Al – Jarh Wat Ta’deel (Criticism And Endorsement)
Al – Jarh (Criticism)
Definition: This is where a muhadeeth (scholar of narrations) makes disparaging remarks in relation to particular traits about a narrator. This criticism leads to the narrations reported by such a narrator to be abandoned or rejected. The criticism of a narrator is done in 2 ways;
1. By confirming a negative trait in the narrator (e.g. ‘he is a liar’, ‘he is an open sinner’, ‘he is an innovator’, etc).
2. By removing a positive trait from the narrator (e.g. ‘his ahadeeth are not written’, ‘he is not trustworthy’, ‘he is weak’, etc).
1) Mutlaq (Unbounded): This is where a muhadeeth criticizes and makes disparaging remarks about the character of a narrator without any restrictions whatsoever.
2) Muqayid (restricted): This is where a muhadeeth criticizes a narrator in relation to something specific (e.g. shaykh, tribe, area, etc). For example, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d.852H) Rahimahullaah criticized Zayd ibn Aboo Hasan al-Habaal (d.203H) Rahimahullaah saying: “He is Sudooq (truthful, reliable) but he makes mistakes when reporting from Sufyan ath-Thawree (d.161H) Rahimahullaah.” ~(At-Taqreeb wat-Tatheeb by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani). This criticism of Zayd ibn Aboo Hasan by Ibn Hajar does not mean that he is da’eef (weak) in totality, but that he is weak in reference to ath-Thawree.
There are different levels of al-jarh (criticism):
• The highest of these levels is when one is criticized using the severest of words, such as; ‘He is the worst of the liars’, ‘He is the pinnacle of liars’, etc.
• The middle level is when one is criticized as been a liar or one who fabricates ahadeeth or is called a dajjal.
• The lowest level of criticism includes statements about a narrator such as; ‘He is weak in memorization’, ‘There are certain queries regarding him’, ‘Be cautious of his narrations’, etc.
The conditions for the acceptance of any criticism:
i. Someone who is adalah (just/reliable) must make the criticism and not by one who is a fasiq (sinner).
ii. The person who performs the criticism should be one who knows the details of the affair or situation of which he is criticizing.
iii. The individual making the criticism should know the conditions of criticism. Thus, one who does not know the principles of making disparaging remarks should not perform criticism.
iv. The Scholar making the criticism must show the reason upon which he is basing is criticism on e.g. if one states: ‘This narrator is da’eef (weak)’ or ‘His narrations are rejected’, then it is upon the one who has made such statements to produce evidences to justify his criticism. For it could be a case where one criticizes a narrator base on issues which are not considered or regarded as defects.
NOTE: Ibn Hajar (d.852H) made this point a condition for the acceptance of any criticism, even if the criticism is from someone just and trustworthy. Especially in a case where the criticism is made against someone reputed to be just and reliable e.g. an Imaam, a Shaykh, etc.
v. If the criticism is made against someone who is well established and well known by a large number of people to be just, then this criticism will be rejected.
Finally, the performance of criticism is only done against those who are calling, narrating, quoting or writing.
At – Ta’deel (Endorsement)
Definition: This is where a muhadeeth makes endorsing remarks in relation to particular traits of a narrator. This endorsement leads to the narrations reported by such a narrator to be accepted. The endorsement of a narrator can be done in 2 ways;
1. By confirming a positive characteristic in the narrator e.g. ‘He is thiqah (trustworthy) or thabit (reliable) or adal (just)’etc.
By removing a negative trait from the narrator e.g. ‘He is not a liar’, ‘His narrations are not rejected’, etc.
1) Mutlaq (Unbounded): This is where a muhadeeth makes an endorsement of a narrator without placing any restrictions whatsoever e.g. ‘He is adal’ i.e. he is just in any sphere.
2) Muqayid (Restricted): This is where a muhadeeth endorses a narrator but in relation to something or someone specific e.g. a scholar, a place, a group of people, etc. Furthermore, the restricted endorsement is done to remove a previous criticism made against a narrator and if there was no previous criticism, then the endorsement made in a specific issue for a narrator means that the general status of such a narrator is unknown.
As in the case of al-jarh, there are also different levels of at-ta’deel:
• The highest of these levels include statements such as: ‘He is the most thiqah (trustworthy)’ or ‘He is the most thiqah amongst the people’ or ‘He has the last word on the clarification of a narration’.
• The middle level is the mentioning of a good trait or the rejecting of a bad one from a narrator e.g. ‘He is thiqah’ or ‘He is thiqah thiqah (very trustworthy)’ or ‘He is thiqah thabit (trustworthy, reliable)’etc.
• The lowest level is the mentioning of characteristics about a narrator, which just about make his narrations accepted. Thus, it is very easy to make jarh of such a narrator, statements in this level include ‘His narrations are accepted’ or ‘He is near (i.e. he is okay but borders close to criticism)’.
The conditions for the acceptance of any endorsements.
i. The endorsement must be done by someone who is ’adal (just) and not by one who is a fasiq (sinner).
ii. One who knows the issue of what he is endorsing should perform the endorsement.
iii. One who knows the conditions of endorsement should carry out the performance of endorsement.
iv. If the endorsement is for someone who is well established and well known to be weak, a sinner, etc, then the endorsement will not be accepted.
Opposition Between Al –Jarh And At – Ta’deel
This is a scenario where a scholar or a group of scholars have criticized a narrator but at the same time other scholars have endorsed him. E.g. some scholars may say a narrator is weak in his memory, while another group of scholars may say about the same narrator that he is strong in his memory. In such a case, 4 conditions have to be examined before the final decision is made;
a) If the endorsement is vague (i.e. there is no clear evidence to support it), while the criticism is plain (i.e. there are evidences to substantiate it), then in such a situation, the criticism will be accepted over the endorsement. This is due to the fact that the criticism provides knowledge that is clear, as opposed to the endorsement.
b) If the criticism is unclear, while the endorsement is clear, then the endorsement will be accepted over the criticism.
c) In a situation where both the criticism and the endorsement are unclear and one of the two has to be accepted. There are those who say that the criticism is not to be accepted due to its lack of clarity, but that the endorsement should be accepted since there is nothing opposing it. However, there are those who say that the unclear criticism is to be accepted. Thus, to resolve this problem of opposition (i.e. the jarh against the ta’deel), both of them must be weigh against each other to determine which of the two is stronger. This is accomplished using 4 methods:
1. By examining the trustworthiness of both parties involve the dispute to find out which of the two is more trustworthy and reliable.
2. By establishing which of the two opposing groups know the narrator more.
3. By determining which of the two parties know more the conditions surrounding the situation upon which they based their reasons of criticism or endorsement.
4. By calculating the number of people who made the criticism against the number of people who made the endorsement.
d) In a situation where both the criticism and the endorsement are clear, then the criticism is to be taken over the endorsement. This is because the muhadeeth (scholar of narration) who has made the criticism has presented more information about the disputed narrator. However, if the muhadeeth who has made the endorsement states that he knows the reasons upon which the other muhadeeth based his criticism on and that these reasons are no longer valid. Then the endorsement will be taken over the criticism. This is due to the fact that the scholar who has made the endorsement has brought a more up to date based information concerning the disputed narrator.