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Often, I see ahadith cited, especially from those major collections other than the sahihain, with their authenticity graded by al-Albani. From perusing his selected bibliography on Wikipedia, I can see that he has done a fair amount of writing in this regard, and is apparently considered a hadith scholar of some renown (and more than a little criticism).

Traditionally, ilm al-rijal is a major factor in determining whether any hadith is authentic; an otherwise flawless hadith could still be deemed da'if if anybody in the chain of narration is considered questionable. However, while the major collections were compiled at a time when many of the narrators were still alive (and thus able to be studied), or were personally known by people who were still alive (and thus able to be studied), al-Albani himself was born significantly later and would (presumably) only be able to rely on written accounts thereof by the scholars of that time.

Given that these contemporary scholars would've had access to much of the same information (although maybe not all at once), one would think there would have been significant research into how authentic any particular hadith was at the time (either by these scholars or in the generations following as the information disseminated among the Islamic world).

The fact that al-Albani's classification is specifically mentioned suggests to me that either:

  1. No major scholar considered authenticity of these hadith important enough to study for over a thousand years (highly unlikely)
  2. Most of the work of these earlier scholars was somehow lost to the ravages of time (possible, but still doesn't seem too likely)
  3. al-Albani's methodology and/or the information available to him was somehow different than that of earlier scholars.

In an attempt to understand the likelihood of the third position, my question lies thus: What was al-Albani's methodology for determining authenticity of a hadith? How, if at all, did it differ from the methodology used by the contemporary scholars?

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There are other possibilities as well, e.g. 1) There were many other scholars who studied authenticity in between, but not on al-Albani's scale. Or 2) Scholars in between didn't feel the need to stamp every hadith, since the only people looking at hadith anyway were those who had already passed a high entry barrier and could do the grading themselves. Also one has to factor in a centuries-long period of stagnation in original research in Islamic sciences. In any case, IIRC there is a book describing his methodology. Will try to see if I can dig it up. – Ansari Jan 22 '13 at 1:03
honestly, i'm leaning more towards the second explanation than the third (especially since a lot of information back then was likely still transmitted orally). but given that my own google searching on al-Albani's methodology came up with more zealotry than actual information, i felt it was still an important question for the site. – goldPseudo Jan 22 '13 at 2:34
Someone in the answers pointed this NASIRUDDIN AL-ALBANI ON MUSLIM'S SAHIH: A CRITICAL STUDY OF HIS METHOD – servant-of-Wiser Apr 28 at 11:02

1 Answer 1

This is actually one of the main criticisms of Albani. Why authenticate hadith that the likes of Ibn Hajar (who many consider as the greatest Muhadith) has already authenticated them?

Anyways, this is an Academic Paper from my personal collection, which although I haven't had the chance to read myself, it does seem to have some relation to your question;

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