The so called “sahih” (=authentic) hadiths have five conditions ([source](https://islamqa.info/en/answers/79163/conditions-of-a-saheeh-sound-hadeeth)):
“gt;1 – Good character of all its narrators
“gt;2 – Good memory and precision on the part of narrators with regard to what they are narrating.
“gt;3 – Continuous isnaad from beginning to end, meaning that each narrator heard the hadeeth from the one before him.
“gt;4 – The hadeeth is free from any oddness in its isnaad or text. What is meant by “odd” is anything in which the narrator narrates something that contradicts the narration of a sounder narrator.
“gt;5 – The hadeeth is free from faults in its isnaad and text. A “fault” is a subtle problem that undermines the soundness of the hadeeth, which can be detected only by the well versed scholars of hadeeth.
# 1. Good character of all its narrators
Sunnis think that [all sahaba (companions) had a good character](https://www.islamweb.net/ar/fatwa/47533/) automatically, just by being sahaba. And they support it with Quranic verses like this one:
“gt;As for the foremost—the first of the Emigrants and the Helpers—and those who follow them in goodness, **Allah is pleased with them** and they are pleased with Him. And He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow, to stay there for ever and ever. That is the ultimate triumph. ([Quran 9:100](https://quran.com/9/100))
While shias think that most sahaba were hypocrites and support it with the next verse after that:
“gt;**Some of the nomads around you ˹believers˺ are hypocrites**, as are some of the people of Medina. They have mastered hypocrisy. They are not known to you ˹O Prophet˺; they are known to Us. We will punish them twice ˹in this world˺,1 then they will be brought back ˹to their Lord˺ for a tremendous punishment. (Quran 9:101)
And obviously for sunnis, those who accepted Abu Bakr as a caliph had good character, but for shias, those “companions” who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr had bad character, because everyone knew that Ali should be the caliph. So the “good character” is a matter of what religious sect you’re in. Sunnis have their hadith collections (mainly [“the Six Books”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kutub_al-Sittah)) and shias have their own (mainly [“the Four Books”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Books)) and they don’t share any collection. So even within Islam, Muslims can’t decide who exactly has the “good character”. Of course they can solve it by takfeering everyone with a different opinion (that’s how the “consensus” in Islam usually works), but that’s just a mind game.
But most importantly, besides the sectarianism, I don’t see a reason why a non-Muslim would accept the hadith rating from sunnis or shias. If any non-Muslim accepts “sahih” hadiths as authentic, I think he’s insulting himself, because it means he agrees with the hadith methodology, which includes the assumption that all non-Muslims are not trustworthy. The condition number one for “good character” is, of course belief Islam ([source](https://al-maktaba.org/book/32342/97#p1)). So this condition, which should supposedly guarantee authenticity, only makes the result biased. And other condition is that the narrator [should not be immoral](https://mawdoo3.com/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B7_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AB_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A%D8%AD#cite_note-EoGIMFy5sM-14). Which sounds nice, but of course it’s morality within Islam – it’s the Islamic morality (beating wife is good, beating husband is bad etc.)
Muhammad was a warlord and his companions were a bunch of caravan robbers and I don’t see them trustworthy at all. If you have no shame killing, enslaving etc. just to benefit yourself financially, why would you be ashamed to lie. And Muhammad even allowed “lying in 3 cases”:
“gt;Humaid b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthum daughter of ‘Uqba b. Abu Mu’ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ), as saying that she heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
“gt;A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (**in order to avert dispute**), or he conveys good. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: **in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband** (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them). ([source](https://quranx.com/Hadith/Muslim/USC-MSA/Book-32/Hadith-6303/))
Muslims were practically always in war and dispute (for example dispute with Christians about “sister of Aron”) etc. and they solved it by making up hadiths and every sect created hadiths which supports their position. And I know there’s [a hadith](https://sunnah.com/bukhari:106) where he explicitly forbade lying against him. But maybe lying “for him” (positively) would be good, because it would spread Islam. And if someone was fabricating hadiths, he wouldn’t have respect for the real hadiths, so why would he care that the real hadiths forbid it? And maybe the hadith itself is a fabrication which has the purpose to make the hadiths sound more authentic. And someone can lie unintentionally, based on fake memories or wishful thinking.
The biographies, by which the “good character” is judged, were written only since the 9th century – imagine if you would judge someone from the 19th century based on hearsay today. Maybe the hadiths together with the narrator biographies are just 9th century fairy tales. I’m open to the possibility that some hadiths are historical, but we need secular scholars who would use secular methods, like the criterion of embarrassment. I think that the prophecies about the end of the world in 100 years or about the boy who won’t grow old before the Hour are historical, because why would Muslims make it up hundreds of years later? Also some variants of those hadiths have apologetic additions to make them less embarrassing, so I think that some hadiths are historical, but the hadith science in general is unreliable and I don’t think we’ll ever find what really happened, we can just make guesses, just like with historical Jesus.
tl;dr;: “Good character” is subjective and it’s superficial, because someone can be a hypocrite who only looks he has good character.
And one more philosophical point: I actually think that people who have really good character, they are not trying to look like they have a good character, because that would be immoral. So in the end they look worse than the people with bad character who try to make an impression they have a good character. People will judge you based on your impressions, they don’t see inside.
# 2. Good memory and precision on the part of narrators with regard to what they are narrating
Manuscripts have the best memory and manuscripts, unlike people, are reliable. If you write something on a manuscript in the 7th century, you will find the same thing written on it, word by word, in the 9th century. What you put on the input, will be word-by-word on the output. But if you have a chain of narrators stretching from the 7th to the 9th century, any one of them can cause an intentional or unintentional corruption. You put something on the input and all kinds of things can happen to it until it finally arrives on the output in the 9th century. And NOBODY transfers speech word by word. I challenge you to say someone what I wrote in this post word-by-word out of memory. You can’t. You can only re-phrase some pieces that you understood in your own words, you will exclude what you didn’t like and you will change it based on your biases.
We don’t have early manuscripts (from the 7th century). The main hadith collections themselves were written in the 9th+ century and we don’t even have their original manuscripts. Even for the most famous collection [Sahih Bukhari](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahih_al-Bukhari#Derived_works), the oldest manuscript is from the 10th century and oldest complete manuscript is from the 12th century and there are also differences between manuscripts. And also Sahih Bukhari contains a hadith where Bukhari himself is in a chain and he’s second in the chain! ( [وَحَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ الْبُخَارِيُّ قَالَ](https://sunnah.com/bukhari/3)), so his students weren’t shy about putting new stuff into his book and who knows what else they put there.
So all we have are oral traditions developing for hundreds of years. And now we’re supposed to measure their memory. And how do you even measure good memory? They didn’t have psychological memory tests. To measure the memory, they just compared the guy’s ^((most narrators are guys because patriarchy)) narration to other narrations “from more reliable narrators” and if it is the same, then the guy has a good memory ([source](https://qalamedu.org/topic/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b4%d8%b1%d8%b7-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ab%d8%a7%d9%86%d9%8a-%d9%81%d9%8a-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b1%d8%a7%d9%88%d9%8a-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b0%d9%8a-%d8%aa%d9%82%d8%a8%d9%84-%d8%b1%d9%88%d8%a7%d9%8a%d8%aa/)). What if someone has bad memory, but he spend a lot of time memorizing it, so he knows it perfectly? Or what if he read it in earlier hadith collection and now he narrated it with a new fake isnad?
Some sources also say that not everyone was talking from memory. Some had it written. But we don’t have their manuscripts and the transmission was mostly oral.
# 3. Continuous isnaad from beginning to end, meaning that each narrator heard the hadeeth from the one before him.
How do you know that he heard it? Anyone in the chain could have fabricated the rest of the chain. You can check whether each two guys lived at the same time period (the one who narrated wasn’t dead before the listening one was born), but everyone who knows history can fabricate a valid chain in this regard, so it doesn’t prove authenticity at all. You can just look at other hadiths and their chains and fabricate a new hadith with the same or a similar chain.
# 4. The hadeeth is free from any oddness in its isnaad or text. What is meant by “odd” is anything in which the narrator narrates something that contradicts the narration of a sounder narrator.
Most hadiths have only one chain (ahad hadiths), so you can’t compare them to a sounder narration.
And someone could just read the current hadith collections, copy the narrations from a sounder narrator with similar isnads, thus establish credibility (and perfect memory) and then he would fabricate new ahad hadiths.
And it might look like I’m a fan of mutawatir, but no. I think that a hadith mutawatir (= “narrated by so many people that they couldn’t have agree on lie”) are also not reliable. I think that a mutawatir hadith can be a widespread lie with fake isnads added later. Actually, the earliest Muslims didn’t use isnads and the later the period, the better the isnads are. So I don’t trust isnads at all. I can’t draw here, but I imagine that a new hadith is like a tree. It can have root from Muhammad, but it can have a root in anyone after him. And then from the root you have many branches and you can have hundreds of branches (and branches from branches), even if the root originated in the 8th or 9th century.
# 5 – The hadeeth is free from faults in its isnaad and text. A “fault” is a subtle problem that undermines the soundness of the hadeeth, which can be detected only by the well versed scholars of hadeeth.
But obviously if someone fabricates it, he will try hard to make it sound as real as possible. He won’t say “btw. I made it up, I hope no one notices”. He will just make a regular isnad, just like other hadiths have and he will say something that sounds like Muhammad could have said it. There won’t be any noticeable mistake which would prove it’s false and you won’t be able to decide whether Muhammad really said it, just be reading it.
# Final word
The sunni “sahih” hadiths are already rejected by shias and quranists, so I’m not bringing anything new. Even sunnis themselves tend to reject their own hadiths if they don’t like them, like the one about Aisha marrying Muhammad when she was 6 years old (and he was 50+). And if sunni Muslims are doing such changes today, based on their wishful thinking, even though it’s in their most authentic book, then why would they not do similar changes before and when the collection was written? It was even easier at that time, you just say you heard something and then it would be put into Islam. Now nobody can create a new hadith. Although I could fabricate millions of 1000 year long mutawatir isnads just to make a point.
> The so called “sahih” (=authentic) hadiths have five conditions.
No they don’t. They have far more than five. [Source.](https://islamqa.info/en/answers/239540/the-science-of-hadith-is-based-on-reason-and-shari-guidelines)
In addition to that when we look at how the scholars of hadith applied their methodology it included cross referencing, collaborations, and the need for multiple sources. You didn’t address that fact at all, it removes the vast majority of argumentation you are doing here.
> The condition number one for “good character” is, of course belief Islam (source). So this condition, which should supposedly guarantee authenticity, only makes the result biased.
No this is a good thing, it keeps it consistent with the Quran. If you start applying your own personal subjective morals then the authenticity changes for each person and that’s a horrible standard for truth/reliability.
I’m not going to go through all of this since so much is polemical stuff, but I’ll point out some things.
> Most hadiths have only one chain (ahad hadiths), so you can’t compare them to a sounder narration.
No, [ahad hadiths means many singles](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9DFkEyCtgY).
> Actually, the earliest Muslims didn’t use isnads and the later the period, the better the isnads are.
Why would you need an isnad when you are the eyewitness? When your friend/family was the eye witnesses? Same goes for biographies and no, they are 7th century as many of the hadiths are apart of those biographies and traceable to the 7th century.
The “quality” of isnad doesn’t change. In fact it would only be better in number as expected, but in actual people? It puts you further from the source so how is that objectively better? It just means now you need to and can apply lots of cross referencing and collaborate reports to see if there is any issues.
> But we don’t have their manuscripts and the transmission was mostly oral.
We have left over bits from some of them like Malik’s collection, 178 years later. It’s one of the easy ways we know the claim that puts hadiths as fabricated made hundreds of years later as very unlikely.
> I think that a hadith mutawatir (= “narrated by so many people that they couldn’t have agree on lie”) are also not reliable. I think that a mutawatir hadith can be a widespread lie with fake isnads added later.
I don’t think you can be taken serious upon saying this. You already pointed out several times that there was a method to check them and it’s how grading even existed, so then why would you flip on that to say actually none of that matters and those mass narrated hadiths are a lie too. This is walking that mass conspiracy line and falling into the deep end.
> Muhammad was a warlord and his companions were a bunch of caravan robbers and I don’t see them trustworthy at all. If you have no shame killing, enslaving etc. just to benefit yourself financially, why would you be ashamed to lie.
The same source that says those raids happened also says the Muslims were taking back from specific hostile groups that were killing them and stealing. So which is it, was he robbing and such or are you going to be consistent and say they had the right to take back their things?
This is a repeating example around arguments to reject hadith as reliable and also polemics in general. People LOVE to cherry pick from a source, but can’t justify why they are doing so when the context is brought into the argument. Of course personal morals is not a standard of judging what is reliable or not.
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