THE ḤASAN ḤADÎTH is an authentic ^adîth, or report from the Prophet œ, that is slightly weaker than a |a^î^ ^adîth. As to its practical use, however, the scholars agree that the ^asan ^adîth is of a “compulsory” nature—meaning that the instructions, exhortations, or commandments found in a ^asan ^adîth must be followed.
A ^asan ^adîth can also be used as proof for or against something and must be accepted as such.
History of the Hasan Hadith
Originally, the mu^addithûn (scholars of ^adîth—plural: a^adîth) classified a^adîth into two categories: |a^î^ (sound) and da¢îf (weak).
In the third Islamic century, the great Khorasâni mu^addith Abû ¢Îsa Al-Tirmidhi (209-279 h / 824-892 ce) differentiated the ^asan (“good”) ^adîth from the da¢îf (“weak”). He was, in fact, naming a distinction that previous great mu^addithûn had already implicitly recognized in their rationalization for the reliability or usability of certain weak reports.
Tirmidhi’s criteria for a ^asan ^adîth was three-fold: (1) The report itself is not “strange” (shâdh); (2) its chain of transmitters (isnâd) contains no censured reporter, and (3) it is reported through more than one line or sequence of narration. In other words, the ^asan ^adîth has known origins, and the character of its reporters is not in doubt.
Within the category of ^asan ^adîth there are several grades:
A ^adîth that is graded as ^asan (“good“)–and not as |a^î^ (“sound”)—only due to a slight demerit in one of its reporters in terms of memory, while the honesty and reliability of the reporter(s) is recognized, is called ^asan li dhâtihi (good in and of itself).
A ^asan ^adîth that requires other chains of reports to bolster it because it contains a reporter whose character does not make the highest grade because no notable reporter has reported from him, but who is nonetheless characterized on his own as acceptable, is called ^asan li ghayrihi (good because of other reports).
In the same manner, several related ^asan a^âdîth can come together to raise a report to the level of |a^î^ li ghayrihi (sound because of other reports).
Distinction Between the Hasan Hadith and the Sahih Hadith
As stated, a ^asan ^adîth is a shade weaker than a |a^î^ ^adîth.
The only practical difference between them is that if there is a |a^î^ ^adîth that seemingly contradicts a ^asan ^adîth, and if one cannot find any way to reconcile this contradiction, then the |a^î^ is given preference over the ^asan.
The ^asan ^adîth fulfills all the conditions of a |a^î^ ^adîth:
- The chain of narrators has no missing link. Hence, the sources of the person who wrote the ^adîth in a book, like Bukhâri for example, can be traced back to the Prophet œ, link-by-link.
- Every narrator in the chain of reporters is of upright character and an honest person.
- Every narrator has a firm grip on what they narrated, as far as having it memorized well, conveying it to the next narrator clearly without mistakes, and so forth.
- The text is free of strangeness. For example, there is a ^adîth reported that there are seven earths and in every earth there is an Adam like our Adam in this earth, and a Nû^ like our Nû^. This text is rejected because of the strangeness of its content.
- The chain of narrators and all the reporters are free from any subtle problems. For example, there can be no missing links in the chain of reporters, nor can there be anything in the text that presents a problem that might be missed at first glance.
Caliber of Reporters
The ^asan ^adîth fulfills all of the conditions that make a ^adîth |a^î^. But what differentiates the ^asan ^adîth is that its reporters are of a slightly lesser caliber than those of |a^î^ ^adîth.
- Mostly, this relates to the soundness of their memory and their grasp of the report.
- Less often, the ^adîth will be classified as ^asan–rather than |a^î^ –because the character of one or more of the reporters is not as upright as all of the reporters in a |a^î^ ^adîth.
A ^adîth can only be as strong as its weakest link.
The reason that the reporters of a ^asan ^adîth are rated lower, in terms of their memory and grasp of the report—and not normally less in terms of their honesty—is because problems of a narrator in memory are much easier to reconcile than problems of honesty. In other words, a weakness in memory does not hurt the ^adîth as much as a demerit in honesty.
As already mentioned, there are two categories of ^asan ^adîth.
The first ^adîth is one that is ^asan in and of itself (^asan li dhâtihi).
The second is a ^adîth that is classified as ^asan for an external reason, although in and of itself, it is weak (da¢îf). But in the case of a ^adîth that is weak on its own–if confirmed by another ^adîth that is weak on its own—it is possible that it can be upgraded to ^asan status (^asan li ghayrihi). For both reports work together to raise the ^adîth to ^asan because they confirm each other.