There are three categories of hadith in respect to their As-Sihhah (soundness) and Ad-Da’f (weakness). These are Saheeh, Hasan and Da’eef.
In respect to the Sanad (chain) there are also three categories. These are Al-Mutawaatir, Al-Mash’hoor and Khabar Al-Aahaad.
Al-Hadeeth As-Saheeh (Sound)
This is the Hadeeth in which its Isnaad (chain) connects the transmission of the ‘Adl Ad-Daabit from the ‘Adl Ad-Daabit until its end and is not Shaadh or Mu’allal.
Al-‘Adl (the just): As-Sudooq At-Taqi (The honest person who fears Allah and obeys Him).
Ad-Daabit (the precise): Known for his astuteness and not being careless or inattentive.
Until its end: The Sanad (chain) connects to the Messenger ﷺ.
Not Shaadh (irregular) or without Shudhoodh (irregularity): That it does not go against the Thiqqah (a trustworthy narrator) stronger than it.
Mu’allal (defective) or without an ‘Illah (defect): That it is free of defects like the interruption of the chain.
The highest level of the Saheeh Hadeeth is that which Al-Bukhaari and Muslim have agreed upon its Sihhah (soundness) and Riwaayah (report). This is what is indicated to by the statement: ‘Saheeh Mutaffaq ‘Alaihi’ (Agreed upon).
The utilisation of the Saheeh Hadeeth as an evidence or proof for the Ahkaam is considered to be from the strongest forms of Ihtijaaj (evidential usage of proof to derive Ahkaam).
“It is the Hadeeth whose point of origin is known and its transmitters (Rijaal) have become famous or well known”.
It has been accepted by the majority of the ‘Ulamaa and utilised by the majority of the Fuqahaa. It is the Hadeeth in which none in the Isnaad (chain) has been accused of lying and it is called Hasan due to the Husn Azh-Zhann in respect to its Riwaayah (narration) despite not reaching the level of the transmitters of the Saheeh Hadeeth.
The ‘Ulamaa have provided the following definition for this category of Hadeeth:
The Hasan Hadeeth is that which its Sanad (chain) has connected through the transmission of the ‘Adl, Khafeef Ad-Dabt (lesser precision) until its end without Shudhoodh (irregularity) or ‘Illah (defect).
The difference therefore between the Saheeh Hadeeth and the Hasan Hadeeth is the existence of a lesser or lighter level of precision from the transmitter. Aside from that they resemble each other.
Al-Hadeeth Ad-Da’eef (weak Hadeeth)
The Da’eef (weak) Hadeeth is that in which the attributes of the Saheeh and Hasan are not met or do not come together.
There are three opinions in respect to using it as evidence (Ihtijaaj):
1 – It is not used as evidence at all and this is the opinion of the Kibaar (major) Ulamaa like Al-Bukhaari. It is the most correct of the opinions.
2 – It is used as evidence in respect to the merits of Akhlaaq (morals) and traits (characteristics).
3 – It is used as evidence if the (requirements of the) Ahkaam Ash-Shar’iyah are not fulfilled or met by the Qur’aan or the (Saheeh) Sunnah.
The last two opinions are both weak because there is no Daleel Shar’iy that supports the adoption of either of them.
The Da’eef Hadeeth is of different types including the Shaadh (irregular or contradictory), the Mu’allal (defective), the Munqati’ (interrupted) and the Mawdoo’ (fabricated) amongst others.
Al-Hadeeth Al-Mursal: ‘Mursal At-Taabi’iy’
This is the Hadeeth that the Taabi’iy (generation after the Sahaabah) raised to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in regards to a Qawl, Fi’l or Taqreer, whether the Taabi’iy was major or minor (i.e. well known or not as well known). It has been called ‘Mursal At-Taabi’iy’ and it is the Hadeeth in which the Sahaabiy is not mentioned (in the chain).
They (the Ulamaa) have considered it to be from the kinds of Da’eef (weak) Hadeeth.
The Hukm of the Mursal At-Taabi’iy: ‘That which the Sahaabiy was not mentioned in the chain’.
A – It is not allowed to use it as evidence at all.
B – It is permissible to use it as evidence.
C – It is used as evidence with Shuroot (conditions) and that is that it does not contradict or go against a Hadeeth that is Musnad (i.e. complete top to bottom) within its subject area.
The most correct of these opinions is the last one because the absence of the mention of the Sahaabiy from the Sanad (chain) of the Hadeeth does not make it Da’eef and invalid to be used as evidence. That is because the Sahaabah (rah) are not in need of evaluation of their trustworthiness (Ta’deel) as Allah Ta’Aalaa has praised and commended them and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did likewise.
As such the Mursal At-Taabi’iy is used as evidence as long as it is not contradictory to or in opposition to a Hadeeth that is stronger than it.
The most well-known Mursal Hadeeth include:
– The Mursal of Sa’eed Ibn ul-Musayyib from the people of Al-Madinah.
– The Mursal of ‘Ataa Bin Abi Rabaah from the people of Makkah.
– The Mursal of Al-Hasan Bin Abi l-Hasan Al-Basriy from the people of Basrah.
The Sunnah is divided into three categories in respect to the Sanad (chain): Al-Mutawaatir, Al-Mash’hoor and Khabar Al-Aahaad.
Al-Mutawaatir linguistically means: Consecutiveness, one after another with a gap (of time) between.
Al-Mutawaatir in accordance to the Istilaah (terminological definition): That which was related in the three eras (or generations) by a large number making it impossible for them to collude upon a lie.
The three eras (generations) are: The era of the Sahaabah, the era of the Taabi’een and the era of the Taabi’ At-Taabi’een.
The Sunnah Al-Mutawaatirah is Qat’iy Ath-Thuboot (definite in transmission) in respect to it coming from the Nabi ﷺ and therefore it is obligatory to work or act with it in respect to what it came with whether this was Ahkaam or Aqaa’id (beliefs).
An example of the Sunnah Al-Qawliyah Al-Mutawaatirah is his Qawl ﷺ:
“Whoever lies about me intentionally then let him occupy his seat (place) in hellfire.” (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim)
An example of the Sunnah Al-Fi’liyah Al-Mutawaatirah are like those related to the performance of the five prayers.
As for the Tawaatur Al-Ma’nawiy (in meaning) then this is the transmission of the narrators of a single Sunnah with different Alfaazh (wordings) in the case where the narrators of each wording or worded version do not reach the level or point of Tawaatur however the collection or collective of the narrators of those different wordings (Alfaazh) reach the level of Tawaatur. An example of this Sunnah is that the actions in the ‘Ibaadaat (acts of worship) are based or built upon the Niyah (intention). As for the Alfaazh (wordings) that have incorporated and included this meaning then they are like his Qawl ﷺ:
“Verily the actions are only by the intentions” (Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu Daawood, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasaa’iy), his statement ﷺ:
“Whoever fights to make the word of Allah the highest then he is Fee Sabeelillah (in the way of Allah)” (Mutaffaq ‘Alaihi) and:
“There is no Hijrah after Al-Fat’h (conquest) but rather there is Al-Jihaad and the Niyah (intention)” (Agreed upon) and his statement ﷺ:
“The one who does not resolve (i.e. make intention) for the Siyaam (fasting) before Fajr has no fasting for him” (Abu Daawood and At-Tirmidhi).
The Number by which At-Tawaatur is attained
All of the opinions that have specified a specific number for the accomplishment of Tawaatur do not have a basis to support them whether textual or ‘Aqliy (intellectual). That is because the Sunnah Al-Mutawaatirah in which Yaqeen (certainty) is attained, from the angle of Thuboot (transmission), must be narrated by a Jamaa’ah (group) and not by a particular number. The number of this group and the distance of their locations must make it impossible for them to collude or collaborate upon a lie.
As such the Shuroot (conditions) of the Tawaatur are three:
A – A number of narrators that secures and prevents their collusion upon a lie.
B – That the knowledge of the Ruwaat (relaters) is based upon hearing and witnessing and is not based upon deduction or inference.
C – That the Tawaatur occurs in all three eras: The Sahaabah, the Taabi’een and the Taabi’iy At-Taabi’een.
This is that which has been related from the Sahaabah by a number that does not reach the level of Tawaatur and then reached the level in the era or time of the Taabi’een and the Taabi’iy At-Taabi’een.
This Sunnah establishes Zhann (indefiniteness) and it does not establish Yaqeen (certainty) because it is not Qat’iy Ath-Thuboot from the Nabi ﷺ. It is therefore a Hujjah (evidence and source of proof) in respect to the Ahkaam Ash-Shar’iyah but not a Hujjah for the Aqaa’id.
An example from the Ahaadeeth Al-Mash’hoorah is his Qawl ﷺ: “Verily the actions are only by the intentions” and this is from the Sunnah Al-Mash’hoorah.
Sunnah Al-Aahaad – Khabar Al-Aahaad
This is what has been related by a number that does not reach the level of Tawaatur in the three eras. There is no difference or disagreement amongst the Muslims in respect to the Sunnah Al-Aahaad representing a Hujjah upon the Muslims in respect to the obligation of acting by or working with it and to adhere to its Ahkaam. The proof and evidence (Burhaan) for this is established from a number of angles including:
1 – The Ijmaa’ As-Sahaabah in a number of incidents and occurrences that are too numerous to be counted in regards to the acceptance of the Khabar Al-Waahid and acting by it. An example is when ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) acted in accordance to the Khabar (report) of ‘Abdur Rahmaan Bin ‘Auf (ra) in respect to the Nabi ﷺ taking the Jizyah from the Majoos. This is when he related from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that he said: “Apply the same to them as you have applied to the Ahl ul-Kitaab (people of the book)” (Al-Muwatta’).
2 – The Messenger ﷺ found it sufficient to send Aahaad (singles/individuals) from amongst the Sahaabah to the rulers and nations to inform them about Islaam and its Ahkaam like when he sent Mu’aadh Ibn Jabal to Yemen and sent others to the Persians, Romans, Iraq, Ash-Shaam and Egypt.
“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 Deen and warn their people when they return to them that they may beware”
The word Taa’ifah (in the Aayah) in accordance to the Arabic language is used for the Waahid (one) and more than Waahid (one). Consequently, if the Khabar Al-Waahid was not a Hujjah for actions then the warning of those who had obtained understanding in the Deen would hold no benefit for the people returning from Al-Jihaad.
The Hukm (ruling) of working with each category of the categories of the Sunnah
As was mentioned in the section about the categories of the Sunnah, working with (and acting upon) the Sunnah is Waajib. The following is a summary of what preceded in respect to the Hukm (ruling) of working with each Sunnah:
1 – Al-Mutawaatir: It is obligatory to take the Sunnah Al-Mutawaatirah in respect to the Aqaa’id and the Ahkaam.
2 – Al-Mash’hoor: It is obligatory to take the Mash’hoor in respect to the Ahkaam.
3 – Khabar Al-Aahaad: If it is Saheeh or Hasan, then it is obligatory to be taken to be worked with in respect to the Ahkaam.
4 – As-Sunnah Ad-Da’eefah: It is not used as evidence at all due to its transmission not being verified in respect to it being from the Messenger ﷺ.
5 – Al-Mursal: The Mursal At-Taabi’iy is used as evidence and acted upon or worked with as long as there is nothing stronger opposing it from like the Mash’hoor and Saheeh amongst others… And this also relates to the Ahkaam (and not the Aqeedah).