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Weak Hadīth and Fadā’il al-A’māl

By Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf


I have a question regarding the text Faza’il-e-A’maal by Shaikhul Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya Kaandhlawi. From many I’ve heard that this text contains many weak hadiths and should not be read for the hadiths all are not saheeh. Is this correct? If so, please explain if this text would be appropriate to read and are the hadiths with strong chains?


Al-Salam ‘Alaykum. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Along with many sahih hadiths, Fada’il A‘mal is also known to contain a number of weak hadiths. In fact many of the great hadith collections contain weak hadiths. This is the case with Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Bayhaqi, al-Mustadrak of Imam Hakim, Mishkat al-Masabih, al-Targhib wa ’l-Tarhib, etc.

Besides these popular works, the Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din of Imam Ghazali is one in which Allamah ‘Iraqi has judged many hadiths to be weak. However, these works have been overwhelmingly accepted by the majority of traditional scholars of Islam throughout the centuries. Furthermore, despite the rigorous authentication of the Sahih of Imam Bukhari, his other works such as al-Adab al-Mufrad and Juz’ al-Qira’ah Khalf al-Imam contains many weak narrations.

What we understand from this is that it is not a crime to relate weak hadiths, as some like to advocate. Individuals have risen in the last century who have attempted to “purify” the books of the pious predecessors by sifting the weak hadiths from the authentic (many a time with great injustice) and have published the classical collection under new titles such as Sahih Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah, etc.

The approach of the classical scholars was not such. It was accepted among them that works on the subject of virtues and fada’il did not have to meet the same levels of authenticity as was needed in discussions on the belief system of Islam or the laws and rulings of the lawful and unlawful.

Great hadith experts such as Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn al-Mahdi, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak said:

“When we narrate in regards to the lawful (halal) and unlawful (haram) we exercise extreme strictness and when we narrate in regards to virtues and the like (stories and narratives) then we are more lenient. (See Suyuti’s Tadrib al-Rawi).

We learn from this statement that the scholars were more relaxed in the case of using weak hadith in virtues, but were very strict when it came to aspects of belief or juristic (fiqhi) rulings. There were also other conditions for accepting weak hadiths. For instance, the weakness should not be extreme that it is bordering on fabrication or the hadith should not be a spurious one. Likewise the weak hadith should not contradict an established principle of Shari’ah or go against the spirit of the teachings of Islam (See Tadrib al-Rawi).

If one takes the approach of shunning every book that contains weak hadiths would be left with very few books to benefit from. This would create great difficulty in regard to the din. Imam Tirmidhi has demonstrated in his Sunan as to how so many fiqhi rulings have been based on not-so-strong narrations.

The Fada’il A‘mal is not a book of juristic laws. It is a book of virtues and as such there is no doubt that one can read it and practice on the virtues mentioned therein, even if they are from weak hadiths. Allah has granted this book such a widespread popularity that it is difficult in many countries to find a masjid without a copy. Many have benefited and softened their hearts for the remembrance of Allah and other such virtuous acts by reading it and the Fada’il Sadaqat by the same author.

The author, Shaykh Zakariyya al-Khandalawi, taught the Sahih al-Bukhari for numerous years and spent his entire life in the service of the hadith of the Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace). His works include the editing of the Badhl al-Majhud (Arabic commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud), al-Hall al-Mufhim (Arabic commentary of Sahih Muslim), and Lami‘ al-Dirari (Arabic commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari); then the Awjaz al-Masalik is his Arabic commentary of the Muwatta of Imam Malik (Dar al-Fikr, Syria edition over twenty volumes), and the Khasa’il al-Nabawi, his Urdu commentary of the al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyyah of Imam Tirmidhi. Besides these he has authored numerous other works in Urdu. He passed away in Madinah Munawwarah on Monday the 1st of Sha’ban 1402 corresponding to 24th May 1982.

Wa ‘l-Salam.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf

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