Praise be to Allah.
Firstly: This hadeeth was narrated in similar versions from a number of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them), as follows:
1 – It was narrated from Abu’l-Darda’ (may Allaah be pleased with him) in a marfoo’ report: “Whatever Allaah has permitted in His Book is halaal, whatever He has forbidden is haraam, and whatever He was silent about is pardoned, so accept the pardon of Allaah, for Allaah was not forgetful. Then he recited this verse: ‘and your Lord is never forgetful’ [Maryam 19:64].”
Narrated by al-Daaraqutni in his Sunan (2/137); al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (2/406 and 10/12); al-Tabaraani in Musnad al-Shaamiyeen (3/209) through a number of isnaads from ‘Aasim ibn Raja’ ibn Haywah from his father from Abu’l-Darda’ from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
This isnaad is munqati’ (interrupted), as there is a clear gap between Raja’ ibn Haywah and Abu’l-Darda’, as Raja’ died in 112 AH and Abu’l-Darda’ died in 32 AH.
Ibn Hajar said in his biography of Raja’ ibn Haywah in Tahdheeb al-Tahdheeb (3/229): His reports from Abu’l-Darda’ are mursal. End quote.
Al-Dhahabi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said concerning this hadeeth: Its isnaad is munqati’. End quote.
Al-Muhadhdhab fi Ikhtisaar al-Sunan al-Kubra by al-Bayhaqi (8/3975).
Al-Mu’allimi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said likewise in al-Anwaar al-Kaashifah (301).
2 – It was narrated from Salmaan al-Faarisi in the words: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was asked about ghee, cheese and wild donkeys. He said: ‘The halaal is that which Allaah has permitted in His Book and the haraam is that which Allaah has forbidden in His Book, and whatever He was silent about is pardoned.’”
Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1726); Ibn Maajah (3367); al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (4/129); and from him by al-Bayhaqi in al-Kubra (9/320 and 10/12). It was narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer (6/250) via Sayf ibn Haroon al-Barjami from Sulaymaan al-Taymi from Abu ‘Uthmaan from Salmaan.
Al-Mazzi said in Tahdheeb al-Kamaal (8/255): Its isnaad includes Sayf ibn Haroon. Ibn Ma’een said: That is not the case. Al-Nasaa’i said: He is da’eef (weak). Al-Daaraqutni said: He is da’eef matrook (weak, rejected). End quote.
Al-Tirmidhi said: This is a ghareeb hadeeth which we do not know in any marfoo’ report except via this isnaad. Sufyaan and others narrated these words from Sulaymaan al-Taymi from Abu ‘Uthmaan from Salmaan. It is as if the mawqoof hadeeth is more sound. I asked al-Bukhaari about this hadeeth and he said: I do not think it is known. Sufyaan narrated from Sulaymaan al-Taymi from Abu ‘Uthmaan from Salmaan in a mawqoof report. Al-Bukhaari said: Sayf ibn Haroon is muqaarib al-hadeeth. End quote.
Ibn Abi Haatim said in ‘Ilal al-Hadeeth (2/10):
My father said: This is a mistake. It was narrated by trustworthy narrators from al-Taymi from Abu ‘Uthmaan from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in a mursal report which does not include Sulaymaan, and this is what is correct. End quote.
Ahmad said: It is munkar, and it was also classed as munkar by Ibn Ma’een.
This was quoted by Ibn Rajab in Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hukam (2/69).
Shaykh al-Albaani said in al-Ta’leeqaat al-Radiyyah (3/54):
Its isnaad is very weak (da’eef jiddan), but its meaning is sound. End quote.
3 – It was narrated from Abu Tha’labah al-Khushani (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has enjoined obligations so do not neglect them, and He has set limits so do not transgress them, and He has declared some things forbidden so do not violate them, and He has remained silent about some things out of mercy to you, not because He forgot, so do not ask about them.”
Narrated by a number of scholars, all via Dawood ibn Abi Hind from Mak-hool from Abu Tha’labah.
They differed concerning Dawood ibn Abi Hind.
Hafs ibn Ghiyaath narrated it in a mawqoof report as noted by al-Bayhaqi (10/12); Yazeed ibn Haroon agreed with him as was mentioned by al-Daaraqutni in al-‘Ilal (6/324).
It was also narrated by ‘Ali ibn Mas-har in a marfoo’ report as recorded by al-Bayhaqi in al-Kubra (10/12); and by Ishaaq al-Azraq as noted by al-Daaraqutni (4/184); and by Muhammad ibn Fudayl as noted by al-Daaraqutni in al-‘Ilal (6/324).
Ibn Rajab said in Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hakam (2/68):
It has two faults:
1 – There is no proof that Mak-hool heard from Abu Tha’labah, This was stated by Abu Shahr al-Dimashqi, Abu Na’eem al-Haafiz and others.
2 – There is a difference of opinion concerning his marfoo’ and mawqoof reports from Abu Tha’labah. Some of them narrated it from Mak-hool from his words, but al-Daaraqutni said in al-‘Ilal (6/324): What is more likely to be correct is that they are marfoo’. He said: And this is more well known. End quote.
Ibn Hajar said: Its men are thiqaat (trustworthy) but it is munqati’ (interrupted). End quote. Al-Mataalib al-‘Aaliyah (3/271).
Al-Dhahabi said: Munqati’ (interrupted). Al-Muhadhdhab (8/3976).
Al-Albaani said: There is some interruption in its isnaad. End quote. Tahqeeq Riyadh al-Saaliheen (1841).
Conclusion: The isnaads of this hadeeth are not free of weakness, but can it be regarded as strong when they are taken all together?
Some of the scholars were of this view. Al-Nawawi classed as hasan the hadeeth of Abu Tha’labah, as it says in al-Adhkaar (505). It was classed as saheeh by Ibn al-Qayyim in I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een (1/221) and by Ibn Katheer in his Tafseer (1/405). Al-Albaani said in Tahqeeq al-Eemaan li Ibn Taymiyah (43): It is hasan because of corroborating reports.
Al-Albaani classed as hasan the hadeeth of Salmaan al-Faarisi in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi (1726). In al-Mishkaat (4156) it says: It is saheeh mawqoof, but it may be classed as hasan because of marfoo’ corroborating reports.
But others are of the view that the severe weakness in the isnaads of this hadeeth means that it cannot be regarded as strong when all its isnaads are taken together. The hadeeth of Abu’l-Darda’ is plainly munqati’ (interrupted), the hadeeth of Salmaan al-Faarisi is munkar and it is a mistake to regard it as marfoo’ (attributable to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)), and the hadeeth of Abu Tha’labah is munqati’ and there is some dispute as to whether it is marfoo’.
This report from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) is saheeh, but it is his words (not the Prophet’s). This was narrated by Abu Dawood (2800).
Ibn Katheer said in Irshaad al-Faqeeh (1/367): its isnaad is saheeh.
It was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood and Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh (4074).
The general meaning of the hadeeth is also established in the basic principles of Islam, and is quoted and accepted by the scholars.
Ibn al-‘Arabi said in ‘Aaridat al-Ahwadhi (4/185): The meaning of this hadeeth is proven in al-Saheeh. End quote.
Abu Bakr ibn al-Sam’aani said: This hadeeth is one of the basic principles of Islam. It was narrated from some of them that he said: There is no single hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) which sums up all the basic principles of Islam apart from the hadeeth of Abu Tha’labah. End quote.
Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hikam (2/70).
For more information on the meaning of the hadeeth and commentary on it, see Ibn Rajab’s commentary on this hadeeth in Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hikam, commentary on hadeeth no. 30 (2/68-87).
It should be noted that when the scholars rule that a specific hadeeth is sound or weak, that may refer to a specific isnaad, and does not refer to the hadeeth with all its isnaads. For example, a scholar may judge one of the isnaads to be weak, then elsewhere he may judge another isnaad of the same hadeeth to be sound. This is not a contradiction, rather it is based on a difference in the isnaads in question. This is what happened in the case of Shaykh al-Albaani when he spoke about the hadeeth under discussion here; he classed it as saheeh when reported from Abu’l-Darda’, and he classed its isnaad as da’eef in the reports of Salmaan al-Faarisi, but he classed it as hasan because of corroborating reports, so it is hasan li ghayrihi in his view. That is not a contradiction; rather it is in accordance with the principles of the science of hadeeth.
The Muslim has to follow the truth as it appears to him after researching and striving to find out what is correct (ijtihaad). If he is not able to engage in ijtihaad, then it is sufficient for him to follow well known scholars whose knowledge he trusts and who are trustworthy, and he should not pay any attention to anyone else. This includes matters of hadeeth and fiqh.
And Allaah knows best.