Hadith: The Prophet (s) said, “Seek knowledge even in China,”

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem
wa salli `ala nabiyyihi Muhammadin wa `ala aalihi wa saahbihi ajmaa`een

‘Utlub il ‘ilma wa law fis-Sin.

Hadith HASAN MASHHÛR – “fair, famous.” Note: Applied to a hadith, the term mashhûr 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 (tawatur). Note that this is not an index of its authenticity as a mashhûr hadith may be either sahîh, hasan, or da`îf. Also, the label of mashhûr is sometimes given to merely famous narrations which are not nearly-mass-narrated.

Narrated from Anas by al-Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-Imaan and al-Madkhal, Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jami` Bayaan al-`Ilm, and al-Khatib through three chains at the opening of hisal-Rihla fi Talab al-Hadith (p. 71-76 #1-3) where Shaykh Nur al-Din `Itr declares it weak (da`îf). Also narrated from Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, Jabir, and Abu Sa`id 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-Maqaasid al-Hasana. Al-`Iraqi in his Mughni `an Haml al-Asfar similarly stated that some scholars declared it sound (sahîh) for that reason, even if al-Hakim and al-Dhahabi correctly said no sound chain is known for it. Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s “Salafi” editor Abu al-Ashbal al-Zuhayri declares the hadith hasan in Jami` Bayaan al-`Ilm(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 Ma`rifa al-Tadhkira (p. 101 #118). This grading was kept by Ibn al-Jawzi in hisMawdu`at 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-Marsu` (p. 40 #49), and notably by the Indian muhaddith Muhammad Taahir al-Fattani (d. 986) in his Tadhkira al-Mawdu`at (p. 17) in which he declares it hasan.

Al-Munawi, like Ibn `Abd al-Barr before him, gave an excellent explanation of the hadith in his Fayd al-Qadir (1:542). See also its discussion in al-`Ajluni’s Kashf al-Khafa’ under the hadith: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim,” itself a fair (hasan) narration in Ibn Maajah because of its many chains as stated by al-Mizzi, although al-Nawawi in his Fatawa (p. 258) declared it weak while Dr. Muhammad `Ajaj al-Khaatib in his notes on al-Khatib’s al-Jami` (2:462-463) declared it “sound due to its witness-chains” (sahîh li ghayrih). Cf. al-Sindi’s Hashya Sunan Ibn Maajah (1:99), al-Munawi’s Fayd al-Qadir (4:267) and al-Sakhaawi’s al-Maqaasid al-Hasana (p. 275-277).


© As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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