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?

  • 2
    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 Apr 28 '15 at 11:02
  • 2
    Did he have any methodology? As far as i could read many people found serious contradictions in his authentications, and he sometimes declared ahadith as sahih, later da'if etc. without any explanation! He usually just followed a couple of real authorities in that matter!
    – Medi1Saif
    Feb 18 '16 at 15:20

Shaikh Albani Rh. was one of the most prominent scholars of his time. There is a huge criticism over his methodology that he had declared to follow in his works especially to categorize Hadith.

The methodology that he had followed was unique and as far as I'm concerned I came to know about no other Islamic scholar of his time or sometimes earlier or later to follow the methodology that Shaikh Rh. has used. This answers the later part of your question.

Say for example take this quote from his well-known work "Silsila Ahadith Dayeefa"

ومما ينبغي أن يُذكر بهذه المناسبة أنني لا أقلد أحداً فيما أصدِرُه من الأحكام على تلك الأحاديث، وإنما أتَّبِع القواعد العلمية التي وضعها أهل الحديث، وجرَوا عليها في إصدار أحكامهم على الأحاديث من صحة أو ضعف

ج:١، ص:٤٢

Where Shaikh Rh. says that he is not copying the categorization made by the previous Hafizul Hadiths or the Imams. Rather he is using the same principle and methodology, that those great muhaddithun had followed.

There comes the point related to ilm-al-rijal that you have mentioned in your question. And some other related questions such as, if we can accept the rijal records made by those great Imams then what really holds us form accepting the categorizations made by the same persons. Some other related complexities also arises, however.

And also Shaikh Rh. was not consistent over his methodology overtime. There are numerous instances where Shaikh Rh. has disproved himself or have gone against himself, or have given varying opinions in the same matter.

That's why it is quite hard to conclude to a strict set of Usool followed by Shaikh Rh. that you have asked in your question.

The answer to your second question was given a bit earlier i.e. No other contemporary scholars had followed his methodology.


I think this may answer your question:

Nor was he [al-Albānī] rejecting the work of classical Muslim scholars; indeed al-Albānī relied entirely on earlier criticisms of Ḥadīths and their transmitters in his reevaluation of the contents of famous works. Although he considered himself qualified enough to reexamine classical texts, he could not recreate the intimate access that classical scholars had to the minutiae of Ḥadīth criticism. Al-Albānī’s books, such as the Silsilat al-aḥādīth al-ḍaīʿfa, thus apply the opinions of classical Ḥadīth masters and later critics such as Ibn Abī al-Wafāʾ to classical texts. They are thus replete with citations from the whole range of Sunni authorities, including al-Shāfiʿi, Ibn Ḥajar and Ibn Ḥazm.
This telescoped vision of religious history centered on the study of Ḥadīth as a continuous and living tradition in a constant state of reevaluation. When asked about his controversial criticism of a famous Ḥadīth transmitter from the early Islamic period, al-Albānī replied that the science of Ḥadīth criticism “is not simply consigned to books (masṭūr fī al-kutub),” it is a dynamic process of critical review. Al-Albānī explained that one of the principles of Islamic scholarship is that “religious knowledge (ʿilm) cannot fall into rigidity (lā yaqbalu al-jumūd).” It is thus not surprising that al-Albānī and his students(1) are the first Muslim scholars in centuries to produce massive collections evaluating Prophetic traditions.

(Jonathan A.C. Brown, The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon, p.324)

(1) : For instance, one of al-Albānī's students, the Yemeni Muqbil b. Hādī al-Wādīʿī (d. 2001), compiled the first comprehensive ṣaḥīḥ collection in almost a thousand years, a work designed to provide all the authentic Ḥadīths not included in the Ṣaḥīḥayn. It may be accessed here.

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