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How are Hadiths Classified?

Many of our readers ask us the difference between the types of Hadith and how they’re classified. Shaykh Jamir Meah answers the question here.

Question: Assalamu alaykum
What is the difference between a sahih, hassan and da’if hadith?

Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. Thank you for your question.

Hadith classification and their rulings are studied in the science of Hadith Terminology (Mustalahat al Hadith).

Hadith Classification
In regards classification, there are 3 general types:
1. Sahih (Sound)
2. Hassan (Good)
3. Da’if (weak)

Sahih and Hassan hadiths according to the hadith scholars (al muhadithun) are ‘accepted’ (maqbul) and weak hadiths are ‘rejected’ (mardud). Each of these three types have their own subdivisions, weak hadiths in particular having many sub-branches and reasons for its grading.

Sahih and hassan hadith may be sahih or hassan in of themselves (sahih/hassan li dhatihi) or may not have reached the highest standards of grading but are elevated to the class of sahih or hassan via other hadiths (sahih/hassan li ghayrihi).

Sahih Hadith
A sahih hadith is a hadith that has a connected chain of transmission, each narrator being upright in character, exacting, and reliable in his narration and transmission.

Ruling: There is consensus among the ‘ulema that a sahih hadith is evidence for all types of rulings, such as legal rulings, and tenants of faith (with further conditions).

 

Hassan Hadith
A hassan hadith is a hadith which has a connected chain of transmission, by narrators who are upright and exacting, but who’s exactness is less than the exactness found in a sahih hadith, and which is free from irregularities or serious flaws.

Ruling: Like the sahih hadith, the fuqaha (jurists) and most of the muhadithun accept that the hassan hadith can also be used for evidence. For this reason, some Imams of hadith, such as al Hakim and Ibn Hibban include hassan ahadith with sahih hadith, while still acknowledging its lesser rank to the sahih.

 

Da’if Hadith
A da’if hadith is a hadith which does not fulfil the conditions of the sahih or hassan hadith.

Ruling: There is a difference of opinion between the ‘ulema on the ruling on acting upon weak hadiths. The reliable opinion is that weak hadiths can be acted upon for virtuous supererogatory deeds (fada’il al a’mal), for religious exhortation, and stories, and similar things that are not connected to legal rulings and tenants of belief.

It should also be noted that the meaning conveyed in a weak hadith may still be considered sound and supported by other related texts.

[Sharh al Bayquniyyah, Nukhbat al Fikr]I pray this clarifies things for you.
Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

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