Hadith Terminology

Mustalah al-hadith

Classification of Hadith

According to the reference to a particular authority:

  1. Marfu’ (elevated): A narration directly from Prophet Muhammed (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam); isnad is traced back to him.

  2. Mauquf (stopped): A narration from a Companion. However, some of the statements from the sahabah may be rendered Marfu’. This is due to their (the narrations’) nature; alluding to the fact that the sahabah heard it from the Prophet (saw) or, were in his presence. For example; “we were commanded to…”, “we used to…”, “It is from sunnah to…” etc.

  3. Maqtu’ (severed): A narration from a Successor (Taba’ee).

Authenticity of these categories depends on other factors and categorizations. Such as reliability of narrators, nature of linkages in isnad, etc.




According to the links in the isnad:

  1. Musnad (supported): It is the form in which a hadith is reported by a muhadith from his teacher. The teacher in turn reports from his teacher and so on, until the chaib reaches a well known companion.
  2. Mursal (hurried): The type in which the link between the successor (taba’ee) and Prophet (saw) is “missing”.
  3. Munqati’ (broken): If a link anywhere in the isnad after the successor is missing. Also if a hadith is narrated without mnetioning an authority (” a man narrated to me…”).
  4. Mu’dal (perplexing): If the number of consecutive reporters missing in the isnad exceeds “one”.
  5. Mu’allaq (hanging): When reporter ommits the entire isnad and quotes Prophet directly. It is also sometimes referred to as “balaghah (to reach)”. For example, ” It reached to me that the Messenger of Allah said…”.

Authenticity of Mursal Hadith:

There are two opinions regarding this issue;

  • Marasil of elder successors such as Ata are acceptable. This is because, after investigation, their reports are found to come only from companions (sahabah). Marasil of younger authority are acceptable only if their immediate authorities are known from other sources; otherwise rejected.
  • Minority opinion (kufi school) holds that all reports from successors are acceptable without scrutiny.

According to the number of reporters involved in each stage of the isnad:

  1. Mutawatir (consecutive): A Mutawatir report is the one which has been reported by a large number of people in each stage of isnad. The minimum number for “tawatur” varies.
  2. Ahad (single) or Khabar Wahid: This type has 3 categories;
  • Gharib (strange); If a hadith is reported at a stage in isnad by only “one” reporter. Gharib ahadith are usually rejected, and are normally weak.
  • Aziz (rare/strong); If hadith has only two reporters at a stage in its isnad.
  • Mash-hur (famous); If a hadith is reported at a stage in isnad by more than two reporters.

A report could be ghareeb or aziz initially. However, it becomes mash-hur in time due to it being popular and widespread. Or, due to its narration by more people further down the isnad.

According to the manner in which the hadith is reported:

Tadlis(concealing) in the manner of reporting:

  • A mudallas hadith (concealed) is weak. This is due to uncertainity caused by tadlis. This is where in an isnad a reporter has concealed (the name) of his shaikh (or another reporter in the chain.).

There are three types of Tadlis:

  1. Tadlis isnad: When a reporter reports something and associates with a shaykh he met. However, he didnt actually hear it from that shaikh. Or he reports or attributes something to a contemporary he did “not” meet.
  2. Tadlis shaikh: Name of the shaikh is mentioned but rather it is a nickname or a less well-known name. It is done to hide his identity.
  3. Tadlis al-taswiyyah: This is considered the worst form of tadlis. It is when a trustworthy shaikh reports from a weak authority. The weak authority in turn reports from another trustworthy shaikh. However, the reporter conceals the weak authority. Hence, linking one trustworthy narrator in chain with another and making it look flawless!

Shu’bah (died 170) said,” Tadlis is the brother of lying.”
Also,” To commit adultery is more favorable to me than report by the way of tadlis.”


Musalsal (uniformly-linked) isnad in which all the reporters from Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wassalam) down, narrate or transmit in the same fashion. Any additional remarks, statements, or particular acts are repeated and mentioned in the same manner.




According to the nature of the text and isnad:

  • Shadh (irregular): This is a hadith which is reported by a trustworthy person but goes against a narration by an even more reliable authority.

* This category, however, does not include a hadith which is unique in its content and is only narrated by one reliable authority.

  • Munkar (denounced): It is hadith reported by a weak reporter and happens to go against another narration. Sometimes, a hadith may be denounced because it goes against or is contrary to general sayings of Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wassalam).

alkahtib (died 463AH) quoted al-rabi’ bin khaitam (died 63AH) as saying, “Some ahadith have a light like that of a day, which we recognize; others have a darkness like that of night which makes us reject them.”

alkahtib also quoted al-Auza’i (died 157) as saying, ” We used to listen to ahadith and present them to fellow traditionists, just as we present forged coins to money-changers: whatever they recoginze of them, we accept, and whatever they reject of them, we also reject.”

* ziyadatu thiqah: It is “an addition by one who is turstworthy”. It is an addition by an authentic narrator and is not rejected as long as it does not go against or contradict other authentic sources.

  • Mudraj (interpolated)/ Idraaj (interpolation): It is (the act of) addition to the text (matn) of the saying by the reporter. It could be due to many reasons. Idraaj can be found in teh begining, middle or end of the text. Often, in explanation of a hard term. Idraaj can also be found in isnad. This is where the reporter interpolates part of an isnad with another.

Intentional Idraaj is generally “unacceptable”. One who does it is considered a “Liar”. However, concession is given to those who do it forgetfully or did so to explain a difficult term.

According to a hidden defect found in the isnad or text of hadith:

  1. Mudtarib (shaky)/ Idtiraab: If reporters disagree about some point in the hadith (pretaining to some shaykh, text or isnaad) and none of the opinions can be preferred over the other; hence, there is uncertainity. Such a hadith is called mudtarib.
  2. Maqlub (changed/reversed): When a hadith’s isnaad is grafted with the text of another or vice versa. Or, if the reporter reverses the order of sentence in the text. Other examples include replacing the name of a reporter with another or, reversing the name of the reporter.
  3. Ma’lul/Mu’allal (defective): It is a hadith which at face seems sound (or no apparent problem or defect is visible). However, deeper investigation reveals “disparaging” factors.

According to the reliability and memory of the reporters:

  1. Sahih (sound): It is a hadith which has a continuous isnaad. The isnaad consists of reporters of turstworthy memory and repute. They all report from similar authorities. The hadith is free from irregularities in the text, and/or defects in the isnaad.
  2. Hassan (good): Al-dhahabi states,” A hassan is a hadith which excels daif but, nevertheless, does not reach the standard of sahih hadeeth.” However for it to be hassan it shoud be clear of shudh (irregularity).

Ibn Salah categorizes Hassan into two types:

  • Isnaad has less well known reporter but he is acceptable, provided that similar text is reported through another isnaad.
  • Isnaad has a trustworthy reporter but, is degree less in preservation & memory than the reporters of sahih hadith.

** Several similar weak ahadith can be raised to level of hassan, if weakness is mild. This is “hassan lighairhi” (hassan due to other reasons) as opposed to “hassan lidhatihi”. Similarly several similar hassan hadith can raise their status to sahih (sahih lighairihi). However, if the weakness is severe the rank is not raised from daif to hassan.


3. Da’if (weak): It is a hadith which falls short of hassan due to defects
its isnaad or, integrity of reporter or text. The greater the number of
defects, the more the severity, the lower the rank of da’if hadith i.e.
closer to being maudu’ (fabricated).

4. Maudu’ (fabricated/forged): It is basically a forged/fabricated hadith
because its text goes against established norms of Prophet’s (sall Allahu
alayhi wassalam) sayings. Or, the reporters include a liar or, it has a
visible outward defect and discrepancies etc…

(summarized from Shaykh Suhaib Hasan’s book “An Introduction to Sciences of Hadith”:  The book can be found Here )


12 responses to “Hadith Terminology

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  4. Halil Efe

    I can’t find the term “muttafak alayh” in English, If you would help me, I would be glad.

    • irem

      theological scholars are agree with an idea which is about the religious issue, it is called muttafakun alayh.

    • haha, 9 years later, but anyway. When used in hadith, it means that both Al-Bukhari and Muslim have narrated it in their two main works, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, respectively. It is used in a sense to denote that is is very authentic as it meets two sets of hard criterion used by these two scholars.

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  9. May almighty reward You for being impressed to raise up the dignity of religion

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