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Among the sciences of Hadith is the study of the chains of transmission, knowing which traditions one must act upon because they have trustworthy authorities for them. One must act only on hadiths of the Messenger of Allah that have sound chain of narration establishing truth from him (peace be upon him). Similar to this is the ranking of the transmitters among the companions of the Prophet and the second generation.

Scholars of hadith have devised technical terms for the varying grades of  the chain of hadith’s transmission, such as “sound” (sahih), “fair” (hasan), weak (da’if) , dopping the first chain (the sahaaba) “mursal”, omitting two links” (Munqatti’), odd” (Gharib), etc. The degree of soundness of a chain of transmission depends on the integrity and trustworthiness, intellectual capacity or academic competence of its narrator. These, and many others such as strong memory and reliability in written documentation, are what make a particular chain of transmission the soundest.

In the science of hadith, a chain of transmission that is popularly knowns as the soundest is that of Imam Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him) as mentioned by leading scholars of Hadith such as Imam Bukhari and the rest. There are also other opinions on the soundest chain of transmission besides this such as the chain of Abu Huraira from Aesha , or the narrations of A’mash. Other report says that the soundest chain of transmission is that of “Shaafi’e, from Maalik, from Naafi’, from Ibn Umar. This later one relates to the firstly mentioned soundest chain of Transmission.

Imam al-Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains of transmission was "Malik, from Nafi`, from Ibn `Umar." The scholars of hadith call it the Golden Chain, and there are eighty narrations with this chain in the Muwatta’ written by Imam Maalik Ibn Anas.

It is on the account of this that the great scholar and Imam of all Islamic sciences of his time; Imam As-Shafi’e declared the Muwatta-which has eighty of this golden chain in it-as the soundest book after the “Book of Allah” (Al-Qur’an). Imam ash-Shafi’i رحمه الله made the following 2 statements,

“After the Book of Allah, there is no book on the face of the earth sounder than the book of Malik.”
“No book has ever been placed upon the face of the earth that is closer to the Qur’an than the book of Malik.”
{Tanwir al-Hawalik; Hilyatul’ Awliyah; at-Tamhid, Volume. 1, pg. 77-http://www.ummah.com/forum)

The above pronouncement of Shaafi’e was made before the emergence of the classical works of Bukhari and Muslim upon both there is the consensus of scholars to be the most authentic books after the Qur’an. However, it supports the argument that point to the soundness of the chain of transmission of Imam Maalik which was exemplified in the said Muwatta’

As already mentioned, there is no one agreed upon chain of transmission that is regarded as the soundest, rather, many scholars of Hadith see other chains of transmission as the soundest besides that of Maalik as mentioned by Imam As-Suyuti in Alfiyyatil-Hadith.

 

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