Is it correct to reference Hadith back to contemporary scholars or secondary books of Hadith rather than original sources?

Quran

Hadith

Islamic Text

This is incorrect, Hadith must be referenced back to original sources.

It is a sign of ignorance regarding the science of Hadith when people reference Hadith to contemporary scholars or secondary books of Hadith. It is incorrect for a person of limited learning to do this, but absolutely unacceptable for learned people to do it.

The correct way to reference Hadith should be abundantly clear for anyone who is familiar with the methodology of Ahl al-Sunnah regarding Hadith. Any credible traditional or even contemporary book on Islamic sciences that reliably footnotes or references Hadith, will reference back to original sources and not a contemporary Shaykh that they found quoting the Hadith.

Imam Al-Bayhaqi explained the importance of going back to the original books of Hadith.

وَذُكِرَ عَنْ الْحَافِظِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ الْبَيْهَقِيّ أَنَّ الْأَحَادِيثَ الَّتِي قَدْ صَحَّتْ أَوْ وَقَعَتْ بَيْنَ الصِّحَّةِ وَالسَّقَمِ قَدْ دُوِّنَتْ وَكُتِبَتْ فِي الْجَوَامِعِ الَّتِي جَمَعَهَا أَئِمَّةُ الْحَدِيثِ وَلَا يَجُوزُ أَنْ يَذْهَبَ شَيْءٌ مِنْهَا عَلَى جَمِيعِهِمْ وَإِنْ جَازَ أَنْ يَذْهَبَ عَلَى بَعْضِهِمْ لِضَمَانِ صَاحِبِ الشَّرِيعَةِ حِفْظَهَا فَمَنْ جَاءَ الْيَوْمَ بِحَدِيثٍ لَا يُوجَدُ عِنْدَ جَمِيعِهِمْ لَمْ يُقْبَلْ مِنْهُ

It is reported that Imam al-Bayhaqi said, “The Hadith that have been considered authentic (Sahih) or between authentic and weak have indeed been recorded in the major books of Hadith. The imams of Hadith have collected them so it is not possible for a Hadith to be missing from all of them. It is possible that some of the imams missed out certain Hadith but for all of them to miss out a (sound) Hadith is not possible because the One who revealed the Sharia (Allah, Most High) has taken it upon Himself to preserve the sharia. For this reason, if somebody brings a Hadith today which is not present in any of those recognised books, it is not going to be accepted.” (Imam Ala al-Din al-Bukhari, Kashf al-Asraar Sharh Usool al-Bazdawi, Vol. 3, p49).

It is important to recognise that the onus is upon people narrating Hadith to reference correctly. Some ignorant people respond to questions regarding Hadith they narrate by putting the onus on the questioner to prove that it is not a sound Hadith. This contradicts the way of the Sahabah (May Allah Most High be pleased with them), who used to ask people to prove anything they said about the Deen.

And Allah (Most High) knows best.

– Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (10.07.2021)

See also:

Narrating Hadith Without Reference

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