The Musalsalat in Ḥadīth: Linking the Present to the Past
A Treatise on Definition, Value, Significance and Categories of
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful
At a time when a lot of people claim following the Prophet ^ , it is very important to know that trying to benefit his Ummah is one of the ways for being good and connected to him. He ^ said: ‘The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people.’ And as narrated by Ibn ‘Umar that a man came to the Messenger of Allah ^ and asked: O Messenger of Allah, who is the most beloved by Allah amongst people and which action is the most beloved to Allah? He ^ said: ‘Of people, the most beloved by Allah are those with the most benefit to people and the most beloved action to Allah is to make a Muslim happy, relieve him from a plight, pay a debt on his behalf or to protect him from hunger (i.e. by feeding him) and it is dearer to me to accompany a brother to fulfill his need than to seclude myself in this mosque i.e. the Mosque of Madinah for a month. And whoever withholds his anger, Allah will cover his faults and whoever holds back his rage which he is able to let go, Allah will fill his heart with serenity on the day of resurrection and whoever accompanies his brother to fulfill his need, Allah will make him firm on the path on the day when feet will slip.’
With this in mind, it is important to revive the blessed sunnah of the scholars of the past who used to link theUmmah with its Prophet ^ through holding gatherings narrate his aḥādīth, especially those known as Al-Musalsalāt or Al-Aḥādīth Al-Musalsalah (pl. Musalsal) as theseaḥādīth link people to the person of the Prophet ^ in all his states. If being beneficial to people and removing distress from them are two great deeds, then what is more beneficial than teaching people about their Messenger ^ and removing them from the distress of ignorance. Imam Ibn Majah reports that the Prophet ^ said: ‘Whoever revives a sunnah of mine that has been deserted after me, will get a reward equal to that given to whoever follows it amongst people and that will diminish nothing of their reward.’
It is with this intention that this paper is written to provide an understanding of one of the topics of the science of ḥadīth, inspire students of knowledge to explore, learn and spread suchaḥādīth and try to strengthen their link with the Prophet ^ through this. This paper is also written with the intention of creating a sense of appreciation for the merit of isnād (chain of transmission), a unique feature of this Ummah which links its generations of scholars, keep it connected to its tradition, keep the religion preserved from intruders and self-claimed “scholars” and revive in the students of knowledge the honour of belonging to great generations of scholars and make them realize their duty. ‘Abdullah ibn Al-Mubārak said: “Al-Isnād (to mention and narrate the chain of narrators and be linked to them) and without it, anyone who wanted to say something would have been able to say it.”
The Shaykh of our Shuyūkh As-Sayyid Abul Faḍl ‘Abdullah ibn As-Siddiq Al-Ghumāri said: “For a scholar, the sanadis like a chain that links him to the Prophet ^. Wherever he moves, the chain moves with him and therefore, whoever has been given the chain, his knowledge will be blessed. As for a scholar who has knowledge but does not have such link to the Prophet ^, he will be like a circle that is disconnected from the rest of the chain, whenever he moves, he moves alone. Sooner or later, he will witness how much barakah (blessings) he has lost. Thisbarakah is an immaterial thing that is witnessed on those who are linked to the Prophet ^ and follow his footsteps.
At this day and age, we have been plagued with many self-appointed “scholars” who grew on the surface and stayed without roots and hence without fruits. They continue to lead their followers in the wrong direction because of the lack of this compass of isnād and cause more damage. This paper is, by Allah’s permission, a humble attempt to fix some of this damage.
In this article, we will shed light on:
1. The definition of al-ḥadīth al-musalsal
The linguistic definition: The word musalsal is taken from salsala which means to make a chain in which the rings are connected to each other. Salsal is the sweet and cold water that runs through the throat.
Technically: It is a ḥadīth whose narrators share the same attribute or same state or in which the narration has one state or one attribute. The attributes of the narrators may be verbal or practical and the attributes of the narration may relate to the way of narration, the time of narration or the place of narration. 
The difference between the attribute and the state is that while the former is permanent the latter is temporary. This attribute of tasalsul describes the chain obviously not the text of theḥadīth.
2. The categories and forms of al-musalsal
At the beginning of his book ‘Al-‘Arūs Al-Majliyyah fi Asānid Al-Ḥadīth Al-Musalsal bil Awwaliyyah’ (The Beautified Bride on the Chains of the Ḥadīth which is Narrated First), Al-Ḥafiz Murtaḍa Az-Zabīdi wrote: “Bear in mind that al-musalsalāt, as mentioned by the ḥuffaẓ, are of various categories; some of them are related to the order of the narration like the one narrated first, some others are related to the time like the one narrated on the day of ‘īd, others are related to the place of the narration like the one narrated at al-multazam, a fourth group are related to the state of the narrator like being alone while narrating from his Shaykh, a fifth group are related to the attribute of the narrators like being a ḥāfiẓ, a jurist, Egyptian, his name is Muḥammad or his narrating from his father, a sixth group is related to the practical attribute of the narrators like writing theḥadīth or shaking hands with the student, a seventh group are related to the attribute of the narration like orally…etc and a final group related to the verbal attribute of the narrator like saying ‘I love you’ or reciting asūrah.”
In his book At-Taqrīb, Imam An-Nawawi mentions that the attributes and the states of the narrators are either verbal or practical or both. As for the attributes of the narration, they either relate to the formula of delivery (ṣīghat al-adā’), the time or the place of the narration. Imam As-Sakhāwi added another category relating to the date of the narration. Abu ‘Amr ibn Aṣ-Ṣalāḥ noted that these categories are examples and tasalsul is not confined to them only.
With this in mind, we can say that the categories of al-musalsalāt include but to confined to:
1- The one in which the chain includes a statement said by each narrator: An example of this is the famousḥadīth narrated by Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal in which the Prophet ^ said to him: “I love you, so say O Allah enable me to remember You, and thank You and worship You perfectly.” Each narrator said to the one after him: I love you…and then narrated the ḥadīth.
2- The one in which the chain includes an action done by each narrator: An example of this category is the famous ḥadīth of shaking hands in which each narrator shakes hands with the narrator after him. The action goes back throughout the chain to Anas ibn Malik who said: I shook hands with the Prophet ^ and I did not touch silk softer than the palm of the Prophet ^.
3- The one in which the chain includes a combination of a statement and an action: An example of this category is the ḥadīth which is narrated back to the Prophet ^ where he said: ‘A person will not find the sweetness of faith until he believes in Divine destiny; its good and its evil, its sweet and its bitter.’ The Prophet ^ then held his beard and said: ‘I believe in Divine destiny; its good and its evil, its sweet and its bitter.’
4- The one in which the chain includes a verbal attribute of the narrators like the ḥadīth in which the narrators read Surat Aṣ-Ṣaff. Ibn Ḥajar said: The most authentic musalsal in the world is the one in which narrators read Surat Aṣ-Ṣaff. 
5- The one in which the chain includes a practical attribute of the narrators like their names, their specialties or their countries the ḥadīth in which all the narrators are ḥuffaẓ or fuqahā’ or their names are Muḥammad or all of them are Egyptians…etc. And the ḥadīth in which all the narrators are ḥuffaẓ and the one in which all the narrators are fuqahā’ are also considered very authentic in terms of tasalsul as noted by Imam As-Suyūṭi.
6- The one in which the the narration has a specific formula of delivery like a ḥadīth which is narrated with ‘I heard’ all the way back to the Prophet ^.
7- The one in which the narration has happened at a specific time like the ḥadīth of the day of ‘īd and theḥadīth about clipping the nails on Thursday.
8- The one in which the narration has happened at a specific place like the one narrated by Ibn ‘Abbās on the acceptance of du‘ā’ at al-multazam and him doing du‘ā’ there.
9- The one in which the narration has happened at a specific date like the famous ḥadīthwhich is narrated first to every student by his teacher known as ḥadīth al-awwaliyyah.
All these previous categories can actually be classified into a) Aḥādīth in which the state or the attribute is kept in all levels of the chain which is called ‘musalsal tāmm’ and b) Aḥādīth in which the state or the attribute is missed in some levels of the narrators which is known as ‘musalsal nāqiṣ’ or incomplete.
3. The importance of preserving al-musalsalāt
In addition to the knowledge such aḥādīth add to the specialists, they are quite important for the preservation of accuracy in the transmission of the ḥadīth, following the example of the Prophet ^ verbally and practically, avoiding any cheating in the narration and this last one happens when the formula of the narration is clear in indicating how the student has received the ḥadīth from his teacher and also requiring a level of specification and focus on issues that may be neglected or overlooked by the narrators (e.g. when the narrators names are the same, it will be required to know who is who) and finally maintaining the chain at a certain level.
Alongside, gathering to narrate such aḥādīth facilitates memorization for students of knowledge and gives them happiness that this Ummah is linked with the blessed chain throughout centuries.
4. The Famous collections of musalsalāt
There is more than one 400 ḥadīth musalsal in total. The scholars of ḥadīth have given them focus and care in various ways; some scholars wrote on one ḥadīth only like Al-Ḥāfiẓ Muḥammad Al-Murtaḍa Az-Zabīdi who wrote a commentary on al-musalsal bil awwaliyyah and named it ‘Al-Mirqātul ‘Aliyyah fi Sharḥil Ḥadīthil Musalsali bil Awwaliyyah’ and also wrote on the chains of the same ḥadīth under the title ‘Al-‘Arūs Al-Majliyyah fi Asānid Al-Ḥadīth Al-Musalsal bil Awwaliyyah’. Some other scholars wrote on the classing and explanation of these aḥādīthlike the great historian and narrator ‘Abdul-Ḥafīẓ Al-Fasi Al-Firhī in his book ‘Al-’Āyāt Al-Bayyināt fi Sharḥi wa Takhrījil Aḥādīthil Musalsalāt’. However, other scholars wrote collections of themusalsalāt they narrate and the earliest collection is Musalsalāt Abi Bakr ibn Shādhān by the great muḥddith Abu Bakr ibn Aḥd ibn Ibrahīm ibn Shādhān ( 298 – 383 AH). Scholars have continued to compile their collections of musalsalāt till this day. One of the very famous contemporary collections is Shaykh Yasīn Al-Fādānī’s ‘Al-‘Ujālah fil Aḥādīth Al-Musalsalah’. Among other collections of musalsalātare the following:
5. The virtues of tasalsul and issues relating to it
In addition to the benefits of preserving the attribute of the chain and linking people to the example of the Prophet ^, the tasalsul makes it easy for the narrator to relate the ḥadīth to an unforgettable experience. It is because of this that some scholars relate anecdotes (laṭā’if) and benefits (nikāt) about some musalsalāt. For instance, when a scholar went to listen to somemusalsalāt from a female muḥaddithah and she came across theḥadīth in which the narrators hold their beard, she realized that she had no beard to hold, so she held her chin instead.
Some scholars also wrote the meanings of some musalsalāt in poetry as Imam ibn Ḥajar Al-‘Asqalāni did in ḥadīth al-awwaliyyah. He wrote:
Whoever shows mercy to those on earth, we are told
إن من يرحم مَن في الأرضِ قد
Will be shown mercy by those in heaven so behold
جاءنا يرحمه من في السماء
So, show mercy without distinction to all
فارحم الخلق جميعاً إنـما
The Merciful shows mercy to those that are merciful
يرحمُ الرحمــــن منَّــا الرُّحمــاء
6. How to get the full chain of a musalsal and a conclusion on the topic
To be able to get a full chain of a musalsal, you should find the ḥadīth first in the famous collections ofmusalsalāt. It is preferable and easier to get it from a modern collection like the collection of Shaykh Al-Fādāni or the collection of Al-Ḥāfiẓ ‘Abdul-Ḥayy Al-Kattāni. Then, find the shortest chain that links you to the compiler of the collection and write down the chain and revise it again; it is preferable as well to show it to a specialist if you can to verify it, then memorise your chain all the way back to the Prophet ^ and use it every time you are narrating the musalsal. It is good to try to find the class of the musalsal you are narrating and if a treatise or a volume or even an article has been written on it, it is good to read it. In addition, use every opportunity to call, visit or travel to the scholars who have asānīd and ask them to narrate themusalsalāt they have received to you in order to keep the tasalsul. This will require that you read what are the musalsalāt that has been narrated and obviously this can be found in the collections of musalsalāt. The most comprehensive collection of musalsalāt is the collection included in the thabat of Shaykh ‘Ābid As-Sindi known as: Ḥaṣr Ash-Shārid fi Asānid Muḥammad ‘Ābid. It is important to highlight here that as much as narration is very important, knowing what you are narrating and understanding it is very important and necessary, otherwise the person may be narrating fabricated things unknowingly. In his great collection of his teachers and chains (thabat) our Shaykh ’Usāmah Al-Azharisays: And I advise (the students) to exert their effort in learning the basics of sciences and study the tools of the critique of ḥadīth and not to consume their life in something that can be achieved in a short time. Imam Abu ‘Amr ibn Aṣ-Ṣalāḥ narrates that Abul-Muẓẓaffar ibn Abi Sa‘d As-Sam‘āni narrated from his father from Muḥammad ibn Nāṣir As-Sallāmi that he heard Fāris ibn Al-Ḥusayn reciting of his own poetry:
O student of knowledge whose main focus is nothing but to narrate
In narration give focus to the understanding of what you do relate
And narrate ‘little’ but know it; for knowledge has no end, so meditate
يا طالبَ العِلمِ الذي * ذهبتْ بمُدتِه الرواية
كن في الرواية ذا العناية * بالروايــــة والدراية
وارو القليل وراعه * فالعلمُ ليس له نهاية
Finally, this article is an open invitation and encouragement to the teachers of knowledge, the seekers of knowledge, the lovers of knowledge, and those who love to listen to it to revive this great tradition of spreadingal- musalsalāt and speak about them and bear in mind that it is an honour to be a name in a chain of narrators the first name in which is the Prophet ^. It is important
I would like to conclude by mentioning the ḥadīth of the Prophet ^ that reads: “Be a scholar or a learner or a listener or a lover (i.e. of knowledge and the previous three or to be one of them) and do not be the fifth one otherwise you will be lost.”
I pray to Allah to give us the zeal and the inspiration to seek knowledge and to enable us before seeking it to question our intentions. May Allah bless our days, moments and minutes and make our actions and words fruitful and full of light and barakah and guide us to say what is good and act accordingly. May Allah u make us helpers for those who want to get close to him with guidance and sincere service and bring us not to shame on the day when no wealth nor children will avail. And may the best of prayers and blessings go to our Prophet ^.
O Allah! Use us to deliver Your dīn and enable us to understand what You deliver in Your Book and help us stick to adab with You, Your Messenger ^ and Your righteous slaves.
 Narrated by Jabir ibn `Abdillah and reported by Al-Qudā‘ī in Musnad Ash-Shihab
 Narrated by Imam Aṭ-Ṭabarāni in Al-Mu‘jam Al-Awsaṭ
 Reported by Ibn Majah on the authority of Muḥammad b. Yahya from Isma‘il b. Abi Uways from Kathīr b. Abdillah from his father from his grandfather.
 As-Suyūṭi, Jalauddīn (849 – 911 AH), Tadrīb Ar-Rāwi Volume 2, page 109 and see also Ibn Jamā‘ah, Badruddīn (639 – 733 AH), Al-Manhal Ar-Rawiy fi Mukhtaṣari ‘Ulūmil Ḥadīthin Nabawiy (published by Darul-Fikr with the annotation of Dr. Muḥyiddīn ‘Abdur-Raḥmān Ramadan)
 Muḥammad Al-Murtaḍa b. Muhammad Al-Ḥusayni Az-Zabīdi known as Abul-Fayḍ and Abul-Waqt born 1145 AH in Belgram in India and died in Cairo in 1205 AH. A great scholar, muḥaddithand linguist of his time. Amongst his works is his commentary on Al-Ghazali’s ‘Revival of Religious Sciences’ and commentary on Al-Qamus Al-Muḥīt known as ‘Tajul ‘Arūs’ in 14 volumes in addition to his 1000 poem in Ḥadīth.
 Muḥie Ad-Dīn Yaḥya b. Sharaf An-Nawawi (631 -676 AH) born and died in the city of Nawa in Syria. One of the great luminaries and landmarks in Islamic scholarship, a great authority in jurisprudence and other various sciences and a prolific author.
 See As-Suyūṭi, Jalauddīn (849 – 911 AH), Tadrīb Ar-Rāwi and also, Muhammad b. Muhammad Abu Shuhbah, Al-Wasīṭ fi ‘Ulūm wa Muṣṭalaḥ Al-Hadith pages 415, published by `Alam Al-Ma‘rifah.
 Shamsuddīn Muhammad b. ‘Abdirraḥman As-Sakhāwi (831 – 902 AH) born in Cairo and died in Madinah. A great scholar of Ḥadīth and a historian and one of the great students of Ibn Ḥajar Al-‘Asqalāni.
 Ibn Aṣ-Ṣalāḥ, Abu ‘Amr ‘Uthman b. ‘Abdirraḥman Al-Kurdi (577 – 643 AH) a great scholar ofhadith, born in norther Iraq and moved to Mosul and settled in Damascus where he taught at Darul Ḥadith Al-Ashrafiyyah and died there. Of his famous work, his book Ma‘rifatu Anwa‘i ‘Ulūmil Ḥadith known as the Muqaddimah of Ibn Aṣ-Ṣalāḥ.
 Ibn Ḥajar, Aḥmad b. `Ali b. Muḥammad Al-Kināni (773 – 852 AH) a great scholar of all times specialising inḥadīth, history and many other sciences, was born and died in Cairo.
 Muhammad b. Muhammad Abū Shahbah, Al-Wasīṭ fi ‘Ulūm wa Muṣṭalaḥ Al-Ḥadīth pages 422, published by ‘Ālam Al-Ma‘rifah
 Muhammad b. Ja‘far Al-Kattani (1274 – 1345 AH), Ar-Risālah Al-Mustaṭrafah li Bayani Mashhūri Kutubis Sunnatil Musharrafah page 85. Published by Darul Bashā’ir, Beirut.
 ‘Abdul-Ḥafīẓ Al-Fasi Al-Firhi (1296 – 1383 AH)
 ‘Alamuddīn Abul-Fayḍ Muhammad Yasīn Al-Fādāni (1335 – 1410 AH) comes from a family who are originally from Indonesia but born and died in Makkah. He was known to be the reference of narration in the world (musnid ad-dunya) at his time. I narrate from him through my Shaykh Dr. `Ali Jumu‘ah, the Grand Mufti of Egypt and many others.
 Muḥammad ‘Ābid b. Aḥmad As-Sindi Al-Anṣāri An-Naqshabandi from the offspring of the great companion Sayyiduna Abu Ayyūb Al-Anṣāri. He was born in Sind, migrated to Yemen and later settled in Madinah where he died in 1257 AH. His collection of chains (thabat) is known for its comprehensiveness. He narrated from various teachers including the Mufti of Zabīd Shaykh ‘Abdir-Raḥman b. Sulayman Al-Ahdal.
 See ‘Abdul-Ḥayy b. Abdil-Kabīr Al-Kattāni’s Fihris Al-Fahāris wal Athbāt volume 2, page 665.
 `Usāmah b. As-Sayyid b. Maḥmūd b. Muhammad Al-Azhari (b. 1396 AH) a modern scholar and a greatmuḥaddith born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. He holds a PhD in Ḥadīth and works as a lecturer at Usūl Ad-Dīn Seminary in Al-Azhar University. He also teaches at Al-Azhar Mosque various sciences including logic, theology, principles of Islamic jurisprudence andḥadīth. He narrates from more than 500 Shuyūkh from different parts of the world and is highly respected amongst scholarly circles in different Muslim countries. He is a prolific and innovative author as well; amongst his works: The Revival of the Sciences of Ḥadīth, Introduction to the Principles of Tafsīr, The Chains of Egyptians, Mu‘jam Ash-Shuyūkh or Collections of Teachers which is a collection of selected biographies of around 75 of his teachers.
 ’Usāmah Al-Azhari, Mu‘jam Ash-Shuyūkh page 108, first edition 2008, published by SOFA Production, Malaysia.
 Narrated by Imam Aṭ-Ṭabarāni in Al-Mu‘jam Al-Awsaṭ
Shaykh Ahmed Saad