Friday, August 15, 2014

The Confusion of Mutawaatir and Ahaad Hadeeth Caused by Heterodox Ideologies

The Confusion of Mutawaatir and Ahaad Hadeeth Caused by Heterodox Ideologies

Author: Brother Haitham Hamdan

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-Baghdadi defined the Mutawaatir in his Kifaayah page 16 by saying:

هو ما يخبر به القوم الذين يبلغ عددهم حدا يعلم عند مشاهدتهم بمستقر العادة أن اتفاق الكذب منهم محال , وأن التواطؤ منهم في مقدار الوقت الذي انتشر الخبر عنهم فيه متعذر , وأن ما أخبروا عنه لا يجوز دخول اللبس والشبهة في مثله , وأن أسباب القهر والغلبة والأمور الداعية إلى الكذب منتفية عنهم

“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.”

Ibn us-Salaah defined it in his Muqaddimah page 59 as:

الخبر الذي ينقله من يحصل العلم بصدقه ضرورة

“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:

لا يعتبر فيه عدد معين في الأصح

“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 Tawaatur, regardless of the number of those who narrated it in each layer of narrators.

Again Abu Bakr al-Khateeb said:

خبر الآحاد فهو ما قصر عن صفة التواتر

"As for Ahaad narrations, it is that which falls short of the requirement of Tawaatur."

Ibn Hajr said in the Nukhbah page 1:

وكلها - سوى الأول - آحاد

"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 Shaafi’ee (d. 204 AH) and Haafidh Uthmaan bin Sa’eed Daarimi (d. 280 AH).

Issue 3: Imam Shaafi’ee’s condemnation of the Mutawaatir vs. Ahaad distinction:

In his great book al-Umm; Imam Shaafi’ee 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 Shaafi’ee said in 7/283:

فقلت له حدد لي تواتر الأخبار بأقل مما يثبت الخبر واجعل له مثالا لعلم ما يقول وتقول قال نعم إذا وجدت هؤلاء النفر للأربعة الذين جعلتهم مثالا يروون واحدا فتتفق روايتهم أن رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - حرم شيئا أو أحل شيئا استدللت على أنهم بتباين بلدانهم وأن كلا منهم قبل العلم عن غير الذي قبله عنه صاحبه وقبله عنه من أداه إلينا ممن لم يقبل عن صاحبه أن روايتهم إذا كانت هذا تتفق عن رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فالغلط لا يمكن فيها قال فقلت له لا يكون تواتر الأخبار عندك عن أربعة في بلد ولا إن قبل عنهم أهل بلد حتى يكون المدني يروي عن المدني والمكي يروي عن المكي والبصري عن البصري والكوفي عن الكوفي حتى ينتهي كل واحد منهم بحديثه إلى رجل من أصحاب النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم - غير الذي روى عنه صاحبه ويجمعوا جميعا على الرواية عن النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم - للعلة التي وصفت قال نعم لأنهم إذا كانوا في بلد واحد أمكن فيهم التواطؤ على الخبر ولا يمكن فيهم إذا كانوا في بلدان مختلفة فقلت له لبئسما نبثت به على من جعلته إماما في دينك

"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 Shaafi’ee 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 Shaafi’ee continues to demonstrate how his opponent had no escape from applying the theory of Tawaatur on the Sahaabah 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 Shaafi’ee 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 Shaafi’ee accepted classifying some narrations as: Khabarul ‘Aammah2, so how can one say that Imam Shaafi’ee condemned Tawatur?

Khabarul ‘Aammah is not the same as a Mutawaatir Hadeeth. This could be demonstrated from the following:

First: When Imam Shaafi’ee asked his opponent: "How is a Prophetic Sunnah proven to be authentic in your opinion?

He replied: by one of three methods. Shaafi’ee said: what is the first?
He said: Khabarul A’aammah, information related by the masses from the masses.
Shaafi’ee said: do you mean like dhuhr prayer being four Rak’as? He said: yes.

Shaafi’ee said: I do not know of anyone who disagrees with you on this. What is the second method?

He said: Tawaatur of narrations."

[Al-Umm (7/296)]

As we can see, there is a distinction between the two methods. So Khabarul ‘Aammah which was mentioned by Imam Shaafi’ee’s opponent and which Shaafi’ee accepted; is not Tawaatur.

Second: Imam Shaafi’ee condemned Tawaatur, so how could it be the same as Khabarul ‘Aammah which he accepted?

Thirdly: If we study the examples which Shaafi’ee 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 Shaafi’ee in the debate.

Issue 5: Who was Imam Shaafi’ee debating in this debate?

Imam Shaafi’ee did not mention the name of his opponent in his book al-Umm. However, many believe that he was debating Bishr bin Ghiyaath al-Mareesi (d. 218 AH). Imam adh-Dhahabi and others referred to some of Shaafi’ee's debates with Bishr.

Who was Bishr al-Mareesi?
Imam adh-Dhahabi said in Siyaar A’laam an-Nabula’ 10/199:

كان بشر من كبار الفقهاء.أخذ عن: القاضي أبي يوسف. وروى عن: حماد بن سلمة، وسفيان بن عيينة. ونظر في الكلام، فغلب عليه، وانسلخ من الورع والتقوى، وجرد القول بخلق القرآن، ودعا إليه، حتى كان عين الجهمية في عصره وعالمهم، فمقته أهل العلم، وكفره عدة، ولم يدرك جهم بن صفوان، بل تلقف مقالاته من أتباعه

"Bishr bin Ghiyaath al-Mareesi … was one of the grand Fuqahaa’. He took (knowledge) from Abu Yusuf (student of Imam Abu Haneefah), 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 Shaafi’ee 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-Mareesi: the stubborn one” he said:

"وادعيت أيضا في دفع آثار رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ضحكة لم يسبقك إلى مثلها عاقل من الأمة، ولا جاهل، فزعمت أنه لا تقوم الحجة من الآثار الصحيحة التي تروى عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إلى كل حديث لو حلف رجل بطلاق امرأته أنه كذب لم تطلق امرأته. ثم قلت: ولو حلف رجل بهذه اليمين على حديث لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم صحيح عنه أنه كذب ما طلقت امرأته.
فيقال لهذا المعارض الناقض على نفسه: قد أبطلت بدعواك هذه جميع الآثار التي تروى عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، ما احتججت منها لضلالتك وما تحتج، ولو كنت ممن يلتفت إلى تأويله، لقد سننت للناس سنة وحددت لهم في الأخبار حدا لم يستفيدوا مثلها من أحد من العالمين قبلك، ولوجب على كل مختار من الأئمة في دعواك ألا يختار منها شيئا حتى يبدأ باليمين بطلاق امرأته فيحلف أن هذا الحديث صدق أو كذب البتة، فإن كان شيئا طلقت به امرأته استعمله وإن لم تطلق تركه.
ويلك! إن العلماء لم يزالوا يختارون هذه الآثار ويستعملونها وهم يعلمون أنه لا يجوز لأحد منهم أن يحلف على أصحها أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال البتة وعلى أضعفها أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لم يقله البتة، ولكنهم كانوا لا يألون الجهد في الأخبار الأحفظ نها والمثل فالأمثل من رواتها في أنفسهم ويرون أن الأيمان التي ألزمتهم فيها بطلاق نسائهم مرفوعة عنهم حتى ابتدعتها أنت من غير أن يسبقك إليها مسلم وكافر. ففي دعواك يجب على القضاة والحكام أن لا يحكموا بشهادة العدول عندهم إلا بشيء يمكن القاضي أن يحلف عليه بطلاق امرأته أن الشاهد به قد صدق. أو أنه إن حلف عليها بطلاق امرأته أنها كذب لم تطلق امرأته.
ويحك! من سبقك إلى هذا التأويل من أمة محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم؟"

"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 (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).

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 Sahaabah, and on the authority of each Sahaabi, three Taabi’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 Ibn us-Salaah said in his Muqaddimah 59:

ولعل ذلك لكونه لا تشمله صناعتهم، ولا يكاد يوجد في رواياتهم۔۔۔۔ومن سئل عن إبراز مثال لذلك فيما يروى من الحديث أعياه تطلبه

“(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 Ibn us-Salaah 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 alayhis salaatu was 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, ibn Taymiyyah 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 (Mutawaatir al-Ma’nawi)". 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 radiallah anhum, 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?!

Of 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:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

“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:

وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُوا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ

“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 Daarimi said to Bishr al-Mareesi, “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 al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi, Ibn us-Salaah, 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 Allaah. Any error is from me and the Shaytaan.

I ask Allah Subhaanahu wa ta’ala to teach us that which benefits us and to benefit us from that which He teaches us.

Edited by Ahl ul-Isnaad

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