Hadiths reported by Sufis

The experts of hadith are weary of the hadith of sufis as highlighted by Imam Muslim. It should be noted that it is not the fact that they are sufi which makes them unreliable rather it is the manner in which they evaluate hadith.

By Muhaddith al-Asr Shaykh Muhammad Yunus Jawnpuri
al-Yawaqit al-Ghaliyah fi Tahqiq wa Takhrij al-Ahadith al-‘Aliyah
Translated by Ml. Muhammad Habib in Deoband – 4th April 2010

[This is a beneficial read to understand the rationale of Imam Muslim (may Allah almighty have mercy upon him) when he writes in his Muqaddimah that the hadith of the sufis are not to be relied upon. Also note that the term sufi in some parts sparks debate. Before embarking on a discussion first determine the definition of a sufi as it is not uniform. –Saif]

Scholars have not given credence to the [hadith] reports of Sufis, as these respected people, due to their preoccupation with acts of devotion (‘ibadat), are unable to fully dedicate themselves to [the seeking of] knowledge. This is why their reports are littered with errors and confusions. Likewise, their husn al-zann (good opinions regarding others) is to such a degree that they do not even make critical analysis and, consequently, accept any spoken word without investigation. This is why their reports contain weak, rejected and fabricated hadiths in abundance.

This becomes evident after seeing Abu Talib Makki’s Qut al-Qulub and the works of Imam al-Ghazali, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami and others.

‘Allamah Taj al-Din al-Subki has compiled all those countless reports which Imam al-Ghazali has mentioned in Ihya’ al-‘Ulum, but are not found elsewhere. There are, however, many reports which do exist either in wording or meaning.

The truth is that every art has its connoisseurs. We gladly accept that the Sufis are worthy of veneration. However, that does not mean we also accept their word in those sciences in which they do not specialise.

Yahya al-Qattan says: ”We have not seen the pious (Sufis) more imprecise in anything as they are in hadith.” Another variation reads, “We have not seen the people of good (Sufis) more imprecise in anything as they are in hadith.”

Explaining this, Imam Muslim (pg. 14) writes: “Imprecision finds its way on to their tongues but they do not intend it.”

Imam al-Nawawi elaborates: ”This is so because of their non-possession of the skills employed by the people of hadith, and hence, error creeps into their reports without their knowledge and they tend to relate inaccurate reports not suspecting them to be false.”

However, no one has rejected the reports of those Sufis who have gained proficiency in this science. For example, Imam Abu Isma’il al-Ansari al-Harawi (d. 481 AH), the author of Manazil al-Sa’irin, was a Sufi as well as a hadith scholar. His work, Manazil al-Sa’irin, is a renowned work of tasawwuf, of which al-Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim wrote an extremely detailed commentary, entitled Madarij al-Salikin.

Similarly, the student of Imam Muslim, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Sufyan and his student Abu Ahmad al-Jaludi and others were all from amongst the ascetic Sufis, and people (hadith scholars) have accepted their reports.

The hadith scholar, Abu ‘Abd Allah Yunini, is from amongst the great Sufis. He attained the mantle of tasawwuf from the respected Shaykh ‘Abd Allah al-Bata’ihi, who is from the companions of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. [Abu ‘Abd Allah] Yunini is also a renowned hafiz of hadith. Al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi has specifically mentioned him in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (Vol. 4, p. 223).

Similarly ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad al-Dawudi (d. 467 AH) is a renowned Sufi. Al-Hafiz al-Sam’ani relates in Al-Ansab: ”He was a master in tasawwuf”, and he is from amongst the transmitters of [Sahih] al-Bukhari.

The likes of ‘Allamah Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id and Ibn al-Humam and others being Sufis is a known fact.

[Finally], all praise is due to Allah, most of our shaykhs of the Wali Allahi tradition were Sufis as well as imams of hadith.

That is the bounty of Allah, He grants to whom He wills.

Only Allah knows best.

The servant
Muhammad Yunus
(may Allah forgive him)
Monday 11th Rabi’ al-Thani 1391 AH.