Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bukhari Blackmail

Many great scholars of Islam have taken a great deal of time and trouble to explain the correct approach towards hadith which are attributed to the Prophet Muhammad as well as the application thereof. Extensive volumes have been written, and in all orthodox schools and seminaries of Islam, the study of ‘Usul al-Hadith’ is mandatory before progressing to higher studies. The subject is so important that the earliest surviving schools were at great pains both to collect hadith and regulate and limit their application in the appropriate ways.

Your problem however, most likely, will begin with the above paragraph.

You, if you are a lay Muslim, probably consider the collections of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim to be the earliest, most authoritative or canonical collections of hadith or alleged sayings of the Prophet.

However, in reality, the earliest collection of hadith is by the Hanafis, and then the famous Muwatta of Imam Malik. The very first book written after the generation of the Sahabah was the Kitab al-Athar of the Hanafis, containing numerous hadith, and as with the Muwatta of Malik, with very short chains as well as their application to jurisprudential considerations.

Hardly anyone today in the UK knows this though.

The reason is that today we have a highly heterodox approach to the hadith being expounded by two widespread and well funded groups who would like to claim the field for themselves. These people would like to take a hadith and settle a given matter by it alone. For example, there is the eponymous ‘blackmail by Bukhari,’ in which an unsuspecting person will be confronted by someone, usually without any kind of Islamic schooling apart from perhaps the ability to read Arabic, often poorly, who nonetheless will try to accost them with the information that:
Brother/Sister! Hadith is sahih in Bukhari, how dare you not act on it!

The necessity for having a grounding in fiqh and Islamic sciences and, above all, the Quran before one can extract rulings or even the Sunnah itself from the Hadith has been emphasized almost ad nauseum by the notable scholars of Islam past and present.

However, today the situation is acute and the lay people, whether Muslim or not, need a shield against the misguidance that can result from people being told to follow narrations directly or simply because they are in the canonical collections. Further, we are giving an excellent weapon to the enemies of Islam by insisting on traditions which either the scholars of fiqh or aqeedah rejected, despite their being classed as sahih in Bukhari or Muslim, or,
at the very least did not take literally.

The individuals and organizations spreading this misguidance hide under a false banner of orthodoxy or by accusing their Sunni challengers of ‘hadith rejection’ or sectarianism. The main groups responsible are the Ahl-e-Hadith and the associated Salafi movement. It is necessary to highlight at the very outset what the approach of both Sunni Islam and these groups in fact is before going into details – this is because any attempt to rectify these ideas results in a deliberate failure of these mentioned groups to state their actual position towards hadith and the subsequent confusion of the masses and in particular converts to Islam, from whom we receive requests for help with this issue.

In summary, the position of Sunni Muslims, as stated by both hadith masters such as ibn Hajar, an-Nawawi and, more importantly, the doctors of law and belief such as Abu Hanifa and Malik and Shafi'i is that the Quran is certain knowledge because it is mass transmitted, mutawatir, without the possibility of error: essentially, the Quran is narrated by so many different people who did not know each other and could not have collaborated in a lie that it is habitually impossible for it to have been fabricated – and this goes for all of the different recitations too. It is logically equivalent to a conspiracy of Medieval English people fabricating the existence of London and this never was exposed. So a good definition of mutawatir is ‘mass transmitted without the possibility of error.’

Besides the Quran, there are other mutawatir transmissions, a few in the hadith, such as "Whoever lies on behalf of me [The Prophet], let him prepare his place in Hellfire" and also outside the hadith, such as in the books of fiqh in issues such as how to pray.

Muhaditheen such as Imam Bukhari do not concern themselves with the Chains of Transmission, Isnad, of mutawatir narrations – this is because they are certain, profuse and investigating them is of no use.

However, besides the Quran and mutawatir hadith and narrations, there are some 1,000,000 more hadith. If we exclude variant chains with the same text, we still have 300,000. If we take those graded as sahih by, for example, the Shafi'is, who have a more lenient and inclusive in their methodology of hadith, mustalah al-hadith than the Malikis or Hanafis, then we are left with, say, 20,000 narrations attributed to the Prophet which may be sahih in isnad.

Virtually none of these 20,000 or so are mutawatir and the vast majority are ahad, that is, narrated singly, from a single witness. Further, most are narrated by meaning as opposed to verbatim, meaning that they can contain grammatical errors, which the verbatim speech of the Prophet would not, due to his perfect diction in Arabic.

But the isnad isn’t everything; we have to look at the content,  the matn, as well. Once we have found the isnad to be valid, we then examine the text of the narration itself.

Scholars who study the sunna have laid down many criteria for the study of hadith from the very inclusive, such as the Hanbali madhhab, to the very cautious, the Maliki and Hanafi madhhab, with the Shafi'i madhhab somewhere in between. The approach to hadith by experts of the sunna is often summarized in five points widely recognized:
  1. An isnad comprised of transmitters with good memory and exact recollection
  2. An intelligent grasp of what they are narrating as well as unimpeachable morals – and this must be attested to through the asma ar-rijal.
  3. These two qualities must be applied to each person in the chain – whether it is three people, seven or ten.
    If anyone is lacking, the hadith becomes less than sound. Once we have found the isnad to be sound and valid, we examine the text of the narration itself:
  4. It must not be aberrant, by contradicting the Quran, or a mutawatir hadith
  5. It must not have a fault rendering it unacceptable

The different usul of hadith then go on to elucidate these matters as well as the types of chains that can be accepted, and many of the differences in practices and creed between the schools of Islam depend on which ahadith they do and do not accept.

This is already a huge problem for the Ahl-e-Hadith – since they would like to decide the authenticity of a narration by its chain of transmission alone, regardless of the content of the actual narration. If, when they tell you a hadith is sahih, you ask them sahih in isnad or matn or both, they will react with anger and confusion, as for them, the content is not even secondary: the chain is absolutely everything.

There are many different terminologies used in the grading of hadith and they vary according to which method one follows – all of the groups have different methods and variant terms: the Malikis do not accept hadith that are sahih but clash with the practice of the inhabitants of Medina at the time of Imam Malik; Hanafis do not take sahih hadith if they clash with Quran or rationality, Shafi'is will take them if they meet his five conditions which are similar to those of Imam Bukhari, etc.

An important third grade of hadith is mashoor or famous. This is again another narration type and has different definitions in the different groups but in short it is more likely than ahad to be true – by being closer to mutawatir due to it’s acceptance by early generations or Companions despite not initially being mass narrated.

And now we come to the important part: mutawatir narrations, be they Quran or Hadith are regarded as absolutely certain by the ijma or consensus of Muslims, not only scholars, and logical, habitual necessity.

Mashoor hadith are regarded as Ilm-ul-Tomaneenah or very likely and ahad hadith with a perfect chain are regarded as Ilm-ul-Zann probable, or, a better translation is, maybe yet maybe not, or, as hadith master, ibn Hajar al-Asqalani puts it in his introduction to his commentary of the Sahih al-Bukhari known as the Fath al-Bari, fifty-fifty. No-one in Islam says that ahad hadith are certainly attributable to the Prophet. In fact, to assert this would be a heresy, bida’t. But the Ahl-e-Hadith and Salafis, despite their insistence to the contrary. do not in fact follow Sunni Islam.

And this last part, namely that ahad narrations, essentially what all of the contents of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Musnad Imam Ahmad and many others works as such happen to be, are not certain, and this is what groups such as the Ahl-e-Hadith and Salafis do not like: they would, to varying degrees of disagreement among themselves, like it if an ahad hadith that was authentic in chain would be considered as certainly affirmed knowledge, in the same way as the Quran or mutawatir hadith, and thus be acted on.

Some of them will say this openly, but others will deny it by arguing that they, example, the Salafis, do have principles or usul al-hadith, but in practice, they mean merely checking the chains of narrations and then comparing them to Bukhari and giving preference to Bukhari over Muslim, Muslim over Tirmidhi, so on and so forth, and not whether the imams of fiqh took these into account when making rulings.

Furthermore, these people usually will not check them against Quran and insist that ahad narrations can specify or even abrogate the Quran – and most importantly that they can be taken into belief – that is, matters which cannot certainly be proved to be part of what the Prophet passed on should be treated as so and taken into creed. There are various glosses and a lot of smoke and mirrors with all of this, but that is what their approach amounts to.

It goes without saying, this is not the approach of the Ahlus-Sunnah w'al-Jama'ah. Nor even Twelver Shi’ism.

Of course, these people, claiming to be the Ahl-e-Hadith or the party of hadith claim that they posses the correct methodology and that it is the other groups that are heterodox. These people are very hostile to those who do not accept their version of hadith studies, or rather, lack of hadith studies, even if they are from the Salaf as-Salehin such as Imam Abu Hanifa or Malik. However, because of the prestige those leaders or ‘Imams’ enjoy in Muslim communities, their periodic attacks on their scholarship are met with a harsh response. More on this later.

In fact, the dispute is an old one as many converts who were led to serious strife by the question of the correct approach to hadith have realized, for example, Dr. Jeffrey Lang in his masterpiece – and I don't use that term lightly – Losing My Religion.

There has been a long standing conflict between the people of hadith and the people of fiqh: Abu Hanifa was accused of being both ignorant of hadith and of rejecting them – because to these people, rejecting a hadith that is sahih in terms of its chain is an impossibility, though, as we will see, out of necessity, they are often forced to do so, in which case they usually try to pretend that there was some problem with its chain, even if the chain was authenticated by Imam Bukhari or Muslim.

It is shocking for many Muslims who have been ‘blackmailed by hadith’ to note that many muhadditheen, including some of the most well known such as Imam Bukhari and Imam Ahmad, disparaged the jurists in the strongest terms. One can see that Bukhari hardly narrates from either Imam Abu Hanifa or Malik. And how is it that the earliest book of hadith, by one of the people who set up hadith studies in the first place, Imam Malik’s ‘Muwwata’, is not considered one of the reliable books of hadith and not in the Kutub as-Sahih as-Sittah?

The inescapable conclusion is that the imams of fiqh were useless in hadith,


The muhadditheen sometimes went overboard in their zeal, as we shall come to see soon.

One of the tricks used by Salafis to avoid openly insulting the Imams Malik and Abu Hanifa in particular is to insist that the scholars of hadith, despite their limited specialization and competence, namely in hadith only, should nonetheless be given priority about what is and is not Islam and to imply that people like Abu Hanifa were Imams in name only but lacked all competence in hadith. This is a most dangerous method: imams of hadith sometimes disparaged doctors of creed and law by narrating that some only knew five hadith and other muhadditheen went so far as to accuse people like Abu Hanifa or Malik of apostasy.

So by demanding that you follow the narrations of their select and sectarian muhadditheen alone, they are in fact opening the door to you disparaging the fuqaha and even accusing them of kufr. Of course, they do not want to come out and say this as the large number of individuals and sects from the subcontinent in the UK will react harshly, since they tend to respect Abu Hanifa.

They are in fact trying to revive an old issue, already resolved in Sunni Islam until billions of petrodollars flowed into mosques and publishing houses around the world to imbibe their heresy into the beliefs of ordinary Muslims – and if it means accusing people like Malik or Abu Hanifa of multiple apostasies or endangering the faith of lay Muslims and arming Christian or atheist missionaries by reviving neglected and rejected hadith, then so be it.

Further, they are forcing, again in a stealth way, people to choose between the Scholars of the Salaf as-Saleh such as Abu Hanifa and eminent imams of hadith such as Bukhari: apart from the fact that this is a disgraceful way to conduct Islam, this is no choice at all – Bukhari is a mighty scholar of hadith but has no madhhab, no book of aqeedah, in short, he is not even a jurist.

Apart from the fact that Abu Hanifa and Malik, as well as Shafi'i are Bukhari’s seniors in even hadith as they set up the principles of this science, unlike Bukhari, they also set up the science of fiqh, creed, were eminent logicians and mutakalims. Imam Bukhari did not pretend to engage in these disputes with them, and if he did, where is his madhhab and his book of fiqh? As we shall see later, he did not concern himself in his Sahih even with how to pray the compulsory daily prayers, as he deferred to the senior imams in this.

This trick of elevating their favourite muhadditheen or scholars above the Sahaba or Salaf as-Saleh is repeated by the Ahl-e-Hadith for latter day entities such as ibn Taymiyyah and Nasiruddin Albani, who they again allow to second guess the Salaf on aqeedah, fiqh and hadith respectively.

In any case, the matter has been settled in the favor of the jurists, at least for Sunni Muslims, because elevating the Sahih to certainty can cause serious problems as will become evident later.

The old dispute has been underscored such that there is no hadith without first understanding fiqh – in short, the people of creed and jurisprudence – who are polymathic, have seniority over the people of Hadith alone:

Ash-Shâfi`î, himself a Muhaddith and, apart from Ahmad, the most partial of the schools to hadith, narrated that Mâlik ibn Anas was told:
ibn `Uyayna narrates from az-Zuhrî things you do not have!
He replied:
Why, should I narrate every single hadîth I heard?
Only if I wanted to misguide people!

Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î, teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, a Salaf and Muhaddith himself, said:
Truly, I hear a hadîth, then I see what part of it applies. I apply it and leave the rest.
Sheikh Muhammad `Awwâma commented:
Meaning, what is recognized by the authorities is retained.
Anything odd, anomalous, or condemned is put aside.

Hujjat al-Islâm Imam al-Ghazâlî, a Shafi'i, in al-Mustasfâ and Imâm ibn Qudâma, a Hanbali and Muhaddith, in Rawdat an-Nâzir, both said that an`Âlim may be an Imâm in a particular science and an uneducated common person in another.

Thus it has been agreed that knowledge of hadith alone does not make one omnicompetent in Islamic sciences: without any insult, one can compare the superior muhadditheen to the great historians – their exacting standards in checking and authenticating information do not however make them competent in other fields such as theology.

Another way to put it is that there is more to Islam than hadith studies – a lot more. Nor are hadith even the most important sources in Islam – that would be the Quran and then usul of tafseer, since the Quran is the protected source text of Islam. And before even that, God commands the use of the intellect to come to the right conclusions about which religion to follow.

It is easy to understand: we would not allow, even today, the greatest historians to pronounce on physics nor vice versa, unless they were polymaths. Gibbon would never dare argue with Maxwell on electromagnetism, no mater his eminence as a historian. But sadly, this is all to common in Islam, with the muhadditheen often resorting to the most base insults against the jurists. The polymaths of Islam were the fuqaha, not the muhadditheen, the earliest and greatest of whom was Abu Hanifa, as Imam Shafi'i conceded, ‘All Islamic jurisprudence is from him.’

Many of even the greatest and most eminent of the muhadditheen were not qualified to give fatwas or deferred to the Imams of Creed and Fiqh. However, there were many who did offer an opinion, based only on hadith and their literal meanings, and these had a huge problem with Abu Hanifa and Malik:

Ibn `Abd al-Salâm said:
Most hadîth scholars are ignorant in fiqh.
90% according to Anas ibn Sîrîn – among the Salaf. So now what is left for the latter day muhadditheen?

Imam adh-Dhahabî, again, a muhaddith himself, said:
The majority of the hadîth scholars have no understanding, no diligence in the actual knowledge of hadîth, and no fear of Allah regarding it.
[as-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir w'ad-Durar, p. 18]
All of the authorities adh-Dhahabî listed as “those who are imitated in Islâm” are jurists and not merely muhaddîtheen.

As-Sakhâwî, in his biography of ibn Hajar, entitled al-Jawâhir w'ad-Durar fi Tarjamat Shaykh al-Islâm ibn Hajr states that al-Fâriqî said:
One who knows chains of hadîth but not the legal rulings derived from them cannot be counted among the Scholars of the Law.

His student, ibn Abî `Asrûn (d. 585) also followed this view in his book al-Intisâr.
[as-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar, p. 20-23]

When you encounter people of the Ahl-e-Hadith and Salafis, they will fail to show you a single reference from the Salaf or the Mujtahid Imams saying that you must follow all hadith that are sahih without question as long as the chain is sahih. They will talk about ijma but none will be demonstrated. In fact, it is clearly stated by the scholars that hadith is misguidance without checking them:

ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî reports Sufyân ibn `Uyayna as saying,
Hadîth is a pitfall (madilla) except for the fuqahâ’.
And Mâlik’s companion, `Abd Allâh ibn Wahb, said,
Hadîth is a pitfall except for the Ulema. Every memorizer of hadîth that does not have an Imâm in fiqh is misguided (dâll), and if Allâh had not rescued us with Mâlik and al-Layth [ibn Sa`d], we would have been misguided.

Imam Ahmad’s teacher, Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan, despite his foremost status as the Master of Hadîth Masters, would not make rulings from hadith but followed in this the fiqh of Abû Hanifa as he said bluntly:
We do not belie Allah. We never heard better than the juridical opinion (ra’î) of Abû Hanîfa, and we followed most of his positions.

Here is where ‘Blackmail by Bukhari’ occurs: surely all this does not apply to Bukhari, right?

Surely Bukhari was at the same rank as the Mujtahid Mutlaq Imams who set up the madhahib?
If he, of all people, narrates a hadith, we have to follow it, right?!


He never claimed to be Mujtahid. Nor did he himself say that it is necessary to act on all of his hadith. Nor did he claim to be setting up his own school of aqeedah or fiqh. He is an imam of hadith only.

If we are to follow Bukhari or muhadditheen to the neglect of Sunni Islam and these Imams' own advice and assertions then we should know that ‘imam,’ in English, can be translated as ‘one who guides’ or ‘one to follow’.
So since people would have us follow Imam Bukhari and his ‘school’ even though he did not tell us to, then lets attempt this:
  • First of all, we would have to give up calling ourselves Salafis or Followers of the Salaf as-Saleh since Imam Bukhari is from long after those generations since he was born 194 years later and did not complete Bukhari till near his death – in fact he left it unfinished so it was interpolated by two other authors, so the final draft is from even later.
  • We also have to admit that we have no school from neither the Sahaba or Tabi'in since this honor falls only to Abu Hanifa, 63 AH, though his enemies among the muhadditheen try to make it later.
The Salafis of course will try to allege that the ‘school’ is in the hadith.
Let's see if this is true momentarily.

Also, we do not have any books of hadith from the Salaf or the Tabi'in accepted into the Kutub as-Sahih as-Sittah by the Ahl-e-Hadith, so we find ourselves in a similar position to the Christian Scriptures, where the important narrations were not sorted out or put to paper until at least 200 years after Hijri. Of course, there was a oral tradition, but the necessary input of authentication by Imam Bukhari and Muslim had to wait for nearly three centuries, and until then people were supposedly in a confused state. We then also have to pick between Bukhari and Malik: he narrated only a thin book of hadith, unlike the near 5,000 in Bukhari – his Muwatta is a short volume, easily read in a day or two and not even composed entirely of hadith – there are many pages of judgments and he judges against some of the hadith he himself narrates.

There are two options:

Malik, and the Hanafis before him who collected hadith, are negligent and failed to pass on or even write down the essential hadith which we needed,


They did indeed pass on what is needed and Bukhari and others were collecting additional material for historical purposes only.

The other option is that the imams of fiqh were ignorant of hadith and we had to wait for Bukhari to come along,


Bukhari includes, for the historical record or his own reasons, hadith which they rejected as non-applicable despite their being sahih.

But if we use Imam Bukhari or muhadditheen alone, despite the fact that he was following others in law and aqeedah, notwithstanding his personal idiosyncrasies in fiqh, and ignoring the fact that he did not even claim to set up a school of creed or jurisprudence, we should at least be able to find the details for our beliefs and practices in his or other muhadditheens’ books, right?


Where, for example, does Bukhari narrate how to pray a single raka'ah of salat to completion?
Or the numbers of the components of the five different prayers?
Or the comprehensive non-conflicting accounts of their timings?
The answers are in fact spread out all over the books of fiqh and hadith and most of the relevant hadith, unfortunately, are not even sahih.

So Imam Bukhari makes no effort to show us even how to pray a single raka'ah, probably because he knew this was not needed as people would not be so foolish as to take his book as a reference as opposed to a historical record or manual of hadith, and yet we are supposed to follow sahih hadith no matter what?

Ahl-e-Hadith will say that omissions from his book, even on so important an issue as prayer, do not mean we leave the rest of the sahih hadith. They will argue that leaving a sahih hadith is bida’t. But which imams of creed or even fiqh said that? In fact the position is that the Imams and suitably qualified people did indeed leave or not act on hadith, in either their literal meanings, or believed them to be abrogated or strange in matn.

Hanafis such as Isa ibn Abban rejected swathes of ahad narrations and although the grounds for rejecting the ahad sahih vary between the Ahlus-Sunnah, with the Hanbalis most reluctant to reject any, it is valid to reject an ahad in meaning or content with a reason; the problem only comes if I reject one for no reason at all. But here again Salafis will try to confuse you: they will have to admit that the sahih can be rejected, since their own Imam of Hadith, Nasiruddin Albani rejected many, but they will assert that hadith can only be rejected on the grounds of their chain and not their apparent meanings. This is again a lie and mere sophistry, but we will come back to this.

The unfortunate result of ‘Bukhari Blackmail’ is to encourage people to question the intentions of Imam Bukhari, set up a conflict between him and the Fuqaha, to a greater extent than was the case, and to ultimately encourage people along the path of hadith rejection by making them think that every narration must be taken into belief: questions in beliefs, such as ‘does God have a son?’ can only be on certainty – you cannot be 90% sure in Islam, only 100% will do. So how can taking Ilm-ul-Zaan or ahad narrations, probabilistic knowledge, into matters of belief be appropriate?

Sadly, confusion and posturing abound from Ahl-e-Hadith – apart from failing to show how to pray from sahih hadith alone, they make bizarre claims that Imam Bukhari himself did not make: for example, not all of the hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari are of one grade – Sahih: however, they will never tell you the actual facts, leaving Christians and atheists to come up to you and tell you that the ‘hadith is in Bukhari and sahih and thus you must accept it!’ – when in fact some of Imam Bukhari’s own hadith do not meet his conditions and he merely adduces them as supporting evidence for the main hadith of the chapter:
”Auxiliary narrations served to bolster the authenticity of the prophetic tradition, but neither Bukhari or Muslim felt the need to meet their usual rigorous standards for authenticity when dealing with them.”

So the actual percentage of Sahih al-Bukhari which is sahih according to his conditions is not all of it but only the main chapter heading ahadith only – the others may sometimes not be. Some scholars give a figure of 1/3 of his hadith meet his condition, others less. There is much confusion about this and Imam adh-Dhahabi – yes, he is a muhaddith too – expresses it thus:
”They are all Sahih, but not all of them reach the same high degree of Sahih.”

The danger of harassing Muslims by insisting that hadith is sahih so how dare you not believe in it or follow it is manifest in the fact that it is not only hadith narrations which can be sahih, and nor are by any means all or even most sahih hadith narrations in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim. Again, this is a consensus of Sunnis and admitted by Imam Bukhari in the full title of his Sahih – which is called the ‘short version or summary of the book’ – the Satanic Verses incident is graded as sahih by hadith masters such as Imam ibn Hajar and historians such as Imam Tabari, also a hadith master and faqih, though his school is currently lost, alike – but they knew and articulated clearly that being sahih did not mean ‘true’ but merely that the chain was correct – the content and meaning could well be rejected, as it is in this case. But a person nowadays, suitably mislead by the Salafi movement could be incited, as ibn Taymiyyah was, to mistake its sahih status for its acceptability and thus to believe that the Prophet compromised on the issue of monotheism – an impossibility rejected by all orthodox Muslims.

You would think the incident of the Satanic Verses or the Hadith of the Cranes as it is known would be sufficient to deter the Salafis from endangering people’s Iman by threatening them with Bida’t if they fail to accept any and all sahih narrations, but no such luck.

They will retort with the deceptive claim that none of the hadith masters rejected the sahih hadith – that is not true: they were rejected openly such as the Satanic Verses incident, except by ibn Taymiyyah, who is, in fact, not found among the lists of senior hadith masters anyway.

What these individuals are trying to fool you with is the fact that they were rejected did not make them not sahih, as that only relates to their chain but not their truthfulness, since these two concepts are identical to many Salafists and all Ahl-e-Hadith, they try to equate them in your mind as well.

However, the scholars of Islam were under no such illusions, and Imam Bukhari was well aware of the criteria of fallibility as prescribed in the Quran for all works of man and muhadditheen: ‘Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much incongruity.’ [4:82] – this states clearly that all works other than those of God are plagued by contradiction.

So although the issue of the Satanic Verses should be enough to deter people from ‘Hadith is sahih brother, how dare you go against it,’ it will be necessary here to show that Imam Bukhari and others narrated hadith which they knew would not be acceptable in Islamic fiqh or aqeedaH but that they were documenting only – their lack of endorsement or explanation of these narrations demonstrates that sufficiently

Bukhari 18. ‘What one is cautious about in bad luck in a woman’:

4805. It is related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
There is bad luck in women, houses and horses.

4806. It is related that Ibn ‘Umar said,
They mentioned bad luck in the presence of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
If there is bad luck in anything, it is in houses, women and horses.

This story is found in a number of ways in various hadith collections: the first narration clearly claims that there is such a thing as bad luck and the second says ‘if’ thus leaving the question open. 

Obviously there is no such thing as bad luck and least of all in women – this absence of superstition in Islam is confirmed in Bukhari itself. Yet Imam Bukhari narrates the hadith here without comment or explanation and again in Adab wal Mufrad. A person picking this up would be shocked and confused, especially as Imam Bukhari omitted the explanation of Hazrat A’isha where she explained that ibn Umar had missed out the phrase that the Prophet said, ‘The ignorant people believe that there is bad luck in…’

Imam Ahmad, who checked and approved of Imam Bukhari’s Sahih, did include that narration of A’isha: so the options are that Imam Bukhari wants you to believe that
  • Women are bad luck
  • He narrates contradictory hadith
  • You are not to act, believe in or even read as a layman every hadith in Bukhari

Sahih Bukhari, Narrated Aisha:
Allah’s Apostle heard a man reciting the Qur’an at night, and said,
May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such-and-such Suras, which I was caused to forget.

Obviously, no-one is saying you should believe in this, or it could lead one to think that the Prophet forgot parts of the Quran, which is clashing with Quran and aqeedah.

But Imam Bukhari does not provide any explanation – having narrated it, it is left to the Imams of Fiqh and Aqeeda to sort out, and they of course reject it. There is no question of ‘following the hadith’.

Again, from Bukhari, narrated Abu Huraira,
The Angel of Death was sent to Moses and said,
Respond to your Lord.
Moses slapped him severely, knocking out one of his eyes. The angel went back to his Lord, and said,
You sent me to a slave who does not want to die.
Allah restored his eye and said,
Go back and tell him to place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his hand…

Now a person reading this narration without knowing that not all sahih are taken into belief would be most confused: it has been addressed in detail by Islamic scholars. It is clearly related in the Quran that the time of death of any person will not be postponed and in any case it is unacceptable for a Prophet to reject death and refuse to respond to the Call of God.

It would also seem strange that angels are creatures that can have their eyes knocked out by humans. Various explanations have been offered by scholars such as Qadhi Iyadh and hadith scholars such as ibn Khuzayma, who said that perhaps Moses mistook the Angel of Death for an assassin. These explanations are in themselves problematic due to the text of the hadith, but the point here is that it is narrated without explanation and has no relevance to practice or doctrine – inflicting it on people as if Imam Bukhari meant for them to act on or believe it can cause serious confusion.

Narrated ‘Imran bin Husain,
The Verse of Hajj-at-Tamatu was revealed in Allah’s Book, so we performed it with Allah’s Apostle, and nothing was revealed in Qur’an to make it illegal, nor did the Prophet prohibit it till he died. But the man just expressed what his own mind suggested. That man was Umar.

This will likewise, without the explanation of the scholars, which Imam Bukhari does not provide, cause confusion and make someone believe that Umar makes things up off the top of his head – the hadith requires commentary and could cause confusion without it. ‘Following the hadith of Bukhari’ does not help here either.

Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith 1.251 Narrated by Abu Salama,
‘Aisha’s brother and I went to ‘Aisha and he asked her about the bath of the Prophet. She brought a pot containing about a Sa’ of water and took a bath and poured it over her head and at that time there was a screen between her and us.’
What is the point of telling people to accept stories such as this? Imam Bukhari is clearly documenting for the purpose of historical record a story even as strange as this which is, in fact, rejected by Hanafis and omitted by Malik and Shafi'i. In its literal meaning it implies that Aisha had a bath behind a screen to demonstrate how to do ghusl – but this is impossible for our mother A’isha.

Various glosses have been presented, but none are of any use and the hadith is a favourite of Shia; if she was to demonstrate the ghusl, she had no need to undertake it in front of them, it is impossible for the screen to be transparent so what is the point of this narration other than for it to be used against those who like to disparage our noble mother Ai’sha?

Will the Ahl-e-Hadith go around telling people this hadith is in Bukhari so we must accept it? Or one of their bizarre explanations stating that this happened but that she was fully clothed, which would still be unacceptable, or that she merely had the bath, in which case what was the point of having them witness it? Enforcing this hadith is of no value and the Hanafis dealt with it appropriately by rejecting it despite the sahih status.

Bukhari 3:49 863, Narrated Al-Bara',
When the Prophet intended to perform ‘Umra in the month of Dhul-Qada, the people of Mecca did not let him enter Mecca till he settled the matter with them by promising to stay in it for three days only. When the document of treaty was written, the following was mentioned:
These are the terms on which Muhammad, Allah’s Apostle agreed.
They said,
We will not agree to this, for if we believed that you are Allah’s Apostle we would not prevent you, but you are Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah.
The Prophet said,
I am Allah’s Apostle and also Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah.
Then he said to ‘Ali,
Strike off ‘Allah’s Apostle.’
‘Ali said,
No, by Allah, I will never rub off your name.
So, Allah’s Apostle took the document and wrote,
This is what Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah has agreed upon.

Taken literally, it means the Prophet could not only read but write as well – this narration is beloved of Christian missionaries, but again, it is rejected by scholars and the explanation is found later on in Bukhari – what actually happened is clarified in the following two ahadith. Ali refused to honor the Prophet’s request & the Prophet struck that part out himself. He did not write as mentioned in Bukhari 3:863.

Narrated al-Bara bin ‘Azib,
When Allah’s Apostle concluded a peace treaty with the people of Hudaibiya, Ali bin Abu Talib wrote the document and he mentioned in it, “Muhammad, Allah’s Apostle .”
The pagans said,
Don’t write: ‘Muhammad, Allah’s Apostle’, for if you were an apostle we would not fight with you.
Allah’s Apostle asked Ali to rub it out, but Ali said,
I will not be the person to rub it out.
Allah’s Apostle rubbed it out and made peace with them on the condition that the Prophet and his companions would enter Mecca and stay there for three days, and that they would enter with their weapons in cases.

However, Imam Bukhari yet again does not explain – this is because these narrations are not meant to be taken in the way the Salafis and Ahl-e-Hadith tell us. Unless they are saying that we are to work out what Imam Bukhari means without him telling us – in which case we need another Imam and so on ad infinitum.

Sahih Muslim, Kitab ar-Radaa’ A’isha reported:
Sahla bint Suhail came to Allah’s Prophet and said,
Messenger of Allah, I see on the face of Abu Hudhaifa signs of disgust on entering of Salim who is an ally into our house.
Allah’s Prophet said,
Suckle him.
She said,
How can I suckle him as he is a grown-up man?
Allah’s Messenger smiled and said,
I already know that he is a young man.
‘Amr has made this addition in his narration that he participated in the Battle of Badr and in the narration of ibn ‘Umar the words are: Allah’s Messenger laughed.

Will the unhinged members of the Salafi ranks go around demanding that Imam Muslim meant for this to be applied or that it in fact actually happened? It is clear by now that people who will insist in the Satanic Verses will not stop at this either, but Imam Muslim is surely collecting the narrations as a historian is wont to do – he cannot be asking us to believe in it. In any case, the hadith is rejected for obvious reasons.

Abu Dawood 4723:
It was narrated from al-Walid ibn Abi Thawr, from Simak, from ‘Abdulläh bin ‘Amirah, from al-Ahnaf bin Qais, from al-‘Abbãs ibn ‘Abdul-Muttalib, who said,
I was in al-Batba’ with a group of people, among whom was the Messenger of Allah . A cloud passed over him, and he looked at it and asked,
What do you call this?
They replied,
He asked,
And al-Muzn?
They replied,
And al-Muzn.
He asked,
And ‘Anãn?
They replied,
And al-‘Anan.
He then asked,
How much do you think there is between heaven and earth?
They replied,
We do not know.
He said,
Between them is seventy-one, or seventy-two, or seventy-three years, and between it, and the heaven above it is the same and so on.
And he had counted seven heavens and said,
Then above the seventh heaven there is a sea, between whose top and bottom is a distance like that between one heaven and another. Then above that there are eight mountain goats.
The distance between their hooves and their knees is like the distance between one heaven and the next. Then on their backs is the Throne, and the distance between the bottom and the top of the Throne, is like the distance between one heaven and another. Then Allah is above that, may He be Blessed and Exalted.

This is a particularity embarrassing hadith for the Salafis, especially as ibn Taymiyyah graded it as acceptable, but the idea of God being carried on wild goats, or carried at all, is heretical – the hadith, despite being narrated in many collections and graded as sahih by at least ibn Khuzayma and ibn Taymiyyah, is rejected for naked anthropomorphism and for sounding eerily familiar to God riding a cherub in the Old Testament. Are we to accept this bizarre and faith busting narration merely because it is graded as sahih by some hadith scholars?

Sometimes the explanations, which are outright lies in the cases presented, make the problem worse: A deliberate mistranslation where they interpolate ‘Angels’ for ‘goats’ and truly awful and confusing explanation here:

Sunan Abu Dawood and Musnad of Ahmad: Narrated from Abu Huraira – ”The illegitimate child is the most evil of the three,’ meaning more evil than his parents”

Once again, this is a confusing narration and there are others like it of various degrees of authenticity. Shall we follow it because some, including Salafis like Albani, say that it is sahih? Obviously not, as it clashes with the Quran and seems to promote the idea of ‘Original Sin’ – however, the explanation of Hadrat Ai’sha, namely that the hadith does not mean what Ahmad and Abu Dawood are narrating but warns the child against replicating the actions of his parents, was not included by the muhadditheen, either for their own reasons or because it did not meet conditions.

Obviously, foisting this narration on someone and then telling them it is sahih is going to cause major confusion – Hanafis and Malikis rejected it and muhadditheen who wanted to retain it were forced to offer their own explanations instead. But none of these explanations are in front of you when you read this narration – so what happened to following all sahih narrations?

This narration is very useful in illustrating the Salafi mentality – after demanding that one accepts hadith, when a difficult one comes along, they resort to gymnastics and other sources to try and explain it: a funny strategy of theirs is to say that Albani did not accept so and so hadith or ibn Baz rejected it in fiqh, as if their latter day 20th century imams had to be awaited before clearing up important issues. And once again – they will try to give muhadditheen exclusive rights to critique hadith for fear that the jurists would reject them – as indeed jurists were justified in doing.

Sahih Muslim Book 19, Hadith Number 4322.
Chapter: Permissibility of killing women and children in the night raids, provided it is not deliberate.

It is narrated by Sa’b b. Jaththama that he said,
Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids.
He said,
They are from them.

Here is an interesting counter example – an effort has been made by Imam Muslim to explain the narration which could be misconstrued. He also takes care to put it after the section denouncing the killing of non-combatants. But once again, not knowing that no-one in Islamic history took this literally and that it was merely an understanding that accidental civilian deaths due to cavalry damage occurred due to mingling of civilians with combatants and were unavoidable but extremely regrettable, could lead the one who has been ‘blackmailed’ by hadith to conclude that ‘they are from them’ means it is licit to kill them as opposed to ‘they are mixed up with them,’ which would have been a better translation. One can see how those of the ‘party of hadith’ predisposed to violence can easily be led astray by narrations without fiqh.

Then there is this flagrantly confusing narration in Bukhari, a favourite of Shia:
Narrated Nafi’,
Whenever ibn ‘Umar recited the Qur’an, he would not speak to anyone till he had finished his recitation. Once I held the Qur’an and he recited Suratul-Baqara from his memory and then stopped at a certain Verse and said,
Do you know in what connection this Verse was revealed?
I replied,
He said,
It was revealed in such-and-such connection.
ibn ‘Umar then resumed his recitation. 
Nafi added regarding the Verse:– So go to your tilth when or how you will, Ibn ‘Umar said,
It means one should approach his wife in …
The ‘dot dot dot’ is not mine: it is in fact in the text of Sahih Bukhari: if we are to ‘follow all sahih hadith,’ what do we make of this confusing narration? How do we act on this, especially as the narration exists in a full form with the same chain, that Imam Bukhari neglected to mention – thus the bit he missed out is:
“Approach the woman in her anus.”

This narration is rejected by all Sunnis, and in any case, what is the point of narrating an incomplete and confusing passage such as this? Did Imam Bukhari mean for us to ‘follow it’ as Salafis and Ahl-e-Hadith claim? Obviously not.

Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Al-Jihaad:
Narrated Abu Huraira,
Allah’s Apostle said,
Once Solomon, son of David said,
Tonight I will have sexual intercourse with one hundred women each of whom will give birth to a knight who will fight in Allah’s Cause.
But he did not say, ‘Allah-willing.’ Therefore only one of those women conceived and gave birth to a half-man. By Him in Whose Hands Muhammad’s life is, if he had said, “Allah willing’, he would have begotten sons all of whom would have been knights striving in Allah’s Cause.

Are we really expected to believe that Imam Bukhari expects us to believe in this shocking incident? In any case, how is it reconciled with a Merciful God that Solomon, a Prophet, is punished for not saying ‘If Allah wills,’ which is not even a sin in the first place, so severely by God? Then what chance do any of us stand? And why is God punishing the mother of the child and the child itself for something Solomon did? Does Imam Bukhari expect us to become Christians? Of course not – this narration was never meant by him to be accepted in the manner that the Salafis and Ahl-e-Hadith are doing.

Obviously, examples can be multiplied ad nauseum, but this should be sufficient: the next time people demand that you act on a hadith because the muhadditheen graded it as sahih, ask them about acting on these narrations.

It can be seen that it is clear that, hopefully, the muhadditheen were not collecting these for the purpose of acting on them or believing them but rather for the purposes of historical interest: none of them have any relevance to this life or the hereafter and if pursued lead to misguidance and confusion.

However, be warned – Salafis and Ahl-e-Hadith will nonetheless challenge you with outlandish explanations as seen for the Hadith of the Goats, where they resorted to actually changing the words in translation and adding a whole sentence about Angels that is not in the text.

You will also be constantly harangued with ‘show me anyone (they mean anyone they approve of) who rejected sahih hadith': be careful as they are playing with you – no-one rejected the hadith as not being sahih, as in having an authentic chain. They did indeed reject them in meaning, application or truth, because, in contrary to what the folks of the Ahl-e-Hadith would like you to think, a sahih hadith, having a perfect chain, can be rejected for its meaning.

There is no reason to denounce a hadith as ‘not sahih’, as the chain never gave it certainty in the first place. These people have misguided many with this piece of sophistry and deception: it is not necessary to grade as hadith as ‘not sahih’ to reject it, in fact no-one ever did, since a hadith sahih in chain may be rejected by suitably qualified people for a valid reason.

Sahih does not mean ‘true’ or ‘most definitely said by the Prophet,’ so there is no need to tackle the hadith by saying ‘not sahih = not true,’ since sahih did not mean true in the very first place, as explained by, among many scholars, ibn Hajar in his introduction to his magisterial commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari.

Further, those who decide the rejection on content are not the imams of hadith, who are experts in chains only, somewhat akin to modern day archaeologists or forensic historians, but rather the doctors of law such as Malik and Abu Hanifa, and they do indeed frequently reject sahih narrations, some of which were shown above.

We also unfortunately need to combat here in more detail the nonsensical assertion that no hadith in Bukhari has ever been critiqued or challenged: this is utter sophistry, especially coming from Salafis whose Imam of Hadith, Albani, actually not only questioned but, despite his latter day status and numerous documented gaffes in hadith sciences, actually rejected a shocking number of ahadith from Bukhari and Muslim.

Recalling that the Imams of Sunni Islam usually had no need to overtly reject sahih hadith since they did not consider them to be anything other than probabilistic in the first place, their willingness to attack narrations in Bukhari would have perhaps pleased the academic in Imam Bukhari himself.

Not only do the Imams of Sunni Muslims question and indeed reject some narrations of the Sahih, so do the Mujassim Imams of the Salafis – ibn Taymiyyah and ibn Qayyim themselves – so what is the point of haranguing lay Muslims with ‘the Hadith is in Bukhari! How dare you question!’ – these arch-deacons of Salafism not only question but reject sahih from Bukhari:

Imam al-Bukhari writes:
Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said,
On the Day of Judgement when Allah Most High throws the people into Hell, it will say,
Give me more.
Then Allah Most High will create a nation and then throw them into it. The Hellfire will again complain,
I want more.
Again Allah Most High will create a nation and throw them into it.
The Hellfire will once more say,
I want more!
And then Allah Most High will put His Foot into the Throat of Hell and it will be full.
[Bukhari, Kitab at-Tawhid, chapter on 'Tawhid']

Doctor Maximus of Hadith, ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani writes in Fath al-Bari, chapter on 'Tawhid':
Imam al-Bukhari has written this hadith in his tafsir of Sura Kahf. In this narration when the Hellfire asks for more, Allah Most High puts His ‘foot’ into it and then it will be full.
Allah Most High is never cruel and yet in Abu Hurayra’s above narration it says that Allah Most High will create a nation and fill Hell with it.
Hafiz ibn Qayyim, Abu Hasan Qubsi and other groups of scholars of hadith say that the narrator of this hadith has fabricated this by saying that Allah Most High will create a nation to fill Hell.
They say that Allah Most High created Hell for those people who follow Satan, and that the new creation would never have sinned, so how could Allah Most High put them in Hell?
Allah Most High also says in the Qur’an that He never does injustice to anyone.
[Tafsir of Suratul-Kahf verse 49].

Hafiz ibn Taymiyyah writes in his Usuli Tafsir, chapter 'Ijma al-Muhaddithun':
An authentic narrator sometimes makes mistakes, but knowledgeable scholars of Hadith find these mistakes straight away. For example, Imam al-Bukhari writes in Kitab at-Tawhid that Allah Most High will create a new nation and fill Hellfire with it.
A master of hadith will find out straight away if a narrator has made a mistake. These mistakes by narrators are also found in other hadith books.
Imam Muslim writes that when the Prophet married his wife Maymunah, after he had taken off the ihram from himself, the Prophet did not perform two rakat nafila inside the Ka’ba. A person with deep knowledge of hadith will straight away know the narrator of this hadith has made a mistake because it is proved from another authentic hadith that the Prophet never performed ‘umra in the month of Rajab.
When the Prophet married his wife Maymunah, he was wearing the ihram and he did perform two rakat nafil inside the Ka’ba.

ibn Taymiyyah writes also about Imam Muslim:
Imam Muslim has written those types of narrations to which scholars of hadith have objected, example, Allah Most High made the Heavens and the Earth in seven days and Abu Sufiyan asking our Prophet to marry his daughter after becoming Muslim. Another narration in the ‘Book of Salat’ indicates that our Prophet had two sons called Ibrahim (we know that our Prophet had only one son called Ibrahim)
[Ibn Taymiyyah, at-Tawassul, 'Ulum al-Hadith and Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, vol.18,
Chapter on 'Maqam Bukhari wa Muslim']

Of course, Sheikh ibn Taymiyyah is as indirect and unclear as he always is but it seems that he has criticized Imam al-Bukhari’s and Imam Muslim’s narrations as well as ibn Qayyim – and they are to be praised for their honesty and academic vigor in criticizing a hadith that in fact supports their anthropomorphic beliefs.

Imam al-Bukhari writes:
After the death of the Prophet, Umm al-Mu’minin Sawda was the first to die.
[Bukhari, Chapter of Zakat]

Hafiz ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani writes that this is wrong, and that Umm al-Mu’minin Zaynab died first. Imam ibn al-Jawzi says this narration is not correct and it is very strange that Imam al-Bukhari wrote this. Imam an-Nawawi also says that Imam al-Bukhari has made mistakes [Fath al-Bari, 'Zakat'].

‘Umar ibn Maymun said,
I saw a monkey who had just committed adultery with another one. Other monkeys then stoned them both, so I also started to throw stones as well.
[Bukhari, "Ayyam al-Jahiliya"]

Hafiz al-‘Asqlani writes:
Allama Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr says,
This narration is wrong because enforcing an Islamic Law on an animal regarding any matter would be wrong.
Humaydi says that this account was not actually in the original Bukhari, but someone has added it later. Nusqi wrote the second version of Bukhari, and this narration was not written in it. If we were to say that Hafiz Humaydi and Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr are right, then what about the scholars who say that all the ahadith written in Bukhari are correct?”
[Fath al-Bari, "Ayyam al-Jahiliya"]

Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim have said that the War of Mustalaq happened in 4 AH as Musa ibn ‘Uqba has said. Ibn Ishaq has said that it happened in 6 AH. Mustalaq was in the war when ‘A’isha was falsely accused of a sin she did not commit.’A’isha has said that when she was falsely accused, the Verse of the Veil was revealed. One day our Prophet was talking to some people and he said,
Some people have falsely accused my wife, but I can only see goodness in her.
From the evidence, Sa’d ibn Mas, stood up and said,
If the person who has falsely accused your wife is from our tribe, I will kill him
[Bukhari, Magazi; Muslim, Tawba]

Hafiz al-‘Asqalani writes:
Imam al-Bukhari has said that the war of Mustalaq happened in 4 AH. Imam al-Bukhari has made a mistake, because the War of Mustalaq happened in 5 AH. I feel that Imam al-Bukhari wanted to write down 5 but he wrote down 4, because Imam al-Bukhari also wrote a hadith in the chapter on Jihad which proves that the war of Mustalaq happened in 5 AH.
Secondly, the narration where Sa’d ibn Mas has said that he would kill the slanderer is also wrong because Sa’d ibn Mas was martyred in the Battle of Khandaq.
A’isha has said,
When I was falsely accused, the Verse of the Veil was revealed and it was revealed after the Battle of Khandaq.
[al-'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Magazi]

It is very interesting that the same, very understandable confusion with numbers, if it is applied to the issue of the age of Ai’sha, namely that the ages given in the Sahih collections do not add up and she was older than nine at the time of betrothal, send Salafis into a rage of ‘modernist’ and ‘hadith rejecter’ – but here is Ibn Hajar saying that Bukhari and Muslim have their dates wrong – what of it?

People have not only felt free to fault the Sahih collections on their matn (recall the anger that Salafis feel on anything but criticism of the chain of transmission, but ibn Taymiyyah and ibn Qayyim were happy to critique the content or matn in the above narrations) but also even in the chains of narrations.

Before we get into that, it is important to know why people try to blackmail Muslims into accepting muhadditheen as the main authorities in Islam – namely to facilitate their heretical views on hadith. To this end, they will often point out that narrators such as Abu Hanifa and Malik are considered weak by certain muhadditheen (they mean their favorites of course) and for this reason they do not narrate hadith from them – this is a gross deception.

But assuming it is true, why are we to accept the views of the opponents of the fuqahah, in this case the muhadditheen as being correct? One does not take the information from one side of a dispute only.

In fact, Hadith narrators such as Imam Bukhari and even earlier ones had serious problems with the imams of fiqh, often making shocking statements about them – so when the Salafis tell you that Abu Hanifa and the Muwatta of Imam Malik are ‘weak’ in hadith, they do not tell you the following pertinent facts:

Imam al-Bukhari has stated,
Imam Abu Hanifa was a Murji’i
[at-Ta'rikh al-Kabir, under the 'Biography of Numan ibn Thabit']

Imam al-Bukhari also writes,
When Sufyan ath-Thawri heard news about the death of Imam Abu Hanifa, he said,
Praise be to Allah that such a man had died as he was gradually destroying Islam.
There could not be a worse person born in Islam
[Ta'rikh Saghir, Biography of Imam Abu Hanifa]

Imam al-Bukhari also writes,
On two occasions Imam Abu Hanifa was ordered to repent from making blasphemous statements.
[al-Bukhari, Kitab ad-Daufa Walmat Rukin; Ibn 'Abdi'l-Barr, al-Intiqa]

Imam al-Bukhari informs us that he had taken these statements from his tutor Na’im ibn Hammad [Ta'rikh as-Saghir]

Imam al-Bukhari was so convinced by his tutor, that he never mentioned or used Imam Abu Hanifa as a reference for his book Sahih al-Bukhari, and accused him of only knowing a handful of hadith, a bizarre assertion.

So Imam Bukhari is not at all saying that Abu Hanifa is ‘weak’ but rather that he is an apostate.

Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak, another noted Muhaddith, said,
I don’t consider Imam Malik to be a scholar.

So before the lay Muslims are led to believe that they should doubt Imam Malik or Abu Hanifa on hadith, it should be known that Ahl-e-Hadith accept these kinds of narrations from individuals such as Na’im ibn Hammad: One often finds both praiseworthy and very scathing statements about narrators and scholars – whereas Imam Bukhari (and Salafis) are happy to take Hammad’s word on Abu Hanifa, there is this about him, among other alleged calumnies:

Na’im ibn Hammad was a famous scholar from a region called Marau. He had sight in one eye only. During the later part of his life he went to live in Egypt.
At first, he belonged to a sect called the Jahmites, and was an active member. He then later left this sect and wrote a book, which was the first book to use the science of Musnad. These were a compilation of narrations by the Sahaba, which were placed in an alphabetical order, according to whom they had narrated the hadith.
During this particular period, the Umma used to question whether the Holy Qur’an was makhluq (created). When this question was put forward to Na’im ibn Hammad he did not give an explanation. He was then sent to prison along side Yaqub Faqia. He died in 228 AH. It was noted that no janaza (funeral prayer) was prayed over him and he was buried without a kaffan (shroud).
[al-Baghdadi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz; adh-Dhahabi, Tahzib al-Tahzib; al-'Asqalani and al-Baghdadi, Biography of Na'im ibn Hammad]

So it is these kinds of tricks that are used by the Ahl-e-Hadith to confuse converts and lay Muslims – if muhadditheen are reluctant to narrate from Malik or Abu Hanifa due to doubts about them what about the doubts about less senior scholars from much after their time such as Hammad? Why are they not doubting them? The reason is obviously that they are in the "hadith gang" and Abu Hanifa is persona non grata to them. So there is no need to give them final say on who Abu Hanifa or Malik are or are not.

In reality, we should not be fooled by the Salafi Movement into being too partial to the ‘People of Hadith': scholars are human beings – they can get angry and they can err – this even happens to the Sahaba. In fact it is because of the power struggle between the narrators of hadith and the scholars of Islam that the former refuse to narrate from them and accuse and belittle them. It is indeed a great loss for Islam and it’s authenticity if we discard the two earliest imams because some muhadditheen had a problem with them. And as seen above, we cannot reconstruct Islam and fiqh and creed from the books of hadith alone. Or if we can, it is a very strange Islam, full of wild goats and inapplicable stories.

Further, it can be seen that the Muhaditheen not narrating hadith from the earliest collectors such as Malik is not due to scholarly rigor but animosity:

For example, we saw Imam Bukhari narrate a hadith from Imran ibn Hattan above, but he was the head of the Khawarij sect and his poem exalting ibn Moljam who assassinated 'Ali is famous. Yet Bukhari often narrates from him – but not from Hanafis. It may be, as some have said, that he does this from before the time he became a khawarij – but he certainly seems more accommodating of such people than might be considered proper given his harshness against Abu Hanifa, based on what a similarly unreliable person had claimed about him. Further, does not the fact that someone became a Khawarij render his earlier narrations suspect? At what stage did he become a Khawarij? And does Imam Bukhari give the same leeway to other deviant sects?

Imam Bukhari also narrates, as do other muhaditheen from Hariz ibn Uthman who was known for cursing Ali seventy times before leaving the mosque. Ismail ibn Ayyash narrated:
I accompanied Hariz from Egypt to Mecca. On the way he kept cursing Ali.
I said to him,
How can you curse someone about whom the Prophet has said,
You are to me as Aaron to Moses?
[Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasai and others have narrated from him]

Imam Bukhari narrated over fifty three narrations from Uthman ibn Abi Shaybah – who many muhadditheen were willing to give the benefit of the doubt, unlike Malik or Abu Hanifa despite his being well known for making fun of the Quran and narrating,
“Our Prophet attended a festival of non-believers and respected their idols the way they respected them. This is the reason why two angels refused to pray behind our Prophet.”
But this situation would never arise with our Prophet. ibn Abi Shayba also used to interpret the Qur’an incorrectly and disrespected it by changing its words. Zakariyya ibn Yahya ath-Thani Daraqutni claims he had no knowledge of hadith and he used to tell unknown narrations. Hakim had said that he was weak and made many mistakes in narration.
al-Bukhari admits the scholars of hadith have ignored him and did not take narrations from him at all.
But Imam al-Bukhari has taken narrations from him regardless.

Accepting such a person and not accepting Abu Hanifa does not do wonders for Imam Bukhari’s partiality.

The muhadditheen that the Salafis want you to judge Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifa by are also willing to narrate from Imam Zuhri and Sufian ibn Ouyana – who claim that some part of the Quran was lost in the Battle of Yarmuk. Of course, that is their right, but it is not then a necessity for you to defer to them as to who is and is not Sahih vis-a-vis the Imams of Fiqh and Aqeedah. With all of these people, you find good and bad narrations – the Muhadditheen do not deny that these people, for example, made fun of the Quran, but their sciences allow then to narrate from them. Likewise, the sciences of the Islamic logicians and jurists such as Malik allow him to reject such sahih narrations. If anything, the latter is the safer path.

Of course, our intention here is not to disparage the noble imams of hadith, but rather to maintain the correct balance or ‘al Qistas al Mustaqeem’ as Imam al-Ghazali might say; the efforts of the imams of hadith are immense, but to put them above the fuqaha of the tabi'in and salaf and allow them to insult them is incorrect and offensive, especially when the methodology of deviant sects today is to play into the hands of the Shi'a, modernists and missionaries by asserting that hadith has primacy over fiqh or that Bukhari has primacy over Imam Malik ibn Anas or Idris Shafi'i or worst of all, Abu Hanifa. This is manifest stupidity.

Despite these very harsh statements and apparently strange narrations and narrators by the imams of hadith, Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi'is have been tolerant and rightly give the imams of hadith their due rank and respect.

At the same time, they reserve the right, due to their seniority and superiority in knowledge, to reject hadith, sahih or not, that clash with the Quran, or the noble character of the Prophets.

Malikis reject freely those hadith which clash with the practices of Medina at the time as they question how a single chain narration could go against what all of the Companions and Successors were doing. Shafi'is reject any that do not meet their five conditions or clash with reality. Hanafis have a big list of conditions, over a dozen, and thus reject ahad that clash with Quran, Sirah, observable reality, analogy and a big list of others.

It is the fact that Hanafis and Malikis are most strict when it comes to attributing statements to the Prophet and that the muhaditheen indeed had the most antagonism with them and they have paradoxically been accused by them of hadith rejection, and much worse as the quotes of Imam Bukhari. 

As I hope is obvious by now, people like Isa ibn Abban and Abu Hanifa and Malik have very good reasons for rejecting the hadith they do, quite apart from their followers being accused of hadith denial or modernism, ironically it is the Ahl-e-Hadith and the Salafis who hold honors for innovation and modernism with their ‘any hadith goes as long as it’s sahih’ policy.

The real meaning of tolerance of different opinions is to not start accusing people when they have a different methodology to oneself – after all, everyone is wiling to tolerate those who agree with them. Thus the madhahib must be free to apply their methodologies of hadith as they have from the very earliest days, indeed, from long before Bukhari, without fear of marginalization or harassment.

The next time a man or woman with a scowl comes up to you, starts hurling hadith and insisting the hadith is sahih and you must follow it, tell them ‘the hadith that women are bad luck is sahih, do you accept it? Why do you look for a way out with narrations of Imam Ahmad? Do you accept that God rides wild goats? Why not, hadith is Sahih?!’

Or ignore them and follow the correct methodology of the madhahib and the greatest of Imams, Abu Hanifa.

The following is a list of suggested further reading on the Basics of Hadith and Sunni Methodology:
  1. The Sunna of the Prophet by Muhammad al-Ghazali
  2. The Canonization of Bukhari and Muslim by Jonathan A. C. Brown
  3. Towards Understanding Taqleed by Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias
  4. Losing My Religion by Jeffrey Lang
  5. Albani and His Friends by GF Haddad

Asharis: Assemble

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