Using Da’if Hadith

In one of my classes we are reading Saba Mahmood’s “The Politics of Piety”, a fascinating account of the women involved in the Islamic revival in Egypt.  One of the chapters discussed female circumcision (khetan), and how it is accepted as Islamic.  Interestingly, many of the women in this movement believe that following a weak (da’if) hadith is BETTER than using one’s personal reasoning/intellect.  I have never heard of this idea before.  I thought it was generally accepted that weak hadith were not followed.

It also explains why SO MANY Muslims accept female circumcision.  The hadith about it is commonly classified as weak, but if a Muslim accepts weak hadith then they would also accept the one about circumcision.

Does anyone know of Muslims who follow weak hadith? Do you agree that it is better than using one’s own intellect?

Also does anyone know of any hadith about female circumcision that are not classified as weak? A classmate said that some were not.


19 thoughts on “Using Da’if Hadith

  1. Interesting, it’s the first time I hear this… I absolutely disagree though, I think weak hadiths should be avoided as much as possible!

    About circumcision, I don’t know what evidence there is, I just heard it’s Mustahabb. Not sure though.

  2. I’ve never heard of following weak hadiths and I would never do it myself.

    Re female circumcision – as you know it’s customary in Shia Islam to follow a marja. All the ones I’ve checked say: “There’s nothing known that says it’s haram in itself BUT if the act causes harm to the woman and limits her enjoyment of sex, it is haram.” Of course FGM is both of those things so I completely agree with that. And I’d rather follow that over weak hadiths any day :):)

  3. It doesn’t sound very smart to follow a weak hadith, but I guess if a person believes that the more they immitate the prophet, the closer they are to God and to heaven, it would make sense to follow anything that *might* be true about him. A weak hadith has a weak narration chain, but I’m sure some of them are still true despite the broken chain or whatever it might be. Some authentic hadiths probably have versions of the same hadith that are weak, but because the strong one exists, it’s strong.

    I personally don’t think I get further in life by flat-out imitating the prophet so I obviously don’t agree with this point of view… I think that hadiths can be used as (possible) explanation of the Qur’an if they make sense.

    • “I personally don’t think I get further in life by flat-out imitating the prophet so I obviously don’t agree with this point of view.”

      That’s how I feel as well. And I like your explanation about weak hadith…I get why people might want to follow something if there’s the smallest chance it might be true. Still, sounds pretty dangerous as well!

  4. “Does anyone know of Muslims who follow weak hadith…” LOL the whole..muslim woman as second class…no rights etc indicates that an ENTIRE ISLAMIC COUNTRY follows weak hadith…or their own intellect..such as it is. Kind of iffy…

    Weak hadith outnumber strong hadith hands down…yet those weak ones have more power over muslims then the strong ones. Go figure.

  5. Yes, if Islam supposedly empowers women and gives them rights they never had before then it seems as Coolred pointed out that many Muslims and Muslim countries are following *something* weak in order to justify keeping women down. I think some are just men’s preferences at the time thrown into the mix and given the “Prophet said/did/required this” seal of approval which, in turn, validated it among many DESPITE it being against intellect and the sheer kindness of God!

    • Yes!! I’d love to hear what you think about my new post…its exactly about how some hadith are assumed to be authentic but may not be…but have become popular because they keep women in their 2nd class status.

  6. assalamu alaykum!

    it was the opinion of imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal that using a weak hadith is better than using one’s own reason.

    however you have to know that there’s a huge difference between “weak” and between “very weak” or “fabricated”. and some say what imam Ahmad meant was what is today classified as “hasan” because that term had not come into existence yet, but i disagree (im from the opinion that one should follow weak hadith).

    as for weak vs strong, many scholars would not find a contradiction between the two, and would reconcile the two, if they found an “apparent” contradiction.

    • So if Ibn Hanbal meant “hasan” hadith, that means none of the major scholars thought one should follow weak hadith? Or did others think so?

      Why do you follow weak hadith? Is it in case they are real? Do you follow/believe all of them, or only if they “make sense”?

  7. CLA,

    This is not about female circumcision, but the Hadith that Muslims often quote in the West to persuade non-Muslims that “jihad is a spiritual inner struggle” is a weak Hadith. I invite anyone interested to read what I just posted about that at: The name of the posting is, “Why the Jihadists Always Win”. I would also welcome comments by Muslim readers to my question, “What is correct Islam”, and how can moderate Muslims persuade non-moderates that their Islam is “more correct” than the Islam practiced by the Jihadist.


  8. Huh. Interesting, and that would explain some Muslim’s viewpoint on following weak hadith, like the one that states women must cover everything except their face and hands.
    I would *think* that using your own logic would make sense, but I guess not. :p

  9. Salaam,

    I’m actually reading this book currently, and yeah, she mentions basically the virtue of using weak hadith for fada’il (virtuous good deeds) like certain dhikrs, but that there are gaps and open areas in the religion- one of which discourages female circumcision, which is the “majority” opinion.

    The weak hadith issue I’ve personally found is something else- WHO is saying it’s hadith? Why are they saying it’s weak? Is the meaning of the hadith still true? Does weak=fabricated? Certainly not! I do think we like to pick and choose, exercise our “freedoms” too much- until we have done so for so long, that when we look at our religion, all we see is our own ego and selfish decision-making. Y’ani, where is Allah and the Akhira in it? This is why I personally, don’t make arbitrary decisions like that. I don’t want to see my ego reflected in my Islam.

    Back to the book, Saba Mahmood carries her discussion talking about how today, with literate, educated Muslims, texts which were only reserved for scholars are now open to all- and therefore, everyone is place in the scenario of negotiating and navigating these texts…which I think is what is going on nowadays…and personally, I think if Muslims preoccupy themselves with this, it distracts from other areas where Muslims need to work on. Saba Mahmood on the other hand thinks it is this very searching out/negotiating of these texts which keeps Islam and the “Scriptures” so alive, to this day.

  10. Hey there,

    It’s definitely true that weak doesn’t mean fabricated, but I would be careful about using weak hadith in general, especially when they call for pretty dramatic things. But like you said, it depends on which areas of life one applies them to.

    I’m very interested in knowing what you think of the book? 🙂

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