Mustalah Al-Hadith | Lesson 5 | Al-Hadith Al-Mu‘an‘an (A Hadith that has Links in its Chain Connected by the Junction Connector: ‘an)

ḤADÎTH NARRATIONS ARE considered mardûd (rejected) based on four discrepancies:

  1. Discrepancy in the continuity of the chain of narrators
  2. Discrepancy with one or more of the narrators
  3. Discrepancy in the chain of narrators
  4. Discrepancy in the Text

One of the issues of continuity is the linguistic connecting particle (adât al-itti|âl) that is used to express the junction between two narrators. There are a handful of known terms that serve as junction connectors that indicate a direct connection and imply physical meeting between two narrators, such as ^addathanâ (he told us), anba’ana (he informed us), and the like. These words have slightly different meanings and consequently are of varying strengths, from a ^adîth point of view (which is to be discussed in detail at a later point in this series, inshâ’Allâh). What is relevant here is that ^adîth scholars agree that all the junction connectors explicitly indicate a direct connection except for two: ¢An (on the authority of) and anna (that).

The Junction Connector: ‘An

Grammatically, ¢an is a preposition that, technically, does not have a narrow specified meaning on its own, although it corresponds to the English “on” or “about.” When it occurs in a chain of ^adîth narrators, it means “on the authority of so-and-so.”

A ^adîth that has links in its chain connected by ¢an is termed mu¢an¢an (some writers define mu¢an¢an ^adîth as having “all” the connections made by ¢an, but this is irrelevant. The point is what ¢an implies about how reporters of a ^adîth are connected and its impact on the validity of reports that use ¢an to convey a ^adîth.) An example of mu¢an¢an ^adîth is the following ^adîth narrated by Ibn Mâjah. (Keep in mind that each subsequent line represents a human link in the chain of reports. The person named in the first line heard the report from the person in the second line who heard it from the person in the third, and so on, in descending order, until we reach the origin of the report):

¢Uthmân ibn Abi Shaybah told us:

Mu¢âwiyah ibn Hishâm told us:

Sufyân told us:

On the authority of Usâmah ibn Zayd,

On the authority of ¢Uthman ibn ¢Urwah,

On the authority of ¢Urwah,

On the authority of ¢Âisha: She said:

The Prophet œ said: Indeed, Allah and His angels send their prayers upon the right flanks of the rows (of |alâh).

The Mu an an Hadith in the Opinion of the Scholars

The issue with the mu¢an¢an ^adîth is that it is linguistically accurate for someone to say “on the authority of such-and-such a narrator, the Prophet œ said…” without him actually having met the narrator. That someone could have been told what the narrator said by someone else or read it somewhere. This, at first, led some scholars to take the extreme position that no mu¢an¢an ^adîth is acceptable. However, this opinion was soon discarded.

The reality is that the narrators tend to rely heavily on the term ¢an, most probably due to the ease it provides in narration of the sanad because of its conciseness. Moreover, ^adîth scholars have an agreed upon understanding that when a narrator says ¢an in the terminology of narration it means that they met the one they took the narration from. Thus, it would have to be an intentional act on the part of a reporter, not a simple error, to knowingly omit narrators and cloak this omission by using the word ¢an. That is why this kind of intentional act has a name, tadlîs.

Tadlîs linguistically means ‘to shroud in darkness’. The ^adîth scholars borrowed this meaning to create a technical term for “concealing” the identity of the one from whom the transmitter received his ^adîth report. Such a report is termed mudallas (concealed), and the one who perpetrated (the concealment) is called a mudallis (concealer).

Tadlîs can occur in one of two ways. The mudallis (concealer) may report from a transmitter whom he has met, but without proof that he actually heard from him the specific ^adîth he is attributing to that transmitter. Or, the mudallis may attribute a ^adîth to a transmitter—a contemporary of his—without actually having met him and taken the report from him in person. There are more subtle variations of these two discrepancies, such as attribution to a reporter by a lesser-known name (which has the effect of concealing the reporter’s identity), and omitting the mention of an intermediary reporter rated as weak between trustworthy reporters.

But that is tadlîs, not mu¢an¢an. So there is agreement by the mu^addithîn (^adîth scholars) that the mu¢an¢an ^adîth is acceptable and precisely conveys a continuity in the chain of narration, provided (a) that none of the narrators has ever committed tadlîs, and (b) that it is possible for consecutive reporters to have met. This latter point means that they lived at the same time and that they both lived in, or visited at some time, the same vicinity.

Such narrations fulfill the conditions of continuity. Some scholars, however, have imposed additional stipulations for an even higher standard of continuity. Bukhâri required that there be at least one confirmed meeting between the two reporters. Al-Sam¢âni stipulates that a long companionship must have occurred between the two. Al-Dâni stipulates that it must be well known that the first narrator used to narrate a^adith from the second, meaning that it was not a one time or rare occurrence, but rather an established connection.

There is another kind of ^adîth narration that relates to our discussion, namely, a narration that achieves the connection between narrators using the Arabic word anna, spelled with a beginning hamzah (glottal stop), NOT with a beginning ¢ayn. Ann is usually translated into English by the word ‘that.’ The ^adîth type that uses ann (that) is termed mu¢an¢an. Its meaning—of implying person-to-person transmission between reporters—and its discussion is identical to the discussion of the mu¢an¢an ^adîth.

The mu¢an¢an report paradigm is as follows: “So-and-so narrated that so-an-so said that.…

Ibn ±ajar in Al-Nukat notes one subtle category of mu¢an¢an ^adîth which evaded the notice of most other scholars. When ¢an (about) occurs at the end of a chain of narration followed by a name, it is actually the beginning of the Text (matn) of the ^adîth. That is, such an ¢an is being used linguistically, not terminologically. In such a case, the beginning of the Text is sometimes confused for the end of the chain of narration. Hence, the reader of a ^adîth should heed the position of ¢an in a report, and recognize that in the latter position described by Ibn ±ajar it is actually part of the Text. This is to avoid falling into error.

(Recalling that each line of reporters represents a human link in the reporting chain who heard it from the next line’s human link, and so on), we can give this example of this use of ¢an. In the narration of Ibn Abî Khaythamah in his Ta’rîkh, he narrates ¢an (on the authority of) his father, who said:

Abû Bakr ibn ¢Ayyâsh told us:

Abû Is^aq told us:

‘About’ (¢an) Abî Al-Aḥwa| that the Khawârij came out in arms against him and killed him.”

¢An, which linguistically here means “about,” but terminologically means “on the authority of” should not cause confusion in a report like this. To misunderstood ¢an in this report as “on the authority of” would necessitate Abî Al-Aḥwa| being killed and then coming back to life and narrating what happened to him.

So there is an unarticulated meaning in ¢an that the context here dictates, namely, “about what happened to,” or “about what befell Abî Al-Aḥwa|.”

Allah knows best.

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Written By

Omar Abdl-Haleem is a fourth generation Muslim in America. He has a BA from Al-Azhar University in Usul Al-Din, specializing in Hadith, and was about to finish his Master’s Degree from Al-Azhar in Hadith, when he had to leave Egypt for safety reasons in the fall of 2013. He has translated most of Ibn Al-Jawzi’s book: Sayd Al-Khatir into English, which he intends to complete (some episodes of Omar’s translation of this book have appeared in Aljumuah Website). He is also working on a Hadith book for English speakers that explains and teaches Mustalah Al-Hadith (Hadith Terminology) in common terms. His Arabic is native, having studied in Egypt since he was 14, and then full time after completion of High School in the US. He is invaluable for AlJumuah in accessing scholarly texts. He intends to complete his graduate studies in Hadith.

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