What is the status of a Hadith where Nafi’, the freed slave of Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhuma), narrates directly from ‘Umar ibn Al Khattab, whom he never met. Nafi’ being reliable and also the student of the son of ‘Umar. Such as the Hadith in Mishkat regarding the timings of salah, when ‘Umar wrote a letter to his governors explaining the timings of the five salah.
Imam Malik (rahimahullah) has cited this narration in his Muwatta, which means it is considered reliable according to him. Hereunder is a brief justification of this verdict:
Like you have stated, Nafi’ (rahimahullah) is said not to have met Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhu)
(Tahdhibut Tahdhib, vol.10 pg. 414)
Generally such a narration will be considered slightly weak.
The reason I said ‘slightly weak’ is due to:
1) The break being so high up the chain.
2) Also considering the fact that Nafi’ (rahimahullah) was the slave and ardent student of Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhuma), and it is therefore highly possible that he acquired these narrations about his father from him (radiyallahu’anhuma).
3) Even if Nafi’ (rahimahullah) acquired these narrations from someone other than Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhuma), it is more likely to be a reliable source, since the narrators of Hadith in those days were generally reliable.
These are some reasons for which a break just below the Sahabi (radiyallahu’anhu) – like in this case- is only considered slightly weak.
The Narration in Question
As far as the Hadith in question is concerned, Hafiz Ibn ‘Abdil Barr (rahimahullah) has mentioned the source between Nafi’ and Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhu) to be the wife of Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhuma): Safiyyah bint Abi ‘Ubayd, who is reliable.
(Al-Istidhkar, vol.1 pg.84 & Taqribut Tahdhib, number: 8623)
In fact, there is a different chain too that mentions another link between Nafi’ and Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhu) that as Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhuma) – who Nafi’ undoubtedly met.
(Musannaf ‘Abdur Razzaq, Hadith: 2039)
The general rule of any interrupted chain is that if the source that has been omitted can be determined, and this source happens to be reliable, the chain will not be declared weak.
Therefore this particular narration will not be declared weak.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,
Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar