Hadith Narrators and Infallible Memories?


“And We have certainly revealed to you verses which are clear proofs, and no one would deny them except the defiantly disobedient.” (Qur’an 2:99)

We have all heard the stories and reports from those who put over-reliance upon the ahadith  “Well, we all know that they had the memory of a computer!”  “Their memories were infallible!”  “Beyond reproach!”   “Once you memorize 1 million hadith than come talk to me; and we will have a serious conversation!”

We have all heard the claims.  We have all heard what basically mounts to deflection from genuine inquiry into sincere questions.   The reality is most Muslims are a layman. This includes me.  Even though Muslims who do sit with teachers and shyookh don’t really bother to double-check references and sources.

However, the hadith corpus that we have in our possession today is a testament that the narrators were at times uncertain of what they were reporting.  That they didn’t remember things ad-verbatim.

Once you point these things to your friends you will see them back-peddling rather quickly. They will respond with, ‘yeah the narrator or sub-narrator was uncertain here’.   They will say, ‘Well they were allowed to relate the gist of the incident or statement’.

The significance of word changes is important.  The addition or subtraction of even one word can grammatically change the meaning of an entire sentence.


I say to you:  “All the apples in the basket are good.”

I say to you:  “All the apples in the basket that are good.”

In the first sentence, all the apples are good; however, in the second sentence, we learn that indeed not all the apples in the basket are good.  We would need to be cautious when choosing an apple from the basket. This is one word.

That alone should be food for thought.

IMPORTANT  What I am going to share with you are simple some EXAMPLES of times where the narrator was not certain of a detail. It does not mean the entire hadith corpus is like that.  In fact, the majority of the hadith corpus has come down to us as INTACT.  If anything the following proves is the honesty of the narrators themselves.


Narrated By Imran bin Husain: “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘The best of my followers are those living in my generation (i.e. my contemporaries). and then those who will follow the latter” ‘Imran added, “I DO NOT REMEMBER WHETHER HE MENTIONED TWO OR THREE GENERATIONS AFTER THIS GENERATION,, then the Prophet added, ‘There will come after you, people who will bear witness without being asked to do so, and will be treacherous and untrustworthy, and they will vow and never fulfill their vows, and fatness will appear among them.” (Al Bukhari Volume 005, Book 057, Hadith Number 002.)

Narrated By Busr bin Said: That Zaid bin Khalid sent him to Abi Juhaim to ask him what he had heard from Allah’s Apostle about a person passing in front of another person who was praying. Abu Juhaim replied, “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘If the person who passes in front of another person in prayer knew the magnitude of his sin he would prefer to wait for 40 (days, months or years) rather than to pass in front of him.” Abu An-Nadr said, “I DO NOT REMEMBER exactly whether he said 40 days, months or years.” (Al Bukhari Vol 1, Book 9. Virtues Of The Prayer Hall Sutra (Hadith 489.)

Narrated By Masruq: ‘Abdullah (bin Mas’ud) was mentioned before ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr. The latter said, “That is a man I continue to love because I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘ Learn the recitation of the Qur’an from (any of these) four persons: ‘Abdullah bin Masud, Salim the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Ubai bin Kab, and Muadh bin Jabal.” I DO NOT REMEMBER whether he mentioned Ubai first or Muadh. (Al Bukhari Vol 5, Book 57. Companions Of The Prophet. Hadith 103.) 

Narrated By Anas: The Prophet offered a wedding banquet on the occasion of his marriage to Zainab and provided a good meal for the Muslims. Then he went out as was his custom on marrying, he came to the dwelling places of the mothers of the Believers (i.e. his wives) invoking good (on them), and they were invoking good (on him). Then he departed (and came back) and saw two men (still sitting there). So he left again. I DO NOT REMEMBER whether I informed him or he was informed (by somebody else) of their departure).” (Al Bukhari Vol 7, Book 62. Wedlock, Marriage Nikaah Hadith 084.)

Narrated By Ibn ‘Umar: The Prophet said, “He who manumits his share of a slave and has money sufficient to free the remaining portion of that slave’s price (justly estimated) then he should manumit him (by giving the rest of his price to the other co-owners).” Nafi’ added, “Otherwise the slave is partially free.” AIYUB IS NOT SURE WHETHER THE LAST STATEMENT WAS SAID BY NAFI OR WAS A PART OF THE HADITH. (Al Bukhari Volume 003, Book 046, Hadith Number 701.)

Narrated By ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Abis: Ibn ‘Abbas was asked, “Did you offer the Id prayer with the Prophet?” He said, “Yes, had it not been for my close relationship to the Prophet, I would not have performed it (with him) because of my being too young The Prophet came to the mark which is near the home of Kathir bin As-Salt and offered the Id prayer and then delivered the sermon. I DO NOT REMEMBER IF ANY ADHAN OR IQAMA WERE PRONOUNCED FOR THE PRAYER. Then the Prophet ordered (the women) to give alms, and they started stretching out their hands towards their ears and throats (giving their ornaments in charity), and the Prophet ordered Bilal to go to them (to collect the alms), and then Bilal returned to the Prophet.” (Al Bukhari Vol 9, Book 92. Holding Fast To The Qur’an and Sunnah. Hadith 426.)

Narrated By Ibn Abi Mulaika: The two righteous persons were about to be ruined. They were Abu Bakr and ‘Umar who raised their voices in the presence of the Prophet when a mission from Bani Tamim came to him. One of the two recommended Al-Aqra’ bin Habeas, the brother of Bani Mujashi (to be their governor) while the other recommended somebody else. (Nafi’, the sub-narrator said, I DO NOT REMEMBER his name). Abu Bakr said to Umar, “You wanted nothing but to oppose me!” ‘Umar said, “I did not intend to oppose you.” Their voices grew loud in that argument, so Allah revealed: ‘O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet.’ (49.2) Ibn Az-Zubair said, “Since the revelation of this Verse, ‘Umar used to speak in such a low tone that the Prophet had to ask him to repeat his statements.” But Ibn Az-Zubair did not mention the same about his (maternal) grandfather (i.e. Abu Bakr). (Al Bukhari Vol 6, Book 60. Prophetic Commentary On The Qur’an (Hadith 368.)

Narrated By ‘Ata’ bin Yazid Al-Laithi: On the authority of Abu Huraira: The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?” The Prophet said, “Do you have any difficulty in seeing the moon on a full moon night?” They said, “No, O Allah’s Apostle.” He said, “Do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun when there are no clouds?” They said, “No, O Allah’s Apostle.” He said, “So you will see Him, like that. Allah will gather all the people on the Day of Resurrection, and say, ‘Whoever worshipped something (in the world) should follow (that thing),’ so, whoever worshipped the sun will follow the sun, and whoever worshiped the moon will follow the moon, and whoever used to worship certain (other false) deities, he will follow those deities. And there will remain only this nation with its good people (or its hypocrites). (The sub-narrator, Ibrahim is in doubt.) Allah will come to them and say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They will (deny Him and) say, ‘We will stay here till our Lord comes, for when our Lord comes, we will recognize Him.’ So Allah will come to them in His appearance which they know, and will say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They will say, ‘You are our Lord,’ so they will follow Him. (Al Bukhari Vol 9, Book 93. Oneness, Uniqueness Of Allah (Tawheed). Hadith 532A.)

Narrated By Abu Huraira: The Prophet allowed the sale of the dates of the ‘Araya for ready dates by estimating the former which should be estimated as less than five Awsuq or five Awsuq.(Dawud, the sub-narrator is NOT SURE as to the right amount.) (Al Bukhari Vol 3, Book 40. Distribution Of Water. Hadith 568.)

Narrated By Nafi: Ibn ‘Umar said, “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘If one manumits his share of a jointly possessed slave, and can afford the price of the other shares according to the adequate price of the slave, the slave will be completely manumitted; otherwise he will be partially manumitted.’ ” (Aiyub, a sub-narrator is NOT SURE whether the saying”… otherwise, he will be partially manumitted” was said by Nafi’ or the Prophet.) (Al Bukhari Vol 3, Book 44. Partnership. Hadith 671.)

Narrated By Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle used to visit Um Haran bint Milhan, who would offer him reals. Um-Haram was the wife of Ubada bin As-Samit. Allah’s Apostle, once visited her and she provided him with food and started looking for lice in his head. Then Allah’s Apostle slept and afterward woke up smiling. Um, Haran asked, “What causes you to smile, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said. “Some of my followers who (in a dream) were presented before me as fighters in Allah’s Cause (onboard a ship) amidst this sea cause me to smile; they were as kings on the thrones (or like kings on the thrones).” (Ishaq, a sub-narrator is NOT SURE as to which expression the Prophet used.) Um-Haram said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Invoke Allah that he makes me one of them. Allah’s Apostle invoked Allah for her and slept again and woke up smiling. Once again Um Haram asked, “What makes you smile, O Allah’s Apostle?” He replied, “Some of my followers were presented to me as fighters in Allah’s Cause,” repeating the same dream. Um-Haram said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Invoke Allah that He makes me one of them.” He said, “You are amongst the first ones.” It happened that she sailed on the sea during the Caliphate of Mu’awlya bin Abi Sufyan, and after she disembarked, she fell down from her riding animal and died. ( Al Bukhari Vol 4, Book 52. Fighting For The Cause Of Allah (Hadith 047.)

Narrated By Al-Bara’ bin ‘Azib: Abu Bakr came to my father who was at home and purchased a saddle from him. He said to ‘Azib. “Tell your son to carry it with me.” So I carried it with him and my father followed us so as to take the price (of the saddle). My father said, “O Abu Bakr! Tell me what happened to you on your night journey with Allah’s Apostle (during Migration).” He said, “Yes, we traveled the whole night and also the next day till midday. when nobody could be seen on the way (because of the severe heat). Then there appeared a long rock having shade beneath it, and the sunshine had not come to it yet. So we dismounted there and I leveled a place and covered it with an animal hide or dry grass for the Prophet to sleep on (for a while). I then said, ‘Sleep, O Allah’s Apostle, and I will guard you.’ So he slept and I went out to guard him. Suddenly I saw a shepherd coming with his sheep to that rock with the same intention we had when we came to it. I asked (him). ‘To whom do you belong, O boy?’ He replied, ‘I belong to a man from Medina or Mecca.’ I said, ‘Do your sheep have milk?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Will you milk for us?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He caught hold of a sheep and I asked him to clean its teat from dust, hairs, and dirt. (The sub-narrator said that he saw Al-Bara’ striking one of his hands with the other, demonstrating how the shepherd removed the dust.) The shepherd milked a little milk in a wooden container and I had a leather container that I carried for the Prophet to drink and perform the ablution from. I went to the Prophet, hating to wake him up, but when I reached there, the Prophet had already awakened; so I poured water over the middle part of the milk container, till the milk was cold. Then I said, ‘Drink, O Allah’s Apostle!’ He drank until I was pleased. Then he asked, ‘Has the time for our departure come?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ So we departed after midday. Suraqa bin Malik followed us and I said, ‘We have been discovered, O Allah’s Apostle!’ He said, Don’t grieve for Allah is with us.’ The Prophet invoked evil on him (i.e. Suraqa) and so the legs of his horse sank into the earth up to its belly. (The sub-narrator, Zuhair is NOT SURE whether Abu Bakr said, “(It sank) into solid earth.”) Suraqa said, ‘I see that you have invoked evil on me. Please invoke good on me, and by Allah, I will cause those who are seeking after you to return.’ The Prophet invoked good on him and he was saved. Then, whenever he met somebody on the way, he would say, ‘I have looked for him here in vain.’ So he caused whomever he met to return. Thus Suraqa fulfilled his promise.” (Al Bukhari Vol 4, Book 56. Virtues And Merits Of The Prophet (Hadith 812.)

Narrated By ‘Abdullah: While the Prophet was prostrating, surrounded by some of Quraish, ‘Uqba bin Abi Mu’ait brought the intestines (i.e. abdominal contents) of a camel and put them over the back of the Prophet. The Prophet did not raise his head, (till) Fatima, came and took it off his back and cursed the one who had done the harm. The Prophet said, “O Allah! Destroy the chiefs of Quraish, Abu Jahl bin Hisham, ‘Utba bin Rabi’al, Shaba bin Rabi’a, Umaiya bin Khalaf or Ubai bin Khalaf.” (The sub-narrator Shu’ba, is NOT SURE of the last name.) I saw these people killed on the day of Badr battle and thrown in the well except Umaiya or Ubai whose body parts were mutilated but he was not thrown in the well. (Al Bukhari Vol 5, Book 58. Merits Of The Helpers In MadinahHadith 193.)

Narrated By Sahl bin Sa’d: Allah’s Apostle said, “Seventy thousand or seven hundred thousand of my followers will enter Paradise. (Abu Hazim, the sub-narrator, is NOT SURE as to which of the two numbers is correct.) And they will be holding on to one another, and the first of them will not enter till the last of them has entered, and their faces will be like the moon on a full moon night.” ( Al Bukhari Vol 8, Book 76. To Make The Heart Tender Ar-Riqaq ( Hadith 560.)

Narrated By ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: The Prophet said, “Al-Kaba’ir (the biggest sins) are: To join others (as partners) in worship with Allah, to be undutiful to one’s parents,” or said, “to take a false oath.” (The sub-narrator, Shu’ba is NOT SURE) Mu’adh said: Shu’ba said, “Al-kaba’ir (the biggest sins) are: (1) Joining others as partners in worship with Allah, (2) to take a false oath (3) and to be undutiful to one’s parents,” or said, “to murder (someone unlawfully). (Al Bukhari Vol 9, Book 83. Blood Money Ad-Diyat. (Hadith 009.)

Narrated By Asma’ bint Abu Bakr: I came to ‘Aisha during the solar eclipse. The people were standing (offering prayer) and she too, was standing and offering prayer. I asked, “What is wrong with the people?” She pointed towards the sky with her hand and said, Subhan Allah!” I asked her, “Is there a sign?” She nodded with her head meaning, yes. When Allah’s Apostle finished (the prayer), he glorified and praised Allah and said, “There is not anything that I have not seen before but I have seen now at this place of mine, even Paradise and Hell. It has been revealed to me that you people will be put to trial nearly like the trial of Ad-Dajjal, in your graves. As for the true believer or a Muslim (the sub-narrator is NOT SURE as to which of the two (words Asma’ had said) he will say, ‘Muhammad came with clear signs from Allah, and we responded to him (accepted his teachings) and believed (what he said)’ It will be said (to him) ‘Sleep in peace; we have known that you were a true believer who believed with certainty.’ As for a hypocrite or a doubtful person, (the sub-narrator is NOT SURE as to which word Asma’ said) he will say, ‘I do not know, but I heard the people saying something and so I said the same.’ (Al Bukhari Vol 9, Book 92. Holding Fast To The Qur’an and Sunnah. (Hadith 390.)

Narrated By ‘Ali bin Al-Husain: From Safiya, Safiya went to the Prophet while he was in Itikaf. When she returned, the Prophet accompanied her walking. An Ansari man saw him. When the Prophet noticed him, he called him and said, “Come here. She is Safiya. (Sufyan a sub-narrator perhaps said that the Prophet had said, “This is Safiya”). And Satan circulates in the body of Adam’s offspring as his blood circulates in it.” (Al Bukhari Volume 003, Book 033, Hadith Number 255

Narrated By Abu ‘Uthman: ‘Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakr said, “The Suffa Companions were poor people and the Prophet said, ‘Whoever has food for two persons should take the third one from them (Suffa companions). And whosoever has food for four persons he should take one or two from them’ Abu Bakr took three men and the Prophet took ten of them.” ‘Abdur Rahman added, my father my mother and I were there (in the house). (The sub-narrator is in doubt whether ‘Abdur Rahman also said, ‘My wife and our servant who was common for both my house and Abu Bakr’s house). Abu Bakr took his supper with the Prophet and remained there until the ‘Isha prayer was offered. Abu Bakr went back and stayed with the Prophet till the Prophet took his meal and then Abu Bakr returned to his house after a long portion of the night had passed. Abu Bakr’s wife said, ‘What detained you from your guests (or guest)?’ He said, ‘Have you not served them yet?’ She said, ‘They refused to eat until you come. The food was served for them but they refused.” ‘Abdur Rahman added, “I went away and hid (being afraid of Abu Bakr) and in the meantime, he (Abu Bakr) called me, ‘O Ghunthar (a harsh word)!’ and also called me bad names and abused me and then said (to his family), ‘Eat. No welcome for you.’ Then (the supper was served). Abu Bakr took an oath that he would not eat that food. The narrator added: By Allah, whenever any one of us (myself and the guests of Suffa companions) took anything from the food, it increased from underneath. We all ate to our fill and the food was more than it was before its serving. Abu Bakr looked at it (the food) and found it as it was before serving or even more than that. He addressed his wife (saying) ‘O the sister of Bani Firas! What is this?’ She said, ‘O the pleasure of my eyes! The food is now three times more than it was before.’ Abu Bakr ate from it, and said, ‘That (oath) was from Satan’ meaning his oath (not to eat). Then he again took a morsel (mouthful) from it and then took the rest of it to the Prophet. So that meal was with the Prophet. There was a treaty between us and some people, and when the period of that treaty had elapsed the Prophet divided us into twelve (groups) (the Prophet’s companions) each being headed by a man. Allah knows how many men were under the command of each (leader). So all of them (12 groups of men) ate of that meal.” (Al Bukhari Volume 001, Book 010, Hadith Number 576.)

In part two Allah-willing we will look at this idea of the narrators reporting ‘the gist’ of statements, deeds, and actions rather than exactly what happened.  You can see that entry here: https://primaquran.com/2019/10/18/the-blessed-sandals-handling-the-words-attributed-to-the-prophet-muhammed-saw/

We will discuss the controversy surrounding what happened, as well as an ahadith that was forged to try and make it look like the Blessed Messenger (saw) gave permission for it!  Some people will do anything at any cost.  Even at the cost of their own soul!  May Allah (swt) shield the believers from it!

“And We have certainly revealed to you verses which are clear proofs, and no one would deny them except the defiantly disobedient.” (Qur’an 2:99)

The infallible memory of the mentats


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