Islamic Law

Imam al-Shashi: Types of Narrations


Section: The Types of Reports[1]

أصول الشاشي:  في أقسام الخبر

S. Z. Chowdhury

Autumn 2004

Reports of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) are equivalent in rank to that of the Book[2] with respect to it necessitating both knowledge and action. Indeed, if anyone obeys him,[3] then he obeys God (Most High!). Also, all that was previously mentioned in the discussion on the particular (al-khass), the general (al-‘amm), the homonym (al-musharak) and the clear (al-mujmal) pertaining to the Book likewise pertains to the Sunna. Except that the uncertainty about Reports lies in its confirmation from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Thus, with this meaning, Reports divide into three types:

1. One type is that which is truly established from the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) without doubt and this is the mutawatir report.

2. Another of [the types] has a semblance of uncertainty (darb shubha) which is the mashhur report.

3. A further [type] is one that has both probability and uncertainty in it, which is the ahad report.

The mutawatir report is that which a group narrates from another group with their agreement not established upon a lie because of their number [until it reaches you. Examples being the transmission of the Qur’an, the numbers of prayer units (a’dad al-raka’at) and the measurements relating to the Zakat.

The mashhur report is that which in its initial [stage] is like the ahad report but then becomes widespread within the second and third [stages] being met by acceptance from the Ummah and therefore becomes like al-tawatur until the [point] it reaches you. Examples are prophetic narrations regarding wiping of the leather footwear (mass al-khuffayn) or stoning when it comes to adultery.

The mutawatir report necessitates definitive knowledge rejection of which amounts to disbelief. The mashhur report necessitates assured knowledge (‘ilm al-tama’ninah)[4] rejection of which amounts to reprehensible innovation (bid’ah).  There is no disagreement amongst scholars regarding the necessity of acting upon both of them.[5] The discussion only surrounds the ahad report.

We say that the ahad report is that which is transmitted by either one person from [another] or one person from a group of people or a group of people from one person with number not being important when it does not attain the limit of a mashhur report. [The ahad report] necessitates action regarding matters of Islamic Rulings but with conditions:

  1. The transmitters being Muslim.
  2. Just.
  3. Retentive.
  4. Sane.
  5. All these conditions being present from the [moment it was transmitted] from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) up until it reaches you.

[1] Translated from Usul al-Shashi by Imam Nizam al-Din al-Shashi (ed. by Muhammad Akram al-Nadwi, Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 2000), pp.191-195.

[2] i.e. the Qur’an.

[3] Meaning the Prophet.

[4] knowledge that offers assurance.

[5] i.e. acting upon the mutawatir and mashhur reports.


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