Al Musnad is the narration of a Hadith by a narrator from another whom he saw, heard, and recited to whether in the way of reading, permission, or handing over in a continued way of transmission up to a narrator who saw and heard from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).

Isnad has positions, terms, and conditions:

Of its conditions are the following:

- Isnad should not contain: I was told about so and so, I was told, It came to me, so and so ascribed it to the Messenger, I do not believe it is ascribed. However, a narrator should narrate it from a sheikh from whom he heard the Hadith and the lifetime of the narrator corresponds with the lifetime of the sheikh. Likewise, the hearing of a sheikh from his sheikh until the chain of transmission reaches a famous Companion then to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).

- A narrator should know the general condition of his sheikh and whether the sheikh heard from his sheikhs or not then checks his fundamentals whether they are profound or not and the classification of the men from whom he heard the Hadith; all these precautions for accepting the Hadith from him.

It is part of Isnad that a well-known Companion, who was known for accompanying the Prophet (peace be upon him), would say: We have been commanded to do such and such and we have been prohibited to do such and such. We used to be commanded with such and such and we used to be prohibited from doing such and such. We used to say while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was among us, and we thought such and such thing was harmless, or such and such were said, and it was part of the Sunnah to do such and such. So, if these sayings were said by a well-known Companion who was known for accompanying the Prophet (peace be upon him), it will be a Musnad Hadith (ascribed to the Prophet peace be upon him) and it was recorded in Al Masanid (books of Hadiths ascribed to the Prophet peace be upon him).

A type of Isnad is called Al Mu`an`an which is a type of Hadith in which a narrator says: "So and so informed us from so and so from so and so" without mentioning the way of their hearing: "told us," "informed us," "we heard". If the narrators of this type are trustworthy, famous with truthfulness, are not accused of falsifying, and falsification is not part of their doctrine, then whether they mentioned the way of hearing or not, their Hadiths shall be accepted. However, if one of the narrators is accused of falsification or it is part of his doctrine, so the way of hearing must be mentioned in order to accept the Hadith.

A type of Isnad is called Al Musalsal which is a terminology among Hadith scholars which indicates that all narrators of the Hadith had something in common such as saying, action, or a condition when hearing the Hadith from the Prophet (peace be upon him) until the last narrator.

For example, interlacing of fingers, holding the beard, handshaking, and so on, such as to say: "So and so told me while he was holding his beard saying: So and so told me while he was holding his beard that so and so told him while he was holding his beard, and so on until the Prophet (peace be upon him)." And "So and so told me for the first time that so and so told him for the first time that so and so told him for the first time."

Let it be known that Isnad in Hadith is the origin, upon which scholars depend, and by which the authenticity or the fabrication of the Hadith was known.

Sufyan Ath-Thawry said: "Isnad is the weapon of a believer, so if he has no weapon, by which he should fight?"

Shu`bah said: "Every knowledge that does not include "so and so told us" or "so and so informed us" it will be unworthy."

Yazid ibn Zari` said: "Every religion has knights, and the knights of this religion are the people of Isnad."

Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: "When we narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him) regarding the lawful, the prohibited, Sunan, and rulings, we would be harsh in accepting Isnad. However, when we narrated from him regarding the virtuous actions and things that may not affect a ruling, we became lenient in accepting Isnad, and had it been for Isnad, people would have said what they wanted."

Isnad is divided into higher and lower, and seeking the higher Isnad is a Sunnah. So, the student of Hadith should yearn to seek it.

Higher Isnad has some categories:

The Isnad which contains few narrators.

The Isnad which contains trustworthy narrators.

The Isnad which contains the understanding of narrators.

The Isnad which contains the famous narrators.

The Isnad which includes all these characteristics or some of them which is the most perfect.

 

As for Isnad which contains few narrators, the least chain of transmission in our time is what is called “Thulathiyyat Al Bukhari" from the way of Abul-Waqt `Abdul-Awwal As-Sajzy because the narrators of Abul-Waqt have only eight narrators between them and the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Abul-Waqt then Ad-Dawudy, then As-Sarakhsy, then Al Farbary then Al Bukhari, and the people from which Al Bukhari reported were three narrators.

 

Some authentic Hadiths that were reported in Sahih Al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim or in one of them may be reported from another way provided that the condition of authenticity was met. For example, Abul-Qasim Hibatullah ibn Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahid ibn Al Hasin informed us that Abu Talib Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ghaylan Al Bazzaz informed him that Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn `Abdullah ibn Ibrahim Ash-Shaf`y informed him that Al Qady Isma`il ibn Ishaq ibn Isma`il ibn Hammad ibn Zayd and Muhammad ibn Sulayman Al Wasty informed him that Isma`il said: Muhammad said: I asked Muhammad ibn `Abdullah Al Ansary who said: Humayd At-Tawil informed us that Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I had a brother who was called Abu `Umayr and he had a bird to play with, but the bird died. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered our house, he used to say: "O Abu `Umayr, what happened to the bird?"

In the Hadith of Al Qady Isma`il, he said: There was a child of Um Sulaym who was called "Abu `Umayr." The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to joke with him when he entered to Um Sulaym. One day he entered and found the boy sad. He asked: Why is he sad? They said: O Messenger of Allah, his bird, which he was playing with, died. Thereupon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: O Abu `Umayr, what happened to the bird? This is an authentic Hadith that was reported by Al Bukhari and Muslim in their Sahih. The narrator who narrated the Hadith from the way of Ibn Husayn had seven narrators between him and the Prophet. Therefore, its chain of transmission is higher than the way reported by Al Bukhari from the way of Abu Al Waqt and the condition of authenticity was met. Some other Hadiths were reported with the same number of narrators.

 

As for Isnad which contains trustworthy narrators, the narrators should be known for truthfulness, integrity, the accuracy of transmission and narrating, and they are not accused of any charge, criticism, or doubt, exactly as the sheikhs of A Bukhari and Muslim from whom they narrated their Hadiths. Such type of Isnad is high no matter how many narrators are found in the chain of transmission even if it is compared with another way of transmission with less narrators but does not meet this condition.

As for Isnad which contains the understanding of narrators, all narrators or some of them would be Faqih (jurist) such as Saaid ibn Al Musayyab, Muhammad ibn Shihab Az-Zuhry, Sufyan Ath-Thawry, Malik ibn Anas and people of the like.

So, if the Hadith was narrated from their way, his Isnad would be high no matter how many its narrators were.

Ali ibn Khashram said: Waki` said to us: Which of the two chains of narration more beloved to you: Al A`mash from Abu Wa'il from `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud or Sufyan reported from Mansur from Ibrahim from `Alqamah from `Abdullah? We said: Al A`mash from Abu Wa'il. He said: Glory be to Allah, Al A`mash was a sheikh and Abu Wa'il was a sheikh but Sufyan was a Faqih, Ibrahim was a Faqih, and `Alqamah was a Faqih, and a Hadith that was reported by Fuqaha' (jurists) is better than a Hadith that was reported by sheikhs.

The Hadith was reported by four narrators to Ibn Mas`ud from the way of Fuqaha' but was reported by two narrators from the way of sheikhs, however the Isnad of the four narrators was given priority for the well-understanding of its narrators.

As for the Isnad which contains the famous narrators, narrator should be known for narrating Hadiths, such as: `Alqamah and Abu Wa'il from Ibn Mas`ud, Al Qasim ibn Muhammad and `Urwah from `A'ishah, Ibrahim from `Alqamah, Hisham from `Urwah, and so on. Those narrators were famous by the sheikhs from whom they narrated Hadiths, and that makes their Isnad high no matter how many narrators are found in the Isnad.

 

The best of these types is controversial and each scholar has a point of view in the best type but the highest Isnad is the type which meets all these conditions then Isnad reported by Fuqaha' (jurists) then the trustworthy, then the famous, then the number of narrators if these types are not found.

Those who study these types will recognize the lower Isnad. Of the lower types of Isnad is taking the Hadith from a sheikh who died shortly after the death of the Prophet and he was a trustworthy, his Isnad shall be higher than the sheikh who died long after the death of the Prophet and he was a trustworthy.

Of these lower types of Isnad is that a student looks at the Isnad of the Sheikh and when he sees a narrator whose age is similar to his sheikh, he seeks a higher narrator and his narration from the sheikh will be lower.

Of which, a student would have two sheikhs from whom he hears Hadiths: The Isnad of one of them is higher than the other, so his narration from the one of a higher Isnad is higher and the other will be lower.

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