Mustalah al-Hadith is strongly associated with
Rijal al-Hadith (the study of the reporters of
hadith). In scrutinising the reporters of a
hadith, authenticating or disparaging remarks
made by recognised experts, from amongst the
Successors and those after them, were found to
be of great help. Examples of such remarks, in
descending order of authentication, are:
- "Imam (leader), Hafiz (preserver)."
- "Reliable, trustworthy."
- "Makes mistakes."
- "Abandoned (by the traditionists)."
- "Liar, used to fabricate ahadith."
Reporters who have been unanimously described by
statements such as the first two may contribute
to a sahih ("sound", see later) isnad. An isnad
containing a reporter who is described by the
last two statements is likely to be da'if jiddan
(very weak) or maudu' (fabricated). Reporters
who are the subject of statements such as the
middle two above will cause the isnad to be
da'if (weak), although several of them relating
the same hadith independently will often
increase the rank of the hadith to the level of
hasan (good). If the remarks about a particular
reporter conflict, a careful verdict has to be
arrived at after in-depth analysis of e.g. the
reason given for any disparagement, the weight
of each type of criticism, the relative
strictness or leniency of each critic, etc.
The earliest remarks cited in the books of Rijal
go back to a host of Successors, followed by
those after them until the period of the six
canonical traditionists, a period covering the
first three centuries of Islam. A list of such
names is provided by the author in his thesis,
Criticism of Hadith among Muslims with reference
to Sunan Ibn Majah, at the end of chapters IV, V
Among the earliest available works in this field
are Tarikh of Ibn Ma'in (d. 233), Tabaqat of
Khalifa b. Khayyat (d. 240), Tarikh of al-
Bukhari (d. 256), Kitab al-Jarh wa 'l-Ta'dil of
Ibn Abi Hatim (d. 327) and Tabaqat of Muhammad
b. Sa'd (d. 320).
A number of traditionists made efforts
specifically for the gathering of information
about the reporters of the five famous
collections of hadith, those of al-Bukhari (d.
256), Muslim (d. 261), Abu Dawud (d. 275), al-
Tirmidhi (d. 279) and al-Nasa'i (d. 303), giving
authenticating and disparaging remarks in
detail. The first major such work to include
also the reporters of Ibn Majah (d. 273) is the
ten-volume collection of al-Hafiz 'Abd al-Ghani
al-Maqdisi (d. 600), known as Al-Kamal fi Asma'
al-Rijal. Later, Jamal al-Din Abu 'l-Hajjaj
Yusuf b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Mizzi (d. 742)
prepared an edited and abridged version of this
work, punctuated by places and countries of
origin of the reporters; he named it Tahdhib al-
Kamal fi Asma' al-Rijal and produced it in
twelve volumes. Further, one of al-Mizzi's
gifted pupils, Shams al-Din Abu 'Abdullah
Muhammad b. Ahmad b. 'Uthman b. Qa'imaz al-
Dhahabi (d. 748), summarised his shaikh's work
and produced two abridgements: a longer one
called Tadhhib al-Tahdhib and a shorter one
called Al-Kashif fi Asma' Rijal al-Kutub al-
A similar effort with the work of al-Mizzi was
made by Ibn Hajar (d. 852), who prepared a
lengthy but abridged version, with about one-
third of the original omitted, entitled Tahdhib
al-Tahdhib in twelve shorter volumes. Later, he
abridged this further to a relatively-humble two-
volume work called Taqrib al-Tahdhib.
The work of al-Dhahabi was not left unedited; al-
Khazraji (Safi al-Din Ahmad b. 'Abdullah, d.
after 923) summarised it and also made valuable
additions, producing his Khulasah.
A number of similar works deal with either
trustworthy reporters only, e.g. Kitab al-Thiqat
by al-'Ijli (d. 261) and Tadhkirah al-Huffaz by
al-Dhahabi, or with disparaged authorities only,
e.g. Kitab al-Du'afa' wa al-Matrukin by al-
Nasa'i and Kitab al-Majruhin by Muhammad b.
Hibban al-Busti (d. 354).
Two more works in this field which include a
large number of reporters, both authenticated
and disparaged, are Mizan al-I'tidal of al-
Dhahabi and Lisan al-Mizan of Ibn Hajar.
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