Author: Ustaadh Haitham Hamdan
Source: Multaqa Ahlul-Hadeeth
Edited and Published by: al-Mustaqeem Publications
Available in E-Book format below
Issue 1: What qualifies as a “mutawaatir” hadeeth?
Simply put: The istilaahi definition
a Mutawaatir hadeeth is one which was proven not to have been an error.
Notice the difference between saying: was not proven to have been an error, and saying was proven not to have been an error. This distinction will be made abundantly clear after reviewing the following material inshaa’Allah
al-Khateeb al-Baghdadee defined the Mutawaatir in his Kifaayah page 16 by saying: “it is a narration which has been related by people the number of whom was so high that made it habitually impossible for them to have collaborated on lying, and that it was unfeasible for them to have gathered in the period when the narration became widely spread, and that the act of narration did not lend itself to oppression, misunderstanding or promotion of lying.”
Ibnus-Salaah defined it in his Muqaddimah page 59 as: “A narration which has been narrated by those whose truthfulness (collectively) has been proven, thru doubtless analysis, to be a necessity.”
Haafidh al-Iraqee, Haafidh Ibn Hajr al-Asqalaani, and Haafidh as-Sakhawee defined the Mutawaatir in a similar way.
From this we learn that a Mutawaatir hadeeth is NOT necessarily the hadeeth which was narrated by three, twelve or forty narrators in each layer of narrators. These numbers were considered by some to be the minimum required to achieve Tawaatur (proving it was not an error). These numbers are (to some) just the method of demonstrating Tawaatur, and should not be part of the definition of Tawaatur.
as-Suyooti said in Tadreeb ar-Rawee 2/176: “a specific number of narrators is not what should be considered.”
Then he related the dispute among the scholars on the minimum number of narrators required to achieve the criterion of Tawaatur.
Thus a hadeeth that is “ahad” is a hadeeth that does not meet the level of tawaatir, regardless of the number of those who narrated it in each layer of narrators.
Again Abu Bakr al-Khateeb said: “As for Ahaad narrations, it is that which falls short of the requirement of Tawatur.”
Ibn Hajr said in the Nukhbah page 1: “everything other than (Mutawaatir) is Ahaad.”
Many think that Ahaad hadeeth are limited to those narrated by one or two narrators in one or more layers of narration. This is not correct. Any hadeeth which could not be proven not to have been an error is Ahaad.
Issue 2: Who was the first to come up with the distinction of Mutawaatir vs. Ahaad hadeeths?
The specific person who first advocated this distinction is unknown.
However we know the following:
1) Ahlul-Hadeeth from the Salaf did not advocate this distinction. It was not mentioned in their numerous works in a favorable way.
2) In fact, several of the early scholars of Islam condemned this distinction. Two of such scholars who were explicit in their condemnation were Imam Shafi’i (d. 204 AH) and Haafidh Uthmaan bin Sa’eed Darimi (d. 280 AH).
Issue 3: Imam Shafi’i’s condemnation of the Mutawaatir vs. Ahaad distinction:
In his great book al-Umm; Imam Shafi’i documented several of his debates. One of those debates discussed the issue of the distinction at hand. The following is a translation of the debate starting with the discussion regarding the concept of Tawaatur.
Imam Shafi’i said in 7/283:
“I told him: define Tawaatur and give me an example for it.
He said: in the example you gave regarding the four narrators, if they agreed on the text of the Hadeeth, whether in prohibiting or permitting something, and each narrator was from a different country, each one of them received the narration from a different person than the other narrator, and delivered the narration to a person different than the other, only then would it be impossible for the narration to have been an error.
I said: so to you; Tawaatur is not achieved … unless a narrator from Madinah only narrated the Hadeeth from one who is from Madinah, and the Meccan narrator only from the Meccan, and a Basri from a Basri, and Kufi from Kufi, all the way until each one of them reached a different companion of the Prophet alayhi salatu salam? They all must agree on the text of the narration?
He said: yes, because if they were living in the same country, it would be conceivable for them to have collaborated (on lying). But if they were from different countries, it would be impossible.
I said: Woe to you for being accusatory for those whom you are making the source of your religion.”
What is Imam Shafi’i saying here?
He is condemning his opponent for being so worried about his teachers lying to him, when they were supposed to be trustworthy in his eyes. They were his sources of religious knowledge.
Later, Imam Shafi’i continues to demonstrate how his opponent had no escape from applying the theory of Tawaatur on the Sahabah as well, which is absurd.
He also tells his opponent that narrators used to travel. So just because one of them was from a particular country did not mean that it was impossible for him to have traveled and collaborated with another narrator.
So as we see, Imam Shafi’i condemned the idea of requiring Tawaatur as a proof of the narrators not to have collaborated on lying.
Issue 4: Addressing a doubt of the innovating propagandist regarding ash-Shaafi’ee’s use of Khabrul-Aammah
In several of his works, Imam Shafi’i accepted classifying some narrations as: Khabarul ‘Aammah
, so how can one say that Imam Shafi’i condemned Tawatur?
Khabarul ‘Aammah is not the same as a Mutawaatir Hadeeth. This could be demonstrated from the following:
First: When Imam Shafi’i asked his opponent: “How is a Prophetic Sunnah proven to be authentic in your opinion?
He replied: by one of three methods.
Shafi’i said: what it the first?
He said: Khabarul A’aammah, information related by the masses from the masses.
Shafi’i said: do you mean like dhuhr prayer being four Rak’as?
He said: yes.
Shafi’i said: I do not know of anyone who disagrees with you on this. What is the second method?
He said: Tawaatur of narrations.”
As we can see, there is a distinction between the two methods. So Khabarul ‘Aammah which was mentioned by Imam Shafi’i’s opponent and which Shafi’i accepted; is not Tawaatur.
Second: Imam Shafi’i condemned Tawaatur, so how could it be the same as Khabarul ‘Aammah which he accepted?
Thirdly: If we study the examples which Shafi’i gave for Khabarul ‘Aammah, we find that the requirement for Tawaatur is not fulfilled in them. For example, that Dhuhr is four Rak’as was not reported by a large number of narrators who lived in different countries … etc. So he could not have been talking about Tawaatur when discussing Khabarul ‘Aammah.
So what is Khabarul ‘Aammah?
It is the information which has been relayed by the Muslim masses on the authority of previous Muslim masses, and so on. Such as: the number or Rak’as of Dhuhr prayer and that the soul leaves the body after death.
This abundance in narration would make it acceptable by default.
It is just like saying: the fact that the Tsunami occurred is acceptable by default. Because millions related the event of the Tsunami on the authority of millions, making it impossible for it to have been a fabrication.
So it is not the same as Tawaatur because Tawaatur is not demonstrated by default, rather by analysis. This is shown from the distinction which was made by the opponent of Imam Shafi’i in the debate.
Issue 5: Who was Imam Shafi’i debating in this debate?
Imam Shafi’i did not mention the name of his opponent in his book al-Umm. However, many believe that he was debating Bishr bin Ghiyaath al-Mareesy (d. 218 AH). Imam adh-Dhahabi and others referred to some of Shafi’i’s debates with Bishr.
Who was Bishr al-Mareesy?
Imam adh-Dhahabi said in Siyaar A’laam an-Nubalaa’ 10/199:
“Bishr bin Ghiyaath al-Mareesy … was one of the grand Fuqahaa’. He took (knowledge) from Abu Yusuf (student of Imam Abu Haneefa), and narrated the Hadeeth of Hammad bin Salamah and Sufyaan bin ‘Uyaynah.
Then he started to study Kalaam and it took him over. So he abandoned piety and God fearing, and promoted the saying that the Quran is a creature. Until he became an icon of Jahmis, and a scholar of theirs’.
So people of knowledge despised him, many of them considered him Kafir. He did not meet al-Jahm bin Safwaan, but he received Jahm’s opinions from his followers.”
In other words, the source of the Mutawaatirs vs. Ahaad distinction was people of Bid’ah. And Imam Shafi’i was defending the Sunnah against this Bid’ee concept.
Issue 6: Imam Daarimi’s condemnation of the Mutawaatir vs. Ahaad distinction:
In his book ar-Rudd ‘Ala Bishr al-Mareesy al’Aneed, “Refuting Bishr al-Mareesee, the stubborn one” he said:
“In an effort to reject Prophetic traditions, you claimed a laughable claim, which neither a wise nor ignorant member of the Ummah has claimed before you.
You claimed that a Prophetic tradition would not be reliable unless that in case a man swears that his wife is divorced if this certain tradition is a lie, that his wife would not be divorced. And that if a man swears that his wife is divorced if this particular Hadeeth which is considered authentic that it was not authentic that his wife would not be divorced.
So we say to this opponent who is contradicting to himself: by this claim, you have falsified all Prophetic traditions, those which you use to support your misguidance, and those which you do not use.
You are someone whom it is not worth it to pay attention. Nevertheless, you have introduced something which no human prior to you has introduced.
Based on your claim, it becomes incumbent on every Imam to ask those who narrate Prophetic traditions to ask the narrator to swear on divorcing their wives …
Woe to you, scholars have always accepted and implemented Prophetic traditions without asking the narrators to swear that the most authentic narrations were said by the Prophet ASWS. Or that the weakest narrations were not said by the Prophet ASWS.
Instead, they did not reserve any effort in ensuring that the narrators were trustworthy, and that the narrations were well preserved. They never felt obligated to swear as you asked them to do. You came up with something which neither a Muslim nor a Kafir before you came up with.
Based on your claim, judges and rulers should not rule based on the testimony of trustworthy witnesses unless the judge was willing to swear that if the witnesses were not truthful that his wife is divorced …
Woe to you, who among the nation of Muhammad ASWS said this before you?!.”
This discussion demonstrates that the Salaf never made it a requirement to prove that a narration could not have been an error before accepting it. Which is what the advocates of Tawaatur claim. The Salaf did their best to analyze the narrations and to arrive at the authentic of them.
Issue 7: Does Mutawaatir Hadeeth exist in the Sunnah?
The simple answer is: No.
You will not find a Hadeeth which has been narrated by a minimum of three Sahabah, and on the authority of each Sahabi, three Tabi’een etc [meaning in each stage of transmission. This is known as “tabaqa” in Uloomul-Hadeeth]. In fact, the people of Hadeeth did not care about this issue. We saw from the previous issue that the scholars condemned this distinction to the point of considering it an innovation.
Imam Ibnus-Salah said in his Muqaddimah 59: “(Mutawaatir Hadeeth) is not included in the trade of Hadeeth, and hardly exists in the narration of people of Hadeeth … and whoever is asked to produce such a (Mutawaatir) Hadeeth, will give up.”
The only example which Ibnus-Salah and others were able to produce was Hadeeth: “whoever lies on me let him reserve his place in the hell fire.”
If this is the case then what do the scholars mean when they say: “it has been received with Tawaatur that the Prophet alayhi salatu salam said/did this”?
Those scholars did not mean Tawaatur in the technical sense: a minimum of three narrators on the authority of three in each tabaqa etc.
What scholars like ibn Abdul-Barr, ibn Hazm, ibnTaymiyyah and others meant by this is that this has been narrated in abundance on the authority of the Prophet alayhi salatu salam. That he, alayhi salatu salam, said/did it in several occasions under different circumstances. For example: the prohibition of taking graves as places of worship, the prayer of solar eclipse and the Hadeeth of the victorious group.
None of the individual narrations which relates to us these sayings/actions has been narrated by a minimum of three on the authority of three … etc.
Another way that some scholars used the term Tawaatur is to describe a concept which is prevalent in the Sunnah. Even if the texts which relate this concept are not Mutawaatir. This is known as “Mutawaatir in meaning”. What they meant is that this concept is mentioned over and over in the Sunnah to the point of becoming indisputable. For example: the concept of Islamic brotherhood, that Allah SWT will be seen in the afterlife and that cleanliness is a virtue.
Again, none of the individual narrations which relates these concepts is Mutawaatir in the technical sense.
Issue 8: Addressing a common doubts to the following questions
If someone says: It seems logical not to accept a narration unless it has been proven not to have been an error, doesn’t it?
The claim that this methodology stands to logic means:
1) That the Salaf radhiyallahu anhu, by which the religion is based on, were not logical in accepting narrations of trustworthy individuals without requiring the proof of it not being an error.
2) That all our daily affairs are run in an illogical manner. When your mechanic calls to tell you that your car is ready, do you ask him to prove that he has not erred?!
Or when a doctor tells you that you have an infection and that you need to take this medicine for it, do you require a proof that he is not lying?!
Off coarse not, you trust your mechanic and doctor, so you accept the information which they relate to you.
But we are talking about matters of religion, not a broken car?
True. However, we will not be more protective of our religion than Allah Subhaanahu wa ta’Ala.
He Subhaanahu wa ta’Ala says in Surah Hujuraat 6:
“O ye who believe! if a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.”
Which means that if a trustworthy person delivers news that we should accept it without requiring a demonstration of it not being a lie.
He Subhaanahu wa ta’Ala also said in Surat at-Tawbah 122:
“if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them, that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil).”
Allah did not make Tawaatur a concern.
In addition, we will not be more protective of the religion than our beloved Prophet alayhi salatu salam. He used to send individual Sahabis to teach Islam without being concerned about Tawaatur.
As a compromise, could we say that we will accept Ahaad Hadeeth for matters of Fiqh (action), but not matters of ‘Aqeedah (knowledge)?
It is the position of the four schools of thought that Ahhad Hadeeth warrant both action and knowledge. Refer to Ibnul Qayyim’s Mukhtasar as-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah.
We never see this Fiqh/’Aqeedah distinction in the Quran, Sunnah or teachings of the Salaf. It was people of Kalam who first came up with it.
Another problem with this compromise was demonstrated by Imam al-Albani rahmatullahi alayh. He said once:
“If we were to consider this distinction, then how do we deal with a Hadeeth which contains both Fiqh and ‘Aqeedah issues?!
For example, the Hadeeth of seeking refuge in Allah Subhaanahu wa ta’Ala from the hellfire, punishment of grave and ad-dajjaal, before Tassaleem in Salah. Should we act upon it (Fiqh) without accepting its assertion of hell, the grave turmoil and the dajjaal (‘Aqeedah)?! This would be using double standards.
So, this distinction is not acceptable.
Furthermore, we see people of Kalaam very often using this distinction only when it is in their best interest. Other times we see them using Hadeeth to support their Bida’ even if it was not Mutawaatir.
Issue 9: Since the Mutawaatir/Ahaad distinction is neither Shar’ee nor logical, why did people of Kalaam resort to it?
As Imam Darimi said to Bishr alMareesy: ”In an effort to reject Prophetic traditions, you claimed a laughable claim … etc”. People of Bid’ah found the Sunnah to be in the way of spreading their deviance. So they resorted to this distinction to deny Sunnah based arguments against them.
Issue 10: Among those who advocated the Mutawaatir/Ahaad distinction were great scholars of Sunnah, such as alKhateeb alBaghdaadi, ibnuSsalah, and many others. Why is this?
This is a deep question. It will take a whole article to explain how Kalaam found its way to most Islamic and linguistic sciences. Hadeeth was not an exception.
Briefly, in an effort to repel the danger of Shi’a, Sunni dynasties such as the Saljuqis promoted Ash’arism. Ash’aris were doing a greater job in refuting Shi’ism than were Ahlul-hadeeth. Promotion of Ash’arism brought with it the promotion of Kalaam theology.
Ash’aris controlled Islamic schools, they designed the curriculums for them, and only graduates from those universities were employed by the government. The role of Ahlul-hadeeth was gradually diminished. This phenomenon was further exaggerated y the rise of the ruler Nidhaamul-Mulk. It was during this period where Islam in the Muslim world became flipped whereby the influx of Ash’arism the norm and Sunnism became the marginalized outcast.
Hadeeth was among the sciences affected by this infiltration and to many scholars, this new version of the science of Hadeeth became understood as the proper version.
Issue 11: Is this why most Islamic universities teach this distinction in their Hadeeth curriculums?
Yes. It is because of the systematic infiltration of the Kalaam methodology into the science of Hadeeth since past generations until now.
Issue 12: Qat’i (قطعي) vs. Dhanni (ظني) distinction:
This is a distinction which is based on the Mutawaatir/Ahaad distinction.
Qat’i means: definite.
dhanni means: Probable.
These two classifications were applied by people of Kalaam to both the authenticity of the narration, and its meaning.
So four classifications resulted:
1) Qat’i with respect to both authenticity and meaning. An example for this is the Quranic verse: “establish prayer”. This statement is definite in authenticity and has only one meaning.
2) Qat’i with respect to authenticity, and Dhanni with respect to meaning. Its authenticity is definite but its meaning is probable. The meaning is not agreed upon.
3) Dhanni with respect to authenticity but Qat’i with respect to meaning. Such as any Ahaad Hadeeth with a definite meaning.
4) Dhanni with respect to both authenticity and meaning. Such as an Ahaad Hadeeth. Its authenticity is probable, and it could mean several things, so its meaning is probable as well.
We do not find this distinction in the works of the Salaf, and there is no evidence that it had an impact on the rulings to which they had arrived. The Salaf considered all authentic narrations warranting both knowledge and action.
This is all I have regarding this matter. Anything correct that I’ve said is from Allah. Any error is from me and the Shaytan.
I ask Allah Subhaanahu wa ta’Ala to teach us that which benefits us and to benefit us from that which He teaches us.
وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد وآله وصحبه
We wish to further add to the beneficial material above that the initial premise for the introduction of this unfounded practice by the innovating groups of kalaam was to falsify those narrated reports that ran contrary to their Greek philosophical based predilections. This was a disguised way to nullify the religion through academics. While this age old philosophy is only relevant within Salafi/Ash’ari polemics, this heterodox concoction has been given new life from the revisionist sectors of the Muslim nation. We mean here by “revisionist” the groups consisting of either the inkaarul-hadeeth movement (hadeeth rejectionists), the modernists, or the progressives.
What is interesting to note however is that the premise for reviving this unwarranted methodology has nothing to do with making futile Islamic doctrine that is embedded in these hadeth reports, rather the rejuvenation of this heresy is actually revives for the purpose of making futile the full scope of the Islamic shariah. So in this new rejuvenated platform of this age old heresy, Islamic doctrine alone is not what is being attacked, rather is is the entire shariah of Islam, in particular those issues of the shariah which are found problematic. The basis of what is actually “problematic” is the premise of the Western paradigm i.e. their idea of ethics and ideals.