A Glowing Example of Critique and Respect by Sh. Muhammad Hasan Al-Shanqiti (may Allah preserve him)
It is said that Al-Shaikh Nāṣir Al-Dīn Al-Banī, may Allah have mercy upon him, used to declare hadīth weak that were in fact strong and vice versa? Is this truly the case or not?
Indeed, Sheikh Albānī (ra) was from those who revived the art of examining and criticizing hadīth during these times. Indeed, due to him, many people became interested in the study of the Sunna (way of the Prophet (sa) and the science of examining reports, investigating reporters of hadīth and the extraction of sound narrations. In fact, we can safely say that he was the most famous person in this age regarding this important science and it is well known the he exercised a great amount of effort towards this field.
However, like any other human being who exerts great effort, some of his conclusions were correct and others were not. Thus, some of the hadīth, which he declared sound, others in his field failed to agree with. Thus, these errors were made manifest to him and he corrected them. In addition, some of the narrations which he declared as weak were not agreed upon by those in his field. Then, once he was shown his errors, he went back and corrected them. Thus, if you look at many of the books written by the Sheikh, may Allah have mercy on him, there reprints would indicate where the sheikh went back, upon the advice of the ̔Ulema, and changed his opinions. This is one of the great qualities of the scholars: that, when shown their mistakes, they would try to correct them with great haste and concern out of the sincerity towards the faith and truthfulness toward it. For that reason ̔Umar Al-Khatāb (ra) wrote to Abū Mūsa Al-̔Asharī (ra), “Returning to the truth is better than stubbornness on falsehood.” Therefore, the Sheikh, on a number of occasions, would return to his work and correct it accordingly.
However, as with any person, there are sure to be mistakes [discovered] after the demise of the Sheikh (ra) because there is none amongst us who are protected by Allah from making mistakes and having shortcomings (except the Prophets). Thus, it behooves us not to accept everything the Sheikh declared as sound without investigation. And at the same time, we should examine what he declared to by weak prior to accepting it as well.
The reason for this is that the scholars differed on the ability, of those who would come in the latter years of the Muslim nation, to declare hadīth sound or weak. Ibn Ṣalah (ra) felt that it was impossible since the later scholar would not have met those who preceded him. Imam Nawwawī (ra) differed and felt thus such an action was indeed possible.
There is an important point that should be noted: namely, declaring something sound is much easier than declaring something weak. The reason being that in order to declare something sound, one only needs one sound narration, however, when declaring something weak, one could have amassed a large number of narrations, but still there could be one sound one that they failed to locate. Thus, they might declare something weak that, due to one other narration, would make it sound. Thus declaring something weak is much harder than the opposite.
One of the areas that Sheikh Albānī (ra) was mistaken in was that he relied, in some cases, on manuscripts that suffered from printing errors. Many times these manuscripts were not narrated to the Sheikh, or he did not read them to the people of knowledge. Thus, at times, because of the printing errors, he fell into error, sometimes declaring a hadīth weak due to the printing error in the book.
An example of this is the hadīth found in the collection of Al-Bayhaqī which, in a misprinted copy states, from ̔Ubaydullāh the son of ̔Abdullāh bin Abbās (ra). Sheikh Albānī (ra) declared this hadīth to be weak saying: “‘Ubaydullāh bin ̔Abdullāh bin ̔Abbās is an unknown person.” However, the correct print of Al-Bayhaqi’s texts states: “From ̔Ubaydullāh from ̔Abdullāh bin ̔Abbās (ra). This ‘Ubaydullāh is actually ̔Ubaydullāh the son of Abdullah the son of ‘Utbah the son of Ibn Mas̔od one of the great seven jurists of Medina. He is considered the most trust worthy narrator when it comes to Ibn ̔Abbās (ra) as agreed upon by the scholars.
This error was due to a printing error and a cause for the Sheikh to declare the narration weak. However, this type of mistake was not due to the Sheikh himself, but was due to the print or a mistake of a scribe. It is important to note that such an error takes nothing away from the Sheikh nor his efforts, sincerity, knowledge or stature. For, indeed, it was a mistake, and none of us are free from error.
And Allah knows best
Sh. Muhammad Hassan Walid Didou Al-Shinqiti*
Translated by Suhaib D. Webb