Some Conditions For Accepting Narrations
Scholars lay down rules that explained in detail the criteria for accepting the narrations of a narrator and for rejecting them. The following four groups constitute the most important categories of narrators whose narrations are not accepted:
1) The liars who lied upon the Messenger of Allaah (saw). The scholars agree that narrations of hadeeth are not accepted from one who lied even once about the Prophet (saw). They also agree that it is one of the greatest sins to lie about the Prophet (saw). See this post for more info on whether a liar in hadeeth is a disbeliever or not.
2) The liars. Those who lie in their general talk, even if they never lied about the messenger of Allaah (saw). Scholars agree that if someone is known to have lied even once, then his narrations are not accepted. IMaam Maalike said, “But if one repents for his lies and then becomes known for truthfulness and uprightness, then the majority of scholars hold that both his repentance and narrations are accepted.”
3) The people of innovation and desires. The scholars agree that a narration is not accepted from an innovator who sinks into disbelief because of his innovation. The same ruling applies to the one who deems lying as being lawful, though he does not go into disbelief because of his innovation.
Ibn Katheer said:
“The majority hold that we make a distinction between the one who invites others and the one who does not (that is, we do not accept the narration of the one who invites others to his innovation, while we do accept the narration of the one who does not invite others to his innovation).”
Ash-Shaafi’ee and Ibn Hibbaan relate that there is a consensus that it is not permissible to rule by a narration that is related by an innovator. Ibn Hibbaan said:
“I know of no disagreement among them (the Imaams) regarding this.”
It appears however that scholars would reject the narration of an innovator when his narration promoted his particular innovation.
4) The Zanaadiqah. The wicked one, and the heedless ones who had no understanding of what it was they were relating. Included in this category are all those who do not fulfill the requirement of precision in memory and conveyance, as well as those who are lacking in the qualities of uprightness and understanding. Included in this are the following 6 sub-categoried who the scholars hesitated to accept their narrations:
4.1) Those about whom it is disputed. I.e, were they upright and trustworthy or did they have in them some defect that affects the authenticity of their narrations?
4.2) Those who erred frequently in their narrations, often contradicting the narrations of trustworthy Imaams.
4.3) Those who forgot often.
4.4) Those wh became confused about different narrations during the later stages of their lives.
4.5) Those whose memoried were weak.
4.6) Those who were not discerning. I.e, they took from anyone regardless of whether that person was trustworthy or weak.
[Taken from “The Sunnah And Its Role In Islaamic Legislation” by Mustafa As-Sibaa’ee]