Mutawatir Hadith

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Mutawatir Hadith

Below is the translation of most of an answer to a question regarding the subject of Mutawatir Hadith. Though the issue has been clarified in it, its translation has proven to be quite an arduous task thus the emphasis has been – in the case of this particular answer to a question – on conveying the meaning as opposed to translating literally. Question:

It has been mentioned in "(Islamic) Personality" Volume 1 and in the "Intellectual Dossier" that Al-Tawatur Al-Ma'nawi (i.e. the subject repeated in many Ahadith) can be taken. The Party has outlined it accurately in these two publications. When researching the topic on the basis of what was mentioned in these two references, some of the Shabab said that the Party had published a host of "Answers to Questions" and has refuted what the "Islamic Personality" Volume 1, and the "Intellectual Dossier" referred to in terms of adoption. The question is as follows:

a- Does what comes in the shape of an Answer to a Question nullify the adopted opinion, without removing it from the adopted publication i.e. without removing what is mentioned in "Islamic Personality" Volume 1 and without informing the Shabab about it?
b- Where and when has the adopted opinion in this topic been nullified? We wish to know how the research has been conducted and on what grounds the Party has based its nullification of what had previously been adopted?


The adopted opinion in the issue of Tawatur is the Tawatur of Hadith. This is what the Party has explained in its books, outlined its conditions and built its culture upon. What is mentioned in Volume 1 of the "Islamic Personality", page 268, has been explicitly nullified in various leaflets and books. Some of these are the Answers to Questions dated 13th Muharram 1395h, corresponding to 27th January 1975, the first of which was "Al-Tawatur Al-Ma'anawi", then secondly the "Ahadith of Al-Mahdi", then thirdly "The relationship between gold, the International Monetary System and America" and then fourthly "The period of repaying a loan".
To quote from them:

Q. 1: "What is the value of Al-Tawatur Al-Ma'anawi with regard to the Ahadith related to Aqa'id (doctrines)?
A.: Tawatur Ma’nawi does not exist, though what does exist is Tawatur of Hadith; hence, the question has no reality."
Q. 2: "What is the classification of the Ahadith that talk about Al-Mahdi in terms of Sanad (authority) and Matn (text)?
A.: There are ahost of Sahih Ahadith that talk about Al-Mahdi, but these are Aahad (individual) Ahadith, and there is no Mutawatir Hadith about Al-Mahdi."

Since it is an Answer to a Question related to an adopted thought, it is therefore adopted. Any other opinion issued after 1977 would be null and void because it contradicts what is adopted. Hence, the nullification of what was mentioned in the "Islamic Personality" Part 1 and its diffusion came in an old answer and not in the answer about "The Punishment of the grave" dated 28th Thil-Qi'dah 1420h, corresponding to 26th March 1998, nor in the answer about Al-Tawatur Al-Ma’anawi dated 6th Sha'aban 1419, corresponding to 25th November 1998.

As for the removal of what has been altered in terms of adoptions listed in the books, this will only take place after the new publication of the books, not before.

Furthermore, it is mentioned in the 3rd part of "Islamic Personality", in the topic of ‘Every Ijma’ other than Ijma’ as-Sahaba is not a Shari’ah evidence’:

“And they also said that the Ijma' of the Ummah is an evidence for the Sunnah, for there are numerous Ahadith indicating that the Ijma' of the Ummah is a Dalil Shari'ah in reports that are different in expression but similar in the denotation that proves the infallibility of the Ummah from error and aberration, such as the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (saw): ‘My Ummah does not come together on aberration.’ In addition to many other Ahadith, which were still known and famous among the Sahaba, being acted upon without any objection by anyone, nor a rejection from anyone.” The book went on to say: “The answer to this comes from three aspects:

1- All of these Ahadith are Aahad (individual) reports and do reach the status of Tawatur and do not denote certitude. If it were said that although none of these Ahadith has reached the level of Tawatur by its own right, the combined amount  between all of them, namely the infallibility of the Ummah, is Mutawatir, because it is found in all of these numerous reports, the answer to this would be that the combined number between the Aahad Ahadith does not turn them into Ahadith Mutawatirah, hence they remain Aahad reports and cannot be elevated to the status of Mutawatir; hence, they remain invalid as a conclusive evidence for one Asl (foundation)….

Then the book went on to say: “Fourthly: The Ahadith stating that the Ummah does not agree on an error; these Ahadith are weak reports, for the phrase ‘on an error’ is a weak narration.     

All the topics of Part III, which deals with the study of the Usuli issues, centre around this meaning in an elaborate and explanatory manner.

In the topic under the title of ‘The sections of the Sunnah’ the book mentions the following: “And if it is narrated by one or more and their number does not reach the point of Tawatur from the generation of the Sahaba, that of Al-Tabi’een and Tabi’ee Al-Tabi’een, the report is in this case an Aahad (individual) report.”

The Party has also explained this in an Answer to a Question dated 27th Rabi’ Al-Awwal 1390h, corresponding to 2/6/1970 (In the Intellectual File, it is on pages 141-145, undated). To quote from this Answer to a Question: “There are individual reports which have reached us by other than the way of Tawatur, such as those which their reports were Mutawatir from Al-Tabi'een and Tabi'i Al-Tabi'een, but on the authority of one Sahabi, or were Mutawatir from the Sahaba and Al-Tabi'een, but narrated by one single Tabi'i Al-Tabi'een, or were reported on the authority of one single Sahabi, reported by one single Tabi'i and one single Tabi'i Al-Tabi'een, whether the chains were multiple or  had one single chain, all of these individual reports are deemed Ahaad reports. Hence, they are doubtful texts, Iman in the one single specific report not being Wajib, because the Aqeedah matters can only be taken by way of certitude and their evidence must be conclusive.”

In the study of the Mutawatir in the "Islamic Personality" Part 3, the Party says: “In the terminology of the Usuli scholars, the Mutawatir report is the report of a group whose multitude has made their saying denote Al-'Ilm i.e. cognisance.” It added: “Therefore, the Mutawatir report is what has been narrated in the three generations, by a large number of people, whose collusion to lie is usually impossible. What is meant by the three generations is the generation of the Sahaba, the Al-Tabi'een and Tabi'i Al-Tabi'een and, after that, no other generation is taken into consideration with regard to the narration of the Hadith.”

In the study of the Ahaad report the Party says: “The individual report is what is reported by a number of persons who do not reach the level of Tawatur in the three generations, and after these generations, reports carry no value. This type of report denotes doubt and does not yield certitude.”

The verbal Tawatur or more specifically the Tawatur of Hadith is the agreement of a group, whose collusion to lie, over the narration of one specific Hadith, is impossible. Its condition is that it is reported by a multitude of informers, where the circumstances testify to the absence of a collusion and error from the likes of them i.e. their collusion to lie is usually impossible, whether this was following a deliberate accord between them after a decision and a consultation for any purpose, or following an unintentional occurrence, due to an error or an oversight. Hence, there exists no purpose that draws suspicion to the reports of the narrators. The multitude must continue in the report from start to finish and must not drop below the level that necessitates cognisance in any of its positions, and the end of the report must rest on sensation, in terms of seeing or hearing, not rational deduction and doubt.

This Tawatur occurs in the transmission of speech, action and silence and is not confined to speech, with the knowledge that the absolute conformity in the wordings of the reports in every aspect is not necessarily occurring and, since there is no evidence suggesting veneration of the wording of the Hadith, the reporters have transmitted it in meaning and not word for word. Hence, what is meant by the verbal Tawatur is the Tawatur of a specific Hadith. 

The Mutawatir Hadith denotes the mandatory cognisance that one cannot reject or suspect. It is established through the reporting of the narrators because they enjoy a host of recognised conditions that lead to the mandatory cognisance and acknowledgement of their truthfulness and credibility. If these conditions were existent in a number of persons, then it becomes incumbent for the report of this group to lead to certitude on its own merit, and not through other factors and conjunctions that are external in relation to the report itself. This is so because the multiple group of persons, from whom the possibility of lying, imagining and erring has been negated, have agreed in reporting one single palpable event. Hence, the certitude has been established through the agreement of the number of persons whose collusion to lie over a palpable event is impossible, provided that these attributes are continuous and consistent in every single stage, because the report of each generation is independent in its own right.  

As for what is called “Al-Tawatur Al-Ma’anawi”, it consists of a group of Ahaad (individual) reports about various events, where the Tawatur was not fulfilled through their individuality, and it has been noted in their collective a common meaning, so it has been said that since an agreement over this meaning has occurred, then there is a Tawatur in these reports about something specific. This is so because the convergence of doubts through several reports usually prepares the mind to accept cognisance and certitude, as is the case with the occasioning of science after experiment and repetition, and not because one of these reports is conclusively true, and that this cognisance does not require an evidence because it is an irreversible cognisance whose occurrence is established when one refers to the Wijdan (emotions), even if its transmitters were below the level of Tawatur; thus it has been conclusively cognised that Ali (ra) is brave, and that Hatim is generous, despite the fact that the individuality of these events were transmitted to us by individual reporters.

It has become clear from the above that Al-Tawatur Al-Ma’nawi is a group of doubtful reports about various events and meanings, which are not unified by any Isnaad (authority), nor by any event, nor by any conditions. In other words, there exists no link between these reports so as to make them a comprehensive collection that removes from it the possibility of lying and imagination. Hence, they remained, as they were, individuals upon each one of whom the possibility of truthfulness and lying are still existent. Certitude is generated neither in their individual nor in their collective capacities. It would be wrong to say that their situation is similar to the Tawatur of the Hadith, whereby some individual Ahadith have come together, thus this collection has generated some power that occasioned in the heart of the listener an inevitable cognisance. It would be wrong to say this because, in essence, no congregation took place between the Ahaad that agree upon a certain meaning or a subject. Also, there are no similarities between the Tawatur of the Hadith and the so-called Tawatur of meaning. This is so because the Tawatur of the Hadith has not come about from the joining of one Ahaad report to another Ahaad like it. It has rather come from the congregation of the large group that has fulfilled a host of conditions that removed from it the possibility of lying, imagination and error in reporting one single palpable event, because multitude by itself does not remove the possibility of lying, nor does the report of every group about the palpable matters necessarily generate cognisance, for we find the large group in some cases in agreement over the fabrication of Ahadith and reports for a certain reason. This is widespread among groups and states every time and everywhere.  This is why the reporters require the presence of a safeguard, other than multitude, against lying, and there is no intermediary between the Mutawatir and the Ahaad. Either the report is Mutawatir or it is Ahaad. Every report that does not yield the inevitable cognisance by its own right is not Mutawatir. Hence, it cannot be said that the individual report that conforms to reality is Mutawatir, because the yield of the inevitable cognisance has come from a conjunction that is external to the report, namely the conformity, and it did not come from the report itself. Also, it cannot be said that the Ahaad that has not been rejected by a group of people is Mutawatir, for the non-rejection may indicate the acceptance of the report, but it does not indicate the Tawatur nor does it indicate certitude. Also, it cannot be said that it would be unlikely for the Ahaad that agree upon a meaning or a subject to be a lie. This cannot be said because the issue is not rational and devoid of reality, but rather an issue related to the study of the reality of the report and the reality of the reporters and the conjunctions that are inherent to the report. The inevitable cognisance is not subjective such that it happens to some to the exclusion of others; it rather happens to every recipient of the report, be it a savant or ignorant person, young or old, believer or Kafir. The optimum deduction acquired by the Ahaad that are synergetic on a single meaning is the least amount of doubt about their credibility, not the certitude about their credibility. There is a great difference between the unlikelihood of lying and the impossibility of lying.  

There is no argument over the fact that the cognisance acquired from the Tawatur of the Hadith is stronger than that acquired from the Tawatur of the meaning. As for the denotative aspect, there is also no argument over that fact that the cognisance acquired from what its report and meaning have been united is stronger than the one whose events and wordings have varied. In the former, the wording has matched the meaning i.e. it has denoted its identical designated name, thus it does not require pondering over. As for the latter, the wording could only denote part of the designated name i.e. the expressed meaning is included in the topic and the expression may have denoted its intransitive, thus the mind moves towards this intransitive when hearing the expression, and this requires pondering over to extract the meaning conveyed by the various expressions. Hence, one could say that the reports about Hatim Al-Taa’ee denote generosity, and another could say that they merely denote donation and do not denote generosity, because in the generosity, there is an added meaning that is not found in every single report from among these reports. One may also say that the reports about Ali Ibnu Abi Talib (ra) denote bravery, and another may say that they do not denote this, but merely that he killed and fought, because the meaning of bravery is not listed in every single report from among these reports; this meaning is rather found in some and not found in others, because in the other reports, it is said that he fought and that he killed in such and such day and in such and such battle. In other reports, the denotation of strength creeps up and so on. This could be said for any of the reports. In some cases, reports are given a common meaning that is not found in them, as was the case with the miracles of the Messenger of Allah (saw), which have not reached us by way of Tawatur, such as the water jetting from his fingers, the branch leaning towards him and satisfying the large crowd from little food and the like, in terms of separate accounts that do not combine any given meaning, thus they said that these reports combine the fact that the Messenger of Allah (saw) performed miracles and this in turn denotes the truth of his Da'wah, despite the fact that what they said is not a meaning shared by the wordings of the reports, but rather a justification of the miracles being performed by the Messenger of Allah (saw).

It seems that when the scholars differed about the matters of Aqeedah, they sought a textual evidence to support their opinion and avoid an error of judgement in the Aqeedah, thus they resorted to the reports, compiled them and joined them together. They found in the meaning repeated in these individual reports what they were looking for, which led them to endorse what is known as Al-Tawatur Al-Ma’anawi, as is the case in the reports of the seeing of Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgement and the like. This is so because whenever they came up with a rational argument, their rivals came with the same, and none of these rational arguments were sufficient to establish certitude in the issues that were subject of dispute.

Also, since certitude was a requisite for the Usuli principles, they found that what they were referring to as evidence doubtful, such as their evidence about the general consensus of the Ummah. Hence, Al-Shatibi said in his book Al-Muwafaqat: “Although it is Ahaad, the collective of the reports denotes the Tawatur since it denotes one single meaning, and because the denotation of certitude from the Mutawatir reports is dependent on premises most of which, if not all, are doubtful. What is dependent on doubt is inevitably doubtful…however the recognised evidences in this context are the ones derived from a group of doubtful evidences which came together on one single meaning, until they denoted certitude. Hence, if a collective that denotes cognisance occurred by deriving the evidences of the topic, then this would be the desired evidence, and it would be similar to the Tawatur Ma’nawi. The evidences pertaining to the fact that the Ijma’ is a valid source, or the individual report or al-Qiyyas (analogy) is relevant to this trend, because their evidences are obtained from areas that are almost innumerable. Nevertheless, these are of different derivatives and do not belong to one single field; however, they are stringed in the one meaning, which is the intended evidential aspect. If the evidences became numerous before the observer, they would support one another, thus becoming a collective denoting certitude, such as the denotation of evidences that are not confined to one single field that the Shari’ah has come to preserve the five necessities, which are the deen, the soul, the progeny, the wealth and reason (Aql). Each one of these evidences is doubtful on its own; thus, the evidences of the Usul (foundations) are obtained from examining the requisites of the evidences unrestrictedly, not from their individuality specifically, in view of the fact that the collective of the evidences of that Asl (foundation) was conclusive.  This is the case with the evidences pertaining to Al-Masalih Al-Mursalah and Al-Istihsaan.”  

It is clear from what we summarised from the quote of Al-Shatibi, that there was a motive that prompted certain scholars to adopt Al-Tawatur Al-Ma’anawi, whether this was by deducing the meaning from the individual reports, or deducing it from the denotations of the evidences. The motive was the need to support the Usuli principles with conclusive evidences. What they should have done first was to establish the evidence about the certitude of the individual reports which converge on one single meaning, not to allow necessity to be the motive behind accepting them, and then seek the pretences for them afterwards.

27 Shaaban 1420h
5 December 1999