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The isolated hadith (AL-Khabar AL-Wahid)

Among these narrations are reports like those concerning the punishments of the grave.

By Ibn Saad / Seeking Ilm / 02 Apr 2014

Unlike the Mu’tazilah, the Ahlus-Sunnah accepts the lone-narrated reports that are authentic. ‘Alī Al-Qāri records the ijmā’ of the Sahābah and Tābi’īs on this point (Sharh, 209).

However, there is a difference of opinion as to whether these reports convey ‘ilm al-yaqeenī (certain knowledge) or al-dhann al-ghālib (strong assumption of the truth).

The difference between these two categories is that denial of the former equates kufr, while denial of the latter equates to either fisq (sinfulness) or simply disagreement based on the usūl of a particular madhhab. Ibn Khafīf stated in Al-’Aqīdah Al-Sahīhah that lone reports make practice obligatory but not knowledge, while the mass-transmitted reports (mutawātir) make both practice and knowledge obligatory. This shows that the lone reports have a level of ambiguity in them. The difference between practice and knowledge is that the former deals with actions while the latter deals with beliefs.

Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī (Sharh Nukhba al-Fikar, 230-231) also states that all types of non-mutawātir narrations do not result in certainty of knowledge regarding their authenticity except to the scholar who has attained expertise in the sciences of hadīth. At the same time, however, he points out that if a lone narration is exceptionally strong and among its narrators are great imams like Mālik or Shāfi’ī, then it would be safe to say that the narration is indeed true. Among these narrations are reports like those concerning the punishments of the grave.

Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr (Tamhid, 1:7) mentions that the vast majority of the scholars (including Imam Shāfi’ī) believed that a lone narration make practice obligatory but not knowledge – unless it was narrated on oath and there was no disagreement regarding it, in which case many imams considered it to constitute knowledge as well. Thus, some scholars did believe that the lone narration could be used to establish practice and knowledge, given that strict conditions were applied. Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr then states that his position is that the lone narration established practice but not knowledge, and that this was the belief of the overwhelming majority of scholars. This was also the position of Imam Ahmad and Bukhārī. Regarding such scholars’ position on lone narrations dealing with ‘aqīdah, Al-Bayhaqī (Asmā’ 357) states that they do not accept the lone-narrated reports as proof in the Divine Attributes, if those reports do not have a foundation in the Qur’ān or Ijmā’. Rather, these narrations are interpreted figuratively.

One of the problems with accepting lone narrations dealing with ‘aqīdah is that it blurs the the distinction between the definitive (Qur’ān and mutawātir reports) and ambiguous (lone narrations). Finally, it must be remembered that, as Imam Shāfi’īs stated, consensus takes precedence over the lone narrations (Siyar, 10:20). Hafidh Al-Baghdādī explained this saying that whenever a lone narration contradicts Ijmā’, the lone narration cannot be cited as proof (Al-Faqîh wa al-Mutafaqqih, 1:132).
Wallāhu A’lam.



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