Blog re-reprints and unnecessarily long chains of transmission

A hadith is a combination of content (known as its matn) and a chain of transmission (its sanad). The chain of transmission includes the original source, the individual who heard it from him, the individual who then heard it from him, and so on. The chain also describes how the transmission occurred between each link. All other things being equal, shorter chains are preferable to longer.

Many people receive an informal introduction to many of the basic concepts of hadith transmission when playing the telephone game. The telephone game is played to teach about the dangers of indirect information and gossip. Players quickly observe, first-hand, how messages become increasingly distorted as they get further and further away from their origin. One of the lessons from this game is that, all other things being equal, we should be more confident in the accuracy of a message conveyed through a smaller chain of intermediaries than we should be in messages conveyed through a chain that is longer.

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The #wtfiqh collection ~ #2

The is the second #wtfiqh collection which includes examples of faulty legal reason. The first is available here.


  1. Many #wtfiqh entries also apply to non-Muslim law. I would not entrust myself to a faqīh or lawyer who makes use of them.
  2. Keep in mind that #wtfiqh is about failures in legal reasoning. It should not be confused with #WhatIsTheFiqh.
  3. If you find yourself inclining towards any of these things, please reconsider.

“X can’t be right since it makes me uncomfortable.”

There is scholarship, and then there’s emotional handwaving. #wtfiqh

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Fiqh, Evidence & Legal Reasoning: When both parties of a sale are harmed by defective items

One of my current projects is to give students of fiqh a taste of the evidence behind rulings and legal reasoning, as well as a few hints as to why one opinion is preferred over others.

Several legal maxims concern harms and their removal. The main maxim is “Do not harm, and do not reciprocate harm.” This maxim comes from a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah which has the same wording. One of its sub-maxims is “Harms are removed.” A specific case that falls within these maxims is that buyers can return an item if it is determined that the item had an unknown defect. In this case it is possible to return things to the way they were before the sale without initiating a new harm. But sometimes things are not so straightforward.

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When something lawful becomes a signature feature of the immoral

Some Muslims attend activities which are closely linked to immoral people and include unlawful activities which the individual himself abstains from. A common justification for their attendance is that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Actions are by intentions,” and that they aren’t intending to do anything haram. While the hadith they cite is rigorously authenticated and agreed upon (meaning that al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated it in their compendia of rigorously authenticated hadiths), we must keep in mind that rulings cannot be determined after finding just a single piece of evidence. Rather, determination requires making an exhaustive search for all relevant evidence, and then interpreting it according to jurisprudence. After all: determining rulings is an act of ijtihad, a word whose root is j-h-d, which means expending great efforts. Keeping things simple: the hadith about intentions needs to be understood in light of other textual evidence that similarly apply to their activity. Similarly applicable evidence here includes the hadith that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed, every king has a sanctuary, and Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions.” This hadith is also rigorously authenticated and agreed upon.

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