Shaykh al-Islam Abu Zakariyya al-Nawawi (rad.ia-LLahu `anhu) said in the
"The ulama among the experts in hadith and the experts in law and others have said: it is permissible and (also) recommended that the religious practice (al-`amal) concerning good deeds and good character (al-fadâ'il), encouragement to good and discouragement from evil (al-targhib wa al-tarhib) be based (even) on weak hadith (bi al-hadith al- da`îf) as long as it is not forged (mawdu`).
As for legal rulings (ahkâm) such as what is permitted and what is forbidden, or the modalities of trade, marriage, divorce and other than that: one's practice is not based upon anything other than sound (sahih) or fair (hasan) hadith, except as a precaution in some matter related to one of the above, for example, if a weak hadith was cited about the reprehensibility (karahat) of certain kinds of sales or marriages. In such cases what is recommended (al-mustahabb) is to avoid such sales and marriages, but it is not obligatory (la yajib)."
Disagreeing with this Abu al-`Arabi al-Maliki said:
"Absolutely no practice is based on weak hadith." [Also, Ibn Taymiyya was of the opinion that no ruling of mustahabb can ever be based on a weak hadith.]
I have heard my Shaykh (Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani) insist on the following, and he put it to me in writing himself:
conditions for religious practice
based on weak hadith are three:
This is unanimously agreed upon (muttafaqun `alayh):
1 - That the weakness must not be very strong (ghayr shadid). This excludes those ahadith singly recorded by liars or those accused of lying, and those who make gross mistakes.
2 - That there be a general legal basis for it. This excludes what is invented and has no legal basis to start with.
3 - That one not think, while practicing on the basis of it, that it has been established as true (an la ya`taqida thubutahu). This is in order that no words which the Prophet did not (verifiably) say be attributed to him."
"The last two conditions are from Ibn `Abd al- Salam and his companion Ibn Daqiq al-`Id; Abu Sa`eed al-`Ala'i (specialist in forgeries) reported unanimity over the first one."
I say: It has been reported from Imam Ahmad that one may
practice on the basis of the weak hadith if there is no other
hadith to that effect and also if there is no hadith that
contradicts it. In one narration he is reported to say: "I like
weak hadith better than men's opinions."
Ibn Hazm has similarly mentioned that all Hanafi scholars unanimously agree that the school of Abu Hanifah (rad.ia-LLahu `anhu) holds that weak hadith is preferable to opinion (ra'y) and analogy (qiyâs). Ahmad was asked about someone finding himself in a country with, on the one hand, a memorizer of hadith (sâhib hadîth) who does not know the sound from the unsound, and, on the other, an authority in opinion (sâhib ra'y): who should he consult? He replied: "Let him consult the memorizer of hadith sâhib hadîth and not the authority in opinion (sâhib ra'y)."
[Note: Some question the authenticity of the above opinion of
Imam Ahmad in the light of Ibn Taymiyya's assertion:
"The one who relates from Ahmad that he used to rely [in shari`a] upon the weak hadith, which is not sahih or hasan, has erred." Qa`ida jalila p. 82. But this does not contradict the opinions of Imam Ahmad quoted by Sakhawi above. Even so, and even in case the above opinions were not recognized by Ibn Taymiyya as genuinely representative of Imam Ahmad's position, it is clear that Sakhawi did not question their authenticity. The truth of the matter is that Ibn Taymiyya in the "Qa`ida" gives two mutually contradictory views concerning Imam Ahmad's position:
see  ]
Abu `Abd Allah Ibn Mandah reported from Abu Dawud, the author of the 'Sunan' and a student of Imam Ahmad, that Abu Dawud used to cite the chain of transmission of a weak hadith if he did not find other than it under that particular heading (bâb), and that he considered it stronger evidence than authorized opinion (ra'y al-rijâl).
What emerges from this is that there are three diverging views:
- No practice is based on weak hadith whatsoever (mutlaqan);
- Practice is categorically (mutlaqan) based upon it if no other evidence is found under the same heading;
- The majority of the scholars (al-jumhur) hold that it can be used as basis for practicing good deeds and achieving good character (yu`malu bihi fi al-fadâ'il) but not for legal rulings (dûna al-ahkâm). And God is the Granter of success.
b) Translated from Muhammad Zaki Ibrahim in "Usul al-wusul"
(Cairo: Azhar, 1984):
If not proven to be forged, in which case there is absolutely no truth in it, the hadith da`îf (weak), although the pillars of veracity in it are not complete, nevertheless retains a part of truth.
Imam Nawawi said:
"The ulama among the muhaddithun..." [as quoted by Sakhawi above].
I say: This is the principle adopted by the hadith master (hafiz) Ibn al-Salah, as well as what we know of the imams of hadith science among the early generations (salaf) such as Sufyan al-Thawri, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn `Uyaynah, Ibn al- Mubarak, Ibn Mahdi, and Ibn Ma`în... Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi devoted a chapter to that topic in his 'Kifayah'.
End of translated excerpts.
There is also a detailed discussion on the topic in Nuh Keller's translation 'Reliance of the Traveller' p. 954-957.
I recapitulate the list of hadith masters who accept the use of hadeeth da`îf at the very least for religious practice related to ethics (fada'il al-a`mal) and in some cases even for legal rulings (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and the entire Hanafi school), according to the above three sources (Sakhawi, Ibrahim, Keller):
2- Ibn al-Salah
3- Sufyan al-Thawri
4- Ahmad Ibn Hanbal
5- Ibn `Uyaynah
6- Ibn al-Mubarak
7- Ibn Mahdi
8- Ibn Ma`een (forgery specialist)
9- al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in 'al-Kifayah', chapter entitled:
"strictness with regard to ahadith pertaining to rulings
and leniency with regard to those pertaining to virtuous actions"
10- Bukhari as proven by his use of them in 'al-Adab al- mufrad'
11- Ali al-Qari (forgery specialist)
12- Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani.
13- Ibn Abd al-Barr in 'al-Isaba'.
14- Ibn al-Qayyim in 'I`lam al-muwaqqi`een'.
16- Abu Sa`eed al-`Ala'i (forgery specialist).
17- Abu Dawud.
18- Hanafi school.
by M. Sarkissian - with permission
Ibn Taymiyya said in his book "al-qaida al-jaleela fit- tawwasuli wal-waseela", with commentary of Dr. Rabi'a bin Hadi 'Umayr al-Mudkhali, professor in the Islamic University of Madinah al-Munawwara, Page 162, para 478:
"But Ahmad ibn Hanbal and other scholars permitted the narration [of hadith] regarding the virtues of good what is not established [as authentic] as long as it is not known that it is a lie." (laakinna Ahmad ibn Hanbal wa ghayruh min al-'ulama jawwazu an yurwa fee fada'il al-'aamal maa lam yu'lam annahu thaabit idha lam yu'lam annahu kadhib.)
And Ibn Taymiyya goes into a full chapter of discussion of this subject from here, Chapter 8 of "al-qaida al-jaleela fit-tawwasuli wal-waseela", where he presents the views of the majority of the 'ulama of Islam and he presents his own views of the subject. And here we will examine this in detail.
To continue, Ibn Taymiyya says, in para 478:
"and that is the action which is known to be lawful with a shari'ah evidence, and there has been narrated in its virtue a hadith that is not known to be a lie, it is possible that the reward will be true, although none of the Imams have said that it is permissible to consider something required (wâjib) or recommended (mustahabb) by way of a weak hadith, and whoever said so differed from the consensus (ijmâ')."
So here we see that Ibn Taymiyya is explaining that if there is a hadith, even though it has not been judged to be authentic, if it encourages what is known as a good deed in Islamic shari'ah, something of virtue, a praiseworthy action, or idea, then it is fully acceptable to refer to such a hadith as an encouragement for that deed.
And here also, Ibn Taymiyya refers to the ijma', the consensus, which is a clear reference to the concept of ijma' of scholars of Islam as being a fully accepted concept and one which *he* accepts. And this is a clear proof that Ibn Taymiyya, though he considered himself a mujtahid mutlaq, capable of independent reasoning, nevertheless depended on the consensus (ijmâ') of scholars as a proof for the opinions he considered acceptable. And this is the position of Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'at.
Then Ibn Taymiyya continues in para 479:
"And just like it is not permissible to forbid something without a shari'ah evidence, (dalîl shar'î) but if it something is known to be forbidden and a hadith has been narrated in warning the one who commits such an action, and it is not known that it is a lie, it is permissible to narrate it. And it is permissible to narrate it in the manner of encouraging and discouraging (at- tarhîb wat-targhîb) what is not known that it is a lie. but in what is known that Allah has encouraged or discouraged with another evidence besides this [weak] hadith whose authenticity is unknown (majhûl hâluh)."
So from this we see that Ibn Taymiyya is using the weak hadith (ahadîth da'îf), to discourage people from doing an evil deed, as long as this deed is known to be forbidden in the shari'ah. If the deed is forbidden in the shari'ah, it is acceptable to use a hadith whose authenticity is unknown, as long as the hadith is known not to have been an actual lie. This principle is acceptable, in anything that it is known that Allah expressed its forbiddance. Ibn Taymiyya continues to explain this concept in para 480:
"This is like the [situation] of the Isra'iliyyât [stories related by the Jews]. It is permissible to be narrated as long as we know that it is not a lie, for encouraging or discouraging in what we know that Allah has ordered in our law (shar') or forbade in our law (shar')."
Here we see that Ibn Taymiyya is not only accepting that the weak are acceptable in the case of encouraging good deeds and disouraging evil ones, but he is showing clearly that he accepted the use of Isra'iliyyât, stories related from the Jews, which many Salafis reject today as unacceptable. And this is verified in the hadith of the Prophet , "narrate from the hadith of Bani Isra'il and there is no harm in doing it."
Ibn Taymiyya continues in para 481:
"As for what has been authenticated as lawful to us, by way of the Isa'iliyyât that has not been proven and no scholar believes in that. And Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the like of the Imams never depend on hadith like this in shari'ah.
"So he who transmitted from Ahmad that he used to use weak hadith to support his opinion, that is: neither authentic in grade nor good, he made a mistake about Ahmad." (wa man naqala 'an Ahmad annahu kâna yahtaju bil-hadith ad-da'eef alladhee laysa bi sahih wa lâ hasan faqad ghalata 'alayh).
"And this hadith and the like Ahmad calls it weak, and he acceped it as a support of his view." (fa hadha al-hadith wa amthâlah yusammîhi Ahmad da'îfan wa YAHTAJU BIHI).
So we see here that Ibn Taymiyya on one hand is saying, that Ahmad did NOT use WEAK HADITH for establishing what is ordered by a shari'ah ruling AND that whoever said he did was wrong; whereas four paragraphs later he completely reverses himself and says that Ahmad called a hadith WEAK *and* he ACCEPTED IT to encourage someone to keep what is ordered by a shari'ah ruling! This is a disturbing method which we will see Ibn Taymiyya employ in numerous other places. We question here: was it intentional or was he just confused?
Here we quote from the muhaqqiq of Ibn Taymiyya's book,
Dr. Rabi'a bin Hadi 'Umayr al-Mudkhali, professor in the
Islamic University of Madinah al-Munawwara, in his footnote
on paragraph 423, where he says,
"I didn't find this hadith and I am afraid that
Shaykh ul-Islam's mind has gone to the other hadith of
Abu Hurayra (rad.ia-LLahu `anhu), that says "Allah has angels wandering
on earth, in addition to what is in the record of deeds
of the people; and when they find a group remembering Allah,
they call each other 'come unto what you desired' and they
come. And they surround them until the lowest sky. Allah
says 'what were My servants doing when you left them?'
They say, 'we left them thanking You, praising You and
remembering You.'..." Imam Ahmad, 2/251, Tirmidhi 5/579,
130 Chapter of what has been narrated regarding what Allah
has wandering angels on earth. Tirmidhi said the hadith is
hasan sahih, #3600, and Ad-Darimi 2/225, hadith #2777"
by GF Haddad
It is the Consensus of the Ulema that weak hadiths can be narrated and put into practice in Islam according to according to al-Bayhaqî, Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Nawawî, Ibn Taymiyya, al-Qârî, and `Alawî ibn `Abbâs al-Mâlikî in his manual al-Manhal al-Lat.îf fî Ma`rifat al-H.adîth, provided certain conditions are met.
Ibn al-Sālah, al-Nawawî and al-`Irāqī's sole conditions werre that
(1) the hadith be related to good deeds (fad.â'il al-a`mâl)
without bearing on legal rulings and doctrine and
(2) the hadith not be forged.
After them, Ibn Daqîq al-`îd, al-Zarkashî, and Ibn H.ajar added three furhter conditions: that the h.adîth not be very weak; that it be subsumed under a principle already established in the Law; and that one not positively believe that the Prophet said or did it.
Ibn al-Mubârak said: "One may narrate from [a weak narrator] to a certain extent or those h.adîths pertaining to good conduct (adab), admonition (maw`iz.a), and simple living (zuhd)."
This conditional rule for narrating - and practicing - weak h.adîths is in conformity with the unanimous view of the Salaf who permitted their use in fad.â'il al-a`mâl as opposed to `aqîda or the rulings pertaining to h.alâl and h.arâm. This is stated or practiced by Sufyân al-Thawrî, Ibn `Uyayna, `Alî ibn al-Madînî, Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în, Ah.mad, `Abd al-Rah.mân ibn Mahdî, Ibn Abî H.âtim, al-Bukhârî in al-Adab al-Mufrad, al-Tirmidhî, and many others.
Ibn al-Sālah said in his `Ulûm al-Hadîth:
The dissents reported from Imâm Muslim, Ibn H.azm, and Ibn al-`Arabî are inaccurate. The correct position of Imâm Muslim in the introduction to his S.ah.îh. is that he forbade the use of forgers and other abandoned narrators, not of truthful weak ones, in conformity with the position of Ah.mad and the rest of the Salaf.
Muslim also says: "The sound reports from the trustworthy (thiqât) narrators and those whose reliability is convincing are more than that we should be forced to transmit reports from those who are not trustworthy and whose reliability is not convincing." The difference is clear between saying we are not forced to use weak narrators and saying that one absolutely cannot transmit from them.
A proof of this is his use of the weak narration from `Â'isha: "Treat people according to their ranks" and the fact that his strictness in narrators drops a notch or two in the h.adîths of raqâ'iq or fad.â'il al-a`mâl in the S.ah.îh., as in the case of Shaddâd ibn Sa`îd Abû T.alhâ al-Râsibî or al-Walîd ibn Abî Walîd.
The correct position of Ibn al-`Arabî is as he states himself regarding a certain weak h.adîth: "Its chain is unknown, but it is preferable to put it into practice..." As for Ibn H.azm's statement against the use of weak narrations in absolute terms: he elsewhere states preferring the use of weak h.adîth over the use of juridical opinion (ra'î), as does Ibn al-`Arabî himself.
 Cf. al-Khat.îb, al-Kifâya (p. 162-163=133-134), Ibn Abî H.âtim, Muqaddimat al-Jarh. wal-Ta`dîl (2:30-38), Ibn Rajab, Sharh. `Ilal al-Tirmidhî (1:73), Ibn H.ajar, end of al-Nukat `alâ Ibn al-S.alâh. (2:887-888), al-Suyût.î, Tadrîb al-Râwî, al-Lacknawî, al-Ajwiba al-Fâd.ila, etc.
 Al-Bayhaqî, Dalâ'il al-Nubuwwa (1:33-34); Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (1:127); al-Nawawî, al-Majmû` (5:63), Irshâd T.ullâb al-H.aqâ'iq (p. 107-108), Sharh. S.ah.îh. Muslim (introduction), and al-Adhkâr (introduction p. 5) cf. Ibn `Allân, al-Futûh.ât al-Rabbâniyya (1:84); Ibn Taymiyya, Sharh. al-`Umda (1:171), Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (18:26, 18:65-66), and Miswaddat âl Taymiyya (p. 233, 246, 461); al-Qârî, Sharh. al-Shifâ' (2:91) and Mirqât al-Mafâtîh. (2:381); `Itr, Manhaj al-Naqd (p. 291-296) and Us.ûl al-Jarh. wal-Ta`dîl (p. 140-143).
 Even so, al-Sakhâwî said in al-Qawl al-Badî` (p. 432) of a certain h.adîth: "In sum, it is a very weak h.adîth (d.a`îf jiddan) that is written in meritorious deeds (yuktabu fî fad.â'il al-a`mâl), but as for its being forged, no, it is not [forged] ."
 Cf. al-Nawawî, Sharh. S.ah.îh. Muslim (introduction), Ibn al-Qayyim, I`lâm al-Muwaqqi`în (1:31), al-Sakhâwî, al-Qawl al-Badî` (p. 474), and `Itr, notes on Ibn Rajab's Sharh. `Ilal al-Tirmidhî (1:75-76).
 The claim of a handful of authors such as al-Qâsimî in Qawâ`id al-Tah.dîth (p. 94) or `Ajâj al-Khat.îb in Us.ûl al-H.adîth (p. 231) that Ibn al-`Arabî and Ibn Ma`în were opposed to the use of weak h.adîths in absolute terms, stems from good faith in Ibn Sayyid al-Nâs, al-`Irâqî, al-Sakhâwî, and al-Suyût.î's claims to that effect.