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Narrations in old age

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I was wondering about what the scholars of Rijal have said is to be done when a reliable narrator very late in his life narrates a tradition, but it can be proven either by the words of the narrator without doubt, that when they had narrated that their memory had notable defects and that they were very old.

Rather than being a ‘Sahih’ chain, would this invariably cause it in and of itself to drop to a Hasan level, due to memory being the distinguisher between Hasan and Sahih?

For instance, we find that Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) narrates in Sahih Muslim that Zayd ibn Arqam (radiyallahu’anhu) began to narrate a Hadith about Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) saying he was leaving behind two weighty things. However every chain where he is said to have done this always starts with him first noting down his decline in memory, and that he has grown very old and that his memory has been affected, as he, despite being an upright companion, still was affected by the other causes of old age mortals suffer. We find Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) does not include this tradition in his Sahih.


1. As a rule, if as a result of a narrator growing old, he loses his memory, the credibility of his narrations will undoubtedly be affected. Such narrators are labelled as ‘mukhtalit’.

2. However, in the example you have cited, Sayyiduna Zayd ibn Arqam (radiyallahu’anhu) clearly states that after becoming old, he only reported those Hadiths which he accurately remembered. In other words, if he forgot any Hadith, he would abstain from reporting it.

(Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 6175)

The Sahabah (radiyallahu’anhum) would only report what they knew was accurate. To think otherwise is incorrect.

Therefore none of the Sahabah (radiyallahu’anhum) are enlisted as mukhtalit.

The fact that Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) did not record this Hadith, does not necessitate its weakness. In fact, Imam Muslim’s including it in his sahih is a proof of its authenticity.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,

Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar

Checked by: Moulana Haroon Abasoomar

This answer was collected from HadithAnswers.com. The answers were either answered or checked by Moulana Haroon Abasoomar (rahimahullah) who was a Shaykhul Hadith in South Africa, or by his son, Moulana Muhammad Abasoomer (hafizahullah), who is a Hadith specialist. 

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