By Sheikh Suhaib Hassan** November 8, 2005

Note: While citing the isnads below, the terms haddathana (he narrated to us), akhbarana (he informed us) or sami`tu (I heard) will be represented by a double line thus (===), while a single broken line (—) will replace the term `an (on the authority of).

The traditionists’ critical and comparative analysis of hadiths’ texts and isnads resulted in the following classifications:

Shadh (Irregular) and Munkar (Denounced)

According to Ash-Shafi`i, a shadh (irregular) hadith is one that is reported by a trustworthy person but goes against the narration of a person more reliable than him. It does not include a hadith that is unique in its contents and is not narrated by someone else (Al-Hakim 119). In the light of this definition, the well-known hadith “Actions are (judged) according to their intentions” is not considered shadh since it has been narrated by Yahya ibn Sa`id Al-Ansari from Muhammad ibn Ibrahim At-Taimi from `Alqamah from `Umar, all of whom are trustworthy authorities, although each one of them is the only reporter at that stage (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, 57).

An example of a Shadh hadith according to some scholars is one that Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi transmit through the following isnad:

`Abdul Wahid ibn Ziyad — Al-A`mash — Abu Salih — Abu Hurairah === the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “When one of you offers the two rak`ahs before the Dawn Prayer, he should lie down on his right side.”

Regarding it, Al-Baihaqi said,

`Abdul Wahid has gone against a large number of people with this narration, for they have reported the above as an act of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and not as his saying; `Abdul Wahid is alone amongst the trustworthy students of Al-A`mash in narrating these words. (As-Suyuti 1:235; Salih 260)

According to Ibn Hajar, if a narration that goes against another authentic hadith is reported by a weak narrator, it is known as munkar (denounced) (As-San`ani 2:3). Traditionists as late as Ahmad used to simply label any hadith of a weak reporter as munkar (As-San`ani 2:6). Sometimes, a hadith is labeled as munkar because its content is contrary to general sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Al-Khatib (d. AH 463) quotes Ar-Rabi` ibn Khaitham (d. AH 63) as saying, “Some hadiths have a light like that of day, which we recognize; others have a darkness like that of night which makes us reject them.” He also quotes Al-Auza`i (d. AH 157) as saying,

We used to listen to hadiths and present them to fellow traditionists, just as we present forged coins to money-changers: whatever they recognize of them, we accept, and whatever they reject of them, we also reject. (Al-Khatib 431)

Ibn Kathir quotes the following two hadiths in his Tafsir, the first of which is acceptable; whereas the second contradicts it and is unreliable:

  1. Ahmad === Abu Mu`awiyah === Hisham ibn `Urwah — Fatimah bint Al-Mundhir — Asma’ bint Abi Bakr, who said: My mother came (to Madinah) during the treaty Quraish had made, while she was still a polytheist. So I came to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said to him, “O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come willingly. Should I treat her with kindness?” He replied, “Yes! Treat her with kindness.”
  2. Al-Bazzar === `Abdullah ibn Shabib === Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaibah === Abu Qatadah Al- `Adawi — the nephew of Az-Zuhri — Az-Zuhri — `Urwah — `A’ishah and Asma’, both of whom said: Our mother came to us in Madinah while she was a polytheist, during the peace treaty between the Quraish and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). So we said, “O Messenger of Allah, our mother has come to Madinah willingly. Do we treat her kindly?” He said, “Yes! Treat her kindly.”

Ibn Kathir then remarks

This (latter) hadith, to our knowledge, is reported only through this route of Az-Zuhri — `Urwah — `A’ishah. It is a munkar hadith with this text because the mother of `A’ishah is Umm Ruman, who was already a Muslim emigrant, while the mother of Asma’ was another woman, as mentioned by name in other hadiths. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 4:349)

In contrast to a munkar hadith, if a reliable reporter is found to add something that is not narrated by other authentic sources, the addition is accepted as long as it does not contradict them; it is known as ziyadatu ath-thiqah (an addition reported by one trustworthy) (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar, 62).

An example is the hadith of Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Ibn Mas`ud: I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), “Which action is the most virtuous?” He said, “The Prayer at its due time.” Two reporters, Al-Hasan ibn Makdam and Bindar, reported it with the addition “at the beginning of its time”; both Al-Hakim and Ibn Hibban declared this addition to be sahih (authentic) (As-Suyuti 1:248).

Mudraj (Interpolated)

An addition by a reporter to the text of the saying being narrated is termed mudraj (interpolated) (Al-Hakim 39). For example, Al-Khatib relates via Abu Qattan and Shababah — Shu`bah — Muhammad ibn Ziyad — Abu Hurairah — the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, “Perform the ablution fully; woe to the heels from the Fire!”

Al-Khatib then remarks

The statement, “Perform the ablution fully” is made by Abu Hurairah, while the statement afterwards, “woe to the heels from the Fire!”, is that of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The distinction between the two is understood from the narration of Al-Bukhari, who transmits the same hadith and quotes Abu Hurairah as saying, “Complete the ablution, for Abu Al-Qasim (the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Woe to the heels from the Fire!’” (Al-`Iraqi 129f).

Such an addition may be found in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end, often in explanation of a term used. Idraj (interpolation) is mostly found in the text, although a few examples show that such additions are found in the isnad as well, where the reporter grafts a part of one isnad into another.

A reporter found to be in the habit of intentional idraj is generally unacceptable and considered a liar (As-Suyuti 1:274). However, the traditionists are more lenient towards those reporters who may do so forgetfully or in order to explain a difficult word.


    • Al-Hakim, Muhammad ibn `Abdullah. Ma`rifat `Ulum Al-Hadith. Ed. Mu`azzam Husain. Cairo, 1937.
  • Ibn Kathir, Abul-Fida’ `Imad Ad-Din. Ikhtisar `Ulum Al-Hadith. Ed. Ahmad Shakir. 2nd imp., Cairo, 1951.
  • Ibn Kathir, Abul-Fida’ `Imad Ad-Din. Tafsir Al-Qur’an Al-`Azim. Cairo, n.d.
    • Al-`Iraqi, Zain Ad-Din. At-Taqyid wal-Idah Sharh Muqaddimat Ibn As-Salah. Madinah: Al-Maktabah Al-Salafiyah, 1389/1969.
  • Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi, Al-Kifayah fi `Ilm Ar- Riwayah. Hyderabad, AH 1357.
  • Salih, Muhammad Adib. Lamahat fi Usul Al-Hadith. 2nd ed. Beirut: Al-Maktab Al-Islami, AH 1389.
    • As-San`ani, Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Amir. Taudih Al-Afkar. Cairo, AH 1366.
  • As-Suyuti, Jalal Ad-Din. Tadrib Ar-Rawi. Ed. A.A. Latif, 1st ed. Cairo, 1379/1959.

* Based on the book An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, with the author’s kind permission. Excerpted, with some modifications, from:

** Sheikh Suhaib Hassan is a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.