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What is the definition and authenticity of a hadith graded "Sahih in Chain" and can it be used as evidence?

An example of "Sahih in Chain" being used from Asharis: Assemble is:

The different usool of hadith then go on to elucidate these matters as well as the types of chains that can be accepted, and many of the differences in practices and creed between the schools of Islam depend on which hadiths they do and do not accept.

This is already a huge problem for Ahl al Hadith – since they would like to decide the authenticity of a narration by it’s chain of transmission alone, regardless of the content of the actual narration. If, when they tell you a hadith is ‘Sahih’, you ask them ‘Sahih in chain (isnad) or content (matn) or both?’, they will react with anger and confusion, as for them, the content is not even secondary: the chain is king.

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A sahih hadith refers only to the chain of narration. So when you see the phrase "hadith sahih", it means that:

  1. The chain is complete from its start at the Prophet to its end (ما اتصل سنده من مبدأه إلى منتهتاه).
  2. Each narrator in the chain is trustworthy (عدل).
  3. Each narrator in the chain has the ability to memorize exactly what is being said (تام الضبط).
  4. Each narrator in the chain does not contradict others of higher stance (عدم الشذوذ).
  5. Each narrator in the chain does not have irregularities or flaws (انتفاء العلة).

The science of men (علم الرجال) that studies and documents the characters and biography of narrators for authentication purposes.

This definition of an authentic hadith has always been the definition above. Now, for argument's sake, let's consider separating "sahih in chain" and "sahih in content". If we have a hadith that is sahih in chain, this means that it has been authenticated that it originated from the Prophet as a revelation from Allah. For a hadith to be sahih in chain but not sahih in content means that Allah and the Prophet passed on the wrong message (حاشا لله), and that we are better informed to judge that it is not sahih in content, albeit sahih in chain. If the chain is authentic, the hadith matn (content) is authentic.

As for using an authentic hadith in evidence, this is a big topic as a hadith could be conclusive (قطعى الدلاله), contextual (ظنى الدلاله), general (عام), specialized (خاص), non-specific (مجمل), specific (مبين), absolute (مطلق), constrained (مقيد), etc. If you narrow your question on using it as an evidence, it would be helpful. Otherwise, 'ilm al-usool (علم الأصول) talks about what can and cannot be used as evidence and when.

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