Sunni Islam is at heart a cult of authenticity, with the science of ḥadīth criticism
functioning as a centerpiece designed to distinguish authentic attributions to the
Prophet from forgeries. It is thus surprising that even after ḥadīth scholars had sifted
sound ḥadīths from weak, mainstream Sunni Islam allowed the use of unreliable
ḥadīths as evidence in subjects considered outside of the core areas of law. This
majority stance, however, did not displace minority schools of thought that saw the
use of unreliable ḥadīths as both a danger to social morality and contrary to the stated
values of Islamic thought. This more stringent position has burgeoned in the early
modern and modern periods, when eliminating the use of weak ḥadīths has become
a common call of both Salafi revivalists and Islamic modernists. This article explores
and traces the history of the various Sunni schools of thought on the use of weak and
forged ḥadīths from the third/ninth century to the present day.

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