Even If It's Not True It's True: Using Unreliable Hadīths in Sunni Islam

In: Islamic Law and Society
Author: Jonathan Brown
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Abstract

Sunni Islam is at heart a cult of authenticity, with the science of Hadīth criticism functioning as a centerpiece designed to distinguish authentic attributions to the Prophet from forgeries. It is thus surprising that even after Hadīth scholars had sifted sound Hadīths from weak, mainstream Sunni Islam allowed the use of unreliable Hadīths as evidence in subjects considered outside of the core areas of law. This majority stance, however, did not displace minority schools of thought that saw the use of unreliable Hadīths as both a danger to social morality and contrary to the stated values of Islamic thought. This more stringent position has burgeoned in the early modern and modern periods, when eliminating the use of weak Hadīths has become a common call of both Salafi revivalists and Islamic modernists. This article explores and traces the history of the various Sunni schools of thought on the use of weak and forged Hadīths from the third/ninth century to the present day.

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