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"Seek Knowledge as far as China"

"Seek knowledge even as far as China."


Hadith HASAN MASHHUR - "fair, famous." Note: Applied to a hadith, the term mashhur refers to a type of ahad narration that has five to nine narrators at each link of its chain and is therefore nearly mass-narrated. Note that this is not an index of its authenticity as a mashhūr hadith may be either sahīh, hasan, or daʿīf. Also, the label of mashhūr is sometimes given to merely famous narrations which are not nearly-mass-narrated.

Narrated from Anas by al-Bayhaqi in Shuʿab al-Iman and al-Madkhal, Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm, and al-Khatib through three chains at the opening of his al-Rihla fi Talab al-Hadith (p. 71-76 #1-3) where our shaykh Dr. Nur al-Din ʿItr declares it weak (daʿīf).

Also narrated from Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn ʿAbbas, Ibn Masʿud, Jabir, and Abu Saʿid al-Khudri, all through very weak chains.

The hadith master al-Mizzi said it has so many chains that it deserves a grade of fair (hasan), as quoted by al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-Hasana. Al-ʿIraqi in his Mughni ʿan Haml al-Asfar similarly stated that some scholars declared it sound (sahīh) for that reason, even if al-Hakim and al-Dhahabi correctly said no sound chain is known for it. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr's "Salafi" editor Abu al-Ashbal al-Zuhayri declares the hadith hasan in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (1:23ff.) but all the above fair gradings actually apply to the wording: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim."

The first to declare the "China" hadith forged seems to be Ibn al-Qaysarani (d. 507) in his Maʿrifa al-Tadhkira (p. 101 #118). This grading was kept by Ibn al-Jawzi in his Mawduʿat but rejected, among others, by al-Suyuti in al-La'ali' (1:193), al-Mizzi, al-Dhahabi in Talkhis al-Wahiyat, al-Bajuri's student Shams al-Din al-Qawuqji (d. 1305) in his book al-Lu'lu' al-Marsuʿ (p. 40 #49), and notably by the Indian muhaddith Muhammad Tahir al-Fattani (d. 986) in his Tadhkira al-Mawduʿat (p. 17) in which he declares it hasan.

Al-Munawi, like Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr before him, gave an excellent explanation of the hadith in his Fayd al-Qadir (1:542). See also its discussion in al-ʿAjluni's Kashf al-Khafa' under the hadith: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim," itself a fair (hasan) narration in Ibn Majah because of its many chains as stated by al-Mizzi, although al-Nawawi in his Fatawa (p. 258) declared it weak while Dr. Muhammad ʿAjaj al-Khatib in his notes on al-Khatib's al-Jamiʿ (2:462-463) declared it "sound due to its witness-chains" (sahīh li ghayrih). Cf. al-Sindi's Hashya Sunan Ibn Majah (1:99), al-Munawi's Fayd al-Qadir (4:267) and al-Sakhawi's al-Maqasid al-Hasana (p. 275-277).

Unfortunately, this documentation is incomplete as it does not cover the often-quoted words "from the cradle to the grave" also attributed to the Prophet ﷺ as part of these germane narrations, but I was so far unable to trace the chain(s) for that wording.

Wallahu Taʿala Aʿlam wa Ahkam. {Glory to You, we know nothing except what You taught us.}

Allah Most High bless and greet the Apple of our eyes, Sayyidina Muhammad and all his Family and Companions!

Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad ©





latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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