishment be meted out to him. This was a common occurrence.
After Abdullaah had departed from one of these all too frequent sentencings, one of the Companion's declared about him: "0 Allah curse him! How often he is summoned for this!" The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam): rebuked that Companion, saying: "Do not curse him, for I swear by Allah, if you only knew just how very much indeed he loves Allah and His Messenger." He then added: "Do not help Shay tan against your brother. "
An Inclusive Society
We can learn a lot from the Prophet's attitude. We should reflect first upon the close and affectionate relationship this Companion enjoyed with the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), in spite of this Companion's shameful fault.
Though the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) was who he was, it did not prevent him from relating to Abdullaah in a familiar manner, of being his friend, and joking with him.
This shows us that in the society envisioned by the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) people were not segregated into the pious and the sinners, with social interactions debarred between the two groups. Rather, it was a unified, inclusive society, where each person could be at a different level of piety. Some were at the forefront of righteousness, some were moderately pious, while others were prone to fall into sin. However, no one lived aloof from society, nor was anyone shunned. Everyone remained part of society.
This inclusiveness meant that when some members of society fell into error, the effects of their mistakes were limited and short-lived. No one was marginalized, so there was no chance for sinfulness to grow on society's "fringes". When anyone made a mistake, it did not cause an end to brotherly support from other Muslims in the society who were more than willing to lend a helping hand and get that person back on track.
A Positive Outlook
Another lesson the Prophet's conduct shows us is the importance of maintaining a positive outlook. In spite of the fact that Abdullaah was frequently being summoned before the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) for public drunkenness, the Prophet drew everyone's attention to one of Abdullaah's positive qualities - that he loved Allaah and His Messenger. Yet, when we think about this particular quality, we find that it was not something unique for Abdullaah, but a quality that all believers have in common.
Nevertheless, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) chose to praise Abdullaah for this reason. In doing so, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) could cultivate, encourage, and strengthen this quality in everyone. He also reminded them that if someone slips up, that person's faith and love of Allaah is still intact.
We can imagine how Abdullaah must have felt when he learned that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said this about him. He must certainly felt it as an immense honour to have Allaah's Messenger declare this about him. It served to help him overcome his bad habit and gave him hope, by confirming that his essential being was not permanently marred by the mistakes. It was the Prophet's way to point out the good qualities of those who sinned and fell into error.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited