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I performed an analysis on the hadith in Bukhari and came to the conclusion that most hadith (over 90%) are Gharib (single independent chain).

I then learned that a Gharib is not necessarily weak because the conditions for a hadith being authentic do not take into consideration the number of independent chains of narrators.

I also learned a little bit about Imam Shafi' and his debates with Ahl ul Kalam, Mu'tazila etc. regarding the authority of Ahad hadith.

I am curious to know if someone can summarise the opinions of past scholars on Ahad (Gharib, Aziz, Mashur) hadith being authoritative in fiqh.

It seems odd to me because in general Islam requires at least 2 witnesses for most matters. So what is the Quranic evidence for accepting a hadith by a single narrator? I say Quranic evidence because if we were to use hadith it would be circular reasoning.

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The following are among the verses which scholars have used as evidence for accepting Ahad narrations (when they fulfill certain criterion regarding the transmitters and the content):

  • The verse of Surah at-Tawbah:

    وما كان المؤمنون لينفروا كافة فلولا نفر من كل فرقة منهم طائفة ليتفقهوا في الدين ولينذروا قومهم إذا رجعوا إليهم لعلهم يحذرون

    And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.

    Quran 9:122 ; Tafsir al-Qurtubi

    This verse teaches that a group from every community should learn religion and then educate others among their people when they return from Jihad. This in turn is proof that the report of a small number can be accepted as evidence of Islamic rulings. Further such a group is formed by even just one person the evidence of which is:

    إن نعف عن طائفة منكم نعذب طائفة

    If We pardon one faction of you - We will punish another faction

    Quran 9:66

    This verse was revealed about three individuals. The "group" that was forgiven was one person.

    وإن طائفتان من المؤمنين اقتتلوا ... فأصلحوا بين أخويكم

    And if two factions among the believers should fight ... so make settlement between your brothers.

    Quran 49:9-10

    This verse was revealed about the fight between two individuals. The evidence of which is the dual أخويكم, so each "group" was one person.

  • The verse of Surah al-Ahzab:

    واذكرن ما يتلى في بيوتكن من آيات الله والحكمة إن الله كان لطيفا خبيرا

    And remember (mention) what is recited in your houses of the verses of Allah and wisdom.

    Quran 33:34 ; Tafsir al-Qurtubi

    Wisdom means the sunnah. This verse instructs the wives of the Prophet to preach what they learn from the Prophet ﷺ in their homes. This in turn proves that what they report would be acceptable as evidence of Islamic rulings. And such a report would obviously be singular as it occurred in their individual private homes.

  • The verse of Surah al-Hujurat:

    إن جاءكم فاسق بنبإ فتبينوا أن تصيبوا قوما بجهالة

    If there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance.

    Quran 49:6 ; Tafsir al-Qurtubi

    This verse instructs us to independently investigate the report of a Fasiq before accepting it. This implies that doing so is not required on the report of an 'Adil, as otherwise there would be no need to specify the status of the informer.

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  • Thanks for your answer, whilst helpful it doesn't satisfy my question. I will address each verse in a separate comment. Surah at-Tawbah (verse 122) is about a group remaining with the prophet to learn the revelation rather than going out to battle. It tell us nothing about their number in size. It tell us nothing about how to verify what they have learnt.
    – Moo
    May 24 at 21:30
  • Surah at-Tawbah - verse 66. Firstly the commentary of this verse relies on a hadith so as per my question it would be circular reasoning. In any case, even when that hadith is taken into account, the verse would still remain irrelevant to my question. According to the commentary it is about a man who mocked the Quran and then is forgiven whilst others are not. I don’t know how you concluded that he is a group of one rather than one of a group?
    – Moo
    May 24 at 21:35
  • Surah Al-Hujurat - verse 9-10. Can you elaborate on the relevance of this verse? Are you trying to say a group can consist of one individual?
    – Moo
    May 24 at 21:36
  • Surah al-Ahzab - verse 33. Firstly the prophet's wives are not like any other women (verse 32). So accepting their single report doesn't necessarily give license to other women (perhaps men too). - What one wife reports can be corroborated by other wives. - It can also be corroborated by other people generally. In terms of religious affairs the prophet wouldn’t disclose “exclusively” to his wives. - In any case, the verse only tells us that the wives are to spread the revelation and wisdom. It tell us nothing about how to verify what they shared with us via a narrator 5 generations later.
    – Moo
    May 24 at 21:38
  • Surah Al-Hujurat - verse 6. The commentary relies on a hadith. Besides that, if a trustworthy narrator is enough then why have additional conditions for authenticating a hadith? Why check if the chain is connected if a report is from a reliable narrator? Why test his precision, memory etc. If Al-Walid ibn Uqba was a fasiq, why was he assigned to collect zakat? After the incident he was not sacked, in fact, he continued to hold import posts e.g governor of Kufa. If this verse tells us anything, is that even a man who is entrusted with the collection of Zakat should be investigated.
    – Moo
    May 24 at 21:48

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