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The Classification of Hadeeth

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Classification according to the number of reporters involved in each stage of isnad

1-mutawatir (consecutive)
2-Ahad (isolated).
The Ahad Hadeeth is further devided into
  • 1-Gharib (strange)
  • 2-Aziz (rare)
  • 3-Mashhur (famous).
1-Mutawatir  (consecutive)
A Mutawatir Hadeeth is one which is reported by such a large number of people that they cannot be expected to agree upon a lie, all of them together.
al-Jaza’iri, p.33
Al-Ghazali (d.505) stipulates that a mutawatir narration be known by a sizeable number of its reporters equally in the begining, in the middle and in the end. He is correct in this stipulation because some narrations or ideas, although known as mutawatir among some people orignally have no tawatur. There is no precise definition for a large number of reporters, although the numbers four, five, seven, ten, twelve, fourty, seventy, among others, have been suggested as a minimum, the exact number is irrelevant because some reporters, eg. Scholars of Hadeeth carry more weight than others who are their contemporaries. The important condition is that the possibility of coincidence or “organized falsehood” be obviously negligible.
Ibn Hajr al-Askalani, Sharh Nukhbah al-Fikr (ed. M. Aud & MG Sabbagh, Damascus. 1410/1990] p.8-9

Examples of Mutawaatir practicres are the five daily Prayers, Fasting, Zakaah, the Hajj and the recitation of the Qur'aan. Among the verbal Mutawatir Hadeeth, the following has been reported by at least sixty-two Companions from the Prophet , and has been wiely-known amongst Muslims throughout the ages:
“Whoever invents a lie and attributes it to me intentionally, let him prepare his seat in the Fire.”

Also the Hadeeth related to the description of Haud Kauthar (the Basin of Abandant Goodness) in the Hereafter, raising the hands at certain postures during the prayer, rubing of wet hands on rubber socks during ablution, revelation of the Qur'aan in seven modes, and the prohibition of intoxicants are further examples of verbal Mutawatir Hadeeth.

al-Jaza’iri, p.49; Muhammed b. Isma’il al-Amir al-San’ani, Taudih al-Afkar (2 vols./Cairo/1366 (2:405)

2- Ahad    (isolated).
A Hadeeth Ahad or a Khabr Waahid is one which is narrated by people whose number does not reach that of the Mutawatir case. Ahad is further classified into:

1- Gharib   (strange), 2- Aziz    (rare) & 3-Mashhur  (famous).

A Hadeeth is termed Gharib (scarce, strange) when only a single reporter is found relating it at some stage of the Sanad. For Example the saying of the Prophet ,
 “Travel is a piece of punishment” is Gharib; the Sanad of this Hadeeth contains only one reporter in each stage:

Maalik  ---  Yahya b. Abi Salih  --- Abu Hurairah   --- The Prophet (sallahu alaihe- wa-sallam)

With regard to this Sanad, the Hadeeth is Saheeh, although most Gharib Hadeeth are weak. Imaam Ahmed said, “Do not write these Gharib Hadeeth because they are unacceptable, and most of them are weak.”[al-Sanani 2:409]

A type of Hadeeth similar to Gharib is “fard” (solitary) and is known in three ways:
1 - It is similar to Gharib, i.e. a single person is found reporting it from a well-known Imaam.
2 - The people of one locality only are known to narrate the Hadeeth.
3 - Narrators from one locatity repor the Hadeeth from narrators of another locality, such as the people of Makkah reporting from the people of Medina.

al-Haakim, p.96-102

If at any stage in the Sanad, only two reporters are found to narrate the Hadeeth, it is termed as “Aziz” (rare, strong). For eg, Anas  reported that the Messenger of Allaah  said,
 “None of you truly believes until I become more beloved to him than his father, his son, and all the people.”
Tho reporters Qatadah and Abdul Aziz b. Shu’aib, report this Hadeeth from Anas , ans two more reporters narrate from each of them: Shu’bah and Said report from Qatadah, and Isma’il b. Ulayyah and Abd al-Warith from Abd al-Aziz, then a group of people report from each of them. [al-San’ani, 2:455]

A Hadeeth that is reported by more than two reporters is known as Mashhur (famous). According to some scholars, every narrative that comes to be known widely, whether or not it has a authentic orign, is called Mashhur. A Mashhur Hadeeth might be reported by only one or two reporters in the beginning but becomes widely-known later, unlike Gharib or Aziz, which are reported by one or two reporters in the beginning and continue to have the same number even in the times of the Successors and those after them. For example, if only one or two reporters are found narrating Hadeeth from a reliable authority in Hadeeth such as al-Zuhree and Qatadah, the Hadeeth will remain either Gharib or Aziz. On the other hand, if a group of people narrate from them, it will be known as Mashhur. al-Iraqi, p.268

According to al-’Ala’i (Abu Sa’id Khalil Salah al-Din, d.761) a Hadeeth may be known as Aziz and Mashhur at the same time. By this he means a Hadeeth which is left with only two reporters in its isnad at every stage while it enjoys a host of reporters in other stages, such as the saying of the Prophet ,

 “We are the last but (will be) the foremost on the Day of the Resurrection.”
The Hadeeth is Aziz in its first stage, as it is reported by Hudaifah b. al-Yamman  and Abu Hurairah  only. It later becomes Mashhur as seven people report it from Abu Hurairah (May Allaah be pleased with him) .

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