The Hadith saying Ikhlas is my secret is very weak according to Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalaani and Imam al-Ayni.
It is important to recognise that the onus is upon people narrating Hadith to reference them correctly. If they do not do so, then it should be requested of them. A failure to adhere to such practices has resulted in many dubious Hadith narrations spreading in the community.
In reality, we should not have to remind people of such teachings, as our love for our Prophet ﷺ should be sufficient to make us incredibly protective regarding anything attributed to him ﷺ. Strangely, we often find those who speak most about the love of the Prophet ﷺ demonstrate the least care regarding the authenticity of the Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ.
The Hadith in question, ‘Ikhlaas is my secret’ has been described as as incredibly weak by Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani and Imam al-Ayni.
وَاسْتَنَدَ قَائِلُهُ إِلَى حَدِيثٍ واه جدا أوردهُ بن الْعَرَبِيِّ فِي الْمُسَلْسَلَاتِ وَلَفْظُهُ قَالَ اللَّهُ الْإِخْلَاصُ سِرٌّ مِنْ سِرِّي اسْتَوْدَعْتُهُ قَلْبَ مَنْ أُحِبُّ لَا يَطَّلِعُ عَلَيْهِ مَلَكٌ فَيَكْتُبَهُ وَلَا شَيْطَانٌ فَيُفْسِدُهُ وَيَكْفِي فِي رَدِّ هَذَا الْقَوْلِ الْحَدِيثُ الصَّحِيحُ فِي كِتَابَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ لِمَنْ هَمَّ بِهَا وَإِنْ لَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا. (فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري).
And the one who said it relied upon an incredibly weak Hadith. It was narrated by Ibn al-Arabi in al-Musalsalaat. The wording is, ‘Allah (Most High) said Ikhlaas is a secret from my secrets, I place it in the heart of the one I love, no angel is aware of it to record it, nor is a devil (aware of it) to corrupt it. Sufficient to refute it is the Sahih Hadith regarding recording a good deed for the one who inclined towards it but did not carry it out. (Imam Ahmad bin Ali Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari).
وَقيل: اسْتندَ قَائِله إِلَى حَدِيث واهٍ جدا، أوردهُ ابْن الْعَرَبِيّ فِي المسلسلات، وَلَفظه: (قَالَ الله: الْإِخْلَاص سرُّ من سري أستودعه قلب من أحب لَا يطلع عَلَيْهِ ملك فيكتبه، وَلَا شَيْطَان فيفسده). (عمدة القاري شرح صحيح البخاري).
And the one who said it relied upon an incredibly weak Hadith. It was narrated by Ibn al-Arabi in al-Musalsalaat. The wording is, ‘Allah (Most High) said Ikhlaas is a secret from my secrets, I place it in the heart of the one I love, no angel is aware of it to record it, nor is a devil (aware of it) to corrupt it. (Imam Badr al-Deen al-Ayni, Umdatu al-Qari).
When a Hadith is very weak it is not permitted to narrate it except in the context of warning people about it. Although scholars of Hadith have permitted the narration of weak Hadith in the context of Fadail, stories etc. This permission does not extend to very weak Hadith.
And Allah (Most High) Knows Best.
– Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (11.10.2021)
Referencing Hadith Correctly
Narrating Hadith Without Reference
Narrating Weak Hadith
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