The Classification Of Hadith: According To The Manner In Which The Hadith Is Reported
Mudallas hadith & Tadlis
Different ways of reporting, e.g. (he narrated
to us), (he informed us), (I heard), and (on the
authority of) are used by the reporters of
hadith. The first three indicate that the
reporter personally heard from his shaikh,
whereas the fourth mode can denote either hearing in
person or through another reporter.
A mudallas ("concealed") hadith is one which is
weak due to the uncertainty caused by tadlis.
Tadlis (concealing) refers to an isnad where a
reporter has concealed the identity of his
shaikh. Ibn al-Salah describes two types of
- tadlis al-isnad. A person reports from his
shaikh whom he met, what he did not hear from
him, or from a contemporary of his whom he did
not meet, in such a way as to create the
impression that he heard the hadith in person.
A mudallis (one who practises tadlis) here
usually uses the mode ("on the authority of") or
("he said") to conceal the truth about the
- tadlis al-shuyukh. The reporter does mention
his shaikh by name, but uses a less well-known
name, by-name, nickname etc., in order not to
disclose his shaikh's identity.
Al-'Iraqi (d. 806), in his notes on Muqaddimah
Ibn al-Salah, adds a third type of tadlis:
- tadlis al-taswiyyah. To explain it, let us
assume an isnad which contains a trustworthy
shaikh reporting from a weak authority, who in
turn reports from another trustworthy shaikh.
Now, the reporter of this isnad omits the
intermediate weak authority, leaving it
apparently consisting of reliable authorities.
He plainly shows that he heard it from his
shaikh but he uses the mode "on the authority
of" to link his immediate shaikh with the next
trustworthy one. To an average student, this
isnad seems free of any doubt or discrepancy.
This is known to have been practised by Baqiyyah
b. al-Walid, Walid b. Muslim, al-A'mash and al-
Thauri. It is said to be the worst among the
three kinds of tadlis.
Ibn Hajar classifies those who practised tadlis
into five categories in his essay Tabaqat al-
- Those who are known to do it occasionally,
such as Yahya b. Sa'id al-Ansari.
- Those who are accepted by the traditionists,
either because of their good reputation and
relatively few cases of tadlis, e.g. Sufyan
al-Thauri (d. 161), or because they reported
from authentic authorities only, e.g. Sufyan
Ibn 'Uyainah (d. 198).
- Those who practised it a great deal, and the
traditionists have accepted such ahadith from
them which were reported with a clear mention
of hearing directly. Among these are Abu 'l-
Zubair al-Makki, whose ahadith narrated from
the Companion Jabir b. 'Abdullah have been
collected in Sahih Muslim. Opinions differ
regarding whether they are acceptable or not.
- Similar to the previous category, but the
traditionists agree that their ahadith are to
be rejected unless they clearly admit of
their hearing, such as by saying "I heard";
an example of this category is Baqiyyah b. al-
- Those who are disparaged due to another
reason apart from tadlis; their ahadith are
rejected, even though they admit of hearing
them directly. Exempted from them are
reporters such as Ibn Lahi'ah, the famous
Egyptian judge, whose weakness is found to be
of a lesser degree. Ibn Hajar gives the
names of 152 such reporters.
Tadlis, especially of those in the last three
categories, is so disliked that Shu'bah (d. 170)
said, "Tadlis is the brother of lying" and "To
commit adultery is more favourable to me than to
report by way of Tadlis."
A musalsal (uniformly-linked) isnad is one in
which all the reporters, as well as the Prophet
(may Allah bless him and grant him peace), use
the same mode of transmission such as 'an,
haddathana, etc., repeat any other additional
statement or remark, or act in a particular
manner while narrating the hadith.
Al-Hakim gives eight examples of such isnads,
each having a different characteristic repeated
- use of the phrase sami'tu (I heard);
- the expression "stand and pour water for me so
that I may illustrate the way my shaikh
- haddathana (he narrated to us);
- amarani (he commanded me);
- holding one's beard;
- illustrating by counting on five fingers;
- the expression "I testify that ..."; and
- interlocking the fingers.
Knowledge of musalsal helps in discounting the
possibility of tadlis.
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