1.0 Categories of a Narration (Al-Khabr)
A narration which reaches us is of two types:
- Al-Mutawātir: That narration which has been narrated by a large number of narrators at every level of the chain of narration, with numerous chains, without a specified limit (see 1.1 below).
- Al-Āhād: A narration with chains of transmission and narrators at each level of the chain that is limited to a particular number less than the category of al-mutawaatir mentioned above (see 2.0 below).
Each of these categories has its particular details and explanations which will be made clear, inshaa’Allaah.
1.1 The Mutawaatir Narration:
Definition: That narration which has been reported by such a large number of narrators that it is not possible for them to have gathered to fabricate a lie. This definition refers to a hadeeth (or athar) wherein there is in every level of the chain of narration a multitude of narrators – and sound intellect judges that such a number could not possibly gather together to fabricate a lie.
1.2 The Conditions that make a Narration Mutawaatir:
The books of the sciences of hadeeth explain in their definition of a mutawaatir hadeeth that it is a narration that must fulfil the following four conditions:
- That it is narrated by a large number of narrators – the actual minimum number, however, is differed over. And it seems that the preferred number is ten according to some scholars (see: Tadreeb ar-Raawee 2/177 of as-Suyootee, died 911H).
- That this minimum number must be present at every level of the chain of narration.
- That it is not possible for this large number of narrators to have gathered together to fabricate a lie. And this verification is achieved, for example, by ascertaining that the narrators lived in different lands, or different nations, different madhabs, and so on. Furthermore, it follows on from this that just because there are a large number of narrators, then on that basis alone, a narration is not automatically given the ruling of mutawaatir. And it is possible that there may be relatively fewer narrators and the ruling of mutawaatir is passed upon such a narration – and all of this is accordance to the condition of the narrators.
- That each of the narrators can trace their narrations back to its source – such as their saying: “We heard so-and-so…” or “we saw so-on-so…” or “we met so-and-so…”
As for relying upon many narrations that are circulated which merely report an event based upon reasoning (or hearsay), then these reports (even if said by many) are not referred to as mutawaatir.
1.3 The Ruling on a Mutawaatir narration:
The mutawaatir narration necessitates certain knowledge that compels a person to believe with a necessary belief as if a person has witnessed the matter himself. For this reason the mutawaatir narrations, all of them, are accepted (i.e. are maqbool).
1.4 The Divisions of the Mutawaatir Narrations:
The mutawaatir narration is divided into two categories: 1. Lafdhee (in wording) and, 2. Ma`nawee (in meaning):
- Al-Mutawaatir al-Lafdhee: This is a narration that is narrated through all its routes with the same wording and meaning such as the hadeeth:
“Whoever lies upon me deliberately, let him take his seat in Hellfire.” This hadeeth has been narrated by over seventy Companions.
- Al-Mutawaatir Al-Ma`nawee: This is a narration that has been narrated in agreement of meanings contained within the narration and not the precise wording being repeated. An example are the narrations reporting the fact that the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) raised his hands whilst making du`aa. It is reported in over one hundred ahaadeeth that he raised his hands, each hadeeth making mention of that. However they report this fact whilst in different situations and scenarios – nevertheless, the shared information in all of them is the fact that he raised his hands in supplication. So the narration is mutawaatir due to gathering its numerous chains of transmission (these transmission are sometimes referred to as turuq). See Tadreebur-Raawee of As-Suyootee (d. 911H) 2/180.
2.0 The Āhād Narration (Khabrul-Āhād)
2.1 Its definition: That which does not reach the conditions required to be mutawaatir. (See Nuzhatun-Nadhr of Ibn Hajr (d. 852H), p. 26)
2.2 Its ruling: The aahaad report is accepted and acted upon in both belief and Sharee`ah rulings so long as it is authentic. Shaikh Al-Albaanee (d. 1420) said in ‘Hujjatu Khabril-Aahaad fil-`Aqeedah’ (p. 5-6): Ibnul-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said in al-I`laam (2/394):
“This proves the necessity of accepting the [authentic] Aahaad narrations and they do not require further verification. If the aahaad narration did not necessitate sure knowledge then Allaah would have commanded with verification until sure knowledge was attained. And that which further proves this point is that the Salafus-Saalih and great scholars of Islaam did not cease saying: “Allaah’s Messenger said this…”, or “he did that…”, and “he commanded with this…”, and “he forbade that…” – this is well-known from their speech by necessity.”
Shaikh Al-Albaanee (rahimahullaah) continued to say: “The Sunnah of the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) and his Companions prove the taking and accepting of the Aahaad narrations. Indeed the knowledge-based Sunnah which was traversed upon by the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) and his Companions during his lifetime and after his death also proves with clear cut evidences the impermissibility of separating between `aqeedah (creed) and ahkaam (rulings) in accepting the Aahaad narrations – rather it is an established proof in all of these affairs.” Then he proves his point from the statements of Imaam Al-Bukhaaree and other great Scholars.
2.3 The Categories of the Aahaad Narration with respect to the number of chains of transmission (or turuq) is divided into three categories:
- Mash-hoor (well-known)
- `Azeez (strong)
- Ghareeb (rare)
Each category has its own definitions:
Definition: That which is narrated by three or more narrators at every level of the chain of narration without reaching the point of being declared mutawaatir.
Example: The hadeeth: “Indeed Allaah does not take way knowledge by stripping it away from the people, rather he takes away knowledge by the death of the scholars…”
3.1 Sometimes the term mash.hoor can be used to refer to that which is well-known upon the tongues of the people without actually fulfilling the conditions of a hadeeth mash.hoor, and that could include:
- A hadeeth that only has one chain of narration.
- A hadeeth that has more than one narration.
- Or even a hadeeth for without a chain of narration – a chain that cannot be found!
3.2 The ruling of the mash.hoor hadeeth: such a hadeeth merely by virtue of its title cannot be assumed to be saheeh (authentic) or weak. Rather it can be saheeh, hasan (good), da`eef (weak) or even mawdoo` (fabricated). However if it is found to be saheeh (after investigation) then it holds a stronger status than a hadeeth that is `Azeez or Ghareeb.
3.3 Well known authorships concerning the mash.hoor narrations:
That which has been authored in the field of the mash.hoor narrations are those narrations that are “mash.hoor” or “well-known” upon the tongues of the people, and not “mash.hoor” in the technical hadeeth sense. From those authorships, we have:
- Al-Maqaasid Al-Hasanah feemashtahra `alal-Alsinah by Imaam as-Sakhaawee (d. 902H)
- Kashful-Khafaa wa Mazeelul-ilbaas feemashtahara minal-Hadeeth `alaa Alsinatin-Naas by Al-`Ajloonee.
Definition: A narration wherein there is not less than two narrators at any level of the chain of narration (isnaad). If there is at any level three or more, then that narration still remains `azeez so long as there is somewhere in the chain two narrators because the definition revolves around the fact that there is somewhere in the sanad (the chain) only two narrators.
4.1 Example: That which has been reported by Bukhaaree and Muslim from the hadeeth of Anas radiyallaahu `anhu), and Bukhaaree from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallaahu `anhu) that: Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) said:
- It is narrated from Anas (radiyallaahu `anhu) by Qataadah and `Abdul-`Azeez Ibn Suhaib;
- and from Qataadah it was narrated by Shu`bah and Sa`eed;
- and from `Abdul-`Azeez it was narrated by Ismaa`eel Ibn `Ulayyah and `Abdul-Waarith;
- and from each of a group of narrators transmit it.
5.1 Definition: That hadeeth which has been narrated at some stage in the chain of narration by a singular narrator, either at every level of the chain of narration or at some stages, or even at just one point in the chain (in the sanad) – and having many narrators at other levels in the chain at other than that point does not remove it from being ghareeb because the defining factor is having one person at some stage in the chain.
5.2 Some scholars also refer to this category as a ‘fard’ hadeeth. Ibn Hajr (d. 852H) considered ghareeb and fard to refer to the same thing both linguistically and in hadeeth terminology, except that he explains that the scholars of hadeeth differentiate between the two depending on their usage – so ‘fard’ is more often used to mean ‘al-fard al-mutlaq’ (i.e. that narration which is reported by a single Companion) and ‘ghareeb’ is more often used to mean ‘al-fard an-nisbee’ (i.e. where the singular narrator occurs later in the chain). And Allaah knows best. But for our discussion they can referred to mean one and the same.
5.3 Its categories: The ghareeb hadeeth is divided into two types as it relates where it occurs in the chain:
- Al-Ghareeb Al-Mutlaq (or Al-Fard Al-Mutlaq): This is where the singular narrator appears at the root of the sanad. Example: The hadeeth: “Indeed actions are but by intentions…” So `Umar Ibn al-Khattaab (radiyallaahu `anhu) is the only narrator. And it may be that such a narration continues to be narrated singularly till the end of the chain, or it may be narrated after this initial singular narrator by many narrators till the end of the chain. But what is given consideration is the fact that a single companion narrated it, so that determines the terminology.
- Al-Ghareeb An-Nisbee (or Al-Fard An-Nisbee): This is when the singular narrator or narrators appears somewhere later in the chain, i.e. that at the root of the chain, there is more than one narrator, but later on down the chain there is only one narrator narrating from the narrators before him. Example:
The hadeeth: Maalik (d. 179H) from Az-Zuhree (d. 124H) from Anas (radiyallaahu `anhu) that,
“The Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) entered Makkah and upon his head there was a helmet.” Reported by Bukhaaree and Muslim.
So Maalik alone narrates it from Az-Zuhree.
5.4 Categories of Al-Ghareeb An-Nisbee: There are categories of ghuraabah (singular narrations) that are considered to be al-ghareeb an-nisbee because this singularity is not mutlaq (i.e. not merely a single companion but the singularity is elsewhere), i.e. that they are singular narrations relative to something else – and they are of categories (see: An-Nukut, Ibn Hajr 2/703-708 with his examples):
- A hadeeth being reported by a certain singular reliable narrator (i.e. a ‘thiqah’ narrator) such as the saying of the scholars: “No one reliable narrated it except for so-and-so.”
- A particular narrator is singled out as narrating from another particular narrator, such as the saying of the scholars: “Only so-and-so narrated it from so-and-so.” – this is even if the hadeeth may be narrated from other chains different to this one.
- The hadeeth is only narrated by people of a particular town or land, such as the saying of the scholars: “It is only narrated by the people of Makkah,” or, “the people of Shaam only.”
- It is narrated by the people of one place from the people of another place, such as the saying of the scholars: “It is only reported by the people of Basrah from the people of Madeenah,” or, “by the people of Shaam from the people of Hijaaz.”
5.6 Another categorization: The scholars have also divided al-ghareeb from the aspect of the sanad (chain of narration) or from the aspect of the matan (the text itself):
- Ghareeb in text and chain of narration (matan and sanad): That is a hadeeth whose text is reported by only one narrator.
- Ghareeb in chain of narration but not in text: Such as a hadeeth whose text is reported by a group from the Sahaabah – and only one narrator narrates the same hadeeth from another Companion. Regarding this type of narration At-Tirmidhee would say: “It is ghareeb from this route/direction.”
Shaikh Abdullaah al-Bukhaaree said:
“Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab said: “A hadeeth is narrated from the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) from well-known routes of transmission (turuq) – and it is [also] narrated from a companion from only one route, such that his hadeeth is not known except by way of this route of transmission.”(Sharh `Ilal at-Tirmidhee 2/640) An example of that is: The hadeeth of Abu Kuraib from Abu Usaamah from Buraid Ibn Abdillaah Ibn Abee Burdah from his grandfather from his father Abu Moosaa (radiyallaahu `anhu) from the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) who said: “The believer eats [to fill] one intestine, whilst the unbeliever eats [to fill] seven intestines.” So this text (matn) is well-known from the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) from various routes of transmission, and it is reported in the two Saheehs from the hadeeth of Abu Hurairah and from the hadeeth of Ibn `Umar from the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam). But as for the hadeeth of Abu Moosaa then it is reported by Muslim from Abu Kuraib. More than one scholar has declared this hadeeth to be ghareeb from this route – and they mentioned that Abu Kuraib is the only one narrating it; [from those who said that are:] Bukhaaree and Abu Zur’ah…” And this is the what was said by Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab (Sharh `Ilal at-Tirmidhee 2/645-6)”
See: At-Ta`leeqaat ar-Radiyyah `alal-Mandhoomatil-Bayqooniyyah, p. 137-141, Shaikh Abdullaah al-Bukhaaree.
5.7 Books wherein plentiful examples of ghareeb ahaadeeth are found:
- Musnad of Al-Bazzaar.
- Al-Mu`jam Al-Awsat of At–Tabaraanee
5.8 Well known authorships regarding Al-Ghareeb:
- Gharaa’ib Maalik by Ad-Daaraqutnee
- Al-Afraad by Ad-Daaraqutnee
- As-Sunan allatee tafarrada bi kulli Sunnah minhaa ahlu baldatin by Abu Daawood as-Sijistaanee (The Sunnahs which are specific to a people of a particular place).
6.0 The Categorisation of the Aahaad Reports in accordance to their strength and weakness:
So the khabr ul-aahaad (i.e. the non-mutawaatir report) is divided into mash.hoor, `azeez, and ghareeb as discussed – but this categorization does not necessitate or indicate the authenticity or weakness of a narration. So in terms of strength or weakness of a narration, then the aahaad report is divided into two categories:
a.) Maqbool (accepted): That which is concluded to be narrated by truthful narrators (with conditions that are fulfilled). And the ruling is that such a narration is used as an evidence and is to be acted upon [since it is considered as sound].
b.) Mardood (rejected): That which is concluded to be reported by unreliable or untruthful narrators. And its ruling is that such a narration cannot be used as a proof, and is not acted upon.
For each of these two categorisations of maqbool and mardood, there are many other divisions, types and details which shall be made clear, inshaa’Allaah.
Note: I have taken this study from a small handful of introductory works (including: Tayseer Mustalah al-Hadeeth and At-Ta`leeqaat ar-Radiyyah `alal-Mandhoomatil-Bayqooniyyah), relying on some more than others, and success is from Allaah.