Question # 479: As salam aleykoum. Have you heard of that hadith collection – Mishkat al masabih? Is it looked down upon? Should I avoid it?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Masabih as-Sunnah (lit. the lamps of Sunnah) is a hadith collection compiled by Imam al-Baghawi (Shafi’i madhhab). It only included the hadith matn (text) without any mention to sanad (chain of narration), sihhah (soundness), or marja’ (source). The ahadith were categorized into two sections: a) the authentic (Sahih) that included those narrated by both or one of Al-Bukhari and Muslim; b) the good (Hasan) contained what is narrated by the four compilers of Sunan, in addition to Ad-Darimi, Ahmad, Al -Baihaqi and others, at the same time pointing out the weak (da’eef) and strange (gharib) ahadith therein. Scholars criticized his work because he not only omitted the chain of narrators but also included many sahih narrations under the hasan section and many da’eef narrations as well under either of the two sections.

The Masabih was later refined and expanded by Imam at-Tibrizi (Shafi’i madhhab) under the name Mishkat al-Masabih (lit. the niche of lanterns). He added a third section with 1511 ahadith relating to traditions about the Companions (Sahabah) and successors (tabi’un). The compilation gained popularity and a large number of commentaries and translations in various languages appeared in due course. The most famous Arabic commentary is Mirqat Al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat Al-Masabih by Al-Mula ‘Ali Al-Qari (Hanafi madhhab). The author of Mirqat mentioned that Mishkat al-Masabih has been accused of containing 18 mawdu’ (fabricated) ahadith, which was refuted by Ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani. However, many scholars disagreed with Ibn Hajar’s defense. Further, the author of Mirqat pointed out that since al-Tabrizi was a Shafi’i scholar, he restricted himself to include only those ahadith which were important and relevant to legal deductions and teachings according to the Shafi’i School.

In conclusion, labeling a narration “authentic” or “fabricated” depends on the criteria of individual muhaddithun. Since Imam Baghawi and Imam Tibrizi did not mention their takhrij (methodology or criteria), it’s difficult to draw an exact number for any grade of narration in their works. However, it is worth mentioning that the Maktab al Islami editions of Mishkat are published with Sheikh al-Albani’s verification of the hadith.

Long Answer: Mishkat al-Masabih (lit. the niche of lanterns) is a hadith collection originally compiled as Masabih as-Sunnah (lit. the lamps of Sunnah) by Imam Muhy as-Sunnah Abu Muhammad Husayn ibn Masʿud al-Farrah al-Baghawi (d. 516 H.) a famous Tatar muhaddith and mufassir from the senior Shafi’i scholars. It was later refined and expanded by Imam Wali ad-Din Abu ʿAbd Allah Muhammad ibn ʿAbd Allah al-Khaṭib at-Tibrizi (d. 741 H.) who named the revised compilation Mishkat al-Masabih, as we know it today.

In his Masabih, Imam Baghawi only included the hadith matn (text). There was no mention of their sanad (chain of narration), sihhah (soundness), or marja’ (source). He categorized the narrations into two sections. In al-Fasl al-Awwal (first section), Imam Baghawi gathered the ahadith he had collected from the Sahihayn and labeled them sahih (the authentic), and in al-Fasl al-Thani (second section) those collected from the Sunan Arbaʿah, Masanid, and other books [for example, Ad-Darimi, Ahmad, Al -Baihaqi and others], which he labeled as hasan (the sound). [Although Imam Baghawi included many mursal and da’eef narrations in his Masabih compilation, he made sure to indicate towards any narration he thought to be weak (da’eef) [1] or strange (gharib) [2].]

[This book was widely accepted by the people, and gained… the care of scholars and commentators, such as As-Sahrawardi (d. 563 H.), Al-Khawrani (d. 571 H.), At-Turabashti (d. 600 H.), Al-Baidawi (d. 685 H.), Al-Manawi (d. 746 H.), Taqi Ad-Din As-Subki (d. 756 H.), Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani (d. 852 H.), and many others. However, in view of abridgment in which he omitted the chain of narrators, his way was criticized by many scholars.]

[Also,] scholars after Imam Baghawi criticized his use of terminology since he included many sahih narrations from the Sunan Arbaʿah under the hasan section and many da’eef narrations as well under either of the two sections. However, this was specific to Imam Baghawi’s use of terminology, because he collected the hadith mutun (texts) and labeled them sahih or hassan simply based on the marja’, rather than utilizing a specific takhrij methodology or criteria.

[As for Al-Khatib At-Tabrizi (d. 741 H.) (Shafi’i madhhab), the author of Mishkat al-Masabih, very little has been written about his biography. Nevertheless, he] was motivated by his ustadh ʿAllamah Husayn ibn Muhammad at-Tibʿi to revise Imam Baghawi’s Masabih in accordance with the scholars’ criticism. Hence, Imam Tibrizi added a third fasl (section) which consisted of athar (from the sahabah and tabiʿun) and other ahadith that he felt fit into the chapter and provided further clarification. Additionally, in his own words: Imam Tibrizi expounded Imam Baghawi’s reasoning for the narrations he indicated as weak or strange.

The total number of ahadith in Masabih was 4434. After the additions Imam Tibrizi made, the number of ahadith in Mishkat total to 5945. Citing Tarikh al-Hadith, the author of Mirqat al-Mafatih mentions that the total number of chapters in Mishkat are 29, the abwab 327, and the fusul 1038.

[Mishkat Al-Masabih, within a short period of time, gained the acceptance of the scholars and this was an important factor that contributed to its popularity. The extent of its popularity and value can be estimated by the large number of commentaries and translations that have appeared in due course in various languages [(Persian, Urdu, and English among others)]. From among the most famous Arabic commentaries, is… Mirqat Al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat Al-Masabih by Al-Mula ‘Ali Al-Qari Al-Harawi, (d. 1014 H.)]

The author of Mirqat mentioned that Mishkat al-Masabih has been accused of containing 18 mawdu’ (fabricated) ahadith. Imam Siraj al-Din al-Qazwini has listed these 18 narrations and they can be found in the following chapters of Mishkat al-Masabih:

  • Two under: Bab al-Īman bi ‘l-Qadr
  • One under: Bab at-Tatabbuʿ
  • One under: Bab al-Bukaʾ ʿala ‘l-Mayyit
  • One under: Kitab al-Hudud
  • One under: Bab at-Tarajjul
  • One under: Bab at-Tasawir
  • One under: Kitab al-Adab
  • One under: Bab Hifẓ ‘l-Lisan wa ’l-Ghibah
  • One under: Bab al-Mufakhirah wa ‘l-ʿAsabiyyah
  • One under: Bab al-Hubb fi-llah wa min Allah
  • One under: Bab al-Haẓar wa ‘t-Ta’anni fi ‘l-ʿUmur
  • One under: Bab ar-Rifq wa ‘l-Hayaʾ
  • One under: Bab Faḍl ‘l-Faqr wa ma kan fih min ʿAysh-i Rasulillah (صلى الله عليه و سلم)
  • One under: Bab al-Malahim
  • Three under: Bab Manaqib ʿAli ibn Abi Ṭalib (ra)

Ibn al-Jawzi concurs that two out of three narrations of ‘Bab Manaqib ʿAli ibn Abi Ṭalib (ra)’ are fabricated and he has listed them in his work al-Mowḍuʿat.

Countering the accusations, Hafiẓ ibn Hajar wrote a short treatise called Ajwibat-u Hafiẓ ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani ʿan ahadithi‘l-Masabih, in which he attempts to prove that these 18 ahadith are not fabricated; some are just da’eef, some hasan, and some even sahih.

He argues that the accused 18 narrations are void of the conditions through which a hadith is considered mawdu’. He states that a hadith needs to contain at least one of the following defects to be considered mawdu’: a fabricator admits to fabricating the hadith, extreme weakness in the wording or meaning of the hadith, at least one narrator in the chain is known for lying and no other hadith exists to support the narration, what has been narrated is completely against the authentically proven practices of Islam, or the hadith negates something that has been proven Islamically.

Additionally, Hafiẓ ibn Hajar cites that scholars from amongst the authors of the six canonical hadith texts and other hadith works have authenticated the status of these ahadith. Half of them are found in Imam Abu Dawud’s Sunan, 14 in Imam Tirmidhi’s Jamiʿ, two in Imam Nasaʾi’s Mujtaba, six in Imam ibn Majah’s Sunan. Other muhaddithun have also narrated these ahadith in their sihah works. Since none of these muhaddithun considered the accused narrations fabricated, they can be labeled da’eef at most. In reality, half of them are hasan due to supporting chains and some are even sahih.

Several scholars have disagreed with Hafiẓ ibn Hajar’s defense of the abovementioned ahadith and claim he has labeled many of them authentic despite inauthenticity.

In conclusion, labeling a narration “authentic” or “fabricated” depends on the criteria of individual muhaddithun. Since Imam Baghawi and Imam Tibrizi have not mentioned their takhrij conditions and guidelines, it’s difficult to draw an exact number for any grade of narration in their works.

Furthermore, it ought to be noted here that Al-Mula ‘Ali Al-Qari’s commentary was the first one to have been written by a Hanafi scholar. In this commentary, the author touches upon the authenticity of the ahadith based upon the opinions of the early Hadith scholars. He also points out that since al-Tabrizi was a Shafi’i scholar he had restricted himself to include only those ahadith which were important and relevant to legal deductions and teachings according to the Shafi’i School.

In this commentary, al-Qari refutes the Shafi’i juridical opinions and puts forth the Hanafi opinions. In certain instances, he questions whether the ahadith were of weak (da’eef) ranking or alternatively he gives his reasons as to why a particular Hadith cannot be accepted to be a source for a specific Shafi’i ruling. Thus, he added in his commentary such ahadith from which Hanafi legal deductions are made.

[As for the English translations of Mishkat Al-Masabih, in most cases there were many shortcomings, for example, the translation by A. N. Matthews (1809), a considerable number of Hadiths were left out and not translated, Arabic words wrongly translated and the commentary confused with the actual text of the Hadiths; A. A. K. Muhammad (The Sayings of Hazrat Muhammad – 1918) and W. Goldsack (Selection from Muhammadan Traditions – 1823) translated only selective portion of the Mishkat; Moulana Fazlul Karim (AI-Hadis – 1939) rearranged the Hadiths and added some of his own initiatives and omitted some from the original text; Professor Robson (1963) did not discuss the questions of authenticity of the Hadiths, nor did he elaborate upon their salient meanings; ‘Abd Al-Hameed Siddiqui (1976) translation although retained the Arabic text of the Hadiths, there was still a need for a more comprehensive English translation and commentary.]

[Another translator, Dr. Muhammed Mahdi Al-Sharif writes that in order to address the shortcomings of the English translations mentioned above, he undertook the task of translating Mishkat Al-Masabih and also to]… make the language of the translated hadiths simpler and more acceptable to the laymen as well as to the specialists… [The translator further states that] he brought each hadith in its right place and gave information about what al-Baghawi ignored of it. [He divided each category into three chapters:]

  • The first chapter addresses what is narrated by both or one of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and no more, even though the hadith may be shared by other narrators, in view of their high rank in narration.
  • The second chapter addresses what is narrated by others from among the well-recognized and considerable Imams.
  • The third chapter addresses the Hadiths included under the meaning of the category, with the conservation of the stipulations (maintained in the first and second chapters) regardless of being handed down from the predecessors and successors.

[The translator further adds that with respect to authentic hadiths from al-Bukhari and Muslim, he has taken utmost care; as for any weak or strange narration by al-Baghawi, he has clarified to the extent possible].. and left what was not referred by the author, except in a few cases, to serve a certain purpose. There may be some left out, and it is those who narrators and transmitters… [were not known to the translator, and thus, have been left blank.]

[Lastly, it is worth mentioning that in its new edition published in three volumes with the research of Sheikh al Albani, the renowned traditionist of our age, contains 6285 traditions.] The Maktab al Islami editions are published with Sheikh al-Albani’s verification of the hadith.

(The above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:

  • siblingsofilm.com;
  • Introduction section of the English translation of Miskat al-Masabih (The Niche of Lamps) by Dr. Muhammed Mahdi Al-Sharif; published by Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah, Beirut;
  • ‘The Significance and Classification of Hadith’ by Khaleel-ur-Rahman Chisti;
  • kitaabun.com)

[1] A hadith that is ascribed to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or any of his Companions but fails to meet the condition of sahih and hasan, either due to a deficiency in the transmitters or problems in the chain of narration or text.

[2] A hadith which is narrated by only one narrator or any one link of its chain of narration.

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam