The Golden Chains of Hadith narration

In hadith narration, the Sanad plays an important part when authenticating hadith. Factors like the individuals themselves and the number of people in the chain strengthen or set hadith above one another. There are multiple opinions on which chains are golden, i.e. narrated by immaculately precise, honest and pious people.

According to al-Bukhari, the strongest chain is:

  • Malik > Nafi’ > ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar

There are about 81 narrations.

According to Ahmad b. Hanbal and Ishaq b. Rahuwayh, the strongest chain is:

  • Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri > Salim b. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar > ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar

There are about 221 narrations.

According to Ali al-Madini, Sulayman b. Harb,  ‘Amr b. ‘Ali al-Fallas, and others, the soundest chain is actually:

  • Muhammad b. Sirin > ‘Abidah b. ‘Amr > ‘Ali b. Abi Talib

Ibn al-Madini preferred ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Awn from Ibn Sirin whilst Sulayman b. Harb preferred Ayub al-Sakhtiyani from Ibn Sirin. This chain is notable for being the most respected Caliphal transmission, although only 8 narrations come by this way.

According to Yahya b. Ma’in, ‘Abd Allah b. al-Mubarak, and al-Nasa’i, the soundest chain is:

  • Ibrahim al-Nakha’i > ‘Alqamah >‘Abd Allah b. Mas’ud

This chain has two main routes. Yahya b. Ma’in preferred al-A’mash from Ibrahim, producing 23 narrations, whereas ‘Abd Allah b. al-Mubarak, Waki’ b. al-Jarrah, and al-Nasa’i preferred the route from Ibrahim as from Mansur b. Mu’tamir from Ibrahim especially via Sufyan al-Thawri.

This chain is by far the most renowned Iraqi route, producing around 50 narrations, and was even respected by the people of Hijaz such as Malik, notable for their lack of regard for Iraqi transmissions in general. Notable too, is that this route is the main transmission for Abu Hanifah’s fiqh.

According to Ibn Abi Shaybah, the soundest chain is:

  • Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri > ‘Ali ibn Husayn – Husayn ibn ‘Ali > ‘Ali b. Abi Talib

Other scholars did not produce such a list, as believed each hadith will be assessed individually (the scholars above also held this view) regardless of who narrated it. Nevertheless when reading and studying hadith, it gives us indication to those that were accepted as sound.

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