A question was asked concerning where to find the 4,000-5,000 authentic hadiths I alluded to in A False Accusation Against Imam al-Bukhari, so here is the response:
Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar mentions a quote in an-Nukat ‘Ala ibn as-Salah that according to a number of Imams such as Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan, Abdur Rahman ibn Mahdi, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and others, the total number of hadiths ( i.e. authentic) is 4,400. In Jami’ al-Ulum wa al-Hikam, ibn Rajab cites Abu Dawud as saying, “I examined the Musnad Hadiths (those that are connected with authentic chains) and found them to be 4,000.”
It should be kept in mind that this does not include the hadiths that are Hasan Li Ghayrih as hadiths which are called Hasan Li Ghayrih in the terminology of the later scholars would have been called da’if by the early ones as pointed out by ibn Taymiyyah and others.
Furthermore, ibn Hajar states the following in an-Nukat ‘Ala Ibn as–Salah:
وقد صرح أبو الحسن ابن القطان أحد الحفاظ النقاد من أهل المغرب في كتابه بيان الوهم و الإيهام بأن هذا القسم (أي الحسن بمجموع الطرق) لا يحتج به كله بل يعمل به في فضائل الأعمال و يتوقف عن العمل به في الأحكام إلا إذ كثرت طرقه أو عضده اتصال عمل أو موافقة شاهد صحيح أو ظاهر القرآن. وهذا حسن قوي رايق ما أظن منصفا يأباه و الله الموفق
“Abu al-Hasan ibn al-Qattan, one of the verifying Huffaz from amongst the People of the West (al-Maghrib) has explicitly stated in his book, Bayan al-Wahm Wa al-Iham, that this category (i.e. Hasan Li Ghayrih) is not used as a proof always. Rather, it is acted upon in Fada’il al-A’mal, but one should refrain from acting on it in al-Ahkam, unless it has numerous routes, or it is supported by action (in accordance with what it states), an authentic witnessing report, or the apparent meaning of the Qur’an. This (view) is good, strong, and delightful. I do not think a fair person would refuse it. And All[a]h is the granter of success.”
An example of a hadith that the early muhaddithin rejected in spite of it having numerous routes is the hadith “There is no wudu’ for the one who does not mention Allah’s Name on it.” Ahmad said, “No hadith concerning it is authentic,” and others critiqued it as well. Amongst the later scholars, ibn Hajar concurred as did Shaykh ibn Baz.
In his commentary of this very same hadith, Shaykh ibn Baz had the following to say:
والرابع :الحسن لغير ذاته بل لغيره إذا تعددت الطرق فهي أربعة أقسام وهذا القسم الرابع محل نظر كثير ما تلتبس فيه الآراء لاختلاف الطرق التي تعددت فلهذا تجد بعضهم يحسنه وبعضهم يضعفه بحسب ما وصل إليه من العلم في ضبط الراوي وعدم ضبطه وفي اتصال السند وعدم اتصاله وفي جهالة الراوي وفي عدم جهالته فمن أجل ذلك تختلف آراؤهم رحمة الله عليهم في هذا القسم الرابع .
فهو مما يستشهد به ولكن لا يعتمد عليه في الأصول فهي من قبيل أحاديث الترغيب والترهيب ومن قبيل الإعتضاد والاستشهاد هذا هو أحسن ما قيل فيه … انتهى كلامه رحمه الله
The fourth category (of maqbul, or acceptable, hadiths): is that which is not hasan by itself (li dhatih), but rather is hasan due to other than it (li ghayrih) when its routes are multiple. So these are the four categories. This fourth category requires examination. Opinions concerning it are frequently confused due to contradiction of the various routes. For this reason you will find some deeming it hasan and some deeming it da’if depending on what knowledge reaches them concerning the narrator’s precision or lack thereof, the connectedness of the chain or the lack thereof, or the narrator being known or unknown. For that reason their (the scholars’) views, may Allah have mercy on them, will differ concerning this fourth category. Therefore, it is used as witnessing evidence, but it is not relied upon in the Usul (fundamental issues), so it is like the hadiths of Targhib wa at-Tarhib (Encouragement and Discouragement) and that which is used to support an argument or as witnessing evidence. This is the best of what has been said concerning it.”
It should also be noted that the scholars who devoted books to sahih hadiths do not seem to rely upon hadiths that are weak by themselves but strengthened by other routes very often. Even ibn Khuzaymah and ibn Hibban who are said to be mutasahil, or lax, in grading hadiths appear to use multiple routes to strengthen each other rarely if ever. This does not mean that multiple routes cannot corroborate each other to the extent that it shows the hadith has been correctly transmitted, but this is not always the case with multiple routes.
If we were to exclude the hasan li ghayrih hadiths, then we would find that the authentic hadiths are under 5,000 (without repetitions). One might ask then, what exactly do we do with the hasan li ghayrih hadith? The fact that a hadith’s routes are weak does not mean that it is false. Especially if it is not strange or munkar in meaning, or extremely weak in its chain, there is a significant possibility that the hadith is actually true in spite of the weakness of its narrator (because weak narrators do not always make mistakes). When there are other hadiths and/or statements of the Companions that support the hadith, that just adds to the likelihood of it being a true hadith. This is what the scholars would usually term hasan li ghayrih. This is obviously better than the weak hadith which does not have any support, but it is not the same as a hadith which is definitively corroborated by external or internal evidence to be true.
In any case, now for the question about where to find these authentic hadiths. The total number of hadiths that are in the authentic collection of al-Bukhari and Muslim, be they agreed upon, or reported by only one of the two is said to be approximately 2900 without repetition. As for the remaining hadiths, perhaps a good source would be Shaykh Muqbil’s book, as-Sahih al-Musnad Mimmaa Laysa Fi as-Sahihayn (الصحيح المسند مما ليس في الصحيحين). His intent was to gather together hadiths that are authentic (incl. hasan li dhatih) by themselves without need for supporting narrations. In doing so, he took pains to make sure none of the hadiths of his book contain any ‘illah (hidden weakness).
It should be kept in mind, however there is a difference between a scholar of our times studying the books of ‘ilal to make sure that the huffaz have not mentioned any ‘illah for a particular hadith and between one of the great huffaz memorizing and learning 100’s of thousands of hadiths and discovering an ‘illah. They had the tools to discover ‘illahs by finding all routes and studying an comparing them. The best that anyone in our time can hope for is to merely understand their comments concerning the ‘ilal of hadiths. It is rare that a contemporary can independently discover an ‘illah without someone before having already pointed out. It is not impossible, but it is difficult and quite rare. In general, the best case scenario is to do extensive research. If one finds no early scholar mentioning an ‘illah or discovers no ‘illah, and additionally, one or some of the huffaz have stated the hadith is authentic, one can feel comfortable that it is authentic. In any case, in general, Shaykh Muqbil has taken considerable pains to ensure the hadiths of his book have no ‘illah. He may sometimes be mistaken in his ijtihad, or he may have sometimes left off hadiths fearing them to be weak but they are actually authentic. Nonetheless, he has done a considerably admirable job.
He also avoids the issue of ziyadah ath thiqah (addition to the text or isnad made by a thiqah, trustworthy, narrator). If there is an authentic hadith that has a version with a ziyadah in it, he generally avoids the version with the ziyadah and uses the one without it in his book. The reason for this is that determining whether a particular ziyadah is authentic in a hadith is difficult, so he avoids it, preferring the safer route of mentioning the asl of the hadith concerning the authenticity of which there is little doubt. I do not have a copy of this book but I have borrowed it from someone else before to read, and the total number of hadiths it contains is 1679. In choosing the hadiths for his book, Shaykh Muqbil searched through the Four Sunan, the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, and a number of other books. Most of its hadiths can be found in the Four Sunan and/or the Musnad of Ahmad. He typically only mentions one route and he does not bother too much with mentioning the takhrij of the hadith. For example, he will quote a hadith in full from an-Nasa’i for example with its chain. He might also mention: “And Abu Dawud also reported it,” but he does not give too much importance to trying to mention the various routes.
If we take this book and add it to the hadiths of as-Sahihayn which are approximately 2900 we come to 4600 hadiths. Again, this depends on how you count. The most conservative count might put the hadiths of as-Sahihayn at 2500 which would bring our total to 4200. Suffice it to say, the total is between 4000 and 5000.
We see from this result firstly, that most of the authentic hadiths are in fact in Bukhari and Muslim. Al-Hafiz ibn Mandah mentions in Shurut al-A’immah that one of the shaykhs of al-Hakim, Al-Hafiz Abu ‘Abdillah Muhammad ibn Ya’qub ibn al-Akhram, stated, “How rarely is any established hadith missed by al-Bukhari and Muslim.” This statement indicates that the majority, although not all, authentic hadiths are in fact contained in the Sahihayn.
If one wanted to know all of them in as quick a manner as possible, there are a few possible routes. Read the summarized Muslim and summarized Bukhari, then read Shaykh Muqbil’s book. The problem is that you may still miss some hadiths this way.
An alternative would be to read Jami’ al Usul of ibn al-Athir which contains al-Usul al-Khamsah (the Six minus ibn Majah). Without a doubt, most of the authentic hadiths are in these five books. You will miss only a few, if any, authentic hadiths in these five books. In many cases, still, you will find something similar to the missing authentic hadiths mentioned in those Five Books (I am not including ibn Majah because it only adds a small number of hadiths not already contained in the Five, the majority of which are weak). The same can be said of al-Musnad. It contains almost everything authentic. If it occasionally misses something, you will still find something in it to suffice in its place.
If one were to read Jami’ al-Usul, he would have covered all the hadiths of al-Khamsah, authentic and weak. The total number of hadiths in al Khamsah without repetition is probably around 9000-10,000. That means perhaps half of the hadiths are authentic. That may seem like alot of weak hadiths but you should keep in mind that in the original books, the authentic hadiths are most frequently repeated as evidence for different points and because they have more chains.
If one were alternatively to read the Five Books in full, that would be better if someone is determined and serious. Along the way, you would find that in at-Tirmidhi the hadiths are all graded by at-Tirmidhi. As for Sunan an-Nasa’i, the overwhelming majority of the material is authentic, and in most cases, if there is a deficiency or an ‘illah in the hadith, he points it out. He occasionally will leave an inauthentic hadith without any comment, but in many cases it seems most likely he did so because the weakness of the isnad was apparent, Sunan Abi Dawud has the least comments, but even his book has a number of comments on the weaknesses of various hadiths.
I should note that, in my humble view, at-Tirmidhi is usually right in his judgments. Some, such as al-Hafiz adh-Dhahabi have mistakenly deemed him mutasahil in his judgments. However, I feel that much of this comes from misunderstanding his terminology. In sha Allah, I will discuss the issue of at-Tirmidhi’s terminology in a future post. And Allah, the Most High, knows best.