Al-Hakim’s Mustadrak & al-Dhahabî’s Talkhis

Question: I know that al-Hâkim’s Mustadrak contains a lot of weak hadîth, though he claims that all the hadîth in it are authentic according to the conditions of either al-Bukhârî or Muslim. We often read in books that al-Dhahabî has concurred with al-Hâkim’s assessment. When this is the case, does that mean we can accept with confidence that the hadîth is authentic?

Answered by Sheikh al-Sharîf Hâtim al-`Awnî

What al-Dhahabî does in his Talkhîs with respect to al-Hâkim’s Mustadrak is simply to abridge it. He does the same for a number of other books. Generally, an abridged work does not include anything extraneous to what is found in the original. Quite the contrary, there is material from the original that is omitted.

However, al-Dhahabî does not leave his abridged works without volunteering some comments of his own for the benefit of the readers. He does not add these comments according to any organized scheme or methodology, but offers them whenever he feels like doing so.

Bear in mind that al-Dhahabî never says anywhere that when he relates al-Hâkim’s verdict on a hadîth without making a comment of his own that he is agreeing with al-Hâkim’s assessment – or even that he does not object to it – and that such an assessment can be attributed to him as well.

It is clear from looking al-Dhahabî’s Talkhîs that he is merely mentioning after every hadîth al-Hâkim’s ruling on its authenticity. If he wants to add any comments of his own, he clearly states that he is doing so by starting with the words “I say…”

Therefore, all the verdicts on the hadîth that are found in the Talkhîs without being preceded by the words “I say…” are merely the rulings given by al-Hâkim himself.

The assumption that al-Dhahabî’s silence is some sort of tacit agreement is a very weak assumption to make, because it is contrary to the normal conventions employed when making an abridgement of another’s work. Generally, all that is done is to relate what is in the original.

We know for a number of reasons that al-Dhahabî does not give his personal assessment in every hadîth where he disagrees with al-Hâkim.

First of all, al-Dhahabî in his encyclopedic Târikh al-Islam “The History of Islam” says the following in his biographical entry on al-Hâkim, wherein he speaks about his Mustadrak:

“The Mustadrak contains a good number of hadîth that conform to the conditions of authenticity of both (al-Bukhârî and Muslim) as well as a number of hadîth conforming to the conditions of either one of them. Perhaps the total number of such hadîth comprises half the book. There is roughly another quarter of the hadîth that have authentic chains of transmission, but that have something else about them or that have some defect. As for the rest, and that is about a fourth, they are rejected and spurious narrations that are unauthentic. Some of those are fabrications. I came to know of them when I prepared an abridgement of the Mustadrak and pointed them out.”

This statement from al-Dhahabî makes it clear that he does not point out all of the spurious narrations that he mentions in his Talkhîs. He only takes care to comment on some of them, particularly those that are fabrications.

Does he not say that about one quarter of the book is made up of “rejected and spurious narrations”? In his Talkhîs, he only comments on about one-eight of the hadîth that are found in the Mustadrak. There is a total of 9045 hadîth in al-Hâkim’s Mustadrak. Al-Dhahabî, in his Talkhîs, comments on only 1182 hadîth, while a quarter of the hadîth in the Mustadrak would amount to 2261 hadîth. (These figures are taken from the editorial introduction of Ibn al-Mulaqqin’s Mukhtasar Istidrâk al-Dhahabî, 8-9)

On this basis, it is clear that al-Dhahabî was aware of double the number of spurious hadîth than those that he comments on. He is, however, silent about them. In light of this fact, can we construe his silence to indicate his agreement with al-Hâkim that those hadîth are authentic? Moreover, we know that another quarter of the Mustadrak, in al-Dhahabî’s opinion, are hadîth that are apparently authentic but contain some hidden defects that compromise their authenticity. How, then, can we possibly construe his silence to indicate his agreement with al-Hâkim?

What also shows us that al-Dhahabî’s silence is not his agreement with al-Hâkim is that al-Dhahabî, in his other writings, criticizes a number of hadîth that he remains silent about in his Talkhîs. Among these are the following:

1. In Mîzân al-I`tidâl (1/136, #547), al-Dhahabî quotes a hadîth authenticated by al-Hâkim that he remains silent about in the Talkhîs, and declares it to be false. Then he says: “Al-Hâkim says it has an authentic chain of transmission. I say quite the contrary. He says that its narrators are all Madinites. I say otherwise. He says they are all reliable, whereas I say that I suspect the narrator Ahmad.”

2. In Mîzân al-I`tidâl (3/179, #6042), al-Dhahabî quotes a hadîth authenticated by al-Hâkim that he remains silent about in the Talkhîs, and says: “Al-Hâkim authenticates it, though, as you can see, it is a rejected hadîth.”

3. In al-`Ulû lil-`Alî al-`Azim (1/593, #146), al-Dhahabî quotes a hadîth authenticated by al-Hâkim that he remains silent about in the Talkhîs, and says: “The narrators Sharîk and `Atâ’ have weakness about them that does not bring their hadîth to being rejected. Yet this (text) is something seriously problematic that leaves the listener confused. I wrote it down merely as a digression because of its strangeness. It is something of the nature of ‘hear it and keep silent’.”

After all of this, if someone insists on construing al-Dhahabî’s silence on al-Hâkim’s verdict as indicating his agreement with it, then I must ask him: What is the value of this agreement? Al-Dhâhabî clearly states that his Talkhîs “…is in considerable need of work and editing.” [Siyar A`lâm al-Nubalâ’ (17/176)] This “considerable need” is so great that he has not followed up on a quarter of what he feels needs it. Insisting upon such an opinion is an insult to al-Dhahabî; it is not a compliment.

Admittedly, there have been many prominent scholars who have assumed that al-Dhahabî’s silence in his Talkhîs indicates his tacit approval of al-Hâkim’s ruling, scholars of the caliber of al-Suyûtî [al-Nukat al-Badî`ât (197)], al-Manâwî [Fayd al-Qadîr], and al-Husaynî [al-Bayân wa al-Ta`rîf]. Many contemporary scholars follow this view as well. However, the evidence clearly shows us that al-Dhahabî’s silence in his Talkhîs is not his tacit approval.

And Allah knows best.


al-Dhahabî & the Mustadrak of al-Hâkim
by Dr. Bashshâr `Awwâd Ma`rûf

[From the introduction to his critical edition of al-Tirmidhî’s al-Jâmi` al-Kabîr published by Dâr al-Jayl, Beirut]

The book al-Mustadrak `alâ al-Sahîhayn by `Abd Allah al-Hâkim al-Naysâbûrî (d. 403 AH) is an encyclopedic work, well known among scholars. Its author claims that he has found authentic hadîth left out by the two authorities – al-Bukhârî and Muslim – though it actually contains some objectionable material. Al-Dhahabî writes in his biographical encyclopedia entitled Siyar A`lâm al-Nubalâ’ “Biographies of Outstanding Personalities”:

“The Mustadrak contains a lot of hadîth that conform to the conditions of authenticity of both (al-Bukhârî and Muslim) as well as a number of hadîth conforming to the conditions of either one of them. Perhaps the total number of such hadîth comprises a third of the book or less. A lot of the book is comprised of hadîth that appear on the surface to be on the conditions of one or both of them, but that have hidden within them subtle but substantial defects. A portion of the book contains chains of transmission that are good and acceptable. This is about a fourth of the book. The rest of the book is comprised of rejected and extremely strange hadîth. At the same time, there are about one hundred hadîth that the heart declares to be false…”

Al-Dhahabî, when he first embarked upon the study of hadîth, prepared abridgements of a number of books, one of which was the Mustadrak. It has become the habit of scholars today working in the field of hadîth, when compiling them and determining their authenticity, to say things like: “It is authenticated by al-Hâkim and al-Dhahabî concurs.” In doing so, they are referring to al-Dhahabî’s Talkhîs, his abridgement of the Mustadrak that is often published along with it in its margins.

We see this as a serious misunderstanding that must be pointed out. We do not know from where this idea came or how it got started. When al-Dhahabî abridged the book, it was not his intention to discuss the authenticity or the inauthenticity of its hadîth. He merely speaks about some of most serious errors made by al-Hâkim’s in his book, mentioning them along with his abridgement, as is his habit when he abridges any book.

There are three reasons that we know this:

First, al-Dhahabî says in Siyar A`lâm al-Nubalâ’ (17/176): “It is a useful book. I had made an abridgement of it that is in considerable need of work and editing.”

This statement is one of the clearest proofs that he merely abridged the Mustadrak and did not critically review al-Hâkim’s rulings. Otherwise, what does he mean when he says it “…is in considerable need of work and editing”?

Secondly, we find that in his other books, al-Dhahabî, clearly states his disagreement with rulings that al-Hâkim’s gives in the Mustadrak in places where al-Dhahabî, in his Talkhîs, either reiterates al-Hâkim’s ruling or remains silent.

For example, when speaking about Mu`âwiyah b. Sâlih in Mîzân al-I`tidal (4/135), he writes: “He is among those narrators whom Muslim accepts but not al-Bukhârî. You can see al-Hâkim relating this narrator’s hadîth in his Mustadrak and say: ‘This is according to the conditions of al-Bukhârî.’ He repeatedly makes this mistake.”

However, when the same statement comes up in his Talkhîs, he says nothing about it. Whoever compares the rulings found in the Talkhîs with those that al-Dhahabî makes in his other writings will find that there is considerable disagreement.

Thirdly, when al-Dhahabî writes in his Talkhîs “according to the conditions of al-Bukhârî and Muslim” or writes “authentic”, he is merely giving al-Hâkim’s ruling as found in the Mustadrak. He is not expressing his own viewpoint. Therefore, we cannot attribute these opinions to al-Dhahabî himself.