Al-Jarh wa l-Ta'dil

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Al-Jarḥ wa l-taʿdīl (Arabic: الجَرح و التَعدیل) or criticism and praise is a branch of, and a terminology in, hadith sciences concerning the evaluation and criteria of the reliability and unreliability of the transmitters of hadiths, and consequently, the acceptance or rejection of those hadiths. Understanding the meanings of the Qur'an and the tradition, which is obtained via reliable hadiths, depends on jarh and ta'dil, because the assessment of the reliability of the transmitters of hadiths is required for knowing reliable and unreliable hadiths.

The Meaning

Literal Meaning

"Jarh" has a variety of meanings in Arabic, such as injury, sarcasm, and acquisition. And "ta'dil" is from the Arabic root, "'adl" (justice), which means to balance or straighten what is bent.

Terminological Meaning

In the terminology of hadith sciences, "majruh" (the object adjective form) is an adjective predicated of a narrator who is not righteous, and so, his or her transmission cannot be acted upon. But in the science of rijal, "jarh" means to criticize the righteousness or accuracy of a transmitter of hadiths or both, such that his or her hadith is considered as unacceptable.

In the terminology of hadith sciences, "ta'dil" is to accept the righteousness of a narrator leading to the acceptance of his or her hadith or testimony, but in the science of rijal, "ta'dil" has a more precise meaning: it means to consider a transmitter of hadiths as reliable, that is to take them to be both righteous and accurate, because these are the two properties that undergird the acceptance of a transmitter’s hadith.

Criteria of Jarh and Ta'dil

In the issue of jarh and ta'dil, features and requirements of a transmitter of hadiths are discussed, including the following:


Some scholars of hadiths maintain that righteousness is a psychological character that necessarily accompanies abstinence from committing major sins, persisting on minor sins, and doing things that are contrary to morality. According to some people, the righteousness of a transmitter of hadiths can be demonstrated by the testimony of a single person. Factors such as the transmitter being unspecified or unknown (al-majhul), as well as features such as him or her being an unbeliever and being immature, and things such as insanity, heresy, lying, immorality, and wrong actions demonstrate that a transmitter of hadiths is not righteous.


By accuracy (ḍabṭ), scholars of hadith mean the ability of a transmitter of hadiths to memorize or keep what they have heard in such a way that is immune to doubts, as well as apprehending the content of the hadith in a way that it cannot be confused with anything else. The transmitter of hadiths should practice accuracy from the time he or she hears the hadith until they transmit it to other people. This is not to say that the transmitter should never make mistakes in the transmission of hadiths, since this is normally impossible; rather this is to say that he or she should make only few mistakes and should not be careless.

Religious Tendency

According to Shiite scholars of hadiths and jurisprudence, a transmitter of hadiths should believe in Twelver Shiism in order for his or her hadiths to count as reliable. However, if a person believes in an Islamic denomination other than Shiism, it does not mean that his or her hadiths are not considered as reliable. Their hadiths are reliable if they are accurate and trusted. That is why, there are hadiths in Shiite sources which are transmitted by Sunni, Zaydi, Waqifi, and Fatahi transmitters which are taken as reliable, since these people were considered as reliable by scholars of rijal.

Succinct and Elaborated Types of Jarh and Ta'dil

Jarh and ta'dil are either succinct and vague or elaborated. In the former case, the person who expresses jarh or ta'dil does so in outline and in general terms; for example, by saying that such and such a person is reliable (الثقه, al-thiqa), truthful, liar, or accused of wrong doings (المتهم, al-muttaham), and in the latter case, the reason for jarh or ta'dil is clearly elaborated as well.

The Credibility of the Succinct Type of Jarh and Ta’dil

There are discussions in books of diraya regarding the credibility of these two types of jarh and ta'dil. There are seven views about this. The popular view among the Shi'as and the Sunnis is that a general, succinct ta'dil is acceptable, but jarh cannot be accepted unless its reasons are elaborated.

Terms for Jarh and Ta'dil

There are two types of terms for jarh and ta'dil: words and phrases.

Words of jarh and ta'dil are either simple terms such as reliable, "truthful" (الصدوق, al-saduq), "well-reputed" (الوجه, al-wajh), or complex terms such as having "appropriate hadith" (صالح الحدیث, salih al-hadith), "bad in memorizing" (سیّئ الحفظ, sayyi' al-hifz), and with unknown or "denied hadith" (منکر الحدیث, munkar al-hadith).

Phrases of jarh and ta'dil are sentences used to express jarh or ta'dil of a transmitter of hadiths, such as "yuktab hadithuh" (his hadith is written), or "yunzar fih" (there are considerations about him), and the like.

Levels of Jarh and Ta'dil

According to Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, there are 12 levels of jarh and ta'dil. His classification was widely accepted by scholars of hadith and rijal. In this classification, 6 groups of transmitters of hadiths are said to be in different levels of ta'dil or praise, and 6 groups of them are said to be in levels of jarh or criticism.

Levels of Ta'dil

The first level of ta'dil is the one which is expressed by the use of verbs that denote excellence or superiority, and the next level is the one that is expressed with emphasis. The third level is to express a person's reliability with ordinary phrases. Then there are transmitters of hadith about whom it is said: "truthful", "trusted" (المأمون, al-ma'mun), "no problem with him", and then there are transmitters of hadith about whom no phrases are used that specifically express their reliability or unreliability. Finally, there are people who have transmitted very few hadith, and so, it is not known whether they are reliable or not.

The majority of scholars of hadiths take the first four groups to be reliable and permit appealing to their hadiths, and they take hadiths transmitted by the fifth group to be acceptable only after more examination, because it is not known whether they are accurate. And hadiths transmitted by the sixth group are said to be of a still lower credibility.

Levels of Jarh

The first three groups of unreliable transmitters of hadiths are the ones who are weakly, ordinarily, or strongly taken to be unreliable. Then there are transmitters of hadiths who are accused of lying and fabricating hadiths. The fifth group are those who are accused of lying and fabricating hadiths as well as being strongly berated. And finally there are those characterized as exaggerating about things.

Hadiths transmitted by the last four groups cannot be appealed to, but hadiths transmitted by some people in the first two categories weakly or ordinarily reproached can be reliable.

Conflict between Jarh and Ta'dil

There are two ways in which jarh and ta'dil with respect to a given transmitter of hadiths can conflict:

1.Sometimes the jarh and the ta'dil can be reconciled:

  • One or more scholars of rijal have maintained jarh of a transmitter of hadiths in one respect, and maintained his or her ta'dil in another respect.
  • Jarh and ta'dil are pertained to one and the same aspect of the transmitter's character, but they belong to two different periods of his or her life.

2.Sometimes the conflict is genuine:

  • The conflict between jarh and ta'dil is in the work of the same scholar of rijal. In this case, if the conflict is the result of the scholar's new research, then his latest view should be relied on. Otherwise, one had better reconcile the conflicting views by the scholar, and if this is not feasible, one should suspend judgment on the merits of his view until new pieces of evidence gives preference to either of jarh and ta'dil.
  • The conflict is between two or more scholars of rijal. There are a number of views about what to do in this case, but the majority of scholars agree that if a transmitter of hadiths is considered as unreliable by one or two scholars and is considered as reliable by the same number of scholars or even more, then one should prefer the belief in the unreliability, that is, jarh is preferable to ta'dil.

Conditions of Adjudicators of Jarh and Ta'dil

Conditions of adjudicators of jarh and ta'dil include righteousness, accuracy, and carefulness, as well as being knowledgeable of the grounds of jarh and ta'dil. These can be considered as the main conditions of an adjudicator of jarh and ta'dil. On the contrary, being a male or not being a slave are not essential conditions of such an adjudicator. A woman or a slave who is knowledgeable of the principles of jarh and ta'dil can also be trusted. An adjudicator of jarh and ta'dil should make verdicts on the basis of the views of experts; that is, his or her verdicts should not be baseless, and they should not tend to go to extreme positions.

Written Work on Jarh and Ta'dil

Written work about jarh and ta'dil can be classified into three categories:

First: books that are only concerned with reliable transmitters of hadiths, such as: Kitab Al-Thiqat of Ahmad b. Abd Allah b. Salih al-'Ijli (d. 261/874-5) and Kitab Al-Thiqat of Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Hibban al-Busti (d. 354/965)

Second: books that are only concerned with unreliable transmitters of hadiths, such as:

  • Kitab al-du'fa' al-saghir of Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Bukhari (d. 256/869-70)
  • Kitab al-du'fa' wa al-matrukin of Nisa'i (d. 303/915-6)
  • Ma'rifat al-Majruhin min al-Muhaddithin of Ibn Hibban al-Busti
  • Al-Kamil fi al-Du'afa' al-rijal of Abd Allah b. 'Uday al-Jurjani (d. 365/975-6)
  • Kitab al-du'fa' of Muhammad b. 'Umar al-'aqili (d. 322/933-4)
  • Mizan al-'i'tidal fi al-naqd al-rijal of Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dahabi (d. 748/1347-8)

The above books are from Sunni authors, in Shi'a books two books can be mentioned:

Third: books that are concerned with both reliable and unreliable transmitters of hadiths, such as:

  • Al-Tarikh wa al-'ilal of Yahya b. Ma'in (d. 233/847-8)
  • Al-'Ilal wa Ma'rifat al-rijal of Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855-6)
  • Al-Tarikh al-Kabir of Muhammad b. 'Isma'il al-Bukhari (d. 256/869-70)
  • Al-Jarh wa al-Ta'dil of Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Hatim (d. 327/938-9)

The above books are from Sunni authors, in Shi'a books the four following books can be mentioned:

In the majority of early Shiite books of rijal, reliable transmitters of hadiths are not distinguished from unreliable ones, except in the works of al-'Allama al-Hilli and Ibn Dawud al-Hilli.