THE ḤASAN ḤADÎTH is an authentic ḥadîth, or report from the Prophet ﷺ, that is slightly weaker than a ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth. As to its practical use, however, the scholars agree that the ḥasan ḥadîth is of a “compulsory” nature—meaning that the instructions, exhortations, or commandments found in a ḥasan ḥadîth must be followed.
A ḥasan ḥadîth can also be used as proof for or against something and must be accepted as such.
History of the Hasan Hadith
Originally, the mu ḥaddithûn (scholars of ḥadîth—plural: a ḥadîth) classified a ḥadîth into two categories: ṣaḥîḥ (sound) and daʿîf (weak).
In the third Islamic century, the great Khorasâni mu ḥaddith Abû ʿÎsa Al-Tirmidhi (209-279 h / 824-892 ce) differentiated the ḥasan (“good”) ḥadîth from the daʿîf (“weak”). He was, in fact, naming a distinction that previous great mu ḥaddithûn had already implicitly recognized in their rationalization for the reliability or usability of certain weak reports.
Tirmidhi’s criteria for a ḥasan ḥadîth 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 ḥasan ḥadîth has known origins, and the character of its reporters is not in doubt.
Within the category of ḥasan ḥadîth there are several grades:
A ḥadîth that is graded as ḥasan (“good“)–and not as ṣaḥîḥ (“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 ḥasan li dhâtihi (good in and of itself).
A ḥasan ḥadîth 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 ḥasan li ghayrihi (good because of other reports).
In the same manner, several related ḥasan a ḥâdîth can come together to raise a report to the level of ṣaḥîḥ li ghayrihi (sound because of other reports).
Distinction Between the Hasan Hadith and the Sahih Hadith
As stated, a ḥasan ḥadîth is a shade weaker than a ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth.
The only practical difference between them is that if there is a ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth that seemingly contradicts a ḥasan ḥadîth, and if one cannot find any way to reconcile this contradiction, then the ṣaḥîḥ is given preference over the ḥasan.
The ḥasan ḥadîth fulfills all the conditions of a ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth:
- The chain of narrators has no missing link. Hence, the sources of the person who wrote the ḥadîth in a book, like Bukhâri for example, can be traced back to the Prophet ﷺ, 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 ḥadîth reported that there are seven earths and in every earth there is an Adam like our Adam in this earth, and a Nû ḥ like our Nû ḥ. 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 ḥasan ḥadîth fulfills all of the conditions that make a ḥadîth ṣaḥîḥ. But what differentiates the ḥasan ḥadîth is that its reporters are of a slightly lesser caliber than those of ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth.
- Mostly, this relates to the soundness of their memory and their grasp of the report.
- Less often, the ḥadîth will be classified as ḥasan–rather than ṣaḥîḥ –because the character of one or more of the reporters is not as upright as all of the reporters in a ṣaḥîḥ ḥadîth.
A ḥadîth can only be as strong as its weakest link.
The reason that the reporters of a ḥasan ḥadîth 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 ḥadîth as much as a demerit in honesty.
As already mentioned, there are two categories of ḥasan ḥadîth.
The first ḥadîth is one that is ḥasan in and of itself ( ḥasan li dhâtihi).
The second is a ḥadîth that is classified as ḥasan for an external reason, although in and of itself, it is weak (daʿîf). But in the case of a ḥadîth that is weak on its own–if confirmed by another ḥadîth that is weak on its own—it is possible that it can be upgraded to ḥasan status ( ḥasan li ghayrihi). For both reports work together to raise the ḥadîth to ḥasan because they confirm each other.