The importance of isnad

  1. Al-Hakim reports through Thabit ibn Qays, that the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said to his Companions:

    “You (the Sahaba) are listening and receiving from me and people (at-Tabi‘un i.e. the Successors) will listen and receive from you. Then people (the atba‘ at-tabi‘in) will listen and receive from those (the Successors) who listened and received from you. Then people (the fourth generation) will listen and receive from those (the atba‘ at-tabi‘in) who were the audience and recipient of the Successors, who had listened and received from you.”
    [Related by al-Hakim in Ma‘rifa ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p. 60.]

  2. According to ‘Abdu’llah ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “May Allah brighten a man who listened from us something and then passed it on to others exactly as he heard it because many a person to whom something is transmitted retains better than the person who first heard it.”
    [Related by at-Tirmidhi in as-Sunan, vol. 5, p. 34 # 2657; and Ibn Maja in as-Sunan, vol. 1, p. 85 # 232.]

  3. According to ‘Abdu’llah ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be well pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “May Allah keep him enjoying and rejoicing who heard something from me, remembered it and kept it well in his mind and then narrated it (to others).”
    [Reported by al-Imam ash-Shafi‘i in al-Musnad (p. 240) and ar-Risala (p. 401 # 1102); and at-Tabarani in al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, vol. 2, p. 126 # 1541.]

  4. According to Zayd ibn Thabit (may Allah be well pleased with him), he heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

    “May Allah grant him happiness who heard a tradition from me, learnt it by heart and conveyed it to others. There will be many jurists who will narrate the tradition to better jurists than themselves and there will be several others who will not be in truth jurists at all.”
    [Related by Abu Dawud in as-Sunan, vol. 3, p. 322 # 3660; and Ibn Maja in as-Sunan, vol. 1, p. 86 # 236.]

  5. According to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “Transmit from me may it be only a verse. And there is no harm in narrating events from the Children of Israel. And he who deliberately fabricates a lie on me builds his abode in the Fire.”
    [Related by al-Bukhari in as-Sahih, vol. 3, p. 1275 # 3274; Ibn Hibban as-Sahih, vol. 14, p. 149 # 6256; and Ahmad ibn Hanbal in al-Musnad, vol. 2, pp. 159, 202, 214.]

  6. According to Abu Qarsafa (may Allah be well pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) said:

    “Whatever you hear from me, narrate it to others and never say anything but truth. And whoever will fabricate a lie on me for him a house will be built in Hell.”
    [Reported by at-Tabarani in Turuq Hadith man Kadhaba ‘Alayya, p. 146 # 155; and in al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, vol. 3, p. 18 # 2516.]

  7. According to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “Obtain knowledge and facilitate and do not complicate. And if anyone of you feels infuriated he should keep silent.”
    [Related by Ahmad ibn Hanbal in al-Musnad, vol. 1, p. 239; and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, p. 95 # 245.]

  8. According to Abu Hurayra (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “Learn the Qur’an and (the knowledge of) the shares of inheritance and teach them to the people because I am going to depart (physically).”
    [Related by at-Tirmidhi in as-Sunan, vol. 4, p. 413 # 2091; and an-Nasa’i in as-Sunan, vol. 4, p. 63 # 6306.]

  9. ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf al-Muzani (may Allah be well pleased with him) narrated:

    “The Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal ibn al-Harith (may Allah be well pleased with him): “Know.” He submitted: “O Messenger of Allah! What should I know?” He said: “Know, O Bilal.” He submitted: “O Messenger of Allah! What should I know?” He said: “He who revives of my Sunna that which ceased after me will get his rightful due as much of recompense as will be due for its practitioner without any decrease in his recompense. And he who initiates a misleading innovation disgusted by Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) will incur the same sin which will be on its perpetrator without any mitigation.”
    [Related by at-Tirmidhi in as-Sunan, vol. 5, p. 45 # 2677.]

  10. According to Abu Hurayra (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “He who sticks to my Sunna at the time of mischief and strife will get reward of a martyr.”
    [Related by Abu Nu‘aym in Hilya al-Awliya‘, vol. 8, p. 200; and Haythami in Majma‘ az-Zawa’id, vol. 1, p. 172.]

  11. According to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “He who upholds my Sunna at the time of strife will be granted reward of one hundred martyrs.”
    [Set forth by al-Imam al-Bayhaqi in Kitab az-Zuhd al-Kabir, vol. 2, p. 118 # 207.]

  12. According to Abu Hurayra (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    “The holders of justice from among the successors will learn the knowledge of hadith. They will put an end to the extravagance of the extravagant, the fabrication of the heretic and false interpretations of the ignorant.”
    [Set forth by at-Tabarani in Musnad ash-Shamiyyin, vol. 1, p. 344 # 599; al-Bayhaqi in as-Sunan al-Kubra, vol. 10, p. 209 # 20700; and ad-Daylami in al-Firdaws, vol. 5, p. 537 # 9012.]

  13. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reports in al-Kifaya (p. 121) through ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father) that the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said:

    “O Ibn ‘Umar! Your din is your faith. Indeed it is but your flesh and blood (it is your life). Therefore, you should be very careful about whom you are receiving it from. Receive it from the pious and the steadfast and do not take it from those who are leaning astray.”

  14. Our master ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be well pleased with him) used to say:

    “Soon there will come people who will discuss and debate with you on the Qur’anic verses which are figurative (i.e. they contain abstract and allusive meaning). So deal with them by means of sunan because the people of sunan know the Book of Allah more (than others).”
    [Related by ad-Darimi in as-Sunan, vol. 1, p. 62 # 119.]

  15. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reports from our master ‘Ali ibn ‘Abi Talib (may Allah be well pleased with him) in al-Kifaya (p. 121) who said in the mosque of Kufa:
    “Inquire about the people from whom you are receiving this knowledge (of Qur’an and Sunna). Indeed this is your din.”
  16. Al-Imam Muslim in the preface (al-Muqaddimma) of his as-Sahih (vol. 1, p. 8) has entitled a chapter:
    “Narration from a reliable authority and leaving liars aside is mandatory in ash-shari‘a and science of hadith in order to eliminate any doubt of perjury in narrating knowledge from the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).”
    Following this, al-Imam Muslim entitled another chapter in the preface (al-Muqaddimma) of his as-Sahih (vol. 1, p. 14):
    “Declaration of the fact that the chain of authority is part of the din and there should be no narration except from a reliable chain of authority.”
  17. Al-Imam Muslim also reports from al-Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin (through his own chain), who states:

    “The science of chain of authority and narration of hadith is din itself. You should check whom you are receiving your din from.”
    [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima (preface) to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 14.]

    This saying of al-Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin was narrated by Ibn Abi Shayba with some different words:

    “The science of chain of authority and narration of hadith is din itself. You should check whom you are receiving it from.”
    [Related by Ibn Abi Shayba in al-Musannaf, vol. 5, p. 334 # 26636]

    Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reports these words from the Successor ad-Dahhak ibn Mazahim in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya (p. 121).

  18. Al-Imam Ibn Sirin again states as reported by al-Imam Muslim:

    “Before the fitna (civil war and political segmentation which emerged as the reason of fabrication of hadith), they never felt any necessity to ask about the chain (because all authorities before the period of fitna were undoubtedly honest, truthful, trustworthy and reliable). After this fitna had occurred they started asking the narrator to mention their chain of authority before them; and if the knowledge of din was narrated from an authority belonging to Ahl as-Sunna they used to accept his transmission; and if he belonged to Ahl al-Bid‘a they rejected it.”
    [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima (preface) to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15; and Tirmidhi in al-‘Ilal, p. 739.]

  19. Al-Imam Ibn Sirin again states as reported by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi:

    “In the early days, people never felt any necessity to ask about the chain (because all authorities before the period of fitna were undoubtedly honest, truthful, trustworthy and reliable). But when this fitna had occurred they started asking the narrator to mention their chain of authority before them so that they could accept the hadith transmitted by an authority belonging to Ahl as-Sunna and could reject the hadith transmitted by Ahl al-Bid‘a.”
    [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 122.]

  20. Al-Imam Ibn Sirin states:

    “(In the early days,) people never felt any necessity to ask about the chain (because all authorities before the period of fitna were undoubtedly honest, truthful, trustworthy and reliable). But in later times people started asking the narrator to mention their chain of authority before them so that they might check. If the narrator belonged to the people of Sunna, they wrote down the hadith, and if he did not belong to people of Sunna, they did not write down the hadith from him.”
    [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 122.]

  21. Sa‘d ibn Ibrahim narrated:

    “Nobody should narrate the knowledge of Allah’s Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) except the reliable authorities.”
    [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima (preface) to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15.]

  22. Furthermore, al-Imam Muslim quotes from amir al-mu’minin fi’l-hadith ‘Abdu’llah ibn al-Mubarak, who states:

    “Al-Isnad (the chain of authority) is a necessary part of din. If there was no chain of authority then everyone would have said whatever he wanted to say.”
    [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima (preface) to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 15.]

  23. Al-Imam Muslim elaborated further from al-Imam ‘Abdu’llah ibn al-Mubarak, who says:

    “Between us and between the people who receive from us there are pillars of reliance and these are the chains of authority.”
    [Related by Muslim in al-Muqaddima (preface) to his as-Sahih, vol. 1, pp. 15, 16.]

  24. Al-Imam Sufyan ath-Thawri is reported by Ibn Hibban and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi as saying:

    “The isnad is the weapon of a Muslim (who is the receiver of the knowledge). If he is not equipped with the arms, how is he going to fight (and defend himself)?”
    [Ibn Hibban, al-Majruhin, vol. 1, p. 27; al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith, p. 42.]

  25. Al-Imam Abu Hanifa says as related by Yahya ibn Ma‘in and reported by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya (p. 231):

    “Knowledge should be received only from a transmitter who learns the text by heart and has a deep and perfect understanding of the meanings of what he is transmitting.”

  26. Al-Imam Abu Hanifa further says, as related by ‘Abdu’llah ibn al-Mubarak and reported by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi:

    “When someone reads the text in front of a muhaddith or an authority (to get it verified), then he is allowed to transmit from him to others.”
    [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 303.]

  27. Al-Imam Malik is reported by al-Khatib in al-Kifaya as saying:

    “Be Godfearing and scrutinize the credibility of the person whom you are receiving this knowledge from.”
    [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 124.]

  28. Al-Imam ash-Shafi‘i is reported by al-Bayhaqi as saying:

    “The one who accepts the knowledge from somebody without the sanad (chain of authority) is like a person carrying a bundle of wood with a snake in it and he does not know. It may bite him (anytime).”
    [al-Bayhaqi, al-Madkhal ila as-Sunan al-Kubra, p. 211.]

    Al-Imam ash-Shafi‘i is quoted by as-Sakhawi as saying:
    “He who seeks to collect hadith without chains of transmission is like the one who collects wood at night.”
    [Related by as-Sakhawi in Fatha’l-Mughith, vol. 3, p. 4.]

  29. Al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is reported by as-Sakhawi in Fatha’l-Mughith (vol. 2, p. 69) as saying:

    “If the ijazat (license of transmission through a chain of authority) was neglected and denied, then the reliable knowledge would be destroyed.”

  30. Al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal also said:

    “Asking for the higher chain of authority (al-isnad al-‘ali) is the sunna of the righteous predecessors.”
    [Ibn as-Salah, ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p. 150; al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Jam‘ li-Akhlaq ar-Rawi wa Adab as-Sam‘, vol. 1, p. 123.]

  31. Ibn ‘Uyayna said:

    “A hadith without any chain of transmission is nothing. Certainly the chains of transmission are a ladder of the texts by which one reaches the texts.”
    [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 393.]

  32. Ibn ‘Awn is reported by al-Khatib in al-Kifaya as saying:

    “I said to ash-Sha‘bi: ‘Shall I not narrate a tradition to you?’ Ash-Sha‘bi replied: ‘Do you narrate the tradition from the alive or the dead?’ I said: ‘From the alive.’ (To this) he said: ‘Do not narrate to me the traditions from the alive.’”
    [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 139.]

  33. Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam is reported by al-Khatib in al-Kifaya as saying:

    “One day I mentioned a hadith in the presence of al-Imam ash-Shafi‘i in my childhood. So he said: ‘Who has narrated it to you?’ I replied: ‘You.’ He asked: ‘Whatever tradition I narrated to you it is as I narrated to you, but beware of narrating traditions from the alive.’”
    [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 140.]

  34. Ibn as-Salah has reported in ‘Ulum al-Hadith (p. 150) from al-Imam Yahya ibn Ma‘in. When he was asked about his wish, he replied:

    “(My wish contains two things:) seclusion in my house (for uninterrupted remembrance of Allah) and isnad of high ranking authorities (to receive the righteous knowledge through the shortest chain).”

  35. Hammad ibn Zayd is reported by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya as saying:

    “We visited Anas ibn Sirin in his disease. So he said, ‘Be Godfearing, O group of the youths, and scrutinize the credibility of the person whom you are receiving these ahadith from, because this is your din.’”
    [Related by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm ar-Riwaya, p. 122.]

  36. Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Aslam at-Tusi said:

    “A short chain of transmission is in fact being close to Allah.”
    [Related by Ibn as-Salah in ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p. 151; and al-Khatib al-Jami‘ li-Akhlaq ar-Rawi wa Adab as-Sam‘, vol. 1, p. 123.]

  37. Al-Imam Ibn Hibban says in Kitab al-Majruhin (vol. 1, p. 89):

    “I hope that out of this Umma they (the travellers and the seekers of the knowledge of as-Sunna, al-hadith, al-athar and al-akhbar who put their efforts to differentiate between the sahih and the mawdu‘ through the verification of the isnad) will enjoy the extreme proximity of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) in Paradise. (This is so, because they spent their lives in a very highly esteemed service to the Holy Prophet [blessings and peace be upon him]).”

  38. ‘Allama ibn Taymiyya states in Minhaj as-Sunna an-Nabawiyya (vol. 7, p. 37):
    “The isnad is one of the exclusive virtuous characteristics and Allah’s great blessings on this Umma. It is also a great peculiarity of the din of Islam and it is a salient identity of Ahl as-Sunna. Ar-Rafida did not pay great attention to isnad, because they confirmed only such as accorded to their desires and the sign of a false isnad (in their eyes) was opposing their desires.”

    So, Allah created for us trusty reporters for chains of transmission and promulgation of din because both chains of transmission and promulgation are of the characteristics of Umma. None of the preceding communities of the former Prophets has passed who was granted such a high status of learning that the Prophet and his scholars would preach din by means of unbroken and uninterrupted chains of transmission between them. Allah Most High bestowed this superiority on the Umma of the Final Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) which is the best of the communities and honoured the scholars of this Umma from the Companions down to the hadith-narrators with the proprieties of hadith. And in this Revelation: “Or some remnant of knowledge (of the bygone people in transit down the line) [al-Qur’an, al-Ahqaf, 46:4.],” there is a pointer to the chains of transmission of hadith and its narration. This pronouncement in the glory of chains of transmission is due to the narration of din and the eminent authorities from the Successors have described it as we have mentioned before in detail.

  39. The significance of the chain of transmitters and authorities can be further illustrated through the statement of al-Imam Ibn Maja (one of the six great Imams of as-sihah as-sitta). He has reported a hadith on the reality of iman in the preface of his as-Sunan (the same has been reported by al-Imam at-Tabarani and al-Imam al-Bayhaqi), whereby he narrates from ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Abi as-Salih Abi as-Salt al-Harawi from Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Musa ar-Rida, from Sayyiduna Musa ibn Ja‘far al-Kazim, from Sayyiduna Ja‘far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq, from Sayyiduna Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Baqir, from Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Husayn from Sayyiduna Husayn ibn ‘Ali, from Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, from Allah’s Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him). At the end of the text of hadith he quotes:

    “If this isnad (chain of transmitters and authorities) is read upon a person who is insane (majnun) he will certainly be cured.”
    [Reported by Ibn Maja in as-Sunan, vol. 1, p. 25 # 65; at-Tabarani in al-Mu‘jam al-Awsat, vol. 6, p. 226 # 6254 & vol. 8, p. 262 # 8580; and al-Bayhaqi in Shu‘ab al-Iman, vol. 1, p. 47 # 16.]

    Here lies the blessings (al-barakat) of the names of the blessed persons who belong to Ahl al-Bayt and all of them are the Imams of al-wilaya (sainthood).

    The words of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) are always contained in the text of hadith and not in the chain of authorities; the chain of authorities only consists of the names of reliable persons who are the blessed transmitters. Al-Imam Ibn Maja has not directed towards reading the text of the hadith upon an insane person, but has rather emphasized reading the names of the transmitters, which is the chain of authorities; just invoking the names on a patient has become a spiritual treatment. This is the ‘aqida of al-Imam Ibn Maja, al-Imam at-Tabarani and al-Imam al-Bayhaqi; the same has been mentioned by al-Imam as-Suyuti, as well as by al-Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, the great and famous student of ‘Allama Ibn Taymiyya. According to all of these authoritative statements of the Imams, who are the real transmitters of din and the knowledge of hadith to us, it is clear and evident that before the substance and content one is inevitably supposed to rely on the chain and authority. These are the people who narrated the knowledge of din. If they are proven to be reliable, it is only then one would have access to the acceptance of substance and contents of the hadith. Before placing emphasis on the text, they have given all the importance to the chain. In any hadith the text is known as the matn and the chain of authority is known as the sanad or isnad.

    The text contains the message of Islam, the teachings of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and the substance of the Shari‘a and the Sunna, whereas the chain consists of personalities. Reliance has been placed on the personalities, prior to the actual content. The Imams have declared the chain of these reliable personalities as a part of din. Here lies the significance of personalities in Islam — the real transmitters of the din from the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).

  40. Al-Imam at-Tabarani reports through ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abbas:

    “The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said: ‘Oh Allah! Bestow mercy on our khulafa’.’ The Companions asked: ‘Who are your khulafa’?’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) replied: ‘Those who will come after me and narrate my ahadith and my sunna and transmit them to the Umma.’”
    [Related by al-Imam at-Tabarani in al-Mu‘jam al-Awsat, vol. 6, p. 395 # 5842.]

That is why the Holy Qur’an in sura al-Fatiha has commanded us to follow in the footsteps of the blessed personalities in order to achieve al-hidaya (guidance) and al-istiqama (steadfastness):

“Show us the straight path, the path of those (personalities) upon whom You have bestowed Your favours.”
[al-Qur’an, al-Fatiha, 1: 6, 7.]

Reliable and blessed personalities have been declared to be symbols of al-hidaya and it has been made compulsory to identify and follow them. On the other hand some people have been made symbols of ad-dalala (misguidance) and the wrath of Allah. The Qur’an has commanded us neither to follow them nor to be in their company. As stated in sura al-Fatiha:

“Not of those who have been afflicted with wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.”
[al-Qur’an, al-Fatiha, 1: 7.]

The Holy Qur’an has defined the “blessed people” in sura an-Nisa’:

“And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him), they are the people who shall be in the company of those (spiritual dignitaries on the Last Day) whom Allah has blessed with His (special) favour: Prophets (an-Nabiyyun), the Truthful (al-awliya’ and as-siddiqun), the Witnesses (of Truth [ash-shuhada’]), and the Pious ones (possessing Allah’s nearness – as-salihun). And how excellent these companions are!”
[al-Qur’an, an-Nisa’, 4: 69.]

 

(Taken from: http://www.minhaj.org/english/tid/8718/A-Profile-of-Shaykh-ul-Islam-Dr-Muhammad-Tahir-ul-Qadri.html#5)

 

Important note and disclaimer: I don’t follow Tahir ul-Qadri or any of his teachings, nor do I represent or am I involved with his movement. 

 

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