IN THE PREVIOUS installment on Mus ṭala ḥ Al-Ḥadîth (Al-Ḥadîth Al-Mudallas) we discussed the hidden break in the chain of narrations of a ḥadîth that scholars have termed ‘mudallas,’ meaning a hidden discontinuity in the chain of a ḥadîth report’s narrators.
This defect is otherwise known as tadlîs, which is the act of hiding such a discontinuity. The article was devoted to identifying and explaining tadlîs’s three main categories:
(1) Tadlîs al-isnâd (hiding a narrator in the chain of narrators)
(2) tadlîs al-taswîyah (omitting a narrator or narrators anywhere in the chain in order to remove weak narrators)
(3) tadlîs al-shuyûkh (hiding of the identity of one’s shaykh, that is, the one whom a transmitter received a ḥadîth report directly from).
We come now to the rulings (a ḥkâm) of this science concerning tadlîs and its practitioners, as well as a brief explication of the motives behind it.
The Ruling in Regards to Tadlis
Hadith scholars have ruled that the act of tadlîs is very hateful (makrûh jiddan), which is just a degree above it being outright ḥarâm, or a forbidden act. Nearly all scholars have disapproved of its practice. The well-known mu ḥaddith Shuʿbah is among the most disapproving of tadlîs, speaking extensively against it: “Tadlîs is the brother of lying.”
Specifically, tadlîs al-taswîyah, the removal of weak narrators who fall between strong narrators in a chain, is considered the worst kind of tadlîs. Al-ʿIrâqî said of it: “The one who practices tadlîs al-taswîyah is considered—by the mere practice of it—a weak narrator.”
As for tadlîs al-shuyûkh (wherein a narrator identifies his shaykh with a name by which he is not well known), it is hateful, but not as hateful as tadlîs al-taswîyah since it does not involve the outright omission of any narrators in the report chain. Still, it misleads the listener and puts an obstacle between him and knowledge of the correct narrator.
Hence, the specific degree of the terminological designation of makrûh, or “hatefulness,” assigned to an act of tadlîs differs in accordance with the purpose of the tadlîs in question.
Motives for Tadlis Al-Shuyukh
Tadlîs al-shuyûkh (again, wherein a narrator is identified by other than his commonly known name) comes about because of four primary motives:
- To cover up the weakness of a narrator
- To gain preference or citation status for one’s narrationA reporter may have heard a ḥadîth from a long-lived shaykh who narrates into a generation of reporters subsequent to that of the reporter who commits tadlîs. Because the mu ḥaddithîn give preference to the shorter narration chain, a narrator who does not want his narration to be discarded on account of narration chain length in favor of a shorter chain hides the identity of his shaykh.
- To cover up the age of a shaykhOne reporting from a shaykh younger than him may hide the latter’s identity out of embarrassment or to gain primary report status—similar to the rationale in point 2.
- To avoid redundancyOne narrating much from a single shaykh may alter the shaykh’s identification to avoid redundancy, out of weariness, or assuming another appellation for his shaykh will be understood.
Motives for Tadlis Al-Isnad
Tadlîs Al-Isnâd (hiding not having heard a specific ḥadîth directly from his shaykh) occurs, in general, for three reasons:
- To give the impression that one’s report is of a high quality isnâd (one with a short narration chain)
- To give the impression that all one’s narrations are from a particular shaykh save for a few, and thus covering up the exceptions by implying having heard those few from the same shaykh. (This occurs when one has a reputable shaykh from whom he has heard many a ḥâdîth.)
- The same first three motives for tadlîs al-shuyûkh (see above).
Motives that Render a Mudallis Blameworthy
The reporter who practices tadlîs is blameworthy under the following conditions:
- He gives the impression that he heard a report from someone from whom he did not in fact hear that report.
- He deliberately leaves open the possibility of misunderstanding his narration chain, instead of straightforwardly and forthrightly stating what he has heard, from whom he has heard it, and what he has not heard from whom.
- He deliberately omits—from the chain of narrators in his report—a narrator whose credibility scholars have marked as flawed in some respect.
Ruling Regarding Narration of the Mudallis
The scholars have differed about whether the person who practices tadlîs is to be deemed weak in all of his narrations, or whether the specific narrations from him in which it is established that he has not practiced tadlîs should be accepted.
First, some scholars have held that the narration of such a mudallis is to be rejected under all circumstances, but this position has been abandoned by a majority of Hadith experts.
The vast majority of scholars are of the opinion that the narration of the mudallis is accepted if it is established that he heard that specific narration from his shaykh.
Tadlis Is Discerned and Established in Two Ways
- When the mudallis himself informs others that he practiced tadlîs
- When a Hadith scholar—who is known to be reliable—judges based on his investigation and research that there has been tadlîs.
(Hadith scholars have developed established ways of discerning tadlîs. Discussion of these techniques are better suited to a more in-depth study of tadlîs.)
Some Well-Known Sholarly Works on Tadlis and the Mudallisin
Al-Baghdâdi wrote three researches about tadlîs. These can be found in his book Al-Kifâya. The first article is dedicated to giving the names of the mudallisîn. The second and third explain one specific type of tadlîs each. Both Ibn Al-Ḥalabi and Ibn Ḥajar also have compositions that identify the mudallisîn narrators. All three of these books