Introduction to Hadith Authenticity

Hadiths are divided into different categories in terms of authenticity. The strength hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Mutawatir – Mass Transmitted.
    • It is a hadith that a large number of narrators have transmitted such that it is impossible for it to be forged.
    • This type of hadith establishes a point of iman (faith). So if something is in a mutawatir hadith, to deny it can be so problematic that it can be considered kufr (disbelief). 
       
  2. Sahih – Authentic.
    • It is a hadith that has one or more sahih sanad (chain of narrators), but it does not have enough chains to take it to the level of mutawatir.
    • Such a hadith is used for all aspects of the religion and it is sinful to reject it but may not necessarily be considered kufr.
       
  3. Hasan – Good.
    • It is essentially the same as a sahih hadith but it is just slightly less authentic.
       
  4. Da’if – Weak. 
    • It is a hadith which does not meet all the conditions of soundness.
    • There are many types of da’if hadith, all varying in degrees of weakness.  They are used fadail al-amal (virtuous actions), nafl (optional) matters, etc., but never used to establish points of faith or religious obligations.
    • The imams of hadith established certain conditions when using weak hadith and these must be observed:
      1. A person must explicitly say it’s a weak hadith when narrating it or at least allude to it.
      2. A person must not believe that it is definitely a statement of the Prophet ﷺ when narrating it but should know that this is a possibility rather than a matter of fact.
      3. A weak hadith cannot be used to establish a new matter that is not found in the Quran or authentic hadith.
      4. The weakness should not be severe. Therefore, if a hadith is considered da’if jidan (very weak) it cannot be narrated except to point it out as a problematic narration.
         
  5. Mawdu – Fabricated.
    • It is a hadith that has a fabricator (or more) in the chain.
    • It is prohibited to attribute such a hadith to the Prophet ﷺ and such a hadith is only mentioned to point out that it is prohibited.
       
  6. La asla lahu – Baseless.
    • This is a hadith that cannot be found in an authentic book of hadith with a chain of narrators.
    • Once again, this types of hadith must not be attributed to the Prophet ﷺ nor used for anything except only to warn people against them. It must not be promoted or propagated and if a scholar has used it in their work, they have made a mistake which later scholars point out.

References

أَن مَا يكون مُوجبا علم الْيَقِين فَإِنَّهُ يكفر جاحده كَمَا فِي الْمُتَوَاتر الَّذِي يُوجب الْعلم ضَرُورَة وبالاتفاق لَا يكفر جَاحد الْمَشْهُور من الْأَخْبَار 

A person who rejects something which dictates certain knowledge, like a Mutawatir Hadith which leads to necessary knowledge by agreement, has fallen into Kufr (disbelief). However, a person who rejects a Mashoor narration is not considered Kafir. [Usool al-Sarakhsi]

وَأَمَّا حُكْمُ الْوُجُوبِ فَلُزُومُهُ عَمَلًا بِمَنْزِلَةِ الْفَرْضِ لَا عِلْمًا عَلَى الْيَقِينِ لِمَا فِي دَلِيلِهِ مِنْ الشُّبْهَةِ حَتَّى لَا يَكْفُرَ جَاحِدُهُ وَيُفَسَّقَ تَارِكُهُ إذَا اسْتَخِفَّ بِأَخْبَارِ الْآحَادِ  

As for the ruling of the Wajib, it requires one to acto upon it like the Fard. However it does not dictate certain knowledge, because there is some room for speculation in its evidence. So someone who rejects it is not Kafir, but falls into sin (Fisq) if he belittles Aahaad narrations (non-mass transmitted narrations). [Usool al-Bazdawi]