Status of the Famous Hadith on the Virtues of Ramadan

This an in-depth analysis of the Famous Hadith in which our Beloved Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) described Ramadan to the Sahabah (radiyallahu ‘anhum) by my Friend and Colleague: Moulana Bilal Ali of Chicago, Director of www.darulhikmah.com, Founder of www.attahawi.com and www.ilmgate.com

Question:

There is a Hadith that divides Ramadan into three periods. Is this Hadith authentic?

Reply:

After a detailed analysis of all the corroboratory chains of the Hadith in question, it can be concluded that it is of a weak (da’if) nature. The weakness of the narration, however, is not of such severity as to render it baseless. Narrations of this type can be used for the purpose of encouragement and relation of virtue according to the opinion of the vast majority of Hadith scholars.

The report in question has been narrated in a number of primary authoritative Hadith collections, namely Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (Hadith 1887) with one chain, Bayhaqi’s Shuʿabul Iman (Hadith 3608) with numerous chains, and in brief in al-Thawab of Abu ’l-Shaykh Ibn Hayyan. In secondary Hadith sources, this narration has been mentioned in full in al-Mundhiri’s al-Targhib wa’l-Tarhib (Hadith 1462).

The full text of the Hadith is as follows:

“Salman reports: ‘On the last day of Shaʿban, the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) addressed us and said: “O People, there comes upon you now a great month, a most blessed month, in which lies a night greater in worth than one thousand months. It is a month in which Allah has made compulsory that the fasting should be observed by day; and He has made the tarawih by night a sunnah. Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such reward as if he had performed a fard (obligatory observance) in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a fard for him shall be the reward of seventy fard in any other time of the year. This is indeed the month of patience, and the reward for true patience is Jannah (Paradise); it is the month of sympathy with one’s fellowmen; it is the month wherein a true believer’s rizq (sustenance) is increased. Whosoever feeds a fasting person in order to break the fast (at sunset), for him there shall be forgiveness of his sins and emancipation from the fire of Jahannam (Hell), and for him shall be the same reward as for him (whom he fed), without that person’s reward being diminished in the least.”

Thereupon we said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, not all of us possess the means whereby we can provide enough for a fasting person to break his fast” The Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) replied: “Allah grants this same reward to him who gives a fasting person a single date or a drink of water or a sip of milk to break the fast. This is a month, the first part of which brings Allah’s mercy, the middle of which brings His forgiveness and the last part of which brings emancipation from the fire of Jahannum (Hell). Whosoever lessens the burden of his servants (bondsmen) in this month, Allah will forgive him and free him from the fire of Jahannam.”

“And in this month, four things you should endeavor to perform in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord, while the other two shall be those without which you cannot make do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that you should in great quantity recite the kalimah tayyibah: La ilaha illa Allah, and make much istighfar (beg Allah’s forgiveness with Astaghfirullah). And as for those two without which you cannot make do, you should be Allah for entry into paradise and seek refuge with Him from the fire of Jahannam.”

“And whoever gave a person who fasted water to drink Allāh shall grant him a drink from my fountain, such a drink where after he shall never again feel thirsty until he enters Jannah.”

Status of the Chains:

The narration in question has been mentioned with a few different chains in the canonical collections of prophetic tradition. Most of the chains are problematic, containing narrators of highly unreliable status. The severity of the weakness of such narrators does not allow for the transmission of such chains even in the case of fadaʾil (virtuous acts).

One such chain includes Yusuf ibn Ziyad who is considered “very weak”. If his chain alone was considered then the Hadith would not be valid for narration. Similar is the case of Iyās ibn ʿAbd al-Ghaffar, who is majhul (unknown), and Aban ibn ʿAyyash, who is matruk (abandoned), as well as any chains that contain them.

Iyas ibn ʿAbd al-Ghaffar’s narration on the authority of ʿAli ibn Zayd is mentioned in Bayhaqi’s Shuʿabul Iman. Regarding Iyas, Ḥafiẓ Ibn Ḥajar states: “I do not know him.”

One chain of this Hadith, mentioned by Imam Muhamili in his Amali, however, is free of major flaws and is afflicted only with the presence of ʿAli ibn Zayd ibn Judʿan and ʿAbd al-ʿAziz ibn ʿAbdullah al-Judʿani. (Amali 1:299)

This is the strongest of all the chains of this particular Hadith. Let us now analyze the two apparently weak narrators of the chain in order to determine the strength of the chain and the validity of narrating the Hadith.

‘Ali ibn Zayd ibn Judʿan:

His full name is ʿAli ibn Zayd ibn ʿAbdullah ibn Abu Mulaykatah (whose name is Zuhayr ibn ʿAbdullah ibn Judʿan ibn ʿAmr ibn Kaʿb ibn Saʿd bin Taym ibn Murrah al-Qurashi al-Taymi).

He relates Hadith from Anas bin Malik al-Ansari, Aws bin Khalid, Ḥasan al-Basri, Zurarah ibn Awfa, Saʿid ibn Jubayr, Saʿid ibn al-Musayyib, and ʿUrwah ibn al-Zubayr amongst others.

His Hadith have been narrated by Imams Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Nisaʾi, and Bukhari (al-Adab al-Mufrad) in their respective collections.

Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal relates on the authority of his father that he said: “He is not strong. Sometimes, people narrate on his authority.”

Muʿawiyah ibn Salih stated on the authority of Yahya ibn Maʿin: “He is weak.” He is also reported to have said regarding him, on different occasions: “He is not of [reliable] status,” “He is weak in everything,” “He is nothing,” “He is not evidence,” but also “ʿAli ibn Zayd is more beloved to me than Ibn ʿAqil and ʿAsim ibn ʿUbayd Allah.”

Ahmad ibn ʿAbdullah al-ʿUjali stated: “His Hadith can be recorded, but he is not strong.”

Yaʿqub ibn Shaybah stated: “He is reliable (thiqah) and trustworthy in Hadith, but he is slightly towards laxness (lin).”

Tirmidhi said: “He is trustworthy (saduq), except that sometimes he raises a Hadith that was raised by someone else.”

Nisa’i stated: “He is weak.”

Ibn Khuzaymah commented: “I do not rely upon him because of his weak memory.”

Hafiz Ibn Ḥajar states: “[The status of this Hadith] revolves around ʿAli ibn Zayd ibn Judʿan, who is weak (daʿif).” (al-Atraf)

In short, the statements of the imams on this narrator’s status are numerous are inconsistent, varying from Hafiz’s declaration of weakness to Ibn Shaybah’s declaration of reliability.

Although many have cast aspersions on the strength of ʿAli ibn Zayd as a narrator, in truth he is, insh Allah, fair (hasan) in narrating Hadith. At worst, he is slightly weak. Essentially, the problem scholars of Hadith had with him was his memory and not with his integrity and truthfulness. Shaykh Muhammad ʿAwwamah discusses him in his footnotes on al-Kashif and has mentioned Hadiths in which he is a narrator and where Imam Tirmidhi has ruled the Hadith to be hasan sahih (fair and sound).

ʿAbdul-ʿAziz ibn ʿAbd Allah al-Judʿani:

While Ibn ʿAdi says that he is not supported by most of what he narrates, it does not seem that he is very weak. In short, Hafiz Ibn Hajar concludes regarding him that when ʿAbdul-ʿAziz mentions having heard a narration directly from his shaykh (teacher) then it is appropriate to relate his Hadith. In the case of the chain mentioned above, he does mention having heard the narration directly, so the chain is relatively free from aspersion and is strong enough to corroborate the other narrations. When looked at in their entirety, the numerous chains of this Hadith certainly raise themselves to the status where they can be mentioned without problem in respect to virtues and encouragement.

After mentioning the Hadith in his Fadaʾil Ramadan, Shaykh al-Ḥadith Muḥammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalwi’s summarizes the statements of the scholars of the past regarding the narration and states:

“Ibn Khuzaymah narrates it in his Sahih and said ‘if the Hadith is authentic…’. Bayhaqi narrates it also, as well as Abu Shaykh Ibn Ḥayyan in al-Thawab concisely. In their chains there is ʿAli bin Zayd bin Judʿan.

Ibn Khuzaymah and Bayhaqi also relate concisely (bi ikhtisar) on [ʿAli ibn Zayd’s] authority from the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah. In its chain is Kathir bin Zayd. In this manner it is mentioned in al-Targhib pg. 203.

I [Zakariyya] say: A party has declared him weak. Tirmidhi states that he is saduq (veracious, honest) and has even authenticated a Hadith of his which relates to greeting (salam). He has also declared sound (hasan) a number of [his] Hadiths. Many have declared him weak (da’if), like Nisa’i and others. Ibn Maʿin stated: [He is] trustworthy (thiqah). Ibn ʿAdi stated: I do not see any problem with his Hadith. Ibn Khuzaymah has narrated on his authority in his Sahih. Similarly, [he has been mentioned] in the Rijal al-Mundhiri pg. 704. ʿAyni, however, said: the narration is munkar (unfamiliar), so reflect.” (Fada’il Ramadan)

The Hadith, therefore, is at worst slightly da’if (weak), and because it has been narrated regarding fada’il (virtues and merits) it can be accepted in this case. It should be noted here also that those people who have made it a habit to discourage the practice of relating weak narrations in discourses to the extent that speeches and orations are sometime rudely interrupted by them should reflect over the status of what they are objecting to before they cause fitnah amongst the masses. There is a prophetic method to discouraging the wrong, and hasty conclusions regarding narrations based upon isolated opinions of certain scholars should not entice individuals to give up wisdom and resort to disrespect and insolence when confronting fellow believers.

And Allah knows best.

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