Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem
Some Salient Points on Jar'h Wa-Ta'deel from al-Mooqidhah of Al-Imaam adh-Dhahabi - rahimahullah
Scholars of Jar'h of old can be categorised into:
One: Haaddun - Those That Were Stern.
Two: Mu'tadil - Those That Were Balanced.
Three: Mutasaahil - Those That Were Too Soft.
Examples of those that were stern were Yahya b. Saeed, Yahya b. Maeen, Abu Haatim, Ibn Khiraash (who himself was alleged to be a Raafidhee).
When any of them regards a raawin to be upright, hold to that view. If however one of them regards a raawin to be weak, wait first until you see who supports him on that, and (you are sure) there was none among the elite scholars who held the fellow to be upright. If you see someone else among the elite scholars that holds the fellow to be upright then the stern disparager (jaarihun haaddun) must explain the crime of the majrooh otherwise we would pause on regarding his report (that is the majrooh) as auhthetic but it is closer to be aceepted as hasan. (This paragraph is from Dhikr Man Yu'tamad Qauluhu Fil Jar'h Wa-Ta'deel (p.172 as cited in Al-Mooqidhah) also by Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabi - rahimahullah..
Examples of those that were balanced were Ahmad b. Hambal, Al-Bukhari, Abu Zur'ah (he added Ibn Adiyy in Dhikr Man Yu'tamad...)
As for the mutasaahiloon, we have examples like at-Tirmidhee, Al-Haakim, ad-Daraqutnee (in some instances). (He also added al-Bayhaqee to them in Dhikr Man Yu'tamad...)
Scholars do make mistakes in their judgements about people. The Prophets were safe from that, so also the siddiqqoon and the upright scholars (to an extent).
It should be known however that this Deen is aided and protected by Allaah the Mighty. Its scholars would never agree upon a wrongdoing knowingly or by error.
(Therefore when scholars agree on the Jar'h of an individual, or his Ta'deel, there is no room for any other consideration).
So two scholars would never agree on passing off a weak narrator as strong, or weakening a reliable narrator their differences could only arise from the levels of strength or weakness of that narrator.
AN UPRIGHT SCHOLAR AMONG THEM WOULD SPEAK ABOUT (PEOPLE) ACCORDING TO HIS IJITHAAD (JURISTIC DEDUCTIONS) AND THE STRENGTH OF HIS AWARENESS. If Allaah decrees that he should make a mistake in his critique (of those narrators), he will earn just a reward. Only Allaah grants success.
The foregoing is as regards if the person being disparaged is weak in memory or used to make mistakes in his reports.
However if it is regards the belief (Aqeedah) of the majrooh then we should know that people with defects in Aqeedah can be grouped as follows:
Those with serious bid'ah.
Those whose bid'ah is mild.
Those who invite people to their bid'ah.
Those who do not.
Whoever's bid'ah is serious and he invites to it then such would be avoided. His reports would not be accepted.
(The author cited an example of Ubaadah b. Ya'qoob al-As'dee in Meezaan al-I'tidaal (41/44 as cited) and he said Ibn Hibban said:...he was an inviter to his bid'ah of rafd (Shia) and despite that he used to have confusing reports from popular narrators, so he is liable to be rejected.')
If his bid'ah is mild and would not invite others to it, his reports are accepted.
Examples of serious heretics are ghulaat al-khawaarij (extreme khaarijees), the jahmis and the Rawaafid (Shia).
(The author said in al-Meezaan (5/194: Because of his extremism, Aliyy b. Haashim b. Al-Bareed was rejected by Al-Bukhari. Al-Bukhari used to avoid the Rawaafid very much as if he used to fear the effect of their belief in Tuqya (hiding one's true state) whereas he (Al-Bukhari) would not avoid those (with mild form of) Qadariyyah, Khaarijiyyah and Jahmiyyah because these people even with their bid'ah they used to be truthful).
Examples of mild bid'ah is bid'ah of tashayu'u (traits of Shia) and Ir'jaa.
(Translator's Note: Take note that accepting the reports of mubtadioon has to do with their reports alone, their bid'ah is never pardoned or passed as nothing. Also, the reports of the mubtadioon are accepted when there are no alternatives. Al-Imaam Ahmad said: 'If we were to abandon the reports of the people of Basrah because of their Qadariyyah then a good chunk of hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah - sallallahu alayhi wa sallam - would elude us' Allaah knows best).
As for whoever makes telling lies a religious duty like the Kattaabiyyah Sect (and the Karaamiyyah who say they lie to raise the status of the Prophet), their reports are rejected.
Ibn Wahb said: It was the matters of Aqeedah that necessitated some excommunicating others, or some declaring others as heretics. This also led to bigotry (in some). Then what arose from that was disparagement of one another with words of excommunication and tabdee. This can be found mostly with the people of Middle Tabaqah among the past scholars.
Adh-Dhahabi said: But what is settled with us is that we don't (most often) consider where people belong to while dealing with reports (it is basically how truthful you are in your report), thus we would not declare the People of Qiblah as kuffaar except when they go against what is agreed upon in the Shariah.
Translator's Note: The meaning of the above is that in hadeeth reports the focus is usually on the truthfulness and retentiveness of narrators. Nevertheless people known with extreme bid'ah are rejected, themselves and their reports. However many of the mutual accusations of bid'ah have to be studied carefully because many people who disparage one another have done that because of many flimsy reasons. There have been instances of those who declared one another as heretics because of worldly reasons. Envy and supremacy fight has always been a bane. This is the reason Al-Imaam adh-Dhahabi would repeatedly say that words of contemporary scholars against one another are not reported but rather discarded.
Nevertheless, learners have to be very patient in this arena.
A question was asked if the reports of a mubtadi using his reports to aid his heresy can be accepted.
The answer goes that a scholar who does not accept the testimony of a person accused (of lie or heresy) will not accept such.
Therefore whoever openly calls to his heresy should be rejected, to serve as a disgrace for him and as a way of quenching the (flame) of his heresy except if he is the only one that has a report (others do not have and that is useful for the Ummah) then that report of his would be preferred (to the disgrace he would have suffered).
It is desirable that the condition of the Jaarih (the person declaring other as weak or mubtadi) is intently studied, as well as the person he is speaking against. Be sure that the Jaarih is not speaking with desires.
If it appears to you that the Jaarih gets some (bad) inclinations in him (in his disparagement of the other person), and you have got another scholar that held the majrooh to be actually upright, do not therefore celebrate the disparagement of the compromised scholar with his veiled disparagement.
If however there is no other scholar who has held the majrooh to be upright, be lenient with him albeit carefully.
Summary of Some Salient Points on al-Jar'h Wat- Ta'deel from al-Mooqidhah of Al-Imaam adh-Dhahabi - rahimahullah (7)
One other bane of Tajreeh is when the person doing it is acting based on the lack of understanding of levels of the Islamic knowledge...
Therefore the Jaarih shouid have discerning eyes with which he can separate the right from wrong such that he would not unjustly declare a person as a kaafir (or mubtadi), or (ignorantly) accept the reports of a kaafir.
So he has to be very careful by shunning all kinds of doubtful matters. The Messenger of Allaah - sallallahu alayhi wa sallam - did say:
الظن أكذب الحديث
'Conjectures are the worst lies.'
So the Jaarih must have the requisite knowledge and fear of Allaah.
If it is not easy for a person establishing the uprightness of others to have all these qualities (requisite knowledge, fear of Allaah, avoiding conjectures, being extremely careful in judgements, etc) then it becomes more serious as a requirement for a person disparaging others.
(In other words, being a disparager is more dangerous than being a praiser, wallaahul musta'aan).
Baarakallahu feekum for coming with me.
Translated and annotated by Aboo Aamir Ishaaq b. Abdurraheem