THE ARABIC WORD â ḥâd linguistically means ‘singles,’ in the sense of ‘solitary.’ It is the plural of the word a ḥad, which means, “single” or “one.” Thus Khabar Al-Â ḥâd means literally “report of the singles [that is, single transmitters].”
Khabar Al-Â ḥâd, in the terminology of the mu ḥaddithîn, scholars of ḥadîth, means any report that is not mutawâtir. In other words, it is any report that was transmitted by a relatively small number of people.
Since mutawâtir reports (accounts of perceptible events made by numerous people in unbroken chains of reporting such that it is impossible for them to conspire or err) are automatically accepted, they require (and receive) little discussion in mustala ḥ al- ḥadîth. For, it is the nature of the case that their quality and qualifications are clear.
In addition, the number of mutawâtir reports is small compared to â ḥâd, or non-mutawâtir, reports. This is why tawâtur gets comparatively little explanation in mustala ḥ al- ḥadîth beyond defining it. So, nearly all the focus in this science is on â ḥâd reports.
Â ḥâd reports are thus subject to the full rigor of the principles and processes of evaluation laid down by the scholars of a ḥadîth. Step one in this process is to take a critical look at the distinctions in their chains of reporters before moving to the text of the reports themselves in order to judge whether one should accept or reject them.
In this scrutiny of the chains of reporters of khabar al-â ḥâd, scholars typically begin (as we have seen with mutawâtir reports) by examining how many people transmitted a report. In this regard, they have developed a classification system for khabar al-â ḥâd composed of three degrees: Mash- ḥûr (well known), ʿazîz (rare), and gharîb (strange). These are technical terms that have specific meanings regarding the reports they describe, as we shall see.
Linguistically, mash- ḥûr means ‘well known,’ ‘famed,’ or ‘prominent.’ Terminologically, a ḥadîth is mash- ḥûr when three or more people at every level of its reporting chain have reported it, but fewer reporters than the number required for tawâtur.
So, for example, when the Prophet ﷺ said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim,” a number of Companions were in his presence, and at least three of them conveyed to the people that came in the next generation the words which the Prophet ﷺ had said.
All the Companions that transmitted this ḥadîth to the next generation are considered to be at the first level, or ṭabaqah, of reporters. The ones that heard the ḥadîth from the Companions and, in turn, transmitted it to the people that came after them, constitute the second level, and so forth. So, again, when we say that a ḥadîth is mash ḥûr, we mean there are at least three people reporting it at every one of its successive levels.
Linguistically, al-ʿazîz signifies either a ‘rare’ or a ‘mighty’ thing. Terminologically, al- ḥadîth al-ʿazîz is a designation classifying a report that has no less than two people at every level of its reporting chain. It is named ʿazîz either due to its rare occurrence in ḥadîth literature or because of its strength, strength here denoting the fact that in no level of the ḥadîth does it have only one person transmitting it.
An example of an ʿazîz ḥadîth in both these senses of the term is the statement of the Prophet ﷺ: “None of you has truly believed until I have become more beloved to him than his father, his children, and all people” (Bukhârî and Muslim).
Gharîb means ‘strange,’ in the sense of ‘alien,’ or ‘one who is far from his relations.’ Terminologically, a ḥadîth is gharîb when one or more of the levels in its chain of reporters consists of only one reporter. An example of this is the ḥadîth: “Indeed, actions are by intentions” (Bukhârî).
Thus, dividing a ḥadîth into one of these three categories looks only at the strength of a ḥadîth based on the number of reporters at each level of its chain of reporting. This, however, represents only one aspect of the strength of a ḥadîth report.
For this reason, if there is a report that has numerous reporters at each level, like a mash- ḥûr ḥadîth, but its reporters are known to be lacking in uprightness of character, or in the capacity of their memory, then that mash- ḥûr ḥadîth might be deemed “weaker” than a gharîb ḥadîth in which all the reporters are known to be truthful and of strong memory.
If, on the other hand, all the reporters in these classification categories are of equal caliber, then the mash- ḥûr ḥadîth is deemed stronger than the ʿazîz, and the ʿazîz stronger than the gharîb — “stronger” here indicating greater verification and greater authenticity.
The nomenclature of ḥadîth as we have thus far discussed it, then, is simply illustrated:
The last three elements, then, are designations of â ḥâd reports based on the number of reporters at each level of its chain of reporting. There are further classifications, which we shall discuss next.
Originally posted 2015-02-25 05:00:06.