HOME BLOG QURANIC HADITH FIQH tGFH English CONTACT hamburger menubar icon

"Seek Knowledge as far as China"

Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ

by Sh. G. F. Haddad

Tweet #omarkn


"Seek knowledge even as far as China."

Hadith HASAN MASHHūR - "fair, famous."

Note: Applied to a hadith, the term mashhūr 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).

Regarding the often-quoted words "from the cradle to the grave", it is certainly not a Prophetic hadith but advice by latter-day scholars.

This advice is particularly mnemonic because of the alliteration mahd (cradle) / lahd (the grave's side-niche). Hence "min al-mahd ila al-lahd."

More importantly, the advice is in conformity with the unqualified command to {say: O my nurturing Lord, increase me in knowledge} (Taha 20:114) and to "seek knowledge" i.e. without restriction of time, in the verse and the hadith respectively.

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 ﷺ and all his Family and Companions!

Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad ©



Related texts


* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *