The term “weak Hadeeth” refers to any narration which does not fulfill the conditions of authenticity. The scholars of Hadeeth agree that a “weak Hadeeth” must not be attributed to the Prophet by saying: “The Prophet said …”.
Applying weak Hadeeth in excellent deeds.
Very often when you point to the weakness of a Hadeeth you hear being cited, someone will immediately say: “But this Hadeeth is talking about (the reward of) excellent deeds, and it is alright to refer to unauthentic Hadeeth when talking about excellent deeds.”
It has become a norm amongst the majority of a good number of scholars and students of Islamic learning that it is alright to use weak Hadeeth when it refers to the reward of excellent deeds. They consider it a fully accepted rule that should not be argued. They also would quote the words of great scholars to support their point.
Before going into detail to refute the arguments of these people, let me point out that they have, in general, misunderstood the sayings of the great scholars of Islam they quote, relative to weak Hadeeth and how it should be used.
This serious misunderstanding has led to the great epidemic of freely using weak narrations; which certainly may involve lying against the Messenger of Allah .
Refutation of the claim:
First, we should mention that the rule cited earlier (that weak Hadeeth can be used in excellent deeds) is not accepted by all the scholars of Hadeeth. For instance, Abu Bakr Ibn ‘Arabi said: “The weak Hadeeth should be absolutely avoided and not dealt with.”
Second, we should know that the scholars of Hadeeth who permitted the use of weak Hadeeth have set very strict rules applying to their use. Al-Hafith Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani said: “There are three conditions that must be fulfilled in order to use the weak Hadeeth:
a. It is well accepted that the weakness should only be slight. This will help to exclude Hadeeth reported by liars or accused reporters (of lying) who are known to commit big mistakes.
b. The weak Hadeeth should be used under already well-established principles and should not bring in ideas of its own.
c. When a weak Hadeeth is used (after it fulfills the above two conditions), it should not be believed to be said by the Messenger of Allah ; to do so we would be crediting him with that which he did not say.
For the above conditions to be satisfied, people planning to use the weak Hadeeth should have the ability to:
1. Distinguish between the weak and the authentic Hadeeth in order to fulfill condition (c) above, otherwise they may fall into lying about the Messenger .
2. Distinguish between the slightly weak Hadeeth and those which are very weak or fabricated, in order to fulfill condition (a) above.
What should be very clear to Muslims is that the ability to make the above two distinctions is not possessed except by a very small category of the scholars of Hadeeth (who can be counted on the fingers).
In particular with reference to item (2) above, only a few of the scholars of Hadeeth in all of the history of Islam have dealt with it.
Someone might justifiably ask: “Why are we so strict in this matter (of using weak Hadeeth), when some scholars of Hadeeth have permitted it?”
The answer to this question was given by a great scholar of Hadeeth, Sheykh Muhammad Nasiruddeen Al-Albani who said:
“The earlier scholars used to mention the Hadeeth with their full Isnaad (chain of narrators), so that any other scholar reading their treatise could know from the chain of narrators the degree of authenticity of the Hadeeth.”
We pray that this small introduction to the subject of weak Hadeeth and using it as proof has helped in clarifying how dangerous this is.